Chord Electronics’ Hugo – A nifty portable DAC device with little CES coverage

chord-hugo

When we think of a product named Hugo, the luxury German fashion brand Hugo Boss springs to mind. Chord Electronics, British manufacturers of high-performance hi-fi products, has introduced a new Hugo onto the consumer market. Playfully named because you can take it anywhere ‘you go’, the Hugo takes claim as being “the world’s most advanced and first truly reference-class portable DAC/headphone amp.”

We have to note that competing against the One Wheel – a cross between a skateboard and a unicycle – and the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro, a huge 12.2” tablet which is said to be Samsung’s answer to the Surface 2 and the iPad Air, Hugo has had relatively little exposure as the top techno innovations on display at this year’s CES. Its comparative inconspicuousness in the gadget-obsessed press doesn’t mean to say that Hugo hasn’t got  its own innovations and niche to step into.

Seasoned audiophiles will understand the importance of the digital to analogue converter (DAC), a device that translates digitally stored information from a mobile device into analogue signals, thus upping the volume and improving the quality of the sound.

So in the vast world of audio and the DAC market, what’s so special (if anything) about Hugo and how have its capabilities been initially assessed?

What’s good about Hugo is that it can be used as both a portable headphone DAC and as a reference-level source component in a static system. What’s more, Hugo offers five digital inputs, including A2DP aptX Bluetooth, as well as 384kHz PCM and DSD 128 playback for contemporary high-resolution Digital eXtreme Definition music files. In layman terms, Hugo will pump out meticulously clear tunes, no matter where you are.

Hugo by Chord
Hugo by Chord

As mentioned earlier, Hugo didn’t receive that much attention in the post-CES 2014 reports and consequently trying to locate feedback about Chord Electronics’ new venture proved a little difficult though by no means impossible. StuffTV, one of the lesser-known gadget and video review sites, was one source to catch on to the unique merits of Hugo.

With a boldly dramatic headline that Hugo, the world’s first portable hi-res audio DC, will “quadruple the prove of your phone’, StuffTV talks about how the device’s lightweight, compact and portable DAC contrasts to other DACs and headphone amps, which “tend to be a little on the bulky side.”

The audio tech review site What Hi Fi was also quick to review Hugo, reiterating Chord Electronics’ claims that Hugo offer “studio-master-tape sound quality, advanced connectivity and uncompromising file playback capability.”

If you are heavily into listening to crystal-clear tunes whilst on the go, Hugo certainly seems to tick all the right boxes. This nifty little device, which is encased in aircraft-grade aluminium, is not cheap though and will set you back £1,200.

LG Pocket Photo: All the News that’s Fit to Print

LG-Pocket-Photo

Until fairly recently, domestic printers were bulky and cumbersome devices that were hardly renowned for their portability. By contrast, the brand new LG Pocket Photo is small enough to slip into a coat pocket, resembling an external hard drive rather than a printer. Yet despite its understated appearance, this elegant silver box is capable of delivering stunning 3” by 2” hard copies of images taken on smartphones and mobile devices.

Rather than approaching it as a conventional printer, it’s perhaps better to think of LG’s Pocket Photo as a futuristic alternative to the instant camera. Pictures taken on portable devices can be sent wirelessly to the Pocket Photo via either Bluetooth or Near Field Communication, before being printed out using an ingenious inkless printing technique from a company called ZINK, whose name is an abbreviation of the words “zero ink”.

Until now, one of the main drawbacks of smartphone photography has been the difficulties involved in obtaining a hard copy. Printing pictures out on a home computer has required hardwire connections and data transfers, while in-store photo booths are increasingly being hampered by the lack of removable SD or data cards in many modern devices. By contrast, the Pocket Photo should work with any Android or iOS-powered equipment, once the proprietary app has been installed. Users can make basic modifications to their pictures or embed QR codes before sending them to print, while the Pocket Photo can even upload images directly onto social media platforms and websites.

Having debuted in Korea late last year, the LG Pocket Photo made its UK bow at the Gadget Show Live, and it is scheduled to go on sale here later this month. Pricing and availability will be confirmed closer to the launch date.

Seagate Wireless Plus: Hard drives built for the road

In the materialistic world of gadgets it’s important to remember that you can’t take it with you when you go. The world of portable storage however, begs to differ and Seagate’s new Wireless Plus mobile storage device even wants to bring your friends and family to the party.

seagatewireless

I’ve always enjoyed companies innovating around limitations. Modern tablets and smartphones have very limited storage (although I’m writing this the day the 128GB iPad was launched) and rather than be confined by this, a new breed of Wireless hard drives that expands storage options has flourished. In the same way I’m hoping that the switch to Lightening ports on iPad will jumpstart a new wave of AirPlay and Bluetooth docks.

