Tech review: Weckler on the latest gadgets
Our Technology Editor reviews Fujifilm X70, HTC Vive and Sony Xperia X.
Fuji puts a powerful 28mm in your pocket
Price: €700 from Conns Cameras
Rating: 4 Stars
Non-zoom portable cameras are a very niche thing these days. But if you like photography, they can be a real treat. Fuji has been on a bit of a roll in this category, mainly with its X100 series of fixed-lens (35mm) portable cameras. But these cost over €1,000. So now it has come out with a cheaper, smaller version that retains most of the features and quality. The 28mm (equivalent) 16-megapixel X70 is a really cool little camera that reminds of me of my old Nikon Coolpix A, but has extra features such as Wi-Fi, video recording and some extra manual controls on the body. With a big APS-C sensor and some excellent colour-separation technology under the hood, the quality of the photos is great. The camera has a tilting touchscreen instead of a viewfinder, which will irk some traditionalists. But I find that such screens can be very useful in framing shots you otherwise wouldn't get, especially shooting below or above your natural height. It's won't slip into your jeans, but will fit in a jacket pocket or a small bag very easily.
A bit clunky, but Vive is the best VR out there
Price: €899 from htcvive.com/eu
Rating: 4 Stars
Virtual-reality systems are advancing quite quickly at the moment. But if you're looking for the best system currently available on the Irish market, HTC's Vive is probably it right now. This is no lightweight headset that struggles to persuade you that you're in another dimension when you're really looking at your phone. This is a full-on, Matrix-esque immersion that will blow your socks off if you give it a chance. You'll have to really want it though: there's quite a lot to set up and you'll need a fairly big chunk of space in a room to make it really work. You'll also need a fairly powerful PC and to download Steam for the games. Once there, though, you'll be fairly gobsmacked with the results: this is a new platform, to be sure. The one disadvantage is mobility - there's lots of hardware and lots of wires.
But if this doesn't bother you, the Vive is pretty spectacular.
Sony Xperia X cuts the right features
Sony Xperia X
Price: €600 (Argos) or from free on contract with Three
Rating: 4 Stars
I've always had a decent regard for Sony's high-end Xperia phones, mainly for their camera prowess. But these are ultra-competitive times. Rivals such as Huawei are coming out with high-quality phones for just over half the price of the traditional big beasts. In Sony's latest flagship device, the Xperia X, we can see that it has cut out a few features to keep the price a little lower.
That said, what's left is still a really good phone that, for the most part, performs very well.
The five-inch handset has an understated elegance that I quite like. Gone are the sharp edges in the corners and the glassy rear casing. Instead, there's nice curved glass at the edges and a comfortable ergonomic grip.
There's a fingerprint reader on the 'unlock' button, based on the side of the phone. I really like the position of this as this is where my thumb naturally goes when I hold the phone. As a result, unlocking the phone with your fingerprint is fast and efficient.
The phone's 23-megapixel camera is very good, although I'd say it's no longer the best on the market (I've been very impressed, in particular, by the cameras on the latest Huawei P9 and HTC 10 models).
However, I love the Xperia X's physical camera button. It means you can launch the camera instantly, even from an unlocked state. I wish more phones had this feature.
One sacrifice made is the lack of 4K ('ultra high definition') video recording on the Xperia X. Personally, I don't see this as a disadvantage - 'full HD' (1080p) is still a really good standard right up to a 40-inch telly. And I've yet to see compelling 4K footage from any phone. (In my experience, it just adds unnecessary size to each video file.)
Another feature Sony has backed off on is its waterproof standard. Honestly, I doubt anyone will care. I never really got why it made previous Xperia phones waterproof (as opposed to 'water resistant') in the first place: you want to be able to text someone in the rain, not from the bottom of a lake.
What Sony hasn't shirked on is audio prowess, with the addition of high-resolution audio and (relatively) excellent speakers on the phone itself. Battery life on the Xperia X is fine at a general 'all day' level. It comes with 32GB of storage and also has a MicroSD memory card slot that can expand the device's capacity to over 200GB.