Wednesday 17 October 2018

The Ultimate Wish-list: The 50 best gadgets of 2017

 

iPhone X (from €1,179)
iPhone X (from €1,179)
Air Selfie handheld drone (€295 from airselfiecamera.com)
Fitbit Ionic (€339 from PC World)
Moto G5 (179, Argos)
Google Pixelbook
Motorola Z2 (€450)
DJI Spark (€705 from Argos)
Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 (€699, Harvey Norman)
Apple iPad Pro 10.5” (from €749)
Microsoft Arc Mouse (€89
Microsoft Surface Laptop (€1,169)
Microsoft Hololens (€3,299)
Huawei Mate 10 Pro (€749)
Dyson 360 Eye (€999 from Power City)
Samsung Gear 360 (€260 from Harvey Norman)
Kobo Aura One (€250 from Argos)
Netatmo Weather Station (€121, Argos)
Fuji Instax Mini 9 (€80 from Harvey Norman)
Panasonic Lumix GX800 (€469 with 12-32mm lens)
Roberts Stream 93i (€189, Harvey Norman)
Now TV box (€25)
Nest 3rd Edition (€249 from Harvey Norman)
Fujifilm X100F (€1,399 from Conn’s Cameras)
HumanCharger (€180 from Amazon.co.uk)
Apple TV 4K (€199)
HP Sprocket (€149)
Samsung Family Hub fridge (€4,500)
Sony MDR1000X headphones (€300)
Sky Soundbox (€299 or €349 to Sky subscribers)
Minirig (€150 from Amazon.co.uk)
Apple AirPods (€179)
Riva Arena (€270)
Nokia 3310 (€70, Littlewoods.ie)
Sony WS413 (€90 from PC World)
Adidas smartphone gloves (€20)
Belkin Wemo Insight plug (€75 in Argos)
Techlink Recharge 12,000, (€80)
Coco Colour stylus (€30 from cococolor.com)
Wraps Talk wristband earphones (€25)
Polk Boom Bit (€40, Amazon.co.uk)
Sennheiser Orpheus headphones (€50,000)
Tesla Roadster (€200,000)
Apple Watch Hermes (€1,500)
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

What’s the gadget of the year? Is it the iconic iPhone X? Or a smartwatch? Or a drone? Or something else entirely? With Black Friday upon us, now is a good time to look at the cream of this year’s gadgets, gizmos and tech tools. Technology editor Adrian Weckler sorts through hundreds of contenders to pick out the 50 best phones, laptops, tablets, smarthome and audio devices of 2017

Phones, drones and screens

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iPhone X (from €1,179)
 

iPhone X (from €1,179)

This is unquestionably the most important gadget of the year, or even the last five years. Apple’s new 5.8-inch iPhone X ditches the bezels for an all-screen display (bar a small notch at the top).

That Oled screen is magnificent, with beautiful colour rendition and gorgeous tones.

But the iPhone X’s biggest features is its Face ID facial recognition, which utterly changes the way you unlock, swipe and navigate your phone.

Forget about fears that it might not recognise you in the dark: this is pretty flawless, thanks to umpteen cameras, depth sensors and other gadgets on board.

To pay for something using Apple Pay, just look at your phone and tap the terminal. (Don’t worry, you can turn the system back to pin codes if it freaks you out too much.)

The lack of a home button means that you now swipe up to return to base; switching between apps is now done by swiping up, holding the app for a second and then swiping sideways between apps.

As for its camera, this is on par with the best there is.

Like the iPhone 8 Plus, the iPhone X has two lenses, one with a wide-angle 28mm perspective and the other with a telephoto 50mm view.

Like the iPhone 8 Plus (and 7 Plus), these combine to give you way more flexibility and quality than a single-lens phone camera.

But unlike the iPhone 8 Plus, the telephoto 50mm lens here is also stabilised, meaning clearer, better photos, especially in low light. That’s a notable upgrade.

In short, this is the best phone on the market by  some distance.

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Air Selfie handheld drone (€295 from airselfiecamera.com)

Air Selfie handheld drone (€295 from airselfiecamera.com)

Not into complicated drone remote controls? The Air Selfie is a gadget that pops out of its small case, hovers in the air and takes photo or video shots of you.