Seagate’s new Wireless hard drives are designed with sharing in mind and up to eight smartphones or tablets can wirelessly stream content. The 1TB drive has space for up to 500 high definition movies and a 10 hour battery life which is great for long road trips or flights, when you can’t access the streaming magic of platforms like Bloom.fm, Spotify and Netflix. So you can watch Tron even when you are off the grid.

The drive has a removable SperSpeed USB3.0 adapter loading your content should be quick and painless. There’s also an app (I type that 4 times a week) that works with iOS, Android and Kindle Fire HD devices. And if you have bigger plans, content stored on the Wireless Plus can be viewed on proper screens using an app designed specifically for Samsung Smart TV (2012 onwards) and Blu-ray players.

seagate2

Seagate Wireless Plus mobile storage is available from £169.99.

Sony NEX-F3: Your flexible friend

Sony’s new compact snapper, the NEX-F3 has a lot of live up to. Its predecessor is the NEX-C3, which received some rave reviews from those in the know.

So can the NEX-F3 offer anything more? Well, first and most obvious is its flexible screen, which tilts through 180 degrees – ideal if you like taking self-portraits. There is also an interesting mode called Smile Shutter, which takes a shot as your subject smiles – again quite handy for self-portraits.

Sony-Nex3

At first glance the camera looks very similar to the NEX-C3, and indeed it has the same pixel count at 16.2 million – but it has a newly designed sensor, which works with the Bionz processor, enabling the ISO to reach a very decent 16,000 and to allow for continuous shots at 5.5fps if you use the camera’s Priority mode.

Despite these fancy credentials, this camera is definitely aimed at the novice photographer, as Sony seems determined to enable them to take great shots, however little experience they have.

Auto Portrait Framing, for instance, locates the subject and crops the scene to offer a nicely composed portrait, and Superior Auto mode intelligently recognises a number of scenes and subjects, adjusting settings for you, without you having to put in any brainwork whatsoever.

An improved handgrip makes the snapper easy to handle, and battery power has been increased to offer 470 shots from a single charge – that’s around 18% better than the NEX-C3 – and it’s easily charged via USB.

Finally, although you should be able to get close-up thanks to the Clear Image Zoom, which doubles the effective magnification of the lens, there is a telephoto lens available for the NEX-F3 as well. The SEL18200LE E18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OSS LE offers a powerful 11x zoom range and features Optical SteadyShot to alleviate handshake.

The new NEX-F3 compact system camera from Sony is available now for around £530.

Planon Scanstik: An office in your pocket

It may be the size of a pen, but the Planon Scanstik, is capable of scanning a full page in colour just as any regular full-sized flatbed scanner would. But this one you can fit it in your pocket. Yes that’s right, you can take your very own scanner with your wherever you wish to go. The Scanstik is perfect for the businessman on the move who wishes to save some documents or even a student who is in a library researching work for an exam. Just think of the possibilities…

ScanStick

You use the Scanstik just like a normal, conventional scanner, tracing the pen over the page you wish to scan. It is fast too – a full page can be scanned in only four seconds.

Once stored in the Scanstik, you then connect it to a computer using the USB port and transfer the files across. The MicroSD memory is capable of holing literally thousands of scanned images in black and white or colour, with a resolution between 150 to 600dpi. The Scanstick includes ABBYY FineReader software for easy editing, along with PaperPort OCR and Crystal Line Contact software to improve image quality.

The full technical low-down is as follows:

Resolution:150, 300, & 600 DPI

Scan: 24-bit Colour JPG, B&W

Dimensions: 8.9″ x 0.5″ x 0.5″ (227mm x 13mm x13mm)

Battery: Re-chargeable Lithium Polymer (charges through USB slot)

Memory: MicroSD card slot (purchase separately)

Connectivity: USB

Image Technology: PlanOn CLC (Crystal Line Contact)

Platforms: Windows XP, Vista, 7 32/64 and MacOSX

Leather Case

USB Cable

ABBYY FineReader SE OCR Software

PaperPort OCR Software

For more information on how you can get your hands on the world’s smallest colour scanner, visit www.planon.com.

The 3M Camcorder Projector: Share your photos and videos with everyone

Latest Gadgets If you have ever wanted to show the world just how great you are at taking pictures or shooting videos, the new 3M cp45 camera projector is the gadget for you. Instead of cramming around a tiny screen as you show your friends your latest snaps, with the cp45 you can use the built in projection technology to blow up your images and videos and share them for all to see.

