Author Archive: Paul Stevenson

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By August 9, 2017 Read More →

iFrogz Impulse Duo Dual Driver Wireless Bluetooth headphones Review

IMG_0600It’s always nice to be pleasantly surprised by a product. I had the opportunity to play around with the iFrogz Impulse Duo dual driver wireless Bluetooth headphones (not an easy title to get your tongue around). At around £39, these are on the lower end of the pricing spectrum and I am generally wary of companies that start with a small “i” and swap “s” for “z”, so it’s fair to say that expectations were not exactly high.

The headphones were nicely presented in a simple but elegant box and slip cover that does what it needs to do without going overboard. There is no pouch or case included, but you do get 3 sizes of tips. The actual ear pieces are pretty funky looking thanks to the dual 6mm drivers and an unusual mix of materials and textures – they certainly don’t look like regular headphones. Despite the slightly odd shape, they are actually pretty comfortable to wear, although there is a small nub on one side which can sometimes be a little irritating.

 

The earpieces are connected to a small control unit which features a nifty magnetic retention clip, so you can wind the cables around it for neat storage when not in use. The unit houses the battery, Bluetooth system microphone for call handling and offers 3 control buttons. The two volume buttons double as track forward and back controls if you long press them and the centre button activates the play/pause, call answer, power on/off and paring functions depending on how long you hold it for. Simple, but effective. The buttons are quite big, but they do need some deliberate pressure to push them, so accidental activation is not much of an issue. In use, the remote dangles from the earpieces, threatening to pull them out, so you will need to attach it to your clothing. The problem is that the cables are only about 35cm long, so it will need to be clipped to something quite close to your head. The magnetic clip does a decent job at this, although I don’t think it’s quite as good as a traditional clip and there may be a bit of an issue if you don’t have anything to attach it too (so no super tight muscle shirts or boob tubes!).

ifrogz, headphones, earphones, uk, review, dual driver

The box claims a battery life of up to 10 hours and the unit is charged by a micro USB cable (supplied). This is often difficult to verify as you are rarely listening to them constantly for such a long period of time, but in testing, they certainly did seem to hold a charge for a considerable amount of time. When powered on, there is a blue indicator light which blinks periodically. I quickly learned to hate this light, and if you listen to music in bed at night, you will learn to loathe it too. It more closely resembles an emergency distress beacon than an indicator – that thing is bright! The cables are fairly short too, so it’s always going to be close to your head and is almost impossible to ignore. I was almost reaching for the duct tape but ended up finding a small pouch to put it in just to hide it. Yes, it’s that annoying! Not so much an issue during the day of course.

The sound from the iFrogz is what surprised me the most. For the price point, I expected a flat and tinny sound, but thankfully that is far from the case. Sure, they do not have the dynamic range of some of the competition, but I feel that they do punch above their weight. The first thing you will notice is that they are quite bass heavy. This is great for some musical genres, but with others, the mids and highs can seem overwhelmed by the booming resonant bass tones. One of my regular go to testing tracks is “It Won’t Be Long” by Super Collider as it is exceptional for testing tonal balance, bass response/distortion and seeing how much detail is retained. The iFrogz handled it well and did not distort too noticeably at the really low levels, but you could notice the flattening of the upper frequencies. But for £39, this is more than acceptable.

The other aspect it really liked about the iFrogz was when I fired up Youtube and was immediately impressed that there was no noticeable lag time. The sound was well in sync with the visual, something that is often an Achilles heel of Bluetooth headphones, particularly at the cheaper end of the market.

So, good battery life, comfortable, decent sound and under £40, if you want something cheap and functional, it’s hard to knock these.

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By August 7, 2017 Read More →

Brainwavz B200 Audiophile grade earphones review

IMG_0581I must confess that I was not familiar with the brand when I was given word that their latest headphones were coming to us for review. They operate in the audiophile circles of the headphone world, but their aim is to keep the cost of their products at the more reasonable end of the spectrum. When I was given these in ear headphones, all I knew was that they were audiophile grade and cost £156.

The first thing that struck me when I was handed the box is that it smacked of neither audiophile nor £156. It is a pretty basic box with minimal amounts of styling, made from fairly thin card and a plastic tray inside. It looks remarkably like an early DVD box set or an Amiga game. This is not always a bad thing, however. Regular readers will know that I have mixed feelings about packaging. Sure, I like some swish presentation to give a premium feel as much as the next guy, but at the same time, I do not like the idea that a product has its price bumped by £20 just to get a swanky box that will ultimately be thrown out anyway.

