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House of Marley Bag of Rhythm iPhone/iPod dock

March 26, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

 

The House of Marley enters the hugely competitive dock sector. Could you be loved?

Reviewed by Gordon Kelly (for TrustedReviews)
25 March 2012

Price as reviewed £299.99

Overall 6/10

Key Features

  • 40W 2.0 Speaker System
  • Carry handles
  • 3.5mm auxiliary jack
  • D Cell Battery Powered
  • Up to six hours battery life

Celebrity endorsed products come in for a lot of abuse from audiophiles, but it is impossible to ignore their value in reaching a wider audience and educating them about the benefits of superior sound quality. At the forefront of these brands is The House of Marley, founded by the family of reggae legend Bob Marley, which releases audio products it claims are founded upon his same environmental and philanthropic beliefs. To date it has proved a hugely successful combination.
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The Bag of Rhythm is The House of Marley’s first iPod/iPhone dock and, as could be expected, it is unmistakeably unique.  No doubt launched to cash in with the arrival of summer, the Bag of Rhythm, more than any other dock we’ve seen recently, pushes its role as a portable sound system in the mould of yesteryear’s ghetto blasters. To (literally) carry this off the dock is wholly contained in an earthy canvass bag with hand and shoulder carry handles. This fits snugly, clipping to the dock with popper buttons and there are holes to avoid blocking the power port and bass output. Further pushing its claims for an outdoor life are useful pockets on both sides and a khaki colour scheme with numerous inevitable references to the Rastafarian flag.

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As for the dock itself it looks somewhat like a skateboard attached to bongos and continues the naturalistic outdoor theme. The top surface is birch, the enclosure made from recycled plastic and notably the speakers are ceiling-facing, which assumes it will be positioned below you on the ground. Connectivity is kept to a minimum with just a 3.5mm auxiliary jack, no wireless (Bluetooth or AirPlay) and a snug iPhone/iPod dock that stops a connected device from falling out on the move (though excludes iPads). Controls are kept to a minimum too with only power, volume up and volume down buttons.

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Batteries keep the Bag of Rhythm playing on the move. It swallows no less than six D cell batteries (not included), which The House of Marley says will last up to six hours. What is worth noting is the weight these batteries add. The shoulder strap makes the Bag of Rhythm relatively easy to carry, but at 6.8kg and roughly 100-150g per battery (depending on its type) you are looking at a product of around 7.5kg.

So what about the audio itself? 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 gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

iRobot Roomba 780

March 22, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

 

The first robot vacuum to truly deserve its title? Yes indeed. 

Price as reviewed £449.00

Overall 8/10

Key Features

  • iAdapt navigation system
  • Compatible with all floor types
  • Under 10cm tall
  • Scheduling
  • Cliff detect
  • Auto docking
  • HEPA filter
  • Soft touch bumpers

How busy are you, really? If you are considering spending the best part of £500 on a device to assist with the vacuuming then the obvious riposte would be to suggest you take a long, hard look in the mirror. The surprising news, however, is in this case you may come away from it smiling.

iRobot has been in the robot vacuuming business since 2000 and the ‘Roomba 780′ is the company’s latest and greatest. After selling 7.5m units worldwide over the last 12 years the circular form factor is well known, but much of what is inside the 780 is brand new.

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The 780 is the flagship of iRobot’s new top of the line 700 series and core to this is the upgraded iAdapt navigation system. This monitors the surrounding area making 64 checks per second to both track its way around objects and to gradually learn the complete layout of its cleaning environment. The result is the 780 can then apply the most relevant cleaning motion to each space, be it long sweeps, circular motions when detecting dirt heavy spots (iRobot calls this ‘Persistent Pass Cleaning’) or free form movement around cluttered or small spaces.
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Of these iRobot is keen to stress the ‘Dirt Detect Series 2′ technology inside the 780. To improve pick up it uses an acoustic sensor to detect excessive amounts of small and hard debris (such as sand) and an optical sensor to detect larger and soft debris (such as popcorn). Also new is an ‘AeroVac Series 2′ bag-less bin with easy release (dirt is simply tipped out once removed) and the addition of a common sense full bin indicator. You will likely need to empty this more regularly since the 780 has new power management software which iRobot claims will provide up to 50 per cent longer battery life than previous generations. As such a single cleaning session lasts approximately 90 minutes.

This is just the start of the technology designed to keep your lazy backside on the sofa. Continue reading

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NAD VISO 1 Wireless Digital Music System

March 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

 

NAD’s first Apple dock is stylish and sounds great, but is that enough?

