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When many of our readers hear of the Jawbone brand they probably think of its small Jambox speaker or the Up and new UP 24 (expect a review of this one soon) fitness trackers. But Jawbone has ventured into the world of Bluetooth, hands-free headsets before and actually started out its life with a mission to shake up the voice-activated world of audio gadgets.

Today Jawbone takes one step further as it launches the new Era headset globally (it was available in the US earlier this year), which could well redefine the way we use and view headsets.

So what's the Era all about?

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Shiny Shiny were invited along to an exclusive preview of the Era before its launch today to find out more about the tiny device and whether it can actually make wearing a hands-free gadget cool, as well as details about what Jawbone has up its sleeve over the next year or so.

We were shown the Era in its four different colours, bronze, silver, black and red, and you can get an indication of how tiny this thing is in the snaps where I hold it in my hand - yep, it's about half the size of my thumb and 42% smaller than its predecessor.

The Era has been designed to sync up with your mobile phone, allowing you to make and take calls, listen to any kind of audio and use voice command services like Siri and Google Now, which all means more time doing things and less time faffing around with your phone.

The device is packing small MEMS microphones (micro-electro-mechanical systems) that haven't been used in a Jawbone headset before, as well as custom DSP algorithms (digital signal processing), which adjust the loudness and work to deliver the best audio possible based on your surroundings.

When it comes to its audio capabilities, Jawbone has also rebuilt its Noise Assassin technology with the addition of wide-band audio. This tech employs algorithms for detecting all different kinds of speech, enabling the Era to distinguish it from background noise, providing you (and not to mention those you're talking to) with a much better experience.

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It's designed to make life easier, so it's able to keep going for four hours and comes with an equally tiny charging device that houses a further six hours of talk time. You can also plug it into your computer to charge it up too.

Up until now these kinds of hands-free devices have had a bad rep and for many are synonymous with salesmen or pretentious banking guys. But with its tiny stature and attractive colours the Era actually looks very subtle, and dare I say it, pretty attractive for a headset.

But will any of us actually use it?

When we were shown the Era we were also shown a lot of different promo photos of how the Era could be used and there wasn't a dodgy-looking salesman in sight. So the question is, could regular people like me and you really start to us the Era on a daily basis?

Well, I've been trialling it for a week and I have to say I've put it to a lot of good use so far. I find it particularly handy when I'm marching to the office and want to listen to some music at the same time as staying tuned into the environment around me or catch up with friends and family by calling them and not having to worry about whether some London mugger is about to cycle past at high-speed and steal my phone.

It's also totally invaluable if you're cooking. I know, I know, how stereotypically female of me to bring up how useful it is in the kitchen. But I personally find cooking a little tedious on the best of days, so being able to mess around in the kitchen at the same time as make calls back home to my family is a godsend.

I'm not claiming I'm a hands-free headset convert, of course the novelty might wear off soon, but for now I definitely see the value in a small device that makes me less reliant on my phone, which gives me more freedom to do other things and makes me feel a little bit safer when I'm out and about.

Pros:

  • It makes me feel safer.
  • It gives me an opportunity to get other things done - productivity win!
  • It looks good (and for those who don't think it looks good, it at least looks tiny and very subtle).
  • The audio quality is pretty exceptional for something so small.
  • It can be charged with the on-the-go dock.

Cons:

  • It might just be a gimmick that I'll have forgotten about tomorrow.
  • Some people might think it looks absolutely ridiculous (I'm still none the wiser after a week though).
  • It's a little pricey at £109.


The Era is available from today for £109 in black, silver, bronze and red at Jawbone.com, Apple, Amazon and at Selfridges stores. You can get your hands on an Era for for £79, but that comes without the very handy charging case.

photofy-app-shot.jpgGone are the days of adding just one simple filter to our Instagram snaps before we upload them for the rest of the world to view and like (or judge and troll depending on who follows you).

Now there are a range of different apps to visit before we make our final tweaks with Instagram. MoreBeaute is a personal favourite of mine for evening out skin tone and making you look a helluva lot more attractive than you actually are, Piction is my go-to for text additions and Aviary is my favourite for basic adjustments and even more filter options.

Well now new app Photofy is competing to be a staple in your app collection, because it manages to combine a lot of different features into one slick and colourful package.

The iOS app allows you to take a new photo or use an old one in your library to get started. You're then taken to a page to resize and rotate your image before you begin.

Once you're done spinning and cropping you're greeted with an eyegasm of random text additions, frames, stickers and graphics - I downloaded the app around Valentine's Day, so there were a tonne of sickly sweet messages to begin with, but you can choose from a range of options, like "Arts & Crafts" to "Fitness" that add all kinds of different overlays to your images.

If you finally manage to decide on just one, you can then resize the image, choose a filter or even change the pre-selected text too, giving you a lot of freedom over exactly how your image looks.

The app doesn't just lend itself to making your photos better before sharing on Instagram, but some of the beautiful typography and motivational mantras really lend Photofy to be a favourite amongst Pinterest lovers too.

iOS users can get their hands on Photofy for free now from the iTunes store.

