Smart TV sets these days are Internet-connected, offer a bewildering variety of programme channels you've never heard of, and can also connect to your LAN to play your music tracks, show your holiday photos and run your home movies. But what if you're perfectly happy with your old, non-smart TV, but fancy getting your hands on these features?
Here comes the Roku Streaming Stick to the rescue. For around £50 it promises to upgrade the IQ of your dumb TV and bring it into line with the latest fashion. But how good a job does it actually make of this?
The device itself closely resembles a large USB memory stick. But instead of using a USB connector it plugs directly into a spare HDMI socket on the back of your television set. It also requires extra power, which is supplied through a microUSB socket that you can connect to the mains, using the mains power adapter Roku supplies, or to any conveniently nearby USB socket.
Within reason, the more RAM you have, the faster your PC will run. A RAM upgrade in an existing machine could well be a viable alternative to buying a new machine that, most likely, will come supplied with Windows 8 installed. The Crucial website offers the information and guidance to make this a realistic option.
Not a weapon of war but a rather good small Bluetooth speaker that can vastly improve the sound of audio coming from your iOS or Android device. It is small enough to fit easily in a pocket or bag but it gives a very big sound.
The Acoustiphase MC-1 Blue measures 12.5x6x5cm and weights just 357grams. Setting up is straightforward and explained well in detail in the 12 page User Guide that has a clear easy to read type even for those of us of mature years with less than perfect eye sight. Even though this is a Bluetooth unit it can be connected to devices by a 3.5mm cable (supplied) so even MP3 players of an older vintage can be used.
We all sweat, some like me sweat a lot, partly due to the weather and partly in my case due to my larger size but also because of various medical problems that I have, so a shirt that promises to not show sweat patches was a must to try.
In a strange and unusual way – called chance - this arrived just as we had the hottest period of the year so surely a good test for any shirt worn by someone who sweats a lot. Those of a nervous disposition maybe should not read the next bit. I wore it allday and the inside was soaking, I hung it out and it dried – I warned you not to read, so be it on your own head – the next day I wore it again it was even hotter and again when I got in it was soaking.
From the one-channel television on offer that some may remember, we now have subscription free offerings with over 200 channels for our entertainment.
As one of the world’s largest manufacturers of digital set-top boxes, Humax has recently increased its range of products with the release of a new version of its Freesat HDR-1000S device. This latest model comes with an impressive 2TB hard drive giving the user the capability to store 1,200 hours of standard definition content or 500 hours of high definition programmes for viewing later.
Having recently told you about an Acer Chromebook this has more or less exactly the same specifications but it also has Touch. While touch on a Windows 8 PC gives far more and Touch on an Android or iOS Phone is normal touch on a Chromebook is new.
On the face of it a roughly £100 premium seems quite an extra to pay for the ability to use a finger rather than a mouse or trackpad to move around a screen. So a good amount of my review concentrated on what Touch gives you that is harder to get without Touch.
I was first introduced to the product known as ArtRage back in 2007. Our next meeting was not until three years later with the appearance of ArtRage Studio Pro. Now a further four years have gone by and it is the turn of ArtRage 4 to renew our acquaintance. My memory being what it is and considering the four year gap, my look at this version of ArtRage 4 will be more like a first contact meeting rather than one of catching up with an old friend.
As its title indicates, ArtRage is a painting package that provides the art enthusiast with a digital means of putting their creative ability to use. This software has been developed by Ambient Design, a New Zealand based company that has its own ideas as to how a digital painting package should present itself to the user on a computer screen. Those expecting a traditional interface for their operating system could well be in for a cultural shock.
The Last Door is a point-and-click adventure game developed by The Game Kitchen, a small indie team based in Seville, Spain, and published by Phoenix Online Publishing where Every game has a story.
