Reviews

By November 18, 2016 Read More →

Strike Alpha Cradle for iPhone 7 Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Griffin iTrip Clip Bluetooth Adaptor Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By November 15, 2016 Read More →

32nd iPhone Case Shoot Out

img_5411Phone cases have become a massive industry in recent times and with good reason. They are a physical insurance policy for your expensive handset. Some folks are brave/foolhardy enough to risk carrying a naked phone while others take the opposite approach and encase theirs in super over-engineered Iron Man like exosuits. For those left floating somewhere in the middle, there is a mind-boggling variety of options to choose from. 32ndshop.com specialise in very affordable phone cases, covers and holders and accessories. They recently sent us a sample of their wares.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from cases costing market stall prices, but I was genuinely surprised when I opened the basic, bare bones packaging. Rather than getting some cheap, tacky plastic offering, these appeared to be very well put together products in a soft, thick leather, nice stitching and the designs are far from garish.

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The first of the three cases we received was a deep purple, (excuse me….”Aubergine”) coloured wallet with magnetic closure. The phone cradle itself is a fairly rigid plastic, but it holds the phone securely. The inside cover has slots for credit cards and has a soft finish in the same deep purple Aubergine as the outside and the 32nd logo is stamped on the bottom inside cover. Simple, straight forward, but well executed, especially for the price of £12.99. It even came with a screen protector for crying out loud!

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Next up was one of those slip cases which always remind me of the sort of thing my Grandfather used to keep his glasses in. Rather than being attached to the phone, it’s more of a holster type idea which protects your phone when it’s in your pocket. I prefer a protective case myself, but if this is what you are after, it’ll certainly do the job. It’s again, a good thick “Premium Italian” leather, this time in dark brown, and there is a simple pull tab to help you get your phone out. This is magnetically held in place to stop it flapping about, which is a nice touch. At £20, this is one of their most expensive iPhone covers, but is still very reasonable. Again, it is not over-engineered, not over-designed, but it does what it is supposed to do simply and elegantly.

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Last up was a rather cheerful floral print wallet, same design as the purple one except, this time with a tab closure. The interior is a nice tan colour which complements the outside well. It also came with a screen protector. Not my personal taste of course, but the quality produced at this price point is hard to find fault with.

Overall, there really isn’t anything particularly special about these cases, they are neither innovative nor original, they are not feature laden or flashy. But what they deliver are solid, well-constructed, good looking cases that do exactly what you need them to do for the same price as the flimsy Chinese knock offs on eBay. Certainly worth a look.

You can check out the full range of iPhone 7 case here: www.32ndShop.com

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By November 9, 2016 Read More →

Adam Elements iKlips DUO review

img_5387The Adam Elements iKlips duo is yet another in an endless stream of removable data solutions for the iPhone and iPad that seems to be hitting the market these days. They come in all shapes and sizes, capacities and colours, so what makes this one any different? And why the heck is it so frickin’ expensive?

The model I have for testing is the 16gb model in bright red. I know from the IKlips website there are other more sumptuous looking colour combinations which will perhaps assuage some of the £50 price concern, but this basic red on red plastic and silicone unit, whilst not unattractive, looks no different to me than the sort of cheap and cheerful stocking fillers you see everywhere. So first impressions are far from mind-blowing.

The unit itself is a small double-ended device (hence the name) with a USB 3.0 connector on one side and lightning on the other. It fits easily, yet securely in a silicone holder, which initially seemed like a bit of a gimmick, but it is actually very functional, protecting the connectors and enabling you to attach the whole thing to a keyring. I will say that it does seem very well made and definitely feels a lot more solid than a lot of the standard fare. I was concerned that the device might fall out of its little silicone holster, but even with a good bit of pocket travel, this never happened.

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I removed the unit from its holder and tried to plug it into my iPhone 7, which currently resides in a fairly thick Gear4 drop “proof case”. This is usually where most of these devices fall, right at hurdle number 1. Thankfully the designers of the iklip were switched on enough to elongate the connector just a smidge – but that smidge makes all the difference! It’s a snug fit, but you can fully plug the iKlips into the phone without removing the case, this is a huge win for the device and I’m starting to take it more seriously.