Brainwavz, dual, balanced, armature, B200, high performance, audiophile, grade, earphones, headphones, uk

In the box, you get a rather nice, rigid carry case that feels very well constructed, with dividers to house the spare tips for the ear buds. There are 2 sets of small, medium and large tips included plus a bonus set of “premium” memory foam tips that honestly feel kinda like chewing gum. The headphones themselves are extremely lightweight and there is good reinforcement at the joints, but I couldn’t help but think that the wires were worryingly thin. Making tech super lightweight is great, but sometimes it can leave products feeling a little flimsy, even if that is not the case.

After a few minutes of experimentation, I figured out how to wear the headphones and which one went in which ear – yes, I know how to wear headphones – but the B200’s feature a neat design where the cable loops over your ear thanks to a semi rigid sleeve over the wire so you put them in your ear with the wire pointing up. It takes one or two goes to get the technique down, but it’s not tricky. For me, the premium tips were an absolute winner. They feel weird, but once you squish them and push them into your ears, they are incredibly comfortable and do an excellent job of cancelling out ambient noise. The loop design means that the weight of the cable is not applied directly to the ear bud, so there is not the usual battle of earpiece retention vs gravity. The result it that these headphones stay in place exceptionally well. I was able to enjoy a brisk walk on a windy evening and never once had to push the headphones in to keep the fit nice and snug. Brilliant!

As usual, I let the B200’s burn in for a day or two before really testing the sound quality on them. It’s a very natural sound, nicely balanced, which is my personal preference. There is plenty of bass, but it is not an auditory assault like on some sets. Mids and highs are nicely separated with a good amount of crisp detail which gives a satisfying breadth to the sound and again, nothing seems overly forced. The benefit of a neutral sound is that it lends itself well to a wide variety of musical genres and I found that the B200’s handled any track I threw at them in their stride. Listening to podcasts where the focus is on people speaking, the voices do not sound overly bass heavy and resonant which music focused headphones have a tendency to do. These are really nice headphones.

Brainwavz, dual, balanced, armature, B200, high performance, audiophile, grade, earphones, headphones, uk

Brainwavz offers a 24month warranty on the B200’s(“should any problem arise due to a defect in workmanship”) which shows a reassuring level of faith in their products and quality control. This is not something to be underestimated. I do maintain some concerns about how fine the cable is on these headphones and I did notice that they do tangle up quite easily because of the loops, but at least if there is a weakness there, Brainwavzshould look after you and that is reassuring. Whilst they are reasonably priced for headphones at this level, £156 is still a significant chunk of money so a little reassurance is a very good thing!

If you haven’t heard of Brainwavz, I would certainly you encourage you to check them out. They certainly don’t look as flashy as some of their peers, they may perhaps lack some of the prestige feels, but there is absolutely no escaping the excellent performance or the phenomenal comfort of these headphones.

The Brainwavz B200 are for sale on Amazon here for £149.50.

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By June 25, 2017 Read More →

Devolo dLan 1200+ WI-Fi AC Powerline Review

dLAN 1200 WiFi ac Starter KitIf like me, you have an older house, you will no doubt know the pain of mixing Wi-Fi and solid walls. Couple that with limited phone access points on the ground floor only and you are really up a creek. Devolo has a handy dandy solution for you with their dLan 1200+ WI-Fi AC. Using your home’s electrical system, these neat little units will provide a Wi-Fi signal in places your standard router just can’t reach.

The devices themselves aren’t exactly small, but they are nicely featureless white boxes with minimal amounts of buttons and lights – perfect – who wants their living room to look like a set from Star Trek (now Star Wars…that’s a different matter!). I particularly liked the fact that they also have a pass through plug socket in them so you aren’t taking up valuable power outlets. Nice touch. The Ethernet ports are on the top of the unit, and this is both a benefit and a drawback. Given the size of the units, if you have one plugged into a low power outlet and the ports are on the bottom, you may be pushed for space getting the cables plugged in with enough clearance. Having the ports on the top not only gives any amount of clearance, it also allows for easier access. On the downside, there is an aesthetic penalty involved with having the ports much more visible and being on the top, they can now become little dust catchers. A simple removable cap/cover would provide an obvious solution. I used a little white electrical tape and it looks fine.

