Reviews

By April 20, 2017 Read More →

Venturer PrimePro 12 TS review

P1030596aThe world of the laptop and two-in-one device is a crowded one at the moment and Windows 10 has really excelled at providing an operating system that is both lightweight and features packed for the budget to mid-range device to run quite well. Venturer look to be making waves and this environment and whilst their latest device, the PrimePro 12 TS, is not without its flaws, the sum of the parts is commendable.

The Prime Pro 12 TS easily feels like they have learnt from the mistakes of previous models. It looks a lot better, it feels more premium and most importantly it runs smoothly.

A 12-inch screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels proves to be just perfect for day to day interactions. Of course, this is a touchscreen device and therefore prone to large, oily fingerprints, something that is very difficult to avoid. One thing I will say about the screen and whilst it’s hardly a negative a small quirk is that the display is off-centre due to the camera on the left-hand side. Once noticed it’s impossible not to notice again. Everything is fine when running this in portrait mode, however, adopting landscape to plug it into the keyboard it just feels a little Asymmetric.

The keyboard bundled with the unit is a great feature and one that will attract many a business person who isn’t interested in the high price of the Surface line. By comparison with the previous Venturer model we looked at, the keys are greatly improved, there is decent spacing and enough travel so that you know that you press the button once you’ve pressed it.  Early usage finds that the keyboard dock was a little unresponsive and this annoyed me to some degree.  I felt I needed to push a little harder for the keyboard to respond, building up speed saw letters being dropped however once I got the knack I was able to build up speed whilst also pushing the buttons to a degree that I was sure of that the keyboard had received the signal. Over time this went away and now it’s very simple to type without issue. Perhaps the keys had a “bedding in” period of sorts.

The magnetic connection between the keyboard and the screen is very strong, I never doubted it for one moment which is commendable. When connecting the screen to the keyboard it always worked the first time, there was no fiddling around trying to find the connection and with a solid “thunk” you knew you were there.

The touchpad is great. Measuring almost 5 inches by 2 inches, there is plenty of travel in any direction. With no moving parts and stylishly cut into the keyboard’s base, there is little that can go wrong with it.

One thing that can be said about the unit as a whole is that it’s not the lightest, in fact, the whole thing bundled together is quite heavy. Weighing in at 1500 grammes, it’s on the heavier side,  but thrown it in the bag and it’s not that noticeable.

Folding the device up and putting it away is initially quite tricky but after using it for a few days you realise just how simple that actually is and becomes second nature. Once bundled up everything feels secure and protected save for the exposed microSD card, the one big problem on the exterior of the device. This popped out once on the train and landed on the table. Whilst it only happened once, it was one time too many.  I noticed it and felt it as I tapped it with one of my knuckles however on a busy train or leaving a flight this might be less than ideal. Perhaps a little piece of tape might hold things together a little better but who wants that?

Port-wise the Venturer Prime Pro has a lot to offer. Some my gripe there is only one USB, however, I never noticed the need for more. The mini HDMI is handy however I feel it’s a little redundant and was replaced by the micro HDMI and the micro USB was something I never found a use for.

The addition of the rear camera is a peculiar one and the device could do without it. For most of the time, I forgot it was there and whilst it is only two megapixels I guess it might be handy for capturing a business card but it certainly isn’t going to record your holiday memories. With a fixed focus and strange zoom in appearance, the photos feel as if there should be a warning that objects may be closer than they appear.

In the unboxing video, I was unsure of the volume switch, as to whether or not it was a handy placement. In usage it became invaluable. Easy to find and as it’s a button it was actually more responsive than other options like rollers.

Windows 10 runs very well. Initially, I was highly concerned as upgrading to the latest version of Windows 10 took a ridiculous amount of time. After almost 24 hours I finally had the machine up to date. This concerned me as I figured things were quite slow when it came to the Intel atom 1.83 gigahertz processor inside, coupled with 4 gigabytes of RAM. Thankfully once updated the machine appeared to be pretty quick. I rarely noticed any slow down when opening multiple applications and even managed some light gaming with some older titles downloaded through GOG Galaxy.

