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Genelec 8020B Bi-Amplified Speaker System

October 31, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Semi-professional speakers for the audiophile not prepared to break the bank.

Score 9/10
Review Price £580.00

Pros
Powered design means no separate amps needed
Stunning, size-defying audio performance
Smart, rugged, minimalist design
Expandable to 5.1 setup
Value for money

Cons
XLR connectors likely mean you’ll need new cables

Key Features: Twin amps for bass and treble drivers; 4in bass, 3/4in treble drivers; 65 Hz – 21 kHz frequency response; 242 x 151 x 142mm, 3.7Kg each; XLR analog in; Optional 7050B subwoofer

It has always been difficult to measure where the audio enthusiast’s needs end and professional requirements begin and the line is getting ever more blurry. In September we reviewed the Genelec 6010A speaker system, its entry level model and the only one it actively pushes to consumers. Its performance was astonishing and very well priced, but what about those audiophiles keen to take another step up the Genelec ladder?

The answer is the Genelec 8020B, another bi-amplified ‘active’ speaker positioned directly above the Genelec 6010A but with substantial improvements across the board in terms of power, frequency and bass response. It also pairs specifically with the Genelec 7050B, a completely different sub with virtually twice the output of the 5040A used with the Genelec 6010A. Yes as single step-ups go, the specification jump from the 6010A to the Genelec 8020B is about as big as they come and one which again throws into the spotlight the question of where the overlap between enthusiasts and professionals breaks down.

Design
Interestingly for a predominantly professional company Genelec has a strong emphasis on unified design and as such the Genelec 8020B is like a larger Russian doll of its smaller sibling. This means the same Adipose-esque design with rounded corners, rubberised feet, super tough die-cast aluminium construction and choice of matt white or black finishes are used. That said there is no mistaking the two as given the size and weight leap from the 6010A’s tiny 195 x 121 x 114mm and 1.4Kg to the Genelec 8010B’s still relatively compact 242 x 151 x 142mm and 3.7Kg.

Meanwhile the difference in the optional sub is even greater with the circular marshmallow-inspired design of the 5040A giving way to the more industrial, rectangular look of the 7050B. Here the size and weight differences are even more apparent with the 5040A measuring a living room friendly 251 x 305mm and weighing 6.5Kg while the 7050 is a hefty 410 x 350 x 319mm and whopping 18Kg. Again for so-called ‘prosumers’ it is worth bearing in mind this is the smallest step up Genelec offers from the entry level 6010A in a range which extends to concert rigs.


Performance
In the speaker world it is often proclaimed that size matters, so does it translate here? The answer is: by the bucket load. In terms of raw specifications, the Genelec 8020B doesn’t actually produce vastly louder audio than the 6010A, increasing just 2dB to 95dB per speaker – a still window-shaking level. Where the improvements come, however, are in the projection of that sound through significantly bolstered bass (20W vs 12W) and treble (20W vs 12W) drivers as well as a wider frequency range of 65Hz – 21kHz opposed to 73Hz – 21kHz.

For the listener the end result is noticeable primarily at distance with sumptuous lows, mids and highs that would fill even the largest of residential home spaces and in a 2.0 configuration the 8020B will satisfy all the needs of most audiophiles. Add in the 7050B and the 8020B transforms into a rumbling, snarling beast with the sub offering a further 100dB via a 70W, 8-inch active driver with super-wide 25 – 120Hz frequency response. This is a sample, to read the full review @ TrustedReviews which looks further at perform, value for money and gives a final verdict click here

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. 

The Best Windows 8 Accessories

October 31, 2012 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

 In the run up to Windows 8’s 26 October release we look at the best to date…

You might have read: Windows 8 is different. Version eight of Microsoft’s dominant computer platform is the most radical advance of the operating system to date. The big news is the addition of a finger friendly touchscreen interface Microsoft is calling the ‘modern UI’. Computers will still have access to the familiar Windows desktop, but the modern UI will remain prominent and it will be the dominant interface for Intel tablets and the only interface available to ARM-based tablets.