3M-Camcorder

With the ability to take HD video images or 5Mp still photographs, the cp45 is small and light enough to fit in your pocket and carry around like a normal camera, thanks to a weight of 6.7 oz and dimensions that measure 4.9”L x 24”W x .94”H.

3M are targeting this range of mini projectors at a female market, although having seen their potential, there is no reason why other demographics would not be interested. The ability to project a picture or video makes them unique and is more than just a gimmick, making them ideal for more serious business use as well.

You can project your images on virtually any surface you could wish, and it is possible to reach an eye-popping size of 65in, ensuring nobody misses out on seeing the videos or pictures. Whether they like it or not.

Of course, said videos and pictures will take up memory, and the 2GB built in capacity is enough to store 25 minutes of video or 1,000 photos. A MicroSD card slot allows up to 32GB extra memory if needed.

A built-in microphone and speakers are the finishing touch to the projector, and you can record narrations to your pictures or moving images for a running commentary to proceedings. Your friends will love you for it. Possibly.

For more information, visit www.3MCamcorderProjector.com

Sony NGP preview round up: Bringing the “kitchen sink to the console wars”

PC World quite wittily describes Sony’s “next-generation portable” – codenamed the NGP – as bringing “the kitchen sink to the console wars”, meaning the console has got every type of gaming input possible. Whilst Ars Technica’s account of Sony’s new portable console, contains a little less sarcasm, being described as being “packed with technology and features, matching the power of the Playstation 3.” CNET’s first impression of the highly anticipated portable console is that it, “looks like a great handheld console, thanks to its powerful and innovative hardware system.” Whilst Engadget’s somewhat more neutral and dispassionate analysis, revolves mostly around the NGP’s five key concepts: Revolutionary User Interface, Social Connectivity, Location-based Entertainment, Converging Real and Virtual (augmented) Reality.

Sony-NGP

Whatever the description, flicking from one technology site to another, there is no escaping a review of the Sony NGP, after all 2011 is dubbed to become a huge year for mobile gaming, not only through the continued explosion in gaming apps for the Android and iPhone, but also due to the arrival of two new handheld consoles – the Sony NGP and the Nintendo 3DS.

The specs remain a constant feature in the outburst of NGP reviews exploding onto the technology critics’ front pages at present, namely that the console will come equipped with a 5” screen, a touchpad at the back of the device, front and rear facing cameras and two micro-analog sticks to stimulate the DualShock experience.

Somewhat predictably there are a handful of comparative accounts occupying several of the technology publication’s pages, intensely scrutinizing the similarities and differences between the NGP and the Playstation Portable. One difference favourable to the NGP, picked out by Ars Technica, is the fact that Sony takes advantage of the flash memory feature, by basing its games on a small flash memory based card. According to Sony:

“this innovative card can store the full software titles plus add-on game content or game save data directly on to the card. Ars Technica describe Sony placing its games on a memory card as a “wise move: memory is inexpensive, and the optical drive sapped the Playstation Portable’s battery.”

The one point that remains consistent throughout the many reviews and critiques of the Sony NGP, is not what Sony have divulged about the new portable gaming console, but what the company have not revealed. No price has been announced, arguably one of the hunted pieces of information sought by an eagerly awaiting public. Besides the exclusion of even a hint of what the NGP is likely to cost, no specific date has been given to when the NGP will be released, other than, as Engadget asserts, “available this holiday season”. But which holiday season, we all cry!

Plextor PX-B12OU: 3D movies when you’re on the move

3D films are definitely the next big thing and if you have a 3D-compatible display, but nothing to play them on this could be the solution.

The plug-and-play Plextor PX-B120OU is a portable Blu-ray player that comes in at around £92. It looks pretty good, with its ripple design on the top, and can be used to playback in two different ways.

Plextor-PX-B31OU

First, the Blu-ray player can connect via USB to a media centre, laptop or PC. All you need is a system running Windows XP/Vista/7 or above, and 128MB RAM. You will be able to connect direct to a TV when you use the PlexMedia box, which is due to launch next year

So it means you can enjoy 3D playback both at home and when you’re out – a good way to liven up dull car journeys (if you’re not the one driving, obviously).

Discs are top-loaded, which is handy if you’re on the move, as you don’t need to allow space for the loading tray to pop out.

However, the Plextor only offers playback – there is no write function – and it is possible to pick up Desktop Blu-ray drives that play and write for probably around 20 pounds less.

The only reason that we can see for actually buying this is if you have a laptop that does not offer Blu-ray playback, and you want to enjoy movies in the car or on the train, where the USB powered drive would be a bonus.