New Toy Tweets


The events of the past couple of months – iPhones, iPads, Windows 8 ultrabooks, phones and tablets – have been keeping the magazines busy enough, but for me it’s all been a bit of a yawn. I don’t know anyone who’s excited about Win 8, and the Apple products seem to have actually depressed the AAPL share price, so maybe it’s not just me after all.

I’ve been amusing myself with a bunch of lesser items, some of them deeply interesting, some fascinating but flawed, and one or two of them actually useful. I thought it might be fun to parade a representative sample here in tweet-sized summaries.

The Guess Watch

With the intention of luring customers into their bricks-and-mortar stores, fashion house Guess launched a new augmented reality app for iOS. Load the app, point your iOS device’s camera at an appropriate Guess advert, and marvel at videos of the latest Guess watch collection, together with discounts and prizes designed to you into the nearest Guess store. Launch attendees left Guess’s Regent St shop with goodie bags containing a watch each.

Mine’s a manly hunk of brass I’ve adopted as a challenge: trying to discern the position of the hands through the blinding bling keeps my old eyes amused for minutes on end. So what’s the time, Bidmead?  Your Guess is as good as mine.

£149 WW0040


In my experience plumbers prefer cash, but for those small traders who want to give their customers the option of paying with plastic, the Swedish company iZettle now offers a gizmo that plugs into the audio port of your phone. It’s the front end to iZettle’s credit card processing service that charges 2.75% on every transaction, and the app (iOS or Android) they supply takes care of all the accounting and transfers the payment to the bank account of your choice.

The gizmo does a kind of old-fashioned acoustic coupler operation to transfer the data from the card into your phone, but I couldn’t get this to work at all with my new Motorola Razr/i (Ser below), possibly because the app’s expecting an ARM processor. Nice idea; wobbly execution. I’ll know more when iZettle support gets back to me.

It costs £20 to get the gizmo, but you get that back as credit against your 2.75% payment to iZettle for every successful transaction. More details here:

Yamaha PDX-11 iPod Dock

An iPod makes some sense in your pocket, but when you get back to base you deserve a proper hi fi system. iPod docks have never really appealed to me, but I’ve come to be rather fond of the unpompous PDX-11 that followed me home from a recent Yamaha launch of its latest range of keyboards, drumkits and guitar amps. It’s a rugged octagonal cone, with a single 10cm speaker for bass and middle, augmented by a well-tuned 3.5cm tweeter. So your stereo input (via the iPod dock or 3.5mm aux) gets mixed down to mono, but the optional 6 alkaline AA batteries (if you’re not feeding it USB power) will give you 8 hours of party fun. The Bach cello suites sound pretty good on it too.

Price: £79  Yamaha DX-11

Attacknid Combat Creature

It’s doubful if the typical El Reg reader can find any genuine use for a red and black wireless controlled 10″ tall battling robot that doesn’t do much more than creak around your living room on six legs and fire annoying foam discs to a maximum distance of 30 feet. Could be fun for cat owners, though.

The Attacknid was star of the show at the annual DreamToys Exhibition, and is tipped (I’m reliably told by the manufacturers, China Industries Ltd) to be the best seller toy of the year. The fun wore thin quickly for me, but in pairs, dressed in optional battle armour that pings off when hit, there may be hours of harmless amusement for the young at heart. Batteries included.

£69.99 Attacknid Combat Creature

Motorola Razr/i

The invitation to journalists and bloggers to attend yet another phone launch in Central London hardly set one’s pulses racing. But as the presentation unfolded it became clear this was a phone worth special attention.

The Razr/i’s Intel Atom processor differentiates it from all the other ARM offerings out there: should you care? Yes, its 2GHz rating makes it very fast while still eking out the juice for a full day’s work. It runs Android ICS on a screen that bleeds almost to the edge, so although the device is physically smaller than the iPhone 5, at 4.3 inches  the Super AMOLED screen is actually bigger. The announcement at the end of the launch that each of us would be walking away with one was what finally won me over, although the Razr/i still has to play second fiddle to my constant companion, the Samsung Galaxy Note.

