Tech review: Weckler on the latest gadgets
Our Technology Editor reviews the Sony Xperia E5 and the Lenovo Yoga 900S.
Budget smartphone that (almost) does it all
Sony Xperia E5
Price: €220 from Argos
Rating: 4 Stars
If you want to know why so much in our daily lives now revolves around phones - from media to photography to basic interaction with friends and family - Sony's new budget Xperia E5 is probably a good case study. It's bright, fairly powerful, has a decent camera and feels easy to use. It's also over €300 less than many of the phones you're pitched these days.
In other words, you can go full-bore on Instagram, Facebook, Gmail, Outlook Exchange, Twitter and your media subscriptions without any real loss of performance on a device that's within the price range of almost everybody.
The nearest you'll find to a catch is that its 16GB of internal storage isn't really enough these days (although to make up for this, Sony has added a memory card slot for up to 200GB extra). It also comes with what is, by today's standards, a moderate amount of computing power in its Mediatek quadcore processor and 1.5GB of Ram (top-end phones now have 3GB of Ram). If you're a heavy user, you'll notice a slight lag when zipping between applications, including the camera. But otherwise, this is good to go as your daily phone.
There's also no fingerprint reader, although I'm not sure this is seen as a big compromise by most people.
The E5's 13-megapixel camera is average to good, meaning that you'll usually get almost as good a shot from it as you would from a high-end camera lens. It's not quite as fast as some other camera phones and its autofocus sometimes needs a second to settle. It records 'full' high definition video at 30 frames per second, which is as good as you need from any phone. The handset's five-megapixel selfie camera is perfectly decent too.
The speaker on the phone is surprisingly good for a budget model, while the five-inch screen just about makes the snazzy standard with 194 pixels per inch (high-end phones have twice that resolution, but the effect is often wasted on such a small screen).
The E5's 2,700mAh battery life is adequate and generally got me through a full day's use.
You can't really lose with this phone.
Lenovo does an Apple with 900S
Lenovo Yoga 900S
Price: €1,380 from PC World
Rating: 5 Stars
There's a critical microsecond that occurs as you go to open up your laptop. It's an aesthetic moment: do you like this machine or is it a bit of a drudge?
In part, this is influenced by what you use it for. But a large dollop of your sentiment is affected by the design of the device itself. (It's one reason why Apple MacBook owners always seem more pleased, at an intrinsic level, with their laptops than Windows PC owners. Apple has always put lots of effort into the physical design of the contraptions.)
In this context, Lenovo has made one of the most elegant, desirable PC laptops on the market. It's impossible not to like the 12.5-inch Yoga 900S from the minute you take it out of the box.
There are a couple of reasons for this. This is the slimmest 'convertible' touchscreen laptop on the market. This means that it's very easy to pick up and plop into a bag or a case. But unlike some super-slim laptops, Lenovo have clearly decided they want to make this a nice-looking machine. Instead of the usual plasticky finish, the 900S comes in a gold or dark metallic grey case. But it's the internal casing around the keys where the laptop really goes for it, with a brushed matte finish. It looks and feels great.
In everyday operation, the Yoga 900S is generally a pleasure to use. Its backlit keyboard is well laid out and easy to type on.
Its 'convertible' status means that the screen flips right around to back on to the keyboard, turning into a large tablet. (The screen can also be positioned at any point in between, making it an excellent standalone screen for watching TV or movies on.) The hinge which facilitates this is one of the laptop's design strong points, too.
Because it's so light, the 900S is one of the more practical convertible laptops for pen-styluses: you can genuinely hold this in one hand while taking notes with the other. On the other hand, bear in mind that there's no pen with this laptop and, if you do buy one, there's no slot to store it in.
Because it's an Intel Core M5 processor, battery life on this machine is pretty good at over eight hours. On the other hand, this same Core M5 processor gives the 900S arguably its only real compromise: power. While there is no problem with everyday tasks here, you better not try to load any heavy lifting on to it. I noticed a bit of struggle when trying to edit some 4K drone footage. (This is not normal laptop activity, though.) In this vein, it could use an extra bit of Ram, with 4GB arguably a little stingy. The 128GB of storage is also a little basic at this price.