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EasyAcc PU Leather Case for iPhone 6 Plus

Today we’re looking at EasyAcc’s PU Leather Case for the iPhone 6 Plus (and 6S Plus). This is a fairly standard iPhone 6 Plus 5.5″ case, made from PU leather to maintain an aggressively low price point: just £6 ($9). Let’s see what you get for the money.

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First we have the box, which is a simple cardboard construction with a not-particularly-accurate label of ‘Tablet PC Case’. Still, it’s sufficient to keep the case undamaged in transit, and at this price point that’s all I really care about when it comes to the packaging.

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Now we get our first look at the case itself. While this isn’t “real” leather, it still looks quite similar to the genuine article, with a relatively hard in-hand feel and that expected leathery pattern. The smell is fairly non-existent, but not at all unpleasant. The front of the case is unadorned except for an EasyAcc mark in the lower right corner. I could have done without, but it’s not too noticeable in everyday use.

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The back has the clasp, as well as a simple lozenge-shaped cutout for the camera. The back also has a visible line running down the the centre, which is where the case will bend to work as a stand. The stitching here is fairly fine, with no obvious imperfections.

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In stand mode, you get a nice angle for watching films. This is brilliant for use on train or aeroplane tables, where it’s a squeeze to fit a laptop. It’s also good for playing some games, and is reasonably stiff to remain in place while you tap away.

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Opening up the case and putting the iPhone 6 Plus inside, we can see there’s a hard plastic enclosure to keep the phone secure. On the left hand side, we have a pair of slim pockets (with chevron-shaped cutouts) for credit cards and ID. We also have a larger pocket, which is sufficient for holding bits of paper like cash money. British and American currencies fit nicely inside, so others should as well.

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Once filled, the EasyAcc Leather PU case is fairly thick, but still slim enough into the pocket of an average pair of jeans. Given that you can ditch your wallet in favour of the case, the net gain of space isn’t significant.

Overall, the case seems quite good for the money. The design is straight-forward and error-free, the phone seems secure inside and the wallet pockets are a practical addition. If you’re looking for a wallet case and you don’t care to pay extra for a 100% leather case, then this is a great choice.

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You can get the EasyAcc Leather PU Case for the iPhone 6 Plus on Amazon. The link provided should localise to your Amazon marketplace of choice.

Thanks for checking out the review, and feel free to leave a comment below!

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Mementos from the iPhone 6 queue

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I sat in line for about twelve hours last week to buy the iPhone 6 Plus upon release. I’m not a massive Apple fan, but I wanted to review the phone and stocks of the 6 Plus version would take too long to arrive. Here are some random snippets of (hopeful) interest from the experience.

  • A couple in the queue assuming the woman I was sitting next to was my mom, and everyone just went along with it. “Wow, your son is really into reading!” “Yes, he’s quite the intellectual.”
  • My ‘mom’ loaned me pink socks after mine were soaked… and I discovered I was still wearing them when I got home.
  • Everyone in the line that I spoke with (~10 at the very front) were queuing to buy at least one 6 Plus.
  • Gold was the most popular choice, followed by silver and space grey.
  • 64GB was the most popular size; 16GB the least.
  • Apple employees brought out umbrellas, water, doughnuts and coffee at various points.
  • When the rain and lightning got bad, Apple employees moved the queue to a nearby arcade and took down names on an iPad Mini.
  • One woman literally starting screaming when an iPhone 6 display model was put into the store window.
  • About two or three dozen people of Indian descent joined the line together, at around midnight.
  • The worst thunderstorms of the summer occurred during the night of the queue.
  • I read a 220-page book, largely while pacing the length of the arcade in my pink socks. This made me something of a curiosity, and I got into an interesting conversation with a passing girl.
  • True to form, Apple employees came whooping and hollering just before the store opened to customers.
  • One woman paid in cash she stored in her bra.
  • A homeless man joined the queue after asking questions about the cost of the phone, but was cleared off by a security guard.
  • I paid £700 for a 64GB space grey iPhone 6 Plus; it was the most money I’ve ever paid in person by a factor of five.

I’m guessing this mostly isn’t interesting, but I thought I’d release it just because I wrote it down, and it might be interesting to refer to later.

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HTC One (M8) announced

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This week, the new HTC One was announced at an event in London and New York. The phone, which goes by its M8 codename, is widely seen as one of the last chances for HTC to turn their company’s fortunes around.

