After my recent tests with a soundbar from Sandstrom, I am looking at another unit from another manufacturer, this time Samsung and this unit comes with a Wireless sub woofer to beef the bass up even more than the single unit.
While I often think if you need to read the manual the product is more complicated than required. As sometimes happens with test units this did not have a manual and to be honest I was not finding my way round it that well. However I was sent a link to a PDF version and that changed my outlook. While this is a soundbar it is far more and its correct name is ‘Crystal Surround Air Track’ Active Speaker System.
For anyone with a baby or other dependant person something like this will make a hard life easier. Starting with the setup. This will work on your home Wi-Fi network or over the Internet the latter ideal for keeping an eye on the baby sitter.
Place the camera where you want to use it, within the two metre length of its power cable, it can even be hung on a wall, follow two simple instructions and then download the appropriate free App either from the Android or ‘i’ store. Set it up to work with your Wi-Fi and then wait a couple of minutes, the camera is recognised and you are in business. In total around seven minutes including the download.
No matter how skilled one is when using a virtual keyboard on a touch screen, a proper keyboard is far better when working with text. ZAGGkeys Universal Bluetooth keyboard has been designed to work with various sizes of tablets and smartphones irrespective of whether they are iOS, Windows or Android devices. It is small and light and will make a very useful accessory for those who need to do a reasonable amount of typing on their tablet or smartphone.
The keyboard itself is grey in colour with white inscriptions on black keys. It is sized 245 x 135 x 22mm and weighs 300g complete with its slide-on (black) protective cover which, when removed, doubles as a stand for one’s tablet or smartphone. It has a curved cross-section which provides the rake necessary for comfortable typing.
It is time to join up with a band of pirates. I am, of course, referring to the type of pirates who sailed the seven seas in the vicinity of the Caribbean in years gone by as they preyed on merchant vessels and, according to Jack Sparrow, lived by the Pirate Code. This particular band of pirates, led by their charismatic leader, Captain Salty, inhabits the TAG Publishing title of Caribbean Jewel available from GSP.
Available as a download rather than a boxed product, Caribbean Jewel gives you a comic book style of storyline with well drawn scenes and printed text. Returning from his latest round of plundering and pillaging, all carried out in the background so as not to offend the less bloodthirsty game players, Captain Salty discovers that his wife, Pepper is missing and there is no supper waiting for him.
Moving files to and from a portable Apple device has always been a faff, now there is a halfway device you copy them to, and then, transfer by drag and drop to the PC and by downloading an App, from the iFlash Drive to your i device.
The PhotoFast iFlash Drive HD measures 4.7x2.5x1cm and its total weight is 8grams. These devices are available in different capacities – the one sent to me was 8GB – one end is a USB plug the other end is the standard Apple 30pin plug. For those with the very recent new connector size there is an adapter available. Transferring files from the PC is as easy as drag and drop just like to any USB stick.
Back in April of this year, Kobo raised the bar on screen quality with the release of its Kobo Aura HD product. This model featured a 6.8-inch WXGA+ Pearl E Ink touch screen with a resolution of 1440 x 1080. Now Kobo has produced another model in the Aura family but this time without the HD capability. This latest product is being pitched against the new Kindle Paperwhite offering
Available in a choice of black or pink, with my review unit being of the former hue, the Kobo Aura is certainly significantly smaller than its HD sibling. In fact, with its dimensions of 150 x 114 x 8.1 mm, it could almost fit within the screen area of the HD model. Befitting its size and weighing just 174g, the Kobo Aura fits comfortably into the hand, helped to a degree by the slightly ridged back of the unit.
Focus Multimedia has brought together three titles described as The Best of Big Fish Mysteries in a triple pack entitled Mysteries, Secrets & Shadows. The three titles are Grim Façade Sinister Obsession, Secrets of the Dark Eclipse Mountain and The Theatre of Shadows As You Wish. All three games belong to the Hidden Object Adventure genre and will need to be installed individually from a basic front end.
Taking the titles in the order they appear on the 3-game packaging, Grim Façade Sinister Obsession places you in the role of a detective who is called upon when the Conti family maid finds a diary relating the mysterious deaths of three women. The game gives you the options to adjust the volume levels for background music, sound effects and voice dialogue plus play in full or widescreen mode. You have a choice of Casual, Advanced or Hard difficulty levels.
