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.

Posted in: Headphones, Reviews
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.

Posted in: Headphones, Reviews
By July 21, 2017 Read More →

F-Secure Sense Review – The best online security?

IMG_20170623_211739-001Is your smart home safe? Let SENSE take over!

Trojans, Malicious spyware, Botnets are just some of the potential threats to your home network.  Many people are unaware that these threats can infiltrate your home network by a simple click on a website that like a cyber landmine could have a catastrophic effect on your digital self.  Credit card details, access to your personal documents, photographs anything that you have online that is of value can be taken remotely in seconds. This is truly frightening and the attitude this will never happen to me will not protect you. Prevention is better than the cure!

Thankfully F-Secure a Finnish cyber security and privacy company established since 1988 have been working on SENSE a device designed to create a secure home network and protect you and your family’s digital identities.

SENSE is a smart security router that is being heavily advertised as ‘The missing piece of your connected home’ Being a family man I want to protect my home and family from any threats so what can SENSE do?

SENSE can connect to all devices in the home from tablets and smartphones to games consoles and baby monitors.

In the age of IoT it is important that all items within your home are under your control and not left open for an unknown presence to use at their will.  Listening to F-Secure’s Mikko Hypponen at this years TNW 2017 conference in Amsterdam, made me stand up and take notice that the possibility for a hacker to infiltrate my home through a games console is a reality. With the WannaCry ransomware attack happening in May 2017 F-secures timing to launch SENSE could not have happened at a better time. Everyone needs to be more security savvy and with SENSE F-secure has made this easy to do.

You can check out the unboxing of SENSE here with Gareth.

Out of the box, you have to appreciate the commendable design of the SENSE router, a strikingly bright white triangular shape with the router panel hidden away at the back, definitely different from past routers I have had which have been typically black/grey and boring.

f-secure, sense, review, firewall, security, IoT, antivirus, home security,

Inside the box, there is a rather striking cardboard panel welcoming you as a smart person for purchasing SENSE. I guess in the world of smart technologies we also need to adapt and become smarter people. Under this you have a few leaflets; Product safety information and a Quick guide setup for SENSE.

Below the leaflets, you have the angelic white SENSE router, the power cord and plug and an ethernet cable.

The instructions on the cardboard panel instruct you to download the SENSE app from either the Google Play Store or App store. There are a number of ways to connect SENSE to your home network. They are clearly outlined in the instructions. Setup took about ten minutes which was surprisingly quick. I downloaded the SENSE app from the play store and followed the on screen setup. Below you can follow the screenshots of the setup.

My current broadband provider is with Sky.

f-secure, sense, review, firewall, security, IoT, antivirus, home security,

SENSE connected effortlessly to the internet and boom it was ready to serve and protect.

f-secure, sense, review, firewall, security, IoT, antivirus, home security,

SENSE creates a secure WiFi network within your home network. It splits the frequency between 2.4ghz and 5ghz which is useful. Your original WiFi network will still be available to connect to but there will be two further options to consider F-SECURE SENSE 2.4 and 5ghz.


I’m not sure what I was expecting with this newfound technology. SENSE requires minimal effort and works tirelessly to protect all my devices connected to it.  SENSE so far has blocked 386 threats on the 8 devices I have connected to the network. As you can see from the screenshot these threats are generally websites blocked that SENSE realises there is a potential threat. We all have clicked on a ‘where are they now?’ link to be faced with a barrage of advertising and pop ups. Even though you could just look ‘them’ up on a search engine you still proceed to click here for the next page allowing your vital information being collected by a website like this. SENSE recognises the potential threat and blocks the website from being viewed. Unless you don’t mind having your data shared by a website like this SENSE will allow you to continue against its better judgement.

f-secure, sense, review, firewall, security, IoT, antivirus, home security,

My wife and kids are also becoming smarter with SENSE. They are now learning where to access the information they need safely as SENSE has blocked a few of their usual news feed websites are deemed unsafe.

f-secure, sense, review, firewall, security, IoT, antivirus, home security,

The SENSE app also gives a breakdown of each device on browsing protection and tracking protection. The beauty about SENSE is that it will evolve with time, more updates and patches will be created all included with your one off fee of £169.

f-secure, sense, review, firewall, security, IoT, antivirus, home security,


One thing I found surprising is that my phone which I leave on all night was trying to access websites as I slept. This may be an application that has not closed down properly but with SENSE to the rescue it has discovered something sinister and blocked the action.

