Tuesday 6 December 2016

Tech Review: Sony's snapper is budget-busting compact quality

Published 30/05/2015 | 02:30

Sony RX100 Mk3
Sony RX100 Mk3
Alienware 15
Sony Xperia Z4

Our technology editor reviews the Sony RX100 Mk3, Alienware 15, the Otterbox Strada for iPhone 6, Dyson V6 Absolute and the Sony Xperia Z4.

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Sony RX100 Mk3  

Price: €800 from The Camera Centre  

Rating: 4 stars

You can look at Sony's 20-megapixel RX100 Mark 3 in two ways. The first is as a very expensive compact camera with a modest zoom. The second is as a high-end compact camera with a much better lens than normal, one which results in better photos, especially in low light situations. I'll admit straight off that I'm in the latter camp. Because in an age of 16-megapixel smartphones, it takes something special for a compact camera to attract my interest. And it is the RX100 Mark 3's f1.8-2.8 lens that brings it into this category.

This fixed lens lets in way more light than many rivals, meaning you can shoot with a flash in much dimmer conditions and still get really bright shots. (Its ISO also goes to 12,800 if you need a helping hand here.) This does mean that the camera's zoom is more modest but the trade off is well worth it with excellent shots produced most of the time I used it. Besides, a 3x zoom is the equivalent of 24-70mm, which is a superb focal range in its own right. It's pretty decent at video, too, and has a nice manual focus ring on the lens. Other features that are very handy include a flip-out three-inch LCD touchscreen and on-board wifi, meaning you can transfer photos to your phone or tablet immediately for sharing. Those who appreciate good photos and superior optics will love this. Those simply looking for endless snaps are better off sticking to their phones.

A gaming laptop for space cadets

Alienware 15  

Price: from €1,350 from alienware.ie  

Rating: 4 stars

As every real gamer knows, consoles are for amateurs. Real gaming takes place on high-end PCs. And while there is a top, top layer of snobbery that attaches to self-built units, specialised pre-built models from some manufacturers are acceptable. Enter Alienware, the well-regarded gaming unit of Dell that manages to keep pricing somewhat in check even while stuffing some overclocked processors under the hood. The brand's upgraded Alienware 15 is a decent example for a machine that's fit for purpose without breaking the bank. Even the base €1,350 model (Intel i5, 8GB Ram, Nvidia GTX965 card 2GB, 1TB mechanical drive) will roar you along, although I'd also add the optional 128GB solid state drive (an extra €85). As is usual with Alienware laptops, the device is styled with The X Files in mind, right down to the eerie glow from the key-board and track-pad. It's pretty noisy and much heavier than most conventional laptops. But if you're buying this for frags, you're not going to care much.

A case of middle-aged magic

Otterbox Strada for iPhone 6 

Price: €50 from Otterbox.ie

Rating: 4 stars

Middle-aged men: what is even better than an iPhone case that prevents smashed screens? Why, an iPhone case that prevents smashed screens but that also has a bit of leather and a front flap that opens and closes with a satisfying 'whlupp' sound. In this vein, Otterbox's latest Strada Series of protective cases is perfect. It will fit as easily into your casual jacket as it will your Jeremy Clarkson 'comfortable' jeans. And there'll be no threat of any damage when you're bending over to put the golf clubs back into the boot of the 5 series or when trying on a nice new mustard jumper in Louis Copeland's. There's even a business card slot for 'real' contact information. The only thing that isn't ideal about this is the price: a mere €50. That means that it will pop up among the credit-union crowd at the local pitch and putt scrubs. Still: that flap action… Whlupp. Whlupp. Whlupp.

The millennial vacuum fix

Dyson V6 Absolute  

Price: €550 from Currys

Rating: 5 stars

Rechargeable handheld vacuum cleaners still have an image of being glorified dustbusters. But in our house, they now do most of the cleaning. It's the convenience, you see: there's nothing like the thought of reaching far under the stairs to reef out a long springy pipe-connected machine to put you off doing a bit of necessary vacuuming. Handhelds, by contrast, can be grabbed, turned on and finished within two or three minutes. Dyson's newest top-end V6 Absolute is about as good as they get in this regard. Its 110,000rpm motor contributes to a degree of suction power that's genuinely impressive. For dust-obsessives and allergen-watchers, it also has a post-motor filter that prevents virtually all micro-particles (99.97pc, says Dyson) from escaping back into the air. It can tackle hard floors or carpets (it has different heads for each). Battery life is still short, at around 15 minutes on a full charge. But that is more than enough time to cover our house. (In practice, a single charge lasted for three to four mini-cleans around the downstairs area.) There are more powerful vacuum machines out there. But this will probably leave your house cleaner because of frequent use.

The ultimate Netflix tablet

Sony Xperia Z4  

Price: €500  

Rating: 4 stars

Big phones are killing tablet sales for Facebook and general web browsing. So what can tablets offer that's different? High-end audio and video is probably one of the only hopes. Sony's new 10-inch Z4 tablet offers up dollops of both. It comes with a 2K screen that beats most (though not all) rivals for video quality. It also offers better sound quality - via its "high resolution audio" - than the majority of its competitors. The result is a tablet that is tailor-made for Netflix binges. And this is largely what tablets are for these days. The other big selling point for the 32GB Z4 is its unfeasibly thin and light-form factor. It's only 6mm thick and weighs just 0.39kg. Sony has also come up with a custom-made attachable keyboard for those who are happy to treat the device as a laptop replacement. We may be past the peak premium tablet rush, but for fans of non-TV TV, this will come in close to the top.

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