Thursday 17 January 2019

Ask Adrian: Our tech editor tackles your trickiest technology problems


Plantronics BackBeat Fit (€99 from Vodafone stores)
Plantronics BackBeat Fit (€99 from Vodafone stores)
HTC U12+
Fujifilm X-T100
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Q: I do a bit of running and would love to listen to music and podcasts when I'm out. Is there a reasonably priced set of wireless earphones - preferably under €100 - that suits runners and won't fall out of my ears? I don't want to wear big headphones and I don't want wires dangling down to my phone.

A Yes, but a word of warning: there are no in-ear headphones, sporting or otherwise, that match the audio quality of similarly-priced overhead headphones. It's simply a question of physics.

That said, some brands now have somewhat decent wireless earphones that do a reasonable job at playing music and staying in your ear as you run.

For the price range you're talking about, I'd probably go for Plantronics' BackBeat Fit (€99 from Vodafone stores, though more expensive in some retailers).

These tick a lot of boxes for runners. They're sweat-proof (a crucial feature) and they stay fairly firmly attached to your ear, thanks to a rubber loop around the buds.

While the buds are wireless (from your phone or MP3 player), they're connected with a cord that goes around the back of your neck, a common design for sports earphones.

They don't jam right into your ear, which means that you can hear ambient external noise (such as traffic). While this will suit some runners, it also means that the audio quality will inevitably sound a tad tinnier than earbuds that go further into your ear canal.

You'll get a similar level of quality from Monster's iSport Victory earphones (€89 from Currys), which have almost identical features (sweatproof and equivalent battery life) as the Plantronics set but which are a little lighter.

However, while the Monster buds also have a small design loop to keep them in your ear, I'm not sure it's as effective a method - it may depend more on the shape of your lobes.

I should say that there plenty of cheaper wireless earphones available in shops. Brands such as Sony and Philips have models starting at around €35. But none really have the features you'd want in a sports model.

However, there are two additional pairs that I'm going to mention as worth looking at, simply because the audio quality is better than anything you can get for under €100.

The first is Bose Soundsport Wireless (€150 direct from or from various retailers). They're sweat resistant, fairly comfortable and go for around six hours on a single charge. Most importantly, though, the audio quality is really very decent.

The other earphones that cost over €100, but are worth the stretch if you have an iPhone, are Airpods (€179, multiple retailers). Even though they're not specifically designed for runners, I've used them on runs for over a year and not once has there been any hint of them falling out. They're completely wireless too, meaning no neck band. And you get a very handy little charging (and storage) box with them. Most importantly, they are best in class when it comes to actual audio quality.

RECOMMENDATION: Plantronics BackBeat Fit (€99 from Vodafone stores, pictured)

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Two to Try

Fujifilm X-T100  (€699 with 15-45mm lens)

Fujifilm X-T100

Just in time for the summer, Fujifilm has a decent new mirrorless camera out. The X-T100 is meant to be a more affordable, consumer-friendly version of some of its higher-end 'X' series cameras. Its 24 megapixel sensor means crisp detail while its screen flips right out to let you shoot (or film) selfies. It comes with a new Fuji lens (15-45mm, equivalent to 23mm-67mm in 'traditional' terms, a 3x zoom) and is available in gold, as well as silver and black.

HTC U12+ (€799)

HTC U12+

Remember HTC? The veteran brand is still cranking out fairly impressive smartphones. Its latest U12+ is a 6-inch device that nearly has an all-screen front and sports dual cameras (16MP and 12MP) on both sides of the handset. In addition to letting you 'squeeze' the phone to perform certain actions, it also has a camera trick of letting you partially focus after you've taken a photo.

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