To boot the device from fully powered off to a usable state took roughly 20 seconds. When using the device it lasted for around 5 hours doing a little word processing and web development,  nothing too intensive. The media playback on the screen worked well, movies look good and the full HD display impressed. The speaker was acceptable however as with most speakers there is always room for improvement. Viewing photographs, the colour representation was pleasantly more than adequate and at no stage did it appear washed out. The screen gets a solid thumbs up indoors. Outside, one a sunny day things were a little different. With the brightness up full, the screen’s glossy finish made things impossible to see, a real shame.

The Venturer Prime Pro 12 TS is a very good alternative if you aren’t prepared to spend the money for the typically recommended Windows 10 experience. At £350 it is a little more than a budget laptop however you do get a more accessible experience having the choice to leave the keyboard behind and that might be worth that price difference.

I have enjoyed my time with the Ventura prime pro12 TS. It’s an interesting form factor from a company daring to be a little different. The Prime Pro does turning heads and people have asked questions. I can nit pick, but there is nothing I can really complain about, it’s a strong package at a good price and worth considering if you’re looking for a portable Windows 10 two-in-one device.

Posted in: Laptops, Reviews, Tablets
By April 16, 2017 Read More →

Speedlink Ultor Review

P1030602Speedlink have sent over their latest Ultor Mechanical Gaming Keyboard and a keyboard that can be considered as a portable offering. Featuring Red switches the Ultro loses the numerical pad leaving the keyboard much shorter than other on the market and a lower price tag than some of the competitors.

This mechanical keyboard has an impressive metallic red chassis buried under its keys. There are only small portions of the chassis peeking out in various places as Speedlink have cut down on any excess to make a keyboard truly too the point. The Chassis might have a plastic underside however that makes sense as it is rarely visible.

The keys on the Ultor feature Red switches, also known as Kailh switches. Kailh switches may be a copy of Cherry MX (Red) however they have a good reputation in the gaming community and are not a cheap alternative or second best. that are almost indistinguishable from their Cherry MX (Red) counterparts.

Some may take issue with the lack of additional keys, volume control and no USB or audio ports. There is a multitude of gaming keyboards on the market and it’s refreshing to have a mechanical keyboard in its purest form. There will be a market out there.

Underneath, the keyboard features three rubber feet that keep the keyboard in one place when in use and two rear legs can be raised or lower depending on the angle required. These 10mm legs can be locked into position and only feature one locking position. The are not adjustable.

Connecting the keyboard to the computer is a hard wearing braided cable. Oddly this connects off centre on the keyboard, however, I can’t imagine too many people finding fault with this, perhaps it was in the centre before a D’Pad was chopped off. The cable is 1.7m long and that feels generous.

When activated the keys glow blue and leak light stylishly onto the red chassis and things look pretty good. Some might scoff that the keys should glow red to match the keyboard, however, the blue allows for a much clear visual especially when tapping away, late at night, much like I am doing now. The buttons are bright and eye catching and I am personally a fan of the blue on red. A nice mix from Speedlink. The WASD and cursor buttons glow white to differentiate themselves and it’s a nice touch. However, there is no option for the user to colour coordinate and this might both some. The default is good, but customisation is always better.

 

Losing keys does not mean losing functions, additional functionality comes from the Fn button found to the right of the Space Bar. This alters the functionality of all of the F keys along the top of the keyboard alongside the Print Screen and Scrl Lock keys.

F1 through to F4 adjusts the USB polling Rate.

F5 through to F8 are media controls

F9 pulls up your media player and F10 through to F12 are volume controls

The Print Screen key turns the Ultor into Gaming mode, activating the Macro keys. Scrl Lock key adjusts of Brightness in a cycling mode and a Breathing Effect thrown in for fun. There are 11 different brightness levels (10% increments including off.) Under these buttons is a total of Six Macros keys described as M1 to M6 are configurable through the Speedlink software.

In use I found the keys to be responsive and comfortable. The odd time I had to remind myself that this is a mechanical keyboard and it responds to the tiniest pressure and resting a finger on the button can accidentally register a hit.

