I‘ve been told on numerous occasions that I have an ‘eclectic’ taste in music, so when I was invited by Elene Marsden to be a guest on her ‘Time Capsule’ show on ICR FM, I put on my thinking cap! What music would I like to place in a time capsule as a gift to people of the future? One of the BIGGEST tracks in the four I have selected has never been far away from my playlist. Cafe Del Mar by Energy 52 is an absolutely stonking tune and the ‘Original Three’n One’ mix is particularly amazing. The ‘Michael Woods Ambient Mix’ of the track was used our my wedding to my wife Vanessa whilst we signed the register, so it has particular importance.
My second track, Two Tribes by Frankie Goes To Hollywood was massively important in my early teens when the threat of global nuclear annihilation seemed to loom over humanity. The track bluntly sums up the feeling of gloom that pervaded at the time. The band played a big part of my life and due to the power of the internet, I’m now friends with members of the band. If you get a chance look up former FGTH lead guitarist Nasher on your streaming services, he producing some amazing material which deserves to be heard!
This brings me on to track three, by the German group Propaganda, a band I became aware of as they shared labels with Frankie in the early 80’s. Duel was a fabulous pop track on at A side which juxtaposed with the much rawer Jewel on the B side. Although perhaps less radio friendly, Jewel went on to be the soundtrack to WRC Rally programs in the 80’s, it’s driving bassline and hammering drums working perfectly. The version of the track I chose was however called ‘Bejewelled’, a intermingle of both A and B sides of the single package on the Cassingle release name ‘Do Well’ (It’s exhausting trying to explain it!). It’s a great track and gives the best of both worlds.
The final track of the four is of course My Way, but rather than crooned by Frank Sinatra, instead it is nothing short of destroyed by the late Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols. Many would argue that he murders the song and does it little justice. I would argue that this moment of genius summed up the feelings of the late 70’s where music had ground to a halt with super groups wading through 25 minutes of guitar solos and at the same time, disco was self combusting on itself and leaving a void to be filled by culture of very angry young people who felt disconnected by society and were going no where. Although by the time of recording, the Pistols were no longer really fighting for the jilted generation and apparently ‘flogging a dead horse’, the track starts gloomy and pitifully sung, but suddenly bursts out of itself and plants Sid Vicious as a cultural legend. My reasons for picking this song, is simply that I have always wanted to do things ‘my way’, but in a rebellious way, so who better to convey that but this song.
It’s nearly six months since we embarked on our EPIC Gadget Road Trip from Ness Point to Ardnamurchan and Back!! During our trip we called on all kinds of tech to assist us with the Gigabytes of data we were generating, mostly in the form of video and photos.
Most notable and indeed most important was removable backup storage and in this area we were able to call upon our friends at Transcend. Not only were they able to provide us with previously reviewed dash-cam hardware, but also with the amazing ESD220C Portable SSD drive.
The ESD220C is indeed portable in every way. It is both small and light, in fact small enough to fit into a wallet. This size and weight is due to the Solid State storage, which means that rather than storing your data onto a physical, spinning hard-disk, you are in fact using memory chips (TLC NAND flash) to store the information and thus weight and size stop being an issue. It will easily fit in your pocket and the case had a scratch resistant coating to keep it looking pristine.
The drive uses SuperSpeed USB 3.1 Gen 1 interface and built-in SLC caching technology to give read/write speeds of up to 410MB/s and 400MB/s respectively. It also supports UASP (USB Attached SCSI Protocol to further boost file transfers on supported computers. The drive’s lifespan is also extended by the addition of RAID and LDPC and your data is safe with ECC encryption.
Also included is a USB3.1 Type A (for your computer) to USB Type C connector (for the drive). By Transcend using a Type C connector, it enables the drive to be connected to a mobile device (using an additional adapter) and allows for direct file transfers from Android OTG (On the Go) enabled phones and tablets. As you can imagine, this was a real winner in the depths of Scotland as we were able to pull photos and videos straight off our mobile devices in transit as the drive is powered from the same cable.
Using the ESD220C, I was able to transfer files from Paul’s Samsung Galaxy S7, my Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, a Sony Xperia XZ1, my nVideo Shield K1 tablet and the Dell Rugged Laptop we also took with us. Of course I also transferred video from the DJI Mavic Pro‘s MicroSD card.
So, you can see that the tiny little device was indeed the seamless hub for secure storage for the entire journey. We also transferred the data from the Transcend drive at night to a second 1TB drive which enabled us to free up space for use during the day.
I should finally mention that the device also has a ‘one touch backup’ button for use with Windows PC’s running Transcend’s included software.
Of the many gadgets that I review and then have to send back, this will be one of the those that I will miss the most for it’s speed and sheer usefulness.
The drives are available in 120Gb, 240Gb and 480Gb storage options with prices around £66, £95 and £165 respectively. I tested the 240Gb model, which I think is excellent value for an portable SSD device.
Before departing on our electric road trip in the Tesla Model S in October, we were kindly lent lots of kit to make the journey easier and more tech-packed.
Of all the tech we used and tested on our trip, one of the most useful was the Dell Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme, a gadget perfectly suited for the journey to Scotland and back.
As the name suggests, this is a Rugged laptop specifically designed to withstand some pretty extreme conditions. It is aimed at people who need to be working out in the field in all kinds of weather conditions. Perfectly suited for the west of Scotland then!
The Latitude 14 Rugged was to be the central hub of our video and blogging management, allowing us to edit video whenever the chance presented itself and manage blogs and social media in a full screen environment. Video was edited using Adobe Premiere Pro CC and uploaded over EE’s 4g network.