Now comes the acid test. As we’ve seen before, no matter how good the device is, if the supporting app isn’t up to snuff, it’s going to fail hard. Prompted to do so, I downloaded the iKlips app from the app store and was presented with a simple screen that looked similar to other generic apps I’ve seen before, showing the memory used on my phone along with options for Photos, Music, Videos and All files. There is also an Adam Elements logo in the centre which brings up the options menu.

Fortunately, this is where any similarity between this app and the others ends. It appears simple, but as you delve into the various options, you just keep discovering more and more functions and capabilities. There has clearly been a lot of time and effort spent on this software and it shows. It is well laid out, the features make sense and there is a help function if you get lost. It even offers the ability to format the drive in either Fat32 or ex-FAT for you.

The iKlips features a really handy option of utilising its memory in real time. With the device plugged in, you can record photos, video etc, straight to it, negating the need to continuously transfer content to the device. The only minor niggle I found with this was physically using the phone with the iKlips sticking out the bottom, it was certainly doable, just felt a little clunky. The software also allows the IKlips to act as a backup device for photos, calendar, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram as well as a variety of cloud storage services.  File transfer is straight forward, quick and can be password protected so you can share specific info whilst protecting others. All terribly clever. The more I use it, the more it impressed

Plugging the USB end into my PC, I tested the transfer speeds and it did not disappoint. It claims read speed of 140Mb and, while I couldn’t quite reach this number, I did come dangerously close. This is vital if you want to use the iKlips as a backup for your phone and don’t want to sit for hours waiting for your all important holiday snaps to transfer across.

So to answer my own question, the thing that makes this one different is simple – you get a shed load of additional functionality. It’s not just a basic data holder, it is so much more. Of course this kind of thought, care and attention comes at a price. Whether or not that price is justified is, I’m afraid, entirely up to you dear reader.

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By November 8, 2016 Read More →

iPhone 7 case Shoot Out

img_5389Recently we received a selection of cases for the iPhone 7 and since I have been dubbed the sites’ “iPhone guy”, it fell to me to discover the merits of each. The sample that arrived was the Cygnett Urban Wallet, the x-doria Revel and the gear4 Soho. Cases are a very subjective item, so this will be entirely based on my opinion. If I was to part with my hard earned pennies on one of these, which one would I choose? Time for a head to head shootout methinks.

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All 3 arrived in rather swanky packaging, with slide out trays, flip up cover and magnets galore. There was plenty of information clearly displayed and all conveyed a sense of quality. No real winner so far. I’m not sure how I feel about extravagant packaging. On one hand, it adds confidence that you are getting a quality product, but on the other, saving a few quid on a more functional box could drop the price.

Design

I love the idea of the Cygnett. It’s a walled design, but the actual case is held in the wallet with magnets, meaning that you have the option of running your phone in a simple case if you were mounting the case in your car for example and then simply clip it into the wallet for pocket carry. I love the versatility of it. Once in the wallet, the lap is held closed with another magnet.

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The x-doria is a sleek and simple case. It’s constructed of a translucent rubbery plastic and has very useful rubberised grippy panels down each side for traction in sweaty mitts. The Revel offers a number of colours and pictures on the case so you can pick the one most applicable to you. t fits very snugly on the phone so t doesn’t alter the profile too much.

The gear4 Soho is again a fairly simple design with a clear plastic backing and a rubberised surround.  Gear4 claim that the case meets military drop standards of 3m/9ft and I could believe it. The case fits the phone well and there is a good amount of squishiness (apologies for getting too technical) which would certainly help absorb impacts.

Picking holes

Whilst I love the idea of a removable wallet, the magnets on the Cygnett aren’t super strong and I would be concerned that they are the only thing holding my precious phone in place. The actual case offers little in the way of protection. It looks pretty but the sides do not sit proud of the screen so there is no protective bezel and no impact defence when it’s outside the wallet.

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The x-doria is simple in design so offers a sort of midway point between protection and low profile. There is a slight raised bezel, but it’s so small that if you have a glass screen protector, it will sit flush. The grippy surround definitely adds to the traction, but it is very rigid and, given how tightly this case fits, there is little impact protection.

