Tech: Weckler on the latest cool gadgets
Our technology editor reviews iPod Touch 6, Panasonic Lumix G7, DJI Phantom 3, Bush Eluma B1.
The parent phone trap
iPod Touch 6
Price: €240 - €470 from Compustore
Rating: 4 stars
See if you recognise the following exchange between a typical Irish parent and their pre-teen offspring.
"Can I get a smartphone?" "No, you're too young." "Okay, well, can I get an iPod?" "Yes, alright." Receipt of the music gadget is promptly followed by the youngster promptly downloading Instagram, Viber and WhatsApp and using it exactly as they would a phone with peers, few of whom have ever 'texted' each other.
And for those parents who think that not having a sim card and phone number is some sort of drawback, think again: the only thing kids use sim cards for these days is to contact you, the parent. (For kids' parents who still have landlines, think of your own usage patterns around your fixed-line telephone - isn't it largely for your own parents' comfort?)
Looking at Apple's new iPod Touch 6, it's not hard to see how it doubles as an impressive, powerful phone for those who want it to. It has a bright, four-inch screen, an 8-megapixel HD camera with slow-motion video recording and a decent selfie-camera for live video calls over Facetime, Skype, Google or a host of other services. You can use it just as easily for online music services such as Spotify or Tidal as you can for iTunes. However, if the latter is still your bag, the new Touch comes in storage tiers of between 16GB and 128GB.
But be under no illusions: if your child asks for one of these, you're handing him or her a phone.
Nice camera but enough with the 4K
Panasonic Lumix G7
Price: €900 with 14-42mm lens from The Camera Store
Rating: 4 stars
Panasonic seems to be betting a lot on 4K video capability for some its new cameras. Take its new G7, which works using different Panasonic lenses.
The camera's main pitch is around its 4K video-recording ability. For me, this is not the reason to buy a camera, or even a camcorder (I've yet to see universally available 'full HD' video quality that doesn't look 95pc as good as 4K on any screen, including 4K TVs). However, it does include some nice side-effects. Such as the ability to scroll back through your 4k video footage and select a frame as a high-resolution (although limited to 8-megapixel) still image.
If this doesn't float your boat as a reason to buy, the G7 has some other claims, though mostly not ones that trump any rivals. It's very light, has a versatile flip-out screen and has plenty of tech, including Wi-Fi. It also mostly sells with a decent kit 14-42mm lens, which is the DSLR equivalent of 28-84mm and which produces some nice results. (Panasonic's lens range is very good, overall.) On the other hand, I wonder who this camera is aimed at. Enthusiasts appear to favour full-sized DSLRs, pocketable alternatives or a combination of both. This is neither, though it leans more towards the DSLR than the pocket model.
But if you gave me a choice between this camera and Panasonic's slightly smaller LX100 (a wonderful camera which I reviewed last month and which is pitched at a similar price and a similar focal range at 14-42mm), I'd definitely go for the LX100.
The drones are coming. Again
DJI Phantom 3
Standard price: €920 from store. DJI.com
Drones are a blessing and a curse. On one hand, they provide genuinely wonderful footage of our landscapes that you just couldn't get before unless you had access to a helicopter and some very expensive equipment. On the other hand, they have the potential to irritate the hell out of everyone. Most, including DJI's industry-leading 'Phantom' models, emit a loud buzzing sound that is reminiscent of a giant mutated mosquito. But if this doesn't put you off, DJI's new Phantom 3 Standard model is probably the one you will want to investigate.
The basic deal here is that DJI is integrating all of the essential features of a good drone into something that is as easy to fly as possible. It has a 2.7K video recorder that also takes 12-megapixel stills on a non-shake gimbal. Live video of whatever it's filming is streamed to your phone and it has a flight time of 25-minutes per battery charge. It even has a feature that makes it follow you if you want. Its range is about 1km from your controller and it automatically returns to its base when it detects that it's running low on power.
A note on flying regulations: you're generally not allowed to fly drones in or around built-up areas (like cities and towns).
Cheap and cheerful mobile
Bush Eluma B1
Price: €75 from Argos
Rating: 3 stars
Remember Bush? The old cheap radios? The cheap stereos and TVs in the 1980s? Well, Bush is back, baby. And this time it's serving up cheap cellular stuff. That means Windows Phone, which has also managed to become a byword in cheap handsets these days, thanks to Microsoft's weird management of Nokia phones.
Bush's Eluma B1 phone is as basic as you can get for a working 2015 smartphone. Its four-inch screen is far from high definition and its 512MB of Ram and 4GB of storage (of which only 2.5GB is available to you) are pretty threadbare. The absence of 4G and a plastic finish adds to the overall sense of a 'value proposition'. But with cheapness comes cheer. The B1 works just fine for the basics of modern smartphoning.
While its 5-megapixel rear camera and 0.3-megapixel selfie camera are about as low as you can go these days, that's still an intelligible base level for day-to-day stuff. It also has a dual-sim slot, in case you're a traveller or have some other reason for two phone accounts. Another €70 or so can get you a significantly better (and bigger) Android smartphone. But if you really just want basic communications at an ultra-basic price, this is worth a go.