Monday 23 April 2018

Ask Adrian: Our tech editor tackles your trickiest technology problems

 

Sony's overhead MDR-1000X
Sony's overhead MDR-1000X
Trust Primo Powerbank 10000
Canon EOS M50
Apple Pencil
Apple iPad 6th Generation
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Q I am travelling to San Francisco direct from Dublin during the summer. I plan to purchase good quality headphones and would like to use technology on the long flight. I have a Samsung J5 phone, tablet and MP3 player. I would like to be able to use mindfulness apps, downloaded podcasts, audiobooks and music. I am open to purchasing an iPod if that would make it easier. I'm also wondering what the best options are in relation to charging devices. Any ideas much appreciated?

A. I would advise two physical ­purchases: overhead headphones (with noise-­cancelling technology, which is important in this case) and a 'power bank' recharging gadget.

The reason it's important that your headphones have noise-cancelling technology is because they do a significantly better job at cutting out the inevitable roaring noise from the plane. If you've never tried noise-cancelling headphones before, they're quite amazing. They use tiny microphones to check the frequencies of the sounds around you and then 'reverse' those frequencies back on themselves so that they cancel each other out. The result is a much quieter experience for you to focus on the music or audio signal that then comes out of the headphone speaker.

Mind you, you only really get the advantage in overhead models: my experience with in-ear headphones that claim to have noise-cancelling technology built in is that they come nowhere close to blocking out external noise. Noise-cancelling headphones start at around €60 in any of the big electronics stores: Philips has a budget pair for €55 at PC World. If you can afford to spend a little more, I'd recommend either Sony or Bose.

The noise-cancelling headphones I use myself are Sony's overhead MDR-1000X (€300-€400 depending on where you get them), which I have found to be the best of the bunch for overall quality and comfort.

The other physical item you need to get is a 'power bank' backup charging device. In plain English, this is small, boxy gadget that is about the same size as your smartphone and which acts as an extra battery. Just plug your normal charging cable from your phone into this gizmo and your phone will start recharging.

For a budget option, I'd recommend the Trust Primo Powerbank 10000 (€30 from Harvey Norman), which can charge two devices (such as a phone and a tablet) contemporaneously and has enough capacity (10,000mAh) to recharge your phone two to three times over or your tablet at least once over from scratch.

Alternatively, if there's more than one of you looking for a recharge, go for the Energizer Ultimate Power Bank (€69 from Argos), which has a battery reserve (20,000mAh) that's twice as big as the budget option. As for what you'll listen to, there are literally umpteen decent options open to you when it comes to channels for podcasts, music and audiobooks.

For podcasts, download the free Pocketcasts app for your Android (Samsung) phone. You'll get access to just about any podcast there - either to stream online or to download to your device - and it's easy to search. (If you're really stuck, I have a weekly tech podcast called The Big Tech Show).

As for music, Spotify is probably the best streaming service, although you'll need to pay for a premium €10-per-month subscription if you want to download the songs to your device.

For audiobooks, Audible is really the best option out there, with two free books when you sign up.

RECOMMENDATION: Sony's overhead MDR-1000X (€300-€400) and Trust Primo Powerbank 10000 (€30 from Harvey Norman), inset

Email your questions to caomahony@independent.ie

Two to Try

Apple iPad 6th Generation  (€369, CompuB)

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Apple iPad 6th Generation
 

Apple's new iPad is very, very similar to Apple's old iPad. Except it's more powerful and you can now use the Apple Pencil (€99, sold separately) with it.

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Apple Pencil

This is good for anyone who likes to draw or doodle on a large screen but doesn't want to spend a fortune on a touchscreen laptop. Identical in size and shape to last year's model, the new 9.7-inch device is still the best tablet you can buy for under €500.

Canon EOS M50 (€629 from Conns Cameras)

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Canon EOS M50
 

If you're looking for a good-quality, beginner-friendly mirrorless camera with a small range of affordable lenses, this is a decent bet. Canon's brand new model has a flip-out touchscreen, which is brilliant for flexible photo-taking. Unusually for a Canon, it also records video in 4K 'ultra' high-definition quality. It's relatively small and compact, but the machine's 24-mega­pixel APS-C sensor delivers good photo results.

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