ViewSonic VP2780-4K – a strong display at a reasonable price?

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Whether you call it 4K or Ultra HD, the next generation of monitors is still too pricey for most consumers. However, for professional use ViewSonic’s new VP2780-4K looks to be a viable budget option.

It’s a 27-inch display with a 3840×2160 pixel resolution. When you’re working on graphics or video editing, a sharp picture isn’t sufficient: you need as wide a range of colours as possible. PC Advisor notes the monitor can show every one of the possible colours covered by the older sRGB colour system, along with 80 percent of the potential colours on Adobe systems.

PC Pro was impressed with the display’s colour and contrast, but noted that in its review model at least, images had an unwanted “warm, reddish tint.” It also criticised the variance in brightness across the monitor.

Another key feature of the VP2780-4K is that it’s among the first to support HDMI 2.0. That means double the bandwidth of the more-common HDMI 1.4, in turn making it possible to run a 4K resolution with a 60Hz refresh rate. PC World notes that previous 4K monitors have been stuck at an “unusable” 30Hz, so this is one of the first monitors to fully exploit 4K’s potential.

Several reviewers criticised the monitor’s on-screen menu set-up. It uses a touch-sensitive input on the bezel, but PC Advisor found this required such a firm press that you’d need to hold the monitor in place with your other hand.

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While £699 puts this firmly in the professional category, the VP2780-4K seems to be very much a budget model within this context. If the early reviews are anything to go by, it’s a matter of viewpoint: you can see the annoyances and limitations as unacceptable in such an expensive purchase, or you can see the screen quality and resolution as making it a bargain compared with rival models that can cost almost twice as much.

Visit Viewsonic to find out more.

CES 2015 Video: Zagg’s ‘Pocket’ foldable wireless keyboard

Have you ever found yourself frustrated with the tiny keys on your smartphone or tablet? Ever thought that it would be immensely convenient to have a compact keyboard like the one you have on your laptop or PC, but for your phone? I bet you have. Zagg’s ‘Pocket’ foldable wireless keyboard will support you with phone and tablet compatibility, all with a neat little stand. When you’re finished using it for now, the keyboard folds up, becoming compact and easy to store. The keyboard boasts an incredible 2 years of battery life, with a USB port for charging in 2017. Watch the video above to see the device’s folding in action.

The keyboard is due to go on sale in February or March 2015 for $69.99. Visit Zagg to find out more.

A stylish thumbs up for the new Philips Moda 2 Monitor

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OK, so it might not be as big as the 40-inch Philips 4K monitor Latest Gadgets recently produced a round up on, but the new Philips Moda 2 monitor, with its 27-inch IPS display, is still pretty darn big.

The new Philips 275c5QHAW is introduced by MMD, a technology company and brand license partner for Philips Monitors. Proudly marketing the monitor as the “display with sense appeal”, the Moda 2 appeals to viewers’ senses –apparently.

With its glossy white Moda design and minimalist look, this yet-to-be-released 27-inch monitor certainly looks to have a rather eye-catching design. According to Thomas Schade, Vice President EMEA and MMD:

“Looks really matter when people choose a display for their living room. We’re confident that the new display will attract attention for all the right reasons.”

But what do the slightly less biased tech press have to say about the new Philips Moda 2?

Oh My Gadget! is somewhat bowled over by the fact the Moda 2 enables you to show videos from your smartphone without any wires. Being equipped with built-in 7 watt speakers which support the Bluetooth connection users can play video and audio content on the monitor with portable devices, completely wire free.

For surround-sound enthusiasts, the Moda 2 boasts acoustic audio 5.1 on the basis of SRS WOW HD, the net result being surround-sound.

Another note-worthy trait of this monitor is its slight frame, just 2.5mm, which, according to Oh My Gadget! “makes it virtually invisible and increases the viewing area.”

A super-slim frame

Tech Boom is pretty impressed with this sleek and slim monitor. According to its review, this model uses an IPS panel and achieve “the most brilliant images and extended viewing angles of 178 degrees.”

Also picking up on the fact the monitor’s speaker Bluetooth can be used to connect a portable device, Tech Boom is quick to point out you can even answer calls directly from your computer.

