Saturday 22 October 2016

Tech: Cool and fun but a challenge for the novice

Published 10/05/2015 | 02:30

GoPro Hero 4 Silver
GoPro Hero 4 Silver
Samsung Gear
LG Watch Urbane

Our technology expert casts his eye over the GoPro Hero 4, PGear VR, LG Watch Urbane  and Clarisonic Aria.

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GoPro Hero 4 Silver 

Price: €430               

Rating: 4 stars

GoPros are probably the coolest cameras you can buy. Almost every surfboard, snowboard or mountain biking action video you see on YouTube is recorded on one. So are half of the drone videos showcasing those spectacular Wild Atlantic Way coastlines.

In general, I'm finding the GoPro Hero 4 Silver, which stands one short of the top of the range, to be fun. But for a novice, it's challenging enough to use. It comes with some excellent accessories that immediately set you up to use the camera with a bike or a helmet or in water: these include a waterproof casing (to 100 feet) and other accessories available include dog harnesses. The Hero 4 Silver also lets you pick your recording resolution, right up to 4K ('ultra HD'). And you can choose the default wide angle (equivalent to 10mm lens) on any setting, with 'medium' (equivalent to 24mm) available on one or two of the lower settings. Because it has wifi, you can transfer photos or videos to your phone straight away. The reason I opted for the Hero 4 Silver over the very top-of-the-range 'Black' model is because it is the only one in the range with touchscreen controls. However, using the touchscreen is a little clunky and it doesn't work underwater.

The device is often slow to react too (especially for photos) and mine occasionally tells me I have a memory card error, no matter which card I use (including the top-end expensive ones). So far, I'm happy with the quality of the videos and photos I've taken on the Hero 4 Silver. But I'd probably need a higher octane outdoor hobby to get the most out of it.

When virtual gets real

PGear VR

Price: €200                 

 Rating: 3 stars

Ever since I tried this out some months back, I've been waiting to see when Samsung would release it in Ireland. There's no movement yet, but the gadget is available to buy in other countries (including Britain and the US). The basic premise of the Gear VR is that you slot your Samsung Note 4 or S6 smartphone into it. The result is an "immersive" experience, as a combination of lenses and other technology create a virtual reality environment. The effect is pretty impressive, even though the only things I got to use with it were a couple of game demos and trailers. If you wear it long enough, it might make you feel a little nauseous: such is the downside of virtual reality. There's a dedicated app store open for it now, so the hope is that a critical mass of content builds up. If that happens, maybe Samsung will release it here.

The walkie-talkie watch

LG Watch Urbane 

Price: €350 

Rating: 3 stars

While Apple's Watch has shown up some inferior smartwatch rivals, it has arguably been good for the quality alternatives as they now don't have to justify their existence. One such candidate is Urbane LTE.

Other than being relatively nicely designed (with leather and steel), it has a 'walkie talkie' feature designed to allow several people to communicate at once over short distances.

The watch eschews the square digital look of Apple's device in favour of something more analoguish in a bid to appeal to Tag Heuer types. It works with almost any Android phone, via Android Wear.

Beauty can be skin deep

Clarisonic Aria

Price: €200                  

Rating: 4 stars

Eating junk food and sugar is not good for my skin. But I have no intention of giving either habit up. So I'm forced to look at other remedies to stop the inevitable acne and blotchiness. A dab-on cleanser cream is the most obvious choice, but this gadget from L'Oréal's Clarisonic claims to be better.

It's basically a motorised brush that applies a cleanser in a more thorough way than one's fingers. But instead of vibration, the device is 'sonic', with 300 oscillating movements per second. The rechargeable, waterproof machine is about the same size as a large electric shaver and feels somewhat similar when using it. It has three speeds, depending on how rigorous a cleanse you want to give your skin.

The whole thing takes about two minutes to do, and it comes with a small tube of cleanser gel. It only comes with one brush head, which is supposed to be replaced every three months (and probable more frequently for men because of stubble) as the bristles wear out. Replacements brushes cost around €30. This is pitched mainly at women and largely as a makeup-remover. But if you're a junk food fiend like me, it's a nice way of cheating your way back to acceptable skin.

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