For typing, the keys don’t feel too crammed together, however, there isn’t much space between each for someone with large fingers like myself. If you think you might have encroached on a neighbouring key then you likely have as the keys are that sensitive. The Return button does have an odd quirk. Tapping the bottom right corner can cause a crunch, it will still register the stroke however it just feels a little unnatural.

The Speedlink software is not lacking in any features however it doesn’t really go above and beyond either. We have three tabs, Main keys, Macros and Advanced. Along the bottom are five profile tabs, when selected each of these profiles will be configurable by the three tabs above.

Under the Main Keys tab, you can remap keys for each profile and remapping is as simple as clicking on the key and reassigning the function in a pop-up menu. This is for key remapping only, not button combinations.

The Macro tab is where you can reassign any of the six Macro keys. The Macro keys allow for simple keyboard commands or more complex commands such as Windows functions and key combination.

The Advanced tab allows you to adjust various other settings on the keyboard such as USB Polling Rate, Windows Key Setting Key, Response Time and Light Intensity. Not entirely sure why these are summarised as Advanced and adjusting something like the brightness here adds an awkward delay in the outcome on the keyboard. You are better off using the Fn key.

If I was to gripe about one thing, it would be the tray icon, it’s the same as other peripherals from Speedlink, if you own a Speedlink mouse you will have to guess or hover over to assess which tray icon you need to open to adjust any settings.

Overall, I like the Speedlink Ultro very much and it has become my main keyboard, at least for the time being. The compact design saves space and the red, metal chassis is a subtle eye-catcher. With the price tag of around £80, the Ultro is great value and a superb example of a gaming keyboard on a budget. This much quality at such a low price is hard to find.

You can pick one up from Amazon here.

Posted in: Accessories, gaming, Reviews
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By April 5, 2017 Read More →

Thinkware F770 Dashboard Camera Review UPDATED

thinkware-f770-9Thinkware are pushing the boundaries of what dashcams can do and cost. The F770 is one of their more attractive offerings and a newer the F800 is about to arrive on our shores.

The F770’s mount sticks onto your windscreen directly and I’m sure a number of users will be instantly put off the device. No suction cup has been included, only a piece of 3m tape. The mount is a simple piece of plastic with a few clips that click into the main camera’s body.

Thinkware were kind enough to clear up this issue with the following statement:

It is common sense to avoid obstructing the field of view of the driver, so the recommended location for a dash cam is behind the rear view mirror and as you can see from the below picture the THINKWARE F770 is totally hidden behind the rear view mirror from the driver’s perspective and looks like part of the original equipment. If a suction mount was used this would not be the case.

More importantly the decision was made due to legal considerations. If you use a suction mounted car camera in the UK, if the device (camera and / or cradle and / or suction cup) intrudes more than 4cm into the secondary (pink) wiper clearance zone, or intrudes more than 1cm into the primary (red) wiper clearance zone of the windscreen, you are committing a serious traffic offence (dangerous driving) under the UK Road Traffic Act 1988, and your vehicle is not roadworthy (it would fail an MOT).The company selling a windscreen suction mounted car camera has a legal duty to ensure a) that the camera can actually be attached to a section of the windscreen of the vehicle which does not result in an unlawful intrusion of the primary (red) and / or secondary (pink) wiper clearance zone, b) that the screen does not remain on or visible to the driver and c) that the user is aware of the law. If the company sells a suction mounted car camera without doing this, they have committed a crime.

 

Looking at the device, on the “front” you have the camera lens, this rotates through (around) 87° to allow for coverage depending on the angle of your windscreen.

On one side there is only a little groove for heat dissipation and the reset button.

The other side has a hatch for access to the power socket and the microUSB port. There is also a groove for a penny or tough thumbnail to turn the camera lens.

On top, there are more vents for heats and cooling. Two LEDs, WiFi and GPS. Dedicated buttons for Manual Record start/stop, turning off and on the microphone, WiFi on/off, formatting the SD card and the power button. The device turns on when the car is started so this power button is purely for exceptions to that rule.

Along the back is the slot for the MicroSD card, some more vents and the hole for the cables for the side hatch.

