Digital Life: Looking for minimalism? Take a trip to wireless speakers corner
There's a helluva lot to be said for minimalism. This is an era where some electronics makers aren't satisfied until their machines resemble the myriad controls of a recording studio.
So it takes some cojones to put out a device costing €350 that has just two buttons and a single dial. But then the Logitech UE Air Speaker is designed primarily to do just one thing and do it well.
Using Apple's AirPlay technology, the speaker pumps out your music wirelessly from an iPod, iPhone, iPad or computer running iTunes. Simple as that, almost no set-up required.
But I get paid by the word, so I can't just end the review there. You'll want details, right?
The UE Air Speaker (cringingly, UE stands for "Ultimate Ears") is one of the cheapest on the market to use AirPlay, which offers a superior sound and ease of use compared with other wireless options such as Bluetooth. But AirPlay devices do command a serious premium.
The Logitech picks up the audio from your iOS device via WiFi -- though, stupidly, not including the high-speed 'n-standard' WiFi that is increasingly common. Once the speaker has joined the network -- via a simple app -- it becomes an output destination visible to your computer/iPhone, etc.
The result is sonically impressive, incorporating solid bass and crisp highs, with few if any of the pops and dropouts associated with wireless audio.
The curvy frontage conceals an iPod dock for charging and, round the back, an audio jack for old-school MP3 player hook-up.
You would be insane to buy the Logitech for anything other than an iOS or iTunes device, though. Wired speaker set-ups cost far less and can sound better.
But if quality sound without a cable in sight is what you're after, you will find it hard to beat the €350 Logitech UE Air Speaker in this price bracket.
How ironic that phone makers spend millions designing elegant mobiles, only for most owners to wrap them up in a protective case for fear they'll get damaged.
If your lifestyle is really active, though, you'll need a rugged phone, capable of withstanding water, dirt and physical abuse. The Samsung Galaxy Xcover fits the bill purely on those specs but this tough cookie has its weak spots elsewhere.
A low-resolution screen, old Android software and a poor camera make it unlikeable as a smartphone.
For the same money, you can get the rugged Motorola Defy+, which is prettier and has both a screen and camera that don't disappoint.
The Xcover is available from Meteor and eMobile with a typical price of €230 on pre-pay or about €70 on the cheapest contract.