As such it pays to make the most of the modern UI and since Windows 8 will run as fast, if not faster, than Windows 7 on the same hardware adding peripherals that make the most of it is a relatively modest investment compared to changing PC. In the run up to Windows 8’s 26 October release we looks at the best to date…

 

Logitech Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad T650 – £69.99

It may be the first, but Logitech’s multi-touch capable trackpad certainly won’t be the last in what is expected to become an extremely popular peripheral with Windows 8. The T650 sets a high bar. Build quality is excellent with an ultra-smooth glass touch surface that is both fingerprint and scratch-resistant.

Gesture support is extensive with one, two, three and even four finger gestures supported which include a three finger vertical swipe to access the Windows 8 start screen and one finger swipes from the left and right edges to switch applications or access the Charms bar respectively. Meanwhile four finger gestures maximise/minimise windows and snap them left and right. In a carryover from smartphones, pinch zooming is supported as well.

We like how responsive the T650 is and that gestures can also be customised. Battery life is limited lasting just month between charges, but the battery is integrated and can be charged via micro USB. The bundled Logitech dongle is also tiny allowing it to remain connected at all times and it supports up to five Logitech wireless devices. At £70 the T650 is not an impulse buy, but we doubt you’ll regret the outlay.

SCORE: 4 STARS

Microsoft Wedge Mobile Keyboard – £80

A companion product to the Wedge Touch Mouse, the Wedge Mobile Keyboard follows in the footsteps of its namesake with Bluetooth-only connectivity and an ultra portable form factor. Like the Wedge Touch Mouse it is also beautifully made and deceptively enjoyable to use, despite these shrunken dimensions.

Primarily designed for use with Windows 8 tablets, the Wedge Touch Keyboard is full of Windows 8 shortcuts including search, programming switching, access to the Charms bar and settings. It also comes with a smart cover which doubles up as a stand for your tablet – clever. As a Wedge Touch Mouse counterpart it also maintains the same premium build quality and materials.

The trouble is the price. At £80 it is substantially more than most high end, full-size desktop keyboards. If you want the best mobile keyboard this is it, but a mice and keyboard combo that potentially costs as much as a cheap tablet is something that may make you think twice.

SCORE: 3 ½ STARS

Logitech Bluetooth Illuminated Keyboard K810 – £89.99

Predictably Logitech does battle with Microsoft here as well as both companies dominate early Windows 8 accessories, but its K810 keyboard has a completely different approach to Microsoft’s Wedge. Like the Wedge it has a premium metallic finish, connects via Bluetooth and reduces its size by eliminating the number pad. That said the K810 is significantly larger and designed to work with multiple products simultaneously.

The K810 will pair with up to three devices, for example, a Windows PC, Windows 8 tablet and Windows Phone and toggles between them at the flip of a switch. It is also compatible with Android. Furthermore the K810 illuminates in low light and the isolation keyboard is suited to touch typing. Against this are a one week battery life and the fact the K810 is primarily designed to be at home rather than thrown in a bag.

The £90 asking price is steep too, but its multifunctional role does mean you can replace all your keyboards with one top notch model.

SCORE: 4 STARS

This is a sample, to read further reviews of the Logitech Touch Mouse T620, Microsoft Wedge Touch Mouse and Microsoft Wedge Touch Mouse in my feature for MSN Social Voices click here

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. 

Why I Love & Hate Windows 8

October 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Windows 8 is amazing but also immensely frustrating at the same time…

So the Windows 8 release date has been and gone, in our Windows 8 review it walked away with a Recommended Award and for those still confused about Microsoft’s most ambitious version of Windows to date you can read our launch guide FAQ. But as with so many purchases, it’s ultimately how Windows 8 makes you feel that’s most important and for me it’s a love and hate thing.

I’ve been running Windows 8 for some time now and I wouldn’t go back to Windows 7 because there are numerous aspects I wouldn’t want to live without. Then again, as the title suggests, there are also many things that are incredibly irritating too. So as I go through the main reasons for both perhaps it will help you decide whether Window’s latest upgrade is for you or not.