The gear4 has a transparent case and we all know what that means. After a while, it’s going to look like frosted glass as it shows every scuff and scratch. Also if you are in the habit of tucking the odd item behind the case – password notes, emergency cash, metal panels for magnetic mounts, etc forget it. and finally, whilst offering the best protection of the 3, it’s also the chunkiest.

So who gets my cash?

This is actually quite a tough decision as, despite my nitpicking, I do actually like all 3 of these cases. So this comes purely down to personal preference. I think I will have to discount the Cygnett simply because of the confidence, or lack thereof. I’m sure my phone would be more than safe in it, but I just can’t get passed the thought that its al just held together with some small magnets and that’s asking a fair bit of trust.

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I really like the x-doria. I wasn’t familiar with the Californian based company, but I checked their site and some of their other cases look really impressive particularly their more rugged ones. The Revel I got is blue with a picture of a Husky on it, which is nice if you are into Huskies, but It doesn’t do much for me personally. Now if the Revel (minus the husky) were to fit into the Cygnett wallet (and they made the magnets stronger), that could be really something appealing.

My personal tastes run towards the more protective cases and gear4 Soho, whilst it doesn’t appear as a rugged case, certainly inspires some confidence. Add a decent screen protector and you are good to go. As the winner, I carried this case in my pocket for a couple of weeks and was actually surprised to note that the transparent plastic has held up rather well and looks almost good as new. Yes, the fact that you can see the metal plate which I use to attach it to the (super strong) magnetic holder in my car is visible, but it’s a black panel on a black phone, so it’s not a deal breaker.

So the winner for me is the gear4 Soho. It’s certainly not perfect, but in this shootout, it came closest to the bullseye.

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By November 4, 2016 Read More →

Griffin Elevator Review

The Griffin Elevator is a very handy piece of kit to have if you have a laptop made from quality products and with a certain elegance and want to match that to a stand without breaking the bank. The Griffin Elevator really enhances the desk with minimal effort.

Essentially, the Griffin elevator is two pieces of bent metal with some pieces of rubber set strategically in order to avoid any scrapes or scratches to either the desk or the bottom of the laptop. There a couple of pieces of clear plastic to hold things together. Most of the elevator screams quality.

The main idea of the Griffin elevator is to lift your laptop to allow you to regain a little bit of desk space, in reality, this doesn’t quite work as there’s not much you can put underneath it save for a temporary storage for peripherals or documents. The elevator still occupies the space under the laptop with the legs and feet, however, it still gives you somewhere to put things in out of the way. Once used on the desk it’s quite difficult to go back as you realise just how much space you’re actually saving and it actually makes your laptop a great deal more comfortable to use.

In an effort to make the elevator portable Griffin have added some transparent plastic to hold the supports together this can be removed and the elevator can be compacted down to fit in a laptop bag or suitcase to be taken with the user. One slight issue with this is that the transparent plastic used in the separator scratches is quite easily when the metal legs are removed and inserted. This is unfortunately quite visible because the plastic is transparent.

It would have been nice to see some for a cable management built into the Elevator, detachable/interchangeable clip to support your laptop’s charger cable.

Other alternatives on the market tend to be highly overpriced whereas Griffin has managed to get the combination of price and quality just right. Little issues like these scrapes are easy to overlook when you consider the price of this item.

Posted in: Accessories, Laptops, Reviews
By November 2, 2016 Read More →

Enhance GX-C1 Laptop Cooling Stand review

boxThe enhance is something of an interesting product in that I can’t imagine how many people will actually need it, however, it’s position on the market is easy to justify. People need their laptops cooled down especially when gaming. The gaming laptop is on the rise so peripherals like this are becoming in demand.

There are a lot of options on the market and some of which are better value than others, however, the Enhance really has something a lot of the competitors cannot brag and that’s the number of fans. For £20 you’re getting one huge fan and four baby brothers. When working all together these fans produce a vast amount of airflow to cool your laptop down.

There are a couple of extra features added to this that some of its competitors do not have. There is USB passthrough, meaning this doesn’t really occupy a USB port on your laptop. The Enhance allows you to plug a device into the Enhance and it will work on the laptop. A rotary dial allowing you to control the speed of the fans and indeed the brightness of the LEDs, 2 rubber braces at the edge of the surface that prevent your laptop from sliding off in the event that your laptop’s rubber feet may not be enough.

