An iPhone / Apple Watch / AirPods charging stand that is cheaper than one MagSafe charger

The (deep breath) Magnetic Wireless Charger Stand, 3 in 1 Magsafe 18W Fast Charging Station with QC3.0 Adapter for Apple iPhone13/12,13/12Pro,13/12Pro Max,13/12Mini,AirPods 2/pro,iWatch 6/ SE/5/4/3/2 is currently available in the UK on Amazon for £28.89.

The HiRise 3 Wireless Charging Stand from Twelve South is $99.99 and by all accounts doesn’t work as it should for the money (review here).

I decided to try the Magnetic Wireless blah blah thingy from Amazon following some reassurance that the reviews appeared to be genuine and extremely positive. And it has proved to be an excellent product that delivers in all of the areas that are important.

It is not a sleek product by any means and does look relatively thick, but it is sturdy and never feels like it will fall over. Charging could be a bit quicker when giving all three devices a burst of power, but it will certainly work well overnight or on a desk.

When you consider that it is cheaper than one MagSafe charger from Apple there is no doubt that it offers superb value for money. I cannot, however, verify that it won’t burn your house down due to poor electrics, but that risk will be up to you and how you feel about non-brand products like this.

Hamilton Khaki Field Auto / Garmin Vivosmart 5 / iOS 16

The Hamilton Khaki Automatic is, to me, the quintessential watch. I owned one when I first got into watch for approximately 1 hour. A purchase from eBay, but alas the one I bought was way out and lost over 10 minutes a day. The seller was nice, but he had no other stock and so I left the watch alone, presuming they were all like that.

Of course they are not all bad and the movement inside is actually very impressive for the price, a modified ETA 2824-2 with 80 hours of power reserve and a 6 beats per minute second hand. This means that you can actually see the second hand judder from time to time as the human eye can see ticks below 8 per second, but in a way this adds to the feel of the watch. Mine is currently 2 seconds slow a day which is brilliant.

As a watch, the finishing and design are just about perfect to me- not flashy in any way, kind of a tool vibe and a design that looks good on any strap, and in any situation.

This was the first ‘proper’ watch I bought and it’s the latest. I would love to say it’s the last, but I like watches so we know that won’t happen.

Whenever the Vivosmart is photographed some of the text disappears…

The Vivosmart 5 is Garmin’s latest update to the only adult wrist tracker it makes. A variety of fitness watches come out from Garmin, but the Vivosmart has long fell behind the rest and was in dire need of an update.

And so Garmin releases the Vivosmart 5 which on most accounts is also way behind the competition and was in dire need of an update as soon as it arrived. The styling, or lack of, and monochrome screen look like a 2016 creation and there is nothing about it that creates any positive emotion.

I have worn it for a few weeks while I put the Epix away and wore the Hamilton. It has proved to be much easier to use than the Vivosmart 4, the screen is visible in all conditions and the single button on the front makes a huge difference. It is bigger than I expected and close to impossible to wear in bed for sleep tracking, but alas Garmin sleep tracking is never great anyway no matter what device you use.

Overall I would rate it as a competent fitness tracker and it works well alongside the Garmin Connect software, but the phantom step issue remains. I painted an old desk over a period of 30 minutes and got 4,500 steps for my efforts. 4,500! Driving also adds steps which is annoying to a similar level to what the Epix does and I remain perplexed by the fact that the Apple Watch does not do this.

If you want fitness tracking it is hard to know what to choose, but I am coming around to the fact that Apple seems to do it better in almost every metric apart from battery life- that should change later this year.

iOS 16 has been an interesting beta(1) this year. Totally stable for me, a bit of a drain on battery performance, but otherwise it feels fairly complete.

The new Lock Screen feature is a nod to customisation, but it falls well short of being anything other than a different Lock Screen. I prefer the notifications at the bottom and aside from that it doesn’t seem to do much at this time. Hopefully it is the start of something that will grow, but until that time it feels somewhat experimental.

Of all the new features, most of which will not gain many headlines, the ability to unread a message is huge for me. Being able to edit a message, pull back emails is useful, but leaving the notification live for a message I need to go to later feels like the ticking of a final box.

Nothing about iOS 16 wows me in any way and I don’t think that’s possible anymore, but there is no way I am moving at this point. It’s there, I am here and I guess that’s enough which sounds like a sad state of affairs when I consider the cost of these devices. The problem is that it does so much for me and so my inclination, and energy, to move is simply not there.

The Garmin epix (gen 2) is the fenix from the flames

The new Garmin epix is effectively a Garmin fenix 7, but with an AMOLED display. There are subtle differences between the two (flashlight, size and power options, price etc) and for most people it will be hard to decide which is the right model to purchase.