LOVE
It’s Windows 7 v2.0
For all the hype surrounding the Modern UI what has been forgotten is the place where PC and laptop owners will spend most time is the desktop and it is just like Windows 7, but better. Windows 8’s desktop environment operates faster on the same hardware and is more forgiving on battery life. Tacky performance hogging Aero effects have gone; text, geometry and image rendering have all been improved, file copying can finally be paused and the platform is rock solid. Should everything go wrong ‘PC Refresh’ will reinstall Windows but keep all your personal data and settings. Similarly upgrading from Windows 7 is utterly painless and even our open browser tabs remained in place once complete.

These improvements (and many others) are largely incremental, but the overall experience is better than Windows 7 and even if you hate the idea of the Modern UI and apps this should be at the forefront of your thoughts.

HATE
Jarring Environments
Windows 8 offers two user experiences, the desktop and Modern UI, but it refuses to let you remain in either for any length of time. The loss of the Start Bar to the former and the lack of core settings displayed in the latter mean you are continually jumping in and out of both environments. Their drastically different visuals and style of navigation make it akin to driving on different sides of the road every few miles.

This is a jarring mental jump that I’ve found actually changes your physical position – you sit further forward with the smaller desktop UI and lean back with the big, touch friendly Modern UI; Expect many amusing YouTube videos. Consequently while Microsoft may be keen to transition users to the Modern UI – where it clearly believes the long-term future of Windows lies – the solution it has found is far from seamless and occasionally infuriating. This is a sample, read the full guide @ TrustedReviews where I look at Windows 8 hardware, forced personalisation, performance and apps…


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. 

Logitech Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad T650

October 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

An exclusive review of the first Windows 8 touchpad on the market. 

Score 8/10
Review Price £69.99

Pros
Stylish design
Durable with excellent build quality
Responsive Intuitive setup with customisable gestures

Cons
Expensive
Poor battery life
Limited use in early days of Windows 8

Key Features: Glass, multi-touch surface; Full Windows 8 gesture support; Programmable gestures; Integrated battery

The days of standalone touchpads are over… I would have written a few years ago. Instead with the impending launch of the touch-friendly Windows 8 and, equally importantly, a raft of existing non-touch hardware out there it turns out they are set for a renaissance. Unsurprisingly peripherals specialist Logitech is first in line to capitalize.

Design

The ‘Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad T650′ is the product (with typically verbose naming) Logitech hopes will achieve this and first impressions are excellent. At 129mm (length and width) this square trackpad is roughly 50 per cent larger than even the most oversized laptop trackpad, giving you a spacious area to perform basic operations and gestures. The all important surface is good too with Logitech using smooth, scratch-resistant glass with subtle texture so it isn’t too slippy.

While gently angled to present the surface to users at a slight wedge, the T650 also isn’t much thicker than a modern smartphone and it is lighter as well allowing it to be thrown in a bag or even coat pocket. The underside of T650 backs up this portable lifestyle too with a toughened matt plastic base and four rubberized fee sunken into the trackpad rather than simply stuck on. So far, so good.

Connectivity

While it would be equally comfortable permanently staying on your desk this portable theme is continued with the inclusion of an integrated (non-removable) battery which will last up to a week between charges. Charging the T650 is done via a micro USB port at the front. As for the ‘Wireless’ in its lengthy name, Logitech has steered away from Bluetooth instead using an automatically paired 2.4GHz USB dongle. As with all recent Logitech products the dongle is tiny, barely sticking out a USB port so it can be left in and it will pair with up to six Logitech devices simultaneously to compensate for taking up a port. An acceptable trade-off in our minds.

Gestures

So it looks good, is durable and fairly portable, but what does the T650 actually offer above and beyond a standard laptop trackpad? In Windows 7 the answer is not much. Left click (tap the pad in the middle), right click (tap the pad in the bottom right corner) and middle click (tap three fingers in the middle) are all standard across both Windows 7 and Windows 8, as is two fingered horizontal and vertical scrolling. A little more exciting is three fingered swipes left and right to go back or forward in web browsers and folders while the ubiquitous pinch to zoom gesture is supported too.