Entering The Last Door in the role of Jeremiah Devitt, you need to step back in time – not only to the year of 1891, in which this story is set, but also to that time when low-res adventure games with blocky graphics were the norm. Whether deliberate or not, I felt that the use of blocky graphics in this game certainly added an extra layer of difficulty to the game.
If you are like me and have old PCs that you would happily give to charity my oldest is Windows 95 but worry about the wrong people getting access to data on its hard disc, then I may have found a solution. This is really intended for business use on the grounds of cost.
One solution is to take a spade or similar device to the hard drive and physically destroy it but that means removing it and the whole PC becomes less desirable to the charity. Secure deletion of the hard disc and its contents will take time it is no use just deleting the operating system as those ‘who know’ can still get the data back. Things like your bank details etc are there for those who know how to.
While there are numerous covers for our various mobile devices, one company takes this add-on feature a stage further with extra accessories.
No sooner do I finish watching one of the numerous repeats of an episode of “Only Fools and Horses” featuring Del Boy and his precious yuppie Filofax and the classic “pratt fall” sequence, when a press release arrives containing details of some of Filofax latest offerings specific for the digital user. I should point out that this report is based entirely on the information supplied from Filofax.
The TP-Link 300Mbps Universal Wireless N Range Extender model TL-WA850RE provides the means of improving the coverage of your 2.4GHzWi-Fi network. It is a stepping stone to extend the reach of the network, or fill in dead-spots where there isnt a really useful signal as well as improving existing data throughput where signal strength is weak.
The underlying issue is that, all too often, we find that thick walls, ceilings and metal objects can impede wireless connectivity around the house. A suitably located wireless extender can often bypass dead spots so as to provide more reliable connectivity by picking up the available signal and re-radiating it so that, effectively, it becomes a satellite source of the necessary signal while at the same time maintaining the same level of security.
Doro have long been the company to look after those who have limited hearing and or sight. Here is what even for Doro is an entry level product. However for not that much money it could for a vulnerable person be a real lifesaver.
One thing that often bothers those less able is the abundance of extras that often confuse. Here most of those are already stripped out but even some basics can be removed from the setup menu so you just have little more than a phone. One thing Doro never remove is the emergency button which can be linked to a relative, neighbour or the emergency services once setup this is a real lifeline for those who do not have regular contacts.
Every year Cyberlink find new features and enhancements to add to their products, these are enhancements which include faster working internally and extras added externally like Mobile Apps, Free Cloud Storage and much more.
Cyberlink now have a subscription option offer like the one favoured by Microsoft but for those who still prefer to own outright the media they still offer that choice in three forms Standard, Pro and the one I was sent the top of the range Ultra.
It has been a while since I last took a look at a Wacom device but a visit to a distributors trade show brought that period to an end.
While the keyboard and mouse combination can fulfil the needs for desktop system users for the vast majority of tasks, artistic creation is one area in which you could struggle. In my case the lack of any talent in this field would play a major part but that’s another matter. Offering to provide assistance in this respect is the Wacom Bamboo Pad. This product is a wireless Touchpad device with digital stylus.
These are marketed as the loudest wireless headphones. This is a bold statement but while I cannot confirm or deny it, they are loud and not only that they have a very good range from the base station, and, for good measure they are comfortable.
I am not wild about over ear headphones as they normally make my ears sweat but these were not too bad. As regular readers will know I am bald, not the modern bald from choice, but simply through old age. I can wear these fully contracted as they fit well over the ears and the large amount of padding on the centre of the headband holds nicely on my head. For those who have a lot of hair or just have larger heads each arm has 3cm of expansion.
Once again my trusted LG flat panel monitor is put into cold storage as I check out a new release from AOC.
As part of its latest batch of products, AOC has released its i2473Pwy model. This is a 23.8-inch IPS monitor that comes mounted on its own rather bulky black stand. Included in the box with the monitor are various leads for power connection, D-SUB 15-pin analogue cable and an HDMI lead plus a CD containing a PDF version of the User Guide and the usual collection of AOC utilities for use with this monitor.
