Nuances market leading speech recognition software is now up to version 13 with the latest edition of Dragon Naturally Speaking. As with the previous versions of this package, Nuance has developed offerings aimed at different sectors of the market. With this version 13 of the product, you get the choice of Premium, the software used for this review, or that of the lower priced Home offering.
Installing Dragon Naturally Speaking (DNS from now on), including the initial set-up procedure, is not a particular quick operation. It does require some user interaction which is mainly due to the initial creation of your specific user profile. You will need to enter the product’s serial number to switch the product from trial mode to that of full application use.
At some time in your life you will have played a game of hide and seek. I can remember one instance of playing the game in my grandparents pub. Unfortunately nobody realised I was playing the game and panic set in as they thought I had gone missing. Eventually I was discovered and everything returned to normal. Neither my version of the game or any that you have played would bear any resemblance to the Big Fish Hidden Object Adventure title of Rite of Passage: Hide and Seek.
I have been checking out the Collector’s Edition of Rite of Passage: Hide and Seek which comes bundled with a number of bonus items. These bonus items include the soundtrack, gallery, achievements, collectibles, Strategy Guide, alchemist table and Forest Runner. While some of the items will need to be unlocked by completing the game, you need to create your named profile before this title will even allow you to see what is available.
All PVRs work in slightly different ways to achieve the same goal. This is not important providing you know how your machine works. Here however is a machine that works differently in that you can watch items from up to a week before which you forgot to record.
There is a basic ‘Getting Connected Guide’ and a ‘Your You View Guide’ that is a sort of User Manual, I say sort of as you need to read it all to find out things you had figured out as well as those that you had not and it has no index. The machine is 35x34x4cm not including the extra couple of centimetres required for leads to fit into the back of the unit. The front has a small white LED on the front left when power is on but the machine is in standby.
Once as rare as hens teeth, wireless headsets are now appearing regularly including this offering from the BOOMPODs range of products.
As you might suppose from its title, the Wireless Headpods is a Bluetooth 4.0 headset from the BOOMPODS’ family of products that I have been dipping into recently. Available in a choice of matte black or white, this wireless headset comes with a USB lead for charging purposes and an audio cable for connecting to music sources that do not support Bluetooth connectivity. Also included in the package is a zipped Neoprene travel bag for storing the headset when not in use.
I've been "juicing" - supplementing my diet with home made pure fruit and vegetable juices - for nearly a year now. I believe it's helped to keep me healthy; I know for a fact that it's been responsible for my losing about 2 stone of excess weight.
When intrigued friends and relatives who would like to try the same thing discover how much my imported Korean juicing machine cost - they back off. But now French kitchen appliance manufacturer Tefal is stepping into the ring with a very similarly designed machine that's half the price. Let's see if it does the job...
First we need to distinguish between juicing machines and blenders like the heavily advertised NutriBullet. Blenders use fast spinning sharp blades to mash up your fruit and veg with water. The mixture of water, fibre and juice this produces will be nourishing, but because of the dilation the resulting drink is less nutritious per gram than eating the original material. The idea behind a juicer is to the nutrition by extracting the juice from the fibre.
Back to feet now, but here a rather different device from the recent Shiatsu device, this works with electrical impulses and even has external Tens pads to attach to other parts of the body that need help to improve their circulation.
It is 35x31x4cm maximum size. The foot pads are 25x10cm so some overlapping of all but the smallest feet will occur. Between the outward facing foot pads is an 8.5x2.7cm orange display with controls for foot soles, body intensity and treatment duration below this. Further toward the heels are two connections to attach the leads and pads for attaching to other body parts. The leads supplied are of a good length so should work from legs up to shoulders.
Having recently looked at the Alcatel PopS3 this even smaller offering came onto my desk. Surprisingly my bigger fear was not realised. So what has this 3.5inch screen unit have to offer in the hugely over crowded SmartPhone market.
The PopS3 was a 4G unit while the C1 uses 3G. However the biggest fear was smaller phone equals even smaller keyboard, certainly my stubby fingers seemed to cope with this better than they did with the keyboard of the S3. The dimensions are 11x6x1cm with the viewable screen being 7.3x4.9cm in imperial diagonal terms that is 3.5inches. Its overall weight is 100grams. The top has the on/off button with 3.5mm headphone socket to its right.
In the past I have looked at various Acer laptops and now I have the opportunity to check out one of the companys tablets.
The Acer Iconia One 7 is a tablet aimed at the budget market sector. As its title indicates, this tablet is of the 7-inch variety. The unit is available in a range of colours that include red, white, blue, green and yellow. My review sample is of the more traditional black hue making it stand out less in mixed company.
This is an updated version of the excellent ground breaking mobile offering launched last year by Motorola. A few of the missing items that people wanted included have been so what exactly does this updated phone have to offer?