Should you invest in SENSE? The price tag of £169 for SENSE with 12 months membership followed by £8.50 a month subscription may put a lot of consumers off, why pay for internet security when you can get it for free? As you will know nothing is free nowadays and that free software is making you pay for it with your privacy.

SENSE does not track your internet history as explained here.


With SENSE now running in my house for three weeks, I have discovered WiFi signal to be stronger. Previous to SENSE we had suffered drop offs and had to restart the router in order to connect to the internet again. SENSE boosting WiFi signal is an added bonus to the job it was designed for.

SENSE has proven a welcome addition to my now smarter home. The digital clock displayed on the front has become more useful than I originally thought. We have absolutely no luck with analogue clocks in our house no clock has the right display, knowing that the SENSE router has the right time my wife and kids just pop into the hall if they need to know the time.

I have peace of mind that my family and my IoT devices are not going to be attacked as SENSE acts as my cyber Guardian. F-Secure has not rushed the production of SENSE as they wanted to get the product just right. Their patience and endurance have truly paid off as SENSE really is the missing piece of your connected home.

A mobile device to run the F-Secure SENSE app is required to operate:

  • iOS 9 or higher (iPad 2 not supported)
  • Android 4.4 or higher
  • Bluetooth 4.0 (BLE)
  • Support for WPA2 WLAN encryption
  • Extra security functions are available on Windows 7 (SP1) and later (32 and 64 bit) and Android.

    Hardware Specifications
  • WLAN
  • IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2.4GHz, 5GHz, AC 1750
  • Antenna 4 × internal
  • USB – 1 × USB 3.0
  • WAN – 1 × RJ45 Ethernet 10/100/1000 Mbps
  • LAN – 3 × RJ45 Ethernet 10/100/1000 Mbps
  • Bluetooth 4.0 & Bluetooth LE
  • CPU – 1 GHz Dual-core 
  • RAM – 512 MB DDR3
  • ROM – 1 GB
  • Power DC: 12V 2A, AC: 110-240V, 50/60Hz 0.8A max.
  • Dimensions – 217 × 125 × 90 mm (8.54 × 4.88 × 3.54 in)
Posted in: Reviews
By July 11, 2017 Read More →

Vodafone Smart V8 Review

P1030864Picking up great value for money seems to be getting more and more common these days. Vodafone has really put together a very nice combination of high-end features combined with quality materials and a cheap price tag. The Vodafone Smart V8 is pretty amazing value for money and worth checking out.

Vodafone, Smart V8, Android, Google, business, qualcomm, snapdragon, 3gb, 435

Looking around the device on the top we have a small microphone hole plus a 3.5 mm headphone jack. There are also two incisions for the antenna array.

Vodafone, Smart V8, Android, Google, business, qualcomm, snapdragon, 3gb, 435

To the right of the screen is the simple volume rocker, changed from the previous Smart Platinum and Smart Ultra design, this is now has a beautifully milled bevelled edge to the rocker as opposed to the textured approach last year.

Vodafone, Smart V8, Android, Google, business, qualcomm, snapdragon, 3gb, 435

At the bottom are two grills for the mono speaker, the one to the right has a speaker behind it. Plus a microUSB connection, again there are two incisions for the antenna array.

Vodafone, Smart V8, Android, Google, business, qualcomm, snapdragon, 3gb, 435

To the left of the screen is the SIM card tray which also doubles as a microSD card reader. Below this is the power button with similarly bevelled edges. It’s worth noting from last year to this year they have relocated the power button to the left-hand side of the device which may take some getting used to, however, it’s hardly a cause for concern.

