Life’s Good: LG 2013 Product Showcase

LG-84-inches

LG invited us to take a look at their plans for our living room for 2013. Whilst we didn’t enjoy their choice of curtains, they had some amazing suggestions for audio/visual equipment.

The future’s looking pretty clever, with 90% of LG’s upcoming TV and AV roadmap Smart-enabled. Smartphones have really set the bar quite high for this version of artificial intelligence so it’s good to see manufacturers stepping up to this challenge. We covered LG’s magic remote when it was launched but it’s impressive having a first-hand play with the 3D gestures and voice commands. LG’s Smart TV platform still hasn’t quite make social media on TVs useful, but the automatic inclusion of streaming services such as iPlayer, LoveFilm and Netflix is delightful and speaks to a more modern way to consume content. LG were also keen to show off their range of second-screen options that enabled you to move your content around the house – the living room of the future may be the kitchen, or garden or wherever you happen to be. LG were keen to show off their monster 84-inch ULTRA HD TV (LM960V), which is available to buy in the UK now. The LA960W was far more modest at 47- and 55 inches and beautifully designed.

LG-Magic-Remote-Hand

But great looks are nothing without great sound and LG had a range of home cinema options for us to play with. The BH9430OW is a classic surround sound set-up, the kind which I actually see less and less of these days. Bundled with a 3D BluRay player, the system cranks out 1460W of power through aramid fibre speaker cones, for crisp sound. The two rear satellite speakers are wireless, which is a boon for those hoping for a clutter-less environment. The 3D sounds is impressive, but it’s hard to gauge if it’s a distraction or part of an immersive experience in a media showcase setting. The NB4530A was LG’s take on the increasingly popular soundbar. At just 35 mm the 310 W soundbar can comfortably blend into most homes and can wirelessly sync with your TV or smartphone and even comes with a wireless subwoofer (we’re keen on anything that cuts down on cable clutter!).

LG-CM-Micro-System

As music lovers, we also enjoyed the CM2630DAB, even though a CD playing hi-fi system felt incredibly old-fashioned, despite the inclusion of Bluetooth streaming and USB connection. Our modern-minds felt much more at home with the ND8630 Dual Docking station, that works with Android and Apple devices. The ND8630 has Bluetooth and Airplay streaming and NFC connectivity, all so you can access its 80w of rich sound.

CM2630DAB:£199
NB4530A: £349
BH9430OW: £699

Image courtesy of Twitter user @jegarharp

Swissvoice makes a stand for retro calling

With retro styling all the rage, quirky mobile accessory company Swissvoice has revived the old faithful landline look with this pair of Bluetooth stations.

ePure-Swissvoice

The catchy-titled BH01u and BH01i may look like something plucked from the office desk of a 1970s mime artist but they’re actually fully-integrated Bluetooth units that sync with your mobile, PC or tablet for hands-free calling, music streaming and iPhone Siri compatibility. If you really can’t bear to prise yourself away from your iPhone, in addition to a standard universal connector, the BH01i features a convenient retractable dock which charges up your Apple talkie-box and doubles as a convenient stand for video calling.

They may be rocking a touch of retro chic, but these docking stations are packed with advanced Bluetooth, to connect with two Bluetooth-enabled mobiles at the same time. While this may swerve charging, docking, even streaming squabbles, it knows how to play fair and will automatically favour the last phone it linked to (you’ll have to agree to take turns amongst yourselves!)

If you’re sceptical about the voice quality of some of the more tinny Bluetooth stations / kits which give the game away to the caller that they might not have your full attention, the HD Voice feature with noise reduction should give you a bit of extra cover!

To activate Siri, a capability currently exclusive to Swissvoice, just hold down the phone icon. If you don’t have an iPhone, it won’t transform your smartphone into a piece of Apple kit but it will trigger voice-activated dialling instead.

If the design of these docks has got you a bit misty-eyed, why not pick up the receiver and relive the days when your phone calls were restricted to a three-yard (yes I’ve gone imperial) radius of the telephone point. Or just use the chance to free up your smartphone and twiddle with your apps / diary / email instead.

You can actually charge up the handset and take it with you for more mobile conversations or to stream music, radio or podcasts from your mobile phone or tablet. Talking of music, the docks have two adequate high-definition two-watt speakers, which fade in / out automatically in favour of incoming / outgoing calls. So you never need sit in silence again! Swissvoice promises to take you back to the roots of telephony, but it’s packed with enough present-day technology to make sure you’re not left in the dark.

The BH01i (with iPhone doc) £149.99 RRP, BH01u (universal charging point )£129.99 from Amazon.

Gear4: iOS docks of the future

Gear4, one of the leaders in the iPad dock market, invited us to have a play with some of their up and coming iOS accessories. The biggest challenge Gear4 see for the rest of the year is the increasing adoption of wireless audio protocols in docks – both Bluetooth and AirPlay.