Advent tegra Note 7.jpgProduct type: Android tablet PC
Price as reviewed: £129

Nowadays, choosing a budget Android tablet isn't an easy task, as there's so many models to choose from, with Tesco's Hudl and Google's Nexus 7 two great examples at either end of the spectrum. And looking to make the whole process easier is Advent, with its Nvidia Tegra Note seven inch screen tablet, priced at just £129 from PC World.

Design

The Nvidia Tegra Note certainly isn't going to be winning any style awards, however it's not exactly ugly, either. Constructed from solid plastic, sporting a soft-touch rear, the tablet feels great to hold, with dimensions coming in at 200 x 120 x 9.4 mm, weighing a healthy 320g.

At the front, you'll find a 7- inch display, with front-facing audio speakers, with the top housing a micro-SD card slot and the volume rocker, as well as a slot for the stylus. The right side is where you'll find the power button, along with the 3.5mm headphone jack and micro-usb port, with another speaker on the left.

Display

When it came to testing the Tegra Note's 1280x800 display, I was slightly disappointed - mainly because it's just not as good as its competitors. In terms of pure resolution the Google's Nexus 7, which features a 1920x200 resolution, has it licked, but then again you are paying a lot more for that model. The downside for me was that colours in videos often look washed out, and whites in particular have a sort of yellowish tang. On a more positive note, the touchscreen, I thought, was nice to use.

Interface

The Nvidia Tegra Note runs on the stock version of Android 4.2.2, with no interface from Nvidia's end - a nice thing to see, in my opinion. What's also great is the fact that an update to 4.3 has been promised, and shouldn't take too long to become reality!

If you've used an Android tablet in the past, then you can expect a fairly similar experience in terms of how Android works and operates, with the ability to customise the Tegra Note's multiple homescreens with folders and widgets. You also get full access to the Google Play Store for apps.

As well as countless Google apps already pre-installed, there's also a few from Nvidia, including the TegraZone and DirectStylus which, just like Samsung's S Pen app, gives you the ability to use the Note stylus to take down memos and doodle to your heart's content - a great feature!

Power

The tablet's headline feature has to be its Tegra 4 CPU clocked at 1.8GHz, which is very fast and capable of handling both ordinary and demanding apps - which includes 1GB of RAM. There's also a fifth core in the form of an ARM Cortex A15 processor, aimed at conserving overall battery life.

Unfortunately, the Tegra Note is only available in a 16GB version, although it'll be ample for most people, especially if you only intend using it for browsing and downloading a few apps and games.

The battery life is also pretty impressive, lasting up to 10 hours for basic usage - such as browsing the web, accessing Facebook and playing a few games - which I mostly used the tablet for.

Camera

Tablets aren't really made for replacing the ordinary digital camera, but the Tegra Note's 5- megapixel snapper is actually great to use, with photos looking excellent. There's also 1080p video recording which too deserves some merit.

Verdict

As I've already said, there's plenty of other good tablets out there to choose from, but given its very competitive price the Nvidia Tegra Note is definitely something worth considering if you're looking for something a little faster, which retains a competitive price tag at the same time. Its only real weakness is a screen that lags behind those offered by pricier rivals. Everything else - processor, camera and build - makes it great value for money.

archos 546.jpgType: Android gaming tablet
Price as reviewed: £179

Archos's first attempt to enter the 'gaming tablet' market was way back in 2012 (a huge year in terms of tech), with its original GamePad - though it didn't quite work for me, unfortunately. Many moons on though, and I've managed to get my hands on the French-based manufacturer's GamePad 2, which carries a ton of improvements to both design and power when compared to its predecessor.

Design

At first glance, the GamePad 2 could easily be mistaken as a Sony PS Vita or PSP. It is only really distinguished by an a larger form-factor and the Archos logo which has been nicely placed under the tablet's respectable 7- inch display. The tablet is reassuringly solid and comes in at 200.5 mm x 154 mm x 9.9 mm, weighing 400g.

You'd think an Android tablet weighing 400g would be pretty heavy to hold, compared to Google's Nexus 7 which is actually over 100g lighter, though surprisingly, the GamePad 2 has a nice weight to it. As well as this, it's solid and sports slightly curved sides which add to a tight and sustainable grip.

Looking around the GamePad 2, you'll find the usual ports and buttons (power/lock button, volume rocker, 3.5mm headphone jack, micro-USB charging port and the added extra of a mini-HDMI), along with some physical gameplay controls such as a D-pad and two analogue sticks - just like the PS Vita.

Display

With the GamePad, you get a 7- inch panel which offers up a 1080p resolution. I did a few tests to determine the quality of the GamePad 2's display, and have to say that I think it's rather impressive, with an excellent colour balance - a huge improvement when compared to the original GamePad.

Interface

The GamePad 2 has been pre-loaded with Google's Android 4.2 Jelly Bean operating system - not KitKat - and features a more stock experience, with little design input from Archos. Personally, I don't mind this, however it would've been nice to have seen some sort of software customisation.

Power

Archos hasn't just improved the overall design and display of the GamePad 2, as you also get a 1.6GHz quad-core processor that is much faster than the original GamePad - though clearly not as whizzy as the Advent Tegra Note's Tegra 4 processor as touted by some of its rivals.