Those who really do need a Garmin fitness watch will, however, know what they need and their decision will be based on the sports they enjoy, the battery life they need and the amount they are willing to spend. The epix I am reviewing here is £799 which is a lot of money and only the sapphire titanium editions (£899) and Sapphire – Black Titanium with Chestnut Leather Band (£999) top it in the range. Please do not consider the £999 option as you are paying for a leather band which is not overly impressive and especially so at £100.

On the fenix 7 side you can pay between £599 and £1,049 from a huge range, but comparatively the epix is approx £150 to £200 more expensive. I am not going to go into all of the differences because I would be here for some time (you would get bored) and most of the changed features are not too important, but the display on the epix is, to me, the reason why the epix shines above the fenix.

Smartwatches and fitness watches are rarely devices that can be worn daily without the sense that they are not real watches. Garmin has tried to address this with the crazily expensive MARQ range, up to £2,249, and so has TAG, but neither offers the sense that the pricing is worth the relatively limited time they are useful for. £2,249 for a very well made watch that will last two decades is justifiable, a fitness watch that will last five years is not.

So, the pricing is high for the epix and then I think about the Apple Watch, and the fact that there is a premium for ‘stainless steel’, a type of metal that is standard for all watches from £50 upwards. The Apple Watch can easily reach £600 and up in stainless steel with 4G etc, but I am not prepared to say it is expensive because it is so amazingly useful and offers so much utility, especially 4G which you don’t get with Garmin.

I have been using the epix for three days and I must say that I have been impressed in almost every area. It has a premium feel, the battery life is superb (six days always on AMOLED display- hello Apple?) and the fitness tracking is so far ahead of most of the competition that it is almost painful.

The display, however, is to me everything that puts it streets ahead of the fenix line. All of a sudden I can view the metrics comfortably on the watch itself, I can take full advantage of the myriad of third party watch faces and I can genuinely enjoy all of the features it offers. I love the fenix line, but there was always a sense to me that the display was holding what was underneath back all of the time. It was a bit like viewing a work of art through a steamy window. It’s still great but a struggle to enjoy.

Think of the epix as the fenix with a better screen and that is about all you need to know. This does not mean that it is for everyone and the battery life is shorter than the fenix by a margin, but at six days it is still easily enough for me. The fixed strap pins are a pain, but I managed to remove mine thanks to the various watch tools I own, and now I can add any strap I like which helps with wearability. This is a big watch and should not be suitable for daily wear, but I have had no problems so far.

For now, this is staying on my wrist and I am already exercising a lot more. It is staying on my wrist for now. For now…

Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6 review

You can buy the Smart Band 6 for £33.99 at this time on Amazon, but the price does vary somewhat. It can drop below £30 or nudge up a little, but wither way we are talking about a budget tracker here.

For that money you get the following (my summings up are in the brackets)-

1.56″ AMOLED track full screen (decent screen indoors and passable outdoors)
30 professional sports modes (unlikely these do much more than track heart rate etc)
130+ Full Screen Exclusive Watch Faces (most are terrible)
SpO₂ tracking (compares well with the Apple Watch and other trackers I have used)
24-Hour Heart Rate Monitoring (appears to be close to the likes of Apple and Fitbit)
Professional sleep monitoring (sleep monitoring would be more accurate)
14 Days Battery Life (this is a true assessment)
5 ATM water resistance (no experience so far of that)
Remote photo taking and music control (works very well)

That is a lot of features for the low price and in such a small and light (100 gram) package, but if you are thinking that the quality of most that you see above will be poor you would be wrong.

I have been using it for the past week and tried to push it as hard as I could, apart from a couple of days where I was sick, and overall it has proved to be a more than capable tracker.

It is supremely comfortable and strangely not noticeable when worn in bed unlike the Garmin Vivoactive 4 which despite being smaller can actually be annoying enough to wake me up. When you look at the Smart Band there is a sense that it is very high and far too wide to make sense on your dominating hand, but it does seem to just sit there and feel close to invisible. I would, however, say that if you have a wrist below 7″ in diameter you may struggle.

The strap is very soft and able to be sized easily, and the extra benefit of such a low-priced tracker is that the third party straps are also very cheap, for example 23 straps for £12.

So, it wears well and is comfortable which is the least you need from a pure fitness tracker. The initial experience, however, is mixed because the sign-in process is a real fiddle. While having some concerns about Xiaomi in terms of security and being careful what information to allow access to, I eventually managed to sign in and set up the Mi Fit app.

