Technology: Adrian Weckler on the latest must-have gizmos
Our technology editor reviews Medion Akoya (Aldi), LG 9500 Oled, Motorola Moto G (3rd Gen) and Sandisk dual USB C drive.
Cheap, but it still passes the test
Medion Akoya (Aldi)
Price: €230 from Aldi
Rating: 3 stars
There's a temptation that many of us have to buy a budget laptop for an elderly parent or a child 'as a first step on the ladder'. After years of seeing septuagenarians struggle with non-stop anti-virus pop-ups, I think the opposite is true: beginners need reliable high-end devices while the rest of us can cope with the skimpy budget stuff.
That said, Medion's 11-inch Akoya laptop is still a pretty good deal. With Windows 10 pre-loaded, the slim, light machine is a usable PC that can handle web browsing and everyday stuff without too much strain. It may only have 32GB of storage, 2GB of Ram and a particularly weak (Intel Atom) processor, but this is still adequate for someone who needs it for light purposes such as basic email, social media and casual browsing. As a bonus, it has a better-than-budget-average screen ('full' HD) and a memory card slot to complement its two USB ports, HDMI slot and passable webcam. So if you're on a really tight budget and looking for something basic and you know your way around laptops already, this passes the test.
Granted, there are a couple of things I didn't like about this machine. The keyboard is pretty cheap and not particularly pleasant to use. The laptop's design is also ultra-plasticky. And I just can't live with an Intel Atom chip on a computer for anything other than light browsing stuff: I wouldn't trust it for regular activities like Netflix or photo-editing. (The 32GB storage limit doesn't really bother me with all of the cloud storage we have these days.)
Lastly, and this is a little finickity but I'll mention it anyway, there's a strong smell of glue when you first unbox the laptop. It comes from peeling off the protective cling film. It's not the first impression you're hoping for.
The Akoya is an absolutely fair bargain. For €230, you get a perfectly usable laptop for many things. It's merely a case of whether you can live with its limitations.
More welly for your 4K telly
LG 9500 Oled
Price: tba (over €5,000)
By the time you read this, Europe's largest consumer tech conference - the IFA event in Berlin - will be in its closing stages. Aside from the smartwatches, phones and virtual reality baubles we'll see, a range of new tellies will be on parade. This year, it seems that 'Oled' technology is the mating call of TV manufacturers. Not content with '4K' (or ultra high definition UHD as some call it), Oled sharpens the colours even more and gets as close to actual black on a screen as we've yet seen. LG has gotten ahead of the pack, announcing a new (non-curved) Oled range of TVs designed to make you throw your austerity budget out the window. The 9500 model, which comes in both 55-inch and 65-inch sizes, will be able to stream 4K from Netflix, YouTube and other services, although there's very little content thus far at these high resolution levels. It also supports high dynamic range (HDR) video, whenever anyone gets around to providing that. Finally, it uses WebOS as its operating system.
The best €180 phone out there
Motorola Moto G (3rd Gen)
Price: €180 prepay
Rating: 5 stars
There was a time very recently when a phone with the specifications of Motorola's new upgraded Moto G would have seemed insanely good value: a 13-megapixel camera, five-inch HD screen, quad core processor and 4G. Today there's a lot more competition around the €200 mark: Huawei and Alcatel, in particular, come to mind. Even still, a fortnight's usage of the third generation Moto G has me persuaded that the handset probably trumps all rivals south of the €200 price tag. It's not just its technical specifications (including a 5-megapixel selfie camera and a decent 2,500mAh battery) or its water resistant features. The phone is also very easy to use with a minimum of fuss. Part of this is down to the 'pure' Android operating system it offers: there are no irritating own-brand apps that most Android manufacturers force upon you and which you will never, ever use.
This simplicity is carried through in its physical design. The 'sleep' and volume controls on its side are the phone's only two physical buttons. (The 'home' and 'back' controls are screen buttons.)
That said, it would be wrong to describe this as an elegant or a sleek phone: it is neither. Styling-wise, this is reminiscent of a handset from 2012. It's not especially slim and comes in around average on the weighing scales compared to others in its class.
But it's more than acceptable at this price point. The removable rear casing, which gives you access to slots for a sim-card and a memory card (although the battery is not removable), has a useful tactile overlay that make it easy to handle and grip. A nifty sensor feature within the rear casing also tells you when it isn't fully pressed closed and, thus, not water resistant.
Aside from its relative fatness, the phone's main compromise is the low amount of data storage it comes with: 8GB. The existence of the external memory card slot makes up for this a little, but 8GB just isn't enough for anyone in this day and age: after putting in a few apps and taking a couple of photos, I had just 3GB left. There is a 16GB model available, apparently, which also comes with 2GB of Ram as opposed to the minimal 1GB in the 8GB review model I tested.
So the Moto G is some way from being a real rival to an iPhone 6 or a Samsung G6. But it costs less than a third of either of those superphones. In that context, this is one hell of a smartphone for your money.
A flash that swings both ways
Sandisk dual USB C drive
Price: €40 Rating: HHHH
You may not have noticed, but USB standards are changing again. Not just from '2.0' to 3.0', either, but to a completely new shape. It's called USB Type C. Anyone who has recently bought Apple's new MacBook knows all about this. Customers buying the OnePlus Two Android phone are the same. One clever way of bridging the transition is to invest in Sandisk's knacky dual drive. It has a 'normal' USB 2/3 connector on one side and a brand new USB C connector on the other. So you can chop and change between gadgets and still have a pretty good chance of backing stuff up.