It’s been a while since Paul and I ventured to Scotland and back in the Tesla Model S on our East West Road Trip. During the trip we had the opportunity to test lots of technology.
It was particularly comforting to have the Drive Pro 230 in car camera along for the trip, providing us with the added comfort that should anything unpleasant happen during our 1200 mile trip, we would have full audio-video documentation to refer to.
Dash-cam’s have become an essential gadget for drivers over the last few years, providing evidence in road traffic accidents and thus being referred as an IEW or Independent Eye Witness by the Police, but also by providing additional features to make the drivers experience safer and legal.
The Transcend DrivePro 230 is as feature packed as any Dash-cam currently available currently. Aside from packing at Sony Exmor™ image sensor to capture 1920×1080 video at 30FPS which offers excellent lowlight video capture with the able assistance of the F/2.0 wide angle lens.
Attaching the camera to your windscreen using either suction or adhesive mounts. The camera also packs a GPS receiver and synchronises your geographical position to the video using Transcends PC, Mac and Phone Apps.
On the rear of the camera is a 2.4″ colour LCD screen and remote display is also possible via Wi-Fi to phone app. Obviously, this is targeted for use by passengers of the car.
The package comes with a very long MicroUSB to 12v car power adapter which charges the camera whilst driving and with the on-board battery, it can be configured to continue to monitor the car in ‘Parking Mode’. silently monitoring it’s field of view for movement and then recording this movement for later review.
Aside from the ‘quick record’ button, the camera also packs an emergency recording feature which also prevents overwriting of recorded video when the included 16GB MicroSD card fills up. In normal mode the camera records in chunks of video and gradually overwrites the oldest video files enabling continuous recording for as long as your journey takes.
Other safety features included are Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), Forward Collision Warning System (FCWS), driver fatigue alert and headlight warning system (when light conditions begin fail.
The camera also comes with speed warning settings which will audibly warn you when you exceed the set speed limits set within the camera.
This type of device demands simplicity of use, and the DrivePro 230 excels in this area. It simply is a ‘plug-in and go’ solution which aside from the obvious safety and legal comforts provides a vast amount of other features which make driving that little bit less stressful.
At around £136, the Transcend DrivePro 230 is excellent value for money, with a high quality device providing excellent video quality with an enormous amount of added features.
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In the lead up to the East West Road Trip in October I was looking for a smartphone to enable me to document the trip both with photographs and video and was particularly keen to live stream the video where possible.
Initially I was looking to live-stream the trip using a 360° camera, unfortunately this didn’t come off and I was faced with a last-minute race to find an alternative literally 2 days before we were departing!
Fortunately, I was offered the Sony Xperia XZ1 phone with 30gb of data from EE. This solved by data anxiety problems immediately and having used Sony Xperia devices in the past, I was confident they would step up to the plate with image and video quality.
Sony are an extremely well-established tech companies, in fact for many years they were ‘the’ tech company of choice and it’s no secret the mobile phone market is dominated by two other big tech brands, so I was interested to see how the XZ1 would differentiate itself in an ultra-competitive industry.
Out of the box, the Sony XZ1 is a sleek, smooth, black device, with Gorilla Glass 5 front facing glass and deep black aluminium at the back, a departure from the super-sized XZ Premium from earlier in the year which was covered from and rear in glass. With dimensions of 5.83″ x 2.87″ with a thickness of 7.4mm, this is not the most gigantic handset and its smooth edges make it comfortable to hold, although it is very smooth, so hold on tight! Aside from black, the device is also available in Moonlit Blue, Warm Silver and Venus Pink, so plenty of choice.
The phone is preloaded with the Google Android™ O (or Oreo) operating system and Sony have been very sensitive by not trashing the ideals of the OS by avoiding in the addition of their own ‘enhancements’ in the most part.
The phone packs a very bright 5.2″ TRILUMINOS™ display driven by BRAVIA® TV technology given HDR compatible playback X-Reality™ producing 138% of standard display colour spectrum, the companies experience in the display market really comes through. The display is noticeably brighter and colour more natural that other phone displays and playing HDR video from YouTube, Netflix or Amazon Prime is incredible. X-Reality™ intelligently removes noise and from videos produces exquisite results, it really is impressive. Some people would criticise the use of a Full HD screen HDR screen instead of the perceived standard of UHD and above, but I would beg to differ, having tried both UHD and 4K mobile devices, I see no real benefits, even when using VR Goggles.