Setup appears simple thanks to some rather basic Ikea style instructions provided by Devolo. It has lots of big pictures, so even the technically inept like myself should be able to have it up and running quickly and easily. There are two setup options, one for providing a Wi-Fi signal for a standard router, and another to clone the signal from an existing wireless network. In my case, it was the latter. Plug in the main unit and connect it to the router with the provided Ethernet cable, wait for a few seconds for the light to appear. Plug in the additional unit(s) nearby, press the home buttons, hit the WPS button on your router and Badda Bing, you are up and running about a minute later. Once all the lights have turned white, you can unplug the adapters, position them anywhere in your house and they will provide you with gloriously speedy Wi-Fi (rated to speeds of up to 1,200Mbit/s). It is as simple as that.

Or at least it should be. I will hold my hands up and admit that I am most definitely a key person when it comes to these things and maybe it was just me, but when I initially set up the adaptors to clone my Wi-Fi and went in the settings on my phone, I found that the activated adaptors showed up as new separate networks on my list. It was easy to simply log on to each one and enter the password that is printed on the back of each device, but that would mean manually changing from one network to the other depending on where I was in the house. The adaptors are capable of replicating the SSID and password for your existing network so I tried again. The downside with the picture orientated instructions is that whilst simple is good, there is such a thing as too simple. I followed the instructions carefully again and got largely the same result, but this time one adaptor showed up as a separate network and the other was replicating my original. Eureka! What the instructions don’t make very clear is that if you are adding multiple adaptors, you need to activate them individually, one at a time. Trying to do them together does not work. Problem solved. Once you have everything in place, you can basically just leave it all alone and there is no need to ever go near them again. That’s the kind of tech I like!

One little hiccup I noticed was that when setting up the Devolo, it did knock some off my devices off the network. My iPhone, for example, would no longer auto-connect to it, nor would my sky box or Xbox, whereas my computers, iPad etc were all fine. Simply resetting the network connection on the affected devices and logging back in solved the problem though and it has not reoccurred. Now I have a single Wi-Fi network that operates in every corner of my house and out into the garden too. My phone automatically locks on to the strongest signal available completely seamlessly. You can even tinker with the network from your phone or tablet by using the Devolo Cockpit app if you feel so inclined.

Splendid, I can now watch Netflix in the bath and play Contest of Champions in my back garden – life is good.

Of course, all this convenience comes at a price and quite a hefty one at that. The master unit comes in a pack with one adaptor for £159.99, although shopping around, I managed to find it for £139.99. Each additional unit will cost around £109.99, so it’s not exactly cheap, but it does work very well. I actually really like these units. They are quick and easy to set up (even if you have to redo it), unobtrusive and they just work. You can’t ask much more than that.

So if you have dead zones around your house and have a few quid to spare, the Devolo dLan 1200+ WI-Fi AC Powerline kit is just the ticket.

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By June 20, 2017 Read More →

Benq W1090 Review

IMG_0413Size doesn’t matter. It’s quality over quantity. These are the things you tell yourself, but sometimes you have to face the fact that what you have just isn’t big enough, especially if you have a bunch of friends round and they all want to be able to see.

Thankfully the nice people in BenQ sent us their W1090 projector to play around with for a little while, so we can turn any large flat surface into a screen. Nice!

The unit itself is pretty large, but when you factor in the light output, the size of the lens and the cooling system, space is well used. It’s a decent looking device too, I like that BenQ didn’t just go for the “black box” approach, opting instead for a matte white finish. Basically, it’s not something you would object to having visible in your house.

The controls are readily accessible and well laid out but are not obtrusive and the W1090 can be fully controlled from the unit itself or the rather clean and simply styled remote. This is really handy if you want to make a hidden or fitted installation of the device or plan to mount it to the ceiling. It’s backlit too, so no fumbling around in the dark when using it.


