Wednesday 17 January 2018

Tech review: Weckler on the latest gadgets

Earin M-1 wireless earbuds
Earin M-1 wireless earbuds
Google Pixel
Fuji GFX 50S

Reviewed by our Technology Editor are Earin M-1 wireless earbuds, Google Pixel and Fuji GFX 50S.

Nice idea but Earins are too awkward

Earin M-1 wireless earbuds

Price: €199 from Arnotts

Rating: 2 Stars

The qNow that phones are starting to ditch 3.5mm headphone jacks, Bluetooth wireless earphones are becoming the audio accessory of choice. But not everyone wants to don a giant set of earmuffs as they walk down the street.uestion is: how can you produce decent-quality 'ordinary' earphones that are wireless?

With great difficulty, it seems.

I've been using Earin's M-1 wireless earbuds for a week and I'm a little underwhelmed.

The buds themselves are neat little devices that fit fairly nicely into my ear (which means they'll probably work with any ear). They also stay in, even when running. But almost everything else about the experience is a little frustrating.

Charging them is probably the biggest issue. The device comes with a tubular portable recharging dock where both Earin buds are placed to power up (a red light lets you know this is happening). But getting them in and out of the charger (which itself is recharged via MicroUSB to give three power cycles to the buds) is genuinely difficult. Trying to manoeuvre the lower bud out of its charging point, in particular, is maddening. I kept thinking I was going to break it when tugging it out by the tip.

Pairing the buds to your phone is very easy once you download the Earin app. But the audio is not what you'll want if you're looking for music headphones. It's very limited, probably necessarily so from the small size of the buds themselves. It's absolutely fine for talk radio, but there's a noticeable gap in quality between these and, say, Apple's new AirPods (which are cheaper).

There's no microphone, either, which means you can't use the Earin buds for phone calls unless you hold the handset up to your face.

Finally, these are so, so easy to drop. I'm usually very careful and I dropped one almost immediately while trying to get it out of the infernal charger. To be fair, they have their pluses. And Earin provides back-up bud covers in different sizes to cater for different ears.

The small size makes them much more discreet than AirPods. But it's hard to recommend these as your wireless earphones of choice.

Google goes for iPhone jugular with Pixel

Google Pixel  

Price: €650  

Rating: 4 Stars

Google Pixel

Google has unveiled two new smartphones to compete ­directly with the iPhone 7. Both phones have 12-megapixel cameras with optical stabilisation and an f2.0 lens. Google claims that the camera has the best industry technical score of any smartphone. They also have 32GB of storage memory and a bigger battery than the iPhone 7.

Both the Pixel and Pixel XL have a fingerprint scanner on the back of the phone. There are two colours, called 'Quite Black' and 'Very Silver'. They have curved edges and an aluminium unibody. Google says that the Pixel has a DxOMark Mobile score of 89, besting the iPhone 7 and Samsung S7.

It says the camera is excellent in low light and has features such as 'lens blur', which generate shallow-depth-of-field effects. Tapping the 'Support' tab in 'Settings' now gets you to a Google expert who will help you with queries. The company says you can share your screen with the expert for step-by-step help.

The battery in the Pixel is larger than most rivals. A quick 15-minute charge gives you up to seven hours of use. It also unlocks immediately with the fingerprint reader. It has a one-tap video-calling feature called Google Duo built in. With the iPhone's Facetime clearly in mind, the Pixel phone uses Google Duo with both Android phones and iPhones. (The Google Duo app can be downloaded in the iPhone App Store and the Google Play Store.) Lastly, it has Google Assistant built in. You can ask this phone to do things by starting with the phrase "Ok Google" or by touching and holding the Home button to start.

Fuji senses the  bigger picture

Fuji GFX 50S  

Price: €8,000 (expected)  

Rating: n/a

Fuji GFX 50S

Fuji caused the biggest stir at this year's Photokina camera convention with the launch of its medium-­format GFX 50S camera. The main difference between this and, say, a high-end Canon or Nikon camera is that the sensor (the bit that captures and records the actual light coming into the camera) is about twice the size. That means that, by default, it has a better chance of accurately recording colours, shades and other things that give a picture its realism.

The only thing is that this is an ultra-specialist device, probably limited to high-end professional photographers and rich enthusiasts. It's going into competition with cameras such as Hasselblad or PhaseOne.

Aside from the internal mechanics, the 50-megapixel 50S looks like a regular, large DSLR. It has an electronic viewfinder, though, which might annoy some. There is a more limited range of lenses, too, than you'll get for Canons, Nikons, Sonys or Panasonics. It will be interesting to see how well Fuji does with this.

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