Is It The End of the Gadget Gold Rush?

November 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials


As Christmas approaches the tech sector is struggling, but technology itself is as much to blame as the economy.

Have We Come to the End of the Gadget Gold Rush?

It is less than one month to Christmas. On the back of a mild autumn this may come as a shock to our UK readers, but it will come as a greater shock to technology retailers. Christmas is the most lucrative period in their financial calendar and yet the signs are customer behaviour is evolving in the way they most fear: we’re getting smarter.

The news this week emphasised a pattern which bucks tradition: as Christmas approaches sales are down. Yesterday British retail giant Arcadia, owner of electronics stalwarts Dixons and Currys, announced it will close up to 260 stores nationwide over the next few years. “Winter goods are tough,” explained Arcadia boss Sir Philip Green. “Trading conditions remain extremely challenging, with style, quality and value at the top of our agenda and more important than ever.” Arcadia has already closed 66 stores in the past year.


This is part of a wider global picture. Hours after the Arcadia announcement tech golden boy HTC revealed revenues for the final three months of 2011 would be little changed from last year. It had previously forecast growth of 20-30 per cent. Seven per cent was wiped off its share value, the maximum allowed in a single day. It came on the back of reports last week that PC sales fell 11.4 per cent in Western Europe over the last quarter and netbook sales crashed 40 per cent. Meanwhile on Wednesday US tablet sales painted a damning picture with HP revealed as the second largest tablet seller thanks to a firesale of the failedTouchPad. Excluding Apple HP took 17 per cent of the market ahead of Samsung (16 per cent), Asus (10 per cent), Motorola and Acer (both nine per cent). Between them they had sold just 1.2m tablets between January and October. As for Ultrabooks, deemed tablets’ biggest rival, the new category is said to be doomed without a 25 per cent price cut.



Even tech untouchable Apple is not immune. In October it announced Q4 results analysts deemed disappointing and for the first time missed iPhone sales targets. Apple has countered this by bringing its long time US-only Thanksgiving ‘Black Friday’ sales to a global audience with its 24 hour reductions yesterday hoping to stoke demand. That said with Apple CEO Tim Cook claiming “strong momentum going into the holiday season” come January it is likely to be the exception that proves the rule. So what is going on? Continue reading


D-Link DIR-645 SmartBeam router

November 21, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Home full of WiFi blackspots? D-Link has found a breakthrough technology to boost 802.11n.

  • By Gordon Kelly
  • 21 November 2011

Overall 9/10


  • 802.11n/g/b WiFi
  • SmartBeam smart targetting WiFi technology
  • Six antennas
  • WEP 64/128-bit, WPA/WPA2 and WPS security
  • IPv6 ready
  • DLNA certified

Pros & Cons


  • SmartBeam significantly improves WiFi range & performance
  • Stylish & practical design
  • Intuitive setup & graphical user interface
  • Well priced


  • Single band limits multiple user wireless streaming

Last month we reviewed the D-Link DIR-657, a router filled with proprietary tricks to get around the ever more limiting factors of 802.11n WiFi. It didn’t work and felt like the final proof that you can’t teach an old standard new tricks. Turns out we gave up a few days too soon…

With the ‘DIR-645’ D-Link is back for more and this time it comes wielding yet another new technology, ‘SmartBeam’. Whereas most proprietary router technology focuses on prioritising important traffic over a network, SmartBeam is different. It uses no less than six multidirectional antennas which don’t throw out wireless signal as a scattergun approach, but instead track and lock onto connected devices focusing beams in their direction. Think Top Gun minus the testosterone… and planes… and missiles.


D-Link claims SmartBeam is a genuine breakthrough in addressing the range and (by association) speed problems of 802.11n, boasting “strong and stable Internet connection in every corner of your house”. The company must be confident too since it hasn’t included any of its previous bandwidth optimising technologies, including ‘HD Fuel‘ seen in the DIR-657. D-Link has also gone against the grain by opting not to make the DIR-645 dual band. Consequently the shorter range, higher performance 5GHz band is excluded in order to focus all six antennas on maximising the travel of 2.4GHz.