Recording at Full HD 1080p at 30 frames per second. The F770 records at 9.5Mbps bitrate with a mono 48kHz audio track at 728Kbps. Footage is captured to expandable storage and the F770 takes a microSD card and there should be a 16GB card included. A 16GB MicroSD card will store up to 200 minutes of footage. As with most dashboard cameras the recording loops and overwrites the oldest files provided they have not been tagged as an incident. In this case, the footage is moved to a separate folder for safe keeping. The OS on the camera as a few settings to change the storage capacities for kept footage.

To connect your camera to your phone the F770 has Wi-Fi access built in. Using Thinkware’s app a simple ad-hoc connection it made and the two devices shake hands. Connecting to the camera with your phone allows the user to stream the footage live to the phone, personalise the settings, and align the camera so image captures as much as possible.

Other settings include the sensitivity of the G-sensor, configuring the Parking recording, silencing warning for lane departure and speed zones.

The app includes an explorer function to allow the user to stream or copy video footage to their smartphone. This was something of a laborious task and it was a lot quick to remove the SD card, plug it into a computer or phone and copy the files directly

Remarkably this is a handy feature that turns off the device input voltage drops to avoid draining the battery in standby mode.

A special Dual save function is also included whereby built-in memory is used for incident recordings, in the even the removable memory is damaged you will still have the files. A good backup consideration.

Footage shot on the Thinkware Camera is good, a fine example of how paying extra give the user a big step up in quality. Night video is also acceptable with no blobs of light or underexposure. Crucially there are no lost frames either. The 30fps is consistent.  Footage can be seen in the Unboxing video above.

GPS has been built in and location data is added to the footage. This can be viewed using desktop software.

It all sounds great, what the catch? The warnings are a pain, the camera will shout as you if you slip over the speed limit, and one occasion the camera’s speed limit database is incorrect. A bong will sound when changing lanes and whilst this is great for a tired driver who might drift, it can be irritating when on a long motorway drive.

One gripe I have with this and most other cameras is the power cable, at the one end is the connector for the 12v socket however as in some cars there might only be on 12v socket the dashcam will monopolise it. I have a phone charger and Bluetooth hands-free kit that sit in a three port USB converter with my current dashboard camera, however, the Thinkware has upset this happy arrangement.

It’s pricey and gets pricier if you want a rear camera as well. For the money, I would have expected a better mount, rather than have a lump of plastic permanently attached to the windscreen, it’s a relatively small footprint, but makes this difficult when you sell a car or want to switch the camera to a second car.

The Thinkware F770 has a few shortcomings however it’s indiscreet and produces the goods. It’s up there with the best of them and if you are purchasing then you better be sure this is the one for you.

The Thinkware F770 is for sale on Amazon.co.uk for £199

Posted in: Cameras, GPS/Sat Nav, Reviews
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By March 26, 2017 Read More →

Dubleup Credit Sized Power Bank review

IMG_20170308_133524Powerbanks are increasingly becoming a must-have accessory over the last few years and manufacturers are going to extra lengths the make their just that little bit more attractive to the rest. Be it, adding a flashlight, waterproofing, huge capacity or artwork. However, one company looks to be adding a particularly attractive feature, size.

As capacities increase we see batteries getting bigger and more cumbersome, requiring a bag to carry them. The Dubleup aims to be the backup battery that you can take with you at all times and whilst it’s not going to have your phone back to 100%, it will get you out of a spot.

 

Designed to fit in your wallet or purse the Dubleup has most of the same proportions of a credit card. Save for girth, there is a battery in there so it has to have some girth. And whilst it might be as bloated as three credit cards piled on top of one another, that’s not exactly wide. Especially when you consider there needs to be a connector to charge the unit and a button to activate it.

One the one side the charger has an attractive metallic look, available in three colours. Black, silver and pink. This is a tough and somewhat scratch resistant surface. A subtle logo is in place on the top left and there is a connector on the top right, more about this later.

The understand is a little less elegant, however, this is the where all the action is. On the left is the charge cable and this is the Dubleup’s most commendable feature, the cable for your device is built right in, no need to carry one with you. A power button and some LEDs sit next to this and at the far right are some markings for capacity and output.

