Tuesday Toys: Christmas gift edition
In the war of the next-generation superconsoles were coming down on the side of the PlayStation 4 over the Xbox One. Marketed as a machine for hardcore gamers instead of its competitor’s media centre approach, the PS4 is cheaper, just as powerful and, for now, has a comparable catalogue. We’ll be spending plenty of time playing Call of Duty: Ghosts and Killzone: Shadow Fall.
Ultimate Ears Boom
This wireless speaker connects by Bluetooth (or 3.5mm jack) to up to eight audio sources, and charges by mini-USB. It delivers a balanced sound with resonant bass and looks good pretty much anywhere you put it. Apple users can use a dedicated app to stream content intended for one speaker to a second one for a true stereo experience.
HTC has a One for every form factor from 5.9″ (the One Max) to 4.3″ (One mini). We’re recommending the regular 4.7″ model as a happy medium. On top of solid build quality, the One is set apart by the attractive BlinkFeed user interface, front-facing BoomSound speakers and Beats Audio integration. Though this is our pick of the Android handsets out there we would be remiss in not mentioning Samsung’s anti-iPhone, the S4.
Price: Varies by operator
Amazon Kindle Wi-Fi
The Paperwhite is Amazon’s top of the line e-reader but more budget-conscious consumers who read in short bursts instead of over long periods at would be just as well going for the basic model. A standard 6″ e-ink display makes for an easy reading experience and there’s space for 1,400 books (downloadable from Amazon’s own store) and one-month battery life.
iPad Air/iPad mini
Apple’s iOS devices’ reputations precede them at this stage. This year’s offering are the slimmer iPad Air and iPad mini – the latter coming with or without Retina Display.
If the €400 (to start) price tag is a bit rich for you, there are plenty of Android-based alternatives like Google’s Nexus 7, (€199.99) or Acer’s Iconia (on offer for €129.99 at Argos).
Price: From €489/€399
Canon Eos 700D
We were looking to recommend something from Canon’s PowerShot range until we came across Canon’s Eos 700D SLR. This 18MP camera has a rotating LCD screen, nin auto-focus points, Digic 5 processor and ISO 6400-12800. A special offer from Conns Cameras has €60 cashback and 1/2 day training course.
Price: From €699 (body only)
The national broadcaster entered the hardware space this Christmas with a perfectly respectable 7″ Android tablet with plenty of pre-loaded content, apps and parental controls.
For a cheaper alternative, have a look at Archos’ ChildPad 80, which comes in at €103.
Panasonic has always done a mean line in home audio. Our pick for this Christmas is the SC-BTT500. Delivering 3D stereo over 5.1 surround sound (five real and 25 virtual speakers), other features include wireless speaker compatibility, Wi-Fi, smartphone remote control, iPhone/iPod dock and 3D Blu-ray playback.
Intel NUC D34010WYK
Shuttle had a nice line in unobtrusive media centre PCs but it looks like Intel is about to muscle into that space with the NUC D34010WYK. Slightly bigger than an Apple TV, the ‘next unit of computing’ has a Core i3 processor, supports up to 16Gb RAM, has HDMI connectivity, Gigabit LAN, two USB 3 ports front and rear, two USB ports rear, one SATA port, and one full- and one half- size PCI Express slots. On its own it makes a great streaming option and it can manage as a regular PC as well, though you will have to attach your own storage.
Despite the arrival of smart TVs with support for USB drives, media streaming boxes remain a cost-effective alternative to having to trade in your set. Mede8er’s MED400X2s will play back media from any source (thanks to an array of connections in the back) and supports the latest video codecs, including MKV-H264, BDMV, BDISO and M2TS. It also connects to the Internet and has a native Shoutcast app for tuning in to radio feeds.
This headset connects by Bluetooth to a device with a compatible app. Volume and track selection can be controlled by touch-sensitive controls on the cups, which are lightweight, sturdy and comfortable.
The app is also a media manager and controls settings like Dolby processing. Favourite tracks can also be shared to Facebook and Twitter.
For a budget alternative, Sandberg has a Bluetooth headset of its own for about €50.