This week Adrian Weckler peruses the best on offer in smartphones, tablets and digital cameras.
Price:€300 (32GB) from Harvey Norman
Rating: 3 stars
WINDOWS tablets are few and far between. So when one pops up, it needs to have a niche. Toshiba thinks that it has found one, with its 8-inch, 'full' Windows 8, Encore tablet.
For those who need their office software, the advantage that Windows tablets have over Android or iPad rivals is that they allow 'normal' PC software to be loaded. In other words, you don't have to rely on apps (which is just as well, as the Windows app store is still a little thin).
But to get the real benefit of all this old-school functionality on the Encore, you need to attach a keyboard and mouse: the 8-inch screen is just too small to double-tap, highlight and drag icons with your finger. (Some versions of this tablet come with Microsoft Office already loaded. Mine didn't. This would probably make a difference if you needed it for 'traditional' laptop duties.)
The Encore is sturdy, rather than elegant. Aesthetically, it strongly resembles an old iPhone 3G blown up about four times in size. The screen is functional but feels a bit cheap: it has a slightly coarse dragging effect compared to high-end touchscreens on more expensive devices.
The tablet's Intel Atom power is reasonable, but not impressive: it's understandably slower than a full-powered PC. However, it comes with a lot less bloatware than an average Windows laptop, so this makes it more efficient.
As Windows tablets go, this is a lot less elegant than Microsoft's own Surface. But for those who really want PC software in pocket tablet form, it might be a bargain.
Quality product for budding photographers
Price: €450 (body only); €550 (with 18-55mm lens) from Conn's Cameras.
Rating: Four stars
FOR those who want to take a tentative step in the direction of 'quality' photography, the term 'entry-level' is a bit of a misnomer when it is applied to camera bodies.
Canon's new 1200D is a good illustration of why.
It has an 18-megapixel sensor with Canon's Digic 4 processor.
This is the same firepower that Canon's high-end cameras were sporting three or four years ago.
So it's arguable that anything more means you're simply chasing fine margins that only a more advanced photographer would truly be able to exploit.
(There is no significant redesign of the camera, either: it has the same basic shape and functionality as Canon cameras four times its price.) It's not as weather-sealed as pricier models and you don't get some handy features such as Wi-Fi (which lets you share from your phone immediately).
But if you're taking your first steps and weighing up your options, get this camera (body only for €450) and spend your residual budget on two lenses: a 50mm (€120) and an 18-135mm, at €400.
Decent – if you can get it
Price: €450 from expansys.ie
Rating: Four stars
THE whole 'small country' thing means that Ireland sometimes misses out on some of the best phones. Like the Nexus 5 or Moto X, LG's impressive, competitively-priced G2 is a case in point. The Android machine has a superb 5.2-inch (423ppi) screen, good battery life, solid 13-megapixel camera and great, quad-core power.
And yet to get one into your hands, you'll need to visit an airport duty-free shop or wander into webstores such as Expansys.ie.
This is a shame. In a market with a solid need for really good smartphones that stop shy of Apple's €600 to €700 price-tags, this is a very, very good option.
Its sole quirk is the placement of volume and power buttons on the back of the device rather than the side.
One Star - Very poor, Two stars - Sub-par, Three stars - Acceptable, Four Stars - Very good, Five Stars - Outstanding