It can also follow you around. To make it land again, just grab it out of the air or stick your hand out. The video quality is decent thanks to its 1080p, 5-megapixel camera.

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Fitbit Ionic (€339 from PC World)

Fitbit Ionic (€339 from PC World)

Fitbit, which many know from the health-tracker wristbands that are so prevalent, has a new fancy smartwatch called the Ionic.

With a swipeable touchscreen, it has GPS, water resistance to 50 metres and can play music.

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Moto G5 (179, Argos)

Moto G5 (179, Argos)

When it comes to budget smartphones, Motorola rules.

Its G5 gives you a hell of a lot for your money, including a fingerprint scanner, a decent 13-megapixel rear camera and a pretty nice five-inch 1080p screen. Where it cuts corners is on the sameness of the design and just 16GB of storage.

However, there’s MicroSD expansion built in and battery life is fine.

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Google Pixelbook

Google Pixelbook

The Pixelbook is a 12-inch machine that has a touchscreen, a 360-degree hinge, the latest power specifications under the hood and Google’s web-focused Chrome OS operating system.

It’s actually really nicely done and, unlike most Chromebooks, has loads of power under the hood, with an Intel i5 (or i7) processor, up to 16GB of Ram and 512GB of storage memory. Plus it can now run a host of Android apps.

It’s a leap of faith, but a good one.

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Motorola Z2 (€450)

Motorola Z2 (€450)

What marks Motorola’s Z2 out is not its nice 5.5-inch screen or its good battery life. It’s its modded back covers.

These are different back-casing units that perform different tasks. One is a ‘turbopower charger’ that adds an extra day’s battery life to the phone like a slim battery-boost pack. Another acts as a speaker, a third one as a portable games console controller. And so on.

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DJI Spark (€705 from Argos)

DJI Spark (€705 from Argos)

DJI’s smallest drone is easily the best sub-1kg drone you can buy. The footage (1080p ‘full HD’ rather than 4K ‘ultra HD’) is superb.

Its drawbacks are that it’s slower than bigger drones and has a small battery life (around 12 minutes).

But its incredible portability and excellent video quality are its selling points. However, it’s strongly advised to get the ‘Fly More’ pack (€705 versus €600) for the extra remote control, extra battery and carry case.

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Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 (€699, Harvey Norman)

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 (€699, Harvey Norman)

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S3 has one of the best screens you’ll ever see on a portable computer.

That means it’s amazing for watching things like Netflix and YouTube on. (It also has good speakers.) It comes with a pen stylus which adds around €100 to the price.

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Apple iPad Pro 10.5” (from €749)

Apple iPad Pro 10.5” (from €749)

Apple’s new iPad Pro has a significantly bigger screen than the 9.7-inch model but is only marginally larger because the ‘bezels’ (the non-screen bits at the side) have been narrowed. There’s also more power, storage and new technology in the screen via a 120Hz refresh-rate for smoother scrolling and content motion. With its Smart Keyboard, this is a default laptop for me.

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Microsoft Arc Mouse (€89

Microsoft Arc Mouse (€89)

We’ve heard of the Surface tablet and the Surface laptop. Now Microsoft has introduced the Surface Arc Mouse. Aside from being a svelte, minimalist take on the traditional PC accessory, it handily folds flat for when you want to bring it with you in a bag.

It also has a touch-sensitive button instead of traditional left or right click buttons.

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Microsoft Surface Laptop (€1,169)

Microsoft Surface Laptop (€1,169)

It’s hard to think about Microsoft as a high-end computer hardware company, but that’s what it is gradually proving itself to be.

Its latest touchscreen ‘Surface Laptop’ is gorgeous to use. This is partially down to its ‘Alcantara’ material-covered keyboard. The machine is very thin and pretty light, at 1.25kg.

It comes with Intel i5 or i7 processors and between 128GB and 512GB of storage. Battery life is decent, too. I wish it had an SD card slot, but otherwise it’s great.

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Microsoft Hololens (€3,299)

Microsoft Hololens (€3,299)

WHILE the world has been getting used to the idea of virtual reality with Facebook’s Oculus Rift, HTC’s Vive and Samsung’s Gear VR, Microsoft has been busy on a different virtual vision.

Its Hololens headset sets you up with ‘augmented’ reality.