And the app has proven to be another surprise. It is very clean and offers the information you need without fuss and without too much coaching which can often be annoying in some competing offerings. You get a selection of faces that you can install, most of which appear to me made for 6 year-old children, and there are some genuinely useful offerings included. The fact that the new Band 6 uses the entire footprint of the display helps a lot and it ends up feeling like a fitness band that offers more visual information in a ‘smartwatch’ way than the likes of Fitbit.

I tested it with an Apple Watch on one wrist and the Band 6 on the others and the differences in steps were approximately 3% more each time which is quite impressive. Interestingly, against the Garmin Vivoactive it was 2% less so it appears to be somewhere in the middle, which I guess is where you want to be.

The SpO₂ tracking is impressive if quite slow to undertake and I would mark it as adequate. Adequate and impressive should not be in the same sentence, but consumer SpO₂ trackers are never more than adequate and the price helps to lift it up to impressive.

I have not gone deep and checked every stat and measurement, but I have used my experience with multiple Apple Watches and a huge number of trackers from Garmin, Fitbit and the rest, and I am left confused. I am confused because a lot of what I believed about trackers has been walked over by this product and in a big way.

Consumer fitness trackers are not designed to offer medical grade measurements or fitness tracking that can be assessed by serious athletes, but they can help you to get fitter and to lose weight over a longer period. And when I think about Fitbit (all Fitbit devices) and Garmin (just the fitness trackers) I genuinely believe the Band 6 to be superior in most of the important areas.

The Fitbit Charge 5 is £135 and I would argue that it is no way near as good as the Band 6 while being more than 4 times more expensive. That goes against the natural laws of consumerism and highlights that a name is not always the best indicator of quality and value. If you need a fitness tracker that does most of the basics in a consistent and genuinely useful way, I have no hesitation in recommending the Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6. It is brilliant value for money and still would be at twice the price.

Avoiding the wrist bump.

Samsung Galaxy (Note 22☺) S22 Ultra 5G First Thoughts

(In case of variances – UK model – Black – 512gb/12GB – Dual sim – direct from Samsung)

Been a while since I reviewed anything – but since it’s arrived 2 days before official launch day, it’d be rude not to give some initial impressions (clearly they’re more relaxed than Apple about launch day protocols).

I will, albeit probably poorly, attempt to avoid comparing to my Z Fold 3 which has done me really well barring some niggles. Things I really want to check out – the camera (so different to the Z Fold 3’s average 12MP snapper), and the s-pen (built in). All photos were taken with an iphone 13 mini except for the camera comparison ones.

I’ll spare you an over the top unboxing essay. I’m sure there’s plenty of those elsewhere. It’s the usual new era minimalist approach – small black box, including phone plus unnecessary (imo) usb-c cable & ejector pin. NO extra s-pen nibs that I can see (unlike historically, maybe the pen is one unit now)

This thing is one solid lump, which is good, as my Z Fold 3 while feeling really high quality and sturdy, still left me nervous when its opened up.

After the standard Samsung setup process, its time to play. Careful ejecting the sim card tray and not the microphone hole right next to it :/

Right, lets take a quick look at that camera, specifically the zoom. What I tend to do is take a standard picture, and then zoom in. My door handle (cropped) as part of a x1 shot…

My door handle x10…

So you can see the level of detail that the optical zoom means that you gain.

The pen is excellent. As responsive as the s-pen pro I have with my fold 3, and with all those features (due to the Bluetooth capability). One complaint – Samsung notes can now to sync to one note (it could do so with the ZFold 3 too), but for whatever reason, the integration is only to one note “feed” (huh?) which means it only appears in a special place and you have to then move notes you want to keep, into full one note. An odd quirk, that may become annoying.

The fingerprint reader feels much better than it was on my old S21 ultra as well. Its nearly as good as the one on the Z Fold 3 (which is a dedicated side one built into the power button). I’ve only had one false negative so far which is nice.

A final quick nighttime shot before I send this to Shaun. Excuse the flare from the window (its cold out there), but otherwise it looks at a glance, impressive. The picture shows far more than my eyes do.

Full verdict to follow, but in the first few hours, the Galaxy Note 22 (oops) looks to be an excellent all-round device. And if you like a decent zoom, then vs the best from Apple, it’s a winner. I think the battery life is yet to be clear (it was down 15% for me after light use, but all those initial setup services will be greedy.)

It’s sold out in some specifications (from Samsung) until April 2022, so book early to ensure disappointment.

