Tuesday 16 July 2019

Ask Adrian: Our technology editor tackles your trickiest tech problems


August VGB100
August VGB100
Sony 1000XM3
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Question: I have a lot of video tapes of family events that I have transferred from a camcorder going back to the 1990s. With video players now becoming obsolete, I wish to transfer to DVD or USB to ensure that my children will be able to access them in years to come. What do I need to do to achieve this? - Catherine


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You have two options: get a professional service to transfer them or do it yourself. If you have several tapes to transfer, the first option is a lot more expensive. But it's hassle-free. Generally speaking, transfer services cost from around €20 per tape, sometimes depending on the length. For that you'll usually get a DVD or memory stick with the video file. Obviously, that can get pricey very quickly.

Alternatively, you can do it yourself. There are a number of methods, but one thing is crucial: you need the original type of player for the tape you're transferring from. For example, if you have your footage on VHS tapes, you need a VHS player regardless of what option you pick next. Assuming you have one, it's then a question of whether you want to record it directly to a DVD, or make a digital file to either a PC (or laptop) or custom digital converter gadget and then record it to a USB stick or DVD.

Once again, budget will play a relevant role in which method you choose. From an ease-of-use perspective, it's more straightforward if you record it straight to a DVD or to a digital file using a specialist converter gadget. But it's more expensive. For example, DigitNow has an all-in-one gadget that you simply plug into your VHS player. You hit play on the tape and the gadget starts to record the footage, transferring it into a digital format and saving it on to a common memory card.

It's easy to do but the device costs €100 (from Amazon). Similarly, a DVD recorder is often capable of recording straight from a VHS player using a Scart cable. But you need to have the DVD recorder already: if you don't, you'll be lucky to get one for under €150.

If this hardware is unavailable to you or is too expensive to buy, you're probably looking at transferring the video tapes to your PC or laptop using a cable and some software. This is easily the cheapest option but, if you're awkward when it comes to setting things up on computers, can be a little tricky.

There are umpteen software packages you can get to do this. But you will definitely need the proper Scart-USB lead - the Scart end goes into your VHS player while the USB bit plugs into your laptop or PC.

Some set-ups make it a bit easier. For €25, you can buy the August VGB100 USB cable converter that goes from a VHS player into your laptop or PC. It comes with software to create a digital file from the VHS recording.

Recommendation: August VGB100 (€100 from Amazon)


My 22-year-old son is going away and I was wondering what laptop you would recommend? He watches Netflix, videos and streams things. He might also need it to prepare CVs and make or take Skype calls. My budget is €500.

- JJ, Cork


There are two that should fit the bill here.

Lenovo's 14-inch Ideapad 320 (€429 from Harvey Norman) is a very decent all-rounder for someone who doesn't need extra-long battery life. It has loads of ports (including a handy memory card port), a good screen and has totally adequate power for basic everyday use. Its only slight disadvantage is that, because it has an old-fashioned hard drive rather than a newer solid state drive, it's a little heavier (2.1kg) than pricier laptops that are the same size. There is an upside to this, however, in that such hard drives give you way more storage. This one has 1,000 gigabytes, so your son will probably never run out of space on it.

If battery life and weight are more important than that, you'll get almost the exact same kind of laptop that do better on those fronts for around the same money if you compromise on storage. For example, HP has a 14-inch model (€399 from Currys PC World) with almost the same power and connectivity options but using a newer kind of hard drive. While this means it's significantly (30pc) lighter and has a 50pc better battery charge, it also only has 13pc (128GB) of the storage capacity of the Lenovo.

To me, the advantage of a longer battery charge and lighter weight is more important than the difference in storage, so I'd probably opt for the HP in this case. 'Solid state' drives, like the one in the HP, also tend to be longer lasting, quieter and faster than the kind of older hard drive that this particular Lenovo has.

That said, if your son wants to download lots of movies or other large files, he may need more storage.

Recommendation: HP 14-inch laptop (€399 from Harvey Norman)

Email your questions to ­ caomahony@independent.ie

Tech Two

Sony 1000XM3

€399 from Harvey Norman

Sony 1000XM3

Sony's new 1000XM3 headphones are the best noise-cancelling overheads you can get under €500. They pack superb audio with absolute best-in-class noise dampening, meaning you can take a flight in peace or cut out the cacophony at work or in a café. They're also lighter than the previous Sony model, hence comfier for long periods.

Panasonic LX100 II

€949 from Conns Cameras


If you want a high-quality camera but can't bear the bulk or weight that a DSLR and its lenses entail, Panasonic's 17-megapixel Lumix LX100 Mark II is one of the cameras to consider. It feels great in-hand with a metal body and dials to let you easily control things like shutter speed and aperture.

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