A little pricey, but much better shots from Canon's M3
Our technology expert reviews the Canon Eos M3, Boom Swimmer Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker, Dyson Hot And Cold Jet Focus AM09, Surface 3 Docking Station and the Creative Sound Blaster Jam.
Canon Eos M3
Price: €770 (with 18-55mm lens) from ConnsCameras.ie
Rating: 4 stars
I have invested a small fortune in lenses for Canon cameras. I wouldn't do it if I didn't believe in the quality of their cameras. But it is fair to say that the Japanese company has been playing catchup on so-called 'mirrorless' cameras - those smaller models that can swap out lenses. The photo quality is certainly there, but the technology and development (speed, autofocus, lens-range) have lagged behind rivals such as Panasonic and Sony.
Canon's upgraded Eos M3 is a big improvement on the initial miniature DSLR launched three years ago. Its 24-megapixel camera sensor - ultimately the most important bit for actual photo quality - is the same as the impressive 750D and 760D. It also now has significantly faster autofocus than the last version. And it feels really solid in-hand, with a near-perfect grip and a good flip-out touchscreen. Other things to like include onboard wifi to quickly transfer photos to phones (essential, in my view). All in all, this camera will take a really good shot and is pleasant to use.
Yes, it still lags behind rival manufacturers' lens ranges, but I'm not sure that this is a huge thing for mirrorless cameras: those really interested in multiple lenses will probably defer to DSLR cameras. It is slightly pricey compared to competitors, though: Panasonic (GX7) and Sony (A6000) offer similar cameras for around €100 less.
New fan is hot piece of tech
Dyson Hot And Cold Jet Focus AM09
Price: €590 from Argos
Rating: 4 stars
The problem with standalone fans in Ireland is that the weather is too wonky. Dyson's clever fan system blows hot or cold and the way its airflow is managed is pretty ingenious. You can set it to heat (or cool) in a direct stream ("jet focus"), aiming it at a certain spot. This works from quite a distance, such as the other side of a room. Alternatively, you can set to a wider angle, which creates a more general circulatory effect. It's quiet, too, and comes with a remote control. Dyson has also taken into account a few fashion aesthetics. The Hot And Cold eschews loud purple or orange (colours most associated with its vacuum cleaners) in favour of slightly subtler silver, black or white. This is a top-quality fan, even at the high price.
The perfect Asbo boom box
Boom Swimmer Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker
Price: €60 from store.apple.ie
Rating: 3 stars
Love hearing tinny music blaring from the teens down the back of the bus? How about extending this pleasure to outdoor swimming pools or the beach? That's the promise of the Boom Swimming Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker, a small, inexpensive device that connects wirelessly to your phone or tablet. Designed to look like a cross between a showerhead and a sperm, its 'tail' allows it to be bent into shapes that support its suspension from rails or hooks. Its waterproof certification means that it is thoroughly splash-proof and can even survive 30 minutes underwater without breaking. As you'd expect, the sound quality from such a cheap gadget isn't exactly top notch, with not a lot of bass detectable. But it will bang out spunky versions of David Guetta or Calvin Harris. And that's what we all want to hear when trying to relax this season.
Budget wireless headphones
Creative Sound Blaster Jam
Price: €50 from europe.creative.com
Rating: 3 stars
I switched over to wireless Bluetooth headphones long ago. Despite the extra charging requirement, they are far more practical than the wired variety, especially when out and about. The problem is that they're damn expensive. Up until recently, you couldn't get a decent pair for under €250. That's all beginning to change. As Creative's Sound Blaster Jam model attests, there are even budget versions now. This headphone set may look and feel like something from the original Walkman era, but its sound quality is more than passable. Connecting over Bluetooth to any phone, tablet or laptop, it also has a built-in microphone, which means you can make or take hands-free calls through it. This isn't the headset to listen to an opera on. But when on the move, it's decent enough.
Well-designed docking station
Surface 3 Docking Station
Price: €235 from Harvey Norman
Rating: 4 Stars
One advantage to Microsoft making its own laptops is that it thinks things through in terms of work accessories. This docking station is a case in point. It's a standalone desk accessory into which you slot a Surface 3 laptop/tablet hybrid. That means that when you get back home, or into the office, you just stick the Surface 3 in and use it as a main computer with a proper desktop monitor, keyboard and mouse. It even has extra connections (two USB 3 and two USB 2 ports). In an era when laptops are now the main work machine for most, this makes a lot of sense. The only slight drawback is that the actual Surface 3 machine may not be the best option to use as a main desktop PC because of its modest Celeron processor. An extra €200 gets you a Surface 3 Pro, which would make more sense for the kind of person who will want this kind of a set-up.