The beating heart inside of the device is provided by a Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 835 Processor, positioning the phone in the same bracket at the competition. In addition, storage comes as 4GB of RAM and 64 GB of super-fast UFS internal memory with support for an addition of a up to 256GB micro SDXC. It’s pleasing that support for additional memory has been included with the phone, although it’s quite fiddly adding and removing both Sim card and SD cards with the phone, but on the plus side it’s very accessible. It should be noted that around 9.5GB is used up by preinstalled firmware and applications.
The phone is powered by a 2700 mAh battery, featuring Smart Stamina 3.0 and Qnovo Adaptive Charging which prolongs the life of the battery by ensuring it is charged quickly and safely with the addition of Qualcomm® Quick Charge™ 3.0. I’ve come across battery charge management in the past with electric cars and particularly the Tesla Model S, this too allows for quick charging, but upon reaching around 80% full, charging speed is tapered off to ensure the lifetime of the battery. Sony does a similar job with the Xperia XZ1 by intelligently noting owners charge habits and adjusting the charge rate of the phone if for instance you are sleeping and don’t begin using your phone until 7.15am. It is also possible to use the phone to charge other devices using an Android OTG adapter, but in fairness mobile phone battery is at such a premium that use of it for anything other than for the phone itself is rare.
With normal use the phone easily provides a days use with something left over at the end and this will be using all of the phones features, even some of the cooler ones which I will talk about later. Charging is provided by a Qualcomm® Quick Charge™ 3.0 charger and USB Type C socket.
Moving on the the front and rear cameras, Sony has yet again infused the phone with their high quality optics and sensors. The rear facing 9MP Motion Eye™ camera with 1/ 2.3” Exmor RS™ with 1.22μm pixel pitch. The lens is a 25 mm wide G Lens F2.0. Sony again use their own BIONZ™ for mobile image-processing engine to give superb results. There’s a ton of features such as Predictive Capture (motion / smile), Autofocus burst, x8 Digital Zoom, HDR Photo, 0.6 sec Quick Launch & Capture, Predictive Hybrid Autofocus, Anti-distortion shutter, Triple image sensing technology, SteadyShot™ with Intelligent Active Mode (5-axis stablisation) and 4K recording at 30fps.
However, the ‘pièce de résistance’ is the inclusion of a 960 fps Super slow motion video capture. This is achieved by the inclusion of addition hardware installed directly into the camera sensor in the form of hyper fast dynamic memory which allows for raw footage to be saved directly into the sensor and then drip feed and standard speed back to the standard hardware. Due to the colossal amount of power required to pulling 960 frames per second, the sensor only actually captures .18 of a second at 720hd, stretching it to around 6 seconds of footage.
This is called Motion Eye technology and personally I’m looking forward to seeing how this develops for the future, because it’s really impressive. As expected, you need bags of light to capture at this speed, so it works best outside in daylight, I also noticed light flicker in my office due to the refresh rate of our lights. Normal lighting does not cause his problem though.
The front facing camera is a saner 13MP 1/ 3.06” Exmor RS™ for mobile image sensor with 22mm wide angle lens at F2.0, again Sony includes it’s proprietary SteadyShot™ 5-axis stablization technology.
There is one simply AMAZING feature included with the XZ1 which is the 3D Capture mode. This uses software developed by Sony, utilising both processor and camera to allow you to 3D scan objects, share them and even have them 3D printed. It takes a little practice and Sony actively limit the modes available to give you time to get used to simple scans until you are ready to scan ‘freehand’. My initial results were ok, but I soon became adept in scanning some great objects, from peoples’ faces, heads, food and any other object I could think of. This is a tipping point in this industry, no longer do you need super expensive scanners and solutions, you can now use your Sony Xperia XZ1 (and now XZ Premium) to scan 3d objects. It truly is incredible.
Sony has chosen to stick with traditional Xperia design, this means that the trend of big screens and no bezels isn’t a feature of this phone, instead the phone packs stereo speakers at top and bottom of the phone which in landscape mode gives supreme stereo sound, making use of the Qualcomm® aptX™ HD audio features, the phone can ‘upscale’ lower quality audio to a near uncompressed sound when streaming across Bluetooth. There are a host of other features such as High-Resolution Audio, DSEE HX™, LDAC, Digital Noise Cancelling, Clear Audio+, S-Force Front Surround, Stereo Recording and Sony’s Virtual Phones technology. The speaker volume has also been increased by 50% over previous models.