Flicker-Free technology

Long gone are the days when we staring into a flickering screen all day would result in eye-fatigue, headaches, or, worse still, migraines, as the Philips Moda 2 is equipped with Flicker-Free technology, designed, as Tech Boom, states, to reduce flicker and regulate the brightness.

According to Crowded Brain, with AH-IPS technology, viewers can enjoy extra-wide viewing angles, from virtually any angle. As the CrowdedBrain review states, with a Full HD widescreen resolutions of 1920 x 1080 pixels, the monitor’s display “supports the highest HD resolution for maximum picture quality.”

All-in-all it seems to be a thumbs up for this definitely stylish looking monitor.

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The new Philips Moda 2 is expected to retail around £279.

Adesso’s Slimtouch 212 brings flexibility and usability to the table

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Adesso are best known for making sturdy and rugged keyboards with a price that reflects their build quality, so the low-cost, ultra-flexible SlimTouch 212 is something of a change of pace. It’s only really suited for people with very particular needs, but looks to be good value for that sector.

The manufacturers use the term “hyperflexible” to describe the keyboard, which is less than half an inch thick. While it doesn’t appear you’ll be able to roll it up (the keys are recessed as with a standard computer keyboard), it should fit into even the most awkward of spaces in a bag without worry.

It’s in the “mini” form, which means it’s just over 12 inches across. To put that into context, it’s about the same size as the main section of a full-size keyboard, from ESC to F12. Thanks to some creative arrangement of extra keys like “Home” and the arrows, this means the individual keys aren’t that much smaller than with the full-size setup. For added control, the function keys double up as multimedia and internet hotkeys.

The other big selling point is the silicon-based coating that encases the entire keyboard. That makes it completely protected against damage from water, dust or oils. It also means its possible to clean the keyboard with disinfectants or good old soap and water without worrying about electrical damage. For added reassurance for the health conscious, the coating is also antimicrobial, cutting down on the potential for germs to build up.

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The SlimTouch 212 works with all Windows systems from 2000 onwards and connected via USB, with a handy six-foot cable length for added versatility. It’s suggested retail price is a very reasonable US$29.99 (around £18.50). That makes it a viable option both for those who travel a lot and those who need something that will stand up to unfavourable conditions such as industrial or medical settings.

QODE Thin Type for iPad Air – First impressions

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I’m a big fan of my iPad and take it with me most places in its free and unfettered form. However, on those occasions when I want to hunker down and get an extend piece of prose out into the world, I do like to whip out a Bluetooth keyboard and really dig in. So imagine my delight when Belkin announced the release of the new QODE Thin Type for iPad Air, one of the thinnest keyboards on the market. All the magic of typing, without ruining the Air’s sleek form factor. Too good to be true? I went to the internet to check.

ZDNet told me everything I wanted to hear, almost straight away:

The typing experience on the Thin Type is really good. The chiclet keys are as good as those found on most laptops. This is due to the spacing and tactile feel of the keys. Fast touch typing is easily supported by this keyboard.

I love a good chiclet keyboard and still mourn the theft of my Macbook Air on a near daily basis. To be able to get a laptop level typing experience on a tablet is the sort of thing I dream about.

However CNET, if not exactly shattering, my dreams, at least injected a tiny dose of reality.

Typing was comfy, but I had a few more typing errors than on Logitech’s stellar keyboard. Maybe I wasn’t pressing down hard enough on the keys. So, it’s a very good but not great typing experience.

iLounge returned to this “almost but not quite” theme.

As for the keys themselves, they’re very close to great, with a small layout issue being the only real negative factor. Although the letter keys are somewhat small at 0.52” tall by 0.56” wide—others are shorter and narrower—we found them to be very comfortable to type on. There’s a slightly textured finish that feels pleasant to the touch, and the keys have a tactility similar to that of Apple’s keyboards. They travel further than the thickness of the keyboard would have you think, and click pleasantly.

This sounds like something I could happily live with.The Unofficial Apple Weblog TUAW, expands on Belkin’s keyboard offering.

Belkin put a completely separate row of keys onto the top of the QODE for iPad special functions — those keys aren’t shared with with the number row as on the Logitech Ultrathin so there’s no need to hold down the Fn key to get them to work.

