Weckler on Technology - LG left smarting with new watch
LG G Watch Price: €200 Rating: ***
Sometimes I wonder whether Apple hasn't pranked the entire electronics world into rushing out low-selling smartwatches as it keeps half-suggesting it might launch its own. It's certainly spurred all-comers into launching their own version. LG is the latest big brand to come to the market with a model, the 1.65-inch G Watch.
Unlike Samsung's smartwatches, this device works with any Android smartphone, a considerable advantage from the get-go. On the other hand, it doesn't have some of the features that Samsung's models boast. In particular, it doesn't have a heart-rate, pulse and sleep monitor. Given that the only proven market for smartwatches is actually in the health space, this could be a big gap in the gadget's feature-set. However, it will last you at least two days of use and it keeps you up to speed on social media and other messaging.
I'm not really a huge smartwatch fan, so it'd be disingenuous to recommend this. But if you like the sound of Samsung's smartwatch and don't have a Samsung smartphone, you might get a kick out of the G Watch.
Small compromise, big saving on Sony phone
Sony Xperia M Price: €150 Rating: ****
How much do fluidity and high-end features matter on a smartphone? For me, some features (great cameras, large fluent screens) matter quite a bit. But that's not true for everyone and Sony's new four-inch Xperia M device presents a compelling case for a budget smartphone.
For day-to-day use, there is very little you cannot do on this handset. Its engine - a dual-core 1Ghz chip backed up by 1GB of Ram - is actually enough to zip through applications (I didn't notice any lag compared to the beefier Xperia Z2 I currently use).
Its five-megapixel camera, while quite a way off ultrapixel devices from HTC, Apple and Sony's own Z2, is still perfectly decent. I wasn't crazy about the phone's wide 'bezel' (the bit between the screen and the edge) and the four-inch display doesn't really match the best screens on the market. But bear in mind: this phone is a quarter of the price of top-tier handsets. From that perspective, it's hard not to be impressed by the thing.
Portable satellite needs serious savvy
Ross HD portable satellite kit Price: €80 from Aldi Rating: ***
Piecing together a portable satellite kit is a little bit like coming back from Ikea with a boot full of self-assembly wardrobes and shelving units: you had better clear your Saturday afternoon's diary for a twiddlesome adventure in electronic componentry.
Having delved into Ross's portable satellite kit (which has around 25 different parts), I suspect many don't bother and end up spending a further €40 getting a handyman to assemble it. However, if you're feeling brave, there are helpful YouTube videos and online boards to help with the (guaranteed) flummoxing moments.
This kit is designed for caravans, campers or holiday homes. It comes with some channels pre-installed and relays them in high definition. It's worth the hassle if you want TV on the cheap. But for anyone with even mild technophobia, this may be one to avoid.
HP's no-nonsense laptop is all business
HP Elitebook Folio 1040 Price: from 1,750 Rating: ****
HP is all business with this no-nonsense 14-inch laptop. It's slim, it's ultra-powerful and it has a lot of practical, future-proof features that make it a very solid choice of business tool. It doesn't mess around with touchscreens (a dubious enterprise feature) and the default operating system that came on my test model was Windows 7 Pro, which will please 95pc of business users.
As is the norm for machines in this bracket, the laptop's styling incorporates metal casing and a flat keyboard that is easy to type on. It also comes with an Intel i7 chip and a bucketful (8GB) of Ram, while the 'Forcepad' touchpad gives you more finger control (such as the ability to pinch and zoom). There's also a sim-card slot for mobile broadband connectivity (although you can do the same thing by simply using your phone as a mobile hotspot). Other features include a decent anti-glare screen and HP's own encryption technology. The battery life is good, at between six and seven hours. You'll pay quite a bit for this, but it's a high quality work laptop.
A budget-sized streaming pocket rocket
Google Chromecast Price: €40 Rating: *****
With video-on-demand services such as Netflix on the up and up, it's hard to think of a more useful budget gadget than Google's Chromecast.
It's a USB-sized dongle that plugs into a television's HDMI port, relaying certain video services from your phone, tablet or laptop. For most, this means an easy way to stream Netflix (which is compatible) onto a TV from a phone or tablet.
The gadget has its own software built in, which connects to your phone once the Chromecast app is downloaded. The set-up process could be a little easier, but once you're up and running, it's a brilliant remedy for your video-on-demand content. It's also completely portable: plug it into any telly or (HD monitor) you like.