Setup is an absolute doddle. There are plenty of input ports on the back of the unit including 2 HDMI ports. Plug in your source using an HDMI cable etc hit the power button and voila – you have a picture. Zooming and focusing are super easy thanks to the large controls on the unit and simple up and down buttons enable you to change the shape of the image to match the surface it’s being shown on and make it nice and square. You will spend more time faffing about with the 3 adjustable feet and position of the projector, perfecting the angle and ensuring that the image is exactly where you want it to be than you will with the actual setup. The feet screw in and out allowing you to angle and stabilise the unit, and although I would have preferred a bit more extension in them, you can always prop them up easily. Good job BenQ!

One of the main issues with projectors has always been the level of light they can produce. If you have an underpowered projector, your image will appear washed out and fuzzy, especially if you aren’t watching in complete darkness. I set the W1090 up in my loft man cave in the middle of the afternoon on a pretty bright day. I hung a cloth in front of the Velux window to cut out some of the light, and even though the room was far from dark, I was very pleasantly surprised at the results. Projected on the sloped ceiling, the W1090 produced an impressively strong, solid image. It does boast that it is capable of showing full 1080 HD as well as 3D (1 set of glasses are supplied with the unit), but to be honest, I wasn’t expecting it to look as good as a TV. Again, watching movies from the basic, bog-standard Blu-ray player I had plugged into it, I was pleasantly surprised at the sharp and well-contrasted image the BenQ was able to create. It’s not too noisy either, despite having two decent sized cooling fans in it.  Although be warned, it does blow out quite a bit of warm air! I would have loved to have created a back garden cinema to really see what the W1090 was capable off, but unfortunately, we had limited time with the projector and so were unable to fully explore the full extent of the device.

The only downside I would level at the W1090 is the in-built audio. It’s not terrible by any means, but the sound from the 10w speakers is a bit weedy. The thing is though, no one is actually going to be using them, so it’s a bit of a moot point. The projector will likely be set up above or behind you and you definitely won’t want the sound coming from there. Even if it’s positioned between you and the image, if you are going to the cost and effort of having a setup that enables you to watch a movie on a 12-foot screen, you are going to want audio to match. One thing to note if you are having it positioned in front of you, I did notice that light does leak from the sides of the unit slightly. No big deal, but there are people who will get distracted/annoyed by this.

The audio out option on the BenQ is a 3.5mm jack. I would have liked to have seen a few more options for connecting to external audio devices, especially given that the projector and speakers are likely to be a good distance apart.

At around the £600-650 range, it’s certainly not cheap, but when you put it into context and set it against its peers, it’s actually quite reasonably priced and you do get a lot of bang for your buck. Yes, you will have to change the bulb after a couple of thousand hours of use, but this is for movies, cup finals etc, not for watching Corrie on, so it’s going to take some time to wear out.

If you are in the market for a good quality projector and don’t want to spend a fortune on one of the high-end models, the BenQ W1090 is definitely worth your consideration. You can pick one up from Amazon here for around £555.

By March 25, 2017 Read More →

EasyAcc 13000mAh Power Bank Review

IMG_5768I love practical gadgets, things that can not only really make life easier, but actually get you out of a bind when the poop hits the fan. The way modern life is for most of us, your mobile device is never far away, often, never out of your hand. Manufacturers have spent billions investing in battery tech to provide enough power to enable your device to withstand heavy or prolonged use, but there are times when it’s just not enough.

There are many portable power packs available as a solution to this problem and both manufacturers and users are starting to figure out just how essential these devices are – for emergencies as well as daily use. This means that we are seeing increasingly inventive and innovative tweaks, refinements and improvements in them.

The model I have been looking at recently is the EasyAcc 13,000mah power bank. A fairly standard looking device that houses a couple of neat little features.

Honestly, first impressions aren’t great. The unit comes in a very plain cardboard box and while it isn’t unattractive with its grey and orange colour scheme it feels rather plasticky. It doesn’t feel flimsy, but it does feel a little…….cheap. I have noticed from using it, the plastic does mar and scratch quite easily. The pack itself is a decent size and I personally think it strikes a good balance of capacity, physical size and weight – your mileage my vary. All pretty standard so far.


However, under the device are two micro USB cables and that’s where things start to get interesting.

Two output ports is nothing new, but the party piece of this little device is the dual input ports. You can plug in two micro USB cables to the two ports and charge the device in half the time. This is genius! EasyAcc claim that a full recharge can take as little as 3.5 hours and in my testing, this seems pretty accurate. This is a fantastic feature for travellers who are maybe camped out in an airport for a few hours, or even if you are just topping the battery up at home and don’t have the time that it would take to charge a regular pack of this size.


