Adrian Weckler: Tech review of the Panasonic Lumix GM5, Lenovo Thinkpad T450, Asus Zenfone 2, Fitbit Surge and the Lytro Illum
Our technology editor gives his verdict on the Panasonic Lumix GM5, Lenovo Thinkpad T450, Asus Zenfone 2, Fitbit Surge and the Lytro Illum.
Panasonic Lumix GM5 - a mini-marvel to help the camera shy
Price: €770 with 12-32mm lens
Some say that a generation is missing out on good photos because of over-reliance on cameraphones. Maybe. But our Samsungs and iPhones do have one advantage: they don't intimidate people when you ask someone to say "cheese". By comparison, stick a large Canon or Nikon lens in front of someone and they sometimes freeze up. That's what makes Panasonic's new GM5 well worth looking at. It packs a hefty 16-megapixel camera sensor (the same as that in last year's impressive GX7 model) into a relatively tiny body while still being able to swap out different (high-grade) lenses. The result is a high-end snapper that fits in the palm of your hand and which doesn't freak people out. Wifi is on board, meaning quick transfer of shots to your phone or tablet. It shoots video at a smooth 60p, while it also has a three-inch touchscreen and an electronic viewfinder. A full charge will get you something in the order of 200 shots. If €770 sounds a little steep, you'll pick up the slightly older - but similarly sized and specced - Lumix GM1 for around €200 less.
Lenovo's dull but safe laptop
Lenovo Thinkpad T450
Price: from €930 at shop.lenovo.com
These days, it is very hard to establish a sartorial coefficient by observing another's laptop. It was easier in the old days, when MacBooks were for hipsters and Dells were for junior accountants (and everyone else). But today, it's a free for all. That is, with one exception: the Thinkpad. The longest-running laptop series (over 20 years, now) remains an evergreen badge of the corporate executive world. Once IBM (but now Lenovo), it's slim, very secure and has that little button in the middle of the keyboard for those still 'adjusting' to touch-sensitive trackpads. So just how will airport business lounges react to the newest 14-inch T450 model? Without missing a beat, I reckon. The new machine has middling specifications (i3 to i5 processor, 4GB Ram, optional touchscreen or solid state drive) but adds in the Thinkpad's suite of security software for paranoid professionals. It's a little surprising that Lenovo leaves in an old-fashioned spinning hard drive for the entry-level variant - this gives it much weaker battery life than the higher-end solid state drive edition (but is €300 cheaper).
Big, powerful and cheap
Asus Zenfone 2
We're entering a new, cheaper era with phones. It is one where 90pc of the top specifications are now available on handsets half the price of devices such as Samsung's new S6. This is particularly so in the Android field, where manufacturers such as Alcatel and Huawei now have phones in Irish shops that do just about everything the heavily-advertised models do. Asus is another such manufacturer breaking into this field. Its updated Zenfone 2 has a high definition 5.5-inch screen, a 13-megapixel camera (plus 5-megapixel 'selfie' front camera) and serious muscle (quadcore Intel processor, 2GB Ram) under the hood. It's also super-slim and comes in different colours. And it costs €300, less than half the price charged by either Samsung, HTC, Sony or Apple. Asus is no fly-by-night artist: it's one of the world's biggest manufacturers. This is a sign of things to come: a much cheaper phone market.
A great gift for fitness bores
I generally don't like fitness gadgets. To me, they're a symptom of some OCD complex. Step measurement? Minutes of sleep logged? If I was Dolph Lundgren's Ivan Drago in Rocky 4, I'd see the point: in my own (fairly active, outdoorsy) world, it's harder to gauge any real value. That said, Fitbit's latest wearable device comes loaded with features that will please any fitness ostentation. As well as measuring steps and boasting decent apps for your phone, it throws in a heart rate monitor, resulting in slightly more medically useful information if you need it. As with most fitness wearables, the device aesthetically resembles a Garda parole bracelet. Then again, if you like to wear the latest Adidas or Nike runners as fashion accessories, this will be right up your street.
Cool camera without a cause
Price: €1,700 from Bermingham Cameras
It's hard to know who exactly wants to buy a Lytro. Lest you missed all the fuss, Lytro is a new camera system that lets you 'focus' the photo after you've taken it. It's an intriguing concept. In theory, it should mean you never take an out-of-focus shot ever again. Yet, in playing around with the Illum, which has a fixed 30mm-250mm lens (at a constant f2) it becomes clear that this is not really a simple device to use. It also becomes clear that while shots are decent, their quality is not their selling point: flexibility with what you do with the shots afterwards is. So what was initially thought to have been a step-change in photography may, in the short term, only be a clever assisting device for commercial snappers to add clever effects to photos on websites. That's not to say that this isn't an innovative tool, but it's harder to see a more general appeal for it at the moment.