Jabra Solemate Max – Social Jukebox

Jabra’s big daddy portable speaker isn’t cheap at £249, but it packs a powerful punch.

We don’t spend all our days at Clove playing with smartphones you know. Sometimes we get to play with speakers and other toys too! It’s a little outside the standard product range for Clove, however Jabra are an established audio brand whose products have always sold in decent numbers as accessories. With this in mind I took the plunge with their newest – and largest – portable speaker, the Solemate Max.

Design

Jabra_Solemate_Max_02First up is looks; when you’re spending over £200 on a piece of kit, you want it to look the part. The Solemate Max is somewhat chalk and cheese in this respect, with a grey rubber casing dominated by the perforated silver speaker grille that stretches round the whole unit. There are also flashes of yellow in the handle, controls, lettering and a yellow 3.5mm cable.

The style won’t be to everyone’s tastes (what is?), with the overall look being similar to a larger Pure radio model. It conforms to modern trends, inoffensive with a splash of neutral colour, although would struggle to fit in with traditional décor.

At around 3 kilos the unit is surprisingly heavy. It remains portable, however I wouldn’t want to be carrying it too far in any one trip. This is definitely more of a unit that can be easily moved from room to room, or from car boot to beach, rather than kept in your bag every day.

SolemateMax_gallery_02The controls reside on the top of the Max, seamlessly covered in the same rubberised surface material as the rest of the speaker. They have a responsive ‘click’ and the soft touch finish is pleasing, whilst also being easy to wipe down and clean. Several ports adorn the far end of speaker, opposing the chunky handle to the left side, providing a number of connectivity options. Here is where you’ll also find the NFC tag for one-touch pairing with compatible devices.

Finally the base of the device is ribbed like a boot sole to avoid sliding around and features the unit’s logo. There’s also a quite neatly cut groove and sockets for storing the included 3.5mm audio cable, perfect for connecting to devices without Bluetooth or computers/laptops/screens with audio output.

All said the Solemate Max has a functional and simple design, almost understated in some ways. If it wasn’t for a 2014 RedDot Design Award I would say it’s a style that’s not trying to win awards; possibly the best compliment a product designer can hear!

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Android Wear 60 Second Review

Android_Wear1

Running on the LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live, Android Wear is Google’s operating system for wearable technology.

Based on Google Now, the card style interface of Android Wear is becoming increasingly popular with ever increasing capabilities thanks to the add on extras made by developers.

Android Wear is in its infancy at the time of writing, but that does not mean it is not capable or one to invest in.

I recently reviewed the LG G Watch running Android Wear (you can read it here), but in the interest of keeping things separate, here is my review of the Android Wear OS on its own, independent of hardware.

To make it a bit easier, I have reduced it to just 60 seconds, focusing on the positives and the negatives.

Nokia Lumia 930 60 Second Review

Nokia_Lumia_930_Hands_OnaSpoiler alert!

In my review of the Nokia Lumia 930 I concluded “There is no denying that the Nokia Lumia 930 is one of the best examples of a smartphone today. It is in my book the best example of a Windows Phone.

Whilst the conclusion is very positive, there is without doubt some negatives.

Watch the following 60 second review video to see what are the overall positives and negatives of this smartphone and help make your decision on whether it is right for you or not.

LG G Watch 60 Second Review

LG_G_WatchfEarlier this week I published a full review of the LG G Watch and the Android Wear software found on it.

The G Watch is the next generation of Smartwatch that is capable of becoming quite something given time for apps and android wear extensions to become available.

If you missed the review you can read  it here.

If you are short of time or want to know only about the watch itself rather than the software so much, why not take a look at the following video which summaries the main positives and negatives in 60 seconds.

Android Wear & LG G Watch Review

LG_G_WatchThe ‘Smartwatch’ is not a particularly new concept but within the last few months the hardware and software that make up such a product have taken a radical step forward.

Samsung and Sony have been pushing the market along with their versions but the availability of ‘Android Wear’ from Google has helped take the smartwatch concept from something that a ‘geek’ may wear to something that anyone on the street may consider as an option.