There is little on the sides save for the input charge port.

The one this that most will probably take issue with is that the capacity is 1280 mAh and this is lower than most phone batteries. Additionally, the output is 1A so no fast charging will take place here. Expecting your phone to be 100% after a 30-minute charge on the Dubleup is missing the point. This is designed to be in your wallet or purse to top up when battery life is grim. Perhaps when at a party on down in the bar with friends, somewhere that you don’t want to take a bulky powerbank with you and perhaps didn’t have the ability to charge your device over the course of the day, not everyone can.

Slow to charge, and from 0% to around 38% the Dubleup was dead when I unplugged it from my phone 90 minutes after starting. Just enough of an injection of power to see me home. I was able to put the Dubleup back in my wallet and motor on for a few hours before going home. A bit of a life saver in the right hands.

The Dubleup is a godsend, and not just for its slight footprint. The addition of the inbuilt charge cable is the icing on the cake and whilst options only cover MicroUSB and Apple Lightning connections this is an excellent addition to anyone’s wallet, purse or phone case! Hopefully, USB Type-C will be on the cards for the future.

As a Kickstarter project, you can register your interest now on Dubleup.com and check out the Kickstarter page HERE.

An Early Bird Offer is currently available. Get your Dubleup for just 60 AUD (around £36) or bag 2 for 100 AUD (around £60). Prices will include shipping.

Posted in: Accessories, Reviews
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 13, 2017 Read More →

Y-Cam Protect Alarm review

1486848637243Y-Cam is a security setup that employs a bunch of little peripherals under the one hub to give you peace of mind when away from home of when you locked everything up for the night.

Here we take a look at the Y-Cam Protect Alarm system. A basic, starter kit that notifies you when something happens in the home.

What you get in the box:

First up is the alarm hub itself. This box looks like an alarm system, is large enough to act as a deterrent however it’s designed to plug into your route so it might have some limits as to where you can place it. The Hub has some holes on the back for screws to allow wall mounting.

Also is the box is a door sensor with some adhesive tape to attach to both the door and the door frame. A motion sensor and remote control are also included.

 

The Y-Cam Protect calls itself a “Triple Layer” security system. This uses wired, wireless and SIM card to protect your home if your internet or power is cut.

In order to use the third level, the user has to pay for the SIM service. This costs either £5.99 per month or £59.99 for the year. The SIM provides alarms to the application and text messages to your phone when the alarm has been triggered.

There is also a feature to include the Plus button on the remote to send an emergency message to two mobile numbers. If an elderly relative has fallen perhaps, they can summon help if they have the remote on their person.

The battery on the Y-Cam lasts for around eight hours, this would be handy if there was a power cut and house was broken into a few hours afterwards. The motion and door sensors are battery powered and are said to last a year before needing replacement their batteries replaced. 

 

The sensors work for the most part. Testing the motion sensor was a little deflating as I was able to wave at it in the dark from a meter away without it jumping into action. During the day it was triggered by my pets and unlike my main house alarm does not have a function to disregard differing weight categories. However, it’s cost £150, my house alarm was close to £1000 and only upsets the neighbours when it goes off instead of tapping me on the shoulder to tell me my phone collection might not be there when I get home.

You can also arm or disarm from anywhere by the application. Whilst the Y-cam isn’t loud enough to annoy the neighbours on a false alarm it would probably aggravate your dog/cat that set it off in the first instance.

When armed the hub announces that it has been armed before allowing an adjustable grace period to clear the area. Setting off the alarm is an odd experience. The bell inside is loud, but not pant wettingly loud. You neighbours are unlikely to investigate and the sound may only serve to alert an intruder that something has happened. Instead, notifications will fly out to your device for you to react to.

The Y-Cam app is available for both for iOS or Android and is relatively simple to use. There are not many options, however, I would imagine as you add more peripherals to the system it would become a lot busier. Whilst I do not have the addition camera the functions are available to give a taste of how I could enhance the system if I were to feel inclined.

