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More features: the Lenovo IdeaPad 330S

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Amazon Echo Flex

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Motorola Razr

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More features: the Lenovo IdeaPad 330S

Question: I've had my Sonos speaker system for some time. I use Alexa with it. Until a few months ago I could instruct Alexa to play BBC Radio 3 or 4 on them. But now, Alexa will only play BBC Radio 4 on the Alexa Dot speaker. And while 'she' will not play the BBC on the Sonos speakers via Alexa, 'she' will play the BBC through the phone. Is there a way I can get Alexa to play the BBC through my Sonos speakers? I do have a Spotify account but that doesn't seem to help. - Yvonne Cunnane, via email

Answer

Yvonne, you're not alone here. The implementation of the BBC's rights management system can be hit-and-miss when it comes to Ireland. Officially, the broadcaster's policy is that you're supposed to be within the UK to listen to stations like BBC 3, 4 or 5 online.

But they can't really control radiowaves, so people close to the Border can usually get a clear radio signal. However, they can somewhat control reception of the online transmission by limiting it to online recipients (via their 'IP addresses') that are registered as being UK ones.

So why is it that many here find that they can say "Alexa, play BBC Radio 4" and it will play the stream? This may be because your internet service is using an IP address routed through the UK. For example, I find that I can sometimes listen to BBC radio streams through the 'TuneIn' app on my Amazon Echo speaker.

In other words, if I say "Alexa, play BBC Radio Five" it won't play. But if I say "Alexa, play BBC Radio Five on TuneIn", it will.

Ironically, tapping BBC Radio Five within my phone's TuneIn app brings up an audio message saying that it's restricted due to territory.

This doesn't seem to make sense, especially as I'm sitting in the same spot in the same non-UK country. But what's possibly happening here is that when my home Wi-Fi connects with TuneIn through Amazon's servers, it's somehow within the BBC's UK-compliant zone. But when I just try to connect directly, it's not. Or when I try to connect via TuneIn on my phone.

My advice to you is to try the following. Instead of asking Alexa for BBC Radio Three or Four, ask Alexa for "BBC Radio Three on TuneIn".

See if that works. If not, you'll have to 'pair' your phone's BBC radio stream to the Sonos speaker over Bluetooth to listen to it.

Question

I would really appreciate your advice on choosing a laptop. It is for my daughter who is heading to college in September. She will probably study business. She doesn't want anything too heavy. She also wants a reasonably fast processor. Our budget is around €500 as I understand we will also have to buy an anti-virus package.

- Evelyn Milner, via email

Answer

Fortunately, almost all new budget and mid-range laptops are substantially lighter than the models you would have been looking at five or six years ago.

For that budget, my advice to look at an HP or a Lenovo. You'll typically be looking for a laptop with a 13 or 14 inch screen (it doesn't need to be a touchscreen). You should be asking for a minimum of 8GB of Ram memory and a bare minimum of 128GB of storage memory - 256GB would be better if you can get it.

In terms of the 'fast processor', an Intel i5 processor is the best you can hope for at this budget, but an Intel i3 processor is still powerful enough to handle any normal laptop task if it's backed up by at least 8GB or Ram memory.

A good model that would very likely fit your daughter's needs is HP's Pavilion 14 2503 model, currently on sale at Currys for €539. It has good specifications and is at the upper end of storage memory (256GB), meaning your daughter shouldn't have to worry about running out of space for projects, presentations, photos or videos.

If you can't make it to a Currys, Power City has a very similarly-equipped model from Lenovo, the IdeaPad 330S (€499).

If anything, this has more features than the HP, with a more flexible 14-inch display that can fold flat. (It also has an Intel i3 chip, 8GB of Ram and 256GB of storage.)

I would normally also recommend considering an iPad Pro for a college student, based on its power, battery life and light weight.

Unfortunately, this is about €200 over your budget when a keyboard is taken into consideration (although you would save money on anti-virus software as iPads don't need them.)

And while Microsoft's Surface Go would also be a nice option, its entry-level version has too little power and storage to recommend - you'd end up paying over €700 for the correct version with a keyboard.

Recommendation: Lenovo IdeaPad 330S (€499 from Power City)

Email your questions to ­ caomahony@independent.ie

 

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Motorola Razr

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The saga of new-fangled folding phones enters a new phase, with Motorola's newly-launched Razr model hitting shops soon. The idea is that you fold out the device to create a narrow, long Android smarpthone. Getting one will set you back the price of an iPhone 11 Pro. But there's one outstanding question: will the glass break?

 

Amazon Echo Flex

€30 from Amazon.co.uk

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Amazon Echo Flex

Amazon Echo Flex

Amazon Echo Flex
 

If you want a smart speaker but want to save cash, the Echo Flex is a good choice. It plugs into any socket and has a small speaker and microphone, allowing you to 'ask' it things or play the radio or music. You can also wire it into a speaker you already have, creating your own budget 'smart speaker'.

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