Sunday 4 December 2016

Tech review: Weckler on the latest gadgets

Published 04/06/2016 | 02:30

Pebble Core
Pebble Core
Withings Thermo
Garmin Vivomove.

Reviewed by our technology editor this week are Pebble Core, Withings Thermo and Garmin Vivomove.

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Ditch the phone when you go for a run

Pebble Core     

Price: €30           

Rating: n/a

If you hate bringing your phone with you on a run, Pebble has come up with a nice little gadget that gives you lots of your phone's functionality without any of the bulk. Its new Core device is a small, square gizmo that can carry a sim card or connect to Wi-Fi. It has 4GB of storage on it, meaning that you can save music and other files for listening back on the go. If you use the gadget's 3G or Wi-Fi, you can also stream music back from online players.

The device is being pitched mainly at runners as it tracks all your physical activity and parlays it to your phone. It also syncs with almost any major fitness app on the market, giving you more flexibility than some systems. And because it has GPS built in, you can also track your locations when using it on the move.

It has between four hours (streaming) and 20 hours (GPS only) of battery life.

Nice baby tech without the tears

Withings Thermo  

Price: €99         

Rating: 4 Stars

One of the things that people with babies soon realise is just how much stuff that you need to keep around. It's not just toys, nappies and blankets but food containers, bottles and health-related tools, too.

So just about everyone with a baby or toddler soon becomes well acquainted with thermometers. But it can be difficult to use the instrument effectively without upsetting the child. Withings has come up with a knacky little Wi-Fi thermometer called Thermo. Aimed mainly at parents with babies and very young children, you place it just above the skin on a person's temple and it takes a temperature reading. Well, 4,000 temperature readings, to be exact, courtesy of its 16 infrared sensors which take 250 temperature readings each. It's pitched as a non-invasive and hygienic alternative to traditional thermom-eters.

A fitness watch with robo chic

Garmin Vivomove

Price: from €150

Rating: 4 Stars

One common reason cited by many for not getting a smartwatch is aesthetic awkwardness. No matter how many social-media messaging services you can access using the gadget, some people just don't want to walk around with what looks like a mini-computer on their wrist.

A new breed of smartwatch, catering for exactly this sensibility, is starting to become more visible. And Garmin's new Vivomove, while limiting the 'smart' activity to fitness-tracking, makes a decent case for being its best of breed.

Coming in a choice of finishes, the Vivomove is a proper (automatic) analogue watch with the looks to match. On my wrist, few detected that it was a smartwatch at all. But under the hood, sensors let you keep track of your step count and sleep patterns via Garmin's accompanying 'Connect' smartphone (iPhone, Android or Windows Phone) app.

If you've ever worn a Fitbit, you'll be familiar with the basic modus operandi. The app's main function is to tell you how much you have walked that day. You can keep track of daily and weekly step counts and share the information or set up comparison tables with friends. You can also create 'work-outs' and get tips on better exercise.

The Vivomove watch has a few little charms to help spur this along. It has two discreet bars on the watch face that encourage you in different ways to keep moving. A reddish-grey colour appears on one of them if you've been sedentary for too long (outside sleeping hours), while the other bar gives you a micro indicator of nought to one hundred steps at any one time.

The watch (and app) also keeps track of your sleep. This is measured rather crudely, in that it assumes you're in 'deep sleep' if your wrist doesn't move for a certain amount of time and concludes you're 'lightly sleeping' if it does. However, my deep-light sleep results (roughly half and half every night) seemed to tally with my own experience.

There are lots of competent fitness trackers. What Garmin is really selling you here is a smartwatch that you can wear on a night out and not come across as a gym aficionado. The model I wore was a pretty nice gold and white face with a brown leather strap (as our photo illustrates). You can also get them in grey, white and black. The watch's battery lasts for a year, Garmin says.

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