The Hub settings have a large amount of customisation making for quite an attractive experience. From naming sensors and items on the Y-Cam system to checking signal, there is a lot to work with, however not all is necessary when you are just plugging in and wanting it up and running.

 

The Protect system works pretty well. The remote is useful however I found using the application a lot more useful. I couldn’t help but think that the remote would really only be for the elderly. It’s not something you would attach to your keys when you go out and oddly enough it sat beside the Y-Cam hub for most of the time, so I didn’t lose it.

The Protect function arms and disarms quite quickly and the app is updated quickly when something happens with the system. One afternoon I did encounter a problem with the app when I received an error stating “regld required” however it worked later.

The Y-Cam Protect is a good-value home alarm system with an extra layer of reliability. It’s easy to setup and use with the benefits that easily outweigh the shortcomings. The subscription fee has it merits however it might not suit everyone.

 

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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.

Posted in: Accessories, Featured, Reviews
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By March 7, 2017 Read More →

BenQ BL2405HT monitor review

91yDSTWGsPL._SL1500_The BenQ BL2405HT has both Flicker-free technology and Low Blue Light Modes allowing for both an approach to office and gaming in the one unit. Priced at £130 the BenQ is worth considering if you do a bit of both.

The BL2405 has a 2cm wide bezel all around the screen. This is a totally acceptable and non-offensive or obtrusive amount. Certainly, it adds a large amount of the width and height of the screen, however, given the size of the screen, the bezels a are not overwhelming in any way. Buttons have been placed on the right edge of the screen. Here we have a power on/off, a select “Enter” button, Up/Down buttons for use in the menu system and to control the volume and brightness. There is also a Menu button and an Auto function. The indicator of the Brightness down button is a sticker and it would see the inputs have been upgraded. Pressing the brightness down button allows the up/down buttons to control the brightness. After a timed delay, the brightness control is released and hitting the volume Up button allows the Up/down buttons to control the volume. Take a little getting used to however as most home computer operators will probably have speakers connected to their computers this saves having an extra two buttons and the brightness can monopolise the inputs.

Here BenQ has an Ultra-Flexible Height Adjustment System (HAS) and it’s probably one of the best mounts for a desktop screen. Once attached, the screen has a full 11cm of vertical travel. Additionally, there is a very smooth 45 degrees of swivel and a twenty degrees of tilt.

On the rear are a 3.5mm audio input and a second output, for headphones or desktop speakers. As for image inputs, there is an HDMI 1.4 port, a 24-pin DVI-D input and a D-SUB. One of the great features is that the Power Supply Unit (PSU) is internal so there is no power brick.

Featuring a backlit 24-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) LED TN panel with an aspect ratio of 16:9 the BL2405 manages a contrast ratio of 1,000:1 with a maximum dynamic contrast of 12 million to one. BenQ reckons the Pixel response time is roughly two milliseconds and there is a viewing angle of 170 degrees horizontal and 160 degrees vertically.

Screen are continually tied to problems with eye-strain and BenQ have been taking steps to ensure their screen have the correct technology inbuilt to reduce common problems. The Low Blue Light modes a noticeably different to the standard settings however they take some getting used to whilst they do help eye strain. BL2405HT works well in bright environments with the impressive maximum light output. In darker conditions, the BL2405 suffered a little from light pooling in the corners however it really isn’t too much of an issue and can be overlooked given the price tag.

A trained eye might pickup on a little corner bleed here and there, noticeable when gaming or watching a movie, however, it is not to the extent to ruin an experience. The screen works well as either an office panel or gaming/media consumption panel and most will find it perfectly acceptable. I honestly like this panel a great deal and using it as the main display on a secondary computer saw no faults or blemishes I would feel it was worth pointing out.

This is a solid screen for a very reasonable price and comes as an easy recommendation.

Available on Amazon for around £130.

By February 23, 2017 Read More →

Aukey Portable Wireless Speaker Review – Model SK-M12

IMG_20170214_233310-e1487799030824Has this top amazon seller sent me a speaker to replace my hi-fi system? I usually have music blasting in the background if I am home alone doing housework, my wife listens to music during her home exercise routines and whenever we are having parties it always helps to have some music in the background to keep the kids entertained.  I suppose with it being 2017 it is time to move into the world of wireless and put this speaker to the test.

