Logitech taps into smart keyboard market
Logitech K830 smart keyboard - Price: €100 ; Rating: 4/5
I have my doubts about 'smart' TVs. So far as anyone can tell, no one is yet accessing Facebook or Twitter on their tellies in any significant way.
But if you're one of the few who are, Logitech has brought out a customer keyboard that is designed mostly to control the smart functions on your television. It's a very neat, tidy keyboard with backlit keys, so you can use it in a dim room. (The lighting on the keys adjusts to the level of the room.) It works using a small dongle that is plugged in to your telly's USB port.
It's a nice keyboard with pleasing feedback from the keys. One small niggle is that if you do want to use it to control functions such as video playback, you need to combine keys ('function' and 'F12' and so on) rather than having dedicated execution buttons.
The keyboard also works with regular PCs (this review was typed on it). So it comes with a touchpad on one side that substitutes as a mouse. I find that touchpads can be imperfect replacements for mice, as they suffer from inadvertent double taps that execute a command on the screen. But that's just a personal opinion: others love them.
The keyboard is rechargeable via a (supplied) microUSB cable.
Microsoft has MacBook Air firmly in its sights
Microsoft Surface Pro 3
Price: from €820; Rating: not tested yet
Microsoft is plugging on with its Surface line of laptop-tablet hybrids, despite a challenging (and that's putting it kindly) environment.
I've been saying it for some time, but now Microsoft is saying it, too: the Surface Pro 3 is 80pc laptop, 20pc tablet. This is reflected not just in the (relative) weakness of the Windows mobile ecosystem, but also in the strength of the Surface Pro 3's credentials as a loss-free Windows laptop replacement.
This is no tablet that executes office-type applications when a keyboard is wirelessly connected. This is a full-bore computer that can run almost any software you already have. The biggest difference between this model and the Surface Pro 2 is the larger screen size, thinner form factor and newly adjustable kickstand (the kickstand in the original Surface Pro was maddening). It also comes with more power options.
This machine is not competing with the iPad – it's going after the MacBook Air.
Trend Plus not in same galaxy as iPhone
Samsung Galaxy Trend Plus
Price: €150 from O2 Rating: 3/5
If you think choosing between high-end smartphones is tricky, it gets positively baffling when you get into the budget ranges.
Samsung's oddly named Galaxy Trend Plus phones illustrates why. The four-inch handset comes with very modest specifications by today's standards: a basic dual-core chip, entry-level memory, a dull five-megapixel camera and a lot of plastic holding the whole thing together.
In fairness, this is what you'd expect with a handset priced at this level. But the use of the 'Galaxy' brand, together with similar styling, could easily give one the impression of getting an iPhone challenger. This is no such thing.
Techlink device that keeps you in charge while you're on the go
Techlink Recharge 2500
Price: €40 Rating: 4/5
As we now know, tablet sales are falling because most of us are now getting bigger phones that are becoming more and more work-friendly. But there are very few smartphones that can undergo a full day of business use without a recharge. That increasingly makes power chargers a necessary accessory in one's bag.
Techlink's Recharge 2500 has enough in its battery to replace 80pc of almost all smartphones' power. It can also be used to recharge tablets, but you'll only get about a half-charge there.
Budget Pavilion doesn't stand up to competition
HP Pavilion X360
Price: €450 Rating: 3/5
If the Surface Pro 3's price-tag seems a little high, there are more wallet-friendly alternatives around. One of them is HP's Pavilion X360 machine, a budget convertible PC that morphs from a laptop into a tablet via a 360-degree swivelling keyboard.
With its colourful case and sub-€500 tag, the 12-inch device signals well in advance that you won't find any cutting-edge technology under the hood. And so it is, with a fairly weak Atom processor and a battery life of between four and five hours (compared to seven hours and upwards for more expensive rivals).
To be fair, 4GB of memory and 500GB of storage give it enough to use as a multimedia device.