Then again it is Windows 8 where the T650 really comes alive. Three fingers up takes you to the Windows 8 Start screen (complete with ‘modern UI’), a one fingered swipe from the left edge switches between open applications (both programs and Windows 8 apps) and a one finger swipe from the right edge opens the Charms menu – essentially a transparent overlay with shortcuts for search, share, devices, settings and the Start screen. Meanwhile swiping one finger from the top edge opens the Windows 8 application menu.

In addition Windows 8 adds a few more gestures for core functionality: three fingers down minimizes/restores desktop windows and four fingers up/down maximizes/minimizes windows. All in this is a fairly heady list, but since they are in accordance with Microsoft’s official gestures for Windows 8 they are worth learning and in time become second nature. Furthermore if you aren’t happy with them Logitech’s SetPoint software will let you customize gestures to your heart’s content. This is a sample, for my verdict on how it performs in practice read the full review @ TrustedReviews.

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. 

RIP Symbian: The Cautionary Tale of a Fallen Giant

October 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Lessons must be learnt from the sad collapse of a titan.

Dear developer,

Thank you for your improvement ideas, thus Symbian is in maintenance mode and no new features will be implement[ed] without extremely good reason (business case). We have written down your ideas for future development if there is a chance that new features will be released.

Kind Regards
Nokia Developer support

As death knells go, the one which sounded out for Symbian this week could hardly have been quieter or less acknowledged. No formal press release, no statement from Nokia CEO Stephen Elop – too busy with his Windows Phone 8 obsession – and not even a blog post. Instead it was left to Developer support to tell the user of a Nokia E7 that they did not care about his reported bug. Symbian is in ‘maintenance mode’, its evolution (and consequently its life cycle) had come to an end.

Detractors will immediately rush to say Symbian’s relevance ended a long time before that, and they’d be right. Once king of the ring, Symbian has failed to land a meaningful blow in years and now punch drunk and slumped to the canvas it simply awaited a 10 count.

Historic Heights
It wasn’t always that way. Having fallen so far it is easy to forget how high Symbian once soared and how influential it was in putting mobile phones into our pockets. Originating from Psion’s EPOC operating system in the late 1980s and featured in class redefining devices like the late 90s Psion Series 5 and Psion Series 7 PDAs. EPOC was rebranded ‘Symbian OS’ when Psion’s software division became Symbian Ltd in 1998 following a huge joint venture with Ericsson, Nokia and Motorola.

The deal was a landmark creating a standard platform for the world’s largest phone makers. Slowly Nokia became the dominant player reaching a near-50 per cent market share in 2007, a figure no single company is ever likely to achieve again. Symbian’s success, however, was even greater with Gartner claiming it appeared on nearly 70 per cent of all handsets sold at this time (see diagram). Android is creeping towards a similar total today, but with Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry 10 on the way it is doubtful whether it will ever overtake it.

Hardware Innovation
Quantity over quality was a common accusation in Nokia’s heyday, but Symbian was driving hardware innovation. Late 2006 saw Nokia unveil the Symbian S60 powered N95 and for the first time the company refused to call it a phone. Instead it was labelled a ‘mobile multimedia computer’ and with HSDPA, a 5MP camera, 30fps video playback, WiFi, Bluetooth, a microSD expansion slot and stereo speakers it was certainly far ahead of its time. It sold like hot cakes and the subsequent N95 8GB (pictured) sold even better.

In giving phone makers a common platform Symbian had freed them to focus on hardware. The trouble was Symbian was so commonplace, so dominant it had become taken for granted just as Apple was about to revolutionise mobile phone software with its iPhone… This is a sample, read about the lessons Apple and Google need to learn from Symbian’s demise in the full editorial @ TrustedReviews


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 620

October 18, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Flagship cleaning performance breaks a new price barrier, but there are omissions.