Around £250 Motorola Razr/i

Livescribe Sky Pen

Livescribe pens write on special (though not specially expensive) paper to produce electronic images of your scrawl that can be transferred to your PC. Their USP is that they simultaneously record audio and sync the two, so that later when you touch the pen to any part of the ink trail it plays back the audio recorded at the moment you took that note. Once the data’s been transferred, the same applies to mouse pointer and image on the computer.

Earlier versions of the pen sent the audio and ink data to the computer over a USB cable. The Sky transfers wirelessly, syncing however to the Cloud rather than your PC. I’ve yet to be convinced of the usefulness of this, but Livescribe are still working on the software and promise improvements in the new year. I’m hopeful; these Livescribe pens are handy tools.

Prices vary from £159.99 for the version with 2GB up to £224.99 for the 8GB version.

More details here

ThermalTake Level 10 M Gaming Mouse

I had a long talk at the launch with the designer about the difference between Apple’s approach and the way his own company – it’s owned by BMW, and they’re outsourcing their services to ThermalTake – styles products. Where Apple is minimalist, the design of this mouse is expressionist: it’s meant to look like what it does. You don’t need to be a High Court Judge to see that it’s far from “cool”: it’s shouting “racy”, and “come, DESTROY with me”.

The eye-catching skeletal design does have some function – with the aid of the Allen key provided you can adjust the body upwards and sideways to fit your hand. You can also change the resolution in four steps. Avid gamers appreciate these niceties, but those I’ve discussed this with were doubtful about lashing out the launch price of a hundred quid for these features. But if you’re up for it, a month after the launch eBay is your friend.

Official price: £99 ThermalTake Level 10 M Gaming Mouse

Kodak Hero 4.2 Printer

Kodak bravely summoned the Press to a launch of “a new range of Hero printers”, intended to represent their triumphant comeback from Chapter 11. The “Hero” message was hammered home by winding up the presentation with a showing of “Avengers Assembled”. Coward that I am, I slipped out and headed home after 30mins of this 3D frenzy.

A couple of days later Kodak sent me this rather handsome Hero 4.2 All-In-One. It’s a high build-quality job scaled for domestic printing, scanning and copying but also faxes (does anyone still use that?). It’s also a thoroughly up-to-date Google Cloud printer, and I’ve grown very fond of it.

The following week came the announcement that Kodak is quitting the printer hardware business and will only be doing inks and paper from here on in. Which is sad.

No price for this, as the launch was pulled, but More details here

Sound Blaster Axx SB20

Back in the ’60s the first thing you installed in a new pad was your hifi. You were looking for straight-through stereo with no messing. Today’s kit – and the SB20 is a prime example – pushes the sound through one or more DSPs that massage the music in ways that would have sent quite the wrong sort of shivers up my young hippie spine.

But I have to admit that as a USB peripheral to a PC, or a Bluetooth extension to your Android or iOS device, the SB20 does a remarkably good job as a combined playback device and vari-angle directional microphone array. Especially when you install the control panel that tunes the amplifier characteristics, optionally blanks out noise and (if you’re feeling particularly perverse) can trick up your voice to sound like a very old Ian McKellan when chatting over Skype.

Price: £179.99  Sound Blaster Axx Series

TDK ST750 HiFi Over Ear Headphones

These very classy jobs turned up in a goodie bag following a painfully high decibel TDK rock party a couple of weeks ago. The claim is that the 40mm drivers combined with the built-in 6dB gain amp (driven by a pair of AAAs) produce clear, uncoloured output across a wide frequency range. I’m not sure my still-ringing ears are adequate to judge that, but I love their build quality and plain black and silver styling, and they certainly sound pretty good to me.

Price: £170  TDK ST750


One Response to “New Toy Tweets”

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