Reviewed by Gordon Kelly (for TrustedReviews)
16 March 2012

Overall 8/10

Price as reviewed £499.99

Key Features

  • 80W output (1x 50W sub, 2x 15W speakers)
  • Direct Digital onboard amplifier
  • Bluetooth aptX
  • Locking, rotationing Apple connector
  • Output audio input, Component video output

Hi-Fis are out, docks are in. This may be a sweeping statement, but the addition of yet another high end audio specialist into the sector only adds further proof. For 40 years NAD has been a standout name amongst audiophiles and it has now joined the likes of Bowers & Wilkins, Arcam, Monitor Audio and more by entering the incredibly competitive sector of Apple docks.
94 0000229d2 e40f orh616w616 NAD VISO 1 iPod Music System NAD VISO 1 Wireless Digital Music SystemLike its peers NAD has stuck to what it knows best, pitching the ‘Viso 1′ at the premium end of the market. This approach becomes clear before you switch the dock on. Out of the box it delivers a sense of déjà vu, yet somehow has a look all its own. NAD describes the Viso 1 as a ‘ring design’, referring to the silver band around it which contains the Apple connector. This is clearly inspired by the Zeppelin Air, but when combined with its tubular shape creates a dock that is stylish in its own right and delightfully different.

Build quality is similarly impressive, successfully blending the piano black finish of the rear with the matt speaker covering and brushed aluminium ring. NAD takes pleasure in showing how the Viso 1 was put together too with the exposed screw at the top of the ring almost daring us to reach for our screwdrivers. Meanwhile the Apple connector itself has an industrial feel, sliding open to accept the iPhone/iPod before closing back down to hold it securely. This needs to be done as the connector can rotate 90 degrees allowing devices to be used in landscape mode. The genius of the ring design is it allows comfortable use of the device while connected, the sizeable downside is it means an iPad won’t fit.

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Connectivity continues this theme and smart hit and bizarre miss. A considerable hit is the addition of component video output which allows 480p and 576p iPhone/iPod videos to be sent to an HDTV while the Viso 1 plays the sound track. There is also an optical digital input which accepts up to 24/96k music from external devices like a TV, disc player or media streamer turning it into a sound bar. Meanwhile a microUSB port is used for updating the firmware. Given this goes beyond the usual array of dock connectivity it is all the more surprising NAD has neglected to include an auxiliary 3.5mm jack. This is by far the most common connector on any music device and will leave non-Apple product owners scratching their heads.
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NAD does have an alternative: ‘aptX’. Continue reading
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HP Folio 13 Ultrabook

March 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews


The Folio 13 is a strong Ultrabook entrant with great battery life.

Price as reviewed £849.99

Overall 8/10

Key Features

  • Intel Core i5-2467M CPU
  • 4 GB 1333 MHz DDR3 SDRAM
  • 128GB SSD
  • 13.3in LED-backlit 1366 x 768 display
  • 18mm thick, 1.5Kg
  • Blacklit keyboard

While we have established Intel’s Ultrabook specification is enforced common sense, it is remarkable how many manufacturers have still failed to maximise its potential. Poor touchpads, substandard keyboards and, worst of all, poor TN-panel screens have been notable low points for products designed to bring sex appeal back to the humble laptop. Thankfully HP has been paying more attention in class…

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The ‘Folio 13′ is HP’s first Ultrabook and comes to market a number of months behind its rivals. However, out of the box it isn’t immediately obvious where the additional time has been spent. The Folio jumps through all Intel’s hoops – Sandy Bridge chipset, 18mm maximum thickness, over five hours battery life and hibernation resumption in under seven seconds – but it doesn’t have an immediate wow factor. This isn’t to say the Folio is ugly, far from it, but the mixture of spirit level straight lines and the colour balance between black and silver lacks the immediate pizzazz of some rivals.

The beauty of the Folio, however, is it is a grower. Look closer and the blacks all match, and HP has used the same brushed aluminium finish everywhere. What’s more the build quality is exceptional. The Folio screen hinge is strong yet opens and closes with minimum effort, the isolated keyboard is firm yet tactile with spill resistant, with keys that offer just enough travel to make long typing sessions comfortable.

94 000022911 c3b5 orh616w616 HP Folio 131 HP Folio 13 Ultrabook

Furthermore HP has taken time to think about the connectivity, avoiding the frustrating mini ports seen on many rivals and cramming in full size Gigabit Ethernet and HDMI along with one USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports and a combo headphone/microphone jack. Like a partner with a great personality, such common sense thinking quickly raises the Folio above the sum of its parts.

HP hasn’t skimped on the other Ultrabook prerequisites either. Continue reading

 

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Three Web Cube

March 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

 

Broadband in a box. A saviour for sufferers of slow fixed line broadband connections?

