Friday 6 December 2019

Weckler on Technology: Nothing beats the iPad mini 3 except its lofty price

Apple iPad Mini 3 Price: from €410 Rating: ****

iPads and smartphones are often the subject of online scams
iPads and smartphones are often the subject of online scams
Canon powershot g7x
Otterbox defender
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

I usually prefer 8-inch tablets to 10-inch ones for a variety of reasons, most of which relate to portability and weight (it's easier to hold the smaller one one-handed on a couch).

So having had both the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3 for almost a month, it is the latter I use more by quite a stretch. In case you're struggling to keep up with all of the descriptors, the iPad mini 3 is the high-end 'retina' version of Apple's mid-size tablet.

The main difference between it and last year's iPad mini Retina (now renamed the iPad mini 2), is the inclusion of the 'touch ID' fingerprint sensor.

This is genuinely useful for anyone who has become used to the feature on newer iPhones, although I wouldn't really describe it as a must-have feature. It also comes in gold. Facing competition mainly from its own sibling (whose specs are almost identical save for the touch ID) and one or two high-end Android models (Sony's Z3 stands out), this is probably the best 8-inch tablet out there. There is one caveat: the relatively high price. Like the 10-inch iPad Air 2, this machine's entry-level €410 model is unlikely to be a palatable option as it is limited to an impractical 16GB of storage, which is simply not enough. That leaves the 64GB option at €510. Still, for that you will be getting the Porsche of tablets.

Canon's incredible shrinking super-snapper

Canon Powershot G7X   Price: €650   Rating: *****

Who buys €500-plus compact cameras? I suspect that a large proportion of purchasers are 'full size' (DSLR) camera owners looking for a smaller second snapper that doesn't compromise on quality.

For this market, there are only three or four realistic candidates. Sony's RX100ii and Panasonic LX100 would be among them. And so, now, is Canon's 20-megapixel G7X. Serious amateurs will find it hard not to like this camera. It's small enough to easily fit into pockets, case sleeves or even jacket linings.

But it still packs a decent one-inch sensor attached to a lens that shoots from F1.8 to F2.8, meaning it's capable of letting in a huge amount of natural light into photos and can give amazing depth of field (the nice 'blurring' of background details in shots) for people shots. Its 4x zoom is about the equivalent of going from 28mm (a really nice wide shot) to 100mm.

It also has a pleasing manual ring to quickly adjust the shot just underneath the mode selector. While I didn't really use this much for video, I was happy that it allowed me to manually focus while shooting (at 60 frames per second). I also didn't use the flip-out screen much, although I have found such screens to be very useful before when shooting from ground level. It was also pleasing to see wifi on the camera: this is now the way I get most of my photos to a social media, email or online account. This is pricey but, if you're looking for quality, it's worth it.

All that it's cracked up to be (almost)

Otterbox Defender iPhone 6   Price: €50   Rating: ****

While there are many advances in Apple's latest iPhone 6, significantly stronger touchscreen glass is not among them. That means that the current ratio of about one in ten smartphones that end up with cracked screens is unlikely to be improved upon with this generation of Apple's handsets.

Unless, that is, you get a protective case. There are plenty out there, but few come with more armour than Otterbox's Defender series. This will bulk out your phone quite a bit, mind, and add about an extra 20pc of weight.

For that compromise, you'll get a scratch-proof screen and a tough outer polycarbonate shell buttressed by a thin layer of foam inside the case.

It also comes with a fairly tough clip that lets you attach it to a belt or something else that isn't too big. And it comes in a couple of colours.

The only downside to this is that it's pretty tricky to open and close. This probably makes it a better protective case, but it's frustrating when you first open it.

If you 'like' it you can now put a ring on it

Ringly Price: from €150 Rating: ***

Now that Apple is making a smartwatch, wearables have received a shot in the arm. Or the finger, if you're Ringly. The startup firm, a young company showing its wares at the Web Summit, has created a small range of 18-carat gold rings that connect to your phone via Bluetooth. They're designed to buzz your finger when one of your pre-selected social networking, email or SMS messages or notifications hit your phone. That includes mainstream services like Facebook, Twitter, Gmail and even Tinder. You can switch individual notification alerts on or off via a simple app. The recharging mechanism is a clever design touch: it's a micro-USB port at the bottom of the of a ring box. I can imagine some being horrified by the whole notion of messaging alerts extending to their jewelelry, but the young startup sold out in its 24 hours. The rings, in various colours, are on pre-order at the moment.

Irish-made fitness health tracker's fit for purpose

Lumafit   Price: €80   Rating: n/a

There's an interesting group of tech hardware startups in Ireland at the moment, several of whom have hooked in to Liam Casey's accelerator programs.

Dublin-based Lumafit is one such startup. Its product, which was on display at the Web Summit, is a wearable fitness tracker that nestles around, and attaches to, your ear. The reason for this part of the body rather than your wrist - which is the usual place for wearable fitness devices - is that wrist trackers don't take account of gym exercises. Many base their assessments on steps walked, which is no good if you're doing sit-ups or other intensive exercises. There's also an accompanying 'zen app' which can be used to measure meditative breathing. The device is set to be released next month.

Irish Independent

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