In terms of memory, you're able to choose from 8GB and 16GB options, although you can easily expand the memory, either way, as you're able to make use of the micro-SD card slot. In fact, if you can get an extra 64GB this way, which means you wouldn't necessarily need to splash out on the more expensive 16GB model just to get an ample amount of space to store your apps and games.

The 5000mAh battery was also great when it came to actually using and testing the GamePad 2, providing plenty of power for browsing the web, updating my Facebook status and playing a few games.

Gameplay

If you intend on purchasing the Archos GamePad 2, then you would've obviously been attracted by its gaming abilities and how it sports full gaming controls - which is unique for an Android tablet.

The GamePad 2 has been highly supported by Gameloft, who are known for wide variety of licensed movie-based and other games, providing the tablet with access to a range of different titles -including Modern Combat and Asphalt 8, which have been pre-installed and don't cost you a penny.

Testing out the gaming capabilities of the GamePad 2, I was very impressed with the updated D-pad and analogue sticks, and found the mapping feature very useful when it came to playing a number of different titles from the Play Store.

Verdict

The GamePad 2 is a fine Android tablet in terms of power and overall performance, and is a huge improvement over its predecessor - perfect if you're someone who's obsessed with games. Whether you need it over a more conventional tablet, it is a decision that only you can make.


archos_45_titanium.jpgProduct type: Android smartphone
Price as reviewed: £100

Over the years Archos has primarily been known for manufacturing and selling tablet style entertainment devices. However, this has now changed with the firm grabbing a slice of the mobile market with its very own range of Android smartphones like this budget-orientated offering, the 45 Titanium.

Design

Interestingly the design of the 45 Titanium reminds me of the Sony Xperia T. Which, while it won't mean that Archos scores highly for originality means that is has delievered a stylish and solid looking and feeling handset.

The front houses a, these days average for a budget smartphone, 4.5- inch display. Above that, you'll find the speakerphone and a front-facing camera. Below the display are three touch-sensitive buttons: menu, home and back.

The left has been kept completely blank, with the right stealing the limelight with both the volume rocker and power/lock button placed next to each other. The top is where you'll find a 3.5mm audio jack and micro-USB port for charging. Kudos to Archos for placing everything in a nice order.

Display

Archos has done an OK-ish job with the display for the 45 Titanium, espcially bearing in minds its budget status. Its 854x480 resolution is capable of providing an overall satisfactory contrast and density for viewing photos and watching videos. Maybe blacks could be a tad darker, but every other colour seemed OK. Oh, and whites - they seem too yellow for my liking.

Interface

The 45 Titanium comes pre-loaded with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, so sadly not Kit Kat, the latest version. That said, you do get access to all of Google's latest services and apps, including GTalk, Gmail and of course, the Play Store.

Little customisation to the user interface has been implemented by Archos, with the handset sporting a more stock feel. This isn't a necessarily a bad thing, but with the 45 Titanium I found everything to be too slow for my liking - which isn't me being awkward.

The keyboard, particularly, is problematic. It seemed that I was having hassle with it
constantly: you could be typing out a perfectly short email and it wouldn't do anything but freeze and stop altogether.

Power

I hate slow smartphones, and the 45 Titanium is one of them, despite being powered by a 1.3GHz dual-core processor which you could argue is quite reasonable for a device of this sort of price. And to be even more negative (I'm by no means the Grinch), you only get 4GB of internal memory.

The battery life also disappointed me. After a full charge, the phone 45 Titanium barely reached three-quarters of a day - and I had only been using it for sending a few emails and browsing the net.

Camera

Archos has supplied the 45 Titanium with two cameras: a 5-megapixel rear-facing and a VGA front-facing. The rear-facing is obviously the main camera for taking photos and videos with (which is at 720p quality), though I found the quality rather poor compared to pricier models. That is often the case with budget smartphones though.

Verdict

I must admit I am not too keen on the phone. It is slow, with a poor battery performance and a not great camera. There are better budget smartphones out there.

hexstyli.jpgStyluses are usually used by people who have gigantic fingers, unable to use touchscreen-based devices without accidentally ending up on a malicious website, which reminds me of a certain person that I know...my father. OK, I'm not going to bitch about him here, but I am going to tell you about a new stylus that I think he, and you, the readers, would like - the HexStyli from MobileFun.

What it does

The HexStyli, which has been built for use with capacitive touchscreens, sports a built-in ballpoint pen, spirit level, ruler and two screwdriver heads.

Design

In terms of design, the HexStyli looks very striking. It has been constructed out of metal, giving it an executive and somewhat prestigious feel.

As for the weight, it's pretty light, though feels very sturdy too.

Usability

I put the HexStyli to the test by using it with my fourth-gen Apple iPad, and the results were excellent. Unlike other styluses that I have reviewed in the past, the HexStyli didn't leave any marks on the screen of my iPad. And you don't have to press hard to get the results that you expect. When using my artistic talents in a doodle app, the precision was excellent - my drawing looked amazing. Maybe the tip of the stylus is a bit too squishy for my liking, but no major issues.

Verdict

Styluses are pretty much a matter of preference: you'll either love them or absolutely hate them with a passion. I personally don't mind them, and think the HexStyli is the perfect gadget for anyone who owns a tablet PC or smartphone with a capacitive touchscreen - most people nowadays.

