Tech review: Weckler on the latest gadgets
Our Technology Editor reviews the Riva S speaker and the
Bluetooth speaker with 30 watts under the hood
Rating: 4 Stars
Bluetooth speakers are a dime a dozen. You can go from cheap, novelty models that cost €15 and sound like a basic phone to stereo substitutes running into many hundreds of euro.
I have plenty of them about the house, ranging from Bose to Sony to UE Boom. It's a modern-day stereo set-up for the streaming age.
But I've been looking for a good, flexible portable unit that would give decent background audio in my home office.
I think I've found it.
Riva's S speaker goes beyond what a lot of its rivals can achieve in a box of the same size.
It's very portable - just 19cm long by 7cm in height and 7cm in width.
Its main selling point is the audio quality. There are 30 watts under the hood here (the most in its class) with three custom drivers. For something of this size, it really is fantastic: I had no problem imagining it to be a much bigger speaker.
It's flexible, too. Aside from the fact that you can use it flawlessly as a two-way speaker for your phone (which it's connected to via Bluetooth), it comes with a protective pouch casing thoughtfully attached to a carabiner clip, in case you want to hook it on to the outside of a bag to save carrying space. It's also splash-proof with an IPX4 certification. And for travellers, the box comes with plugs for Europe, the US and Australia as well as Ireland.
Technically, there are some very clever things going on. I don't think I've ever seen as many audio-in options on a portable speaker this size. There's the usual 3.5mm orifice alongside both micro USB and standard USB ports. There are other helpful connections, too, including a 3.5mm cable for older audio sources and a 3.5mm to RCA connector (for amps and the like).
It has a proximity sensor, so it knows when you're about to touch it, lighting the buttons up for you. It's charged via a 19v adapter which comes with the unit in the box.
You'll get cheaper speakers than this on the market. But if you like decent sound, I don't think you'll get much better - in this size -within €100 more of the Riva S's price.
A budget phablet that matches pricier phones
Moto G4 Plus
Rating: 4 Stars
Over the last three years, Moto smartphones have come to represent something of a standard in high-performing budget models. Regular readers of this column will know that I have often regarded their handsets as the best budget (sub-€300) smartphones you can buy. Once again, its new 5.5-inch G4 Plus has a decent shout for the top-performing 'phablet' under €300.
The reason is that it does everything that it's asked really quite well. The only clue that you're using a budget phone lies in its fairly bland physical design, a feature that budget-phone hunters often prioritise less than functionality.
It has a great HD screen (401ppi), is unfussy to use and sports stock Android (Marshmallow), which is almost always preferable to Android manufacturers' own interfaces.
There is a (front-facing, thankfully) fingerprint reader and comparatively good battery life. There's also a turbo-charging feature that lets you stuff around five hours of use into it in a 15-minute charge.
The 16-megapixel camera on the G4 Plus is fine, if not at the stellar levels of the iPhone 7 or Samsung S7. I will admit that I don't particularly like the stock Android camera app. I just find it too fiddly. Its focal lengths are a little funny, too: the 5-megapixel 'selfie' lens is very wide, prioritising group shots and landscape backgrounds over facial vanity. (The iPhone's selfie camera is nowhere near as wide.)
One downside is that it only comes with 16GB of built-in storage. In all honesty, that's not really enough these days. To make up for this, there's a MicroSD memory-card slot inside the (removable) back cover.
There's also a lingering question mark over its power: once or twice it seemed a little laggy. But rarely.
If you need to change your phone or want to escape the contract cycle without breaking the bank on a new €750 model, this really is a pretty strong choice.