Having recently tried other digital cameras designed for those who photograph underwater I did not expect too many surprises from the Pentax WG-3. Here in the introduction I can say that I was wrong, very wrong, as it has two features I have never seen before.
First one that I – and others I have shown it to – struggle to see a real world use, a digital time display on the face. Second a feature that could have uses a two way spirit level on the display screen to tell you if the images you are taking are straight. This waterproof compact digital camera measures 13x6.5x3cm and weights 240grams.
Joining, what is already considered a heavily populated consumer marketplace, is the Prestigio Multiphone 5430 product. For those not familiar with the name of Prestigio, I should explain that this is a brand name of ASBIS, a component distributor based in Cyprus. While not one of the leading lights in the UK, the Prestigio brand has a higher profile in several other European countries.
The Prestigio Multiphone 5430 is a smartphone built around an Intel Atom Z2520 processor with a speed rating of up to 1.2GHz with Hyper-Threading capability. The handset comes with a 2000mAh Li-ion battery pack, USB cable and power adapter, a fairly rigid leather pouch, earplug style headset, plus Quick Guide and warranty (2 years) documentation. The Quick Guide is of the small multi-language variety with just four pages in English.
For anyone not using touch I feel that Windows 7 is where you should be. However as most new machines now come with Windows 8 I gave up a nights sleep to go through the long and torturous process of upgrading from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1.
One of the most unsatisfactory issues when using an iPad, or any other touch screen tablet for that matter, are the finger prints and smears on the screen. The iKlear spray cleaner/polish from US company Meridrew Enterprises offers an effective solution to the problem.
iKlear consists of a proprietary cleaning fluid and a microfibre cloth. One side of the cloth, which has a raised texture and the other side is soft and smooth, is claimed to have an antimicrobial action. The fluid is described as being alcohol and ammonia free and is claimed to be 100% non-toxic, eco-friendly and safe for both children and animals.
Both products are small, both products work to reduce or eliminate pain, the first called No Pain is a Tens device and anyone who has used one a few years ago cannot claim there is no pain, the second is even smaller and often used by physiotherapists.
Compared to a Tens device of even a few years ago this treatment for a range of injuries is almost zero pain and all relief. Any Tens devices works by passing electrical charges between two areas. These areas should be either side of where the pain is and it works by giving you a different discomfort to focus on, well that’s the way Tens devices used to work.
As part of its Hidden Mystery Collectives series, Focus Multimedia has come up with another 2-game pack. This time the two titles are Mystery of Another World and The Noise She Couldnt Make from the Big Fish Games Surface series. In both cases the games belong to the popular Hidden Object Adventure genre and have their own installation procedure that is accessed from a basic front end module.
Taking the games in the order in which they are featured on this two-game pack, Mystery of Another World provides you with options to adjust the volume level for environment, sound effects, music and voices. You can then select the difficulty level with a choice of three being available. Casual mode offers sparkles for active areas plus a faster recharge of the Hint and Skip appearance features. Advanced mode does away with sparkles and slows down the Hint and Skip features.
Nowdays there are far fewer audio systems about. A few years ago there were dozens and now for those of us whose system are coming end of life the choice is far more limited. Here a rather nice compact system from a known name Yamaha.
The Yamaha Audio System MCR-042 is actually in three pieces –although most illustrations make it look like one – the central item with all the controls and two separate speakers that can be placed anywhere within the length of the provided 1.5 metre speaker wires. Lets deal with the other items supplied, a 32 page manual all in English, a DAB/FM aerial, a dock cover for the ‘i’ device and a remote control that includes the required button battery.
Bringing together the latest versions of four of its software products, CyberLink has created a new version of its Director Suite offering.
CyberLink has released a new version of it Director Suite product. The gap of approximately ten months between the arrival of the original offering and this latest version has allowed CyberLink to produce upgrades for each of the suite’s four main elements. Director Suite 2 consists of PowerDirector 12, PhotoDirector 5, ColorDirector 2 and AudioDirector 4. You also get two NewBlueFX Effects packs and three CyberLink Creative Design packs.