As well as plenty of other awesome styluses that MobileFun offers, you can get the HexStyli HERE.

lenovo_ideatab_s5000.jpgType: Android tablet PC
Price as reviewed: £220

Lenovo as a brand are still probably best known for their laptops rather than their tablets. That said, now could be the time to make their mark with their seven inch screen IdeaTab S5000, which clearly has its eyes on the likes of the Google Nexus 7 as it only costs £220 here in Great Britain.

Design

The Lenovo S5000 is a very attractive tablet, which fits perfectly into one hand. You could easily argue that it does feel a tad cheap due to it being constructed fully from plastic, but I personally have no problems with this as it results in it being so light - it only weighs 244g. In terms of its overall size, I think Lenovo has done a great job, with it measuring in at 190.5 x 116.8 x 7.6 mm.

When I took the S5000 out of its box, I noticed that the front looks somewhat reminiscent of a phablet. You're probably thinking why - well, I'll tell you! It's because Lenovo has decided to place the loudspeaker (which I originally thought was a speakerphone) above the 7- inch display, which seems to be something unusual for a tablet. That said, though, I quite like it being on the front.

Looking around the sides, you get nothing on left, with the right housing the power/lock button and volume rocker. At the top, you'll find a 3.5mm headphone jack, with a micro-USB port placed at the bottom. In terms of how I found the buttons, they were very responsive when testing the S5000.

Display

The Lenovo S5000 sports a 7- inch panel with a 1280x800 resolution. When testing, I found the overall quality to be pretty good, although whites did look a little grey at some points. And I do think that at this price, you can actually get a lot better, using the new Nexus 7 as a great example.

Interface

The Lenovo S5000 comes pre-loaded with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, offering up access to Google's latest services and apps, including the Google Play Store. Lenovo has gone and customised the whole OS with its very own user interface, which quite frankly, looks terrible. One of the main features of Android is its app drawer, which Lenovo has removed altogether. Instead, just like Huawei's EmotionUI, you'll have to store your apps on the tablet's homescreen.

Power

Don't go expecting for the world's fastest tablet with the S5000, because you won't get it. However, its MediaTek Cortex-A7 processor is certainly capable of making sure that everything runs smoothly, backed up with 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal memory - which should be ample for most people.

As for the battery life, you won't be disappointed. I used the tablet mainly for browsing the web and watching YouTube videos, and managed to get it to last most of the day after an overnight charge.

Camera

Like I end up saying in most of my tablet reviews, tablets aren't really meant to be used as cameras. But in saying that, the Lenovo S5000 is capable of producing relatively impressive snapshots with its 5- megapixel rear-facing sensor.

The photos that I did take, looked very impressive with excellent levels of detail (for a tablet camera). The camera seems to have a great balance between whites and blacks, but a flash would've have made photos taken during the night a lot better.

Verdict

Lenovo certainly has done a great job with the S5000, with it certainly capable of turning heads thanks to its gorgeous design. But realistically, I am not entirely sure how it can compete with the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire.

Nicholas Fearn

archos-101-xs-2-press-image.jpgType: Android Jelly Bean tablet PC
Price as reviewed: £200+

Archos seems to be obsessed with churning out new tablets and media devices. One of their latest models is the 10inch screen 101 XS 2 - an Android tablet that sports the added extra of a keyboard docking station, perfect for those who literally live on the internet yet love sending out emails and long-ish status updates.

Design

If you can remember the XS 2's predecessor, conveniently called the XS, then all I can tell you is that they look practically the same - still sporting that wide, rather unappealing form-factor that I remember seeing as something negative about the original model.

When it came to testing the XS 2, using it as if it were my daily driver, I found it very heavy to  no thanks to its weight of 636g. It's also not the thinnest of tablets at 10.1mm. It definitely needs a lot of improving in these two areas, though I guess this is part of the trade-off for its very competitive price tag.

On the left, you'll find a micro-USB port, micro-SD card slot, HDMI connector, along with a 3.5mm audio jack. The right side has been left completely blank, with the bottom housing the power/lock button and volume rocker - both were very responsive.

The front is dominated by a large 10.1- inch display, with two speakers sitting next to it. Above the display you'll find a front-facing camera, with the official Archos logo sitting nicely below.

The keyboard itself looks great and was a pleasure to use - perhaps the keys could be a big bigger though. Apart from that, it's lovely and light at only 200g, and measures in at 273 mm x 169 mm x 5mm.

Display

Archos has supplied the XS 2 with a 10.1- inch display. It's a great size for browsing the web and that, but due to its awkward aspect ratio, I did find it hard to operate at times. Maybe this could be fixed in the future, but I know I had the same problem with its predecessor.

The 1280x800 resolution, in my opinion, is fine, but again another sign of the tablet's cut price status. When I used the tablet to watch a few YouTube videos on, I found that blacks and browns stood out nicely, with whites looking a tad washed out. It is fine, but no iPad Air...

Interface

The XS 2 runs on the Android Jelly Bean platform, with little customisation input from Archos. I personally don't mind having a more stock experience when using an Android device, though I know there are some people out there who like to see a bit more from the manufacturer in terms of UI.

