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The Gift Guide 2018

Older Issues > Holidays 2018

Welcome to the 2018 Gift Guide

Our review team chooses a few gifts for all pockets starting with some great audio gifts. Also many thanks to our group of teen testers who helped with the reviews


Libratone Zipp 2

We reviewed and really liked Libratones Earphones recently and this rechargeable battery or mains powered speaker lives up to the amazing sound quality they gave.

With connectivity ranging from Bluetooth through Spotify connect over WiFi to the built in Amazon Alexa control these are truly connected and the built in very long live rechargeable battery make them truly portable. They quote 12 hours of music from this battery and we had it working a few hours a day for several weeks in our tests.

Sound is amazing. Up there with speakers costing several hundred pound more. Good controlled bass, Tight midrange and a high end that is never tinny.  This can be revealing of faults in the source material for example on Amazon Music's version of Evanescense's My Immortal the high end 'morse code' you can hear in the background when connected to our original source material get swallowed up in distortion. This isn't a fault of the speaker.

Talking of Amazon the built in Alexa is great. Like most non Amazon speakers it doesn't support Alexa multiroom audio but Libratone do have their own Soundlink Multiroom system which we couldn't test as we only had one speaker. 

The controls are very neat with a circular button on top which acts as a volume control. a summon Alexa button and with a longer press a lot more controls. Very easy to get used to. The summon Alexa button is useful as we found it difficult to use Alexa voice control when music was playing - probably our only complaint.

One of our reviewers wasn't keen on the styling, but the majority of us quite like it.

Overall this would make a great gift and if you are in the market you owe it to yourself to audition the Zipp2

TomTop Flame Speakers

These could really set the mood on a summers evening in the Garden. The first of our products from Chinese discount site these combined rechargeable bluetooth speakers and flame lamp may have  few build issues but their sound is amazing for the price.

The light and speaker functionality is independent with the right hand button on the front turning on the flickering candle effect whidh is very mood setting. The left three buttons handle Bluetooth on/off/mode and volume down and up.  The power button on one of ours was a little sticky and we had to recenter the rubber covering to get it to work. Pairing with one speaker is pretty easy just tunr it on and connect from your phone or PC. 

However there is a mode where you can pair two of these together as a stereo pair which is a bit more tricky. You first have to make sure that nothing will connect to them (possibly by turning your phone bluetooth off) then turn them on. Once turned on you need to double tap one of the speakers power buttons and then wait for them to pair together with an audible beep (a rather distorted beep which worried us about the sound quality when we first heard it) What threw us is this then created a new bluetooth profile for the speakers but with the same name as the individual speaker which you have to pair to.

Once this was set up the Stereo Pair of speakers gave really good sound far better than most speakers on the market for £100 let alone a combined £40. Sure Bass wasnt as good as say the Zipp 2 reviewd above but way better than most phone speakers. Definitely good enough for a garden party.

We really like these and have added them to our Christmas wish list. 

NOTE: Postage from China can take a very long time (although these arrived in a week). You are also responsible for any import duty.


Skyroam Solis

We are a bit in two minds about this gadget. There are definitely cheaper ways of getting internet connection when roaming overseas but they usually involve committing to sign up to at least a month's contract or pay as you go add-on. This WiFi Hotspot with built in battery bank and 4G can be used virtually anywhere in the world and can be paid for on a daily for 8 euro, Monthly for 80 euro or data basis 7GBP per 1 GB (the GB top-ups only last a month)

You have to set it up using its app and connectivity uses a proxy which some device don't seem to like connecting too but there is pretty good supprt. 

We used this on our trip to Berlin and it certainly worked to get connectivity even in rural areas when phones failed. The built in battery which can be used to charge your devices is also a bonus.

Health and Beauty

Ion Sei Toothbrush

The Ion-Sei uses Ultra Violet light embedded in the handle to use they say a clinically proven technique to imprve gum health. It is also an extremely good Electric Toothbrush with one of the best brush head designs we have ever come across. This is particularly true of the soft head which seems to get in gaps no other Electric toothbrush we have tried does. 

Multiple speeds and easy USB based charging make this very easy to use. The USB charging also makes for a very good travel toothbrush.

It was difficult to test the clinical proven improvements but one of our testers said for the first time ever they woke up with a pleasant taste in their mouth after using the ION-Sei the previous night.

If you have an Ultra-Violet intolerance or allergy you will obviously need to be cautious and one of our testers said their teeth became slightly more sensitive after use but the majority of our testers loved them

HiMirror Mini Premiun

This is a mirror with an inbuilt tablet designed to assess the quality of your skin and you can also use this to assess how a product is working.

It also has in built Alexa and a range of apps including You Tube.

You set up your account and in theory after that use face log in. The teen testers and I had the same problem we all lost the will waiting for face log in. We found it simpler to use the email log in when the option was finally offered. There was the same issue with face recognition on the skin analysis where it would reject shot after shot and offer you to retake but getting the markers to go and stay green for long enough to take the picture drove the teens and I crazy.

I’d seen this about a year ago and thought getting an analysis of your skin would be a little demoralising so seeing it a year on with Alexa and you tube installed it all sounded a lot better.

However there were still some issues. You can watch a you tube video but what it does not do is neatly do is divide the screen in two so that you can actually be working on the make up or look at the same time as you watch the you tube video. You would need another mirror for that.  So that was a bit frustrating and meant you kept having to pause the you tube. So the theory is great but personally I’d like to see the software tweaked on this.