 

Score 8/10
Review Price £299.00

Pros
Premium cleaning performance
Long battery life
Stylish redesign
Reasonable pricing

Cons
No on-board scheduling
No full bin indicator
Expensive to add accessories

Key Features: iAdapt cleaning system; Compatible with all floor types; ‘Dirt Detect’ focus spot cleaning; Auto docking; Soft touch bumpers

In the world of robot vacuums, ‘affordable’ is a relative term. Top of the line models can sell for in excess of £700 and none can yet fully see you retire your manual vacuum. Of course significant performance and battery life improvements in recent years mean they can be superb accessories, scheduled to do regular cleans that relegate your vacuum to a bit part role, but they remain luxury items at luxury prices. iRobot, however, is working on that.

The newly launched iRobot Roomba 600 series won’t achieve this in a single step, but what it does do is bring previously premium performance to a line of machines that start at under £300. The iRobot Roomba 620 is the entry level model in this range and we let it get its brushes dirty.

Design
The first thing that becomes apparent when you take the iRobot Roomba 620 out the box is it has had a style makeover. The whole look is more rounded, with the machine’s circular design now complemented by cleaner lines which drop the straight angles that had outlined the bumpers, dirt bin and more. Instead, every join is curved and every knob or button accented by soft circular or semi circular boarders. Combined with a more colourful finish the overall effect is slightly cartoonish, but it is also more modern and we’d expect iRobot to carry on this design approach with other lines as they are replaced in time.

Features
Where things become most interesting, however, is in the amount of technology now packed into this base model. At the core of the iRobot Roomba 620 features list is an updated version of iAdapt, iRobot’s proprietary system of software and sensors, which incrementally learns the layout of your rooms and makes multiple passes for a more comprehensive clean.

On top of this you’ll find ‘Dirt Detect’ which uses an acoustic sensor to locate dirtier areas and spend more time cleaning them. The same patented three stage cleaning system as found on flagship Roombas is also aboard making it equally happy cleaning carpets, tiles, laminate and hardwood flooring. In addition, the company has stated that all iRobot Roomba 600 series models will more effectively handle hair, pet fur, lint, carpet fuzz and other fibres than previous generation robots.

‘Aerovac’ is a further smart technology passed down from the iRobot Roomba 780 and coupled with a new brush (designed to minimise the amount of the hair caught in the brushes) it optimises airflow so the bin fills more evenly letting it be emptied less. Other core functionality carried over from past models included step detection and automatic docking when it has finished cleaning or the battery is low. This is a sample, read the full review @ TrustedReviews


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. 

Why Apple, Google & Microsoft Suddenly Want to Control Everything

October 13, 2012 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Established partnerships & business practices are going out the window.

The iPad Mini, Nexus 4 and Surface are arguably the three most anticipated devices left to launch in 2012. Their diversity speaks volumes for the strength of competition in the mobile sector, but they also illustrate something else: the escalation of major platform developers wanting to take control of hardware and software.

Interestingly, while in the mixer for some time, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer only made a song and dance about it this week. “Last year in this letter [to company shareholders] I said that, over time, the full value of our software will be seen and felt in how people use devices and services at work and in their personal lives. This is a significant shift, both in what we do and how we see ourselves – as a devices and services company.”

Google has also gained similar confidence. The original ‘Nexus One’ was merely a tentative guideline to inspire change in the lacklustre handset designs which greeted early versions of Android. Satisfied then-Google CEO Eric Schmidt even declared its dalliance with hardware over, but since then it has been full steam ahead with the Nexus S, Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 7 tablet and the aforementioned Nexus 4 imminent.

For Apple hardware is a non-issue. Run-ins with third parties licensing its Apple II ROMs in the 70s and Mac ROMs in the mid-90s left scars which have seen it tightly control computer, tablet and phone design ever since. Instead the control it seeks is software as it feverishly fights to patch core holes in functionality. To date success has been mixed with Apple Maps lambasted, Ping failing to get a foothold in social networks and – Siri aside – the lack of a credible search engine. Yes where Microsoft and Google are strong Apple struggles, and vice versa.

But why the sudden land grab from all three parties, why the sudden discomfort with long established business models and partnerships? Cowboy logic: they’re not sure the town is big enough for all of them. Funnily enough they’re probably wrong… This is a sample, read the full editorial @ TrustedReviews.