The difference between ‘virtual’ and ‘augmented’ reality is that while VR encloses you completely within its artificial world, in AR you can still see your actual environment with virtual artefacts overlaid onto it, so you can conjure up a digital object and see it placed on the floor, on a table, or floating in mid-air.

Apple is a believer in this technology too.

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Huawei Mate 10 Pro (€749)

Huawei Mate 10 Pro (€749)

If you prize extra long battery life above many other things, this is definitely the phone for you.

Huawei’s excellent Mate 10 Pro has a whopping 4,000mAh battery, way bigger and longer lasting than any top Apple or Samsung rival. The six-inch phone has some top-level power specifications to go with that, making it a stand-out device for phone users who need a large, fast, powerful device that won’t run out of steam.

The dual Leica cameras top the whole thing off nicely.

At home

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Dyson 360 Eye (€999 from Power City)

Dyson 360 Eye (€999 from Power City)

Dyson’s robot 360 Eye vacuum gets around on tread-style wheels (like a caterpillar machine), which help it to move over things like cables and the edges of rugs without

being blocked.

These scaling and navigation abilities are its strongest points. Its cleaning prowess is also fairly flawless. Dyson claims that it’s twice as powerful as any other robot vacuum cleaner.

Its 0.33-litre bin isn’t as large as some competitors’ and is about enough for two medium-sized rooms with moderate dirt. To get the most out of it requires downloading the Dyson Link app. The biggest features here are the ability to see a map of where your robot vacuum has cleaned and also to schedule or programme regular cleans.

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Samsung Gear 360 (€260 from Harvey Norman)

Samsung Gear 360 (€260 from Harvey Norman)

Samsung’s updated 360-degree video recording gadget gives you a total view of your surroundings as you film, through 360-degree photos (up to 15 megapixels) or 360-degree videos (up to a 4K standard).

It has a battery life that lasts up to two hours and can take memory cards of up to 256GB.

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Kobo Aura One (€250 from Argos)

Kobo Aura One (€250 from Argos)

Kobo’s Aura One solves a problem that only older people will have; it’s the only eReader on the market with a screen bigger than the modestly-sized Kindles.

At eight inches across, it’s about 50pc bigger than a standard Kindle screen. Outside the US, Kobo is now the only real mainstream competitor to the Kindle, so there are plenty of ebooks.

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Netatmo Weather Station (€121, Argos)

Netatmo Weather Station (€121, Argos)

This clever gadget lets you monitor your indoor and outdoor climate and works as part of an integrated smart home unit.

It can measure temperatures, humidity, even air quality. As such, it can alert other smart systems in your home about when, say, the heating needs to go on. As a bonus, it’s designed by Philippe Starck.

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Fuji Instax Mini 9 (€80 from Harvey Norman)

Fuji Instax Mini 9 (€80 from Harvey Norman)

Instant cameras are experiencing a revival. Fuji’s Instax Mini 9 is probably the best option you can get for under €100 and it comes with 10 free photos.

The prints are 2.1 inches by 3.5 inches and it’s fairly idiot-proof to use. A setting guide even lets you pick between lighting conditions. It comes in five different colours and has a flash.

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Panasonic Lumix GX800 (€469 with 12-32mm lens)

Panasonic Lumix GX800 (€469 with 12-32mm lens)

This is an excellent choice for someone who wants a good, basic interchangeable lens camera that doesn’t cost the earth.

Packing a flip-up touchscreen, photos are sharp and detailed and video goes up to 4K. It has the same excellent 16-megapixel sensor used in pricier Panasonic cameras.

A wide range of  interchangeable lenses are also available.

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Roberts Stream 93i (€189, Harvey Norman)

Roberts Stream 93i (€189, Harvey Norman)

Roberts Stream 93i is a decent FM, DAB and internet radio that also connects directly to Spotify and external audio sources wirelessly or over cable.

The sound quality, for a radio, is excellent with a three-way speaker system and a bass sub-woofer. This sound can easily fill a large kitchen or a sitting room.

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Now TV box (€25)

Now TV box (€25)

Sky’s Now TV box is an

online streaming service that shows most of what’s available on Sky, but you can pay for different bits individually through weekly or monthly ‘passes’.

One way of accessing it is through a Now TV set-top box, which connects to your wifi and your TV.

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Nest 3rd Edition (€249 from Harvey Norman)

Nest 3rd Edition (€249 from Harvey Norman)

There are quite a few smart thermostats out there, but Nest arguably stands above the fray for a few reasons.