The output proved pretty good too. The EasyAcc charged my iPhone 7 from 20% to full in a little over 80 minutes thanks to its smart charge function.


It has, of course, the now obligatory little LED light, which are generally pretty useless, but in this case, they have put a reasonable sized parabolic lens over the LED to amplify the output and provide a bit more of a useful amount of light. Nice touch!

I have been really rather impressed by this charger. Yes, it feels a bit cheap, but it still manages to feel solid. EasyAcc have chosen to forgo the flashy materials, packaging and little carry pouches in favour of functionality. The inclusion of the two charging cables is a real bonus too.  For £18.99, this is an easy recommendation.

Available on Amazon now for £18.99

Posted in: Accessories, Reviews
By March 12, 2017 Read More →

XM-L2 Led flashlight from Uniquefire Review

IMG_5728You’d be amazed at the technology that goes into modern flashlights. I’m not talking about the cheap and cheerful/nasty ones you can pick up for £1 at the checkout at Tesco or a petrol station, I mean “proper” flashlights. Precision machined reflectors shape the beam pattern and balance the throw and spill. Cutting edge LEDs generate insane amounts of light. Clever electronics regulate the output to ensure a constant and steady output for as long as possible before dimming, squeezing the maximum out of the batteries. And that’s not to mention the various user interfaces that allow for a number of different light levels along with other modes such as strobe, S.O.S. and beacon. These lights cost between “quite a lot” and “eye-watering” on the scale of wallet pain. Believe me, I know, I have quite a few of them.

Yes folks, my name is Paul and I am a flashaholic.

Uniquefire sent us one of their flashlights to take a look at. At £18 I really didn’t expect a lot, but two things intrigued me, the name of the light and the specification/description from the manufacturer, but I’ll get to those later.



So let’s judge the light on its own merits. Is it any good? Well, yes and no. For £18 it falls firmly into the cheap but useful pigeon hole. It does feel quite solidly made, which surprised me. I initially thought the tail button glowed in the dark which would have been a really nice feature, it alas no, it’s just green.

The light can be powered by either an 18650 battery or 3x AAA batteries. The former will provide more power, but they are not exactly common, so most people will opt for the much more readily available AAA option. There are 5 modes available – high, medium, low, strobe and S.O.S. which are cycled through by half-pressing the tail button. The main gimmick of the flashlight is the zoom function. This allows the output to transition between a wide flood or a tight and narrow beam for maximum throw.

It all sounds very positive, but there are some issues. The reflector, what there is of it, is incredibly shallow and untextured. This is compensated by a parabolic lens to magnify the light from the large LED. It’s a common feature on cheaper lights.



Putting the light on high mode the flashlight does a decent job at illuminating a wide area, perhaps 5m wide, but only for about 3m in front of you. Pulling the head away from the body create a telescoping effect which tightens the beam to a bright but very narrow profile that stretches out perhaps 80-100m. The beam pattern is horrible though. It’s square, full of artefacts and clearly shows the cheapness of the light. I compared it against my little Zebralight SC51, a single AA light that, although almost twice the price, is also a fraction of the size and weight. It has an output of 200 lumens, so it should be interesting to see the comparison.



As you can see from the pictures below, the zebralight may lack the zooming feature, but a properly engineered reflector can create simultaneous spill and throw, giving a much more versatile beam.


Now onto my issues with the name and spec. The light is called the “XM-L2”. I have seen this particular sales tactic before. It leads the buyer to believe that the light has an XM-L2 LED, a high output, super efficient component in it and not the sort of LED one might find in a low-end light. I don’t know what LED is actually in this. The spec from the company is vague, non-specific and potentially misleading. Generally, companies will provide output and runtimes for each mode, but sadly not in this case. You can see that the 200-lumen zebralight appears to be putting out more light, yet the XM-L2 claims to put out 600-1000 lumens in its somewhat confusing information. I don’t think so.

Overall, this light isn’t bad for the money, and if it marketed itself as such, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. However, I take issue with how it appears to be presenting itself as a high-end light when it is very clearly not.

Pick one up from Amazon here.

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By February 15, 2017 Read More →

Gear4 Buckingham case for iPad review

I have been rather impressed with Gear4 products. I have been lucky enough to check out a few of their iPhone cases and have always found that they manage a nice balance between being very rugged, but not massively overbuilt. So when I got the opportunity to get my hands on the new Gear4 Buckingham iPad case for my Air 2, expectations were high.

The Buckingham features the same DSO “smart material” that Gear4 uses in their phone cases and purports to meet military standards at keeping your tech safe from being dropped. This wallet style case is almost identical to the Oxford model that my phone is currently encased within and I have been very happy with that.

As soon as I received the package from Tech Addicts HQ, I noticed something was up. It felt much heavier than I was expecting. It’s not uncommon for us to receive several products for review at the same time and, although I wasn’t expecting anything else,  I thought this was maybe the case. Nope. Just the Buckingham. Now, Gear4 do package their products very robustly, so maybe it’s the packaging. After opening it, it still felt rather heavy so out came the scales. The case weighed in at a rather chunky 427g. That may not seem like much, but to put it into context, the iPad air 2 weighs around 440, so the case weighs almost the same as the device!

 

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In fairness, it does feel like a very sturdy case and I would certainly have faith in its ability to keep my iPad secure. The iPad sits snugly inside the holder and the wrap around cover stays closed thanks to a magnetic tab and offers the very handy sleep/wake function. It’s a great looking case, nicely styled without going over the top and does not add significant bulk to the ipad. I did like the flat black with blue accents on the front and the card/note holders inside the cover. I wasn’t sure at first about the tab, it seemed to get in the way, but after a short while, I kinda got used to it. The cover also acts as a stand for the iPad, although I found that the material on the inside cover was too soft and not grippy enough to stop the screen from slipping flat. Perhaps this is something that would improve with time as the case wears in. Another little niggle that is common to most of these style cases is the access to the buttons

Another little niggle that is common to most of these style cases is the access to the buttons along the edge of the iPad. The thick DSO material actually works against the Buckingham in this respect. The controls themselves are covered, but there are raised “virtual buttons” on the cover directly over them with the idea being that you press on the case and it, in turn, presses on the actual button. This works in theory, but in practice, I have always found that you have to press a few times and generally rather firmly before anything happens. Truth be told, I have become so frustrated with them in the past that I have taken a craft knife and removed them, leaving recessed access to the controls. Elegant? No, but it does work.

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Overall I liked the Buckingham, I liked it a lot in fact, but the burning question is did I keep it on my iPad or did I revert back to the relatively simple Targus cover that I had been using?

As much as I like the Buckingham, and as fond as I am of super protective cases, I personally did not like the extra weight it added. It is a lot more protective than most cases, including the one I am currently using, but it is also double the weight. This makes it a judgement call. If weight isn’t a factor for you, or you need that extra protection, then I say go for it, you won’t be disappointed with it. However, if your daily carry bag is already feeling a bit on the hefty side, you may want to look at other options.

Posted in: Accessories, Reviews, Tablets
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By December 22, 2016 Read More →

Wraps Core headphones review

img_5494The nice folks at Wraps recently sent us some if their funky headphones to check out. The range starts out around the £15 mark for the bright and colourful entry level models, right up to the model I’ve been playing with, the £50 “Core” version. This differs from its cheaper stablemates due to its braided faux leather cable and improved speakers which are made from titanium no less.

Right out of the box, they are a good-looking set of headphones. I’m not a fan of bling, so the nicely subdued colour scheme of “space grey” buds on black faux leather was right up my street. The unique selling point (gimmick) of the wraps headphones is that they are designed in such a way that they can be worn around the wrist when you aren’t using them. This is a bit fiddly at first, but after a few goes, you get the hang of it. The mechanism for securing the headphones is simple but effective, the 3.5mm jack is the peg and there is a hole for it either in the ear bud separator or in a small piece that slides freely along the length of the cable, so you can achieve a good fit. This works really well and I can definitely see people using it as an alternative to having the big over ear headphones hanging around your neck all day.

Personally I tried it out for the sake of the review, but to be honest, I preferred to store the headphones in a small pouch in my bag. I always have headphones with me, but I don’t always need them (literally) right at hand all the time. Your mileage may vary. As for sound quality, I was initially somewhat disappointed. Gimmicks aside, for £50, I expect a set of

As for sound quality, I was initially somewhat disappointed. Gimmicks aside, for £50, I expect a set of headphones to sound good. The Cores sounded a bit subdued, almost to the point of sounding muffled. I tried the various sizes of silicone buds provided in the package, but even with a good fit, the sound wasn’t great.