Alexa was fine but you couldn’t combine watching a you tube with music played by alexa as the programming did not allow you to choose between the source sound. Maybe I was expecting too much.
The newer version was suggested to be good for a group of girls getting ready for a night out so they could play music and watch a you tube for a new look. It might work if you want to do one or the other. The speakers were limited so you would not turn them up loud.

It completes the skin analysis and can then monitor your skin based on a product that you have scanned the bar code of so you can see if the product that you are applying to your skin is actually working. Nice idea but with the skin analysis being such a faff I couldn’t face it.

So what I will say is that it is a good idea but…I’d like to see more options and choices for the price so this really could became a teens best friend as they practice new looks before a night with their mates or a sleep over. So for me it is fix the log in and analysis software then this product may have more of a market. Consider a split screen between the mirror and tablet so you can follow along.

Terraillon Connected Scales

We love the styling of these scales thin and light but sturdy. In use they work very well with a nice clear read out. 

 The issue with Terraillon connected scales we have always had is the quality of the App which is essential here as it is the only way to see the Body Compositional detail the scales provide. The app has improved a bit since we first saw it but it has one major flaw for the UK. Over here we weigh in stones and lbs but the app keeps trying to revert to KGs and in the process seems to do some crazy conversions - for certain I don't weigh less than 12 KG. Another issue is we found some Android phones (particularly those form Huawei and Honor) just couldn't connect to the scales - the Samsung Galxy range worked fine.

Keep the settings in KGs though and it can work very well. Allowing you to easilly  track your body changes over time.  It is a a very reasonable prices set of connected scales so as long as you are prepared to weigh in KGs it is worth looking at but if you weigh in Stones we might suggest you go with the unconnected variety (also on the link)

Stellar Counting Scales

These arrived just as we were going to print but we just had to squeeze them in. The idea with these is that you connect yor phone to them over bluetooth, tell their app what you are weighing and it will add it to your food consumption for the day.

We've seen scales like this before but despite being based on a Chinese App with some slightly odd grammar, the app works really well. Connectivity was good and the price is pretty amazing.

We hope to do a proper review in a future issue.

Gaming/Video Editing

Acer Predator Helios 300

One of the pricier items on the gift guide but a budget item in terms of gaming laptops the Helios is worth every penny. Solidly built with a great keyboad it boasts a greta performance for the price. Available in Core I5 and I7 variants it features GTX 10 series graphics.

This is a great laptop for gaming but equally it rocks for Video editing on the go. In fact we felt hard pressed to find anything at an equivalent laptop that handled editing so well.

It also brilliant for running Windows Mixed Reality (although we would recommend the slightly more expensive Core I7 version for this)

Yes it is a sizeable beast but for gaming and editing that means it gets a very workable and very clear 17inch screen.

Everything on this laptop just works as you would expect it to and it performs as well as others several hundred pounds more expensive, 

Oh and the backlit red keyboard really looks great at christmas.

Smart Home on the cheap

Alexa Show on the cheap - Amazon Fire 8 and Show Dock

Amazon recently released a new Echo Show device which is a brilliant device with a very good 10 inch screen but retails at over 200GBP but if you can live with an 8inch screen,  less microphones and slightly poorer speakers the Fire 8 HD tablet plus show dock combination can give you the same functionality for half the price. 

The show dock consists of a case for the tablet and the dock itself. Once in the case and as long as it is runnig the latest software update dropping the tablet onto the dock will automatically switch it into Show mode which acts just like a smaller screened version of the bigger show device. 

You do need to be a little closer to it for the microphone to pick you up as the Fire Tablet doesn't have the array of microphones that the show has but it works. Sound quality is definitely not as good but you can easilly connect it to bluetooth speakers or use the tablets audio out to plug into a hifi. It did use to have a restriction that it couldn't be used with Amazon's voice calling drop in feature but a recent software up date allows that to work.

All in all we love this setup. It is also a bit more flexible than a pure show as the tablet is still a very good tablet and you can install your favourite smart home apps on it. Indeed we got the app for our next gift gude entry to work with it.

This is probably the best bargain to be had in the Amazon Alexa family - oh and the Show dock works with last year's Fire 8 HD as well,

 Video Doorbell on the cheap - TomTop Smart Doorbell

This seems to do just about everything other Smart Door bells do at a fraction of the price. Connection is via Wifi to its app = read the instructions carefully on how to set up. The app is simple but effective even if some of the translations are a little off.

Once set up on WiFi and connected to the App on your phone pressing the doorbell will cause a call on your phone. If you answer it you can talk to whoever is at the door. You can also set the device up to monitor for anyone loitering outside your door and have it notify you with an alarm.

Video quality is very good and audio not too bad. Unlike some services this doesn't need a cloud subsription and recordings are made to an SD card (bought separately) 

It does need a good wifi single to work well so check the signal strength outside your door. It can be battery powered or wired into an exisitig bell transformer. One thing to note at this price is batteries are not included.

The only thing this doesn't do at the moment is work with Alexa or Google Home.

Probably the best bargain on this list.

NOTE: Postage from China can take a very long time (although these arrived in a week). You are also responsible for any import duty.

Garry has a cool yule competition for you 
and some important news on how we fund this mag
Retro is big news this year and you will definitely get that retro vibe as soon as you turn on this great gift and hear those stirring beep.

What to buy including a great gaming laptop and some bargains from China

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