Gear4

Gear4’s AirZone Series fully commits to Apple’s AirPlay standard with pretty much no other connectivity options – bar a line in port at the back. Aesthetically the results are very pleasing – it’s a very streamlined design with very few controls. They’ve put some thought into the set up too so you can be up and running with a simple button press – a welcome addition as this is been a minor headache with some of the other docks I’ve had to configure in my time. And beyond aesthetics it sounds pretty good too.

Bluetooth is still very much a player and there StreetParty Wireless is a very cool portable BlueTooth stereo speaker with a built-in speakerphone. In a similar fashion to the AirZone, controls are pretty minimal, with volume and mic control and little else, but I’m guessing Gear4 think (probably quite correctly) that your phone will be in your pocket anyway. You can get up to 8 hours out of the rechargeable lithium ion battery.

Staying put? The Xorb Wireless is a 2.1 30W stereo Bluetooth speaker with excellent bass and a great bowling ball-esque design.

The most interesting dock on display was the “appcessory” the Renew SleepClock – a non-contact sleep monitor and bedside speaker. Tracking your sleep cycle, the Renew SleepClock wakes you at *exactly* the right moment, theoretically leaving your refreshed and ready to tackle the day. It also monitors all your sleep patterns so you can see your “sleep efficency” (and if someone asks if you slept well you can give them exact measurements). It does all this though a built-in sensors so you don’t have to strap yourself into things before you sleep.

For more details head to www.gear4.com

TDK iPhone dock line up

One of my favourite stops on my trip to IFA last year was the TDK stand, where I got to geek out about high quality audio and play with various headphones (the TDK ST-800 are still one of the swishest pairs of headphones I’ve tried). So I’m looking forward to TDK’s new range of iPhone docks(and indeed most smartphones), especially as they are priced at level I can afford.

The new line includes:

TAC3122

TAC7221 App-Enhanced Portable Stereo Speaker (£69.99)
Stay at home? An App-Enhanced portable stereo speaker with hidden handle protects your iPod or smart phone from damage and you can pop it on your bookshelf or office desk.

TAC4525 Dual Charging Alarm Clock (£69.99)
Pretty much all these docks can be used as Alarm Clocks but this one is *really* keen on making sure you don’t oversleep. The Dual Charging Alarm Clock including FM radio, snooze, sleep functions, and a dimmer. It also has *two* docks, great for those two smartphone having families. The front facing dock features a funky hinge and there’s an additional USB charging port in the back.

TAC4221

TAC4221 Space Saving Alarm Clock (EU MSRP: €59,95)
As above … but smaller!!

TAC3521 App-Enhanced Rechargeable Travel Speaker (£84.99)
Winter is coming, but first summer is on the way. The Rechargable Travel Speaker should be an enjoyable addition to park and beach parties. There’s a folding design and slim profile so it’s easy to throw into a backpack. As it’s TDK, there’s powerful stereo sound with dedicated bass ports that produce deep sound (so many portable docks have terrible bass sounds).

TAC3122 Ultra-Portable Travel Speaker (£59.99)
Space at premium? The Ultra-Portable Travel Speaker is as you’d expect, a compact folding speaker with a very small footprint. Built-in app-enhancement means you can have a swish alarm clock on you at all times.

Enhancing the Mac Experience: Henge Docks, Clique and TwelveSouth HoverBar

In a way that pretty much no-one 15 years ago could have seen coming, Apple are reigning supreme in the tech world. Once seemingly consigned to the dustbin of history with the Mensheviks (who talks about them any more) Apple products are now becoming ubiquitous in certain industries. This has created an unprecedented demand for Apple accessories, and cunning designers and engineers are able to create all sorts of opportunities to enhance “the Mac experience”.

Clique

Henge Clique
I love my Magic TrackPad. With Lion OS in tow, I think it’s fair to say it has significantly enhanced my desktop computing experience. And that’s not something I throw around lightly either, as I’ve been playing with various user interface peripherals for many many years. Once you go Magic TrackPad, you can’t go Back(Pad).

I also love the design and feel of my Apple wireless keyboard (before you complain I have many problems with Apple as a company. But I like these two things.) and Henge Docks’ Clique enables you to marry Apple’s wireless keyboard and Magic TrackPad in one secure and sturdy compartment for use whilst away from a desk. I tried shaking and dropping the Clique but it was very robust. What Henge has put together, let no man rent asunder.

The Clique’s cleverly designed power buttons means you don’t have to remove the device to toggle the power. For the style conscious the glossy white finish and light grey accents found blend seamlessly with the wireless keyboard and TrackPad.

Henge-Dock-Air

Henge MacBook Air 11″ Dock

I love my 11″ MacBook Air too (ok this is starting to sound a little crazy), as it’s light, portable and with an SSD installed, incredibly fast. But that’s cute little screen could be a little bigger at times.

Fortunately Henge have quick and easy docking solution that lets you plug your MacBook Air into an external monitor or TV. The dock is well-built and secure, and there’s very little risk of damaging your mac. It’s a software free solution so you can simply pop your laptop directly into it and marvel at the magic of the big screen. Henge Docks’ patent-pending solution utilises a customer’s existing Apple supplied MagSafe power adapter and Mini-DisplayPort adapter and you can choose which output you need for your end.