By combining two Shadow Wolf Mysteries Hidden Object Adventure titles into a 2-game pack, Focus Multimedia has added another offering to its Hidden Mystery Collection series. The two Shadow Wolf Mysteries titles are Bane of the Family and Cursed Wedding and really, for maximum enjoyment, should be played in that order. Each of these two titles, originally published by Big Fish Games, has its own installation procedure which is accessed from a basic front-end menu.
In Bane of the Family you are cast in the role of a detective who has been called in to investigate the appearance of a supposed werewolf in the city. Spread over eleven chapters, the game can be played in a choice of three difficulty levels. With Regular mode you get a faster recharge of the standard Hint and Skip features while active zones are highlighted with sparkles.
This has 20x optical zoom and its added weight is well distributed to make it holdable even with a substantial amount of zoom. While some may consider that 12.1MP is a little small it is all down to the quality of the CMOS chip.
The Canon PowerShot SX280 measures 10.5x6x3cm and weights 230grams. The right side has the wrist strap anchor point and a rubber bung to cover the AV and HDMI connections. The left side is clear, while the base has tripod screw and a door behind which the solid battery resides as well as any SD card you may insert. The face has the 20x zoom lens 4.5-90mm, this can extend by 5.5cm when fully zoomed in.
When Serif adds a new product to its portfolio of graphic based offerings (WebPlus, PagePlus, DrawPlus and MoviePlus to mention just some), you could be forgiven for expecting this new title to feature the Word Plus as part of its name. However this is not the case with this particular new title. As this software is concerned with photo editing and management, the obvious title would have been PhotoPlus but Serif already has a product with this name. Therefore the company has put its thinking cap on and come with PhotoStack as the title for this software which is claimed to have been designed with speed and simplicity in mind.
PhotoStack combines the functionality of an organiser, editor and library for your precious photos. As usual with a Serif product you will be required to enter the appropriate serial number for the software during the installation procedure. At this point I should mention that I have been sent a pre-release version of the software which meant I was unable to access and check out the various on-line tutorials that only become available when the product’s release date is reached.
The Libratone Zipp is a tubular speaker that projects sound through 360 degrees, it also has an internal battery, it can work via Wi-Fi with or without a Wi-Fi network and comes with a range of skin colours to keep those who must be obeyed happy.
The Zipp is circular and 26cm tall while it is 12cm across, should you insert any cables these will increase the width by at least 3cm where they emerge. It is not light as it weighs 1900 grams. However once charged no cables – not even power – are required when you use Bluetooth. Having a wool cover is as far as I know unique it is easy to remove and replace when the ‘lounge police’ say that colour is no longer correct.
A laptop bag is as much a tool as the laptop that goes in it. Consequently, it must be comfortable to use while protecting the machine and its associated accessories together with any other necessities. The Stockholm 16 inch notebook backpack in Verbatims Bags for Business range has been designed to meet these criteria.
The Stockholm is for notebooks of up to 16 inches as well as being able to accommodate a tablet of up to 10.1 inches together with everything else that one needs to carry. It certainly does not appear to be flimsy in any way and seems to be well made and robust and looks as if it will provide a very reasonable degree of all round protection. Coloured black overall with red detailing the fabric and zips all appear to be heavy duty. It is 45 (H) x 36.5 (W) x 21cm (D) and weighs 1kg.
Two items from Lakeland, ideal for those who like to buy from catalogues; first a string puzzle called Brain String that I suppose is a bit like Cats Cradle, second a puzzle cube that you need to transform into the Puzzleman character.
While Lakeland are best known by many for their catalogues they also have a web site and I see 64 shops around the UK. Only a couple of months till Christmas and the top of everyone’s list are presents for the kids. Yes even in my day we preferred cash but relations such as grandparents and aunts etc. often prefer to give something different and this is certainly that. A puzzle a little like ‘Cat’s Cradle’ for those readers old enough to remember this string game.
Offering to increase the connectivity options of your laptop is a new product from Sandberg
Modern desktop systems usually offer a reasonable collection of USB ports often split between the front and rear of the box. Currently taking up space in my work area are a couple of tower systems that feature a pair of front mounted USB ports for those occasions when you need quick and easy temporally access. Several more USB ports are located at the rear of these boxes for more permanent connection such as peripherals (scanner, printer, etc.).
Is a soundbar a good investment? A simple question but as often the answer has several ifs and buts mainly around how you use it and what for, this is not a cop out as a decent soundbar now need not be tied only to your TV.