Reviewed by  (for TrustedReviews)12 March 2012

Price as reviewed £59.99

Overall 7/10

Key Features

  • HSPA+ 21.1Mbps
  • Max 5 Connected Devices
  • Initial Leeds, Glasgow, Edinburgh focus
  • Pre-pay or contract data bundles

The launch of the new iPad highlighted one thing in particular to UK consumers: the country’s continued lack of LTE, which is now unlikely to arrive before the end of 2013. LTE remains a dream for many smartphone and laptop owners, but even more so for those suffering fixed line broadband woes all over the country. So bad are these for many that a high quality 3G network could actually still be a relative saviour.

Step forward the Web Cube. Made by Huawei and sold by data friendly network Three, it aims to improve the lives of those either a) hindered by slow fixed line broadband speeds, or b) looking to break dependency from a fixed telephone line completely. The concept is simple: plug the ‘Cube’ into a power socket, connect to the WiFi hotspot it creates and enjoy the ‘up to’ 21.1Mbit HSPA 3G speeds it provides. So is the reality any more complicated?

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Life would be boring if we dealt in absolutes, and once again we fall back on a familiar answer: yes and no, but it does make a super first impression. Unpack the Web Cube and two things immediately draw attention. Firstly the Web Cube almost exactly lives up to its name measuring 100 x 100 x 95mm, and secondly it pays a stylish homage to Apple’s legendary iMac G3. Much like Apple’s transparent racing helmet-esque desktop, the Web Cube also offers a cloudy look through to its internals and is finished off with a tasteful white top and bottom. In short if Web Cube stands out against your home furnishings then it is your decorative skills that are at fault.

Beyond the styling the Web Cube is well thought out. Away from a tattoo-style Three logo and branding on the top, this surface also doubles as a signal indicator showing one to three bars of network signal strength. Two removable slots on the sides of the white top pull away to expose a reset button and a sim card slot.

Things get no more complex when it comes to setup. Continue reading

 

 

KnowHow Movies

March 9, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

 

Dixons and PC World owner DSG is talking the fight to Netflix and LoveFilm.

Price as reviewed - PAYG (rental from £2.99, purchase from £5.99)

Overall - 7/10

Key Features

  • Full HD 1080p video streaming
  • 5.1 Surround Sound audio
  • Register 5 devices per account
  • No Subscription required

In a week where BT and TalkTalk lost their second high court appeal against the Digital Economy Act and the Game of Thrones season one Blu-ray went on sale nine months after the show ended it has once again highlighted the need for better online video services. DSG Group thinks it has the answer…

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‘KnowHow Movies’ is the brainchild of the Dixons and PC World owner and it aims to go head-to-head with established players like Netflix and LoveFilm. The service was announced last week and launched just a few days ago. As such content remains limited (more of which later), but the business model is compelling: no subscription, pay as you go movies and TV to rent or download, content added on the day of release and playback on up to five devices per user account.

The kicker: DSG aims to bundle KnowHow Movies content and credit with everything from smart TVs to PCs, phones and tablets. With 600 stores nationwide, 19 million customers and sales of over 4.5m connected devices each year DSG may well have the clout to make it work. So the promise is there, but is it any good?

In a word: potentially, so let’s start with the positives. Continue reading

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Belkin ScreenCast WiDi Adaptor

March 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

 

Bring wireless HDMI to any TV when this adaptor is combined with an Intel WiDi laptop.

Price as reviewed £89.99

Overall 7/10

Key Features

  • Wireless HD video streaming
  • 1080p Full HD capable
  • Delivers 5.1 surround sound
  • Plug and play setup
  • HDCP 2.0 copy protection compatible
Intel’s wireless display (WiDi) technology is not new. It was first announced in January at CES 2010, but it took a full 18 months for the first products to hit the market. Hindering things further WiDi was only compatible with Intel’s latest Sandy Bridge chipset leaving the vast majority of PCs incompatible. Fast forward to an Ultrabook laden 2012 however and WiDi is suddenly worth revisiting.
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F7D4501 hi res 1024x641 Belkin ScreenCast WiDi AdaptorWhere the Belkin ScreenCast comes in is as a conduit. WiDi compatible laptops may not be mainstream, but with the first WiDi integrated TVs still to arrive (LG will be first in mid 2012) the ScreenCast works as an adaptor to make WiDi compatible with any existing television. It sounds like a simple role, but the elegance with which Belkin has carried it off deserves great credit.
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Open the ScreenCast and the first surprise is how small it is. Belkin has created a device which is little larger than a paperback novel and roughly the same weight. Despite this the ScreenCast has all the connections needed: power, an HDMI port and RCA for those further behind the technological curve. The front right of the ScreenCast glows orange when in standby and turns green when on and the tasteful black finish matches well with the ongoing fad for piano black AV equipment. Interestingly the Screencast doesn’t need a remote control because it automatically switches between on and standby when the correct TV input is selected and all other control comes directly from the PC streaming the content.
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As far as the streaming goes, WiDi uses 802.11g/n WiFi and marries it with dual band wireless (2.4 and 5GHz) to create the maximum possible bandwidth. WiDi supports 1080p video, Dolby Digital  5.1 Surround Sound and HDCP 2.0 in order to meet copyright standards for wireless streaming from Blu-ray discs.
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Setup is a breeze. Continue reading
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The Paperless Office: Why it never happened