The Motorola Moto-G measures 13x6.5x.6cm and weights 144grams. Like a lot of recent phones that have passed my desk the first puzzle is how the back comes off. After a while a finger nail manages to make progress and eventually the back is off. This enables you to insert a micro SIM and a micro SD card up to 32GB before the somewhat easier task of reassembly. So on the face of it 4G, Android 4.4.
While perhaps not as well known as various titles from Adobe and Corel, Xara Designer Pro has a long standing and well deserved reputation for its performance speed when completing different tasks. In fact several years ago Corel licensed an earlier version of Xara software because its speed of performance made its own software look a little like a tortoise.
Now up to version X10, and part of the MAGIX family of products, Xara Designer Pro is available in 32 and 64-bit versions. As usual with MAGIX products, you are given the option of a Custom or Standard installation with choices that include the destination and whether to have a desktop icon to start the program. Recently MAGIX have been including a bonus item entitled Simpliclean with their various software items and Xara Designer Pro X10 is no exception.
Focus Multimedia has bundled together two titles from the Big Fish Games Fear for Sale series of Hidden Object Adventure offerings. The games forming this bundle are Sunnyvale Story and Nightmare Cinema with both titles being based on mysterious disappearances.
In Sunnyvale Story you take on the role of a journalist who turns up to report on the discovery of a dead body in mysterious circumstance in Sunnyvale. However, as soon as you arrive in Sunnyvale, you are warned off by the mayor of the town although the local sheriff is far more welcoming. He seems keen for you to continue your investigations into the death and other events that are affecting the community in this Hidden Object Adventure game.
A rather nice set of on ear headphones. Nothing fussy just a good quality sound without doing any more than removing from the box and plugging the lead into whatever you normally use to output your sound files from and relax.
The box says ‘Sporty, lightweight and comfortable on-ear design’ yes I think that is another good way of describing them.
While entertainment devices generally have their own built-in audio output, it is not always of the highest quality. This next product offers to improve the audio output.
Its no secret that to me black coffee is a no no, my days of alcoholic excess are long gone and I prefer something smoother so milk is required. I do like my milk frothy so a device to pump steam in while making good coffee is for me.
This unit is 30x22.5x23cm. The unit is predominately white but the sides are a ribbed black and the area behind the coffee spout is also black. On top there is a chromed strip which lifts up to insert the pod and to the right of the front another chromed area the steam spout. There are three buttons on the face, bottom left on/off, top left heating button, top right steam button. On the right side at the top front a twist knob that is either off (vertical) or on (horizontal).
Where voice quality is important, a headset has a key role to play with vendors such as Jabra and Logitech producing headsets with noise cancelling microphones which are much more effective in meeting user needs.
Although loudspeakers and webcam microphones are suitable for conference calls where there may be a number of people involved, they are not ideal for one-to-one Skype calls and inappropriate when using speech recognition software. Furthermore, while there are many cheap headsets on the market many do not incorporate noise cancellation and, because of cost constraints, they may not be very durable and be uncomfortable for wearing for long periods.
Two useful things, the first for when the selfie needs to be more than at arms length as well as when you need not to be at that place. The second a small item to do just a single job that otherwise would involve several steps to complete.
This is from those clever USB people Brando in Hong Kong. The monopod pole when collapsed is 22cm long and can increase to 98cm. The rear end has a micro USB connection (for charging) and below this an on/off slider. The extended end has a tripod screw but this there to allow the two bits of the adjustable phone frame to be connected together. So once everything is connected your arm length will become something like 1.5metres or more.
If you have not had the battery of a mobile device die on you then you must be incredibly lucky. But do not tempt fate and check out this battery charger.
While data is generally easily accessible from almost any location via the Internet and an appropriate Wi-Fi hot spot, its availability will depend upon whether your mobile device has sufficient battery power to carry out the task. When the mobile device does not have enough power then problems can arise. It would be great if we could simply log on to the Internet or some other system yet-to-be developed and carry out recharging the battery powering our mobile devices.
Do you want a fool proof way to access your photos, videos and music on a range of devices? While OTG is great it does not work on all devices. This uses Wi-Fi to do the work so once the data is on the unit it can be accessed.
The unit is chunky at 14.5x8.5x2cm and weights 250grams. Data can be attached or removed by USB and this device has both USB3 and USB2 ports. Charging of this solid battery powered unit is by a lead provided. One moan that when charging there is an LED that shows red from empty till fully charged when it shows green, it would be nice to know something in between. There are three other LEDs on the face on, Wi-Fi working and Wi-Fi linking.
Vax has introduced a battery-powered upright vacuum cleaner, the Vax Air Cordless, targeted at those who want the power of a full-size cordless cleaner without the inconvenience of having a trailing mains cable to plug in or even trip over.