On the underside are retractable legs, these legs have three different options the highest of which raises the unit around 3 inches from the desk, an entirely second pair that raises the unit an inch and a half and some pads for no height adjustment. The unit itself is almost 2 inches thick at the widest part so the raise is quite considerable when you have the longer legs in action.

However, this cooling comes at an expense when plugging this into your laptop as it will drain the battery quite quickly. I have noticed that after being plugged in for half an hour on my laptop the battery dropped by almost a quarter. I kept the fans at full speed the entire time just to get an idea of the (pun intended) blow to the battery. A better solution maybe to hook the fan up to are portable battery or power bank.

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One negative I will say is it’s a very difficult one for any company to try and work around is portability. Obviously, this works off your laptop’s battery, however, the unit itself has to be the size of a laptop to cover the area of the laptop. This makes the Enhance a little cumbersome to take with you as it will occupy the same amount of space on a laptop bag as a laptop.  

There are plenty of alternatives on the market some quite a bit cheaper however none of them offer as many fans as this in such a simple design. Being able to control the speed all five fans mean the battery won’t take at big a hit as all five fans give more coverage than two large fans running twice as fast. This certainly isn’t the highest quality but then again the price tag isn’t particularly high either. Overall, It does what it says on the tin and it keeps your laptop cool on the go whilst looking kinda badass.

You can find the blue variant on Amazon.

By October 31, 2016 Read More →

Archos Diamond Selfie Review

archos-55-diamond-selfieWith superior build quality the Archos Diamond Selfie is marred by a couple of little concerns, however, these can easily be ironed out by a software update. It has to be said that once you pick up the Archos diamond selfie it’s difficult not to fall in love with it. The all metal surround and the black glass really give off a real, premium feel. Certainly there is a lot of weight and heft to the device, however, you will quickly notice just how slippery the device is, especially on a cold day.

The Archos Diamond Selfie has some of the best specs we have seen in a phone from Archos and that are very competitive for the price bracket too.

  • Display – 5.50-inch 1920 x 1080 (FHD) IPS, Full lamination
  • Processor – Qualcomm MSM8937, Octa-core Cortex-A53 1.4 GHz
  • Front Camera – 8-megapixel
  • Resolution – 1080×1920 pixels
  • RAM – 4GB DDR3
  • OS – Android 6.0
  • Storage – 64GB + Micro SD card, up to 128GB
  • Rear Camera – 16-megapixel
  • Battery Capacity – 3000mAh Li-ion, Quick Charge

Looking around the device on the top there are two slits for the antennas and a 3.5-millimetre headphone jack.

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On the right-hand side lies a volume rocker the power button and another antenna slit.

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At the bottom are some fool speaker grills, that we will get back to those later, a microphone hole and a micro USB charger slot. Again some antenna slits.

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On the left-hand side is only has an indentation for the micro SD and SIM card tray. This is where we come to one of the first problems with the phone. This tray is not flush with the device you can feel it move ever so slightly every time you run your finger over it. Your fingernail will stop at the slight protrusion at the hole for the sim ejector tool. The tray itself fits two cards, a microSD or Micro SIM in one and a Nano SIM in the other.

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The back is entirely black glass and finger print city. At the top are the camera and the LED flash. Midway down there is a fingerprint reader and towards the bottom a whole for the speaker. Yes, the speaker is on the back of the device despite the two grills either side of the micro USB connector.

The screen is almost perfect, it’s beautiful, bright, responsive, and efficient. Archos have added an extra button to the screen buttons toward the bottom of the screen. This button removes the onscreen buttons to maximise the screen resolution.

The battery life of the device is quite impressive. Having used it for a few days as my main device I noticed that I was finishing the day with around 40% left, perhaps I don’t have as many apps installed on this as I do with my Nexus 6P, however, having it finish the day with a good bit more than I usually have, is quite impressive.

Android itself runs perfectly smoothly on this device there is very little in the way of additions from Archos. Aside from a couple of applications that they have added, that are not required to be installed during the initial setup. However, there has been a button added to the interface of the Task Manager. A small, ugly button, off centre, to speed up your device the closes all of the applications.

