Wednesday 21 February 2018

Weckler on Technology: Dell turns on the style with business laptop

Dell Inspiron 15 5000 Price: from €600 Rating: 4/5

Dell Inspiron
Dell Inspiron
Apple MacBook Pro
Vodafone Smart 4
Sony Xperia M2
Aldi Junior Tab

One doesn't associate Dell computers with being stylish or sleek. So this mid-range model is a pleasant surprise with a fairly sleek, brushed aluminium look to it.

There are two other things I like about it. First, Dell gives you the choice of a non-touchscreen version. At a stroke, you not only cut out a feature no-one really likes on a full size laptop, but you also save €100 in the process.

Second, it has really decent power under the hood for its price point. This means 8GB of Ram, an up-to-date Intel i5 processor and a terabyte of storage memory.

If you're looking for these kind of specifications, you won't get them any cheaper. Because it's a non SSD laptop, the battery life is only moderate (around three hours). But this is still a worthy laptop for almost anyone.

This MacBook Pro upgrade looks tasty

Apple MacBook Pro           Price: from €1,150       Rating: 5/5

While the world waits for the rumoured (but highly likely) large-screen iPhone 6 in early September, Apple has upgraded its line of business-orientated laptops, the MacBook Pro. Chiefly, it has bumped up the specifications of the Retina versions, with faster Intel processors (Haswell i5 2.6Ghz as the basic model) and more Ram memory (8GB for the 13-inch model).

It has also shaved the price of its (non-retina) 13-inch laptop to €1,150 and of the high-end 15-inch (retina) model to €2,550. That may seem like a lot, but few machines really match up to Apple's top offering. Its design, speed and simplicity means the MacBook Pro is still the Mercedes S500 of portable computers.

Smart choice for the budget conscious

Vodafone Smart 4        Price: €80     Rating: 4/5

It is not unusual for business executives to consider a second, 'personal' phone these days.

With workplaces starting to provide high-end models such as iPhones and Samsung Galaxy Notes, a personal phone need not be as pricey. But it still needs to function as a smartphone with relatively frictionless browsing, apps usage and video playback.

One reasonable budget candidate is Vodafone's Smart 4, a 4.5-inch model that has some very respectable specifications for a cheap handset. Foremost among these is the latest version of Android and a serviceable 5-megapixel camera. It also looks better than some of its budget rivals.

This is no iPhone 6. But it will let you handle your non-work life fairly well.

Sony hits the sweet spot in the middle

Sony Xperia M2     Price: from free on contract; €220 unlocked   Rating: 4/5

I have a soft spot for Sony Xperia phones because of their cameras. Even mid-range models tend to incorporate imaging systems that match the best high-end rivals. If this is important to you, the company's latest Xperia M2 model is a pretty good deal. Its 8-megapixel camera is a step back from big brother Z2's superlative snapper, but it still excels compared to its immediate competitors. Otherwise, the M2 is a decent Android handset.

It's styled nicely and its 4.8-inch HD screen looks great. The only (minor) quibble I had is that it is not quite as fast as I'd like a smartphone over €200 to be.

Aldi's tablet is not child's play

Aldi Junior tab     Price: €100      Rating: 1/5

Later this month, Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 hits Irish shops, pointedly targeted at business users (see these pages for a review in coming weeks). At the other end of the scale is Aldi's latest tablet which, I regret to say, is the worst tablet I have ever come across. From the spelling errors on the welcome screen (remember, this device is aimed at children and parents) to the constant freezing, crashing and non-acknowledgement of finger taps, this is a car crash. When I did finally battle through all of the bugs to get into the system, I found its child-focused software to be just about usable. Otherwise, the bright orange protective rubber casing is the only positive thing about the device (it looks quite funky). Aldi is usually a great resource for decent, budget-oriented equipment. But if you're in the market for a child-friendly tablet this Autumn, avoid this one.

Irish Independent

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