Weighing in at 4.2kg, it is largely grey in colour with royal blue details – mainly for switches and release catches. In addition to a removable dual-purpose cleaning wand and a soft cleaning brush it comes supplied with two Lithium ion battery packs and their charger. While one battery is on the VAC, the other can remain on the charger even when fully charged.
Look after your health and it will look after you so goes the saying and this next product could prove useful.
Personal health and fitness is an issue that should concern us all. However, for some it is easily ignored due to the demands of everyday living. Fortunately help is available from various wearable devices that offer to provide feedback regarding certain health issues. Originally these devices tended to concentrate their efforts on a single topic such as how far the wearer has walked in a given period. But now devices are available to check on a range of health issues.
This next Focus Multimedia offering bundles together two Big Fish titles that feature a magical world.
Mandolins are great for giving very thin slices of vegetables, they have one nasty problem they are very sharp, most are sold with a guard but these often produce a lot of waste, all other Mandolins are push action this is a pull action.
When I saw this demonstrated at a recent event I thought it was interesting and worth looking at myself, after all a lot of things look great when used by a professional, they are less good when used in the home. The first time I used it I was amazed I cut apple slices so thin that you could see through them, OK interesting but not a lot of use as who really wants apple slices that thin.
With a brand name that suggests an explosive device and an appearance that reminds me of a slightly squashed sweet I enjoyed when I was younger, the subject of this next review is a Bluetooth portable speaker unit.
Forming part of the BOOMPODS range of products, the Downdraft speaker adopts a circular discus-like shape with a diameter of 55mm and a height of 30mm at its thickest point. Weighing 112g, and with its compact size, the Downdraft can easily be transported between locations by slipping it into a pocket or bag.
Smartphone prices are falling fast, reaching the point where you may be thinking of buying your next one outright and topping up monthly with PAYG. Budget smartphones are the sweetspot, but you'll need to choose carefully if you're not going to end up lumbered with rapidly obsolescent technology. The brand new Moto G LTE at around £150 looks like a pretty good bet.
Let's first clear up the distinction between this new LTE (4G) version of the Moto G and the now year-old previous version, because I foresee some considerable confusion, not least because the two models are externally physically identical. There's a good deal of confusion too about what 4G (Fourth Generation) and/or LTE (Long Term Evolution) actually mean.
This is the latest small and powerful option from Gigabyte who are best known for their Motherboards. They do however make some rather nice powerful notebooks that may even satisfy the lust for speed of the modern gamer.
It is 33.5x23.5x1.7cm and weights 1719grams. The viewable screen is 31x17.5cm which gives the notional diagonal imperial measurement of 14inches. The screen is full HD 1920x1080. Going round the perimeter finds a Kensington Lock port, Ethernet port, VGA out, two USB3 ports and a dual external headphone/microphone 3.5mm socket; these are all on the left. The front is clear apart from five pin hole LEDs.
First a small round ball with a rubber strap to allow it to be attached to a bag or belt, the result you can take photos remotely on more than one device. Second a tiny 32GB microDuo OTG flash drive for transfer of data and this is USB.
With the amount of available content, either free or subscription based, you might need help to access it. This next product could help.
The Roku Streaming Stick, as it name might imply, is a product for adding streaming capabilities to a device. In this case it is your television set. Resembling one of the original flash sticks, the purple coloured Roku Streaming Stick has body dimensions of 70 x 25 x 10mm (L x W x D) and simply slots into a HDMI port of your television set.
This can work as a single triangular speaker or via a hub form a multi room offering. It can work wired, wireless, Bluetooth or even via an Auxiliary cable. If this is not enough with the right sort of TV you can improve the TV sound with the M7.
They are useable with or without a provided prop. The shape is rather like a large section cut from a round of cheese. Front to back the speaker is 20cm. Side to side it is 39cm. It is 13cm tall. The prop fits in the back near the connections and makes the unit stand firmly at 36cm. There is a curved cover for the back and remove it to reveal, mains lead connection, Ethernet, Service Port, 3.5mm input and two plus buttons for additional speaker link and WPS router connection.
Not everybody needs a printer with various bells and whistles such as Wi-Fi and remote printing capability. The subject of this next review is just such as basic device.
The Canon PIXMA iP2850 is an inkjet printer. This model concentrates all its functionality on the print aspect using two ink cartridges (Black and Colour). Connectivity is via Hi-Speed USB 2.0 with the user providing the necessary lead to link the printer to a computer. Apart from a couple of Canon Logos and a Fine Print sticker, the printer is decked out totally in Apple White signifying that Canon feels this unit has been designed specifically for home use rather than in an office.
Redemption Cemetery is a series of Hidden Object Adventure games, currently standing at five, published originally by Big Fish Games. Focus Multimedia has taken two of these titles and bundled then together in a single package which is priced at the companys usual £10.20 level.