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Take that Ultrathin! The QODE is powered by a rechargeable battery that Belkin claim will keep you going for 79 hours. However, it too comes with some downsides. According to Gotta Be Mobile

One of the unique features about this particular keyboard cover is the large bump along the back edge that houses the battery. This means that the keyboard has a slight rake to it from front to back when in typing position. While the battery bump provides for extra battery life, it also makes the thinness of the keyboard seem less thin than the measurements indicate.

So there is a little bulk, maybe even a little more bulk than I’d like. But is it worth it for the additional battery power? According to iLounge, there are some clever things at work to keep the battery chugging along.

The keyboard cover uses a number of techniques to help save its own battery life, and the iPad Air’s battery life, as well. Embedded magnets lock the tablet when Qode Thin Type is being used as a lid — a standard but appreciated feature. When you switch to typing mode, the iPad gets inserted into the ridge, and can be positioned in either landscape or portrait orientation. A small button gets depressed when you do so, signalling the keyboard to wake from sleep and reconnect, and turning on the iPad’s screen, if it’s off. Pull the tablet away, and the keyboard goes into a resting mode. We found the system to work consistently well.

And according to Gotta Be Mobile this all pays off.

That extra battery is built to last. According to Belkin it will keep going for up to “79 hours of active typing time” and up to six months on standby. Most external keyboards do quite well on a charge, but I’ve never seen a claim of up to 79 hours before. Suffice it to say I have spent some time typing on the keyboard, but not that much. A micro USB cable is included for those times you do need to charge it up. The battery bump also provides for a nice hand grip when you are carrying the cover closed on the iPad Air.

So what’s the general feeling? It’s clear that the QODE is far from a perfect keyboard. But what in life is truly perfect? Lotus Biscuit Spread and not much else. But is it good enough.

CNET seem to think so.

I wrote this whole review on it, and I have warm feelings about the Thin Type. I want to take it with me everywhere… the Thin Type, overall, is a winner based on design alone. Consider it strongly if you want a premium iPad Air keyboard. It might not trounce Logitech’s, but it’s awfully

And I’ll let TUAW get the last word:

The Belkin QODE Thin Type Keyboard Case for iPad Air has plenty of competition out there, particularly from Logitech’s similar Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. The QODE, despite some odd key placement, is a worthy competitor to the last generation of the Logitech Ultrathin. The slightly larger keys and precise key response almost make up for combining other keys in non-standard ways, and the solidity of the construction is a plus. Knowing for sure that the keyboard is really shut off when the iPad Air is removed from it?

The Belkin QODE Thin Type Keyboard Case for iPad Air (F5L155) is out now for £89.99/€99.99

Xbox One vs PS4: battle of the next-gen consoles

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Whether it’s Apple vs Microsoft, iOS vs Android or Facebook vs Twitter, the tech world loves a good head-to-head. In recent weeks we’ve seen one of the greatest heavyweight battles yet as both Microsoft and Sony launched their much-anticipated next-generation consoles. The reviews are in, but which machine has the edge? If you’re thinking about making a purchase in time for Christmas, or are just curious about who’s offering what, we’ve pulled together a rundown of opinion from some of the most influential sites on the Web.

Microsoft Xbox One

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Unlike Sony, Microsoft has a phone and desktop ecosystem to consider as well as a gaming one, and these other platforms make themselves felt on the Xbox One. The Verge picks up on this, saying that it’s both a games device and “a sprawling, ambitious attempt to be the most important thing in your living room for the next decade.” The review also notes the importance of Kinect: you can use voice commands to launch games, run searches and record gameplay, though it’s often frustrating to use. It’s even clever enough, in theory, to recognise your face and log you on automatically.

The digital media handling of the Xbox One is praised, though the review suggests the PS4 has the superior controller and the faster loading times. The theme running through the piece is that the Xbox One has lots of unfulfilled potential in terms of its Kinect functionality, TV integration and support for Windows apps. The article concludes:

“The Xbox One is here for a decade. If Microsoft can deliver on all its promises in that time, it will have built a console truly worthy of Input One — but that’s a big if.”

