For the business user, the tablets still don't work
Samsung Galaxy Pro 12
Price: from €700 Rating: ***
THERE is an ongoing debate as to where tablets sit alongside laptops and whether they really do fit into a business environment.
My own conclusion is that tablets have largely replaced laptops for home web users but have failed to supplant laptops for most work-related activity. Where, then, does Samsung's Galaxy Pro 12 fit? It's a 12-inch Android tablet that appears to be designed for people to work on. This makes some sense when pairing it with a keyboard for office-type activities (although Microsoft has not released a version of Office for Android as it has just done for iPad). But the lack of a few extra things normally associated with a work device – such as a regular USB 2 port – limits its appeal to workers from the get-go. This is priced as a competitor to Microsoft's 11-inch Surface Pro 2.
Although there are far more apps available for this machine than the Surface, I'd probably stick with the latter for work-intensive processes.
Laptop concept is a bit detached
HP Spectre 13X2
Price: From €1,150 Rating: ***
If Samsung is trying to make its tablets more like laptops, HP's Spectre 13 X2 (why on earth do these machines have such long, difficult-to-identify names?) is the opposite. It's a business laptop that wants to give its users a flavour of tablet life. It does this by allowing the 13-inch screen to detach from the keyboard, thus becoming a standalone Windows tablet. I've used plenty of larger tablets at this point and I've never found one to be more efficient for work stuff than when a keyboard is attached. I'd skip this version of the HP Spectre and opt for the non-detachable Spectre 13 model, which is pretty good in its own right.
Speakers to set your Bluetooth on edge
Edifier Luna Eclipse Bluetooth
Price: €170 Rating: ***
WHEREAS lots of Bluetooth speakers are judged strictly by performance, some make style part of the bargain. This is certainly the case with the Edifier Luna Eclipse speakers. They look fantastic but only give average sound quality compared to similarly priced speakers I've tried in recent months (particularly from Bose, Sony and Logitech). Like other Bluetooth speakers, these work by pairing them with any Bluetooth-enabled music source, such a phone, tablet, iPod or laptop.
If you want to funk up your desktop a little, they also come with a two-metre cable for a fixed connection. A remote control comes with the speakers, too.
Getting your broadband up to speed
D-Link Powerline AV 500 Mini Adapter Starter Kit
Price: €40 Rating: ****
ONE big misunderstanding when it comes to broadband speeds is how much the speed falls off when a wireless router is used. If you're paying for 100Mbs, you may well be getting that speed into your house or office. But as soon as you attach a wireless router, the speed starts to fall off considerably.
In my experience, this can be up to 70pc if you're a few rooms away from the router. This little device gives a slight boost to your wireless speed in far-off rooms, partly using your electricity supply. You connect it to your router (using the supplied ethernet cable) and plug it into a normal electricity socket. Then you plug the companion device (supplied) into an electricity socket in another room. Presto! A faster broadband outlet for another ethernet-connected device (such as a PC or laptop).
One M8 is the best-looking phone in the world. Probably
HTC One M8
IF Apple made an Android device, it would probably look like this. Indeed, HTC's last phone, the One, was the best-looking handset on the market. Its updated model, confusingly called the "One (M8)", retains this status.
The M8 has a few other things I like, too. Its camera remains within touching distance of the market's summit thanks to a nice, wide angle and an 'ultra-pixel' approach that eschews a high megapixel count in favour of better performance in low light. It also joins the iPhone 5S in having a slow-motion video mode, something that becomes addictive. The phone's screen is a little bigger than the last model, at five inches. For someone like me, this is definitely a good thing: I find it very irritating to go back to smaller, four-inch (or only slightly bigger) devices in this age of news, online video and social media. HTC has tidied up a few previous irritants on the One and One Mini devices, such as a cleaner keyboard that doesn't result in as many mistypes as the previous versions.
Having used it for a few days, I'd call the M8's battery life adequate, but not quite up there with rivals from Samsung: I can just about make it through a full day without a charge.
Non-iPhone 5 users will find HTC's decision to opt for a nano-sim format over the (still standard) micro-sim a bit annoying. It's also quite a heavy phone.
But this is a good effort that keeps HTC competitive with Samsung and Apple.