waterproof gadget montage

Waterproof gadgets put to the test: Misfit Shine, Braven speaker, Ricoh camera, Proporta Beachbuoy

Sadie Hale Gadgets & Apps 2 Comments

As we well know here at shinyshiny, there’s a whole world of mind-blowing new gadgets out there, and we’re sometimes lucky enough to try them out.

After #swimmingweek over at Brandish, it seemed only fitting to test out some waterproof products here: whether it was in the depths of the local pool, splashing in the sea or a brief dip in the morning shower, these products have all impressively held their own in sub-aqua surroundings. Take a look at our round-up below.

The wearable: Misfit Shine

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The Misfit Shine is a nifty – if elementary – fitness tracker which, like its beautiful website, wins every time when it comes to aesthetics. Although its water-resistance isn’t its USP, it is of course designed to track your activity, and that includes swimming (it’s waterproof to 50m). There are loads of different colours to choose from and each comes with with a rubber strap and clasp, depending on how you want to wear it – one of its greatest features is its versatility. Built like a solid metal penny, it’s subtle and attractive enough to be worn on your collar, around your neck, or around your wrist. With its watch function, the wrist position felt the most practical for me, and also meant I didn’t forget about it and leave it on my clothing.

So, how does it work? Shine is marketed as an ‘activity monitor’, and after a refreshingly simple set-up, connects with a free app (available on both Apple and Android devices) via Bluetooth. You simply place Shine against your smartphone and it syncs the data it’s accumulated with the app, which is then satisfyingly presented on-screen.

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Presumably monitoring steps and /or heart rate, it then visualises your progress throughout the day by lighting up the twelve little dots around the device’s edge – which are also what enables it to tell you the time. The latter can be baffling at first with the absence of numbers, but it’s an easy process once you’ve caught on! On the app, you can set yourself goals, enter your weight and see calories burned. It also tracks how much sleep you got last night with impressive accuracy.

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One of the drawbacks of Shine is that it uses an arbitrary points system to determine how much exercise you’ve done (eg. today’s goal could be 900 points). It does tell you how many calories you’ve used, but personally I’d be more interested if I could have a calorie goal as opposed to points, as that’s easier to relate to. Shine also works best with walking or running activities; despite my ten-mile round cycle to work, for example, it didn’t seem to monitor my pedalling that effectively and I didn’t reach my goal.

Misfit Shine is a fun, lovely-looking wearable for someone who wants to learn a bit more about their daily activity. The app is a breeze to use, and the battery is excellent as it doesn’t require recharging and lasts up to six months. A real plus is you get a strong sense of instant gratification from seeing how you progress throughout the day with a simple double-tap of the device. However, it’s just too basic to appeal to a more discerning, serious buyer: if you want to track your fitness in detail, you’d be better to go for something which gives more comprehensive analysis of the exercise you do, with more options for goal-setting.

Misfit Shine is available now from Amazon for £79.99.

For our more in-depth review of Misfit Shine, click here.

The speakers: Braven BRV-X

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The BRV-X Ultra Rugged Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker from Braven is seriously impressive – and it’s so new it doesn’t even have any reviews on Amazon UK. It’s functional, fuss-free and water compatible, with other great features including the handy ability to charge external devices and the fact that it can be linked up with another Braven speaker for a stereo sound.

Reassuringly, the BRV-X has a thick, rubbery shell which gives it a sturdy feel. I didn’t try this, but I don’t doubt it could withstand being dropped from a height – it’s shock absorbent, and has really been designed with the outdoor-lover in mind. I found the speaker very easy to set up, and the Bluetooth connection caused me no trouble. As long as the phone was fairly close (up to about 30 feet / 9 metres) and there was no interruption to the Bluetooth ‘beam’, the connection was maintained.

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Now for the real test: the sound. In the video below, you’ll hear that even the start-up and Bluetooth tones are loud – a good omen. Then there’s the music. The BRV-X pumps out superb bass, and can reach really high volumes without distortion. I played a variety of genres to test it out fully: all of it sounded great on the BRV-X.

I was slightly nervous about putting such a costly item under water. To waterproof the speaker, I screwed on the protective cap tightly and tested it first with just running water from a tap (to simulate rain), before fully submerging it. The sound through running water remained at a very high quality, while submerging it obviously distorted it somewhat. All in all, the waterproofing system is impeccably designed and doesn’t seem to detract from the fairly sleek look of the BRV-X.

