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Author: Ian Knott

Gadgety gifts


Who doesn’t love a little bit of tech at Christmas time? Check out these latest gadgety goodies to brighten someone’s day.

Sennheiser HD 450BT Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Active noise cancellation delivers superior sound with deep dynamic bass. Customisation via a Smart Control App, and a 30-hour battery life to provide exceptional versatility for audio lovers.

$329.99 from JB HIfi

 

 

Huawei nova 5T

Huawei nova 5T is a powerful mid-range device, available in stunning Midsummer Purple. Take better photos with no fewer than four back cameras – including an ultra-wide angle lens – and AI assist technology. Add to that dual SIM capability for excellent value for money.

$448.99 from PB Tech

 

Macbook Pro 13”

Apple’s new Macbook Pro is the most powerful to date. Boasting the new M1 chip with 16 processing cores, this laptop’s performance is through the stratosphere. A 20-hour battery life ensures your Macbook is ready to go whenever you are.

$2299 from Apple

 

Garmin Venu SQ NFC

A timepiece with a twist, Garmin’s Venu® SQ combines the convenience of a smartwatch and efficiency of a fitness tracker that will surely inspire you to keep moving. It features a sleek design, keeping up not just with your active lifestyle, but with your stylish edge as well.

$369 from Harvey Norman


 

Having a ball with Alexa


While having constantly-listening smart devices at home may instil a certain sense of paranoia in some, there are many benefits to be had from such technology for those prepared to embrace it.

 

 

With two third generation Echoes, an Echo Dot and an Echo Auto in our household, my family have more than embraced the convenience of the Alexa AI.

From checking the weather forecast, setting cooking timers and wake-up alarms to playing music, dimming lights, telling jokes, reading audio books, dishing out endless knowledge to monitoring home security and much more, Alexa brings a little piece of what was once the realm of science fiction into our daily lives.

With the release of the Gen 4 Echo models just in time for Christmas, there has never been a better, or more affordable time to take advantage of how smart devices can enhance your lifestyle.

The new Echoes present a stark difference in styling to the previous generation, which may not appeal to everyone.

Gone are the cylindrical and hockey-puck aesthetics of the Gen 3 Echo and Echo Dot respectively, for a more prominent spherical style that is sure to quickly capture attention in any room.

Physical appearance aside, the new and older models are essentially identical in functionality, although the ball shape does promote slightly better sound from the speaker.

With the Gen 3 models now going at a cheaper price, I’d be rushing to snap one up before they sell out, but if the shape of the new Echo models holds some appeal, then they’re still excellent value for money.


 

Power of the pixels


They say that money can’t buy happiness, but how about a Samsung 98-inch 8K television instead? Sounds good? Then be prepared to part with around $80,000 for that slice of cutting-edge happiness.

 

 

Samsung is spearheading the launch of 8K technology in New Zealand with its ultra-premium Q900 QLED 8K range, available in stores now.

While many homes are still entering the 4K TV market, the demand for larger screens and an even better quality image is on the rise. 8K resolution actually features four times the pixels of a 4K UHD TV and 16 times more than a full HD TV.

The technology for streaming native 8K content isn’t available in New Zealand as yet, but in this fast- moving industry it won’t be long. Japan has already launched an 8K channel for the Rugby World Cup. But that’s not to say your current viewing won’t look any better on an 8K TV, because it does and the difference is bigger than you might think due to huge advances in upscaling AI.

Let’s take a look at the theory involved without breaking out too many initialisms and formulas. It’s commonly believed that the best 4K screen is the Sony BVM-X300, a 30-inch 4K mastering monitor that carries 156 pixels per inch, producing an almost flawless 4K image. Now take that same image and put it on a 55-inch 4K TV and the pixel density drops to 81ppi, on a 98-inch TV and it takes a dive to 45ppi. In a nutshell, that 4K image no longer looks like 4K.

 

 

So as the screen size gets larger we find ourselves needing more pixels per inch to display these ultra-high-definition images as they are meant to be seen. Our eyes and brain are clever enough so that when they see gaps in information they compensate to make things seem more natural. This is where 8K comes to the fore. To put an 8K TV into perspective, imagine 16 4K TVs in a 4×4 grid, now imagine condensing them all down to the size of one big-screen TV. You are left with a massive pixel density with fewer gaps in the information being displayed. Fewer gaps means our eyes and brains need to do less work and the picture seems more natural to us.