This isn’t the only risk D-Link has taken. The DIR-657 also looks like no conventional router and its piano black cylindrical design is akin to a Pringles tube designed by Dark Vader. That said this is a compliment. D-Link is unclear on whether the cylindrical shape has any bearing on wireless performance, but it looks striking and the circular base has greater stability than traditional sideways balanced rectangular routers which require a separate clip on base just to stay upright. Style and practicality one, legacy nil. Continue reading

 Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

Hamstrung: Why Google Music & iTunes Match Give Rivals A Chance

November 21, 2011 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Could the lack of streaming services from the tech giants actually prove a good thing?

Why Google Music & iTunes Match Give Rivals A Chance

We all remember the big announcement: after months of hype, rumour mongering and tip offs from innumerable shady sources everything became official. We were disappointed, it was just like the last one. Yes there were some internal differences, but ultimately from the outside it looked exactly the same as what came before and little to get excited about. No we’re not talking about the iPhone 4S, but the launch of Google Music.

Google’s “turn it up to 11” event on Wednesday night didn’t so much reach Spinal Tap-esque proportions, as squeeze to levels where your mum might comment “dear, could you turn it down a bit?” The reason was clear: another me-too Cloud Locker with a newly added download service felt wholly archaic for the long time purveyor of a life lead and located online. Where was the streaming service, the Spotify rival? Heck couldn’t Google have bought Spotify, and if the likes of Spotify and Napster had the muscle to strike streaming deals with the major record labels why couldn’t Google? The answer may just be: because it has no choice.

Streaming is currently the fashionable service of our time. Whether audio or video it offers an immediate, low cost way to expand our entertainment knowledge beyond our wildest dreams. In the case of music it makes our listening habits more transient, never dwelling, always moving us forward to the next album, artist, playlist or friend’s link. It is consumerism at its most consuming and for Google, as it has so far proved for Apple and Amazon, getting involved is proving a step too far.
The vast majority of us will remember a time before widespread digital music. We bought vinyl, CDs and cassettes in comparatively small numbers and listened to the same purchase over and over again. We got value for money, drove friends and family mad and could name every song on an album and sing every track. We proclaimed it was only after a certain number of listens that you could fully appreciate the album we had just bought, whether it was true or not. Only when thoroughly digested did we move onto the next purchase. Continue reading


Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

Pasce Minirig

November 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Let’s face it, travel speakers are usually rubbish, but what about a 400g travel speaker with 15W output, 60 hour battery life and an anodised aluminium construction to deal with the rough and tumble? Now we’re talking…


Pasce Minirig speaker review

17 November 11
Wired Rating


Wired: Exceptional volume and sound quality, compact design, premium build quality, class redefining battery life and a low price make the Pasce Minirig the portable speaker to beat. A remarkable first product

Tired: The absence of wireless streaming may disappoint some

Price: £85

“How did you get into that?” It is probably the question I get asked most when people find out I review gadgets for a living. The truth is, much like movie critics who have to watch everything, gadget reviewing isn’t always as fun as it sounds. Major products are typically impressive and no-name brands usually rubbish. Instead, the real enjoyment comes when your expectations are blown out the water.

Pasce is a one-man British company selling one product” a portable speaker called the Minirig. It recently went on sale after three years of development and I believe it will come to redefine what we think is possible from affordable, portable audio. Why? Four main reasons.

Build quality.
At first glance the Minirig looks familiar. The cylindrical form factor is popular (it allows a speaker to fit the base) and the metallic finish suggests another Apple-wannabe. The metallic finish is actually a single machined piece of anodised aluminium, while rings at the top and bottom are hardwearing polycarbonate carved with the Minirig moniker.These are top-quality build materials atypical of the cheap plastic components which partly give portable speakers their poor reputation.