Despite continuing to release critically acclaimed phones, HTC’s stock price has fallen 90% since 2011. This is largely due to marketing failures and supply chain issues, along with increased competition from rivals Apple and Samsung.

Now, HTC will need to eclipse its rivals, through releasing a phone that is both critically acclaimed and well marketed to customers. We’ll have to see how HTC accomplish that second goal, but for now let’s take a look at the first part: How good is the new One?

Initial reports are that HTC have done well once again. The One (M8) retains the cuved aluminium design and front-firing speakers of its critically successful predecessor, with upgrades in key areas and a few new features.

Imaging innovation

The standout feature is a dual camera system that pairs the Ultrapixel rear camera with a secondary depth-of-field camera that allows images to be refocused after they are shot. This effect has previously been seen in hardware with the Lytro camera, and in software in a range of smartphones, but HTC’s second camera approach is unique.

Unfortunately, the new camera hasn’t been well received. While re-focusing works well, a common complaint is that the camera still takes soft, low-resolution photos that lack detail.

HTC have also upgraded the front-facing camera to 5 megapixels, with a wide-angle lens that makes for “the ultimate selfie machine.”

Display, storage and battery upgrades

The usual round of performance upgrades are present and correct in the M8. The 1080p display has been enlarged from 4.7 to 5 inches to match the current standard, while the processor inside has been upgraded to the recently released Snapdragon 801. A new microSD card slot can add up to 128 GB of storage space. The internal battery has grown to 2600 mAh, and in combination with a new set of power saving modes provides about 40% more battery life than the previous model.

Software developments

HTC have also improved their phone’s software, with the release of its Sense Six UI. This new version is based on Android 4.4.2 KitKat, the most recent Android release. The overall look is flatter and more consistent, although some interface changes seem to offer little advantage over stock Android.

HTC’s most noticeable apps – BlinkFeed and SenseTV – have both seen upgrades to make them more useful, with BlinkFeed now sitting immediately to the left of the first home screen, and SenseTV now including social feeds.

Iconic accessories

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HTC are stepping up their efforts to provide quality first-party accessories for the HTC One M8. This year they are introducing a series of HTC One M8 Dot View cases in multiple colours. These cases have a grid of small holes cut into them, allowing light to flow through from the display below. This provides a unique dot matrix effect, which is used to show the current time and notifications like incoming calls or the weather. It’s a similar idea to Samsung’s S View cases, but it looks better and costs less.

Conclusion

The HTC One M8 may not be a success. HTC could easily fail to market it properly, particularly given the strength of their competitors at Samsung and Apple. But for what it’s worth, they do seem to have wrought a phone that is a solid upgrade over its predecessor, allowing them to retain the title of “best Android phone.” And that’s a start.

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Top 5 iPhone 5C cases 2014

Today we’re looking at five of the best iPhone 5C cases for 2014. Let’s get started, shall we?

5. Bling My Thing Milky Way Collection iPhone 5C Case – Crystal, Blue Mix, Cotton Candy
Bling My Thing Milky Way Collection iPhone 5C Case - CrystalBling My Thing Milky Way Collection Case for iPhone 5C - Blue Mix

We begin our top 5 with a rather fancy case from Bling My Thing. The Milky Way Collection is an interesting galactic-inspired series of cases, using inset Swarovski Elements for maximum blingitude. The otherwise transparent case allows the colour of the iPhone 5C you’ve chosen to show through, and it’s a cool combination. Otherwise, the case is functional; offering good scratch resistance for the plastic body and a bit of impact protection as well.

4. GENx Bumper Case for iPhone 5C – Green, Blue, Pink, Yellow, Purple, White, Black
GENx Bumper Case for Apple iPhone 5C - Green    GENx Bumper Case for Apple iPhone 5C - Green
 
This simple bumper case provides a good amount of impact protection to the iPhone 5C, while allowing the colour below to show through. These cases have coloured borders too, allowing you to match your iPhone 5C’s colour or complement it with a secondary shade. The bumper is simple to install and remove, and includes cutouts for easy access to all ports and buttons on the edge of your phone. With a wide range of colours available, you’re sure to find one that suits you.