Vodafone, Smart V8, Android, Google, business, qualcomm, snapdragon, 3gb, 435

To the rear is a slightly pronounced 16-megapixel autofocus camera with a LED flash to it right. The camera is capable of capturing video at 1080p, 30 frames per second and we’ll get the results later on. Below this is a fingerprint reader. Further on down the shiny brushed Steel rear is the Vodafone emblem. To the top and the bottom are pieces of textured plastic again to help with the antenna array.

Vodafone, Smart V8, Android, Google, business, qualcomm, snapdragon, 3gb, 435

The front of the device has a 5.5 inch LTPS IPS LED LCD capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 1080 by 1920 working out at a PPI of 401. Whilst there is no Gorilla Glass on here Asahi Dragontrail has been employed instead.

Inside the device is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 backed by 3gb of RAM and an Adreno 505 GPU. This octa-core 1.4 gigahertz processor is hardly the speediest on the block however it certainly does manage to make easy work of most day-to-day tasks. Flipping through various social media applications I never noticed any slow down and gaming proved to be quite successful especially with some high end games like Grand Theft Auto.

A 3000mAh battery sits inside, and coupled with the low powered Snapdragon 435 processor is more battery than you would need for a full day of heavy use. Whilst the smart V8 does not manage two full days on one charge it gets very close.

Vodafone have kept the device almost stock save for a few Vodafone-branded applications to assist with calling, messaging or just general assistance on the go there are a few extra applications that have been thrown in that may assist in day-to-day business, for example the private space application that allows you to lock down various portions of the phone or applications to avoid information being compromised if the phone is lost. Interestingly enough, Google cardboard applications are installed as default which we tend not to see terribly often.  

One thing that really surprised me for £150 is the camera. It really is very good, examining some of the photographs taken in broad daylight shows little degrade or pixelation and the colour representation is quite faithful. Even in low-level light the camera and LED flash function very well and proved to be fast and responsive.

The digital zoom works quite well, there isn’t a huge amount of loss in the image once zoomed in.

Vodafone, Smart V8, Android, Google, business, qualcomm, snapdragon, 3gb, 435

There isn’t a tremendous amount of toys built into the camera save for some filters, a Panoramic function and some HDR settings anti-shake have been included, you can adjust the function of the volume keys during picture taking, set up camera quick launch using the volume keys and adding watermarks.

Video footage is passable, not the hottest quality in town, but far from horrible. The footage is uploaded directly to Youtube from the phone and the only compression to the video is that which Youtube applies. The microphone is incredibly sensitive, picking up some heavy breathing from me, distant grumbles from the dogs and managing to filter out a some of the wind noise.

Here is a selection of images from the camera. Colours are well represented and manage a depth we would expect from a higher end phone.

To the front of the device is an 8 megapixel camera that is perfect for selfies and works rather well in low-level light without the assistance of a flash. I expected this to be fairly rubbish however it works out very well and Vodafone has even taken the time to add a few extra features, for example, being able to add smoothing to the skin in the beauty function.

If there was a missed opportunity I was to complain about it would be the fingerprint sensor as, of this time of the review, I was unable to find any way of adding any extra features to the fingerprint sensor other than unlocking the phone as with other phones on the market we have seen some clever additions added to the fingerprint sensor.

Vodafone, Smart V8, Android, Google, business, qualcomm, snapdragon, 3gb, 435

The phone is originally built by ZTE, who have really upped their game in the last five years to become one of the major competitors on the market. Interweaving this with Vodafone’s business minded network put together a pretty lethal combination in a very competitive world and bringing an excellent option for business users everywhere with an exceptionally competitive price. Coupled with Vodafone’s recently upgraded 4G network this will provide terrific communications for a small and growing business.

With the Vodafone Smart V8, it’s hard to believe their flagship is a budget phone. However, it really shows how budget phones are closing the gap and catching up on the overpriced flagships being produced by companies for four or five times the price. Right now I would consider using the smart V8 as my main driver if I was on the Vodafone network as this phone easily handled everything I have thrown at it, and getting me through the day with plenty of juice to spare.

Posted in: Phones, Reviews
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.

