Sunday 17 December 2017

Tech review: Weckler on the latest gadgets

The Apple iPad Pro 10
The Apple iPad Pro 10
Dyson Supersconic hairdryer
The LG G5
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Reviewed by our technology editor are the Apple iPad Pro 10, Dyson Supersonic and LG G5.

Apple bets big on this laptop-killing new iPad

Apple iPad Pro 10

Price: from €699

Rating: 5 Stars

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The Apple iPad Pro 10

When Apple boss Tim Cook was in Dublin last November, I asked him whether we might one day see a crossover device between an iPad and a MacBook. "No," he said. "You'd begin to compromise in different ways."

Apple bets big on this laptop-killing new iPad

And yet, for those who want a portable computer to work on, the gap really does now seem narrower than before. While you could say that Apple's 13-inch iPad Pro was a high-end niche product suited for designers and some mobile workers, the new 10-inch version brings home Apple's vision of iPads getting closer to being out-and-out laptop replacements.

In a nutshell, the new iPad Pro looks a lot like a tablet but has more than a few of the characteristics that a full-blown productivity machine enjoys.

Speed and power are good examples. The iPad Pro has Apple's A9x chip which, for speed, beats about three quarters of the laptops out there today. Aside from the ability to edit 4K videos, it means that things like multitasking - flicking between different programs and apps - are noticeably quicker than previous tablet experiences you might have had. This really matters. Because the real question most of us have about an iPad Pro versus a laptop is this: "Even if it's lighter, more portable and has a longer battery life, can I work quickly and comfortably on it?"

The short answer to this question is: mostly yes. Like its 13-inch big brother, the 10-inch iPad Pro is lightning fast and - crucially - is a real laptop replacement when used with one of the superior keyboard accessories. In this vein, I've been using Apple's Smart Keyboard. For writing, it flies along. It's also really robust, which means you don't really have to worry about spilling stuff on it or crumbs getting stuck anywhere. And as well as having its own mini-stand mechanism, it doubles as an effective protective cover.

Ironically, there is just one instance where this doesn't perform quite as well as a laptop - when you're actually using it on your lap. As a journalist, 90pc of the situations in which I'm writing are on a table, desk or airplane seat tray. In these situations, the iPad Pro is golden. But on the odd occasion where I have to sit and work with the machine on my lap, it is undeniably not as steady.

This aside, the 10-inch iPad Pro has extra attractions over other tablets or laptops. The quality of the screen and speakers are both close to the top. Like the 13-inch model, the 10-inch iPad Pro has four speakers which combine to give you proper stereo sound. I really wouldn't underestimate the value of this when you're watching a video: it's a different class to most tablets or laptops you'll have used.

The screen, too, is a step up - it's the highest quality display Apple has put on an iPad, with deeper colours, much better blacks and a 25pc hike in brightness over the iPad Air 2. Crucially for those using it at work, the screen is way less reflective than other iPads, making it better for sunny or spotlight conditions.

Quality aside, it will be a personal decision as to whether a 10-inch screen is big enough to work on. I worked fine with it but, given a choice, I would default to the 13-inch model for the extra screen real estate. (Even though the smaller 10-inch version gives you more space flexibility on flights and in tight spots.)

The screen is also designed to use with Apple's Pencil, which is about the best physical manual writing and sketching accessory you can get. The tablet uses the same 12-megapixel lens that you get in the iPhone 6S. It also shoots in 4K video, does 240fps slow motion and takes 63-megapixels panoramic shots. (The selfie lens on it gives you a 5-megapixel shot.)

Like all modern iPads, the new model has the Touch ID fingerprint reader.

For those who use Google a lot (such as Docs) there are still some minor frustrating limitations to keyboard shortcuts which don't really apply on Apple laptops.

As it's an iPad, you'll use apps more than web documents to write with. And on Google apps, there is a still a gap of keyboard shortcut commands ('select all', 'cut', 'paste') when using an iPad Pro.

You also have to take price into consideration here. When paired with a Smart Keyboard (a combination I'd really recommend), the basic 32GB version of this machine comes in at a cool €868. Go up the ladder to the top 256GB build (with the Smart Keyboard) and it's a whopping €1,228. At this level, you're definitely buying a product that does more than show Netflix or browse Facebook.

I'll be coming back to the 10-inch iPad Pro soon in a special apps guide for new tablets. For now, this mini laptop replacement will delight some and pass others by.

Supersonic hairdryer that defies sound barrier

Dyson Supersonic    

Price: €399    

Rating: 4 Stars

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Dyson Supersconic hairdryer

This column is not usually fussed about hairdryers. But Dyson's new model caught our eye. Not for the golden locks it promises to enhance, but for the noise reduction.

The new Supersonic hairdryer boasts a lot of things: a new type of digital motor, thermostats to regulate temperature and 'air multiplier' technology that is way more efficient with the air it uses.

But the thing that might most benefit households (and I mean everyone in the house, not just the person drying their hair) is the lower decibel levels. Dyson threw a few dozen engineers at the noise problem. These boffins added two impeller blades, which has pushed one tone within the motor to a sound frequency beyond the audible range for humans.

I've heard the results and they're impressive. As ever from Dyson, this isn't a budget personal care item. But the partners of those who use hairdryers regularly might save on earbuds.

LG goes retro with add-on capability

LG G5    

Price: €700 unlocked from Expansys.ie    

Rating: 5 Stars

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The LG G5

Remember when you could add things to phones other than Hello Kitty protective cases?

Back in the day, what made a phone cool was the way it slotted into something (or something slotted into it). LG's new flagship 5.3-inch G5 phone pays homage to this idea with its 'modular' design.

You can literally remove the bottom of the phone and add in different physical bits of hardware. It could just be a replacement battery. But there are also camera grips, VR sets and digital DAC music players that are compatible with it. The phone has some other interesting specs, too. LG has put two cameras on the back of the phone, a main 16-megapixel snapper and a second, wide-angle, 8-megapixel lens.

It adds a lot to the type of photo you can shoot on this handset.

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