Attention to detail.
Look closely at the Minirig and you will notice something unusual: three vertically aligned inputs. In the middle is the power socket, while the top and bottom are two 3.5mm jacks. The top is high gain, the bottom low gain. The bottom is therefore for general use with a high signal-to-noise ratio, while the top enables maximum volume to be attained from devices with underwhelming output such as small MP3 players. It also allows multiple Minirigs to be chained together, in this configuration automatic detection switches either jack to high gain.

Furthermore there is no power switch. Simply unplug the Minirig and it switches off, plug it in and it switches on. Meanwhile a colourful LED transitions from green to blue, purple then red as battery life drains (more on this later). Continue reading

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

Flash, It Saved Everyone of Us

November 12, 2011 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Why the beginning of the end for Flash should be respected, not celebrated.

Flash, It Saved Everyone of Us

Flash – a-ah – saviour of the universe
Flash – a-ah – he’ll save everyone of us
Flash – a-ah – he’s a miracle
Flash – a-ah – king of the impossible

-Queen, lyrics – Flash (1980)
Steve Jobs must be smiling somewhere. That was the common reaction to the news this week that Adobe is killing off development of mobile Flash. A second was to celebrate, jump around like a lunatic and a sing ‘Ding Dong the Witch is Dead‘. We’d suggest a third: quiet respect – would be far more appropriate.”Our future work with Flash on mobile devices will be focused on enabling Flash developers to package native apps with Adobe AIR for all the major app stores,” revealed sources close to Adobe when speaking with ZDNet. “We will no longer adapt Flash Player for mobile devices to new browser, OS version or device configurations. Some of our source code licensees may opt to continue working on and releasing their own implementations. We will continue to support the current Android and PlayBook configurations with critical bug fixes and security updates.”


The shock here is the speed with which Adobe has changed its stance. Responding to Jobs’famously critical open letter towards Flash in April last year, Adobe said it was convinced it “could provide a terrific experience with Flash on the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch” and would bring “Flash Player and AIR to all the other major participants in the mobile ecosystem.” Two months later Adobe unveiled the release version of ‘Flash Player for Mobile’. 17 months later it is dead. HP has taken longer to massacre webOS.

This all seems very strange for a company which, to this day, still crows that Flash Player is used on 85 per cent of the top 100 websites, is responsible for 75 per cent of all web video, is relied upon by 98 per cent of enterprises and is installed on 98 per cent of PCs, not to mention the three million active Flash platform developers or that 19 of the top 20 device manufacturers worldwide have committed to shipping Flash technology on their devices (stats here). There is good reason for these figures: Flash was brilliant. Thinking otherwise is like dismissing the role Shakespeare played in the eBooks your read on your Kindle.  Continue reading

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

Sony Ericsson Xperia Active

November 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Keep fit and healthy with a smartphone that proves size matters less than style and smarts.


Sony Ericsson Xperia Active

Maria Sharapova doesn’t have much luck with phones. She was the famous face of Motorola during the latter years of the ill-fated RAZR reign before switching allegiance to struggling Sony Ericsson during a time when it produced wave after wave of feature phones while smartphones flourished.

That said, 2011 has seen both Sharapova and Sony Ericsson find focus and form and with Sharapova fronting the campaign for the new Android-powered Xperia Active, both should have another smash on their hands.

As the name suggests the ‘Active’ is targeting the more energetic members of society and it does this in a number of clever ways. Out of the box, the most apparent of these is size. At just 92 x 55mm the Active has a surprisingly small footprint compared to today’s monstrous handsets, though a ruggedized exterior means it is a hefty 16mm thick.

