Tech review: Weckler on the latest devices
Reviewed by our Technology Editor this week are Pioneer 100R, Apple Pencil and the Roberts R100.
Pioneer's portable master blaster
Price: €679 from HifiHut.ie
Rating: 4 Stars
I had a look at this gadget before, but it has since received an important upgrade: MQA. This means that the Android device is now the first portable music player to offer what most audio experts regard as the best quality digital audio standard you can get. (What 'Master Quality Authenticated' means is that there is no loss of audio quality during the digital coding process, unlike MP3s and most other types of digital files.)
So far, it seems that Tidal is the only major streaming service to offer the new standard. But if you're an audiophile, it may well be worth it. Otherwise, the 100R's grey brushed metal format and nozzles make it a fairly satisfying object to handle and hold. With Wi-Fi and bluetooth, its five-inch Android touchscreen hosts Google's Play Store and recharges via a standard Micro USB connection. It has two memory card slots that add over 200GB per slot to the existing 32GB of on-board storage.
'X' marks spot for Apple's Pencil
Price: €109 from CompuB
Rating: 3 Stars
It's a little hard to review Apple's Pencil if you're not a natural doodler, sketcher or artist. I am none of these things. I don't naturally ink expanding cubes or colour in the corners of A4 pages when stuck in a meeting. I'm not a bad drawer, but have never enjoyed it. So I might be the wrong person to authoritatively judge what is ostensibly the best, most accurate digital writing device on the market. Apple's Pencil is designed primarily for use with either of Apple's iPad Pro computers as a drawing utensil or a (very) high-end note-taking aide. Its biggest advantage is its low latency, meaning there's almost no lag between when you move the Pencil to draw, write or colour. The flexibility of the Pencil's tip is another strength, matching pressure to brush strokes in an extraordinarily accurate way. And for those who like the idea of scribbling notes, your handwritten scrawls can be fairly accurately converted to text on the iPad.
Smarten up with the ultimate internet radio
Rating: 5 Stars
When's the last time you bought a radio? Five years ago? Ten? They're getting hard to find, aren't they? For many, the question probably hasn't even come up in a long time. After all, why bother getting a new FM radio when you can use the (better quality) bluetooth speaker you already have and just wirelessly connect it to one of your phone's free radio streaming apps, like TuneIn?
Roberts, which is one of the few companies still making radios, seems to have twigged this and has responded with some aplomb. Its new R100 all-in-one streaming speaker is one of the best all-purpose portable radio and music units you can get.
You can get radio on it in three ways: FM (it has a pop-out aerial), internet and DAB. I defaulted to internet option (RTÉ, Today FM, Newstalk, BBC and others) every time as FM can suffer from minor interference when you stand in the wrong part of the kitchen and DAB just never got off the ground.
The quality of the audio from the R100's speaker is excellent in comparison to a normal radio: I just moved into a new house with an open plan kitchen and dining area. It had no problem filling the space.
The tech under the R100's hood is designed to make this speaker part of your 'multi-room' audio set up, which is probably the most popular type of speaker category on the market right now. (Think Sonos and Bose.)
In a nutshell, this unit can wirelessly link to other speakers in your home, meaning you can walk from one room to another and still hear the same radio programme, album or audio source. It's all connected through your home Wi-Fi and it's quite easy to set up with a few button pushes on the R100 unit. There's also a free (non-Roberts) app called Undok that lets you control things from your phone or tablet.
Spotify Connect is pre-loaded on it should you have an account and it also works as a simple bluetooth streaming speaker from your phone if you want to switch to that.
Physically, the R100 is pretty handsome with a leather strap over its white and grey casing. But if you want to bring it somewhere with no electric socket, you'll need to buy an additional battery pack for it.
I'd heartily recommend this. It's basically the perfect modern kitchen radio.