Ranging in sizes and price from the 65-inch at $10,999 to the enormous 98-inch at $79,999, the Samsung Q900 QLED 8K range will be the drooling point of any gathering, but needn’t be an eyesore when not in use due to their ability to blend in with the wall they are on or function as a piece of art.

Whether they are within your budget or not, head into your nearest Samsung TV stockist and take a look at the wonderment you are missing out on.

 


 

Preserving precious memories


Many years ago, people used to savour the photographs they took because they had to pay good money for rolls of film to be developed. I still remember the anticipation and inevitable disappointment of picking up my envelope of photos to find images of my thumb, the grass, animals that had walked off in the time it took the shutter to operate, and all manner of blurred people.

 

 

But photos were photos, each one a time-capsule in itself and even the blurred ones got put into a photo album or at least in the ‘photo box’. You always knew where they were if you wanted to reminisce with family or friends.

But how many of us can account for the digital photos we took 10 or 15 years ago with our point-and-click cameras and early mobile phones? Are they on an old computer, memory card or USB stick? Or have those memories been lost forever?

Of course, with the advent of social media and instant cloud uploads we are archiving our photos more and more. But even they bring their own set of problems. What happens if you pass away? Who can access your Dropbox, Google Drive, Samsung, HTC, iCloud or One Drive? The potential for your precious memories getting forgotten about or lost is just as real.

 

New Zealand company Phable Ltd has developed an app that allows you to upload your favourite digital photos and even short videos into it using a simple interface that lays out your photos in a beautiful photo book which is then printed, bound and delivered to your door. You can upload directly from your device or even import from Facebook or Instagram.

Before you commit the album to print, you can rearrange the layout and enlarge or crop images. Uploaded videos appear as photos in the physical album except they have an embedded QR code. You can then use any smartphone to read the code and instantly play the video.

Phable has three variations of the book available to order, each containing 24 images (including four videos), and while they range in sturdiness, all three will easily take pride of place on any coffee table. The Playbook Lite is a simpler, no-frills book costing $14.99. The Playbook Original is slightly more sturdy at $49.99 and the Playbook Premium is solid and luxurious with ‘wow’ factor at $69.99. You are even able to customise the cover of all three books with an image and text of your choice.

The Phable app provides an extremely user-friendly interface that even the least tech-savvy family members could navigate their way around. The app is currently only available on the iOS App Store, but an Android version is in development.
So preserve those precious moments now before a whole generation of digital memories disappears into the ether.

By Ian Knott

 


 

Boring is the New Black


On average, Kiwis unlock their mobile phone 80 times per day. That’s right, eight-zero. If you’re looking at that statistic with disbelief, you’re not alone. I did the same before thinking back through a typical day and realising that I’d easily hit that national average, if not more.

 

 

However, there’s been a recent groundswell of anti-mobile sentiment as people and businesses start to realise the real-life social disengagement and productivity loss that overuse of smartphones causes. One recent US study found that the likelihood of making a mistake increases by 23 percent after getting distracted by your mobile phone. For some industries, rather than costing just time and money, that may even put people in danger.

Social change invites opportunity, and New Zealanders Alex Davidson and Jasper Mackenzie have come to the realisation that taking a massive step backwards could be the best way forwards. Enter the BoringPhone. About to be launched on Kickstarter, BoringPhone looks and feels like your average smartphone, but has a significant difference – this minimalist phone goes back to basics with all of the useful features and none of the distractions.

 

ALEX DAVIDSON AND JASPER MACKENZIE

 

Running a customised Android operating system, BoringPhone makes calls and sends text messages, takes pictures, plays music and has maps, just like the phone you probably have sitting in front of you right now. What makes BoringPhone different is what it doesn’t do. It has no internet browser, no social media, no email and you can’t download and install any apps on it.

There are fairly recent alternatives out there, such as Nokia’s re-release of the classic 3310, but that in itself comes with the stigma of actually looking like an old-school phone. Owning it is a statement, inviting comment and almost seeking attention. It’s the tech version of announcing you’re vegan, have quit sugar, or you’ve never seen an episode of Game of Thrones.

But BoringPhone looks like every other smartphone and its makers are marketing it not only towards socially conscious users, but towards businesses that want a fleet of phones that won’t be susceptible to dangerous third party apps. The Kickstarter campaign begins in June 2019 and every initial BoringPhone will be handmade, with personalised support.

Sign up for news and follow the project at www.boringphone.com.