Gaming wise, the phone is going to be able to handle pretty much everything thrown at it at the moment due to it’s highest end spec, but also included is PS4 integration using Remote Play. this allows you to connect to your own PS4 remotely and play your installed games, you can even pair a PS4 gamepad if that appeals.
The phone retails at £599 off contract, but at the time of writing there are some pretty appealing deals including some nice add-ons, but in the UK you are still looking above £50 per month for two years and more if you want better data allowance.
Although the XZ1 doesn’t pack the 4K display of the XZ Premium, the screen is quite possibly richer, especially in HDR mode, the sound it great and performance very very quick. In a world where it is perceived we only have two choices, Sony have yet again produced a solid handset capable of sitting amongst the best.
I did end up streaming a fair amount using the Sony Xperia XZ1 during and after the trip and found it to be a very capable device and coupled with an effectively limitless amount of data, it worked well.
On a side note, EE’s 4G network is very impressive and we were able to live stream both through Glencoe and arriving at Ardnamurchan, they pretty much had us covered.
I have been flying drones for the last 18 months, specifically DJI drones. It’s no secret that DJI have cornered the drone market from beginner to corporate use. From simply aerial photography to flying cell towers, DJI seem to have it all.
As part of our recent Gadget Man Road Trip from Ness Point to Ardnamurchan, we took along a DJI Mavic Pro and Osmo+, in this review I’m going to be talking about the Mavic Pro.
The first thing you notice immediately upon taking the drone out of it’s box is that it is absolutely tiny! The rotor blades and arms all fold very neatly into themselves, giving it the appearance of a sleeping bat. Nature has almost always proved to be the most efficient designer and it seems that DJI has taken quite many queues when designing the folding mechanism. Having the Mavic fold so gracefully means that it doesn’t take up a great deal of space and setting up is very quick, there’s no need to fixing rotor blades as they come fixed to the craft, so looking for that photographic moment is generally not lost as box to air time is very quick.
The drone is flown using a very neat controller that connects to your mobile device using USB. Aside from using the phone, the controller also displays important information on a LED display which makes read information in bright sunlight very easy. Operation of the drone is achieved via DJI’s own DJI Go4 software or using 3rd parties such as Litchi. It was supremely simple to operate the drone and its incredible stability gives you a very confident edge when flying.
DJI have placed the 4k camera and sensor at the front of the aircraft, doing away with the underslung designs preceding it. By doing this means that even quick acceleration doesn’t cause the rotors to obscure the display which is an all to common problem with most drones. The camera has a clear plastic dome which is easily removed to allow for clearer footage with less glare. The quality of the footage is jaw dropping! We weren’t massively lucky with the weather especially in Scotland, but we were still able to produce some amazing footage all the same, even in grey skies.
The Mavic can take still 12MP photos as well as video and can also be controlled by gestures and there is also a Wi-Fi mode with less features.
Stability wise, the Mavic Pro is awesome. As well as GPS and Glonass stabilisation, the drone also uses down facing stabilisation using additional cameras. By referencing the ground, the drone can hover almost stock-still in the sky, it’s quite unnerving to see. It also packs collision avoidance cameras too which is great when flying near to trees.
Flight times are excellent being more than 25 minutes and the drone is noticeably quieter than other aircraft I have used. Sport mode gives even greater performance and allows you to swoop around the sky with easer.
DJI have included their Geofencing software or NFZ (No fly zone) features on the drone which avoid it being flown in areas that are either illegal or dangerous such as near to airports or stadiums. This is a great inclusion which hopefully will help drones to gain a better reputation in the UK press.
Good drones don’t come cheap and DJI have positioned the Mavic Pro in the higher price bracket, however you are getting an exceedingly good aircraft for the money. I tested the ‘Combo Kit’ which comes with drone, 2 batteries, car charger, 3pin charger, controller, 16GB MicroSD and leather carry case, this comes in at around £1200, however there are deals without the added extras which bring the price under £950.
Look out for Black Friday deals which bring the price down even further
I was sitting in my office in Martlesham on the 10th July 2017 chatting to a colleague about Tesla cars. The conversation had started after he noticed the framed artists sketch hanging on my wall.
I have driven a number of Tesla Model S cars in the past from the excitable P85+ to the ‘Insane’ P85D. They are very exciting cars to drive, not just because they are fully electric and pack extremely powerful single gear motors, but because you feel your are riding on the coattails of automotive history, participating in an irreversible shift change in motorvehicle technology. It’s very exciting!