3. Zenus Masstige Retro Z Diary for iPhone 5C – Brown, Black
Zenus Masstige Retro Z Diary Case for iPhone 5C - BrownZenus Masstige Retro Z Diary Case for iPhone 5C - Black
 
The Zenus Masstige is a classy case, with a simple folio design that looks great in brown or black. The case is made from high quality polycarbonate and other synthetics in order to keep the price reasonable. Inside, you’ll find a card slot for bank or ID cards, plus full access to all ports and features through cutouts and overlays. Each Retro Z case is handmade by skilled craftsman, giving them each a unique appearance.

2. Griffin Survivor Case for iPhone 5C – Black
Griffin Survivor Case For iPhone 5C - Black
 
This is the best rugged case for the iPhone 5C, offering considerable protection against all manner of hazards – including knocks, drops, scratches, shocks, vibration, sand, dust and water. The Griffin Survivor does add considerable bulk to your iPhone, but it will keep it protected like no other case can.

1. Spigen SGP Neo Hybrid for iPhone 5C – Satin Silver, Dante Red

Spigen SGP Neo Hybrid Case for Samsung Galaxy S4 - Slate    Spigen SGP Neo Hybrid Case for Samsung Galaxy S4 - Slate
 
This iPhone 5C case has a balanced design that includes protection, a small size and style. The hybrid design of TPU and polycarbonate provides a rigid yet impact-resistant frame that should protect against both drops and scratches, while remaining slim. The case is good looking too, with a modern two-tone style that looks good in red or silver. A fine case, and definitely the one I’d pick up if I had an iPhone 5C.

Conclusion

That’s all for now folks! Thanks for reading my recommendations and be sure to let me know what you think in the comments below.

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Kensington Proximo, TripleTek Ultrabook Messenger & Stylus for Tablets Review

Kensington Proximo Starter Kit

Have you ever lost your keys, bag or mobile? Kensington hope so, because they’ve created an interesting and inexpensive system called Proximo which will let you track down these missing essentials.

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Proximo is formed of two  parts. One part is a small fob you clip to the item in question, and the second is an app running on your smartphone. The two pieces pair over Bluetooth when they’re less than 25 metres apart, allowing the app to keep track of the last location it was within range of the fob. Just press a button, and you’ll see a nice map of where the item was most recently spotted.

The app also records the strength of the Bluetooth connection to estimate three distance between phone and fob. Of course, you might be at close range and still not see your chosen item – so the app can also trigger a brief bleep on the fob. That makes it simple to find stuff hiding in desk drawers or a random pocket.

If you lose your phone, then the system works in reverse – you can use your fob’s button to sound an alarm on your phone.

The fob is actually available in two variants – there’s a slim tag (sans button) suitable for putting on or in a bag, and a proper fob (with button) to be put on your keyring.

Putting Proximo to the test

In practice, the system works as advertised, with the alarms and maps both working to easily locate items. The app is quite simple to use, and the pairing process is painless too. The only real potential bother seems to be changing batteries on the fobs, but with six months of advertised life this seems to be a non-issue.

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I had my housemate grab my bag and hide it across the house, and each time I was able to track it down without much issue. It’s basically like having someone playing ‘hot or cold’ with you, with the added advantage that the thing you’re looking for can cry out to help. Doing it the other way around – looking for your phone with the fob – is a little harder, but still works well in practice.

The only real issue with the system is that you need to keep Bluetooth on at all times for it to work; it’s not like you can just turn on Bluetooth when you have lost something. Indeed, if you turn off your Bluetooth you’ll get a stern alert from Proximo to turn it back on. Having your Bluetooth on 24/7 causes your battery to drain that extra bit faster, so be forewarned if you’re already dissatisfied with the battery life on your phone. If you already keep Bluetooth on this won’t cause an issue, but it’s worth keeping in mind.

Another thing to consider is compatibility – I had to sideload the Proximo app onto my Nexus 5, although it worked fine once I had done this. Of course, if you have a more common smartphone – like the Samsung Galaxy S4 or its peers – then you’ll find installing the app as easy as any other on the Play Store.

If losing your phone, keys or bag is a concern, then the Proximo is a simple way to protect against the eventuality with the minimum of setup time and effort.

Back-of-the-envelope maths

Security items can be evaluated by comparing their cost with the cost of replacing what they protect multiplied by the chance that something untoward will happen in the first place (the expected value).

