Dreaming of a tech Christmas? Spoil yourself...
For people in business, it's been a long year. But it has also been a successful one. Trade is up, things are moving into the black and the signals for 2016 are mostly positive. So what are you going to reward yourself with this Christmas or at the sales? Our technology expert picks 9 tech gadgets well suited to the Irish executive lifestyle
1 iPhone 6S Plus (from €870 unlocked or from free on contract)
There is a lot of evidence showing that iPhones have replaced BlackBerrys as the default standard work phone in Irish companies. If you are part of this ecosystem, the new 6S Plus is unarguably the best phone you can get right now. The 5.5-inch handset uses slightly stronger aluminium and glass, which may be Apple's way of nipping any potential 'bendgate' controversy in the bud. Battery life is, in my experience, slightly better than the 6 Plus even if it's not the best on the market. It has upgraded cameras (12 megapixels and 5-megapixel 'selfie') with better low-light photography. It has added 4K video recording (twice the resolution of 'full HD'), too, and boosted its slow-motion mode to 1080p ('full HD'). A new feature, '3D Touch', lets you press harder on a screen to see a shortcut menu pop up for certain apps such as Instagram, Photos, Camera or Mail. It's very handy once you get the hang of it. It comes in 16GB, 64GB and 128GB versions.
2 Samsung S6 Edge Plus (€900 from Carphone Warehouse)
You'll either love the design of Samsung's anchor handset, pictured above, or hate it. But there's no disputing the 5.7-inch phone's power. It packs an inordinate amount of muscle under the hood, meaning zero lag time with apps or controls. The super-bright (2560 x 1440) screen is exceptional, matching the best I've seen on a phone. This makes a considerable difference to playback of video (this is the size of a mini-tablet, remember) and also to viewing photos. The 16-megapixel camera is about the best you can get on a phone, with an f1.9 lens that's as good in low light as is possible with a handset. Battery life is generally good. If you don't hammer it during the day, you'll make it to evening time with plenty of juice left. This stands apart from any other phone because of its curved-glass edges. Although you can touch the curved side to bring up most-used contacts or apps, much of this innovation is about aesthetics. But it seems to work.
3 Nextbase In-Car Cam 402G Professional (€180 from Halfords and PC World)
If you spend a lot of your working week on the road, this may be the gadget you need. It's a miniature camcorder that sits inside your windscreen and record events when driving. Its 1080p HD recording and 140-degree angle of shooting is complimented by a motion sensor that is activated whenever it detects movement close to the car when it is parked. It also has an in-built 'G Force' sensor to indicate whether (and how fast) you braked or swerved. And onboard GPS records how fast your speed is or was. It also works at night, partially thanks to a very 'fast' F1.6 lens. And its 2.7-inch screen is clear and easy to use. It records to a Micro SD card and, while working off a battery, plugs into your car's standard 12V-24V DC charger.
4 Samsung Gear S2 (€360 from DID Electrical)
This smartwatch ditches the computerish square look for a 1.2-inch round watch face that has a rotating outer dial. This can be used to control some functions. The effect is instant: it looks and feels like a watch with tech going on than a tech strap-on that also happens to tell the time. It's quite easy to get the hang of and works with most modern Android smartphones (although not the iPhone). Like many other smartwatches, the Gear S2 is mainly used for messaging notifications and fitness or health apps. It doesn't use Android Wear but instead chooses its own Tizen operating system. Samsung has also improved on the variety of fashion straps that come with it, a good move as the watch is a lot better looking than previous Samsung wearable devices.
5 Kensington Virtuoso Signature Stylus and Pen (€24 from Harvey Norman)
For certain types of executives, Kensington's Virtuoso Signature Stylus, above, is a cleverly pitched accessory. Not only does it make you look like you're using a Parker silver pen when writing executive notes on your tablet, but it has a clip that makes it easy to attach to your shirt, belt or jacket. It can also be clipped to the side of a stylish leatherette tablet case. Give the pen a twist and it turns into an actual ballpoint pen with a smooth nib, too.
6 Asus Transformer T300 Chi (€950 from Currys)
2015 saw a new breed of Windows-based hybrid devices make a reasonable attempt at introducing touchscreens to our laptop experience. Asus's Transformer T300 Chi, with its clip-on keyboard, is one of the better specimens in the genre. At just 0.8mm thick, it is the thinnest convertible laptop in the world (and a couple of millimetres thinner than Apple's super-slim new MacBook).
The 12.5-inch machine also has a high definition screen, a 128GB hard drive, 8GB of Ram and a battery life of eight hours. It uses one of Intel's low-power Core M chips. On the downside, this has no full size USB port, which may be an issue for some.
7 SRS X88 (€360 from Power City)
If you have a private office, or work for home, having a good speaker to play some background music is a real bonus. If you want to do this from your phone, you have lots of options in the wireless speaker market. Sony's X88 wireless 'high resolution audio' speaker is an all-round good choice. It is a high-performing 90-watt wireless speaker (36cm x 11cm x 10cm, weighing 2.7kg) that plays audio from your phone, tablet or PC, as well as from cabled sources. But it is its 'high resolution audio' feature lets you hear 24-bit quality versus a CD's ordinary 16-bit standard when you download the requisite type of music file. Even if you don't, Sony says the speaker upscales other music you play through it to 'near high resolution sound quality'. The X88 also has smart home compatibility, with multi-room connectivity now built in through Sony's SongPal smartphone app. It also has upmpteen ways of connecting to a wireless music source, including NFC (using Bluetooth), DLNA, AirPlay and even Google Cast.
8 Oppo PM-3 headphones (€500 from Hifi Hut)
There's nothing like a good pair of headphones to ease you through a flight or a colleague's idiosyncrasies. If you want real quality, these planar magnetic PM-3 headphones are a real treat. They're better than most 'dynamic' headphones you'll get at this price and give you beautifully subtle, lifelike audio. The headphones are also very comfortable, with the sort of leather padding you'd expect on a headset at this price level. They don't have any active noise-cancelling technology, but are quite insulated from outside noise because of the cup design. They are optimised for mobile use, with a choice of iPhone or Android cables, as well as a regular cable and an adaptor for home stereos. And they fold flat for transportation in their own nicely styled protective case.
9 Apple iPad Pro (€910 from PC World)
A total treat. Unless you're an architect or an artist, there isn't really any other way to justify the purchase of the 13-inch iPad Pro, above, as an executive gadget. It is a giant, gorgeous screen that is amazing for viewing things on, but doesn't quite replace your work laptop just yet. That said, it makes a good stab at it. With Apple's A9X chip in it, there really is no lag at all when it comes to working on it. The slightly better multitasking ability with iOS 9 helps, too: you can run two apps (email and Word, for example) side by side on the screen. And the extra real estate that the 13-inch display provides (it is actually twice the size of a standard 10-inch iPad) means that you get to see more on screen, which is a big help when writing, editing or browsing. If you plan to use for typing, Apple's Smart Keyboard (€180 extra) is a decent investment. It also acts as a cover for the machine. The iPad Pro works with Apple's new 'Pencil', a super stylus whose tip sensitivity allows you to draw and sketch in a way that no other consumer tablet accessory matches. It can also be used as a tool for industrial applications, such as for computer-aided-design sketching.