HoverBar

TwelveSouth HoverBar

I love my iPad (Ok I hear it now. I hate my first generation Apple TV. Does that make you happy now?) and it’s an ideal second display for when I’m working on my iMac. It’s great to have various apps open and interacting with them while I write. I have Timeli open right now.

If you like the sound of this combo, you’ll love the HoverBar – a sleek flexible arm that clamps to the back of your iMac (or Apple Display) and allows you to float your iPad either above or to the side of the display. Flex the bar and tilt iPad in any direction to find your favorite viewing position. You can even extend the workstation by adding a second HoverBar.

The HoverBar is available from the Apple store and amazon from £69.95

Arcam drDock iPod/iPhone docking station

arcam-dr-Dock

Here’s the thing about Apple products, you begin collecting them and before you know it, all your music, photos, films and emails are stored on them and your whole life has become inexorably Apple dependant. Savvy manufacturers like Arcam, British Hi-Fi pioneers  and one of the world’s leading experts in digital audio and video have of course realised this and thankfully made our lives just that bit more manageable in the process.

The drDock is just one of those gadgets, a docking system compatible with the complete Apple family including IPads that will connect perfectly easily to a digital TV or any AV receiver via HDMI, to a PC or digital device via USB and all the other bases are covered too with analogue and SPDIF connectors. The even better news is the  drDock doesn’t use the inferior Apple internal audio, as the built in DAC takes care of all that, so running video or music through a home cinema system or a high end receiver will sound very impressive.

The drDock syncs all your devices and, with the exception of the IPad, charges them too, whilst the handy remote controller will give you all the control you need without getting off the couch with full support for iOS devices including power, volume, play, pause, skip/seek, repeat and shuffle functions.

The drDock won’t look out of place in your living space either encased as it is in matt black  high-quality cast aluminium with gold connectors and a solid rubber base.

This is a sensible and highly affordable addition to your digital home set up and one that will keep all the members of your Apple family very happy indeed.

Arcam drDock  £200.

www.arcam.co.uk

Magicbox Beam: Beam the world into your living room

We all want more and more from our gadgets don’t we? After all, cash is tight these days, not to mention space, so who needs two gadgets when one can do everything for you? I guess this must be the thinking behind the new Beam from UK-based consumer electronics outfit Magicbox.

Beam-dock

Not only is it an iPod and iPhone docking station (and there are plenty of those around) but it also offers DAB, internet radio and Wi-Fi connectivity. So, you can access your usual DAB radio, plus make your choice from more than 11,000 internet radio stations and pre-recorded podcasts and ‘listen again’ content.

Plug your Apple device into the dock (or even, dare we say it, a non-Apple MP3 player via the audio in jack) and you can access your own music library. Your iPod or iPhone can also be charged at the same time.

Content can also be streamed wirelessly from your computer.

The Magicbox Beam looks pretty stylish with its black matte and gloss chassis, and if space is short it can be taken off the base and mounted on the wall (and hooray – a wall bracket is included in the box).

Music comes through two 10-watt speakers, and control is via a 3.5inch colour TFT touch-screen or a remote control. As well as accessing all your own music, there is a digital alarm clock with snooze and sleep modes – you can choose which radio station will wake you up each morning. The FM radio receptor features RDS, so that you can easily see which radio station you’ve tuned into, and you can choose up to 20 presets to allow for quick access to your favourite stations.

The Beam costs £179.99. Find out more at www.magicboxes.com

Henge Docks for MacBooks review

Making a MacBook dock is a difficult task – how do you complement Apple’s design perfection without adding a premium price? Henge Docks thinks it has the answer with a new range of 13″, 15″ and 17″ MacBook compatible accessories.

Henge-Dock

If you have an Apple machine from late 2008 (when the MacBooks got a shade slimmer) onwards, you’ll be able to use a Henge Dock on either your 13, 15 or 17″ MacBook.

The dock itself comes in four incarnations. The entry-level is compatible with the old plastic models, while there are three more versions for the Macbook/Pro unibody at 13-inch, 15-inch and 17-inch models.

Unfortunately, none of the docks are compatible with each other, so you’ll need to buy a new one for each model should you choose to update.

The Henge Dock is basically a finely sculpted piece of plastic that snuggly holds your MacBook closed and upright, allowing air to flow around the machine and keep it cool for intense processes.

It comes with a series of holes which you can pin cables to – such as your Macbook charger, a mini DVI-out or any other post you’ll find on the left-hand side of the laptop.

With these cables plugged in (including USB extensions), you can then use your MacBook as desktop system and easily pull it out when you need to get moving – it’s pretty simple and works well.

Once connected, your laptop feels snug and secure – there’s no need to worry about it accidentally toppling over.

The problem we found, however, is that the white-plastic looks a bit tacky compared with the smooth aluminium finish of the Apple products.

Our other issue is the price – it’s not the cheapest – £59 – for the 13″ version, and if you’ve already forked out for 17″ MacBook Pro, you’ll be looking at £79. Ouch.