March 6, 2012 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

 

We’ve been talking about the paperless office for decades, so why is it still just a dream?

The Paperless Office: Why it never happened

Written by Gordon Kelly (for ITProPortal)

In 2012 the global demand for paper is expected to exceed 400 million tons for the first time. Before recycling this equates to 7.2 billion trees, after recycling it still tops four billion trees and eliminates an area the size of Croatia. Remarkably this landmark will be set against a background of flourishing digital media, economic downturn and increasing pressure to live in an environmentally friendly manner. It is a damning situation: try as we might, we just can’t break our addiction to paper.

1 The Paperless Office: Why it never happened

Nearly 40 years ago this scenario was seemingly unimaginable. Speaking in Business Week in 1975 Vincent E. Giuliano of Arthur D. Little Inc, the world’s oldest management consultancy firm, predicted the use of paper would rapidly decline by 1980 “and by 1990, most record-handling will be electronic.” His comments came in an article entitled ‘The Office of the Future‘ under a subsection called ‘The Paperless Office’. It is thought to be the first time this ominous phrase was used.

A Changing Vision

The notion of ditching paper spread like wildfire and pouring petrol onto the flames was technology. The idea wasn’t new. As far back as 1945 American engineer Vannevar Bush theorised about the memex machine (a portmanteau of ‘memory’ and ‘index’), which individuals would use to store their books, records and communications. It would provide an “enlarged intimate supplement to one’s memory… a sort of mechanized private file and library. It would use microfilm storage, dry photography, and analog [sic] computing to give post war scholars access to a huge, indexed repository of knowledge-any section of which could be called up with a few keystrokes.”

Bush famously went much further in his essay ‘As We May Think‘, predicting the concept of the Internet, search and even Wikipedia. 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 gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

AOC d2357Ph Passive 3D Monitor

March 6, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

 

An ultra thin, 23in, Full HD 3D monitor for £200 sounds like a great deal, but do you really need that extra dimension?

Price as reviewed £205.00

Overall 7/10

Key Features

  • Polarised 3D panel
  • Full HD (1920 x 1080) native resolution
  • Dual HDMI Input
  • 2D to 3D conversion
  • 2ms response time
  • Integrated speakers, headphone jack

AOC d2357Ph Passive 3D Monitor

Following the release of its stunning i2353Fh, AOC appears to have hit a hot streak, but there is no easier way to push your luck than to release a display touting 3D…

Ignoring the warning signs is the ‘d2357Ph’, a 23in ‘Full HD’ 1920 x 1080 pixel monitor announced just last week. AOC has chosen to go down the passive 3D route and supplies both a pair of passive 3D glasses and clip on lenses for those already wearing their own prescription spectacles.

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First things first, however, because taking the d2357Ph out of its box delivers an immediate sense of déjà vu. Not only is the model number very similar to the i2353Fh, but it has also come from the same, waifish, minimalist design school as its predecessor. This is a good thing and the d2357Ph improves upon it further by using matching build materials along with a consistent pseudo brushed aluminium finish. The panel itself is also similarly thin at just 10.6mm while the ‘frameless’ bezel measures a mere 5.8mm on three sides.
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Where the d2357Ph branches off in a new direction is the stand. The i2353Fh put its connectivity in the base which could also fold up to become a VESA wall mount, but the d2357Ph has a different trick. Impressive connectivity (dual HDMI, VGA and headphone jacks plus an audio out) is located on the rear of the monitor (which widens base of the panel to 38mm) and the stand itself comes in two parts. Cleverly the neck can support the monitor on its own to create a flush, picture frame-esque look while a more traditional arrangement exists when clipped into its base. The d2357Ph feels secure in either position, though we expect the latter to be more useful to most people.
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The compromise is… Continue reading

 

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