The conversation moved on the the Model X and Model 3, Tesla’s entries in to the SUV and ‘affordable’ markets. The Model X has recently appeared in the UK, the Model 3 is two years away from being available. We continued to chat for the rest of lunch, but the seed was planted.
That evening I wrote an email to Tesla’s press office requesting the loan of a Model X for review. Nothing specific, simply available dates.
The next day I received a reply from Tesla, it’s explained that things were very busy with the Model X, but the 5th and 6th of October was available for a test drive, did that suit? I puzzled for a while, in the past I had been loaned vehicles for a little longer, to give me time to get to know the vehicle, two days seemed a bit short to get a proper review in place. So, I followed up with an email, requesting a little longer.
I quickly received a reply from Tesla asking what my plans were? OK, good question, time to put on my thinking cap.
15 July 2017
My initial idea was driving from Lands End to John O’Groats, but after a little bit of Googling, I discovered that this had already been done in a Tesla and well documented on YouTube, there was nothing original to achieve in travelling down this this ‘road’.
But wait a minute! Was there? I live about 40 minutes from Ness Point, the most easterly point in the UK. Nestled in Lowestoft, Ness Point at first glance seemed a little unloved. Some thought and effort has been made to build a stone circle, with plaques showing distances to well known points in the UK. It’s quite nice, but the surroundings aren’t that impressive, but it seemed like the obvious starting point for a challenge and wasn’t too far from home.
Now to find the most westerly point of the UK.
Ardnamurchan Lighthouse sits on the most westerly mainland point of the UK accessible by a short ferry ride at Corran and a two hour drive along single track roads across an extinct volcano. There even appeared to be a ‘rapid’ charge point a few miles away at Kichoan Pier, which would set a challenge outside of Tesla’s ‘Supercharger’ network.
The plan was hatched, but it was just the beginning.
The Gadget Man - Episode 105 - Gadget Road Trip - On the Sofa with Sarah Lilley at BBC Radio Suffolk[ 34:29 ]Play Now | Play in Popup | Download (1275)
As I continue to ride the wave of euphoria of completing the 1200 mile east to west Gadget Road Trip with my lifelong friend Andy. Today I joined BBC Radio Suffolk’s Sarah Lilley on the Sofa in Ipswich and explained how the challenge came about and how it felt to drive 1200 miles in an Electric Car and why I love Gadgets!
I also talked about how I met Vanessa, how I listen to music and an ill fated trip to Tunisia in 1996.
Listen in to the stream, bookmark the site, we have a LOAD of reviews coming up over the next few weeks, so stay tuned!
GoPro have been at the top end of the action camera market for a long time and have consistently produced really high quality products, the Hero 5 range brings a whole range of functionality not seen before in a GoPro, so I was eager to find out more.
There are two camera’s in the Hero 5 range, the Hero 5 Black and Hero 5 Session, I have been reviewing the Session.
The Session is a small camera! Measuring 38 x 38 x 36 mm (1.5 x 1.5 x 1.4 inch). On the front is the camera lens and the back is a small button, on the side is a covered MicroSD and USB-C port and finally on top is the shutter button which is also used for controlling the camera. There is also a very small mono led screen which lets you know the status and mode of the camera.
The camera comes equipped with on-board wifi and it is using this and a free app that you can control and preview the camera.
There is also a brand new ‘Voice Control’ mode too, which allows you to command the camera. There are 12 commands it understands ranging from ‘GoPro Start Recording’, ‘GoPro Take a Photo’ to ‘GoPro Switch Off’. It actually works really well, however I only tried it in a room environment, so I’m not sure how it works out in the field, waves or ski slope though.
There are a heap of video modes you can shoot including 720p,960p,1080p,1440p,2,7k and up to 4k, these also offer up a variety of frame rates from 30fps at 4k to 120fps at 720p, there is the ability to remove the dreaded fish eye effect with ‘Linear’ in some modes and there is image stabilisation available up to 1080p, so those bumpy rides of ski videos will have less judder for viewers.
The image quality is simply amazing! I have always doubted the quality of the videos provided by manufacturers, but the Hero 5 Session really does delivery with zero post processing. I was honestly astounded by the 4k footage and I’m looking forward to getting out on my bike to get some off road footage over the next few days.
The camera can also take 10mp photos either in standard, timelapse or burst mode with the ability to take 30 10mp photos in 1 second! All of these settings are changeable with dozens of options available.
For people looking to use the GoPro as a dash cam, there is also ‘Loop’ mode on the video, although you might be better off looking for a dedicated device for this.
The Hero 5 range are also compatible with the GoPro Karma drone for those looking to take their footage high into the air.
