Gadgets: A smaller size comes with heftier price tag
Adrian Weckler on the latest gadgets
Price: €700 with 18-55mm lens from camera shops
I've always been of the view that beginners who want to get to the next level in photography should ignore fancier, higher-megapixel cameras and get an entry-level DSLR with a decent lens. So how can Nikon justify an extra €200 for its D3300 over its D3200? Both have a 24-megapixel sensor and the same basic operational controls. So what's the extra €200 for? Looking at the two machines, there a couple of small tweaks and one big one. The main change is that the D3300 is smaller and lighter than its predecessor: a full 25pc more compact. That makes it a easier to bring around, which is a crucial consideration. Secondly, the tech under the hood has improved. That translates into five frames per second rather than four and full 1080p video recording at 60 frames per second rather than 30. I doubt that this kind of incremental improvement is of too much importance to a beginner, but, when allied to the camera's microphone port, it does give a certain future-proofing to the D3300 for anyone who might want to get into video.
Finally, it comes in different colours (black, grey or red).
Nikon spares us function-button overload and even has a 'guide' setting on the nozzle to show you the best settings for certain shots (this is handy if you're a beginner).
Is this worth €200 more than Nikon's D3200? It comes down to how important size is: if you really like the smaller form factor, go for the new model.
Personally, I would opt for the cheaper camera and spend €120 of the €200 difference on Nikon's excellent 50mm portrait lens (which will give you better photos than any marginal under-the-hood add-on specs).
The neat freak's desk dream
Even in today's 'wireless' world, cabling arrangements around desktop PCs can be carnage.
For neat freaks, this is where a device such as BlueLounge's CableBin come in. It not only conceals chaotic-looking cabling, it organises them.
This happens by way of adhesive hooks and attachments that can position wires, charger cables, routers and lots of other small items in a logical manner inside the small 'bin'.
A small gap in the top allows the end of a cable or line (such as a charger point) to poke out in an orderly fashion.
Manbag packs a punch
Brenthaven 15" Collins Slim Briefcase
Price: €70 from Apple
I've never been a manbag kind of guy. Aside from running for buses a lot (and no matter how sophisticated the briefcase, there's no elegant way of doing that), I just don't have enough general detritus to carry about. However, I do sometimes need to carry a laptop. This is usually a slim device such as a MacBook Air, Chromebook or Vaio 11. Brenthaven's 15-inch laptop briefcase leaves a little room for the machines I use, but it's still a decent case. Aesthetically, the case will appeal to Zara-man: it looks like the kind of trendy bag that a fashionable young advertising executive in Catalonia would have. While a little prissy for me, I don't mind the look. It certainly beats the corny 'distressed leather' affectation – so beloved by many media colleagues – any day.
Phone with lots of ooh, la-la
Archos 50c Oxygen
Price: €250 unlocked
Archos, a French smartphone manufacturer, has really upped its game in the last year with, arguably, the best budget smartphone in Ireland last Christmas. Now, it has launched another high-end smartphone priced at less than half what an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy device costs.
The oddly named 50c Oxygen gives some package for the price. An octo-core processor zips you through functions on its 5in IPS high-definition screen. It is super-slim, too, with a dual-sim slot for ultra flexibility.
It skimps a little on Ram (just 1GB) and its 2,000mAh battery is not quite as good as the best in the business (Samsung's 3,100mAh battery for Note 3). It also comes with Android Jelly Bean instead of 'Kit Kat', but don't let that put you off. There's no word yet as to which operators will be ranging the device in Ireland. But when it does arrive, this will be a no-brainer.
Solar charger's not so hot
Xsories X-Solar charger 2.0
Price: €70 (including postage) from PlanetGizmo.co.uk
Who isn't briefly seduced by the notion of a solar-powered gadget? The picture is an alluring one: sit back and watch as your smartphone, tablet or laptop is slowly replenished by the power of the sun. Unfortunately, the clue to solar power's non-performance in Ireland lies in the last word of that last sentence: 'sun'. We just don't really get any in Ireland. And that's important for a gadget like the Xsories X-Solar. It takes 20 hours of direct sunlight to charge it to a full capacity. (It takes longer if it's cloudy or dull and overcast.) Once powered up, it can give a full charge to a standard smartphone or a half charge to a tablet – but getting it to a powered state may be a big ask in Ireland.