Philips ActionFit SHQ6500 wireless earbuds in an AirPods world (review)

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In a world where the Apple AirPods exist, the most Apple product in years, it is possible boom time for competitors or the end of the road. The fact is that the AirPods are actually not expensive when you look at the competition-

B&O Beoplay H5 Wireless Bluetooth Headphones- £199.99

BEATS BY DR DRE Powerbeats3 Wireless Bluetooth Headphones- £169.95

SAMSUNG IconX Wireless Bluetooth Headphones- £199.00

JAYBIRD X2 Wireless Bluetooth Headphones- £139.99

As you can see, the AirPods appear competitive at £159.00, but have the advantage of working near perfectly with an iPhone.

And then you have the lower end of the market which includes the Philips Runfree Wireless Bluetooth Sports Headphones at a mere £24.99. Is it possible that they can be a sixth as good as the AirPods and other expensive wireless headphones when reviewers are suggesting that the AirPods sound similar to the normal EarPods from Apple in terms of audio quality?

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Well, I guess it all comes down to music and if that is want to listen to above anything else. I reviewed the VicTsing Smallest Mini Bluetooth 4.0 In Ear Headset which retail for £9.99 back in October and have used it every day since. It always connect, it offers decent battery performance and has proved to be ideal for podcasts, but not for music. Even with the extra headset, the audio quality is simply not good enough for serious music playback. It remains one of the best value accessories I have ever bought, but real wired headphones are the order of the day for music.

And so I decided to try a compromise which are the Philips Runfree Wireless Bluetooth Sports Headphones. The price is good, the name is a real brand and they look kind of funky. There is a wire between the two speakers of course which all but the most expensive wireless headphones offer, but that should not be too much of an inconvenience unless you are trying to hide the fact that you are wearing headphones completely. Then again, you wouldn’t be buying bright green headphones if that was the case.

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So, there are 3 areas that matter with wireless headphones and I will list how well the Runfrees work in each area-

Sound quality

Pretty poor to be honest with you. They sound better than the £9.99 VicTsings, but that would be expected. The problem is that they sound like £12 headphones from a no-brand.

Comfort

Terrible. I am using the smallest inserts and they are too big for my ears which means that they hurt a lot in almost all circumstances. I do not have small ears at all and the choice of only 2 inserts is not enough in my opinion.

Connectivity

Terrible again. I have to ‘forget this device’ every time I try to use them with my iPhone SE which is something I never do with the VicTsings.

Excuse the abrupt end to this review, but I would advise to spend some decent money to get a pair of wireless headphones you will enjoy every single day. The VicTsings are perfect for podcasts and at £9.99 you can’t really go wrong. For music, go for the AirPods.

MacBook Pro 13″ with Touch Bar review

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So I went and finally took the plunge. Went and bought the most expensive computer I have ever bought. A MacBook Pro 13″ with TouchBar. I went for the base model, which may not boast the best specs of the lot, but still packs in quite a punch for its size. I had spent the whole year waiting for the new MacBook Pros to arrive, and when they finally did, I really had to give myself that Christmas present I needed! More at OxGadgets.

Excellent review from Sami.

Microsoft Surface Studio Review

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The real party trick of the Surface Studio is its drawing board mode, and it’s also its biggest selling point. You can push the display all the way down to get really up close to it and start drawing. It won’t sit flat on a desk, though, as the minimum angle is the drawing board mode’s 20 degrees. Microsoft explained to me that it didn’t want people placing their coffee cups on the display and spilling them on a $3,000 PC while they’re drawing… More at The Verge.

It’s obviously expensive, but it is also obviously lovely.

Bragi Headphone Review

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The Headphone was announced back in September, just days before Apple murdered the headphone jack and announced AirPods. Despite its singular name, the $149 Headphone — which Bragi says will start shipping “any day now” — is another pair of wireless earbuds. They’re much simpler than the Dash, though. There’s no fitness tracking, no heart rate monitoring, no gesture controls, and no app. These are wireless earbuds that can stream audio from your phone, let you take or make a phone call, or access your phone’s digital assistant — and that’s it… More at The Verge.

Nice to know there is an alternative. Shame they are also so expensive.

Apple Watch 42mm Milanese Loop Strap review

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A friend of mine owns the stainless Steel Apple Watch and the Milanese loop because he wants people to know he owns the stainless steep version. I’m not kidding, the reason he bought the Milanese loop was so that people were more likely to look at the watch and realise what it is. Those are his words, not mine, and they feel kind of familiar for people who buy a Rolex.

Anyway, I spent some time looking at his loop strap and was suitably impressed with what I saw and felt. It really did grab me, the way it felt, the see-through appearance, the ultra-strong magnet and how comfortable it was. It is absolutely lovely!

So, I had a long thought about it and figured that it was worth the money. It feels odd looking at this amount of money for a watch strap, but I bit the bullet and went for it.

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And it is perfect. It really is stunning and I would love to see such thin Milanese available for traditional watches. Then again, I have always baulked at buying named watch straps because they tend to be very expensive and you can buy very good quality variants for a quarter of the price.

The next step was to show it to my friend and he laughed at how I had caved. He put it on his wrist and spent a while explaining how the quality made the price worthwhile and that no one else could make a strap like this, but to be fair he didn’t look too hard and just presumed…

I then explained that it was a £7.99 Milanese strap from Amazon and he just stood there with his mouth open. He really struggled to tell the difference and I explained that £149 for a strap from Apple, a company that isn’t even a watchmaker, is ridiculous (again). This strap, however, is great value and time will tell if it can survive normal use.