This overarching idea — lots of potential, but not there yet — is continued by Keith Stuart in the Guardian. The review compliments the Xbox One’s improved interface, advanced multi-tasking capabilities and helpful Kinect integration while lamenting the rather lacklustre selection of launch day games. Ultimately, writes Stuart, “something about the PS4 feels fresher and more seductive”.

At games site IGN, the Xbox One picks up a respectable 7.8 out of 10 score, and again the main theme is the “split focus” as Microsoft looks to please gamers and more casual users with the breadth of its offerings. According to IGN’s Fran Mirabella, the software and hardware ” isn’t totally ready for what the Xbox One’s trying accomplish.” Gameplay and Kinect integration are much improved over the Xbox 360, says the review, and there’s praise for the integrated digital media apps and television functionality.

In the end though, MIrabella comes to the same conclusion as many other reviewers, that while the Xbox One’s attempts to own the living room are laudable, the functionality isn’t quite there yet (and for the moment the PS4 beats it as a gaming machine). His final verdict:

“If you’re purely interested in gaming, you may want to wait until the platform stabilises or drops in price. However, if you’re more like me and are tired of the dumbest screen in your house being your TV, the Xbox One will change your living room forever.”

Sony PlayStation 4

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If the Xbox One is trying to broaden its appeal, then the Sony PlayStation 4 is built primarily for gamers. According to the Verge, the PS4 is an attempt to build “the game console of our dreams”. The DualShock 4 wireless controller is described as “the best gamepad Sony has ever built” and the on-screen interface is described as putting games and associated apps front and centre.

Sharing and broadcasting your exploits is also a big deal for Sony’s console — there’s even a Share button on the controller. You can capture a screenshot or video of the last 15 minutes of gaming action and even broadcast your screen live. It has its own basic Kinect clone in the form of the £55 Playstation Camera, and then there’s the £180 PlayStation Vita, the portable console that can act as a second screen and complementary controller for the PS4.

In the end, The Verge argues, the PS4’s problem may not be the Xbox One but the PS3: “The PS3 was a media powerhouse, and the PS4 goes way too far the other way.” As the wrap-up puts it:

“Right now it’s a fast, powerful console with a great controller and a mostly useful interface… For right now, though, there’s little incentive to spend $399 on a PlayStation 4. Not only are there few games worth the price of admission, the vast library of PS3 games is more compelling than anything the PS4 currently offers.”

Over in the Guardian, Keith Stuart is once again on reviewing duties. “Everything is geared towards making the technology accessible to programmers,” writes Stuart. The trackpad is more comfortable, the interface is better, and the social and sharing aspects are better than its rival, claims the review.

The PS4 earns itself an 8.2 score at IGN, putting it slightly ahead of the Xbox One. “The PS4 not only brings the PlayStation platform into a more modern era, but establishes a strong foundation for long-term evolution,” writes Scott Lowe. While the PS4 has similar specs to the Xbox One, Lowe points out that Sony’s console runs more quietly in a smaller form factor. There’s praise for the DualShock 4 controller and the “gorgeous, straightforward” operating system, while Lowe also has good things to say about the PS4’s social and sharing features. The review concludes:

“The PS4 is an exceptionally well-crafted console. It’s impressively small and attractive design sets a new bar for the industry, and its powerful hardware offers not only stunning visuals, but higher player counts, constantly connected experiences, and larger, more detailed worlds.”

In summary

It isn’t difficult to pick out the common themes from the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 reviews on the Web. Both machines have the potential to be great, but lack any outstanding titles at launch. The PS4 offers a purer, faster, more sophisticated option for gamers; the Xbox One has more strings to its bow in terms of digital media and app support. The advice seems to be wait and see, unless you’re desperate to get your hands on a next-generation console: the final verdict on these two heavyweights won’t be made for several years yet.

We’ll give the final word to Keith Stuart in the Guardian: “If you love games, PS4 is a smart choice, and if you want a progressive media hub, Xbox One is your thing.” You can pick up the Xbox One for around £430 online, with the PS4 retailing at £350 or thereabouts; don’t forget, though, that Microsoft’s console comes with a Kinect camera included, whereas the Sony equivalent is £55 extra.