To date, I have personally never really desired a smartwatch, I have not feel the need for one.  Android Wear naturally sparked a little desire in me being an avid Android user and seeing the real value of Google Now.  The thought of key notifications on your wrist just makes sense from a time saving perspective.

At the time of writing there are 2 Android Wear enabled devices on the market: the LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live.  The much talked about Motorola Moto 360 has yet to be launched.

For the last 6 weeks I have been using the G Watch.  I have left it this long to post a review as Android Wear is an evolving product and I felt it necessary to see how such a product would really fit into my everyday life.

After a few weeks of use I can honestly say that my opinion is changing on smartwatches and if you read on you will find out why.

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Triggertrap Review

TTriggertrapriggertrap; this is a super handy and easy tool for your camera that not only makes a photographer’s life a lot easier, but also gives anyone that owns a DSLR the chance to create some professional looking pictures and time lapses!

It’s basically a very technical camera shutter remote, controlled by your phone.

It consists of a cable with a little block in the middle, one end goes in to your camera into the remote port, the other, in the headphone jack of your phone. So obviously you’re going to need to download the trigger trap app on your android or iOS phone for this to work!

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Nokia Lumia 930 Review

The best Windows Phone right now.

Nokia_Lumia_930_Hands_OnbIt has been some time since I have extensively used a Windows Phone device. I tried and failed to fall in love with the OS because whilst appealing, it lacked much of what I wanted or what I had already.

I am still an avid Android user at heart, sold into the Google ecosystem, but change is good and Nokia or should I say Microsoft have made a big play of the Lumia 930 and what Windows Phone 8.1 has to offer.

Many Windows Phone users have very positive experiences and only good things to say and what cannot ever be knocked are the statements that Nokia make with their hardware.

The Lumia 920 burst onto the scene quite some time ago, the 925 and many others have arrived with only the 1020 and 1520 perhaps getting the attention they deserved. The 930 looks set to make a similar impact that the 920. So what is my opinion on it? Read on to find out.

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Withings Pulse O2, Blood Pressure Monitor & Smart Body Analyser Reviewed

WithingsI have been a keen user of the Fitbit activity tracker which I have used for the last 2 years, so I was very keen to try out and review the new trackers from Withings.

They have a good track history in this area having had scales and activity trackers before, but we are about to look at their latest equipment, namely the Pulse O2 tracker, their blood pressure monitor and the smart body analyzer.

I will use these together and give you my thoughts and progress over the next couple of weeks.

So on day one, the first thing that impresses me is the quality of the packaging, which immediately creates the impression of a quality product. There are clear quick set up guides to take you through the basics as well.

The first process apart from inserting the batteries is to get the Withings Health App, which is available at the play store downloaded onto your smartphone.

Once installed, this will ask for some basic profile details such as name, gender, date of birth etc. You can share your health dashboard and link to other well-known fitness apps such as run keeper and my fitness pal. The dropdown menu will then allow you to add devices, in this case the Pulse O2, the Smart Body Analyzer and the Blood Pressure monitor. You can also have more than one user, so it means the whole family can have their health monitored.

Pulse O2

So let’s start with the Pulse O2, which can track your steps, calorie burn, distance and elevation (why elevation you ask? Well this will track how many flights of stairs you have climbed, a great motivator to take the stairs rather than the lift!)

The Pulse O2 is small and stylish and you can opt to place it in your pocket, clip to a belt or wear it on your wrist with the wrist strap which is included.

The display is very clear in normal lighting conditions, but not as easy to read outside and I would say not quite as good as the fitbit on this aspect.

Where is does score points is that it can also monitor both your heart rate and oxygen saturation levels, by placing your finger on the sensor on the back.  The heart rate reading was easy to obtain and this is the one you will be more interested in anyway, the o2 level however I found a little more difficult to get reading from.

It can also monitor the quality of your sleep by checking your movements at night. On the positive side, I think it did this better that the fitbit, but I think you need to be careful about how much you read into the given figures. I for example can be awake at night, but would still not move very much, so it reported my sleep as better than it really was. This is not a fault of the Pulse O2 simply, be aware of your own sleep movements to see how helpful this can be. If you run this over a period of days you will build up a good pattern of information which can help understand how you may be able to sleep better. I found I woke at particular times and other factors such as room temperature and alcohol would, affect the quality of my sleep.