This is four items in one, it prints, scans, copies and for those who still use it Faxes. It is not that large but still has an ADF (Auto Document Feeder) as well as a flatbed. Everything on the unit is driven by buttons and the small display.
The Canon Inkjet Multi Function MX395 measures 43x43x23cm this is with both input and output trays lowered and paper in the 100 sheet input tray. It seems the fashion now to have to manually lower the output tray which if you want to print or copy a quick single page can be a pain to remember as after a few seconds you get a reminder on the screen to lower the output tray.
There are some jobs that never seem to come to an end. No sooner think the task is finished when new problems appear. Take, for instance, the task of painting the Forth Bridge. By the time the painters reach the end of the bridge than the other end is in need of a fresh coat of paint and so the process starts again. You could say that this particular task could be a job for life. Another example of this type of never-ending task would be the maintenance of the Great Wall of China which is the focus of this next title from Avanquest.
They say Every Cloud has a silver lining but perhaps that lining should be chrome.
While laptops and notebooks continue to be a popular choice for many users, there have been a number of attempts to adapt this format with various offerings. Netbooks have come and gone, only to be replaced by the Intel-driven Ultrabook and the browser-based Chromebook. Recently I have had the opportunity to check out one of the latter category. This is the HP Chromebook 14.
Sennheiser make quality headphones, in fact in my recent visit to a high end audio establishment they were the only brand they stocked and sold that I recognised that was on sale in more normal high street outlets as well as online.
These are a set of on-ear offerings that are designed for Apple devices but I can assure you they work perfectly well for those of us not able to afford the Apple brand. They are lightweight at only 165grams. The maximum dimension from base of earpieces to the top centre of the headband is 20cm. There is just over 5cm of adjustment on each earpiece. The leather headband is sueded and split into two linked arms there is just enough padding for those you are follicley challenged.
Another of my rare forays into my passion Jazz before some think of various less pristine pastimes. I have known Nigel for many years and watched his undoubted talent grow and indeed I did feature some of his work in an earlier article.
Here there are two new albums which show his versatility as he is first shown as the powerhouse behind one of the UKs leading vocalists. Second in the format I first knew him in the Organ Trio with the excellent Pete Whittaker. However he has many other sides and I recently saw him light up a seven piece band and he also plays many other styles so ‘jazz guitarist’ must be the only way to describe the man who is at home with all styles of jazz.
Described as an ultra rugged device, the Braven BRV-X is a portable multifunction product. The Braven BRV-X combines Bluetooth speaker functionality with battery charging features. It can also act as a speaker phone unit. While more suited to the outdoors, this device can also prove useful when operating indoors.
Available in a choice of black or grey, with my review sample being of the latter type, the Braven BRV-X is perhaps not the most stylish piece of kit in the market. The product consists of elements that remind me of a wide-angle camera with removable cap, tank treads and a black mess grill covering the front of the unit. This Braven device is encased within a protective compressed rubber skin that is water resistant.
The PowerShot SX600 is a powerful pocket camera from Canon. This offering is small in size, runs on a solid rechargeable battery and has a huge 18x optical zoom, 16MP image capture as well as being able to take full HD movies at the touch of a button.
The Canon PowerShot SX600 measures 10.5x6x2.5cm and it weights 186grams. The last figure can increase by as much at 4.5cm when fully zoomed. The right side has a wrist strap anchor point and a door that hides AV and HDMI out ports. The base has the tripod anchor point and a door behind which is the solid battery and any SD card you use. On the left side is a flip switch to manually raise the pop up flash. The flash pops up on the top and is never nearer than 4cm to the 4.
As a leading force in the field of electrical appliances and digital devices, Currys and PC World plans to offer customers a look into the future.
Walk into any Currys or PC World store and you will faced by a vast plethora of tempting goods covering all manner of electrical appliances and digital devices. Recently five of the company’s biggest stores have had a make-over with the introduction of new SMART Tech Zones. In the words of Katie Bickerstaffe, Dixons Retail UK & Ireland CEO; “The future is here, right now, and its connected.
As I have mentioned before, games have an ability to be dusted down, repackaged and presented to the marketplace in a slightly different format. In the case of Avanquests GSP Play Collection, four titles, previously released as single offerings, have been bundled together as a single entity.
Making up the Ghostly Adventures 4 Play Collection are Haunted Past Realm of Ghosts, Devil on the Mississippi, Jack the Ripper and Mysterious City Cairo. Apart from belonging to the Hidden Object genre and, in some cases, a ghostly influence, the four titles have little in common and have been developed by different teams. Each of the titles needs to be installed separately from a front-end menu which does require reloading after each installation.
This is a multi function unit. It prints, scans, copies and faxes. It is a mono laser it has two paper trays and as it can be connected by USB, Wi-Fi or Ethernet if you are using it in the home the other half can be placated by putting it out of sight.
It iSamsung M2885FW mono laser printer measuresa 37x40x35cm, the top part is black and the bottom portion is cream. Unusual in that it is slighty wider than deeper and the main paper tray does protrude (included in stated measurement) by around 4cm from the main body. The total weight of the unit is under 11.5kilos.
Recently I reviewed the SanDisk Wireless Flash Drive. Now it is the turn of the companys Ultra Dual USB Drive.
The Ultra Dual USB Drive is a small device that has been designed to simplify the transfer of content between smartphones, tablets and computers. When I say “small”, I mean a device small enough to hide itself in a pocket or bag as you struggle to find it among all the usual items that tend to congregate in such locations. The Ultra Dual USB Drive has dimensions of 36.58 x 19.81 x 10.92mm (L x W x H) which means it is about the size of the top knuckle of your thumb.
So the World Cup set you thinking of buying a new TV set. Here's a better idea spend the same amount of money on a projector, and get a screen at least twice the size. You can pick up Epson's stylish 3D-capable EH-TW7200 for around £1900 (or currently £1700 on Amazon) and regale the family with a 120 inch or more display on your living room wall (only die-hard home cinema aficionados insist on a dedicated screen). And when you switch it off, you're not left with a huge blank frame dominating the room.
To be fair the TW7200 itself is something of an imposing presence. This curvy, white machine with styling reminiscent of Flash Gordon, weighs in at 8.4Kg and is a chunky 466 x 140 x 395 mm (width x depth x height). If your living room has a vacant chimney-breast (as does mine) this would be just the place to house it.
A not so small Android Tablet that is advertised as useable in one hand. Certainly for those with smaller hands this maybe a slight problem. It is however a near 8inch screen and means normal web pages display without any problems.
It is 20x14x1cm and weights 372grams. The screen surrounds are creamy grey and the back is silver. The viewable screen is 16x12cm which gives the notional diagonal imperial measurement of 7.8inches. Unfortunately the screen itself is rather reflective, still on a budget priced unit you rarely get non reflective screens. It comes with Android 4.2.2. Boot up is 22seconds and shutdown 4seconds. In the centre of the area above the screen is a 2MP web cam, a 5MP camera is mounted back left.
When putting good money on the line for a PC that will meet the demands of high-end games or other applications such as intensive photo-editing it makes sense to get an equivalent high-end monitor. The 27 inch q2770Pqu from AOCs professional line, having a native resolution of 2,560 x1,440 WQHD, good colour rendition and a wide range of connectivity options will meet these demands as well as being a possible option for those planning upgrades.
This monitor is mounted on a turntable base and, in its normal landscape mode is 25.25 inches wide and so, as one can appreciate, takes up a fair amount of real estate on the desk but never seems overpowering. Its slim black bezel is less than an inch on three sides while the lower edge, with the concealed controls on the underside, is just 1.25 inch.