Don’t leave home without it: A gift guide for a loved one with the travel bug

What do you buy a travel junkie that seems to have everything? Well that’s simple, any one of the following…

Echo-Smartpen

Livescribe Echo Smartpen

If your loved one’s tendency for travel is business rather than pleasure related, the chances are he or she will love the Livescribe Echo Smartpen. This ingenious device records audio and matches it up with what you are writing. People taking notes during a presentation or a lecture can get away with jotting down keywords and later going back and listening to the conversation, cued up to different words on the page. When users download the free software to their PC, when the pen is plugged into a USB port, they can recap both the audio and the notes – most definitely a ‘smarter’ choice of pen.

Available in two different sizes, the 4GB Echo Smartpen costs £110 and the 8GB Smartpen costs £130.

Kayak app

This app costs nothing so cannot be considered as the most ‘generous’ travel gift available. Nonetheless being a simple, searchable app including information on flights, car hire and hotels, it’s a corker.

The Kayak app is available at www.kayak.com

Klipsch Image S4 Headphones

For travellers enduring long-distance journeys, standard ear buds can become slightly uncomfortable to say the least. The Klipsch Image S4 Headphones come in different sizes and are smaller, more tapered and softer than conventional headphones. They may be smaller but they are sturdier and more sound resistant than other standard ear buds – a real ‘must have’ for ardent travellers.

Go Laptop Travel Charger

Times have changed immensely since the days a backpacker’s backpack consisted of a pair of undies, socks and a toothbrush. Nowadays even backpackers insist on taking their laptop with them on their travels. A decent charger is therefore imperative. With a bevy of ‘tips’ or adaptors, that work with different power jacks, a whole host of Windows-based laptops can be charged with ease. And measuring 0.7 inches thick and weighing just 13.5 ounces, the Go Laptop Travel Charger is less bulky and lighter than standard AC adaptors, making more room for those other ‘essential’ travel items.

World Mate app

Another fantastic freebie, the World Mate app is an essential travel portal that provides worldwide weather forecast, currency exchanges and hotel searches.

World Mate can be downloaded at www.worldwidemate.com

Tripit Travel app

By acting as a kind of personal travel organiser, the Tripit travel app creates a master travel itinerary and enables users to access their travel itinerary online. To collate confirmation emails into one travel itinerary, download the Tripit app for free at: www.tripit.com

SE-CL34, SE-CL521 and SE-CL531: Pioneer brightens up the headphone market

Pioneer is continuing its foray into the headphone market with three new models designed to be used with portable media players.

Anyone who’s tired of seeing the ubiquitous white earphones – whether they’re made by Apple or not – will be glad that Pioneer has decided to put a bit of colour back into the music business.

Pioneer-Headphones

The SE-CL34 has been designed for the fashion-conscious apparently, and comes in a choice of blue or bright red (and matte white!).

The SE-CL521 is aimed at those who prefer a somewhat more classic look, and comes in black, dark blue and red – oh, and white as well! They also offer excellent noise cancellation, says Pioneer.

The top model in the range is the SE-CL531, which comes in black or red and has an ear holder designed to keep the earphone in place. It also features a 9mm speaker unit for more powerful bass delivery.

All of the models have a gold-plated 3.5mm stereo mini plug, cords measuring more than a metre in length, and 9mm drivers. They are all designed to be lightweight and ship with a choice of soft ergonomic tips in different sizes, so you should be able to get a perfect fit. The bullet-shaped earpiece is designed to enhance noise-isolation,

And the price? The SE-CL521s and SE-CL34s come in at £29.99, and you can expect to pay £39.99 for the SE-CL351s.

Pioneer have been quite inventive this year – their SE-CL24 earphones came in an appealing cherry shape, while the SE-CL24s were leather-belt shaped!

More at www.pioneer.co.uk

Jabra ACTIVE headset: Making keep fit a little more fun

Let’s face it, nearly all of us are sports enthusiasts in early January. But what cuts the serious from those on an exercising whim, is that the latter’s impulse has almost always been vanquished come February. This is where the Jabra ACTIVE may step in, or may at least thwart the inevitable from occurring for a couple more months.

Jabra-Active

This rugged, splash-proof, crystal-clear sound producing corded headset is the perfect accessory to aid you in your New Year fitness quest. You may feel like keeling over and giving up, but the motivational tunes blasting out into your eardrums or the pep talk from a personal trainer via a mobile phone, will give you the motivation to keep going.

A headsets’ tendency to fall out of a jogger’s ear can be quite off-putting to say the least, but with these ergonomically designed earphones that ‘lock’ into the ear, means surreptitiously tip-toeing the streets in fear of losing you headphones can be replaced by sheer pounding and vigour.

If your excuse to not doing any exercise is fear of missing that all important phone call, then your excuse has just been annihilated, as the Jabra ACTIVE’s control box allows you to easily switch from music to chat, ensuring you never miss an important call. If one song isn’t proving too inspiring, the ACTIVE’s control box also allows for simple track skipping, enabling you to instantly boost a workout with a more uplifting tune.