Now, I know that the sound can change once headphones “burn in”, but I have never experienced such a noticeable difference in any other set. After a few days, the sound transformed. The fuzzy, dampened sound cleared up and the details started to come through. Maybe it is because of the use of titanium speakers, but an extended burn-in time certainly made a massive difference. The overall sound is not what I would call outstanding, at this price point there are competitors that will give a much richer sound quality, but I would say that it is still very good and more than up to the task. You get a nice amount of detail and it has a bass that is nicely rounded but can deliver a bit of a thump when asked. Sometimes with braided cables, you get a lot of noise coming through when they rub against clothing etc, thankfully I didn’t find this was the case with the wraps.

If I was to level a criticism against the headphones, one tiny niggle is the size of the ear buds themselves. They are rather small. This is a good thing when they are stored on your wrist, but I found that when I was wearing them whilst out for a walk, I kept having to push them into my ear regularly. I have pretty small ears, so if you have Dumbo lugs, this might be an issue for you.

Overall I really like these headphones. The styling is really nice and the sound quality is totally decent. Yeah, they are maybe a bit pricey compared to others on the market, but the addition of the wearable feature is pretty handy and does set it apart. There is obviously an element of personal taste with non-conventional designs, but if these appeal to you, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Available in Gold, Space Grey, Silver and Rose Gold from www.mywraps.com  for £49.99

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By November 18, 2016 Read More →

Strike Alpha Cradle for iPhone 7 Review

strikeBack in 2015, the nice folks in the Australian company Strike sent us one of their Strike Alpha Cradles (DIY version) to take a look at. They have sent us another one, this time designed and sized for the iPhone 7.

I must confess to being at something of a loss when it comes to this device. There is just so much about it that just doesn’t make sense to me. Sometimes you get a swanky new gadget to review and you don’t immediately see the utility or value of the thing, but as you use it, the merits start to shine through. It’s that old sales line – “the gadget you didn’t know you couldn’t live without.” I was hoping experience would bring some insight here.

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The Strike Alpha Cradle is a beast of a phone holder/charger. It’s massive and feels extremely solid. Its featureless black plastic and obvious heft gives it a utilitarian air. The plastic does not flex or creak and appears to be of good quality. The arm it’s attached to feels similarly well engineered with a clear plastic suction cup for attachment to your windshield or dashboard. There is a handy plastic disc included if you dash is rounded or textured. The cradles are model specific and sized accordingly to fit your phone. This ensures a very snug fit and there is no chance of your phone falling out as you bounce along the rough, pitted roads of the outback.

One reason for the size of the cradle is that it houses an internal passive antenna function to actually boost the reception of your phone, which would be extremely handy if little Timmy falls down the well in a remote area and you need to call for help.

I can’t fault the quality of the device, it does what it was designed to do very well, I just can’t get my head around the purpose of it. The cradle holds your phone and charges it, but only that phone, and only if it isn’t in a case. If you want one that supports your phone plus a standard case, you have to buy a different Alpha Cradle. Want one that supports your phone with a thick, rugged case, you have to buy another Alpha Cradle. Change handset brand when your contract is up, or the new version of yours is a bit bigger….you see where I’m going here. Why they couldn’t make the cradles a bit more universal, I do not know. It couldn’t possibly be cost effective to produce so many variations.

The reception boosting function is an excellent idea, but in order to take advantage of it, you have to plug the non-detachable male FME cable to an external antenna or built-in GPRS function. If your car doesn’t have built-in sat nav and you don’t fancy taking your dash apart to wire it in, this cable simply dangles impotently from the bottom of the cradle. I’d imagine the amount of people in the UK who would make use of this feature is tiny. But even if you did hook it up, the Alpha has no Bluetooth function and no microphone, so unless you want to resort to yelling at the phone and using its built-in speakers for the reply, the benefit of extra reception is somewhat wasted. If it had Bluetooth, I could maybe see taxi’s having this mounted on their dash.

