Saturday 10 December 2016

Tech review: Adrian Weckler on the latest and coolest gadgets

Published 06/02/2016 | 02:30

Lehove Yoga 900
Lehove Yoga 900
Saorbuga Bluetooth Beanie
Motorola Moto 360 Sport

Reviewed by our technology editor this week are the Lenovo Yoga 900, Saorbuga Bluetooth Beanie and the Motorola Moto 360 Sport.

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Yoga master: hybrid works in harmony

Lenovo Yoga 900

Price: €1,699 (512GB)

Rating: 4 stars

One problem that Windows touchscreen laptop-tablet hybrids have is functionality. Their manufacturers have mostly proceeded on that basis that we will want a laptop half of the time and a tablet half of the time.

But most of us don't, do we? When it comes to Windows machines, we probably want the laptop side of things more with touchscreen tablet usage reserved for occasional things like Netflix.

This is one reason why Microsoft's Surface Pro range, for all its innovation and slick design, has not quite taken over the world.

The truth is that putting a computer's tablet properties on a par with its laptop properties usually results in significant compromises. Keyboard efficacy is the most obvious one: snap-on keyboards simply aren't as comfortable or as accurate as built-in models.

It may be with this in mind that Lenovo refashioned its high-end device, the 13-inch Yoga 900.

Using it for a couple of weeks, there is little question that this is a machine that is mostly laptop and only occasionally a touchscreen tablet. The 3K high resolution screen flips around on a hinge so that you can either use it as a flat tablet or stand it up to watch a movie or give a work presentation. What gives this computer notable points over competitors is the combination of its physical design and the considerable engine power under the hood.

The version I used has 8GB of Ram (a 16GB version is also available) and an Intel Core i7 processor, meaning that it shredded any task I threw at it. This beats the hell out of all the lightweight Core M hybrid devices out there. Mine also had oodles of storage with a 512GB solid state drive.

Lenovo has clearly thought hard about the design of this machine. It's very slim. It's also light (1.2kg) for a 13-inch machine. Its (excellent) keyboard is protected when flipped over by a clever raised frame. It has good connectivity ports on board, including a USB C slot.

What the Yoga 900 boils down to is a really powerful laptop that can also be used as a tablet at times. It stands alone as a great PC even without any touchscreen usage.

The only potential drawback is price.

While people will readily hand over €1,500 for a (far weaker) Apple MacBook, €1,700 is still a lot to spend on a Windows laptop. Looking at the Yoga 900's specs and functionality though, this isn't an overpriced machine.

Bluetooth beanie: if  the hat fits, wear it

Saorbuga Bluetooth Beanie  

Price: €40 from  Saorbuga.com   

Rating: 4 stars

Suffering from outdoor headphone fatigue yet? For some, the prospect of strolling around with a giant pair of cans on your bonce is a sartorial step too far. (I haven't yet reached that point, mostly because the edge they give music playback is worth the occasional bemused looks.)

One putative alternative is an audio hat. There are quite a few of these on the market now and they're all very affordable. But don't be confused as to them being a music replacement for your headphones.

What they offer in sartorial discretion, they lack in musical quality. I find them very useful for talk radio or podcasts, where bass and other levels of audio richness are possibly not as important (although some would dispute that).

Saorbuga's range of audio headgear is a good place to start if you're looking to add this type of tech accessory to your wardrobe.

The flagship piece, for want of a better description, is the Bluetooth Beanie. It's a woolly cap with a small speaker on each side and a tiny microphone built in.

Just charge it up (via a micro USB lead) and slip the wool cap on. The speakers connect to your phone over Bluetooth and you'll get up to six hours power from them.

The microphone lets you make and take calls, while there's even a miniature three-button control panel on the side of the hat to let you play, pause or skip through tracks.

As you'd expect, the sound quality from it this is reasonably tinny. But it does work.

For those not into beanies, Saorbuga also has a couple of sports headbands with the same technology built in.

One added feature to the Saorbuga headgear is its 'moisture-wicking' properties. The hats draw perspiration through the fabric to the exterior, where it can evaporate and not hang around.

For what they set out to do, Saorbuga's outdoor wear is decent.

Smartwatch sets a sport chic

Motorola Moto 360 Sport  

Price: €268 from ie.mobilefun.com  

Rating: 4 stars

Smartwatches are now just about established as bona fide tech devices in our lives.

However, they're still more likely to be embraced enthusiastically by people into running or cycling.

This is becoming evident in the design of models such as Samsung's Gear S2 and it is probably the rationale behind Motorola's latest addition, the 360 Sport.

The new model takes most of its cues from the existing Moto 360 watch, but adds GPS (an important feature for some runners) and a clever new screen technology that adjusts for external lighting conditions.

Like the regular 360 model (and most new advanced smartwatches), the 360 Sport is fairly bulky. It doesn't have a camera and you can't make or take calls on it, like you can on a tethered Apple Watch.

But it does have a heart rate sensor which dovetails nicely with a variety of health apps.

You get all the different types of notifications as well, including texts and social media.

You can also use it to search for things using voice control.

(I pause at doing this: it still seems a little self-conscious.)

As you'd expect, the watch uses Android Wear, which is quite easy to learn and synchronises very nicely with whatever Android phone you have.

(In fact, it also now works with iPhones, although you have to use the latest version.)

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