Thursday 18 January 2018

Minor updates to a classic – but €100 cheaper

Apple MacBook Air Price: from €930 (11-inch model) Rating: 5/5

Apple MacBook Air
Apple MacBook Air
Jawbone Icon HD
Integral 16GB USB Secure Key Flash Drive
Sharp K321 4K monitor
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

I've become a little ho-hum about (small-screen) iPhones. But I'm still in love with MacBook Airs. It's hard to think of a more perfectly-designed laptop.

The 11-inch model I bought two years ago has served me incredibly well for work and pleasure. (Although I've started to divide my time between it and various Chromebooks lately.)

Apple's update to the machine is relatively modest, mainly boiling down to a slightly faster processor. However, the company has also knocked around €100 off the price. Meanwhile, it retains the gorgeous styling, toughness and super-slimness of its excellent predecessor.

If you're thinking of a new laptop and can afford the pricetag, this really is a superb machine. Sadly, my two-year-old MacBook Air still works beautifully – meaning I can't justify upgrading mine just yet.

But if it were to fall down the stairs . . .

Icon headset will put brakes on penalty points

Jawbone Icon HD Bluetooth headset

Price: €90

Rating: 4/5

On Thursday, the new regime of 1,000 penalty points and a €1m on-the-spot fine for even looking at your mobile phone in a car came into effect. Obviously, alternative measures are now required for business travellers. One way of negotiating a solution is to return to 2003 with a good old-fashioned Bluetooth headset. If you're going to do this on your company's dime, you may as well get a decent piece of kit. Jawbone's Icon headset has probably the best audio you can find for the money, partly because of some impressive noise-reduction technology built in. One handy feature is a battery-meter that displays on your phone, letting you know how much juice the rechargeable device has left. (Just don't check this while driving.)

Encrypted USB key to keeping data safe

Integral 16GB USB Secure Key Flash Drive

Price: €22

THERE'S been a lot of hoo-hah in recent weeks over security threats, data leaks and other such issues. One of the biggest sources of customer-data screw-ups is simply leaving a laptop or a USB key in the back of a taxi or a pub. A way of mitigating this risk is by using an encrypted USB key.

Integral's model is a good example of the concept in basic form. Its 256-bit encryption matches it to a rigorous security standard, while its steel finish makes it fairly robust against falls, pressure or splashes. The user is required to set a pin number of between eight and 16 digits (accessible on screen). Ten failed attempts will automatically erase all data on the drive. It comes in a range of sizes, but the 16GB version costs €22.

Doodle your way to the perfect plastic artefact


Price: €90 (including postage) from

Rating: 4/5

WHAT'S the first thing you think of at the mention of '3D printing'? Hobbit figurines? Body parts? Industrial equipment? I discovered this week that it can also come in packages reminiscent of a common soldering iron.

The 3Doodler is a handheld gadget that takes plastic in one end, heats it up to molten level and allows you to craft something at the other end. When it cools (which is within seconds), you're left with a plastic artefact.

Having never been terribly artistic myself, my efforts so far have been scraggly heaps strongly resembling cast-off packaging ribbons. But there's a repository of designs available online free through

You need to choose between two types of plastic, depending on what you want to create. And refill packs, in various colours, are ordered online.

The best in ultra-high definition displays

Sharp K321 4K monitor

Price: €4,000 Rating: ****

These days, you can get a high-definition PC monitor for €150. But if you want bleeding-edge resolution, it costs quite a bit more. For graphic designers or videographers using Apple's Mac Pro desktop PC or the MacBook Pro laptop, it doesn't come much fancier than Sharp's new 32-inch 4K monitor.

The display is capable of ultra high-definition imagery, meaning twice the resolution of existing "full" high definition (1080p) screens. There are probably only a few categories to which this will apply and, until I have an exhibition featuring eight-foot canvases, my current photo-editing is not one of them.

The image quality is genuinely extraordinary. This level of quality should be available in the next three years at a quarter of the price.

Irish Independent

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