This gives the Active an Xperia Mini-esque ‘small-but-chunky’ appearance, though its build quality far exceeds the Mini with a tasteful rubberised rear, toughened metal rim and wholly touch-sensitive home, back and context keys. At 110.8g there isn’t a great weight penalty to be paid either, suggesting the premise for the Active is to be pocket friendly and withstand the elements, but that is only the start. Continue reading

The Breakthrough In Britain’s 4G Broadband Bedlam

November 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

We expose the chaos in Britain’s move to 4G services and see light at the end of the tunnel…

The Breakthrough In Britain’s 4G Broadband Bedlam

When Britain held its 3G auction in April 2000 it was one of the first European countries to do so, when it holds its 4G auction in mid-2012 it will be one of the last. The 12 year gap has seen Britain slip from mobile innovator to also ran at a time when the economy is in the toilet and always connected portable devices are at the heart of modern business crucial to its recovery. So what was behind this fall from grace and this week are we finally getting somewhere?

There are two short answers to both these questions: infighting and yes – both are fundamentally interdependent. The stakes have never been higher. What the 4G auction represents is Britain’s online future for at least the next 10 years. 80 per cent more spectrum is up for grabs than the 3G sale more than a decade ago. Amongst it are 60MHz and 140MHz ‘two-way’ chunks in the 800MHz and 2,600MHz ranges respectively (each allows simultaneous sending and receiving of data) along with a further 50MHz in the 2,600MHz range which is one way only.

While all of it can host 4G (in itself a misnamed term), capable of delivering initial speeds of between 100 – 160Mbit, the jewel in the crown is the 800MHz band previously used to broadcast analogue TV. Unlike the spectrum used for current UK 3G services, this band travels easily through walls and has a greater range – factors which also allow for fast deployment (and therefore a faster return on investment) since fewer masts are required. So far so good.

Where things break down, however, are finance, fair play and history. Continue reading

ACS T15 Universal Fit Monitors

November 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

If you’ve always wanted premium earphones, but couldn’t afford/justify the cost now there’s no excuse…


ACS T15 Universal Fit Monitors

Reviewed by Gordon Kelly (for TrustedReviews)
02 November 2011



Scores in detail

Design & Features
Sound Quality


  • Small, lightweight design
  • Kevlar bonded durable cable
  • Silicon soft moulded tips
  • Single driver
  • Bundled hard shell travelling case

Pros & Cons


  • Small design makes for comfortable, light and secure fit
  • Class leading audio performance combines bass and accuracy
  • Premium cable is durable & eliminates cable noise


  • Be nice to have a mic option
  • Non modular cable



Despite dividing millions of impassioned audiophiles, earphones hide a dark secret: many of their components are virtually identical. As such where the real magic happens is in the applied sound signature, the fit and any other extras you may want, and it is here we find a new affordable champion…

The ‘T15’ is made by ACS, the company behind the remarkable 10 out of 10 T2 custom IEM. The T15 represents two firsts for the company, namely it is the first time ACS has made an earphone that is relatively affordable for the mass market and it is also the first time ACS has offered an earphone with a universal fit. These seem strange risks to take for a company famed for no compromise audio and unique soft silicon custom moulds, but they are risks which look set to pay off in spectacular style.

Unpack the T15 and the earpieces aren’t much to look at. This is a compliment. Unlike so many earphones which have become akin to pushing lead bananas into your ears, the T15 earpieces are tiny. They weigh just 11g a piece and measure 15mm long. This means the majority of each earphone can fit right into your ear so their weight holds them in rather than hanging outside pulling them out. This makes them particularly good for runners and regular gym goers. The fit will also be sufficiently unobtrusive for some that, like the T2 and even the dedicated bedphones, the T15 can be worn side on against a pillow or train/plane seat.

In addition, while ACS supplies a range of different tips, what really stands out is its tweak of the classic triple flange design (a style many consumers we encounter normally like the least). Leveraging its custom expertise ACS has made the flange from the same medical grade silicon it uses in its high end monitors. This not only makes the tip softer and more comfortable than any other flange tips we’ve tried, but it moulds more tightly to the individual shape of your ear canal. The result is good noise isolation (-26dB) and improved bass response, which can be a little light with the single flange tips. We also rather like the addition of a tab at the back of the tip to make it easier to remove the ‘phones. Continue reading


Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings.