Recently in Audio Category

Can a redesign restore faith or do some people just want something different?

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Relying on your name, brand and reputation is a dangerous tactic, one that Nokia and Blackberry know all too well.

Some of the absolute garbage and speculation I read regarding next generation products makes me want to walk across a field of lego pieces while setting mouse traps off on my fingers, all so the pain can help me forget what I've just consumed with my eyeballs.

However, when a company does actually make a significant change, like Apple when it revealed the redesigned "EarPods", can it bring old customers back, as well as tempt new users?

In comparison to the old earphones, the EarPods supersede them in every aspect, ascetics, build quality, sound quality and even name stupidity! For me, the old earphones were one of the worst things about the previous generation of iPhones and other iDevices.

I mean, there are other options out there on the market. Like with any product there are alternatives, varying in features and price point.

I got my hands on a pair of Thinksound ts02's and Sony XBA-C10's in order to broaden my musical option horizons and answer my question.

Immediately you can see that Thinksound are an eco-friendly company, with the packaging made solely from 100% recycled materials. Even the earphone casings, which look very striking, are made of renewable wood.

The second noteworthy thing about these audio offerings from Thinksound is the weight, up there with the lightest earphones I've ever slipped into my lugs at 12g.


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The ts02's earphones also come with a mic, but unlike the EarPods, it doesn't have a volume control. Another noticeable difference is that the mic didn't pick up the sound as well as it should. The ts02's are a world apart from the Apple equivalent costing substantially more at around £75 but bringing a much more wholesome and well-rounded sound to the table.

The Sony product sits in the middle price bracket at around £39 but they come without a mic. They come off as mildly futuristic with a hollow ear loop to hold them securely in place. To look at you'd think they were uncomfortable but that was only the case when worn for extensive periods.

The XBA-C10s blow the EarPods out of the water in terms of noise cancellation and actual in-ear comfort but they did leave me a little disappointed, they look like they deliver more of a punch than they do.


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The balanced armature driver tucked away inside the earpiece does however mean they come out on top of the Apple EarPods in terms of overall sound quality. Mainly thanks to the 100dB/mW sensitivity which ensures minimum distortion as you crank up the volume.

The EarPods suit many people down to the ground, those who want adequate and functional performance, with the ts02's matching up best with the environmentally conscious looking for something a little different, and finally, the Sony earphones are ideally built for use in hectic workplaces or the gym.  

So back to using Apple as the example for the original question, I was very surprised that (back in September) they redesigned and substantially improved their earphones in the first place and it did restore a little faith. Ultimately though, the improvements were only such that there are still more appropriate options out there catering to specific tastes, many of which merit the increased costs. And you've just been introduced to two examples above.

British tech start-ups off to India on the Web Mission 2013

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Last night, 16 of the most innovative technology SMEs from the UK were chosen to join Web Mission 2013 to India in early February.

The chosen start-ups, building tech for various sectors including  health, education, infrastructure and mobility, included Audioboo, Cyceera, uMotif, Omnisoft Services and BuffaloGrid.

The Mission programme, organised by The Long Run Venture and the Co-Sponsorship Agency, is supported by the Technology Strategy Board and UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), alongside other private sponsors.

This will be the eighth trip. Each trip is designed to help successful early stage businesses accelerate their growth potential overseas. According to the organiser, the chosen companies are all scalable, while offering profitable solutions for low and middle-income populations in urban and rural India, while also offering B2B opportunities.

"When you take UK and India, people think there is a lot of trade, but this is miniscule in terms of start-ups, especially when in terms of investments , eyes are drawn to Silicon Valley," said Guy Pattison, co-founder of The Long Run Venture.

"You would have around 10 million people to pilot a project in India, but a couple of thousand here. These start-ups have the opportunity to get in there and scale up," he said.

The hand-picked companies will visit the country for seven days, first heading to Bangalore to visit other big companies and universities and then onto New Delhi which will provide a government perspective to venturing into the country. 

Start-ups on Web Mission 2013 include:

  • Audioboo - Audioboo allows users to record audio and post over social networks. With customers already including the BBC and The Guardian, the company claims to do to audio, what Instagram to did to photos. Audioboo is also delving into the audiobook and education sectors. 
  • uMotif - uMotif is a telehealth company which builds attractive apps for users with health problems. The apps help users to comply with taking medicines, to improve treatment and reduce hospital costs of readmissions. The software works on various platforms, not just smartphones, by providing SMS services as well. uMotif is currently demonstrating an app to help people suffering from Parkinsons. The app, which was funded by the Department of Health and adminstered by the NHS Midlands and East, has an engaging colourful interface which encourages the users to "own their own data".
  • BuffaloGrid -Buffalo Grid provides mobile charging power to rural areas of the world, where it could quite easily take a quarter of a day's wage to charge your device at a local power station. BuffaloGrid uses solar panelling to distribute power and customers can pay via text message. The company hopes to pair with mobile operators, while any residual power is then sold back to the local people at highly competitive rates. There are around 650m off-grid mobile phones in the world, 300m of which are in India, proving the move into this market incremental for the company's future development. 

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The real Work Gadget of the Year

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t3 logo.jpgI was with Caroline at the T3 awards last night and I was just as shocked/angered/surprised (I can never read female emotions very well, I'm sure I'll learn one day) as her when the iPhone 4S was announced as the Work Gadget of the Year. 

My money would have been on the Galaxy Note. That said, I'm not really a big fan of the Galaxy Note but I think it brings much more possibility and productivity to a work place environment than the iPhone 4S.

For sheer ingenuity and innovation, I would have thrown the Samsung Galaxy Beam into the mix. With its 4 inch screen, 8GB storage, microSD slot, dual-core 1GHz processor and Android Gingerbread out the box, upgradeable to Jelly Bean, the Galaxy Beam is a decent smartphone already. But the addition of a built-in nHD projector, with an output of 15 lumens and scalable display size of up to 50mm, gives it a massive selling point.
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samsung galaxy beam (Photo credit: bhautikjoshi)

The ability to quickly chuck a presentation onto a wall, or hastily show a struggling employee a YouTube tutorial on software they're just getting to grips with can prove invaluable.

Plus, on those slow Friday afternoons you could share an episode of Peter Andre: My Life with your colleagues, as a treat (or punishment). 

Rather than force my views on you, we asked around the TechTarget/Computer Weekly office for the thoughts of some of our industry renowned journalists and experts on what they thought were some more likely Gadget of the Year winners:

Networking editor, Jennifer Scott: A LiveScribe smartpen, does what it says on the tin, and the HP ScanJet 1000 Professional Mobile Scanner. It easily fits into the laptop bag to take on business trips, perfect for scanning important documents and processing expenses, just plug and play!

Editorial content assistant, Caroline BaldwinBose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones. Whether you're a frequent flier or not, these will even block out any noisy colleagues in the office.
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Editor-in-chief, Bryan Glick: Proving he is all about work ethic, a keyboard. And if you tend to chain yourself to your desk and end up spilling coffee and crumbs all over it, may we suggest the Logitech Washable Keyboard?

T3_Keyboard.jpgSenior reporter at MicroScope, Alex Scroxton: Rory Cellan-Jones - in a thesaurus format sitting on your desk. He would all but eradicate the need for Wikipedia and answer your questions far better than Siri ever could. 

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Sub editor, Phil Jones: The Lavazza espresso point, to give me the physical and mental strength to comprehend the long techy features thrust upon me. 

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Now THAT is a shortlist to be proud of. 

The CW complete guide to audio - Part 3

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Here we are again, returning to bring you the third part in the Computer Weekly Complete Guide to Audio. Over the past couple of weeks, myself and Caroline have brought you parts one and two in this series, covering a wide range of products and outlining whom they best suit.

So, without further ado, I'll get straight into it and run through this entries selection of audio bits and bobs.

Ferrari T250 Cavallino headphones by Logic 3

It is plain to see that these headphones are of premium quality, constructed from lamb skin leather and machine crafted metal arms.

IMG_1397.JPGThe foldable earpads don't immediately seem the most flexible but they actually rock back onto the housing of the speakers. As for the earpieces themselves, well they offer more padding than a padded bra, I imagine, I wouldn't really know for sure. Never weighed the two.

The 40mm driver is incorporated into a close-back design, which seals the ear pads to prevent loss of music dynamics. This basically means that those outside you can't hear what your listening to but you get all the audio enjoyment possible. Perfect for listening to guilty pleasures.

It is a shame they are so expensive though, priced at around £249. Or else I'd recommend that every little hoodie out there who thinks it's acceptable to sit at the back of buses, swearing, spitting and blaring noise which is even worse than anything David Hasselhoff has released from their phones, should be given a pair T250s.

As for overall audio quality, I'm struggling to think of a pair of headphones that sounded better, but then again I haven't gotten my hands on many that cost £200+. The volume and clarity is amazing, in fact, they register only 1.5% total harmonic distortion (THD) at 1KHz 1mW.

The T250s also come with a rather swish carry case, in-flight adapter, 6.5mm adapter and three cables. One 3-button control and microphone for Apple, one single button control and microphone for Android, Blackberry and other devices and one plain. All three are removable, anti-tangle and trimmed in fabric.

Who these would suit -The regular train commuter, preferring to sit in the quiet zone and not disturb anyone or be disturbed by outside noise.

Would Enzo Ferrari be proud of these? I think he would, they are impressive and well-tuned, just like many of the famous prancing stallion labelled cars his brand has produced. The only negative I have to point out is that, due to the weight of the metal arms, wearing them for extended periods or walking in them can be uncomfortable.

WeSC Maraca headphones

These mid-range retro beauties look like they've come straight off the head of a researcher in the NASA labs from back in the 80s.

IMG_1404.JPGThe build quality may not set the world alight, there is a lot of plastic and faux leather, but the bottom line is that the simple design is effective and the savings made on materials mean you pay less.

One of the main things I like about the Maracas is that the earpieces can be turned right the way out, a plus for both storage and it makes them a lot more comfortable if you want to wear them around your neck.  

Just like the Ferrari T250s, these WeSC headphones offer 40mm power drivers; however the bass power just isn't as strong. That said, the acoustic performance is excellent, especially considering the price of around £45.

I was surprised to also see that these headphones have a gold plated plug, ensuring the best possible connection when plugged into a socket. This is something usually only found on pricier headsets.

The cable may not be tangle-free or offer volume control but it does include a mic and button, allowing you to control playback. They also ship with an extension cable, just in case you're a 6ft 8" basketball star, I'm guessing.

Who they would suit - The old school computer enthusiast. The looks will take you back, but the performance wont.

These WeSC headphones offer respectable audio performance at a snip of the price of their competitors, just don't expect them to last for decades. One final point I would like to add is that in winter they will double up as good ear muffs, encasing your lugs entirely.  

iT7s wireless headphones

These wireless hybrid headphones feel like earphones when you have them on. Lightweight and slotting straight into your ear, I was instantly impressed by the iT7s headphones.

Designed by former professional footballer, Ian Taylor who is most well-known for a 9-year spell at Aston Villa, you can tell these sleek headphones have been made for active people.

The blend of polished black plastic and soft-touch rubber is a tried and tested combination that won't go out of fashion. The rubber also allows for great flexibility when hooking the earpieces up over and into your ear. They are held in place with, what is effectively, a rubber funnel, channelling the music directly down your ear canal.

IMG_1398.JPGPowered by Bluetooth, the iT7s with their built in mic and three button (on/off + play/pause, volume up and volume down) controls, offer you the ability to both control and listen to music as well as make, receive and reject calls.

They include a built-in rechargeable battery, offering around 8 hours of talk time, 7 hours of music playback and 180 hours of standby time.

One thing I did find strange is that the volume controls on the heaphones only control the actual headphones, so they can be at full volume yet your music device may only be at two thirds. That aside, the sound delivery was admirable, especially considering their size.

Many earphones of this size that I've reviewed offer little to nothing in the way of bass, thankfully that is not the case here. While they won't rattle your brain, they at least present some force.

Who they would suit - Those who like to keep their mind and body sharp. Jump from listening to music and updating a spreadsheet to taking a call in a split second and no need to take them off for your lunchtime trip to the gym.

I think Ian Taylor has definitely found a gap in the market here. An audio product that doesn't look out of place in an office environment or on an 8 mile run in the country (which, I may add, I actually did) is quite hard to come by. The functionality, versatility and build quality, including a LED indication light, on offer is sure to attract many to the iT7 line of products. 

Ferrari G150 Cavallino earphones by Logic 3

Another offering from Logic 3 and Ferrari covers all the bases, with the G150s being in-ear earphones.

The first thing you notice about these earphones are the materials used to construct them, leather and lightweight aluminium. The second thing you are bound to notice, if you investigate further, is the price, around the £129 mark.

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So, what do you get for your money? Well, obviously top quality materials but also 10mm drivers with Thin Film Acoustic Technology (TFAT). This basically means you get deeper base but without compromising the frequency range and lucidity.

The G150s are noise-isolating, not cancelling. The main difference being that sound is more likely to leak in than it is to leak out, which is a good thing.

A carry pouch is also included combined with a selection of ear buds, however the G150s only ship with a single cable. Though it does include a microphone and 1 button, there is no volume control.

Although, Ferrari and Logic 3 also offer a pair of almost identical earphones, titled G150is, specifically for iPhone, iPods and the like, offering volume controls. 

Whilst the components used to assemble these earphones are of high quality, the build quality and finish could be improved.

Who these would suit - Those leading a luxury lifestyle who are looking for audio equipment that will help them stand out from the crowd.

Despite my personal preference for in-ear earphones, it felt like something was missing here. The audio levels were certainly of an impressive level but for this amount of money you can find better. Then again, they certainly won't be made from as extravagant materials or come with better accessories than the G150s. 

The CW complete guide to audio - Part 2

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Welcome to the second edition of the Computer Weekly Complete Guide to Audio. Last week, my colleague, Matt, sampled a range of headphones available at the moment, from all-round general use to the desktop listening.

Giant headphones seem to be on trend at the moment, with "hipsters" showing off their headgear on the street. Whether you like to show off your kit or keep it on the down-low with buds, there are plenty to choose from on the market.

This part looks at noise cancelling headphones as well as a pair of dynamic bass headphones.

Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones
RRP: £299.95

My first reaction to these headphones were that they are huge - Colossal even in the current market of headphones! I was shaking my head looking at the semi rigid case they belong in which I think is larger than the case for my first ever CD Walkman.


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But wait, wait, wait... don't disregard this gadget due to its size, apparently the best things DO NOT come in small packages.

I popped the included AAA battery in the discreet compartment on the right earphone, placed them over my ears and flicked the switch on the side and welcomed the sudden utter silence.

If you haven't experienced the joy of noise reducing headphones before, it's quite difficult to explain. In the office for example, any background noise from traffic outside, printers or servers diminishes and work colleagues sitting close by become significantly reduced in volume. It was very much like sitting in my own little bubble. 

Sadly I wasn't jetting off anywhere on a plane this week to try them out properly, but I can only imagine how satisfying it would be to be sitting next to somebody with an average set of earphones struggling to hear their music over the noise from a flight. Instead, plug the wires into the headphones and the other end into your audio source and you can hear every note without distractions.

I did, however, test them on the tube and I have never experienced such a peaceful rush hour journey. I don't recommend wearing them on the underground regularly however, as you will easily miss announcements and people trying to pass you muttering 'excuses me' which may inflict a few evil glares.

A nice addition was the fact that Bose provide you with an AAA battery, audio jack adapter for the plane as well as two sets of wires, one specifically for Apple products. When using with Apple products the headphones come with a small remote and microphone.

If you run out of spare AAA batteries then you will have to resort back to your standard Apple earphones as the Bose headphones don't conduct any sound without a battery - leaving you with an overpriced pair of ear muffs. Sadly I wasn't paired with the headphones long enough to find out how long the AAA battery lasts, but Bose state that the average AAA battery will provide 35 hours of use, which should see you through even the longest flight.

After a short while wearing them while writing this post, I found they were a little heavy on my neck, however, with your seat reclined and head back on a long haul flight this wouldn't be a problem at all.

Who these would suit? The frequent flyer, I know I initially moaned at the size of the headphones, but that was before the enveloped my ears in delicious silence. If I was lucky enough to own these I would make space in my overhead luggage at any cost to include these on every flight.

Pioneer SE - CL541i-k Closed Dynamic Headphones
RRP: £29.99

I have been using these earphones on and off for about a week, they're extremely portable being the bud style rather than the over ear variety and come with a nice little drawstring felt bag to protect them. 

Initially popping the buds in my ears was very uncomfortable. They conveniently come with three sizes of earphone tips which enable the bud to go deep into your ear. They come with ear holders (an odd triangle addition to the average shape earphone) which are designed for extra stability and apparently comfort. 

It took some getting used to, but once my ears were used to the unusual invasion, I found them quite comfortable and very secure.

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The dynamic bass kicks in when the buds are thoroughly plugged into your ear, if they're not securely inside your ear then the music is to some degree tinny. As soon as you press them that little further, the earphone tips seem to suction and the 10.5mm dynamic bass driver kicks in. Not only that, but due to this suction method the earphones act to some degree as noise cancelling. 

These headphones are designed especially for use with Apple products, with built in microphone, call answer button and volume control.

Who these would suit? The Apple consumer who likes quality bass and the ability to integrate calls.

Pioneer SE-NC21 (noise cancelling headphones)
RP: £99.99

My Initial thoughts were that the headphones were not as large as the Bose headphones and came in a smaller sturdier case. While not enveloping the ears completely, they sat very comfortable on top of my ears, but they did become a little hot and sweaty after extended use. 

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Pioneer state that it reduces ambient noise by 90% and once you place in the included AAA battery and flick the switch, the background noise from the office and traffic outside does indeed disappear. But noise from work colleagues, phones and keyboards in the room was still clearly audible. 

Batteries last around 120 hours with the average alkaline battery, and when they run out, the noise-cancelling function stops working, but they still work as headphones. However, the sound quality reduces significantly, echoes and becomes a little too bass-heavy without the noise cancelling switched on. 

I tested them out on public transport and the fact that I nearly missed my stop is surely a good sign that I was engrossed in my music and there were minimal exterior distractions. 

Compared to the Bose headphones they do not reduce noise as significantly, but for a third of the price, they work very well and also don't make you feel as if you are sitting in a fish tank. They also come with an in-flight plug adapter. 

Who these would suit? The all-round user who also flies a few time a year.

* Review note: While my colleague, Matt, chooses Peter Andre's back-catalogue for testing audio quality, I'd sooner check for decent sound using Disney's Lion King opening number, The Circle of Life, for its dulcet undertones and quivering high notes.

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The CW complete guide to audio - Part 1

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Music, movies, podcasts and conference calls are all things that can have a huge impact on your emotions and mood in general. With that in mind, surely you should be aiming to heighten the effect that the audio being piped into your ears has on you. "How?" we hear you ask, well by enjoying (or soldiering through in the case of conference calls) the experience with audio equipment best suited to you. 

This forthcoming series of guides are here to help you do exactly that. Myself and Caroline will be running through a large selection of earphones, headphones and other various audio equipment to help you identify what best meets your requirements.  

House of Marley - Zion In-ear headphones

The House of Marley, as you may have already guessed, was established by the family of the magnificent Bob Marley. It prides itself on not just offering superior quality products but ones that are also sustainable, recyclable and renewable. 

We got our hands on a pair of Zion In-ear earphones. The first thing you notice about House of Marley products is the earthly materials they use, wood and fabric rather than plastics. 

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The Rasta colour-schemed cable covering is not just eye catching but also practical as it stands up to significant wear and is also less susceptible to tangling in your pocket. At the end of the cable you will find a gold plated L shaped plug, ensuring not just a quality connection but also one that won't wear the join in the cable. 

The Zion earphones are equipped with custom engineered acoustic systems, containing a 9mm moving coil driver. In plain English, that means you can crank up the volume as much as you like and the clarity will not be compromised. 

Despite being billed as offering strong bass, I was a little disappointed with the bass levels on offer. 

However, the three button remote-come- microphone is excellent. It is the perfect size, out of the way and easy to use without having to look down to see what you are pressing. It allows you to take handsfree calls and pause, skip forward and backward as well as adjust the volume. 

Who these would suit - The heavy using average all rounder.

The sapele and maple wood ear buds are eye-catching, stylish but most importantly durable. In terms of audio quality there are better offerings out there but for around £98, you won't find longevity and aesthetics like this anywhere else.  

Logitech - Wireless Headset (for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch)

With any wireless device the immediate concern is, how easy is it to connect? The answer here is very. Out of the box, synced with my iPhone and over my ears blasting Mysterious Girl in less than 2 minutes. I was also free to wander away from the source of my music up to 10 meters. 

It gets better yet; the status light on the underside of the right ear piece tells you all you need to know. Whether it is charging, ready to connect, connected or has less than 30 minute of battery left, one little light will ensure you are fully aware of the status of the headset. 

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Charging can take up to 3 hours if they run completely flat but out of the box it only took an hour to get them juiced up and the charge lasted 6 hours. 

Thanks to the adjustable padded headband and ear cups, comfort is not an immediate problem. Though, my ears did feel a little squashed after wearing the headset for an extended period.
 
Additionally, as the cups are flat sound does escape and this also impacts on the bass experience. 

The main selling point of this headset is the adjustable microphone which can be tucked out of sight when not needed. It is noticeable to both participants during a call that you are using something other than the phone to talk but nonetheless, the sound quality both received and sent was loud, clear and relatively crackle free. 

The Logitech Wireless Headset has another trick up its sleeve, the ability to fold up and sit comfortably in one hand.  Not just that, but they are also extremely light. 

The design Logitech have implemented is a very safe one, which has both advantages and drawbacks. The technology behind the buttons on the headset is old school, but responsive none the less. In fact, it is almost reassuring that you hear a click when buttons are pressed. 

Who these would suit - The office user who likes to use music to concentrate between calls.

These are perfect for the office, not bland but certainly not eye catching and at £59 your boss could afford to shell out for a few pairs. If you're one of those people who enjoys gesticulating wildly and pacing back and forth while you chat then this headset is one you have to consider. 

a-Jays - Four In-ear headphones

The first thing you notice about these earphones is that the cable looks and almost feels like tagliatelle pasta. The second is that they are very plastic and the exterior build quality is something that won't blow you away. Although, a plus that the plastic brings to the table is durability. 

The remote-come-microphone works very well for both controlling music and taking calls, but could be better placed as it currently sits against your neck on the cable of the right earpiece.

The cables didn't tangle once despite being bundled into my bag more times than my soggy speedos and the 8.6mm dynamic drivers deliver a solid bass performance. 

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Unlike the House of Marley Zion earphones, the L-shaped plug on these headphones is silver plated and at times you can hear the difference in sound quality because of the alternative and cheaper material used for the connection. 

One final thing that I would add is that the earphones as a whole, because of how they are made and what they are made from, feel quite heavy so they are not ideal for running or using when you'll be doing any kind of extensive movement. Infer from that what you will.  

Who these would suit - People who like separate earphones for separate devices. These are best for plugging into a PC or laptop whilst sitting at a desk. 

The medium price point (£49) is about right. You aren't getting anything other than a reasonably presentable pair of earphones that will do your music collection justice. Thought, that is all many people ask of audio equipment. 

Thanks to Logitech, House of Marley and MobileFun (who've just launched their own dot com site).

Nokia Lumia 920 - sleek and sexy, but does it have the pulling power?

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Yesterday, at a press conference in New York, Nokia attempted to cling on to its place in the smartphone market by unveiling the Nokia Lumia 920

The device confirmed everyone's suspicions and was indeed running on Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 operating system, but Nokia managed to turn a few heads with some slick and sexy features such as wireless charging, augmented reality, near field communications (NFC) and an impressive camera.

Sadly, for the Finnish company, the news wasn't received with an immediate fanfare as its share prices plummeted 12% during the first hour after the press conference.

The new Lumia, running on a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 chip, has a 4.5in curved glass display with PureMotion HD+ technology, giving it a fast refresh rate, and a clear black display, which automatically adjusts to sunlight and removes glare. Its polycarbonate shell material prevents the bright colours of the handset being scratched off - which with the day-glow yellow colour, I think a few scratches wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. 

Once a market leader, Nokia is obviously trying very hard to attract users back, while teaming with Microsoft which has also seen difficulty taking market share away from Android and Apple - is this a recipe for disaster or success? Nokia may have gambled on the hype surrounding upcoming Windows 8 launch, but have they done enough

Let's have a quick look at the three things that make the Lumia 920 stand out from the crowd.

Wireless technology

The device has built in wireless charging, with an array of accessories including plates, stands and Fatboy pillows. You can just drop your device onto one of these accessories and it will start charging without the need for any wires or plugs.

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Nokia has also signed deals with Virgin Atlantic and Coffee Bean to provide charging pads within their lounges and stores, and hopes more retailers will get involved.  

There was also a glimmer of hope for NFC. During the demo the Lumia was playing music wirelessly via the connection, with JBL speakers - but sadly there was no hint of a mobile wallet for contactless payments. 

lumia_jblCROP.jpg

Photography

The 8.7mp camera, comes with PureView technology which claims to take the best photographs and videos, and is '50% more effective than many of today's digital cameras.'

Taking photographs at night, using the device's floating lens technology, claims to produce fantastic clear shots without the need of a flash. This technology apparently counterbalances the minute movements in your hands to reduce blur, while the shutter stays open longer to let in more light. 

With many photography apps integrated into the device, it is very easy to select Photosynth to take a 360 degree panoramic image, add little bits of video or eliminate people from your snaps.

Navigation

Nokia has ramped up its navigation technology by describing it as a 'fully-fledge personal navigation device.' It has the capabilities to use the navigation technology offline, as well as functionalities which assess your daily commute for any traffic and adjusts the time you need to leave the house. Additionally Nokia transport works in a similar way and also provides indoor maps to help you make your way around train and bus stations. 

The advanced mapping technology, City Lens, is the navigation's showstopper. City Lens is an augmented reality app which overlaps information about restaurants, cafes and shops onto the surrounding area once you point the camera at a building or street. You can then easily select a restaurant's website or seamlessly ring to book a table.

Business use

As the device is running Windows Phone 8, the ability to sync content between the phone and Windows 8 PCs or tablets may be attractive to enterprise users who intend to upgrade to Windows 8 in the future. 

The operating system uses Internet Explorer 10 for 'faster, safer browsing' and has Microsoft Office apps built into the platform, although no details of the Windows 8 Office suite were discussed at the press conference. 

However, with the ability to access 100,000 of the existing Window Phone apps, I'm sure we can expect more information on business software at the launch of Windows 8 in October.

Available later this year in lipstick red, stunning yellow, and seductive grey. No prices have been disclosed as yet. 


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Review: Logitech BCC950 ConferenceCam (RRP: £199.99)

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The idea of working remotely from home instead of commuting into the office is slowly beginning to become a reality. Claims that flexible working saves money, energy and increases productivity has encouraged some firms to set in place remote working strategies.
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With an array of software and services such as VPNs (virtual private network), Dropbox, Skype, along with gadgets like webcams, smartphones and Mi-Fis (mobile Wi-Fi hotspots), spending a day away from your desk can easily be as productive as a day in work.

And if our near-empty London streets during the Olympics were anything to go by, perhaps many people out there have been trying out flexible working for the first time this past fortnight?

According to Microsoft, a staggering 90% of UK businesses now allow flexible working according to a Microsoft survey, but businesses are failing to provide the technology and policies to support it.

For the flexible worker or in-office conferences, computer accessory giant, Logitech, have produced a ConferenceCam suited for small group video conferencing with the added bonus of a full HD camera. 

Set up

Setting up the device was generally straight forward, attach the camera, plug into a power socket and your USB port and away you go - no device software needed.

There is no 'ON' button, so I was waiting a little while for a confirmation light, and it wasn't until I noticed Skype notifications coming out of the device speakers that I realised it was all connected with no software downloads - very simple.

Ease of use

Hit video call on Skype and the ConferenceCam connects like any other web cam.

Tested on Windows 7 using Skype, my first impressions of the video quality were great. The image was very sharp, thanks to the full HD camera. And the all-in-one audio and video worked really well, picking up voice clearly on both ends of the call.

Conf cam thumbs up.jpg

The device is £199.99 and also comes with a little remote control which allows you to sit back and adjust the angle of the camera using its 78 degree field of view (this can also be done on the base of the device). The camera also has a zoom function, however this could be a little smoother.

Logitech claims that its ConferenceCam bridges the "small meeting gap" in the market. It accommodates groups of 3-4 people without them having to sit each other's laps. This removes the need for a large scale meeting room video system which can be very costly. It is also surprisingly light; weighing 568g it can easily be picked up and taken into a meeting room.

So how many people can you actually fit in the cameras field of vision? We thought we would experiment in the CW office....

Well, we very comfortably fitted seven in the frame and as you can see the picture is great.

conf cam group.jpg
I made Skype calls over fixed broadband and over a Mi-Fi mobile connection and both times the clarity of the video came across very well, with an expected reduction in quality over mobile.

Any negatives?

You can connect the device via a power socket or an additional USB cable, meaning that there are two sets of cables running from the ConferenceCam. 

It's the type of gadget which I'd want plugged in all the time so it's ready to go, but with the increasing amount of gadgets on the everyday work desk, finding that extra power socket or USB port can be a nightmare. It would be useful if the device was powered by a single USB cable - but it is by no means a major fault of the product.

Jabbar incompatibility

We spoke to a fellow user of the ConferenceCam, Jonathan Villasan, who manages a telepresence system in New York. He tested out the ConferenceCam on Skype, Google Video Chat and Jabber Video for Telepresence. It's worth noting that while he found the same great results on Skype and Google, the Jabber video conferencing system was unable to use the ConferenceCam's full zoom and panning functions. Villasan informs us that Logitech are looking into this. 

He said: "Despite the issues, overall we still find the BCC950 to be useful for our environment because it still solves a lot of issues for our PC users. Namely the convenience of having the built-in speakerphone and microphone to mitigate feedback (big issue for us), flexibility in placement relative to a fixed webcam, and having a wide-angle lens helps so users don't have to 'squish' to get in the picture.

"Currently we are using it in one of our affiliate hospitals where our medical students do their clerkships. Each clerkship has a lecture every eight weeks and having this deployed lets our students participate at their assigned hospital so they don't have to travel (50 miles) back to campus."

Living room conferencing system

Keeping in mind the topic of flexible working, a device like this could potentially be used in the home, thanks to its lightweight nature.  David Maldow, Human Productivity Lab analyst and an associate editor at Telepresence Options, also tested out the ConferenceCam recently. He managed to create a living room videoconferencing system, using his television screen, a laptop and a VGA-DVI cable.

"This is the first time I have been able to use the biggest piece of glass in the house for videoconferencing, it was very easy to set up, and affordable," said Maldow. "You may not purchase the ConferenceCam with this purpose in mind, but if you own one you might want to try this out because it is pretty cool."

Thanks to the ConferenceCam's compact size and elongated "neck", he found that the eye contact using the device was close to natural, while the placement of the camera didn't distract from the conversation. 

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Four years in the making: The best of the best.

Faisal Alani | No Comments | No TrackBacks
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karate-kid2.jpgHaving created this blog and nurtured it for the past four years, I've decided to put the best blog posts/videos from the best on one page.

Diary of an outcast: Apple's Special iPad 2 Event
I will start with my favourite post, the infamous Apple event. I had been invited to Apple events before but somehow started getting missed off the list. I hate Apple so it was no surprise that they didn't want me there. Safe to say that after this post not only was I missed off the list but Computer Weekly never received an invite from Apple ever again.

iPhone Vs N97
This was the first big video project that me and David (video editor) put together. At the time I was so happy that I'd got the N97 I decided to make a video pitting it against the iPhone while mocking Apple's advertising campaign. Little did I know that the N97 would prove to be the worst purchase I've ever made in my life.




HTC Desire HD Review
David (who stars in this video) and I wanted to do something different and create a cool video review. This is what we came up with.

Sadly once we started recording David (and the department he worked for) were made redundant. It didn't effect the video but it wasn't a happy time for us. Having cleared out his desk he set up at home the next day to finish it. This was our last hurrah and the last video I made. Very proud of it.




What is the best mobile OS around?
At this point, no one wanted to be in any of my videos. The company was starting to cut back on them and so I tried to play four roles with four outfits and a moustache before I got told that what I was doing wasn't a productive use of my time. Honestly, how could they say that?

This video used to have a voting element that has since been removed because we couldn't afford to pay for the server the flash sat on.

The most ambitious video we ever tried.





Video: The future of business cards, I'm not taking the Poken
There was a girl I was desperate to go out with at my work. I needed to do a video to have a reason to talk to her but the only thing I'd been sent was a Poken. No phones or cool gadgets. Somehow I persuaded her to help me make this video. We're still together :)




Video review of the wiimote like Gyration Air Mouse
This video is pretty much when I realised that I can be funny. What people don't realise is that filming didn't take long but discussions between David and I on what was funny took forever.

He would stand there saying "That's not funny" every time I cracked a joke or did something stupid. Or one of my favourite lines of his was "You might think that's funny, but it isn't".




Video: Palm Pre vs the iPhone - The big debate
I had 2 weeks before Christmas to do a video armed with my wit and a white wig that was left over from a very bad 'Back to the future' spoof I'd made where I played the Doc. That video was so bad that the company we producd it for sent us a letter saying that if the video ever saw the light of day, they'd sue my a** off. 

David went on holiday with a week left of editing/filming to do so I didn't have anyone to tell me that what I was saying wasn't funny and some of the editing is a bit off. It's still a good video but we felt it was rushed.




Video: I heart iPad - Dating website matches man to iPad
What do you do when you get your hands on an iPad before the UK release? Write a review. Then what? Make a video about having a special relationship with it. Yep, not sure why.



The HTC and Google story: A love affair and a tragedy
Lord knows what compelled me to write this. Had I taken more time to craft it, I think it could've been great but when I read it now I feel it's rushed. Still good, where the idea came from I'll never know.

Video: Flip Mino HD review
This video took 84 takes. For no reason at all I couldn't stop laughing during recording. We got in trouble because it was meant to take a couple of hours but took almost two weeks.

Video: Zeemote review - Is this the future of mobile gaming?
I did this video because Zeemote said that they'd give me a free phone if I reviewed it. So...

GeeklyWeekly Sexy Halloween Special
Wow, how bad is this video? It doesn't even have anything to do with gadgets!!

Jawbone Icon HD: Now multi-purpose

mattscott49 | No Comments | No TrackBacks
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Jawbone have announced the New Icon HD headset and it's more than just your usual Bluetooth hands-free. Voice calls, check, wireless VoIP calls, check. *round of applause*

icon-hd--the-nerd-600px-wide.jpgApplause may be asking a bit much but I actually own a Jawbone Icon and it is an excellent Bluetooth headset, small, comfortable and with excellent battery life. The audio quality and range is also superb so I'd expect a lot from a so-called improved model.

Thankfully the recently unveiled Icon HD comes with a wideband speaker that is 25% larger than the original Icon's. Not only that, but the Icon HD also allows you to pause and play songs by pressing a button on the headset.

The new VoIP capabilities come courtesy of 'The Nerd' add on, which can be plugged into a USB on a PC or a Mac. It's plug-and-play, so no fiddly or confusing software, just simple wireless VoIP calling.

The bundle will soon be up for grabs at around £85 and by the time they hit the shelves the new Jawbone Companion Android App, which displays the headsets battery life and various other useful statistics, should also be available.

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