Out of the box, the Aukey Portable wireless speaker looks and feels like a premium device with the smooth black rubber casing and the silver grills. This brick shaped speaker weighs 650.6 grammes and is 20.9 x 8.3 x 7.3cm (L x W x H). The speaker uses Bluetooth 4.1 and Aukey state you can get up to 30 hours playtime connected via cable or 12 hours wireless play with the  2600mAh lithium battery.

On top of the speaker you have the control panel, volume buttons, call button (pressed twice dials the last number dialled on your phone) the power button and Mode button (presumably pop, rock, vocal)

On the left-hand side there is the USB charging port, Aux-in, and reset button. These are covered with a red silicone cover

On the right-hand side, there is a detachable handle which can be used to mount the speaker on a hook.

At the bottom, there is a 1/4″-20 standard tripod screw mount

The speaker paired via Bluetooth to my phone effortlessly.  Browsing through my music collection I had a mixture of dance, country, rock and pop are being played and I must say I was impressed.  The sound output was crystal clear, with fantastic bass and treble with no noise distortion at maximum volume. Aukey state ‘Dual 5W drivers produce deep lows, textured mids, and clear highs to enjoy at home or outdoor’

When testing the speaker outdoors the 33ft wireless range opened a world of opportunity for summer BBQ’s.  The Aukey Wireless speaker has not only impressed me, my wife and kids but other members of our family have been impressed by the sound quality from ‘the brick’ speaker. On a single charge, I have got two weeks worth of listening without having to worry about charging the battery, listening to the speaker for about an hour a day I have had no issues or problems. It currently has found a home at the kitchen sink with the splash proof grills it has made washing the dishes a more enjoyable task!

I would definitely recommend this Aukey speaker for £29.99 on Amazon this is truly a smart purchase and will hopefully be able to explore more of the Aukey range soon.

Package Contents: Aukey SK-M12 Bluetooth 4.1 Speaker, Micro-USB Cable, 3.5mm Audio Cable, User Manual, 24 Month Warranty

 

 

By February 21, 2017 Read More →

Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 Review

IMG_20170212_170538_436Network branded mobiles have always had a bit of a stench to them. Back in the day T-Mobile and Orange produced an almost endless line of MDAs and SPVs manufactured by good companies like HTC or ZTE yet hampered by Network tinkering. Removing buttons, bands, features and tinkering with the software to make the OS a Network experience rather than a Microsft or Google experience. In short, they are days best forgotten. However, if the Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 is anything to go by they could be resurrected but for the better!

The Smart Platinum 7 is a £300 smartphone built by Alcatel. Don’t let that put you off, Alcatel is making some top notch devices! Just ask Blackberry. Whilst it might be £300 Vodafone is going for a premium user experience.

Looking around the device there is a generous 5.5” display with 1440 x 2560 pixels. A pair of front facing speakers are positioned at either end and a front facing 8-megapixel camera is hidden in the inky black bezel. The screen is thankfully built of 2.5D Gorilla Glass front and the sides of impressively metal with chamfered edging that really makes the phone feel luxuriant in the hand. A deeply impressive build!

 

On the top are a 3.5mm headphone socket and a small hole for a microphone. At either end is a visible antenna.

The bottom also has a small hole for a microphone and two notable antenna points however off centre is a MircoUSB socket. This phone is over 6 months old and therefore launched before the USB Type-C revolution.

On the one side, there is a rough textured volume rocker and a power button. These buttons are of not as they give a satisfying click when pressed and you are centre you have pressed one. The rough texture is especially useful to guide your thumb to ensure you are pressing the right button. A great addition.

On the other side is the SIM card tray. The device takes a Nano-SIM and a MicrsoSD card. Unfortunately, there is not dual SIM setup up. The microSD allows for an additional 256GB of storage to expand the phone’s built-in 32GB. Above this is a dedicated camera button, configurable in the settings. From the standby mode, two taps of this button bring you straight into the camera and you are good to go, press the button to take a snap. The button is small and not as easily pressed as the volume and power on the other side. There is a lower grain texture on the camera button.

