Wednesday 13 December 2017

Tech review: Weckler on the latest gadgets

Groov-e Fusion headphones
Groov-e Fusion headphones
Samsung Note 7

Our Technology Editor reviews the Groov-e Fusion headphones and Samsung Note 7.

A decent set of budget Bluetooth headphones

Groov-e Fusion headphones   

Price: €45 from  

Rating: 4 Stars

Bluetooth headphones may soon become a lot more popular as a default option if Apple's new iPhone 7, due to be unveiled next week, comes without a headphone port.

The timing for this couldn't be better. Because if smartphones have seen leaps and bounds at the budget end, the same could arguably be said of wireless headphones.

A couple of years ago, you were looking at a minimum cost of €150 for Bluetooth headphones. Today, €50 gives you a choice of some very acceptable options. One of these, I've discovered, is Groov-e's Fusion.

Many people won't have heard of Groov-e, but they've been putting out pretty decent no-frills, inexpensive gear for a while.

The Fusion headphones are pretty comfortable, simple to operate, easy to pair with your phone (or any Bluetooth music source) and have a small number of on-set controls. These are volume and track-control (forward, back and pause).

But the main thing is the sound quality. These headphones won't quite compete with upper-tier Sennheisers, Beats or Bose for audio finesse. But the sound they have is really quite good, especially for the price you're paying here. As a companion with Spotify or Apple Music, they're genuinely good.

As is now the norm with Bluetooth headphones, they double as a very effective hands-free set to make and take phone calls. As such, there's a small microphone at the bottom of the right speaker that acts as your mouthpiece. The earcups fold into towards the main band for a little more portability.

The model I tested came in gold, although silver and black versions are also available. The only drawback is that they're not that widely available in local shops - you'll have to go to Amazon to get them.

Note 7 takes crown as new  Android king

Samsung Note 7

Price: €849 sim-free; from €150 on bill-pay

Rating: 4 Stars

If you're considering a new flagship phone, Samsung's Note 7 makes a compelling case. After two weeks using it, I have no problem saying that it's the best phone Samsung has made to date. And if its high price doesn't inhibit you, it may be the best Android phone out there right now.

It maximises the ergonomic efficiency of its incredibly clear 5.7-inch screen by bleeding the display right out to the edges of the phone. This means that you get more screen in a device no bigger than existing big-screen phones.

Overall, its look and feel are superb (with one small caveat - see below). This really is a gorgeous device.

Its battery life is also the best of any phone out there at the moment. I almost never found myself looking for a recharge before night-time (with most phones it's mid-afternoon). This is a really big deal for those who need to rely on their phones all day.

And when you do need to charge it, the USB-C charger it comes with is very fast. (Adapters for older Micro-USB Android chargers also come in the box). There's plenty of space, too, with 64GB of onboard storage.

The Note 7's camera set-up is basically the same one as that in its sister S7 device, a 12-megapixel lens that records in 4K 'ultra' high-definition video and a 5-megapixel 'selfie' lens. For a phone, this camera produces absolutely stunningly sharp images and relatively superior video. It is unquestionably up there with the best cameraphones on the market.

The Note 7 has a built-in stylus ('S Pen') that pops out and lets you write, draw and do lots of other things. But no phone is perfect.

One of its most-touted features, the phone-unlocking iris-scanner, didn't work for me reliably. Also, the attractive curves on each side come with the occasional ergonomic disadvantage of activating an on-screen function (especially Spotify songs) via fingers holding the phone on the side of the device. Finally, the test model I was sent had one or two teething difficulties with screen re-orientation from vertical to horizontal (it sometimes took a second or two).

But these are relatively small quibbles. The Note 7 is a fantastic flagship device. If you're looking for a high-end Android model, and you lean on your phone a lot for stuff every day, this is probably the best handset you can buy right now.

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