All in all, I’m impressed with the GoPro Hero 5 Session, at £299 it’s by no means the cheapest camera around and you might be looking at the Hero 4 Session for half the price. However, with the drop if price you lose all of the killer features of the Hero 5 including 4K.
The Apple iPhone is a very popular device indeed and has played an integral part in the explosion of the Smart Phone and Tablet market over the last 9 years since its launch.
Apple have however played it safe with regard to storage though, happy to keep the iPhone, iPad and iPod firmly enclosed in milled aluminium with internal access to only the SIM card. Hard wiring (or soldering) components into a device means the manufacturer doesn’t need to includ memory and battery adapters which take up space and more importantly depth in the phone. Consequently Apple devices are therefore nice and thin.
Disallowing additional memory means users have to closely monitor their phone storage. It doesn’t take long for those high bitrate 4K videos to start eating into an iPhone internal storage, meaning you need to start archiving videos and photos to another device such as a Mac or PC (or cloud storage if you have the time and data bandwidth) to stop the memory being used up. Worse still, If you are out and about and run out of phone storage, you are going to be looking at dumping what might be precious footage stored on your phone to make space for new photos and videos.
This is where Transcend step in with their JetDrive Go 500G Lightning / USB 3.1 Flash Drive, a very nifty device (or dongle) that plugs directly into your iPhone or iPad’s ‘Lightning’ port and allows you to copy or move your photos and videos straight off your device onto a flash drive and thus free’s up your phone for more film making and photography. You can even take photos directly onto the flash drive if you wish using the Transcend Go App which is automatically downloaded when you first plug the device into your phone or tablet.
The jetDrive Go 500G is different from standard flash drives in as much as it both Lightning and USB on the same device which a connector mounted at end. The lightning ‘end’ plugs directly into your iPhone or iPad and allows you to copy data at speed of up to 20MB/s onto the drive. At the other end of the flash drive is a USB 3.1 connector (recognisable by its blue colour) which connects directly into a PC or Mac and copies data up to an amazing 130MB/s, so again no delays in copying your video and photos over to your desktop or laptop.
The drive comes in two sizes, 32Gb and 64Gb and in either Silver or Gold zinc alloy. These two storage options are going to be a dream come true for those of us with smaller internal storage options and may even delay that dreaded phone upgrade.
Package wise, the flash drive comes in a simple package along with clear instructions, a wrist strap and two plastic caps for either end of the device to protect the connectors. From opening the package, plugging in the device to downloading and running the small “Go” App, I was up and running in literally two minutes.
The device worked flawlessly for me and it wasn’t long before I was zooming around the house, backing up the kids iPads and my wife’s iPhone, it really was very easy to use.
I was certainly surprised how something that could be considered fairly insignificant to look at could actually be a bit of a godsend for the iPhone community. This is an excellent Apple MFi certified product and comes highly recommended from us.
Priced at £50 for the 32gb model and £67 for the 64gb, you can purchase directly from Amazon using the link alongside this text. Other options are available from other manufacturers and outlets, take care to ensure plugin peripherals are certified before using them.
I was back on air this morning with Mark Murphy and James Hazell to talk about drones and the immense rise in their popularity.
With popularity comes a degree of public worry and a much larger degree of press coverage. Should drones be licensed? Should people need to take a proficiency test to use them? All of this was covered on BBC Radio Suffolk this morning along with interviews with The Civil Aviation Authority and local pilots.
Drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles come in all shapes and sizes and can range in price from £10 to literally thousands. Many of the more expensive semi professional drones have ‘Geo Fencing’ which stops the drones from flying in banned areas or ‘No Fly Zones’.
Of course it is possible to build your own drone. Kits are widely available and many people have built their own drones from scratch using light weight computers such as the Raspberry Pi. In this case, no licensing is going to stop the production of these kinds of drones and increasingly advanced techniques such as GPS ‘way point’ route planning means that the pilot does not need to be in radio contact during the flight and therefore distances of 7km possible before battery charging is necessary.
Currently in the UK, I can’t see how any ‘proficiency’ testing can be brought in being, it would be far too costly and reliant of the purchaser of the drone. Tracking the drones is equally difficult without elaborate (and expensive) tracking transmitter/receivers being added to the drone.
Consequently, it lays with the manufacturers of these devices to ensure that their equipment is safe, easy to use, legal and abides by any global no fly zones.
I will be reviewing the Parrot Bebop 2 camera drone very soon, so stay ‘tuned’.