I didn’t let the speaker run down completely, recharging it after around 10.5 hours, but I’d judge that the 12-hour battery life is accurate. I played music pretty much constantly in this time. The recharging and wireless features are really handy, and the screw-on protective mechanism at the back is very simple.

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The only downside is the price – £200 is a lot of money for one speaker. Weighing in at 1.8 kg, it’s also quite hefty, meaning it isn’t ideal for lugging to festivals – but I’d say it is still light and small enough to carry around without being a burden. Overall, however, the sturdily-built BRV-X speaker is a great piece of equipment for anyone who wants something durable, dependable and fuss-free. Its rechargeable, long-lasting battery and the ability to charge external gadgets are excellent features, while the chunky rubber buttons and wireless connectivity make it easy to operate. The metal grill and boxy shape give it a compact and stylish quality – it’s an altogether great investment for use in the shower, at the pool, on the beach, or just outside.

Braven BRV-X is available now from Amazon for £199.99.

The camera: Ricoh WG-4

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The Ricoh WG-4 is a really fun camera. The first thing you notice about it is its sturdiness; it’s a tough little thing, the same size as most digital point-and-shoot cameras of today, but feels heavier and more substantial.

So far, so good: the WG-4 is designed to be waterproof (up to 14 metres), coldproof (up to -10°C), crushproof (up to 100 kg) and shockproof (two metres), a spec which is not the best out there, but is certainly impressive for a compact, mid-priced camera. With video function and a 3.0 inch wide LCD screen, this is the ideal camera to take on an active holiday.

Thanks to it being sealed and waterproof, the WG-4’s buttons can feel a bit stiff and only have a shallow depression – this is fine once you get used to it. It’s simple to set up and navigate, and comes with a very useful carabiner-style hook so you can clip it to your clothes.

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One way to really improve this camera would be to enable wireless charging: it would reduce the need to open the battery compartment, thus protecting the camera from dust, sand etc. That said, the WG-4 fended off sand particles very well, and was easy to brush down. Battery life was also good, lasting easily the week I used it for on one charge.

The WG-4 might also benefit from having a lens cover since it is designed to take a bit of wear and tear, and a clean lens is important for taking clear shots. But the camera body doesn’t scratch easily, is small enough to fit in one hand and light enough to carry around everywhere – you don’t get the feeling it’s a delicate piece of equipment that needs careful cradling and a padded case, which is a welcome relief when on the move.

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The WG-4 takes very clear shots above ground (image one), and holds its own even underwater in the murky Irish Sea (image two). The lens isn’t retractable, making it conveniently compact and reducing the chances of grit and dirt interfering with the mechanism – but also meaning the image quality decreases significantly as soon as you zoom in, becoming quite grainy.

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Overall, it’s a good camera with a tough attitude and makes a brilliant companion to anyone who holidays adventurously. You won’t spend time worrying about whether your camera is safe and dry, however if you want to take brilliant pictures then the 16 megapixel quality and basic lens won’t be up to scratch. Essentially this is a well-constructed point-and-shoot which serves multiple purposes and allows you to use it in many different settings, come rain or shine.

The waterproof case: Proporta Beachbuoy

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This handy, affordable case from Proporta is 100% waterproof, and may fast become a must-have beach accessory as expensive gadgets become more common.

As long as you follow the simple instructions, its clever fold-over watertight mechanism keeps your iPod, smartphone or any other item safe and dry. The clear, flexible plastic on the front and back could also make this perfect for taking underwater photographs with your phone. It has a long cord to hold onto, and most usefully, it floats even when there’s a gadget in it.

However, my only gripe with the Beachbuoy is that this clear front isn’t as touch-sensitive as I’d hoped – as you can see in the video below, it takes many taps of my finger before my iPod finally registers my touch and responds. It’s worth noting, then, that you have to press harder than usual and not expect your device to respond immediately.

All in all, the Beachbuoy is a well-designed and well-made pouch which is sure to put your mind at ease when splashing about at the pool or the beach. Nice one, Proporta!

Proporta Beachbuoy is available now from Amazon for £14.95.

By Sadie Hale | August 15th, 2014