Posted in: Accessories, Reviews
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 May 10, 2017 Read More →

Glovax Pro review

P1030723bGlovax is an interesting Indiegogo campaign I have managed to get ahold of ahead of time. These striking gloves brag they can tolerate more abuse than any other adventure glove including, cut resistance, anti-skidding, abrasion-resistance, water & oil resistance, flexibility, and comfort!

As a gardener, I put them to the test and spent a couple of weekends tackling my jungle with little concern as to the gloves welfare, and they held up pretty well.

In the description, we are told the yarn of the gloves is made with special technology contributing to its durability and resistance. In the hand they gloves feel similar to what you might expect from mountain biking gloves, however, this messes into a rubbery underside with a notable grip.

The variant I have been sent are the Glovax Pro in a rather striking orange colour. Don’t let that fool you, you will be able to find them if you drop them. On closer inspection you notice that the mountain bike-like material is in fact much stiffer and tightly woven, there is only a little give or sketchiness to the material.

Inside the glove is a silky soft underside of the material, all around. This feels good on the hand, allowing the skin to breath and keep cool. On the hand, the gloves feel snug but not restrictive. They are light weight and after a few minutes, you will forget you are wearing them as they are mightily comfortable.

It took me a little while before I was happy to push on push on with the Glovax as I believed I would damage them, however that soon gave way to the carefree attitude as I dug into the bottom of the lawnmower to give it a clean and the glove were tight enough to my hands I that I was to act like I was using my naked finger instead of cumbersome gloves. The only thing that was missing were my nails to get to those hard to reach places.

Cutting hedges, moving lawns, lifting grass and hedge cuttings were much easier as thorns could not jab me and I really felt quite protected. Turning my attention to fixing a broken fence, the glove provided good grip for screws, ripping up broken wood and attaching new lumps of wood together.

The one thing that really bothers me was the claim that the gloves are waterproof. Not to the degree I was expecting. Plunging the gloves into the drain to remove leaves, stones and other foreign matter the gloves let water in. They do not perform like a pair of marigolds by the kitchen sink. Perhaps the rubbery underside keeps the water out if rock climbing as depicted on the campaign page and I am mistaken.

After this, I decided to test another bold claim, the cut resistance. I took the sharpest knife in my kitchen drawer and skid it across the rubber a few times. Each time I tried harder and harder and the gloves withstood it. Certainly, this isn’t revolutionary, however when you consider the gloves weigh around 50 grammes you have to admit, that’s a lot of protection for something so slight.

Glovax are pretty impressive and diverse. There is a lot you can do with them and they would be welcome in most homes and still be used for multiple different things. At a price of $24 for the basic backing on their Indiegogo, they are a better investment than a few pairs of a cheaper alternative.


Posted in: Reviews
By May 7, 2017 Read More →

SpeedLink DECUS RESPEC Gaming Mouse Review

P1030695There is no shortage of gaming mice out there, however, the is no one mouse that would suit all hands. Some like smaller mice, lighter, to the point, configurable. Putting a list together of all the things you want from a mouse is actually quite difficult, and you might find the almost perfect combination however it lacks that one little feature that is could well be a deal breaker. The Speedlink Decus Respec has a number of possibilities you might want to consider when on the hunt.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been looking at a number of Speedlink products, primarily a keyboard and a gamepad. These combined features and a low price particularly well I found it quite difficult to find fault. Aside from some disappointing software Speedlink seemed to be on the money.

Working around the mouse, we can see the Decus Respec is designed with the right-handed gamer in mind there does not appear to be a left handed variant available in this particular model. The whole device has been moulded to the contours of the hand and the body fits easily under the hand, including the pinky and ring finger, more on this later.

The thumb has access to a forward and back button, now a staple in mouse standards, from a resting position. The back button takes no effort to press, however, the forward does require a little stretch from the thumb to tap, useful to ensure you do not hit the wrong button and the forward never gets as much action as the back in daily usage.

The index finger sits on the Left Mouse Button (LMB) however it is surrounded by controls. First of all is the larger button next to the LMB, the Double Tap button. This button has a configurable double click for the left button, to save you the effort of double clicking yourself. The instance between the clicks can be set using the software provided.