I'm a huge fan of the overall flexibility of the Android operating system. You get so many options to make the user interface your own, unlike iOS. When testing, I made the most of the widgets that were on offer, using the calendar and clock the most.

There's a great choice of awesome pre-installed apps to be made use of, with the renowned Archos media player being a personal favourite. Obviously you also get access to all of Google's services such as Talk and Gmail, including the Play Store which will allow you to download even more apps and games.

Being a tablet PC, one of the most important software features is obviously going to be the browser, which by default, is rather impressive. You can also download Chrome for free via the Play Store.

Power

As for the power side of things, the XS 2 touts a quad-core processor clocked at 1.6GHz, along with 2GB RAM and 16GB of internal storage. Reflecting on this, the XS 2 is of a nice speed, with no problems when it came to more demanding tasks. And I think 16GB of memory is ample for most.

The battery life was also impressive. I used the tablet for mostly browsing the internet, accessing my emails, as well as playing a few games and watching YouTube Videos, and managed to get just under a day's worth of juice (battery life).

Camera

I don't think many people actually buy tablets just to use them to take pictures with, although you do get a 2- megapixel rear-facing camera that is capable of taking very basic snapshots.

Sadly, however, the quality is absolutely terrible. The video quality wasn't that much better either.

What deserves merit though is the actual camera interface. I found it very easy to use, and know that those who aren't exactly techies will be able to use it with no problems. So well done to Archos.

Verdict

If you're looking for a tablet perfect for browsing the internet, and something to do your emails on, then the XS 2 could be perfect for you. Just don't expect to be using it as a camera anytime soon, because believe me, you'll be very disappointed. But yeah, Archos has done an overall great job yet again in hitting such a low price point with an overall impressive 10inch tablet

HTC One Max.jpgType: Android phablet
Price as reviewed: £500

Things have been tricky for HTC over the past few years - mainly due to competition from rivals such as Samsung and Apple. Anyhow, despite this, they have managed to create possibly one of the world's sexiest Android smartphones - the One. And now we have a much larger, coughs, phablet, version of it, the One Max, matching the recent trend of phone-tablet hybrids that seem to be slowly taking over the whole marketplace.

Design

The One Max is an absolutely huge handset measuring in at 164.5 x 82.5 x 10.3mm - which isn't at all good for keeping in the average trouser pocket. Well, unless you want literally half of the Max hanging out of it? I also found it very heavy, weighing 217g. This reflects on the fact that it has been made out of metal, just like original One, which I suppose is nice as it feels a lot more expensive to hold when compared to the Note III, but I know there are a lot of people out there who would find it too large and heavy to use comfortably.

The front of the One Max is where you're going to find the 5.9- inch display (that's bigger than the Note III, but smaller than the Sony Xperia Z Ultra and Samsung Galaxy Mega), BoomSound dual front stereo speakers, along with basic stuff such as the speakerphone, front-facing camera and sensors. I personally find the overall handset attractive, but the front just does it for me: I'm geeky like that.

Now let's look around the sides of the phone: the left houses a button that allows you to take the Max's battery cover off, with the volume rocker (which was extremely responsive when in use) and power/lock button (also responsive) placed on the right. You'll find the micro-USB port down the bottom and the 3.5mm headphone jack at the top. Very basic stuff, but nicely placed, in all honesty.

The back is very interesting. First of all, it's concave in appearance, offering up a metal back-plate as opposed to a full unibody. The plate keeps the battery from falling out of the One Max - although I really did find it very flimsy when testing - and it's not exactly easy to get on and off. But more than this, you can see the camera lens and LED flash, along with that all-important fingerprint sensor (which I'll take about later on) and the wireless charging sensors.

Display

With most of the HTC products that I've reviewed before, I've always found their displays rather impressive. Again, I'm impressed with a display on a HTC product - the One Max which sports a 5.9-inch panel with a 1080x1920 resolution. I did a few tests inside and outdoors, was really happy with the quality that I got. Colours look overall sharp and vibrant, and the contrast was also good. It's also worth mentioning that the touchscreen technology used is nice and responsive. No problems there.

Interface

The One Max comes running on the Android Jelly Bean operating system, with HTC's Sense 5.5 actually powering the whole user experience. I personally would have liked to have seen the latest version of Android, KitKat, but I suppose we all have some sort of whacky dream. That said, I had no problems with Jelly Bean whatsoever, although the Sense UI, I thought, looks rather cluttered.

Fingerprint scanning

Just like the iPhone 5S, the One Max comes with the ability to use your fingerprints as a means of security. Whilst it seems good and all, I don't think it's as good as what Apple has done with its TouchID method - I just found the whole process of setting it up rather annoying and frustrating, added with the fact that it wouldn't even recognise any of my fingers. Also, I think the sensor itself (located on the back of the Max) is dull and ugly. Looks like I have something against fingerprint scanners.

Media

One of the most attractive things about the Max has to be its entertainment capabilities. It has a gorgeous HD display for watching movies on, along with two BoomSound stereo speakers that are built for crystal clear sound. I killed two birds with one stone by watching a mini movie on YouTube, testing the video and sound quality at the same time. I was very impressed.