The Jabra ACTIVE headset is compatible with most phones including Blackberry, Motorola, Apple and LG. An adaptor is included in the box, guaranteeing compatibility with Sony Eriksson, Samsung and Nokia.
Being available in white, black or yellow and costing just £39.99, the Jabra ACTIVE new corded headset could be a great gift for all those fashion-conscious exercising fanatics in your life – even if their fitness venture doesn’t make the spring.

Plantronics Voyager Pro Plus: Next level headset technology

Headset technology has been taken to the next level with the Plantronics Voyager Pro Plus, which has awesome noise-cancelling capabilities. This impressive gadget combines two noise-cancelling mics with AudioIQ2 technology, an adaptive 20-band equaliser and multilayered Windsmart technology.

The user can expect to have a clear, uninterrupted discussion, no matter whether they’re on a busy road or in a hectic office. You won’t have to worry about mishearing information ever again as the Plantronics device provides unbeatable inbound audio quality, to enable voices to be heard crisply on each side of the line.

Voyager-Pro-Plus

The Voyager Pro Plus sits extremely comfortably on top of your your head. It has an easily accessible power switch and volume rocker which you can take down a notch or two if conversation becomes heated. Among the other features are voice alerts and a battery meter which is fully compatible with the iPhone.

Stuart Bradshaw, EMEA Consumer Marketing Manager, said, ‘today’s smartphone generation want a headset that complements a smarter lifestyle and audio quality they can rely on’.

‘The Voyager PRO+ de?nes a new vision from hands-free convenience and is made to complement life on the go. With the combination of the Plantronics signature audio performance, and optimum comfort and usability, it makes it the ideal companion to the latest generation of smartphones and devices’, he went on.

The Voyager Pro Plus only takes a few minutes to set up and the Plantronics team are only a phone call away, should you require assistance. It is likely that offices all over the country will soon be making conference calls using the Secure Simple Pairing technology, which can be used with phones, PDA’s and laptops.

The £79 price tag is unlikely to be much of a stumbling block and we can expect Apple, Orange and Maplin stores to be experience a surge in interest from prospective Plantronics buyers from November.

Prestigio and Canyon’s UK launch: Wireless HDMI, ebook readers and nettops

You may not have heard of Prestigio or Canyon. Prestigio and Canyon are well known around Europe, outside of UK. They are now launching their collections in the UK. Prestigio is a high-end technology brand. Their products include eBook readers, gaming PCs and iPhone accessories. Canyon is aimed at a younger audience. Canyon’s latest range is Graffiti which includes headphones, webcams and laptops cases all made with graffiti designs over the products.

Emporio

Prestigio have several interesting products with some nice features. One of their best products is the Wireless HDMI bridge. If you are reading this site, you no doubt have multiple sources of HD displays including Sky, Blu-ray or even a gaming console. The Wireless HDMI Bridge lets you display HD on one screen while the receiver is another room. If I had this, I would play on my games in my bedroom while the Playstation3 is in the living room. You can transmit to multiple screens so for sports fan, why not show that football match across several screens?

Prestigio enter the saturated eBook reader with the Libretto PER5062B. They claim it is the slimmest eBook reader with WiFi at 8.8mm thin. It is different from other eReaders as it has a SiPix touch display which responds faster then eInk. It does come with a pouch so you will not need to buy a case with this. If you are looking for a budget eReader, the Libretto PER5062B is worth a shot.

For computing, Prestigio offer the Emporio ION 330 which features a mount so the unit can be hidden behind a TV, turning your TV into a PC display. The mini-unit features an Intel Atom Processor N330, 2GB and 250GB hard drive. The specifications are not amazing but the most appealing feature is its ability to be hidden and save space. If it is power you want, this might not be the one for you.

If you like customizing your tech and making a statement, Canyon have the Graffiti range for you. The range includes headphones, laptop cases and bags. Each product is covered in graffiti with four designs to choose from so you can make a set if you fancy overkill. The headphones do not output the best sound quality so these are not for audiophiles. The graffiti designs on the laptop bags are outstanding and stand out and the bags are padded with several compartments.

What do you think? Would you consider buying from new brands for innovation or do you buy from the big names that you trust?

Plantronics BackBeat family: High quality audio for smartphone users

Last year, headsets were all about the iPod, this year, headphone manufacturers are targeting the increasing numbers of smartphone users.

So, the fact that Plantronics has announced the release of a family of three headphones all optimised for smartphones with multimedia capabilities comes as no surprise.

Plantronics-903

Aimed at iPhone and Android handset owners, the BackBeat family of headphones promises to delivery high-quality audio, along with easy switching between calls and music.