If you pay £35 for a Proximo Fob and use it protect a £300 smartphone that has a 1/10 chance of being lost, you’re spending more on the Proximo than the expected value that you’ll lose (£300 x (1/10) = £30 < £35). On the other hand, if you protect a £600 smartphone that has a 1/4 chance of going missing, the maths suggest the Proximo is a better idea (£150 > £35). Of course, it’s difficult to estimate the odds in the first place and we’ve assumed the Proximo will always work to track down a missing item, so take this calculation with a grain of salt!

If you travel often or operate in crime-ridden areas with an expensive smartphone or other goods, then the Proximo system seems a particularly wise investment. If your risks are low or your phone isn’t worth so much, then it’s better to pass on the Proximo and just use the money to replace your phone if it does get stolen or go missing.

Kensington TripleTek Ultrabook Messenger

The Messenger bag is the choice of stylish geeks everywhere, and many unstylish ones too. There’s something satisfying and sleek about slinging a messenger bag over your shoulder, and the often limited space lets you keep the clutter at home.

Kensington’s TripleTek Ultrabook Messenger is one the smaller end of the scale, designed to fit 10 to 14” models rather than the 15” options that I spend most of my time on. However, the bag also includes room for a tablet and a fair few accessories or a change of clothes. You’d want to take a suitcase for any extended trip, but the bag is fine for a day or two.

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I was quite impressed by the sheer amount of pockets present on the tiny bag. There’s a main pocket with two fleece-lined zones for an Ultrabook and a tablet, a pocket on either side of the main pocket, one in the flip cover with a smartphone pocket and one on the back as well. This back pocket can unzip into a trolley strap, which is quite handy for airport jaunts. There’s a further secret pocket as well, for stashing small but important documents and the like.

The external look of the messenger bag is a quite standard black synthetic; I would have preferred something a little more interesting in terms of both colour and material. The inner lining is nice though, with a lime colour scheme and comfortable fleece texture.

Overall, a nice choice if you have a MacBook Air or similarly svelte laptop and you’re making short commutes or work trips.

Kensington Stylus for Tablets

The last piece of Kensington’s package was a surprise – a simple capacitive stylus for tablets.

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The stylus is well made and works well for drawing and sketches. The fairly large nib makes precision writing difficult though; if you’re looking to take notes then you’d be better served with a proper Wacom-style stylus (a la the Note 3 or Surface Pro) or at least one that includes a transparent disc-shaped nib (like that of the Adonit Jot Pro, among others).

The overall look is quite professional too, with a conservative design and simple white with silver trim colour scheme. A multitude of colours are available too, including the standard red, blue, pink and purple, as well as more exotic options like plum, chartreuse, emerald and denim blue.

While the stylus is fairly obvious in its design, there are no real flaws in the implementation and I’m happy to recommend it – particularly if you’re looking for an unusual colour!

All samples provided by Kensington.

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Aorus X7 SLI Gaming Laptop Review

CES in Las Vegas is a cavalcade of consumer electronics for the year to come, with thousands of products from hundreds of exhibitors. This year, only one laptop at CES made the headlines: the Aorus X7.

The X7 got so much attention because it’s the thinnest and lightest gaming laptop ever to ship with two graphics cards – a feat that provides desktop-class gaming performance in a properly portable package.

One month after CES, the Aorus X7 showed up on my doorstep. Let’s see whether the X7 lives up to the hype.Continue reading

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Portfolio: Gigabyte P35K review

Portfolio: I spend a lot of my time writing, but very little appears on my own website. This is my attempt to link to some of the news, reviews and other content that I’m most proud of, no matter where it appears.

Just a brief note to say that I finished my review of the Gigabyte P35K UItrablade gaming laptop, after staying up way too late tonight! I’ve started shooting in RAW for the first time (I’m a newb, I know!) and hopefully the pictures will show some improvement over what I’ve produced in the past. I’ve also spent a lot of time getting the charts and benchmarks looking good, so I hope that goes over well.

This is a super-slim 15″ laptop that’s actually capable of some serious gaming, thanks to a Nvidia 675M graphics card. If you’re looking at the Razer Blade but want something more professional-looking, then this is a really nice choice – and might be a fair bit cheaper as well, depending on your local retailers.

Check out the full review at XSReviews via the link above, and be sure to let me know your feedback.

 

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Top 5 Google Nexus 5 cases – December 2013

Today we’re gonna have a look at five recommended cases for the Google Nexus 5. I’m sure you all know what to expect, so let’s get right into it.