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. 

Linksys EA6500 802.11ac router

October 13, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

The Linksys EA6500 is simply the best 802.11ac router currently on the market.

Score 9/10
Review Price £189.00

Pros
Unparalleled wireless range
Class leading 802.11n 5GHz performance
A slick & intuitive Cloud platform
Two USB ports
Stylish, subtle design

Cons
Expensive
Still only 4 Ethernet ports

Key Features: Dual band (2.4GHz & 5GHz) 802.11b/g/n/ac; 4x Gigabit Ethernet, 2x USB 2.0; 6 internal 3D antennas with high power amplifiers per band; Cisco Connect Cloud platform; Third party apps
Manufacturer: Linksys

The Linksys EA4500 is one of our favourite routers, but we found it lacked one key ingredient: 802.11ac. At the time it was a somewhat unfair criticism since this next generation networking standard had yet to be released, but the fact remained compatible products would be hitting the market in a matter of months. Keeping to that schedule is Cisco itself and now we have the 802.11ac-equipped EA6500 in our hands. Do we have a new class leader? In short: yes.

Design
The first thing we noticed about the EA6500 is it makes no attempt to shout about its headline functionality from the rooftops. The EA line has established a discrete and stylish look and the EA6500 doesn’t try to break from that. As such it is only subtly different from the EA4500, keeping the same rectangular (and wall-mountable) shape, while the metallic band down the middle has been widened and slightly sunken into the router to allow for extra ventilation grills. In all the effect makes it look slightly more muscular and powerful than the EA4500, which was clearly the aim.

Cisco has also addressed our biggest complaint about the EA4500, swapping out the moulded plastic feet for proper rubber strips. This isn’t rocket science but since the old model’s surprisingly pointed hard feet felt capable of scratching or scuffing delicate surfaces, it is welcome.

Connectivity
Aside from the design tweaks, a quick look around the back of the router reveals another welcome change: the inclusion of a second USB port. This remains a frustrating omission from many routers and means you can simultaneously network a printer and an external hard drive. Both are USB 2.0, but this standard is yet to become a bottleneck for such setups. Sadly Linksys hasn’t increased the number of Gigabit Ethernet ports, however, so we’re left with the usual four. We really would like to see a change here given a PC, games console, digibox and Smart TV alone will occupy all ports and households often have more wired equipment than that.

Despite this, it is inside of the EA6500 where things get interesting. Like the EA4500 this is a dual band 2.4GHz and 5GHz router, but with 802.11ac added to the 802.11b/g/n variants. In line with other router makers Linksys quotes the theoretical maximums for these bands (450Mbit on 2.4GHz and 1300Mbit for 802.11ac on 5GHz) but with the inclusion of six internal 3D antennas with high power amplifiers for each band meant our expectations were high and we were not disappointed… This is a sample, read the full review @ TrustedReviews which includes performance results. 

 

 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. 

Six Technology Breakthroughs Worth Waiting For

October 7, 2012 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Buy new products without these and we suspect you’ll regret it…

Big things are coming. Seismic improvements that will each have a huge impact on the technology we use day to day. The problem is none of them are quite ready and as such we’re stuck in upgrade limbo as technology sits in its biggest holding pattern for many years. What are these game changers and why should you not move on without them? Let’s take a closer look.

 

4G
‘Long Term Evolution’ (LTE) isn’t technically 4G (it is the final grade of 3G), but its performance enhancements are such that it will be marketed under this easy moniker. The arrival of 4G in the UK has been torturous. EE will finally launch a service on the 1800MHz band later this month, but even with carrier infighting over and the 4G rollout date brought forward it will still be mid 2013 before 4G is seen across all major networks and 2015 before it expands beyond the major population centres.

The wait will be worth it. 4G will increase data bandwidth roughly 20x over 3G in its initial implementation and transform the way we will use our phones, tablets and laptops on the move. Should you invest in a long term mobile phone contract for a smartphone without 4G right now? Probably not.