Power

The Max is a very fast when in use, thanks to a 1.7GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM. To test its capabilities, I played a game of Angry Birds (a less power-consuming game) and a racing stimulator (a more power-consuming game), and had no problems at all. This just goes to show that the processor is excellent. You can also choose between 16/32GB of memory and get a 3300mAh battery that's capable of lasting a day after being fully charged.

Camera

Possibly one of the Max's headline features is its 4- megapixel camera based on HTC's UltraPixel technology. The quality of photos taken in daylight are amazing. But despite this, I wasn't that impressed when it came to using the camera in the dark - it just seems that the flash isn't strong or bright enough to fix this problem. On a more positive note, you get full HD recording at 1080p that's capable of producing amazing videos - both during the day and night.

Verdict

If you're willing to carry around a phone that's almost the size of a skateboard, then the One Max could be the perfect option to go for. Ignore that - even though it's big - because the Max is seriously an impressive handset, despite having some flaws. Maybe not as good as the Note III, but I still personally like it.

parrot-ar-drone.jpg

Shiny Shiny and Tech Digest went along to a rather unusual preview event in London last night and got an exclusive hands-on with the Parrot AR Drone 2.0, a crazily advanced, huge and super fast iPad/iPhone controlled helicopter. Gerald Lynch, the editor of Tech Digest, wrote up his thoughts about Parrot's latest Drone, which we have a feeling will be one of the top toys of the summer...

Toys for boys don't get much cooler than the Parrot AR Drone quadricopter line. Lightwieght, iPhone controlled four-bladed remote control helicopters, they stole the CES limelight back in 2010. Back with a new and improved version (set for release in the UK in June 2012) we went hands on with the Parrot AR Drone 2.0 at a preview event last night, managing a mid-air collision in the first 20 seconds of getting our hands on the controls. Whoops!

That's not to say the AR Drone 2.0 is difficult to pilot. Far from it in fact; thanks to a new iOS app (compatible with iPod touch, iPad and iPhone) it's easier than ever to fly the Drone. A new "Absolute Flight" method has been added, making flight controls very intuitive. Two thumb sticks are onscreen. While the right stick is a touch slider that controls height and rotation, the left one is actually a button which activates the iOS device's gyrometer. With the button pressed, it's just a matter of leaning the controller forwards, backwards, left or right to get the chopper heading about in the appropriate direction.

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Once you've mastered the basic controls, you're now able to pull off stunts with the Drone too. Double tapping on the app's thumbsticks sees the Drone 2.0 do a quick mid-air flip, which raised gasps from the journalists collected at the preview event. The Drones are surprisingly stable too; we pushed down on one hovering in mid-air near us, and it was able to adjust its pitch and yaw accordingly to remain in flight. With the range of the Drone only limited by the strength of your device's Wi-Fi signal, you therefore can trust in the Drone's ability to fly significant distances, even in fairly harsh weather conditions, without too many problems.

Perhaps the most useful new feature on the Drone 2.0 however is the ability to shoot 720p video directly from the chopper. When in flight, you get sent a real-time video feed directly to your iOS device of exactly what the camera is picking up. If it's something worth documenting, you can quickly hit the record button, which beams the video into storage on your device, ready to be quickly uploaded to YouTube. The same can be done with still images, which can be pushed to Picasa. Facebook sharing is top of the list of features coming in a forthcoming update too.

If the AR Drone 2.0 has one Achilles Heel, it's battery life. You'll get just 12 minutes of flight time per fully charged battery, and while the battery is easily removed and swappable, we weren't able to get confirmation of the cost of replacement batteries. If they're reasonably cheap that's not so big a deal, but it could be frustrating to have to head home from the park after less than a quarter of an hour's flight. With that said, we recognise it's a necessary evil; for flight control to be as effortless as it is with the Drone 2.0, the overall weight of the chopper has to be kept low, and a larger capacity battery would surely add significant heft.

But when it's in the air, it sure is a damn lot of fun. Hitting Amazon, Firebox, Harrods, Selfridges and select high street retailers and hobby shops in June 2012 for £279.99, we'll try to bring you a full review in the near future.

[Via Tech Digest]

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I've been looking for a bag that'll fit all of my random bits of technology as well as stupid amounts of make-up, an umbrella, a spare bag... The list could go on and on as I'm such a hoarder. Of course you can go with a normal bag, but chances are it'll break under the pressure of umbrellas, eyeliner, tablets and laptops. Then there are some bags designed especially to house your tech stuff, but they're often a bit bulky and don't look great. I did have a brief affair with a backpack a few months back, but try getting on a packed tube or a bus with one on, it's near impossible.

This is why the Shiny Shiny team were interested in trying out a Knomo bag. We'd heard of Knomo a little before and basically it's a company that's been around since 2004 which specialises in creating pretty high-end, stylish bags that are also functional for all of your tech accessories.

We chose to review a Knomo Cholet 13" laptop bag and here are some of our thoughts.

Space

One of the main things I'm looking for when it comes to a bag to house both everyday items and tech is how much space it has. Although everything needs to be as compact as possible, no one wants keys scraping up against tablets, so there needs to be just enough room.

The Cholet 13" bag has just the right amount of space for a laptop and one or two essential bits and pieces that are separated by a thin, quilted section in between.

