Garry's GIFT GUIDE
We'll be reviewing the NUKI smart lock fully in a future issue but what we've seen so far we really like. As long as you have one of the lock types it supports (very clearly outlined on their website Nuki.IO) the Nuki can literally be installed in a few minutes and doesn't need you to take the door apart. It very clevely acts by turning an existing key.
The app is also very clever featuring auto locking and opening.
Our initial thoughts are that we'd love one of these under our tree.
In the Autumn/Winter 2017 issue we raved about the Riva Festival connected speaker. The Arena is it's baby sister and a lot of this review is going to feel like DejaVu. Indeed if you read the Festival review you may want to skip the first four paragraphs as connectivity and software are identical
Like the Festival it is designed to relay the experience of listening to music live without having to play at loud volumes or as we put it in the festival review without the bleeding ears.
We loved the flexibility of the Festival and the Arena is equally connected with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth™, Airplay, DLNA and DDMS connectivity. The Arena also works on Google ChromeCast meaning it can integrate with the Google Home voice control. Airplay and ChromeCast also support multiroom audio.
You can also get a lot of control over the speaker with Riva's rather well put together Wand App. This includes the ability to set a custom EQ although we were more than happy with the default.
One thing we didn't mention on the Festival review is that Riva's devices are capable of creating their own network if your WiFi isn't available.
As well as WiFi and Bluetooth you can also choose playback from USB, AUX and optical inputs. For a smarthome user who is invested in Amazon's ecosphere then the Aux input provides a connectivity route if say paired with an Echo Dot device. You could also use Bluetooth however we feel this is the speaker's weakest input losing significant detail. It should be noted that this is more down to the generic Bluetooth restrictions rather than anything wrong with the speaker.
If you have read our reviews before knows we like our music un-messed around with plenty of clarity and detail.
The Festival delivered detail in droves and thanks to its amazing Trillium processing system this happened at all volume levels. As you would expect from a slightly smaller and less expensive speaker something has to give with the Arena and we felt by comparison it lacks something in bass and bottom midrange. That is a challenging comparison though and the Arena simply blows everything in its price range out of the water.
It does this with Six ADX drivers located 2 each on three of the four sides. This gives a suprisingly good soundstage from one speaker. One option in the software is to pair two Arenas to give stereo.
Overall put simply this is the second best connected speaker we have ever reviewed. Oh and did we mention it can have an optional, and substantial capacity, battery base attached for listening in the garden.
We are delighted to award this speaker our TrulyFascinating Award.
The DXO Camera is an interesting approach to photography. A small device that connects to your lightning connector equipped iPad or iPhone and is supposed to be able to replicate the results of your SLR camera
To be honest we weren't expecting this to be so good. Attached to an iPad it gives really good control and genuinely impressive photography. The app is really intuitive and does give every bit of control you would have on a DSLR. Running on an iPad might seem extreme but there is no doubt the screen size makes for really easy framing.
One thing we weren't expecting was how useful the camera would be when detached from the iPad/iPhone. Fold away the lightning connector and you have a really convenient point and shoot camera. You don't really get a view finder only a black and white light sampler but it actually is pretty easy to use and gives rather amazing results which you can edit once connected back to the iPad or by transferring from the micro-sd you insert to store images to a PC.
Sample Image taken with device in standalone mode in poor light.
This is fairly expensive at £449 but we still feel it deserves a place under the tree if you have a keen photographer to gift to.
Speck Ruck Backpack
At some point we all have to carry our laptops on trips along with a plethora of other stuff and in recent years there has been a move to provide backpacks with special sections for Laptops. Some of these have not in the past provided much protection for the laptop but when we heard Speck, who are known and respected for their protective MacBook shells we had to take a look.
The Ruck is first and foremost a great backpack with loads of pockets and plenty of space. We really like that it has protective pockets for both a 15" laptop and a smaller tablet. The laptop pouch is suspended and we think would take a bottom impact if you accidentally dropped it or the strap broke - although we think this latter is unlikley as they seem very firmly attached. We would have liked a little more padding on the back of the pack to protect the contents but this might have interfered with one of the other advantages of this laptop the breathability. It is very comfortable to wear and doesn't get hot on your back.
We have no hesitation in recommending this goes in the present pile.
Whilst we are talking Speck if you have anyone in the family who owns a MacBook pro you really should get them a Speck protective case
The R1010 Powered Bookshelf speakers have always been fairly classic design with good bass, a fluent midrange and detailed treble. Up to now they have purely been a wired connection but the BT version adds Bluetooth and does so in a really clever way allowing up to two devices to be paired simultaneously - we've never seen this done before.
Specification from Edifier Site
Line in A: 700mV±50mV Line in B: 500mV±50mV Bluetooth: 400mV±50mFFS
For someone who likes a more conventional looking speaker setup these were always a good buy but the addition of the Bluetooth in such a novel way adds to that. Our only dissapointment no Apt-X support.
Qobuzz Hi-Res Streaming
Fancy treating the Audiophile in your life then Qobuzz's streaming service may be up their street. Qobuzz have been well known in the industry for their high quality music downloads indeed we test a lot of our test tracks from their library. A lot of their catalogue is in 24bit/192 lossless and for the 'small' sum of £349.99/ year you can now stream all that content to your PC or Mac as well as an increasing number of hifi devices with their sublime + option.
Alternatively if you are happy with CD quality lossless streams at 16bit/44.1 then you could go for the £19.99 per month HiFi option. Their are other options between these two and one lower quality one at £9.99 per month which streams in lossy MP3 300K format. We prefer the lossless streaming and whilst nearly 350 quid a year may be difficult to justify the quality is undeniable.
We spoke to Qobuzz recently and were really impressed with their plans for expansion particularly their move to support some of the hobbyist streaming platforms.
Perhaps not an option for everyone but if you really love that Audiophile in your life then it will be an impressive present.
Blue Yeti USB Microphone
This is a really substantial USB Microphone with a really impressive range of modes for recording.
Garry has a cool yule competition for you
A slightly less expensive but still oustanding treat from Riva Audio
An interesting approach to Photography with the DXO add-on for iPad and iPhone
We take a look at a range of backpacks and cases to protect your laptop or backpack
Ruth looks at a fabulous robot vac and one of the thinnest laptops we have seen.
Lots of great content from Richard including a look at the contenders in the VR world