Weckler on Technology: Toshiba open budget tablet window
Toshiba Encore 2 Price: from €180. Rating: ****
I have unexpectedly grown to like Windows tablets. One reason is that they give a little more bang for the buck when it comes to build quality and software fluency than similarly priced Android rivals (almost all iPads are more expensive).
They also offer quite a lot to those who might want to use the device for work purposes, an activity tablets are generally poor at. Toshiba's Encore 2 makes the point very nicely.
It comes in an eight-inch or 10-inch version, offers the useful Windows 8.1 and is put together nicely. In other words, it makes for a very usable machine at a budget price.
MacBook Pro cover hits top Speck
Speck 13 Smartshell Price: €50. Rating ****
Whenever Apple updates its MacBook Pro laptop range, it is a deeply troubling time for the credit card health of thousands of Irish tech enthusiasts. (This writer included.)
Thankfully, there are ways to mitigate the outflow of capital. One of them is choosing a budget protective casing. Speck's Smartshell is a nicely designed layer that clicks into place and comes in a few different colours. It won't help your shiny new machine much if you drop the thing (it's only made of toughened plastic), but it will prevent scrapes, scuffs and other unsightly marks.
Ear we go with stylish new Jawbone headset
Jawbone Era Price: €130. Rating: ***
As someone who walks around Dublin with a large pair of wireless music headphones, often conducting conversations through the set's microphone, it may seem odd to sniff at a Bluetooth headset.
And yet, when I don Jawbone's small earpiece, I feel the immediate sartorial transition from city to Citywest. Shallow fashion considerations aside, the gadget has some material advantages over the woofer cans I usually use as a hands-free device.
Most importantly, it cuts out ambient noise far more effectively than most phones' microphones.
In my case, that means wind: even a regular breeze often has my interlocutors complaining of talking to someone "in a wind tunnel". The device is rechargeable and comes with its own docking station.
Laptop muscle is out of this world
Alienware 18 Price: from €2,200 Rating: ****
I have been known to make laptops stutter under the weight of their own executions. But whatever scares a MacBook Air or a Surface Pro is chickenfeed for Alienware's latest beast of a laptop.
With a configuration that reaches up to a mind-bending 32GB of Ram, a top-end Intel i7 processor and a whopping 8GB of graphics card memory, this is techno-lust on an elevated scale. It's like taking all of the standard computers in your office, tying them together and seeing what they could do.
Except that Alienware's machine would still comfortably outgun them on visual performance, with video that can keep up with a 4K display. Don't look for portability or battery life on this laptop: it's a big, bulky powerhouse built for brute force. But boy, does it bounce along.
iPhone videos in another dimension
Poppy 3D Price: €60 from Compu B. Rating: ****
I've rarely been one for 3D, either in the cinema, at home or on cameras. So I am not naturally giddy about being able to record videos and take photos in 3D on an iPhone. Nevertheless, I can't help but praise the design and functionality of the Poppy 3D. It's a fairly ingenious box into which you slot your iPhone 4 or 5 (there's no Android version yet). The box uses a combination of mirrors and clever optical angles to allow you record content in 3D. This can then be viewed either through the Poppy 3D's own viewer or on any screen with the use of a normal pair of 3D glasses. It's a very clever gadget, especially as it's an old-fashioned contraption with no batteries or circuits of its own. This is really good fun.