Peter

The Fitbit Charge 5 is good, but inconsistent

So far I must say that the Fitbit Charge 5 is a decent fitness tracker in terms of the hardware design. The screen is responsive which is unusual for Fitbit devices and also visible, in a good way, in most lighting conditions. It also sits well on the wrist meaning that it can be worn on your dominant wrist day to day and not get in the way. To add to this I would recommend a third party elastic or nylon strap to ensure true flexibility.

It is very much just a tracker with limited installed apps and very few available to install, and just a few clock faces to play with. You can only use one at a time which again means you cannot swap faces outside of the app, but as a tracker you kind of know what you should be getting. It is not a smartwatch, but Fitbit Pay works well and the interface is good enough when you consider how small a space it has to work in. For a tracker, it ticks enough boxes in my opinion.

Where it is problematic is in the consistency which knocks my faith in all trackers. On the treadmill my heart rate runs at approx 110, but on every 4th run the Fitbit stays below 70 which is definitely far from correct. I have checked the way it is attached to my wrist and also taken a quick reading on the Apple Watch so this is definitely a strange fault.

Also, in comparison to the Garmin Fenix it is a very different beast. For sleep the Garmin, and Garmin, is terrible with completely random sleep scores appearing no matter how well or bad I sleep. The Fitbit seems to be a bit more accurate, but is definitely more generous in how it judges my sleep.

For steps the Fitbit is giving approximately 10% more than the Apple Watch or Garmin which is a concern, but strangely it seems to be much cleaner and more accurate with the GPS tracks. I moved to using the iPhone for GPS in the end to preserve battery performance (the mismatch between battery % in the app and device remains) and I can see it getting 6 days on average which is OK for such a small device.

Now that I have experience Garmins, Fitbits and Apple Watches extensively over the past 5 years I am left with a concerning conclusion. I am starting to wonder if a lot of the stats we see are more algorithmic than based on direct evidence from the sensors. The differences between the various brands, and even devices from the same brand, are often too much to give confidence that they are worth wearing. Consistency is key and this can help you to get fitter so they are definitely useful, but for me I am starting to lose a little faith.

The Charge 5 is a decent product with some very odd quirks, but for now I am going to go without any smartwatch or fitness tracker for a while and will see how I get on.

Testing the Fitbit Charge 5: not the best of starts

I have been testing the Fitbit Charge 5 and after 1 day I am already struggling. My experience with Fitbit has note historically been one where I have a lot of faith in the hardware, but this is a strange start. See above and you will see the battery at 68% in the Fitbit app and this was after only 12 hours. That is disappointing for a device with a 7 day battery life claim.

Not to worry though because the Fitbit Charge itself is quoting 97% battery remaining. What is going on there? 12 hours later the app is still stating 68% with the Fitbit now at 93%- I’m confused .

Is the Kindle Paperwhite 2021 (11th generation) worth the money?

Yes. Yes it is.

The new Paperwhite does look and feel like the previous Paperwhite, and the one before that and so on.

A Kindle, however, does not need to surprise with amazing new features and clever tricks because to do so would be to negate what they are design to be, which is to mimic books as closely and naturally as possible.

The new 6.8″ display is the big bonus here and, to me, it does offer a very similar reading experience to the Oasis which is a mere 0.2″ bigger in screen dimensions.

It is now waterproof against accidental immersion in up to two metres of fresh water for up to 60 minutes and up to 0.25 metres of seawater for up to 3 minutes which is of course handy and the battery has been upped to 10 weeks.

USB-C is here to speed up charging and to make dealing with multiple cables a little easier and the Signature edition (£50 extra) throws in wireless charging, audiobooks, auto-adjusting light sensors and a charging cradle.

With warm lighting now available, a must have feature for me, it has all of the features of the Kindle Oasis apart from the hardware page turn buttons. The Oasis also feels more premium, the Paperwhite is a fingerprint magnet of extreme proportions, but when you consider the price difference (£129 vs £229) it is hard to recommend the Oasis.

After 10 minutes of use!

The Oasis is a brilliant eReader and in my opinion the best available today, but it is 2 years old and so I don’t believe that £229 is worthwhile when there is likely a new model around the corner. The Paperwhite is slightly quicker than the Oasis in use, it includes every feature of the Oasis in the Signature edition and it offers the kind of reading experience the majority will want.

Is the Paperwhite worth £129? Absolutely yes. Is the Paperwhite Signature edition worth £179? That’s more difficult because the Oasis is a more premium feeling device and those hardware buttons are advantageous, but for me I would suggest that the new Paperwhite is the new eReading king of the hill when it comes to value.