5. Cruzerlite Bugdroid Circuit Case

Cruzerlite Bugdroid Circuit Case for Google Nexus 5 - Green

The Cruzerlite Bugdroid is a nice case to start with, as it hits the Nexus 5’s intended Android enthusiast demographic head-on. The case comes with a depiction of Andy the Android mascot, with a design reminiscent of a circuit board behind. The case is translucent, allowing the Nexus logo to be visible behind. I find that this means the white version of the phone looks better with the green shown here, but both versions work well. A simple case that protects well enough and has a design that should appeal to fandroids.

4. ToughGuard Shell

ToughGuard Shell for Google Nexus 5 - Red

The ToughGuard Shell is another inexpensive case, but this one is made from a solid polycarbonate instead of the more flexible gel material of our first featured case. The Shell is quite slim and adds little bulk, while providing moderate protection against scratches and minimal protection against impacts. A raised bezel around the screen helps to protect against screen damage too. A simple case, but at a fair price.

3. LG QuickCover

LG QuickCover for Nexus 5 - Black

The official LG option clocks in at number 3, offering a perfectly fitted flip cover that protects the screen and suits the phone to a T. This case is similar to the flip covers produced for Samsung and Motorola for the Galaxy S4 and Moto G (respectively), but the non-replaceable back of the Nexus 5 means that this case is a little more bulky. Like these, a magnet placed in the cover automatically unlocks and locks the phone when the case is opened and closed. The case is made of good stock and should last for some time, a relative rarity for the moving parts of a flip case.

2. Pudini Stand Case

Pudini Stand Case for Nexus 5 - Pink

This stand case is quite distinctive, with a suction cup fastening. If you’re tired of flip cases that constantly flap open, then this is a unusual but workable solution that sticks convincingly without making it difficult to open the cover again. Unlike the LG QuickCover, this case can also be used to prop up the phone in landscape mode, which is great for watching videos and playing games.

1. Spigen Slim Armor Case

Spigen Slim Armor Case for Google Nexus 5 - Champagne Gold

I’m quite fond of this Ultra Fit Case from Spigen. It combines a trim design with good protective attributes and a nice feel in-hand. The hybrid construction – TPU case and polycarbonate shell – provides sufficient armour without adding too much bulk. The two-tone finish is also quite nice, and if you’re not digging the gold then you’ll be pleased to know it’s available in white and black as well.

Conclusion

I hope you found the Nexus 5 cases I suggested helpful! Thanks for taking the time to read the article and have a good one. Any questions or comments go below!

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Olloclip 4-in-1 review

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Today I’m having a look at the Olloclip 4-in-1, an attachable lens kit available for the iPhone. I’m testing it on the iPhone 4, but I understand that the Olloclip also works on the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5 and iPhone 5S.

As you’d guess, the Olloclip has four different lenses, mounted in a 2×2 configuration around a plastic clip that attaches to the corner of your iPhone, to rest above the camera. On one side you have a fisheye lens and a 15x macro zoom, while on the other side there’s a wide angle lens and a 10x zoom. You get fisheye and wide angle by default, and then you can unscrew the metallic red section on either side to use the corresponding macro lens below.Continue reading

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Website Redesign

I’ve just redesigned my website. I really love the new font I’m using for the body text – Lato. In a previous incarnation I was using Adobe Source Sans Pro and Open Sans, but I think Lato might be a bit more readable. All of the fonts are available via Google Fonts, which is making the web a much more typographically lovely place than it used to be. There’s also a new TypeCast tool for Google fonts, so you can try things out easily without needing to alter your site first.

I’ve changed the editor font to Source Sans, because I still think it looks exceedingly lovely. This might make me switch to using this blog as my go-to writing tool, just because Evernote produces terrible HTML and doesn’t reproduce the font as nicely.

The theme is called Vantage Pro, and it seems to offer a very wide range of options and quite sane / beautiful defaults across the board. I’m still not entirely happy with my logo and some of the other layout elements (e.g. the too-short sidebar, the lack of bullet points on the sidebar items), but overall things seem improved. I might still shift to the blue-on-blue colour scheme I had on the previous theme, but it’s not really essential in my eyes.

What do you think of the redesign? Let me know in the comments below, or talk to me on Twitter or Facebook at your convenience.