They key to the Pulse O2, or indeed any fitness tracker is its ability to clearly report this information and look to motivate you and the Pulse O2 does this very well, with clear info within the app, motivating messages and prompts and the ability to link with other friends to see how you are performing against them.

They key to this, which I find works very well, is it makes you consider walking that extra distance to meet your daily targets (I set mine at 10,000 steps). Also for me I like the challenge of trying to beat my longest walk, the most steps in a week etc and this can only improve your fitness.

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Blood Pressure Monitor

The Withings Blood Pressure Monitor looks a well-engineered product, with a stylish design. It is designed to take a reading from your arm, which is generally regarded as being more accurate that a reading from a wrist monitor. Set up is really simple, as you add the device via the Withings App on your smartphone and press the one button to pair. From then on it is even easier to use. You simply slip on the cuff and turn it on and it will automatically launch the app, press the button and the reading is taken. You can schedule it to remind you to take a reading on set dates as well. The results are clearly displayed on a graph with colour feedback, based on the World Health’s Organisation’s official standards. Heart Rate is also monitored and recorded.

This is really a simple and efficient way of monitoring your blood pressure and many would suggest it gives more realistic readings than those taken at your doctors or hospital, because you are able to take it calmly.

Withings Smart Body Analyser

Black-2-Wireless_Scale_Black_front_kgThe Smart Body Analyser is a sophisticated weight scale which will give further information about your general well-being as it monitors weight, body fat, fat mass, heart rate and air quality. Like all Withings products I have reviewed, the packaging and design are of high quality and the setup is very simply with quick linking to the app. It will then automatically recognise the user (you can of course have more than one, so you can use it for all the family). It will connect via your Wi-Fi and transmit the information immediately back to your Smartphone. It has a sensor to ensure you are positioned correctly and I found the results to be accurate (if a little disappointing that I was not losing enough weight!)

Conclusion

The combination of all these products makes for fully integrated health monitoring as you have a joined up approach to monitoring your health.

The Withings App, which was updated during my testing, is very clear and easy to use giving you all the information at a glance.

The main benefit of this is it encourages you to make slight amendments to your daily routine, to perhaps walk to work, take the stairs, miss that cake and be more aware of your blood pressure and what affects it. There are many similar devices available but these are some of the best made and work seamlessly together. They are expensive, but this is worth it for the design and I can strongly recommend them.

Archos 45 Helium Review

At £145 Archos deliver a respectable 4G capable smartphone that doesn’t break the bank.

archos_45helium_Triple_hidef_3The world of Android smartphones is steadily breaking into two camps. On one side we have the glossy flagships delivered by Samsung, HTC, LG and Sony.

These phones spare no expense in providing the absolute pinnacle of mobile technology at any given time, with super high speed quad-core processors, lasers and all manner of shiny things that fill up specification lists.

They also tend to cost a lot of cash off-contract, which is why many of them get sold through expensive high-tier contracts from operators.

The other side of the coin though involves manufacturers making high quality handsets at a fraction of the cost; handsets that still manage to tick all the right boxes and deliver a decent experience.

The major names mentioned do play this game with their entry-level and mid-range devices, although it’s usually obvious they’re just trying to make up the numbers. For other manufacturers however, this is the majority of their product range. Motorola have definitely proven it to be a viable business model.

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CAT B15Q Tough Smartphone 60 Second Review

Cat_B15Q_Hands_On_ReviewiThe CAT B15Q is a tough phone designed for tough environments.

Drop it, get it wet, immerse in sand, cover it in dust, mud and more and it will still work.

This is thanks to an IP and military rating that makes the B15Q perfect for industry.

Here are the positive and negatives in just 60 seconds.

For a more detailed view and opinion on the device, you can read our review here, or watch our full video review below.

If you want to buy a SIM free handset you can purchase it here for £216.67+VAT.

 

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