First, its movement sensors can tell when you’re in a room or not. Second, it works with your phone to instantly turn the heating off if you leave the house (by knowing your location via GPS). As with rival devices, you have full control with your phone.

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Fujifilm X100F (€1,399 from Conn’s Cameras)

Fujifilm X100F (€1,399 from Conn’s Cameras)

Fuji’s X100F is the spiritual successor to the Leica: a standalone, high quality digital camera that is beautiful to pick up.

It comes with Fuji’s top-end 24-megapixel X-Trans III sensor, the one it put into the X-Pro2 (a brilliant camera) and the X-T2.

This means more detail in your photos, allowing you to crop in more from your 35mm shot.

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HumanCharger (€180 from Amazon.co.uk)

HumanCharger (€180 from Amazon.co.uk)

If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder, this gadget from Finnish company Valkee beams light into your inner ear canals (via earbuds).

Serotonin and dopamine is then released that aims to improve one’s mood or increase energy levels.

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Apple TV 4K (€199)

Apple TV 4K (€199)

APPLE’S TV set-top box is one of the easiest ways to stream popular services (such as Netflix) because it just plugs into your telly. It also works with your iTunes account.

The big upgrade here is 4K resolution on big movies, which means 4K televisions (a majority of new TVs) deliver the action in all its glory.

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HP Sprocket (€149)

HP Sprocket (€149)

This is a fun antidote to photos remaining solely on your phone or social media accounts. HP’s little Sprocket is a pocket photo printer that prints 2x3 photos directly from your phone, Instagram or Facebook accounts.

The accompanying free photo app lets you edit the pics with fonts, borders and speech bubbles. The prints (which come in packs of 20 for €12.99) also have peel-off backs to make them into stickers.

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Samsung Family Hub fridge (€4,500)

Samsung Family Hub fridge (€4,500)

Aside from being a top-end cooler, Samsung’s Family Hub fridge has a giant touchscreen on the front that is wifi-enabled with apps and a web browser.

That means you can watch TV on it, as well as browse the internet.

A camera inside shows you (via a phone app) what you don’t have when you’re at the shops.

 

Sounds

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Sony MDR1000X headphones (€300)

Sony MDR1000X headphones (€300)

These wireless noise-cancelling headphones are brilliant. They completely block out at least 80pc of all external noise, especially loud hums or whirs.

They also work reasonably well for muffling human voices around you. The audio quality is top notch and a microphone means they can also take calls.

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Sky Soundbox (€299 or €349 to Sky subscribers)

Sky Soundbox (€299 or €349 to Sky subscribers)

Sky’s Soundbox is a very tidy rectangular box that’s about the same length as a DVD player and about three times as tall.

Its room-filling audio is absolutely superb. If you’re a Sky subscriber, this is definitely worth getting.

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Minirig (€150 from Amazon.co.uk)

Minirig (€150 from Amazon.co.uk)

For such a small speaker, the Minirig’s sound is magnificent.

Fifteen watts of power gives this hand-made, brushed aluminium tubular speaker real oomph, especially when you place it in a corner or near a panel.

It also has a couple of ports that allow you to physically tether a second Minirig or cable in a phone.

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Apple AirPods (€179)

Apple AirPods (€179)

Apple’s in-ear AirPods are surprisingly firm in your ear. I’ve gone walking and jogging in them without any issue.

The AirPods are a very good (and reasonably priced) alternative to some wireless in-ear rivals.

This is mostly because they have really good, clear audio. They come in a little recharging case.

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Riva Arena (€270)

Riva Arena (€270)

There are gazillions of Bluetooth wireless speakers but not many ‘wifi speakers’. Riva’s Arena is both, benefitting from the convenience of Bluetooth and the (slightly) higher quality of wifi connections.

Compatible with Chromecast, it also has the advantage of an extra battery if you want to bring it on the road.

For a little less

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Nokia 3310 (€70, Littlewoods.ie)

Nokia 3310 (€70, Littlewoods.ie)

Aside from the iPhone X, the most-hyped phone of 2017 was Nokia’s retro-looking 3310.

It’s is the same old-fashioned phone you remember from 2005 with a few minor style tweaks.

It has the familiar physical number pad and a small colour screen.

