Friday 19 July 2019

Ask Adrian: Our technology editor tackles your trickiest tech problems

 

Tips: The Microsoft Surface Go is great for watching movies
Tips: The Microsoft Surface Go is great for watching movies
The 'premium' Sony A7ii
LG roll-up TV
Withings Move ECG
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Question: I've started watching a lot of movies on my laptop around the house. It's an old model and the screen on it is very dull. I want to upgrade it, but just can't afford some of the premium models. Is there any kind of laptop that is better for TV and movies? - Sean O'M, Wexford

Answer

Any new laptop, even a budget model, will play video fairly well. (When you say you're watching movies, I assume you mean that you're streaming them through Netflix, Sky, Amazon or iTunes).

That said, there are some differences that, for those focused on a laptop that excels at showing video, are important to note. Unless you have it plugged in all the time, battery life might be important. So you'll need something that lasts a few hours. Luckily, that includes almost all new laptops - it's rare to get less than four or five hours with a new model.

In terms of screen quality, don't be dazzled by tech specs and numbers. High resolution is important for larger laptops (13 inches and over) but less important for smaller ones (11 inches and under). In general, it's good to aim for a HD-resolution screen of 1920 by 1080 pixels. However, for a smaller model (12 inches or under), 1280 by 720 pixels should also be fine. Don't bother with a '4K' screen on a laptop - there's almost no way of telling the difference between that and HD on a screen of that size.

As important as the number of pixels is the colour gamut and what they call the 'dynamic range' of the screen. This basically means the screen's ability to show you a wide, deep range of colours and to render things that should be black as close to black as possible (instead of a washed-out grey). In general, this follows the pricing scale quite faithfully: pricier laptops almost always have more precise displays.

If you're already using your old laptop to watch video, you may be used to that form factor. You say you watch it 'around the house'. Does this also mean in bed? If so, you might want to consider a 'convertible' laptop or pro tablet. They're a lot more flexible than regular laptops while essentially doing the same thing. They also often have better screens, although they tend to be on the smaller side (between 10 and 12 inches).

Here, there are a few I'd recommend, depending on your budget. On the entry-level side, it's hard to beat Microsoft's Surface Go (€529 with keyboard from Harvey Norman), the 10-inch version of its excellent Surface Pro range. It's about half the price of the Surface Pro 6 and, for what you say you want with it, might be a better all-round buy.

Alternatively, look to Lenovo's Yoga 450 (€440 in Currys), a larger 14-inch budget alternative. Still in the 'convertible' mode, one alternative to Windows laptops is Apple's iPad Pro range. These have superb screens and audio but aren't cheap, starting at around €900 for the tablet and keyboard cover.

The convertibles and pro-tablets also tend to be better for audio. While earphones are often used to watch video in public spaces such as trains and planes, many watching at home rely on the laptop's speakers. These traditionally tend to be mediocre. If audio speakers are important to you, almost any of the aforementioned convertibles or 'pro' tablets (iPad, Surface and the like) is a good option. 'Pro' tablets also tend to have better battery lives than traditional laptops and are easier to charge as they often use the same kind of power connection as your phone.

For what you say you want in your budget range, my overall recommendation is either Lenovo's 14-inch Yoga 450 (€440 from Currys) or Microsoft's 10-inch Surface Go (€530 from Harvey Norman).

Recommendation: Microsoft Surface Go (€530 from Harvey Norman)

Question

I am a make-up artist and want to buy a camera that will be good for both taking videos of doing make-up and pictures of the end result. There are just so many cameras out there at the moment, I don't which ones are good.

- Molly (via email)

Answer

There are dozens of candidates. As I now do for most photography-related queries, I think you're best going for a mirrorless camera, which has all the quality of a traditional DSLR but is much easier for a novice to shoot (because you can see exactly what the photo will look like as you point the camera at it, which you don't get with a DSLR).

These are represented mainly by Fujifilm, Sony and Panasonic, although Canon and Nikon have recently become more serious about their mirrorless models. Luckily, mirrorless cameras are also fantastic for video. I'll recommend three options for your specific needs. At the moderately-priced end, it's now hard to beat the value of Sony's A6000 (€629), which comes with a reasonable 16-50mm lens. Fujifilm's X-T100 (€699 with a 15-45mm lens) is also worth looking at.

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The 'premium' Sony A7ii

If you can afford a 'premium' model, choose Sony's A7 Mark ii (€1,669 with 28-70mm lens).

Recommendation: Sony A7ii (€1,669 from Conn's Cameras)

Email your questions to ­­ caomahony@independent.ie

Tech Two

LG roll-up TV

€10,000 (expected)

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LG roll-up TV
 

Arguably the most talked-about new product at the giant Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this month was LG's 'Signature' Series television. The 65-inch LED set has one thing that no other TV can boast - it rolls up into a box when you're not using it. Think of a roller blind in reverse, but all done by remote control. 

Withings Move ECG

€100 from Withings

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Withings Move ECG
 

One of the hit features of Apple's Watch Series 4 is its ability to take electrocardiograms (abbreviated to ECG or EKG). Withings, which has been making connected wearables for a few years, has come up with its own budget version. However, it will need regulatory clearance before it launches.

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