There’s little point ignoring it any longer. With just over two weeks to go til December 25th, the Christmas Season is well and truly upon us. Between now and then we’re going to aim to sprinkle a little festive cheer and advent advice. We’ll talk books and food, we’ll bring you food advice and maybe even some seasonal songs and poetry. But we start with something altogether more practical.
There’s no doubt that a whole array of gadgets, gizmos and technical trinkets will be make up a considerable amount of many Christmas stockings this Christmas. But buying the right gadget for the geek in your life can be confusing. What is the latest thing? And what’s an already past it turkey? Will this new tablet work with their old phone? And so on…
Adrian Weckler is the Technology Editor of the Irish Independent and he joined Sean this morning.
Let’s start with the Amazon Kindle… For anyone who likes gadgets but isn’t a full on geek.. it’s hard to beat the Kindle. It’s a basic e-reader… electronic book… It lasts for weeks on a single charge… It’ll hold up to 1,500 ebooks and just about every book published in the
last decade is available for download on it… You’ll need an Amazon account… access to wifi to download your book… and a lamp or the sun… because the book is just that… it doesn’t have a flash screen for email or the internet… it isn’t backlit… it’s basic… and brilliant… and €82.
One side effect of modern mobile phones having such good cameras is that the compact camera is now on the way out… however you can get real value here… the Fujifilm Finepix JZ250 is only €63 and it is a 16 megapixel camera with 8x zoom that records hig def video … For those that need to take decent snaps but don’t have a high end smartphone, this is a solid gift.
IT really depends on what you’re looking for. If you just want something basic with 10 basic apps… a web browser, Netflix, your email etc…. then an Android tablet will do just fine. If you want something that’s more diverse with lots more apps to make music, edit photos or video or create and edit powerpoint… then ipad is probably the better bet.
A good rule of thumb is if you’re going to use a tablet a lot, get an ipad… if you just want a casual browsing device… and if you’re not already hooked on the apple way of life through your iphone… then an Android tablet is the more sensible, value for money buy.
OK, so let’s start with the Android Tablets… What do you recommend?
The Nexus 7 is arguably the best Android tablet you can buy… It certainly is for the money at only €250… But the LG GPad 8.3 is also a really good tablet…though a bit more expensive at €330. In fact the LG Gpad is the best Android tablet I’ve ever used. It’s slim, has a great screen, great battery life and a decent camera. It’s more ipad mini sized than full ipad, but for me that works better. It’s a little under powered… but having taken it to try it out, this quickly became the device I use every day.
The Nexus 7 at €80 cheaper and still the standard bearer for the google based devices. It’s not quite as slim as the ipad but it is only 7” making it smaller than even the ipad mini… it fits perfectly in my blazer inside pocket making it a must carry device. Even the older versions of the Nexus 7… which some shops are still carrying at under €200 are a great buy for the price.
Obviously we have budgetary issues… and if people are looking for devices for young kids, then power and software isn’t always an issue… but that doesn’t mean that cheap is better… The Asus Memo Pad 7 at €180 may be cheaper than the others… but it’s MUCH worse. It has a poor screen, badly styled and feels over priced even at the budget level. If you want a sub €200 device, look at the Samsung Tab 3 7 inch… It has less memory, a smaller chip and some other limitations… but it does what it’s supposed to do well.
Tablets for Children
The Leap 2 isn’t really a tablet… It’s a kids toy that has a touch screen. The RTÉ Junior tablet is interesting. It’s basically a re-badged cheap tablet, with 5 hours of RTE Junior content on it… but it’s not bad for younger kids… and is certainly an interesting move from RTE… At €149 it’s worth a look if you want a device for your younger gadget fiend.
The iPad Air starts at €490 and goes up dramatically if you want more storage space and 3G… It’s a gorgeous device. Very light, beautiful screen and a huge range of apps available…. But it gets pricey very quickly… I would recommend at least 32 GB of storage which means the device is more like €580… and of course you’ll need a case.. that’s another €40 to stop it scratching and scuffing… which is a real issue with a screen this good…. But my real issue with this device… is that I think the 10” tablets days are numbered… Having used both a lot now, I’m convinced that the ipad mini is the way to go.
Essentially The ipad mini then is basically the same device with a smaller screen. In my view the latest one… the ipad mini retina is the best tablet on the market…Starting at €399 it’s screen is incredibly crisp… It has access to all the app software available to apple… which is the main issue with android devices… so while it’s expensive… if you can afford it… it is the best buy in the tablet world.
Digital cameras are always something to think about. While compact snap cameras are disappearing thanks to the explosion of smart phones with good cameras included… high quality photos still require high quality cameras with better lenses, more sensors and generally more specialist equipment. A DSLR camera or a premium compact can start at around €350… but they can go to €2,000 and beyond very quickly… particularly if you start looking at lenses too.
A digital SLR camera… SLR stands for Single LEnse Reflector… it means a proper camera if you like… where the light going through the lens is what you see through the viewfinder…
The Cannon 1100D and Nikon D3100 are both excellent starter DSLR cameras… Both start under €400… The key is the lens. A basic DSLR with a good lens will take a better photo than the most expensive gadget rich camera or phone with a basic lens.
Most people opt for a zoom 18-55… and you can buy additional lenses for around €200… such as the 70-300 lens for the canon…. Depending on how into it you then more and more lenses are available at incredibly expensive prices.
Premium DSLRs then are for the real camera geek… and they can cost a huge amount…
The Sony A7 with one lense (28 – 70mm) is €2,000… the Nikon Df with a single 50mm lense is €3,350… the Canon 70D is €1200… It has brilliant high def video recording… a 20 mp camera .. a flip out screen… great auto focus… and takes beautiful photos… Despite the price, this s a serious contender if your loved one loves their cameras.
To an extent… though there’s also the Nokia, Windows phones… which have some great phones available … even if the software and apps associated with the windows mobile operating system are not yet up to the android or apple standard.
The Nokia Lumia 1020 phone has the most powerful camera on any smartphone.. up to 41 megapixels… Be warned though… a camera this powerful makes for very large photos… over 10mb per photo… so you have to use smaller versions if you want to email them or share them online… meaning you lose some of the detail you bought the phone for!
The Soy Xperia Z1 may not have quite as good a camera.. but in my view it’s a better camera phone. It’s 20mp camera is better than every other phone bar the lumia… and the memory and processer power… along with the Android operating system make it the best overall smart phone overall.
The Apple iphone 5S has an 8mp camera…but a better lens than its previous version making it better in low light than previous iphones… the screen on the iphone is still too small in my view… and the apple premium makes this expensive… but it is a very impressive device.
All the operators offer all these phones for free if you sign up to some contracts… and they can cost as much as €600 if you want to buy them with no contract… so it depends on what you need.
It’s a half phone, half tablet… a big phone or a small tablet… the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 or the Nokia Lumia 1520 are examples… they have a 6 inch screen… making them feel big as phones… but that can make them more versatile… if you don’t mind holding up something rather large to your face when talking!
The PS 4 is the best of the bunch in my view. It plays PS3 games for a start so your library doesn’t disappear… It’s also immensely powerful and looks beautiful. Gaming consoles may be on their last hurrah.. but if you’ve to choose between an Xbox and a PS4… my money’s on the Sony.
However if you’ve younger kids, the Xbox might swing it. It comes with a camera that @recognises who is playing and can therefore personalise their gaming experience. It has voice recognition software, and some nice touches for younger kids games. However it won’t play old Xbox games which is a drawback… It also pitches at the home entertainment market with BlueRay (like the PS4) and other features… though there are better and easier ways of getting all of that without this device under your TV.