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As it turns out these grills at the bottom are purely cosmetic, the speaker is situated on the back of the device. Whilst this is hardly a problem, or a flaw, it just opens a little concern as to why there would be grills at the bottom, did the device have to be reworked at a later stage in development for reason?

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As this phone is called a Selfie, you would expect there to be an impressive experience with the photos front facing camera. In truth the camera works well, however, the added features in the beautification mode mean that camera’s on-screen preview run at around 15 frames per second, and in low-level light, the preview is around 2 frames per second. I can only hope this device has an early version of the selfie software and retail will see an update.

Flip the camera round the to the rear camera and you have 120 frames per seconds on the preview and it looks gorgeously smooth, the exact opposite of the front facing camera.

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The shots are crisp and attractive. There is little in the way of compression, and honestly, this camera turns out to be one of the better cameras on the marker for the money, Archos have done some great work here. As you can see from the gallery below the colour mix is impressive and the clarity is never questionable.

So what is wrong with the Archos Diamond Selfie? Not that much, to be entirely honest. The phone is retailing for around £200 and what you are getting is amazing. Certainly, you can notice where some of the cutbacks have been made. The lack of precision on the sim card tray, no support for the 5Ghz wifi spectrum, the weight. However, what it does have it is hard to find in that price range, a decent stills camera, a beautiful screen, 64gb of expandable storage and a speedy performance. I really like this phone and I am prepared to admit that I honestly wondered why I paid more than double for a Nexus 6P.

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By October 10, 2016 Read More →

Kodak PIXPRO SP360-4K Review

p1030136The Kodak SP360-4K is a 360 degree camera offering 4K video at 30fps. the SP360-4K doesn’t use any revolutionary methods to capture 360, instead of a simple twinning of two cameras back-to-back and some editing software to stitch the images together.

 

The camera has a 12 megapixel BSI CMOS sensor, and takes 8 megapixel still images using a 360×235 degrees ultra-wide f/2.8 lens. In addition to Video and still images the SP360 as manages time lapse, high speed, loop and continuous recording functions.

Utilising Wi-Fi there is no need for a large LCD screen on the camera, therefore they allowing the size to be significantly reduced. Instead the user controls the recordings with a mobile app  and playback the recordings from the MicroSD card inside the camera. NFC is onboard to help with pairing the two cameras and the mobile phone. However, it took me quite some time to get them all working and even then I wasn’t quite convinced I was in control of both cameras.

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In addition to the mobile app there is also a remote watch. This does not have a screen and could lead to some blind photography. However, one has to remember that this is a 360 degree camera setup so you are going to have to worry so much about framing.

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The cameras construction is quite durable, whilst plastic there is a metallic feel from the paint and, whilst you certainly wouldn’t want to you, this would take a knock or two. The cameras do feel vulnerable as there is so much glass around the lens, fingerprints are likely. There are a couple of lens caps included however I felt they popped off far too easily. There are sealed compartments for the ports and the device is both freezeproof alongside splash resistant.

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This particular pack has a load of accessories, including rubber lens caps, a protective lens cover, a number of mounts and the remote control watch. Looking around the camera on one side there is a 1 inch LCD screen, this is a low powered screen used for changing the modes and settings on the fly.

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There’s an on/off button that doubles as a Mode button and the up button for navigating the menus. Under that is down button. There’s a large record, again a double function button, that is the OK button for selecting items in the menu. Finally, there is a Wi-Fi button next to this.

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On the other side is the standard tripod screw hole, however this is plastic. Under this is a cover hiding the MicroUSB, HDMI port and the MicroSD slot.

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On the bottom is the battery compartment. The battery is charged externally and there is only one charger, a little bit of an inconvenience if you purchase the dual pack. The battery is 1250 mAh. According to Kodak the battery is good for 160 shots or 55 minutes at the highest resolution (4K, at 30fps) video, with Wi-Fi on (required for the app to connect.) This was a little disappointing however I can’t say I actually ran out of battery at any point.

There are no MicroSD cards included and given that camera records in 4K, fast cards will be required. When recording 4K videos, the camera records a maximum of a 4GB file. Without interruption another file is created. In 4K this will see around 10 minutes of footage, lower resolutions work out around 30 minutes.