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Materials

One of the main things Knomo likes to shout about is how high quality the materials used to make its products are. The foam inside which houses your laptop is a special shock-resistant, quilted material and the leather on the outside means it's super durable and looks good at the same time.

Looks

The bag has a wood-grain leather effect on the outside, so it looks fairly formal and a little more tailored and special than the laptop bags we've all become accustomed to over the years.

Comfort

Now my only main issue with the bag are the handles. They're ideal if you like to hold the straps with your hand, but if you want it on your shoulder and it's filled with all of your stuff AND your laptop then it's going to dig into your shoulders a little.

If you're not going to be walking with it too much then it shouldn't be a problem and if you are you can always slip a special shoulder pad over it, just bear in mind it's not one for really long walks.

Extras

There are a few fancy extras that come with a Knomo bag, like the Knomo Tracker, a unique code printed inside, which means if you're fortunate enough to have your lost bag wind up in the hands of someone trustworthy, there's a good chance you'll get it back. Well maybe.

There are also lots of little pockets and compartments on the inside for your phone, pens and other bits and pieces.

Who are the Knomo bags for?

Someone who wants a bag that's a little bit different to the run-of-the-mill black, boring laptop bags on the market. The tailored design makes me think it's good for those who want something formal looking that'll fit in just as well in the office as it will on a weekend. It's also worth mentioning you'll need a few pennies to spare, you'll have to be prepared to part with your cash if you want enough space, quality and durability to transport all your gadgets around in.

The Cholet is available from the Knomo website for £185 (to carry a 13" laptop) and £215 (to carry a 15" laptop).

190 tokyoflash hexagon art.jpgShowing you beautiful watches that haven't actually been made seems a bit cruel - but the joy of these concept watches and blue-tooth receivers from TokyoFlash is that some of them will get made, depending on user feedback...

The idea behind Japanese jewellry-cum-gadget site TokyoFlash is that viewers and fans rate each product design (Would you buy it? Yes/No) and leave comments. The feedback will then be used to develop the most popular concepts which will go into production. Users can also submit their own ideas too - this is high-end crowd-sourced watch design. One catch is that it doesn't state a price - I would buy practically everything if it were £20, but probably not if it were £300.

But do have to say I really love the designs. Lets look at a few beauties below.

ONE: The Hexagon Art watch - okay so the dial may be a little hard to read.. but is this special or what? Currently rating 4/5 stars.
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TWO: Robotics Shapes watch - once again, it tells the time in a very abstruse way, which I don't fully understand. But that is not the point. It channels Ancient Egypt and modern technology in chunky black and midnight blue - lovely. Rating 4.2/5 stars.

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THREE: the Tracking Time watch - Nu Rave or what? replacing the dial with neon caterpillars is an amazing idea and looks so out there it's beautiful. 4.4/5 stars.
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Hot tip from Ashley at CES in Vegas: the Samsung LED 9000 3D HD TV. Yes you saw that right, this is a television set that shows three dimensional film. It is compatible with Blu-Ray 3DTV and 3D broadcasts from Sky etc.

What impresses me is that the device cleverly converts standard 2D TV into 3D too, though as Ash points worth seeing what that looks like before getting too excited.

The set is a miniscule 0.3 of an inch thick - about as broad as a pencil. It's kind of like a normal TV in reverse, the image is 3D and the slender set is practically two dimensional.

Hello. Looking forward to seeing Come Dine with me in 3D.... but I imagine the effects won't be quite as striking as in Avatar.

See the rest of Ash's tips from CES 2010 here.

394 view book 2.jpgLaptop makers ViewSonic released a new range of computers today, ViewBooks.

Targeted at users on-the-move, the ViewBooks are thin and light but aim to be powerful, all-purpose computers. More unusually at the portable computer end of the market, the 12.1", 13.3" and 14" ViewBooks and the 13.3" ViewBook Pro run Windows 7. (Many cheaper netbooks operate on XP).

The flagship ViewBook Pro(13.3 inch screen) is available in black or silver. As the company claim... it "takes the ultra slim notebook experience to the next level". With a slim chassis forged from high-tech magnesium alloy, the notebook is 1.7cm thick and weighs only 1.6kg.

That's thin and light compared to say, a 13" MacBook Pro which is 2.41 cm thick and weighs 2.04 kg, despite having a slightly smaller screen. Though it's still 0.7cm thicker than the thinnest notebook on the market, Dell's freakishly skinny Adamo, at 0.99cm.

As for the rest of the range: the tiny ViewBook 120 with its 12.1" screen packs Windows 7 and a dual core chip, and is pretty impressive for something that size. The 120 is available in black and white. It's slightly more expensive than other netbooks that run on slower Atom processors but is reasonable and below the £500 mark at £469.

The ViewBook 120:
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The larger versions, the 14" ViewBook 140 and the 13.3" ViewBook 130 ups the graphics and aesthetics on the 120.

ViewBook Pro - £699 / £729 here
ViewBook 140 - £629
ViewBook 130 - £499 / £569 / £649 here (according to the processor and chipset you choose)
ViewBook 120 - £469 here

368 stream.jpgClassic kitchen gadget, the SodaStream, which has fizzed up drinks in homes since the 70s, is back in a sleek new version.