802.11ac
The next generation WiFi standard is another game changing wireless standard that’s almost here, but not quite. 802.11ac is the successor to 802.11n and it delivers increased range and up to 3x the performance – enough for multiple family members to happily stream Full HD video around the home without a glitch. It is the WiFi standard we have been waiting for and the first few 802.11ac routers we have tested (the Buffalo AirStation 1750 and Netgear R6300) have been extremely impressive.

Then again 802.11ac is not finished. Like the early days of 802.11n we are dealing with ‘Draft’ products that will require firmware updates to work with the final standard and, worse still, there are no 802.11ac compatible devices or peripherals yet on the market. We had to test these routers by using 802.11ac wireless bridges and physically wiring a PC to it. Hardly ideal. Of course the logical solution would be a USB dongle for your laptop, but they won’t arrive until Christmas. Meanwhile phones, tablets and laptops with integrated 802.11ac won’t ship until early/mid 2013. Yes we’d suggest putting that upgrade on hold. This is a sample, read the full editorial @ TrustedReviews.

 
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. 

 

Neato XV-25 Robot Vacuum

October 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

The smartest robot vacuum to date may not be the best looking, but it looks like being the best…

 

By Gordon Kelly
3 Oct 2012

Overall Score: 8/10

Pros
Class leading mapping & location technology
Cleans large rooms quickly & efficiently
Won’t bump furniture
Equally comfortable on all surfaces
Charges & returns to exactly where it left off

Cons
Aged design & cheap looking build materials
Doesn’t always get into nooks & crannies
In line with rivals, but still expensive

Key Features: SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) technology ; Designed to collect pet hair & dust; All surface cleaner; Daily, weekly scheduling; 33 x 32.7 x 10.1cm, 5.9Kg
Manufacturer: Neato Robotics

Everywhere you look in the tech sector right now complaints are building that we are in a period of evolution not revolution, nothing really excites us anymore. Arguably the same can be said of the new Neato ‘XV-25′ robot vacuum, a follow up to the Neato XV-15, but – much as the iPhone 3G was to the original iPhone – it feels like the mass market realisation of a revolutionary initial breakthrough.

Design
None of which you’ll expect when you take the Neato XV-25 (called the XV-21 in the US) out the box. The Neato XV-25 is the spitting image of the XV-15. It retains the ingenious arch shape (the corners are for corners, the curves allow it to turn anywhere) and the build materials are still a little cheap looking with a fetish for plastics and two tone colour finishes. It looks like a Super Nintendo was squashed under the heel of a giant horse.

This is a problem. Compared to the slick lines and finish of the iRobot Roomba 780, for example, the Neato XV-25 looks like the brandless knock-off you’d find in an unwanted catalogue dropped through your mailbox. When you get to the technology inside, however, this is a huge disservice. The same can be said of the charger which, while conveniently flat for positioning against a wall, is essentially a hollow plastic shell which houses a power brick.

There are things to like, however: the inclusion of an LCD display makes programming daily and weekly cleaning schedules a doddle – especially compared to the Roomba range which mysteriously continues to ignore them – and removing dirt is simple: just pull out the collection box (indicated by the red handle). At 33 x 32.7 x 10.1cm the Neato XV-25 is also fairly compact, though it is heavy at 5.9Kg – something you’ll notice when it runs over hard floors.

Features
Love or hate the look of the Neato XV-25, however, what has come to define Neato’s robot vacuums (and redefine them in the sector) is how they go about their business. Neato was only formed back in 2009 and didn’t release its first product until 2010, but what got investors hot under the collar was the SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) technology at their heart. Unlike so-called ‘bump bots’ which seem to take an almost random approach to cleaning, SLAM robot vacuums calculate their every move.

What SLAM does is build maps of an environment while simultaneously keeping track of its location within them. The theory is it almost never needs to bump into any surface and it will clean logically: first by tracing the corners, then cleaning the rest of the room in long strips. The whole approach is somewhat akin to how a farmer ploughs a field. This is a sample, read the full review @ TrustedReviews.


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