Aldi tablet is no iPad but it punches above its weight
Aldi Medion Lifetab - Price:€100 (16GB) Rating: ***
Can a €100 tablet from Aldi match Apple's iPad mini or Google's Nexus 7? Absolutely not. But is it throwaway junk? Nope. In the few days I had Aldi's latest 7-inch Lifetab budget tablet, I found it to be just about what you'd expect from a budget tablet: clunky and addled with unnecessary sponsor apps but very usable.
The screen, while bright, is clearly made of cheaper stuff than the better tablets out there. You'll feel it immediately: it has that comparatively rough scrolling sensation that all non-IPS touchscreens have. And one way that manufacturers keep costs low is to make you wait while they install a whole bundle of apps, programs and web bookmarks you really don't want.
(They make a bit of royalty cash this way.) This is a pain. On the other hand, for a budget model, this tablet is quite nicely styled. There's a sensible plastic tab at the bottom that helps grip, while the back of the device is largely a non-smudge surface. The bottom line is that while you can buy four of these Jelly Bean tablets for the price of a single iPad mini Retina, it feels better than this.
LG deserves much more attention than it gets
LG G-Pro 2 Price: €650 (expected) Rating: ****
Why aren't LG phones more popular here? They make very nice handsets with fairly top-end technology stuffed into them. Take LG's 6-inch 'phablet' (half-phone, half tablet), the G-Pro 2.
Despite being even bigger than Samsung's best-selling Galaxy Note 3, the handset's slim bezel means it's still easily pocketable. It's got loads of power under the hood, an excellent screen and a really good camera.
So why is it – and other LG phones – so hard to get here? The answer may lie in its branding. Samsung spends so much on marketing that LG is left to compete with the likes of Huawei and Alcatel, which compete far more on price than on brand identity. That means that punters don't really go looking for LG phones.
In my view, this handset deserves more attention, especially for business users. That extra two inches (over, say, a four-inch phone) allows you to do considerably more things (email, documents, browsing) than you normally would. Its slim bezel also means that it's still easily pocketable, despite its extra size.
InRange keeps mobiles on tight leash
Philips InRange Bluetooth Leash Wireless Security Price: €50 Rating: ****
A friend of mine is a goldmine for technology companies, especially smartphone manufacturers. It's not because he lusts after the latest versions of things.
Rather, it's because he has a remarkable talent for leaving gadgets behind in shops, cafés and taxis, necessitating a new phone every few months. Philips has come up with a gadget that will find a welcome home with this friend and, I suspect, thousands of others around the country. It's a small widget with a Bluetooth connection that alerts you any time one of your other Bluetooth gadgets (such as your phone, tablet or iPod) drifts out of range.
In other words, if you leave a pub without your phone, the gadget will go off. It's small enough to fit into most purses and some wallets. It depends, of course, on you keeping your phone's Bluetooth connection on, which saps your handset's battery life a little quicker. Still, if it saves on phone-replacement, it's a decent investment.
A170's the business but not for cool kids
Plantronics A170 Bluetooth Headset Price: €60 Rating: ***
There was a time when Bluetooth headsets were the future. Then we all realised that they make us look a little silly. Can they make a comeback under the rebooted hip branding of 'wearable tech'?
For the general populace, I'm not so sure: Bluetooth headsets remain the preserve of taxi-drivers and 'contact centre associates'. But it may be a different story for some in business.
If so, and you need wireless phone connectivity, Plantronics' A170 is probably as good as you'll get. Its double-microphone system is designed to concentrate interaction on your voice and cut out background distractions. It also helpfully shuts itself off when it's outside Bluetooth range of your phone, saving battery life.
Spruce up your shop on a budget
The Bouncepad Static Wall & Desk Mount for iPad
Price:€280 Rating: ****
WANT your shop to have a fancy touchscreen point of information? Instead of forking out €2,000 for an industrial system, you could just get this wall or desk mount and stick an iPad into it.
A few cafes around Dublin have done this. The key element here is that the bracket is secure enough that it can’t be ripped out. It’s designed for a 10-inch iPad, which probably means an (almost obsolete, but still available) iPad 2 or an iPad Retina.