The SodaStream of 2009 comes in different colours (chrome, red and white) with a new emphasis on being eco-friendly and health-conscious. Very late noughties. The strapline is still an original 70s gem though - "Get busy with the fizzy!".

The new model uses the same mechanism as the classic gadget with a few tweaks around the edges. For example: the flavours all come with new low-sugar varieties, including Cola, Lemonade, Limited Edition Orange & Mango and vitamin-rich 'Energy'.
Green credentials come from the fact that the SodaStream doesn't use batteries or electricity, but is powered by Alco2Jet Cylinders which are refillable.

They tell us SodaStream is a highly energy-efficient small appliance. And as they point out, if you make your own fizzy drinks instead of buying them, that saves on packaging. Apparently every one litre bottle of SodaStream you make saves three aluminium cans.

How it works:
1. Fill the carbonating bottle
2. Screw the bottle into the drinksmaker
3. Press the button until you get the famous SodaStream buzz (3-5 times depending on how fizzy you like it)
4. Add your flavour concentrate

Look here's an advert for SodaStream from 1980. Great fizzy drinks, great hair:

The soda-maker is £59.98 with gas canisters and bottles of flavours starting from £2.99.

An SodaStream Pop-up Shop will open in Central London in mid-December selling limited-edition products. You can also buy SodaStream via sodastream.co.uk and selected stores (listed on the website).

Kath Kidston and Roberts.JPGCath Kidston is well known for her quirky floral styles and is a popular choice for celebrity clothing.

However, it seems she's not content with just conquering the clothing world, moving into the tech market too. She's teamed up with radio company Roberts on two occasions now to bring us DAB radio with style and we've been lucky to get our mitts on the newest limited edition.

T-Mob3GModemstraight.jpgMobile broadband dongles have been around for a while now, going from a business buy to a household necessity.

Over the past year many deals have sprung up offering free laptops with mobile broadband contracts, which would in my eyes suggest that these are set to replace the standard wireless connection and work just as well.

I have been a bit slow on the uptake here preferring to use my trusty Virgin connection but after much consideration decided to bite the bullet and buy one of these genius gadgets.

I chose to try out a T-Mobile pay as you dongle, as the coverage in my area was good. It's easy to install and once you're set up, you ready to go. Or so I thought.

On my first day of use the device cut out more times than I could imagine, cue lots of calls to T-Mobile. The people on the other end couldn't see the problem and their first idea was to refresh my dongle. What this basically means is that you can't go online for half an hour.

But of course after this time the problem wasn't resolved, cue another call to T-Mobile, where I sat through an hour of usage and directions but with no result.

Now I'm sure if we can take this as admittance of failure but, by the end of the call, and after all routes were exhausted the technical guy apologised for the "shabby service" and told me I could be better off with another provider.

I've been advised to take the dongle back to the store and replace it with a 3 or Vodafone device. Not really something T-Mobile bosses would be happy to hear.

I want to make sure this problem isn't just happening to me so please leave your comments below and let me know if you have had any problems with your dongle provider.

Short term HDTV test: The LG LCD 42LH5000

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Despite having written about HDTVs for a long time, and even compiling an in depth guide to buying one, I've never had my hands on one for longer than a week. This all changed when LG delivered the delightful looking LG 42LH5000 to my house to my (and my flatmates) unequivocal delight. But once I'd unpacked it from its mounds of bubble wrap and peeled off the stickers would I find it a joy to use, or would the manual be more complicated than the Gaza peace treaty?

Read on to find out about my experiences with it.

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Way back in March I told you all about 5 new sporty models from Sennhesier and I've been dutifully putting the PMX 80 Sport 11 through its paces to see if it can stand up to the rough and ready confines of my gym bag plus the large amount of acidic sweat that's an inevitable part of sports 'phones.

Design

The words functionality over form springs to mind when taking a look at these hot orange headphones, as they're designed to be useful pieces of kit rather than super stylish accessories, But hey, they're sports phones, and what really matters here is that they can cope with my semi-strenuous workout schedule (and general disregard for headphone care). I like how they rest across the back of the head, as this means they're very secure when running, and the plastic band rests very comfortably and doesn't chafe. They're also designed to be sweat and water resistant and seem to stand up to prolonged workouts well.

Shiny Review: AKG 430 headphones

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The latest pair of headphones to grace my desk are the delightful AKG 430s. This is a relatively new brand to the market, but seeing as these 'phones are backed by Harmon Kardon of in car sound stereo fame, you could generally guess that creating high quality sound would be an important aspect to these. And the verdict? Read on to find out.

Design

You're looking at a perfectly respectable pair of headphone, styled in matte silver and black. There's a large rubberized band that sits comfortably across the head and the they can be adjusted to adapt to different head sizes. The cord comes with a volume slide controller attached which works very efficiently, and the two faux leather ear pad covers are very comfortable and rest well on the ears, rather than around them. They can also fold up as well, with the earpads bending in towards the headband due to the unusual inclusion of some extra joints on the frame.The headphones come with a travel case as well, but they lose points here as the case is rather cheap looking and fiddly to open.

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