Seiko SRP775K1 thoughts

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I recently picked up the attractively named Seiko SRP775K1 for review which is one of the most traditional watches that Seiko makes. It is a remake of the classic Seiko 6309 and also one of the most accurate remakes I have seen in recent times. There is no doubt that this watch is inspired by the 6309 and at a quick glance, someone who knows the original may think this is a mint condition classic from the 1970’s.

For me, this may become the watch I wear for some time to come (said that before) for a variety of reasons. It is of course mechanical and includes a 4r36 automatic movement which some say offers almost complete accuracy on a weekly basis (2-5 seconds out per week). My experience so far is 2-3 seconds a day, but for any mechanical that is still extremely impressive.

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It looks fantastic with some beautiful gilt touches and a classic 1970’s diver’s form, but it does wear small. Despite this actually being a big watch, the cushion casing, which is beautifully finished and polished in specific areas to add to the cushion effect, and short lugs make it sit slim on my 7.5″ wrists. This is not a problem as such because this means that it will fit most people, but I am used to a much bigger watch and it is taking some adjustment to get used to a slimmer watch. The main advantage of the size is that it works as a dress watch under sleeves and is also ‘toolwatch’ enough to suit a more casual look.

The watch does wear heavy on the top, but if you have the strap sized correctly (never easy with the silly strap mechanism Seiko uses), this will not be noticeable.

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Visually, as I said, it is stunning and everything from the date window to the hands are classic Seiko in every way, but with a sense of luxury throughout. The chapter ring is very slightly out of line, a common Seiko problem in recent times, but aside from that the lume, accuracy and everything else is a joy.

Few watches suit every occasion and offer as much functionality for the price and so I would recommend it for anyone who is looking for a traditionally made watch which benefits from a modern movement.

VicTsing Smallest Mini Bluetooth 4.0 In Ear Headset review

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What can you really expect for £9.99? Well, not a lot when it comes to technology, but if you adjust your expectations accordingly you may be surprised.

The AirPods look amazing, they really do, and I can see countless moments where they would prove to be useful and maybe even vital. The ability to listen to a podcast when at your desk, on a bus or anywhere else using a tiny accessory that sits in your ear is enticing indeed. If you want a long relaxing bath on a cold winter night and worry about your phone getting damaged by water or steam, pop in an AirPod and leave your phone in another room. They make your phone much more flexible and give you access to media in places you may have previously discounted.

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But do you need to spend so much money on AirPods? Probably not if your main focus is spoken word media like podcasts or audiobooks. I picked up this Bluetooth headset for under £10 and after a couple of days of use it has proved to be useful enough for me to consider it an excellent purchase. It cannot fall out of my ear(s) thanks to the ear hooks that sit behind, it is very comfortable- to the point that I often cannot feel it and it remains paired throughout the day and is always ready to use.

You also get a second earpiece which connects to the main unit via micro-USB if you want stereo, but the reality is that it works best in one ear for podcasts because the sound quality really isn’t up to playing music at the sound quality you are likely familiar with. Seriously, forget music playback and think of it as a device to listen to works and you will be happy.

It is charged via a USB port and apparently you should avoid doing so directly from a normal power source, but to date I have managed to get through each day with only a charge needed in the evening. This would normally be a concern, but I have used it a lot and am satisfied with the size / power ratio here. It tends to sit in my ear for long periods when I am writing and I can simply push it to start and stop the playback, it really could not be easier.

This is ultimately just a wireless headset, but is one that is very small, very comfortable and it does work very well. The price helps a huge amount and it could work as a decent test device to see if you would get enough usage out of the AirPods if they are a potential purchase of yours.

[Upgraded Version] VicTsing Smallest Mini Bluetooth 4.0 In Ear Headset Earbud Earphone Earpiece Headphones Handsfree with Mic, Noise Cancellation For iPhone SE, 6, 6 Plus, 6S, 6S Plus, 5, 5S, 5C, iPad, iPod, MacBook Air, Sumsung Galaxy S6 S6 Edage S7 S7 Edage, Note, HTC One (M8), Smart phones, Tablets – Black

In praise of Apple Notes

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The Notes app has been installed on my iPhones for a long time and has gradually been improved to bring in more features and much more flexibility, and I have completely ignored it. Notefile has been my notes app of choice because I wanted to keep things simple and to just have the data I need; it is text only, syncs very quickly and is perfect for anyone who wants text and nothing else.

Apple Notes on the other hand offers image embedding, drawing, rich links, basic project management and a lot more that makes it a tool you can use for almost any task at hand. I used it to furnish a room, I collate invoices using a single note, I save ideas in another note and any link that looks interesting enough for Lost In Mobile goes in another note.

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It sounds complex, but it really is not thanks to the way it is embedded into iOS. I can save a Safari link through the normal sharing icon and then specify the note I want to use; a rich link will be added to the note below any content that is already there and I can refer to it later. It organises itself and presents everything as cleanly as you could wish for, and it is an example of what Apple can do when it gets software right.

iCloud is the only choice for syncing notes and so I bit the bullet and gave it a go. To date it has worked perfectly, but I still have a lack of faith and tend to extract them all from time to time just to be safe.

Overall, Apple Notes is becoming one of my most used apps and I am enjoying a variety of advantages that I wish I had taken the time to experience a long time ago. If, like me, you have ignored it in preferences to a third party app, it may be time to give Apple Notes a try.