As laptops go, this is a seriously luggable device, it’s bulky and heavy to the point that it has an integrated carry handle. The bulk and weight are due to it’s armour added to protect it from fairly substantial drops and providing it will water resistance.
Each of the myriad of i/o ports are rubber-sealed to protect them and it’s touch screen is resistive rather than the market standard ‘capacitive’ touch in order for it be used in wet conditions and dell have even provided an inbuilt stylus to aid use of it in cold conditions where you wouldn’t want to expose your fingers to the elements.
The model we tested was packed with hardware features including a Intel Core i5-6300U Processor (Dual Core, 3M Cache, 2.40 GHz), 8GB 2133MHz DDR4 Memory, 128GB Solid State Drive, Intel Integrated HD Graphics 520, Intel Dual Band Wireless 8260 (802.11ac) with Bluetooth, Dell Wireless Qualcomm Gobi 4G LTE (DW5809E for Win8/Win10), 35.6cm (14.0″) HD (1366×768) Touch Display with Microphone Camera with Privacy Shutter all powered from E5 90W AC Adapter.
The processor, memory and solid state drive all helped to run Windows 10 Professional with ease. I was able to happily edit 4K video footage in Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2018 and upload these files with a EE 4G data Sim card. Everything was taken care of without having to mess around with secondary devices to connect to the internet. In retrospect, we could have employed the Latitude as a virtual studio for our video broadcasting, but time constraints simply didn’t give us the time to set this up.
All in all this was a seriously impressive device, although this is in no way a practical machine for use in an office, but when used for it’s intended purpose in extreme weather conditions and less that welcoming environments, it simply excels with a feature packed all in one solution with water resistance and extreme durability.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that these features come at a premium, the Dell Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme is priced around the £2900 mark.
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.
For more tech news, reviews and comment visit www.thegadgetman.org.uk
Following on from our Tesla Road Trip,(https://www.eastwestroadtrip.co.uk), I thought it would be a good opportunity to review one of the great pieces of equipment we were able to take with us on the trip.
We had planned to travel some 1200 or so miles from Ness Point to Ardnamurchan Point (and back again) in an electric car, part of the adventure was to try and document the trip. We planned to document the trip using a variety of equipment from Smartphones, stabilised cameras to 4K Drones.
We would likely be presented with many gigabytes of footage and it was therefore imperative that we had a durable solution for data backup and somewhere to copy footage and imagery taken during the trip.
Our rugged backup solution was indeed a Silicon Power Armor A65 portable 1TB hard drive with it’s shockproof and waterproof housing that gives it military grade protection, to U.S Military MIL-STD-810G 516.6 Procedure IV and IP67 Standard for dust and water ingress.
Out of the box, the SP Armor A65, comes with a rubberised casing and IP67 sealed USB 3.0 Socket. IP67 means the device components are sealed from dust and immersion in water up to a meter deep for 30 minutes. The USB 3.0 cable is a full sized male connector at each end, this makes connection to a PC or Laptop very easy as the cable works in either direction. The case also had a slot for either securing the cable to the drive or as a belt clip.
Inside of the heavily protected three layered case lies a Silcon Power 1TB 2.5″ Hard Disk with 1 Terabyte of storage, our brief tests for performance showed a very decent Blackmagic Disk Speed Test score of 71/70. The drive was used extensively both before, during and after the trip and became our ‘go to’ hard disk for the trip.
Included with the drive is Silcon Power’s HDD Lock Utility which runs on MS Windows. This allows you to encrypt all the data stored on the device to give a greater level of security for users
We tested the device for use when we were using both drones and laptops in the field and the added resilience of the device gave us a greater degree of confidence that our data would remain safe even in the most extreme circumstances. It was also used to backup our laptop during the journey.
If you travel often and need the convenience of a simple to connect device that is both rugged and secure, the SP Armor A65 is most certainly worth the investment and can be purchased from the link to the left.
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
A little over a month has passed since we arrived back from the Scotland and as promised, we have donated the remains of our Gadget Road Trip fund to British Red Cross.
This afternoon, I transferred the remaining balance of £42.32 from our Monzo Card to the British Red Cross charity and thus rendered the account empty.
I was personally extremely upset by the Grenfell Tower disaster earlier this year, which I know also affected Paul. The British Red Cross were on the ground there immediately after it happened and provided much need assistance to the poor families that had lost their loved ones, their homes and everything they owned in a matter of minutes. It is because of this, that I wanted to donate to this charity. Since Grenfell, other disasters have continued to affect the people of our planet and the British Red Cross have continued to provide much needed support for these people who have lost absolutely everything they own and still lack the basics of clean water, electricity and food. If you would like to continue to help them, you can also donate via this link
Thank you so much again to the following people and organisations for their kind donations of funds or services!
XSItems Ltd ACPlus Favorite Fried Chicken Free Reign Internet Coderus Gavin Dadd Patrick Lohan Jackie Robinson Ian Brown Olive Porter Sandra Grilli Callum McGilvery.
We wouldn’t have been able to feed ourselves during the trip and have something soft to sleep on. Thank you again.
Thanks also to Hillcroft Park in Ullswater for allowing us to stay at their lodgings for two nights (They will be featuring in the upcoming sitcom ‘Home from Home’ with Johnny Vegas, so keep an eye out!) and Far View Bed & Breakfast in Kilchoan (I won’t forget little Gracie exclaiming “My wellington boots fell over!!” as I took her and her dad on a little test drive).