Behind the scroll wheel is a DPI button, enables the user to adjust the mouse’s sensitivity to a faster or slower pointer speed. The Scroll wheel has a rubber tire style tread around it allowing for extreme grip, the wheel is clickable also.

On the right of the mouse as two extra grooves for the ring and pinky fingers. These are exceptionally comfortable, even to those who wield larger hands, like me. Whilst they are an interesting addition, they increase the size of the mouse considerably to a little over 90mm. Some might be happier to forgo this addition for a smaller mouse, however once used for an extended gaming session, the benefits are obvious.

The underside of the mouse has four smooth plastic plates around the edge to maximise smoothness, especially when under on a gaming surface. The optics are in the centre.

Large size does not always make something heavier. The Decus Respec is a heavy mouse out of the box, however, it is a weighted mouse. Underneath the house is a cavity holding four 4.5g weights. For those who find the mouse heavy, this can be adjusted or perhaps a lighter mouse may suit a particular game, the user can adjust on the fly.

A lengthy, hardwearing, braided cord connects the mouse to the computer. At the end of this is a custom designed USB connection that stands out from the rest. You will not make any mistakes pulling this out instead of another peripheral.

LEDs seem to be all the rage and Speedlink seem to love them. The Decus Respec is a slave to the popular culture here. The mouse emits a breathing glow of colour cycling through the spectrum when the computer is on. The slits look somewhat like shark gills on the sides. Only the Decus glows on the top with the Respec sitting in black ink.

Overall, the makings of this gaming mouse are superb. Whilst they are not for everyone, it’s getting close.

The speedlink software is in keeping with their other software, unfortunately, this means the task bar icon is identical to the Gaming software.

The software is easy to use and has some fairly useful features. To the top is the main profile editor allowing for 5 profiles and button configuration. To the right of this allows the use to play around with the lighting effects, there isn’t an extensive range of customisation, however, some is better that none.

Below this is a selection of menus for Performance, speed, system and buttons, alongside settings.

Under Speed, you can adjust the mouse DPI, alongside the X/Y, USB polling rate or rapid fire.

Under System Windows mouse settings like pointer speed and scrolling speed can be adjusted.

Finally under Settings are … no settings. Driver updates and reset defaults is all you find here.

To play a game makes for a top notch experience. I primarily game on a Logitech MX Master, a non-gaming mouse,  and find it to be almost perfect for everything I need. The Speedlink Decus Repec keeps up with the Logitech’s precision and performance and adds a few extra buttons that I now look for and perhaps even rely on in certain games.

The Decus Respec sits around £50 on Amazon right now and it’s bargain at that price. The build quality is that of a higher price mouse and the comfort is unparalleled. Combined with the fact that it does exactly what you want it to do in the games you are using it with means this is a brilliant buy for the casual and hardcore gamer. Certainly, a few more settings in the software might push the boat out here, but for now, the Decus Respec is staying hooked up to my computer for now and it will take something incredible to make me want to swap it out. Top marks to Speedlink!

The Speedlink Decus Pespec is available from Amazon here.

By April 29, 2017 Read More →

Google Home Review

P1030686Google reinvented the wheel when it came to the Chromecast. A small, inexpensive piece of hardware that changed the way we used our television. Can they do it again with a speaker that hopes to change the way we deal with life? Thanks to out friends over at Maplin who can provide you with a Google Home of your own.

Google have taken a speaker, put their Google Assistant software inside and styled it up to be distinct and attractive in almost every home. From a design point of view, things are impressively well balanced.

Home was originally released in the United States 6 months before the UK launch on the 6th of April and must have sold well enough for Google not to kill it in the early stages, much like the Nexus Q. The reason for the delay is an obvious one, the differing services for geographic locations. Alongside adapted the voice recognition software of the assistant to allow the huge variety of vocal tones in the United Kingdom work.

This £129 system really has to impress if it is to be taken seriously as there is some tough competition from Amazon managed to beat Google to the market with the Echo and Dot hardware. Much fuss has been made of these and the ease of triggering the assistant and even some false orders.

