Saturday 22 November 2014

Adrian Weckler: This mini DSLR proves that small really is beautiful

Published 21/06/2014 | 02:30

The Samsung NX Mini
Samsung Chromebook 2

Samsung NX Mini Price: €450 Rating: ****

'COMPACT system' cameras – mini-DSLRs with smaller transferable lenses – have been the logical choice to bridge the gap between (increasingly obsolete) compact cameras and 'full-sized' DSLR models from the likes of Canon and Nikon.

But despite the good photo quality and choice of lenses, I think they still suffer from bulkiness. In other words, you still need a case or a bag for them as they won't fit into your pocket.

Samsung's 21-megapixel NX Mini is the closest I've yet seen to a 'mini DSLR' that can almost fit into your pocket. It's only an inch thick. If you get the pancake lens with it (24mm equivalent), it's still slim enough to slip into places that rivals can't fit. I'm fairly impressed with the camera's relatively large one-inch sensor and I also like Samsung's baked-in sensibility for sharing photos immediately from its cameras.

To this end, the NX Mini has pretty idiot-proof wifi and sharing apps to phones. The flip-out screen is handy for overhead shots (such as in crowded situations) or 'selfies'. I can't say that the camera bests its rivals in actual photo quality (though it doesn't appreciably lag, either).

Chrome is where the heart is with sleek and cheap online laptop:

Samsung Chromebook 2 Price: €350 Rating: n/a

IRELAND'S telecoms regulator reports that broadband connections, wifi hotspots and mobile data availability are exploding in Ireland. For me, that makes it a whole lot easier to justify consideration of one of the various 'Chromebook' laptops out there. Who needs a pricey offline laptop if 90pc of your stuff is going to be done online? That's essentially the Chromebook deal: a light, sleek, cheap, good-looking laptop that is primarily designed to work in Google, Facebook and other online services. Because they don't rely on pushing applications around hard drives, they remain light on space: Samsung's Chromebook 2 has just 16GB of hard drive storage and a Samsung processor that is shy of the kind of power many Intel laptop chips provide. But the laptop simply doesn't need the extra oomph.

Keypad packs data-entry punch:

Belkin Wireless YourType Price: €60 Rating: ***

Amid our headlong rush to mobile working terminals and cloud-based applications, spare a thought for the trojan workers whose job entails significant data-entry requirements.

I'm talking about bean-counters, accountants, Excel jockeys and other clerical heroes.

For those using Macs, Belkin has a numerical keypad that connects via Bluetooth to your Mac or MacBook and has 28 different keys (well spaced) to allow for fast entry.

Still worth the price . . . but only just:

Apple iMac Price: from €1,130 Rating: ****

IN an era of shrinking PC sales and collapsing desktop computer sales, one machine – the iMac – still boldly pitches for a €1,000+ investment in its abilities. I'm a long-time user of desktop Macs at home and, for me, it's just about still worth it as I like seeing photos and videos on the bigger (21.5-inch) screen.

But how many can really say the same? As for the updated machine, it's basically a slightly less powerful version of the 'standard' iMac (which still costs over €1,300), thanks mainly to a slimmed down processor.

However, 8GB of Ram compensates a little, while the 500GB hard drive provides plenty of storage. It's still a gorgeous machine, easily the best-looking desktop PC on the market.

But it's getting harder and harder for non-photo, video or design enthusiasts to justify a desktop computer at all, never mind one that is over €1,000.

Say goodbye to the mic trouble blues:

Blue Microphones Snowball Price: €70 Rating: ****

Early PC microphones were a geeky disaster: either call-centre style headsets or tinny gizmos that made it sound like you were communicating from an Apollo spacecraft.

Over time, the genre has improved and become more affordable. So for €70, Blue Microphones' Snowball microphone is quite superb. It's a USB-connected microphone, meaning it connects to almost any PC.

It doesn't come with any extra software, meaning it should work with most audio programs you have right out of the box.

Irish Independent

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