The wireless offering for people on the go is the BackBeat 903+, the update to the BackBeat 903. Your wireless connection will offer rich stereo, along with the ability to answer or finish a call with a single button press. Designed for runners and gym bunnies, it is made of a ruggedized, sweat-resistant (ugh!) material, and offers a choice of three earpiece adjustments to ensure you get a secure fit and won’t lose your headphones as you’re running on the treadmill.

iPhone users will get a battery-life indicator on their screen, as well as being alerted by voice on how much talktime is left, low battery warning, connection, mute and track control status. Dual mics and Plantronics’ digital signal processing aim to ensure clear call quality, even if there’s a lot of background noise. An excellent safety feature for runners is the OpenMic technology, which enables the user to instantly hear the background without removing the headphones.

The 903 will be available from Apple at £69.99 from November.

The BackBeat 216, meanwhile, is a certified corded headphone for iPad, IPhone and iPod. They are simple to use – just plug and play – and also have noise-isolating ear buds with neodymium micro-speakers that apparently deliver well-balanced high and mid ranges and boost bass levels. It also has an inline controller with built-in mic for easy phone calls, as well as volume and music track control. The 216 will cost £39.99.

The baby of the family is the BackBeat 116, which comes in the form of earphones, with a simpler in-line controller and built-in mic. It can be used with iPad, iPhone and iPod, as well as most Android phones, BlackBerry devices and other music phones. Both the 116 and the 216 have tangle-free cloth cords, and the 116, which will cost £24.99, comes in electric blue. Nice.

TWIG: Tesco barcode scanner, easyroommate iPhone app, thinksound TS02

The week in gadgets.

The almost ubiquitous iPhone, has an almost ubiquitous tag line. “there’s an app for that.” Any the burgeoning App store means that there an app for almost everything – even the truly ridiculous.

Tesco-Barcode-Scanner

Another watchword for ubiquity, in the UK at least is Tesco and the two have joined forces to launch a barcode reader for the iPhone. The barcode reader, which is now part of the Tesco iPhone app, is as easy as it sounds. Just swipe the barcode of an item and it’s added to you online basket, so you can re-up on biscuits whenever you’ve eaten all of your flatmate’s hob-nobs.

If you’re looking for a new flatmate however (preferably one who doesn’t eat all your hob-nobs) then there is also an app for you. Easyroommate.co.uk has launched an free iPhone app that shows details of all available flatshares in the local areas, with relevant filters and allows you to contact the advertisers all from your handset – helpful if you have difficulty getting access to a PC or are between houses. According to the people behind easyroomamate.co.uk, one in six flatshares are snapped up in 24 hours, so having the flatshare app can be a real boon if you are on the prowl for a new place to live. Those lacking in iPhone love can also head to the sites mobile version, which should work on most other handsets. Check it out.

thinksound

Advance MP3 players have launched a range of environmentally friendly earphones. The thinksound TS02 (which features the mic, there is a TS01 sans mic) has lovely high-definition drivers. But most strikingly, they come encased in hand-crafted wood, which adds a little to the sound quality and a lot to the look of the TS02s. The packaging is recycled materials and the wood is from renewable sources, so the thinksound set is very environmentally friendly choice and a £49, it’s a pretty budget friendly option as well.

i-Mego Retro Heavybeats: Style and bass heavy headphones

You may not know i-Mego and their range of headphones, but their design team have been working tirelessly to ensure you take notice. There most striking design would have to be the Retro Heavybeats – a pair of oversized cans designed for the R&B, Hip-Hop and Rock.
Retro-HeavyBeats-and-Lumber

Most can style headphones have aped DJ headphones style, which is cool if you are spinning vinyl at the local disco, but unnecessary if you are simply pottering around the house or wandering on the streets trying to look cool … like 90% of people wearing DJ style headphones.

As a result, the look of the Heavy Beats – which I can best describe as a vintage radio microphone worn on your head – is particularly appealing. They come in a chocolaty brown and wouldn’t look out of place on the set of Black Dynamite.

But how do they sound? They lack the … mature sophistication of the Altec Lansing Ultra Muxx’s review here – which really shone when listening to jazz, classical and professionally produced podcasts. However, the Ultra Muxx’s almost deliberately lack soul-shaking bass – something the Heavybeats has in buckets (or rather cans). The two 40mm drivers have 20Hz-20kHz frequency response, 32ohms impedance and 106±5db sensitivity – all of which is respectable for some headphones in this price range.

In practical terms, they were able to handle a range of sounds with competence. Whizzing through the 8-bit glory that is the Scott Pilgrim Vs the World Video game OST was a joy and bass heavy tunes from Jay Electronica, Dead Prez and Ray Keith all had the requisite level of warmth. These aren’t beats by Dre – but you knew that going in. If you like the look of these and are happy with the sound you would expect for a mid-range set of headphones then you should check these out.

If the radio look of the Retro Heavybeats is not quite for you they also do the Lumber – some quite discreet looking inner-ear headphones, which as the name suggests are encased in wooded housing.