Looking around the device, on the sloped top is a touch sensitive panel with a couple of microphone holes. The centre has a rotational dial with different colourings depending on the function being used.

To be back of the Google Home is a mute button, a small LED and the Google Logo.

Below this is the speaker cover, this is a material finish, and is available in various colours. The fabric adds a little more of a homely feel to the unit.

On the bottom is a rubber ring to prevent the unit sliding and the power connector.

The closed comparison of Google’s design is something like an air-freshener. Some might scoff that the top is plastic and unable to change colour, and they might be right. For £129.99 it feels like there could have been perspex with an LED to create a little ambience. Perhaps, this is a look we might see in the future and the device is refined over time.

The two microphones on the top of the unit appear to be the only microphones on the device. When asked, Google Home cryptically replies there is “at least one.” Whilst the Amazon Echo features 7 microphones Google equipped the home with only two. Google Home has never failed to hear me.

Google home 802.11ac Wi-Fi and some Bluetooth capability, however, the Bluetooth has not yet been activated.

Interacting with Google Home couldn’t be easier, you talk, it listens. Once connected to Wi-Fi, sorry no ethernet here, the experience is entirely audio based. Save for a little touch action on the top for volume control. Popping out simple commands receives an appropriate response and if you are unsure what to do, you simply ask that too.

As Google is connected to, arguably, the largest online resource of search requests you might think there is little it can;t answer. Unfortunately, there is. Questions and requests cannot be too complicated, the Assistant will respond with a standard statement that things are being worked on and she cannot do. When I say she, the Assistant admits she cannot talk like a “bloke” at the moment.

Much has been made of the ability to continue a line of questioning on a particular topic, for example, “Who is the President of the United States of America?” the Answer with a little extra information if give. Following this with “How old is he?” meets with silence. I had been under the impression this flow of questioning was a thing, however, it would seem not, for the time being at any rate.

To wake the device with “Okay Google” or “Hey, Google”. Two phrases worked deep into the bowels of the system, and the user is unable to change, so if your dog is called “Blokey Doodle”, chances are Google Home is going to wake up and you are going to give your Dog a more sensible name. Thankfully the trigger words are harder to accidently use that Alexia from Amazon that seems to be leading to light pericombobulations amongst users, but it can cause other friends and family’s phones to jump into action.

Once Google Home’s personality has been summoned, four coloured dots dance on the top of the unit as it listens to you and formulates a reply. Google Home consults Google’s Knowledge Graph and uses a superb vocabulary to generate a reply. If there is a fairly concrete record online Google is able to answer most factually orientated questions and states it’s source as backup, for example, “according to Wikipedia.” Complex questions can stump the little piece of plastic, however, whilst is tries and you can’t help but feel sorry of Google Home the first couple of times you stump it.

However, understanding your knowledge needs is not Google Home’s only trick. You can connect to Spotify, remember particular numbers or phrases, set alarms and timers, and give you a basic crash course in languages. Home plugs itself into Maps and gets to know what is around you, being able to offer tips on where to find local services.

At this the time of writing, Google Home has seen a couple of firmware revisions, however, nothing major. My experience was based on feature available at launch. The main app to interact with Google Home is the newly redressed Chromecast app, now titled Google Home. This really only serves as an aid for setup, inspiration and troubleshooting. There is very little you can actually do from here.

The settings are where most of the action is. You can configure the News source from a limited range of choices, step a Shopping List as a default when you realise you are out of Milk and some other rather standard settings.

After this, the app serves to help you get the most out of Home. recommending services on Google Play and audio prompts it for the handiest features. There is no definitive list and search the web will find many more interactions not listed here.

Google Home manages to be both things, an assistant and a toy. Only time will tell if it will stick like the Chromecast, or will it fade away into obscurity. With the Google Assistant being ready for action on your phone it will make the draw of Google Home ever more difficult, however, it’s something that at least needs to be tried to see if it actually fits.