While I tested it in several ways with two separate TV’s neither were 47inches the size of TV this bar was designed to be used with. However as it sat either on the floor or in front of the TV in one case on the TV table in front of the TV it matters not as it just overlaps the end of the table. It is 107x9x4.5cm and weights two kilos. For those who have their TV on a wall you can mount this on the wall below the TV just as easily.
As Nero fiddled, it is claimed, while Rome burned, so the software of the same name will burn your multimedia content and other data to optical media. This feature, however, has been just one element of the Nero software for a while now as other features have been added to create a multimedia suite offering. Rather than stick with the numbering system that was used with earlier versions of this software, Nero has opted to switch to a date designation with the latest version. So instead of version 13 (maybe superstition had a role to play) we have Nero 2014.
As with recent versions of this software, Nero 2014 is available as Standard or Platinum offerings. The latter version does provide the user with built-in support for Blu-ray. This review is based on the Platinum version of the product. As part of the product’s installation procedure, you will need to enter the supplied, lengthy serial number in order to activate the product.
There is always a first time for everything. In this case it is a game that opens with a proposal of marriage by the character whose role you adopt. As things turn out, the proposal is not immediately accepted and thus we have the Hidden Object Adventure game entitled The Lake House Children of Silence. This Alawar game is now available from Focus Multimedia in Collectors Edition format.
As usual with Collector’s Edition games you get some additional items that include bonus chapters, wallpaper, home movies from the game and concept art but you do need to have completed the main game before being granted access to the bonus area. There is also an integrated Strategy Guide which is available immediately.
A silvery bronze colour is a good start as it looks far better than a shiny black offering. This notebook is rapid in response and if you do want Windows 8 then it must surely be with Touch so this could be exactly what is required.
The Samsung Series 5 laptop 31x21.5x1cm, the last figure is the width at the front while it grows to 1.5cm at the back, it weights 1680grams. Open the lid and you find the screen is quite reflective and sadly the screen surround is shiny black. The viewable screen is 29.5x16.7cm giving the notional diagonal imperial measurement of 13.3inches the default screen display is 1366x768. A 1.3MP webcam is mounted in the centre of the top border of the screen.
This is one of those occasions when the review product was used to produce the text review of which it is the subject matter.
While some companies, no names – no pack drill, seem to be hell-bent on driving computer users towards a predominately touch screen environment, there are other firms who realise that there are a number of tasks, including the writing of this review, that require tools more suited to general work tasks. I am, of course, referring to the familiar element of a keyboard and mouse which is commonly referred to as a desktop set.
If one is upgrading from an older 4 x 3 monitor, or even a smaller wide screen display, it pays to consider the current generation of LED backlit larger screen units which will provide an improved user experience. With its 1920 x 1080 (HD) resolution the 23 inch AOC i2360 fits the bill both in size and performance.
This wide screen monitor has been designed with the user in mind. It provides a bright high contrast image which can be viewed comfortably under most lighting conditions. Its fast response, claimed to be 5mS, ensures fast moving images are not blurred. In practice, I found that it gave sharp, crisp images, especially at full resolution, with a good colour rendition together with a wide range of setup adjustments. Hence, it is a quality monitor that is suitable for both business and pleasure.
Here I am looking at two different Doro phones. Doro are a company that started in land line phones and soon found their niche in supplying mobile phones for the hard or hearing and or those with limited sight at a reasonable price.
This is a small flip open phone and simple to use. It is 10x5x2cm when closed, flip it open to show the keypad and screen and the length becomes 19cm, it weights less than 100grams. Once you have inserted your SIM and the battery run the Setup Wizard and the seven things include setting time and date, ringtone, volume level and text size, total time less than three minutes.
The first does sound like a toilet cleaner but is a brand sold by a supermarket chain of bargain price small electrical products, here an electronic toothbrush. Second a name known by all for ball point pens but here there is a twist.
In October 2008 I told you about a sonic Toothbrush by Philips and I have been using it ever since. I have one problem the replacement brushes are very expensive. Here a LIDL own brand offering that is the same price for three brush heads and the toothbrush as a couple of brushes for the Philips. In the UK while the names on every high street are Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury and Morrison look a little further and you may find a LIDL or ALDI.