Kodak’s PIXPRO 360 Stitch software is free to download from Kodak’s website, and lets you manipulate your footage a little. You can change the direction and rotation the video. The rotation was a god send as I had  mounted a camera upside-down. There are options for calibration and few effect settings, and finally you can export the video to YouTube. It would seem that Youtube is really the only viable option.

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In saying that, I found nothing but problems importing the video footage into the Stitch software. Output directly imported from the camera was apparently not compatible with the software. I obviously made a mistake with one of the settings when capturing, I can view the video in a localised media player however that loose some of the 360 degree aspect.

From what I managed to capture the camera, I have posted some highlights below. They work quite well in a Google Cardboard. Certainly there are fragments and the whole image isn’t dazzlingly high quality, however I would say that this might be a result of the software having very little to adjust in the editing process.

The biggest problem with the Kodak system itself is the mounts. Once in you will have trouble accessing the functions, battery, and SD card. You will be removing the camera from the mounts frequently and it’s just a bit of a pain.

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The Kodak PixPro SP360-4K is a good looking piece of kit. It’s hardly an action camera you can attach to your helmet and jump off something. It will likely appeal more to the landscape photographer who wants a camera they can leave outside in the evening without concern. The resulting images are acceptable if a little plain and flat.

Posted in: Cameras, Reviews
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By October 5, 2016 Read More →

Panasonic RP-HXS200 Review

download-41I recently had the opportunity to try out the RP-HXS200 headphones by Panasonic. These are budget headphones (retailing for around £18 on Amazon), something immediately evident from the rather basic clamshell packaging which claims “Clear & powerful sound”. The set I tried were a funky black, blue and light grey combination and I must admit, I did like the look of them. Once you get them out of the packaging and in hand, they do feel very plasticky and I’m not sure how much daily abuse they’ll take, although I was pleasantly surprised to see the flat, tangle-free type cables do seem reassuringly robust. A rarity at this end of the market.

One of the main gripes I have with on-ear headphones has always been a question of where you put them when they aren’t in use. I am nowhere near hipster enough to dander around with them around my neck like a big plastic fashion accessory and they are usually too big or fragile to be just chucked in a bag. The Panasonic party piece is that they fold up Transformer style into a neat little form factor that can be easily tucked into a bag or jacket pocket. This is a great feature, but sadly these headphones are not the clunky, rugged Transformers of old, they are the flimsy plastic modern ones and I was more than a little wary of putting too much strain on the various joints, hinges, and rotating pieces.

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Once they were transformed and ready to roll out, I plugged them into my iPhone to see what kind of sound they were capable of. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much, but I was actually rather impressed. For under £20, the sound quality was really rather good. Well, initially it was. The Panasonics seem to handle intros and simple pieces very well indeed, punching well above their weight. I was listening to S.O.B. by Nathaniel Rateliff and was getting some great separation and a nice tone during the opening of the song. The acapella vocals, humming and clapping were all coming through extremely well. Sadly this ended swiftly when the rest of the band kicked in and price point of the Panasonics showed through. Unable to handle all the layers and detailing, the sound appeared compressed as they struggled to funnel the high, mid and bass levels through the drivers. I tried several pieces across a number of musical genres and found this to be consistent.

They did very well with the stripped back sounds of Lorde, but sounded terrible with Metallica’s layered detail and depth. I initially spent about 25-30mins testing out these headphones before I had to take them off. The plastic covering of the earpieces had slowly roasted my ears almost to the point of combustion and I had to take a break. The Panasonics are very light and have a great range of adjustment and I suspect if you are the sort that can put up with the plastic against your skin for extended periods of time, you’ll probably have no trouble with them. But if you are the sort that finds headphones make your ears start to get warm after a while, I’d maybe pass on these. In truth, I personally have never found on ear headphones particularly comfortable and these are certainly no exception, but your mileage may vary.

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Overall I’d say these headphones are aimed at the younger user and at the price point there is always going to be a compromise with the quality of sound and construction. If you like on ear headphones and simple pop music, then they are a pretty good buy and certainly worthy of consideration. For those looking for a quality sound however, I would suggest leaving these for the kid in the skinny jeans and slouch hat behind you.

The Panasonic RP-HXS200’s are available at www.reichelt.co.uk the online electronics retailer where many products up to 20% cheaper than elsewhere in the UK.

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