Over the last fortnight, I have been considering adding two more units to you home as the Home has become an invaluable asset to my daily routine. From reading me the headlines and weather outlook in the morning to reminding me of appointments to reminding me how to spell pericombobulations for this review. Despite Home sitting beside some computer speakers, I find myself throwing the oddly podcast over it as the sound quality is perfectly acceptable for voice. And I admit that I have played the inbuilt trivia game more than one.

However, will it last? Once you have tired of trying to catch it out and finding Easter Eggs there is life in the platform. I can think of a number of little additions that will prove invaluable to be down the road. Google Home is continually evolving and I love the idea that this will be here beside me. Certainly my phone can do it, however, the trigger has to be turned on and this doesn’t help battery life.

Google Home might occupy a small amount of space, however, it offers some big opportunities. Many thanks to Maplin for providing a unit for this review, check out their listing if we have sold you on Google Home


By April 25, 2017 Read More →

Speedlink QUINOX Pro USB Gamepad Review

P1030630For years gamepads for PCs were not a thing, now it seems, they have caught up with and even overtake the complex stylings of the console competition. Some prefer them, so, therefore, there is a market. Microsoft and Playstation are forever bettering their input methods from generation to generation and sometimes in between, however with the PC gamers can open a whole next level of customisation and Speedlink knew this, delivering the Quinox Pro. This is a comfortable gamepad, with reconfiguration to the hilt and a price that doesn’t upset.

Looking around the device the front sees most of the action. A D-pad with independent buttons might be one of the more controversial design elements. The non-replaceable thumb sticks are identical and possess a decent amount of travel. Four large action buttons sit to the right with illumination. A Back and Start button sit in the centre with a large Xbox style guide button. A small OLED screen is positioned in the centre bottom region.

On the back, there are 4 accessible paddles and two slider switches, one for switching vibration on and off, the other switches from Xinput to Directinput, cunningly titled X and D. Crucially, the Quinox supports both Directinput, for mouse input signals and Xinput, mimicking the Xbox configuration.

On the bottom are two controller dials which, when pressed or flicked left and right, navigate a menu on the OLED screen.

These dials are separated into left and right and adhere to the left of right thumbstick for the most part. flicking dial brings up the. The left dial configures and selects the Marco modes, remapping buttons to the bumper buttons and paddles on the top and back. Flicking the right dial and using the D-pad turn the LEDs on and off. Time is required to get the most out of these buttons. Initially, they are quite confusing however, the benefits are obvious once you successfully bind a button to a complicated button combination.

The top sees two analogue triggers and two bumper buttons. In addition, there are two programmable buttons. These require quite a bit of extra travel and should not be relied on for frequent usage.

The Quinox connects by a 2.4m braided microUSB to USB cable that is detachable from the controller. This is a good length to please most folks, of course from some I won’t be long enough however it is replaceable with a longer MicroUSB cable. One warning is, do not pull this out unless you have to, plugging the cable back into the controller is not easy and quite frustrating. The braided cable is good quality, tough yet soft to the touch.

In the hand, the Quinox Pro is a comfortable gamepad. Very similar in feel to the Xbox One controller if a little thinner. The rear paddles might be a little uncomfortable for the larger hands however they might just take some getting used to. Gaming feels quite natural however as an old school gamer I found it a little daunting to have so many buttons, something the youth or seasoned gamer might not experience.

The build quality is perfectly acceptable with strong plastic and durable buttons that feel they last a long time and take quite a pounding.There are no details or design flourishes to speak of and this is quite refreshing where an over saturated market has some great controllers with nonsense etched into the body. Speedlink have things, simple and black but not without and an eye-catching dash of red.

Some folks will use a Gamepad for every game, personally I am not a fan of gamepads in general, however, I do concede they have their merit when pairing with the right game. Project Car has some easy benefit from the analogue sticks, platforming games perform well and the controller wipes the floor with any keyboard and mouse combo. However, it cannot measure up to a first person shoot or strategy game that demand keyboard and mouse.

The Speedlink Quinox Pro USB has everything you would want from a gamepad. There is little to fault and a price tag that makes it worth considering.

For more information, check out the Speedlink site here.

Posted in: Accessories, gaming, Reviews