I still want to see a folding Kindle, I really do. When I hold the Paperwhite in landscape and imagine it folded in half the size would be perfect for any pocket and to enable the user to carry their library of books anywhere.

On Cloudflow (Rust | Eclipse) review

Developed with elite athletes, the third-gen Cloudflow can do it all and is faster than ever. The explosive Speedboard® loads every stride with spring-like energy. It’s engineered for high speeds and maximum comfort whether you’re crushing a 5K or a marathon.

It sounds impressive doesn’t it, but then again this kind of technology speak is common in higher-end running shoe marketing. When you are spending £130 on a pair of running shoes you may look out for the technology within to justify a purchase, but the reality is that comfort, style and longevity will be more important to most people.

In terms of style they are impressive, in my opinion, because the use of orange and white with a hint of blue come together to make a versatile look that will work with jeans, shorts in the summer and in almost any situation. They are maybe too vibrant for more formal occasions, but if you are looking for a decent pair of trainers that look good these are a decent choice.

That would, however, be a bit silly because they are designed for running and in my experience this is where they excel. I have been wearing the previous generation for 2 years now and there was no doubt that they needed replacing. Fortunately my wife and daughter know me well and I received the latest generation for Christmas.

It was immediately apparent just how soft and supportive they are in comparison to my worn out On trainers, and this also highlights that you will not be buying these to keep for years. This type of technology is designed for distances, not time, and there will come a point where you need to replace them. It could be 6 months for some runners, a year for most and longer if you are not really running in them. I suspect that I am a year at most given my running patterns.

You might think that this is expensive for running shoes that are swapped out so often, but trust me when I say that you will save that money easily and especially so if you are over 40 years old.

Once you have been tested and know what type of running shoes you should be wearing you can buy the right pair for you and get the support you need to save you from injury. There is of course no guarantee that you will not get injuries when running, but anything you can do to minimise damage will only be a positive move. The cost of medications, treatments from specialists and the fact that injuries slow your progress make the investment in decent running shoes more than sensible.

I am not sure that On is necessarily better than other brands at similar price points and I am not sure that some of the running shoes available for around £50 on Amazon are markedly worse, but I am sure that this particular pair feel great when running, they look good when walking and they have many subtle features built in that make me actually want to wear them.

JABRA Elite 45h Wireless Bluetooth Headphones review

It is hard to believe that headphones which cost £70 could be in any way comparable to the competition which often cost a lot more.

From the SENNHEISER HD 450BT (£150) to the BOSE Wireless Bluetooth Noise-Cancelling Headphones 700 (£300) to the SONY WH-H910 (£150) it can be difficult to know what represents good value for money. You can of course go a lot higher, AirPods Max, or lower from the likes of GOJI, but there will usually be a price range that suits the majority and I would guess that between £60 and £100 likely represents the sweet spot for value / quality balance.

I spotted the Elite 45h on sale for £69.99 and decided to have a try because of the quoted 50 hour battery life (USB-C as well), the fact that I have used Jabra in the past and always been impressed by the sound quality, and the subtle look of the product. The weight (233 grams) is impressive as well and so I got ready for my first listen.

Pairing to my iPhone took seconds and is done by simply moving the switch on the headphones towards the Bluetooth symbol. I then downloaded the Jabra Sound+ app and worked through the sound test to build a personal sound profile. A quick read of the minimal instructions and I was ready.

Oh yes, the sound quality was much better than I expected. Initially with far too much bass until I used my own sound profile at which point I was more than happy. It also made me realise just how average the AirPods Pro sound quality is. I kind of knew this already and have mainly used them for the sheer practicality they offer, but to get better sound for a quarter of the price is not to be ignored.

These headphones are not new to market by any means, but so far I have found every area of performance to be better than I expected-

Call quality is excellent and the hidden microphones offer excellent voice sounds to the recipient of a call. I was very surprised at this aspect.

They are super comfortable and barely noticeable after a few minutes of wear.

The buttons are easy to understand and not difficult to use once you remember where they are.

They do look a little silly, as almost all over ear headphones do, but in a working from home world I am not overly concerned by this.

I bought these because my balance issues have persevered a little in recent weeks and so I needed to try over ear headphones to see if this helped, and while time will tell regarding this I do feel more comfortable not passing sound directly inside my ears. Logically, these make more sense for day to day use.

I am not saying these are the best headphones in the world and I know that I may be somewhat out of touch in this area, but what I can say is that for £70 you can get a set of headphones with superb sound quality, features that work in every area and build quality that will likely last for as long as you need them. I cannot conceive that spending £200 extra would get me anywhere near a point where that extra money would be worthwhile. These, to me, feel like a bargain.