| 13.4°C Dublin

A sturdy bargain – just don't expect elegance


Toshiba Encore

Toshiba Encore

Clockwise from left: Wahoo Fitness RFLKT, Canon 1200D, Withings Wifi Smart Body Analyser & Digital Scale

Clockwise from left: Wahoo Fitness RFLKT, Canon 1200D, Withings Wifi Smart Body Analyser & Digital Scale

The LG G2

The LG G2


Toshiba Encore

This week Adrian Weckler peruses the best on offer in smartphones, tablets and digital cameras.

Toshiba Encore

Price: €300 (32GB) from Harvey Norman

Rating: 3 stars

WINDOWS tablets are few and far between. So when one pops up, it needs to have a niche. Toshiba thinks that it has found one, with its 8-inch, 'full' Windows 8, Encore tablet.

For those who need their office software, the advantage that Windows tablets have over Android or iPad rivals is that they allow 'normal' PC software to be loaded. In other words, you don't have to rely on apps (which is just as well, as the Windows app store is still a little thin).

But to get the real benefit of all this old-school functionality on the Encore, you need to attach a keyboard and mouse: the 8-inch screen is just too small to double-tap, highlight and drag icons with your finger. (Some versions of this tablet come with Microsoft Office already loaded. Mine didn't. This would probably make a difference if you needed it for 'traditional' laptop duties.)

The Encore is sturdy, rather than elegant. Aesthetically, it strongly resembles an old iPhone 3G blown up about four times in size. The screen is functional but feels a bit cheap: it has a slightly coarse dragging effect compared to high-end touchscreens on more expensive devices.

The tablet's Intel Atom power is reasonable, but not impressive: it's understandably slower than a full-powered PC. However, it comes with a lot less bloatware than an average Windows laptop, so this makes it more efficient.

As Windows tablets go, this is a lot less elegant than Microsoft's own Surface. But for those who really want PC software in pocket tablet form, it might be a bargain.

Quality product for budding photographers

Canon 1200D

Price: €450 (body only); €550 (with 18-55mm lens) from Conn's Cameras.

Rating: Four stars

FOR those who want to take a tentative step in the direction of 'quality' photography, the term 'entry-level' is a bit of a misnomer when it is applied to camera bodies.

Canon's new 1200D is a good illustration of why.

It has an 18-megapixel sensor with Canon's Digic 4 processor.

This is the same firepower that Canon's high-end cameras were sporting three or four years ago.

So it's arguable that anything more means you're simply chasing fine margins that only a more advanced photographer would truly be able to exploit.

(There is no significant redesign of the camera, either: it has the same basic shape and functionality as Canon cameras four times its price.) It's not as weather-sealed as pricier models and you don't get some handy features such as Wi-Fi (which lets you share from your phone immediately).

But if you're taking your first steps and weighing up your options, get this camera (body only for €450) and spend your residual budget on two lenses: a 50mm (€120) and an 18-135mm, at €400.

Decent – if you can get it


Price: €450 from expansys.ie

Rating: Four stars

THE whole 'small country' thing means that Ireland sometimes misses out on some of the best phones. Like the Nexus 5 or Moto X, LG's impressive, competitively-priced G2 is a case in point. The Android machine has a superb 5.2-inch (423ppi) screen, good battery life, solid 13-megapixel camera and great, quad-core power.

And yet to get one into your hands, you'll need to visit an airport duty-free shop or wander into webstores such as Expansys.ie.

This is a shame. In a market with a solid need for really good smartphones that stop shy of Apple's €600 to €700 price-tags, this is a very, very good option.

Its sole quirk is the placement of volume and power buttons on the back of the device rather than the side.

This compares very favourably with rivals from Samsung and Sony at a cheaper price.

A great companion for fit cyclists

Wahoo Fitness RFLKT

Price: €100 from eu.wahoofitness.com or bicycle shops

Rating: Four stars

WHILE middle-aged men in lycra (Mamils) usually cycle in packs each Sunday morning, some prefer to go solo. That often means keeping company with a fitness app. Wahoo's mountable RFLKT bike gadget displays info such as speed, GPS, heart rate and other metrics.

What it is doing is simply relaying data from your iPhone's cycling app (Strava, Cyclometer and others) and repackaging it on a device that means you don't have to risk your €700 smartphone on a crossbar. It comes with its own mounting equipment and is reasonably weatherproof. It only works with iPhones, though.

A lot more than just weighing scales

Withings Wifi Smart Body Analyser & Digital Scale

Price: €150

Rating: Four stars

HOW'S the exercise regime and diet going? Still gung-ho six weeks after your New Year's resolutions? If you think that your weighing scales may be (ahem) faulty, maybe it's time to upgrade to a 'smart' scales that gives you lots more information about your health and your surroundings – than the device you're using.

Withings' Wi-Fi Smart Body Analyser is a gadget that weighs you, tracks your body fat, measures your heart rate and monitors the level of carbon dioxide in the air around you.

It synchronises with its own app (Withings Health Mate) over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and can be used by several different people who are tracking different metrics.

Ratings Guide:

One Star - Very poor, Two stars - Sub-par, Three stars - Acceptable, Four Stars - Very good, Five Stars - Outstanding

Irish Independent