Thursday 24 May 2018

Tech review: Adrian Weckler on the latest gadgets including IPhone SE

iPhone SE
iPhone SE
Toshiba Portégé Z30-C.
Woven Nylon Apple Watch Strap
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Reviewed by our technology editor are the iPhone SE, Toshiba Portégé Z30-C and Woven Nylon Apple Watch strap.  

Apple's new pocket rocket is a handy crowd pleaser

iPhone SE

iPhone SE

Price: €499 or from free with operators

Rating: 4 Stars

When I unboxed Apple's new iPhone SE at home, there were squeals of delight. Not just at the 'classic' flat-sided iPhone form factor (apparently still very popular) but at the 'rose gold' colour adorning the back of the device. By comparison, my first reaction when holding it was something more akin to: "janey, it's small"

In fact, I worried that it would simply be too small.

Like lots of other people, I have become very used to large-screen phones that let me watch video for extended periods.

And in the two weeks I've been using it, that more or less sums up the aesthetic reaction to Apple's latest iPhone.

If you really liked the form factor of the iPhone 5S, you'll love this. If you can't go back to small videos, this may not be for you.

There is one logical question that fans of the iPhone 5S look and feel might ask. Seeing as you can still generally get the cheaper 5S (for the next few weeks at least), why buy the SE?

In my view, it's a no-brainer to choose the new SE, for a few reasons.

Whereas the iPhone SE is Apple's new 'entry level' handset, the phone has been packed with the company's latest top-end tech. Its camera is the most obvious example of this. The SE's 12-megapixel lens is identical to the high-resolution snapper on the iPhone 6S, which means that it's one of the best cameras you can get on a phone.

As well as being able to shoot 4K video (which is starting to matter), the camera also has elements such as the iPhone's 'Live' photo feature, which records a second or so of video each side of you pressing the shutter button. And it uses a screen flash for selfies. The slo-mo facility is also boosted to 240 frames per second over the 5S's 120fps.

In my daily use, this camera definitely beat the 5S model's 8-megapixel camera.

Power and battery life are two other strong reasons to opt for the newer model. The SE uses the same A9 chip as the iPhone 6S, meaning it's between two to three times faster than the iPhone 5S.

Aside from applications you already use now, this will start to make a real difference in year two of you having the phone.

And the battery life is, on balance, better than the earlier models. I have generally gotten a full day out of the phone and I would default toward the heavier end of usage (video, email, social media).

That's not to say that the iPhone SE's battery life is perfect, or the best on the market. There are some phones (among them the iPhone 6S Plus) that will give you slightly better battery life. But this is generally adequate and significantly better than the iPhone 5S.

While the SE doesn't have the 3D Touch feature of the iPhone 6S models, it does incorporate Apple's Touch ID fingerprint sensor. For those who still haven't used it, this is useful as an alternative to passcodes for unlocking your phone or making App Store purchases.

For the budget-conscious, the SE has the benefit of fitting older 5S accessories such as cases. The SE streams stuff considerably faster over wifi and 4G than the 5S, too.

There is still the issue of the phone's size. For me, it's a challenging transition to go from something the size of a 6S Plus to a screen around half the size. I will say this, though: the SE is the first phone in a while that I've been able to use one-handed in comfort.

It is true that video, social media and web browsing are a different proposition on a four-inch screen than on a 5.5-inch one. But that's the life of someone who uses a phone for general computing issues more than a laptop or a tablet.

If you're at the lighter end of video use but still want a top-end camera, the iPhone SE is hard to beat.

Light, plastic and powerful: the laptop for road warriors

Toshiba Portégé Z30-C.

Toshiba Portégé Z30-C  

Price: €1,470  

Rating: 4 Stars

If 'light' laptops have an Achilles heel, it's in the compromises they make to aesthetic sensibilities - they have to be a little more plasticky than one would ultimately prefer. This is probably the only fault I could find with Toshiba's otherwise excellent Z30-C. And even calling it a fault is probably debatable.

Although I would personally give up 100 grams or more of weight for a more pleasing surface material, frequent travellers may not. And so the Z30-C keeps its weight down to 1.2kg and stays very slim.

This is a pricey machine, partly because it is aimed squarely at work-oriented users, or at least those with IT departments that require them to use things like ethernet cables.

So one of the first things you'll notice about it is its nubbin-like track point in the middle of the keyboard. This is retained mainly for the over 45s, a considerably large laptop-using business demographic.

The laptop's keyboard is effective, comfortable and practical.

As well as being backlit, it's spill-resistant. This is mainly useful for planes, now that Aer Lingus has switched over to exploding milk sachets.

My review model had lots and lots of power, thanks to an i7 processor and 8GB of Ram.

It also came with a 256GB solid hard drive.

The laptop's glare-resistant screen is decent, but not the best on the market for things like movies. The same goes for the speakers. Its battery is excellent, though, with over eight hours of word processing, video and web stuff achieved in one sitting.

This isn't really the kind of laptop you'll be mulling as a photo-editing or Netflix provider. But it you're a road warrior, it'll do the job very nicely.

Timely version of pretty nylon

Woven Nylon Apple Watch Strap

Woven Nylon Apple Watch strap  

Price: €59 from Apple Store  

Rating: 4 Stars

If you have an Apple Watch, you might want to consider a new strap at some point.

Apple recently introduced a few new ones, the most affordable of which are in its 'woven nylon' range. I have been using one of these for a while (in place of the similarly-priced 'Sport' band) and have found it to be quite comfortable.

So far, it's also proving to be fairly resistant to perspiration.

Apple says that over 500 threads are woven together to make these bands, which are available for both the 38mm and 42mm Watch models. There are seven colours, ranging from blue to gold and red to black.

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