PS4 image © Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc.

dLAN 500 AV Wireless+ Starter Kit Review

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As Peter Kay might say, “WiFi, it’s the future – I’ve tasted it”. You realise this is true when your relatives visit and, within minutes of crossing the threshold, proceed to pull out their gadgets and demand to know your WiFi password. This ever increasing demand on my connection, combined with keeping up with the Joneses, led me to recently splash out on a fibre broadband connection.

Having paid Sky a healthy premium for their “Pro” connection, I wanted to ensure I was getting the maximum possible speed – which is 80mb downstream and 20mb upstream. You’ll therefore understand my disappointment when I ran a couple of speed tests and discovered I could only get a download speed of around 35mb. Changing the router’s WiFi channel led to a small increase, but I was left feeling pretty peeved that I was paying for a service that I couldn’t actually get.

That’s when I decided to try connecting directly to the router with an ethernet cable. Hey presto, suddenly I was getting a download speed of around 76mb. The problem is that my office isn’t near the router and permanently running a cable across the house wasn’t an option. At this stage I should also mention that we were struggling to get WiFi in the garden (which I believe Twitter refers to as a #middleclassproblem!).

If only there was one stone with which to kill these two birds… well ok, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that dLAN 500 AV Wireless+ starter kit could be the stone I needed. This kit, from the folks at Devolo, has the potential to deliver both an ethernet cabled speed in another room (through their Powerline technology) as well as extending our network through its integrated WiFi.

But, before we go further, here is a quick unboxing video for those who enjoy them:

So, was the dLAN 500 AV the solution to our problem? In a word, yes. The beauty of the product is that, like Ronseal, it does exactly what it says on the tin. You just run the supplied cable from your router in to the smaller 500 AVplus adapter and plug it in. Then, somewhere else in your house, plug-in the larger ‘Wireless+’ adapter. I then connected my work PC to this socket with an ethernet cable and it instantly gave me the 76mb download speed I’d be after. Having the plug on the other side of the house also enabled us to surf the web while sunbathing in the garden! You simply login to the WiFi network using the name and password printed on the plug and, like the rest of this kit, it just works ‘automagically’.

Grand St: Indie Gadgets for People by People

As we covered when we looked at Makers, there is a small revolution happening in the Internet of Things. Slowly but surely people, not giant corporations are making interesting and useful tech and getting in into the hands of other people. One of the coolest places for small-batch gadgets that stands apart from the mass produced novelty warehouses that dominate the Internet, is Grand St – a market place for creative gadgets. Grand St have recently exited closed beta so we thought we’d check out some of their wares.

Sensordrone

Sensordrone:The Sensordrone adds multi-sensor functionality to your smartphone – functionality that most of you don’t need. But that’s the charm of Grand St – niche gadgets can thrives. The included sensors tell you colour and light intensity, the carbon monoxide levels, humidity, and much more. And it can also be readily expanded – open source hardware if you will.

Blinksteady

Blink Steady: Blink Steady is the perfect bike light hewn from pristinely-machined solid aluminium and hand-crafted in the epicentre of cool Brooklyn, NY. The buttonless bike light will emit a steady blink or beam depending on its orientation, with a visible beam range of 120 degrees. The included accelerometer and light sensors mean that Blink Steady only works when it is supposed to – when it’s dark and your bike is moving.

Touchfire

Touchfire: An iPad keyboard overly that provides tactile feedback as you type, improving accuracy and speed. Snapping into place via the magic of magnets, Touchfire is incredibly lightweight and easily folds away into an Apple Smart Cover so that it’s always with you.

PowerPot

Powerpot: The PowerPot is insane but also insanely useful. PowerPot is a camping mess kit from the future, cast in anodised weatherproof aluminium. The embedded thermoelectric mini-generator creates enough power to charge most USB devices and it also includes 5 LED USB lights that provide enough power for reading.

Waka-Power

Waka Waka Power : If you want to get off the grid take a look at the Waka Waka Power, a solar-powered light and battery backup. You can use it to charge nearly any smartphone, and it doubles as a bright lantern. On an 8-hour solar charge, you can get up to 100 hours of light on low power, 40 hours on medium, and 20+ hours on high.