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I mentioned previously about the size of the cradle, it is actually about the same height as my iPhone and considerably wider. Once inserted, the phone does stick out above the unit by about an inch, so it does take up a significant chunk of windshield real estate and it really does remind me of one of those old school cradles when mobile phones were like house bricks. The charging cable is integrated so if it doesn’t reach the socket, or there is too much cable left over, I’m afraid you are stuck with it as you can’t replace it with one of a more suitable length. Curiously, the USB charger that plugs into the 12V socket of your car is a pretty cheap looking unit, a stark contrast to the rest of the assembly. It too is oversized, looking oddly like a gear knob.

So you see, I can’t really see what purpose this 90’s revival serves, especially when it offers such limited practical functionality and costs an eye-watering £85! More if you want to the professionally fitted model (fitting not included). But then again, this is an Australian company, so if you put the Alpha into that context, perhaps having it mounted to the dash of a utilitarian works vehicle that may need to travel to more remote areas, the construction and external antenna direction perhaps makes sense. Perhaps. But at AU$150, and no built-in Bluetooth there are bound to be better options available.

Posted in: Accessories, Reviews
By November 16, 2016 Read More →

Griffin iTrip Clip Bluetooth Adaptor Review

2016-11-16Not long ago, those evil people at Apple stole our headphone sockets and forced us to use their proprietary headphones or one of their adaptors. There was fighting in the streets, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!

Or at least so the media would have you believe. As it turned out, most people just got on with it and the fact that Apple provided both a set of headphones and an adaptor in the box meant it really wasn’t much of an issue after all. Now, to say that it didn’t present a few little logistical grumbles would be fair. For instance, you cannot charge your device whilst listening to music unless you have a different adaptor or Bluetooth headphones. Then there is the fact that you have to always have the adaptor with you if, like most people, you have multiple sets of headphones – one in your bag, maybe one in the office and one at home. Apple would tell you that the adaptors are only £9 each, so you can buy more. Of course, they would.

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Then comes along the Griffin iTrip Clip (no apple accessory can start with anything other than an “i”), an absolutely genius diminutive device that solves a problem simply and tidily. The iTrip allows the user to plug in any regular old headset and instantly convert it into a Bluetooth set, complete with handy-dandy controls for media playback and volume up to a range of 15m. It also has a built-in microphone to allow you to make your headphones into a Siri-compatible hands-free kit. Want to plug it into your car’s aux socket and stream music and calls from your phone? It’ll do that too! And the joy of it is that the device itself is very small and neat, it weighs almost nothing and has a clip for attaching to your clothing. There is no display on the device, but red and blue LEDs indicate its status and helpfully lets you know when the 4-6 hour active battery life is coming to an end. So how much is this do-it-all-dolly? You’ll find it for under £20! Bargaintastic!

Now the device is by no means perfect, I noticed immediately that the volume was much louder than when the headphones were plugged directly in. Normally I’d have the headphones volume sitting around half way, but through the iTrip, I get the same volume at about a quarter of the way up the scale. Not a huge deal, but if like me, you like to listen to music at night just before you drift off, the very first volume point is about the right volume for me, but if you wanted it any softer…..unlucky. When turning on, off or connecting to a device there is an electronic voice that confirms the action. Handy, but watch out, this is loud too! In saying that, I’d rather have to turn the volume down than have to max it out just get any sound out.

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Music streams perfectly clearly through the little Griffin, the responsiveness is spot on and there is very little lag time between pressing the button and the reaction on the device, but I did notice that when I was watching videos, there is an ever so slight delay between the video and the sound. This delay isn’t present when the headphones are plugged directly in, but it is consistently present when using the iTrip. It’s only slight, but it’s enough to throw the lip synch off just enough to make everything looked like it’s been dubbed into English.

The clip used to attach the device to your clothing is somewhat stiff and is moulded into the unit. Personally, I would prefer something a bit less snappable if you are trying to push it onto a heavy coat etc, maybe a spring clip or similar. This is a very minor issue though and for £20, if it snaps, you aren’t going to be in floods of tears, mourning its loss.

I’m amazed that Griffin can produce this device in the £15-20 range and at this price point the functionality it delivers dwarfs its few little niggles. Sure, I’d like a longer battery life, but then the device would probably have to be bigger and the price would definitely go up so it’s a good balance. This is an easy recommendation for anyone with an iPhone 7, but beyond that, it will also work with any phone or tablet, making it a versatile little gizmo that anyone could use. Thumbs up from me.