There’s no 3G or 4G and its camera has a modest two megapixels.

Battery life is amazing, though: you can go a full week between charges. 

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Sony WS413 (€90 from PC World)

Sony WS413 (€90 from PC World)

If you haven’t entirely converted to music streaming services, Sony’s waterproof, wireless sports MP3 earphones are worth looking at.

With 4GB of internal storage, you can hold a few hundred songs in almost any format. Tucked into your ear, they can withstand all manner of moisture, including full immersion to two metres.

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Adidas smartphone gloves (€20)

Adidas smartphone gloves (€20)

Winter is a pain for smartphone use; screens don’t work through gloves.

Well, not most gloves. But these Adidas mits have special thread in the fingertips to electrically connect your fingers to the screen’s controls.

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Belkin Wemo Insight plug (€75 in Argos)

Belkin Wemo Insight plug (€75 in Argos)

the Wemo switch basically connects whatever is plugged into it to your phone (via a free Wemo app).

So whether it’s a lamp or a TV or whatever, it becomes controllable no matter where you are.

It is also programmable: you can set it (again, via the app) to switch whatever it is connected to on or off at a certain time.

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Techlink Recharge 12,000, (€80)

Techlink Recharge 12,000, (€80)

If you use your phone a lot at a conference or on a flight, a power backup device is essential.

This is the most useful one I’ve found to date. It’s about the size of a large phone and twice as thick.

It comes with mini cables for iOS (iPhone, iPad) and Micro USB (Android phones, other gadgets; no USB-C connection yet).

And it lets you charge two devices at the same time, one of which can be done at an accelerated rate. Crucially, its 12,000mAh capacity means you can charge an iPhone 8 four  times over.

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Coco Colour stylus (€30 from cococolor.com)

Coco Colour stylus (€30 from cococolor.com)

This Irish-designed stylus lets you switch and choose colours from the gadget itself. You can press a style button to choose between pen, pencil, pastel or paint.

Press it again to increase the size of your stroke. There are 768 combinations to choose from.

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Wraps Talk wristband earphones (€25)

Wraps Talk wristband earphones (€25)

What’s the biggest hassle with budget earphones? Next to falling out of your ear, it’s the tangled mess they get into.

Wraps are a pretty nifty way around that. They’re designed to be worn as a wristband, which means they’re easy to immediately locate and rarely get tangled.

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Polk Boom Bit (€40, Amazon.co.uk)

Polk Boom Bit (€40, Amazon.co.uk)

What’s the alternative to wearing headphones?

A clip-on Bluetooth music mini-speaker. Polk’s Boom Bit is the size of a large USB key, clips onto your clothes and has a small 1.5-watt speaker to provide somewhat

serviceable audio quality that’s better than your phone’s speaker. It recharges by plugging into a computer’s USB port or a USB plug. An on board microphone makes it a reasonable hands-free phone kit, too.

+10 if money is no object

1. 65-inch LG Signature Oled TV (€8,000) – If you want the telly to end all tellies, this is it.

2. B&O Shape speakers (€3,500) – The decorative ‘tile’ speakers produce gorgeous sound.

3. Technics Mark Levinson No. 515 turntable (€11,000) – for rich hipsters who want the best vinyl experience.

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Sennheiser Orpheus headphones (€50,000)
 

4. Sennheiser Orpheus headphones (€50,000) – wired headphones for lotto-winning audiophiles.

5. Leica M10 (€6,800) – This 24-megapixel German-made camera takes great photos, but the lenses will cost extra.

6. Scarlet-W Red Dragon 5K video camera (€15,000) – Forget about GoPro; this is the ultimate video camera.

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Tesla Roadster (€200,000)
 

7. Tesla Roadster (€200,000) – The ultimate geek hero (Elon Musk) has just announced the ultimate toy, which can accelerate from zero to 100 kilometres per hour in 1.9 seconds.

8. BMW i3 (€36,300) – For electric motor fans, this BMW is one of the purest, best designed around.

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Apple Watch Hermes (€1,500)

9. Apple Watch Hermes (€1,500) – This is a super-luxury version of Apple’s luxury watch that comes with a fancy leather Hermes strap.

10. Deepflight Super 3S (€1.2m) – Take up to two passengers with you on an ocean dive to a depth of 400 feet.

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