On the rear of the device, there is a circular fingerprint scanner, just below the camera lens. Given the level of effort put into the side buttons, I was surprised to find the fingerprint reader is a little bit difficult to find as the ring around the sensor is quite subtle and does not protrude from the rear. The scanner is perfectly acceptable, no issues with misreading fingerprints or slow operation. Above this is a larger protrusion for the 16 Megapixel camera and there is a small LED flash to the side. The back has a glass surface again that is rather slippery, especially on a cold day, without a case, you will drop this. Under the glass is a light pattern and a Vodafone logo has been added.

The instant you pick up your Smart Platinum 7 you will know this is a premium phone, however, is materials used are a cause for concern and whilst if feel fragile due to the slippery feel it also shows all kinds of fingerprints and grease. So have a case and a cloth at the ready.

The 5.5-inch, QHD AMOLED screen is gorgeous. At 1440×2560 the resolution is outstanding as the PPI hits 534. Icons, wallpapers and media pop on this screen with exceptional clarity and sharpness. The rest of the colour palette is bright and vibrant, reds standing out, in particular, making Vodafone logos striking and impressive.

The phone operates as one would expect, and thankfully there isn’t too much bloat from Vodafone. Certainly, there are some tutorials for how to use certain features and whilst they are incredibly basic there is no doubt someone, somewhere will find something of use. At any rate, you are given a skip option anytime a new tutorial appears.

Unfortunately, the Smart Platinum 7 is still running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. Whilst Nougat obviously hasn’t’ reached the majority of recent phones Marshmallow is better than what we could have seen. A little digging suggests Vodafone may update the firmware, but then again, maybe not. Marshmallow is still rock solid and only time will tell if the phone will get an update.

A non-removable Lithium-ion 3,000mAh battery keeps things going through the day. Thanks to the lower powered processor this will see the average user through the day, easily. Power users will notice that they can get through more than before, or, if you like, a power user will probably put this on charge later in the afternoon than an S7 or 6P.

The Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 has an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 with 3GB of RAM. This arrangement keeps things skipping along nicely. The Snapdragon 652 is the updated version of the 620 and whilst not as powerful as an 820 in some other devices around this price point users will notice a big power saving.

Things run smoothly from games to serious multitasking, flipping through a bunch of different apps, copying and pasting from Outlook to the browser and vice verse. I didn’t notice any particular slow down and never felt I need to close a few background apps for a little boost. I noticed a drop in performance only during my synthetic benchmark tests. In the generalist

Both AnTuTu and Geekbench captured some decent scores. Of course this will not mirror the S7s out there, however, the Smart Platinum 7 can hold it’s on.

The camera is simply average. In idyllic conditions, shots are perfectly acceptable however if you try outside of that the optics try, but just can’t manage to deliver to goods. It tries but fails. One big plus is that the camera is astonishingly fast to take a picture. You press the button and the picture is taken, in Auto mode. No fiddling around with focusing and lighting. If just happens and the results (in idyllic conditions) are good.

The front camera is capable of shooting usable selfies in decent light. Club rats will be sad to hear it’s not stellar in low light, even with the front LED flash. With the flash off shots are pixelated and close to unusable in low light. With it on, while usable, people and objects are too bright and lack detail. Being fair to Vodafone this is an issue I see on close to all phones’ front cameras.

Video recording is a little odd, the camera app doesn’t have any manual controls for video recording, meaning the phone will shoot at 2160p resolutions at 30fps. A steady hand is required as there does not appear to be stabilisation. The microphones prove to work quite well and pick up wind, conversations and unhappy children.

In all the Vodafone Smart Platinum 7 is a serious contender. Like most phones it’s almost perfect, marred by a handful of flaws.Even at this, some of those flaws are easily overcome or may not apply the user. For £300 this is a terrific offering and Vodafone have really put together a superb package. Whilst the camera might be a weak outside of its comfort zone the vast majority will make the most of what this phone has to offer. An excellent phone, just buy a case!

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