The Melting Pot: Final tech reviews of the year

Tech, review, radio, light, laptop, technology, kettle mag, joshua daniels
Written by Joshua_Daniels

Pure One Midi Series 3

I don’t listen to the radio. I don’t even know a great deal about radios. I felt out of place at the launch party for this radio. I needed a reviewer who knew what they were talking about, someone to whom 5 Live is not a station but a religion. I needed my mum.

So when the review unit came, I gave it to her. I was clear: set it up, use it, decide if it’s any good. I thought this was a particularly effective test because, in the kindest possible way, she is not a technophile. She is still ill-at-ease with her work Blackberry and refers to mobile 4G data as ‘marbles’, frequently commenting that my data usage out of WiFi will ‘use up your marbles’.

She had some comments.

Me: “Well, what were your first impressions?”

Mum: “I set it up. It worked. I managed to format some presets. The device appears to be well constructed, if slightly plasticky. More impressive though is that it packs a serious punch.”

She proceeded to turn on Radio 4, and then turn the volume control a little. It became loud, but not distorted. This fairly small item really kicks out a lot of sound.

“This is enough to suppress a horde of annoying children, a MagiMix or Dad’s DIY. It’s brilliant.”

Me: “What could be improved, if anything?”

Mum: “Pure has been making Radios for a while. I know because we’ve already got two or three of them. They aren’t new to this, and their experience shows. Everything about this radio is functional, simplistic and usable. With that said, a slightly more high end construction wouldn’t have gone amiss. Further, it isn’t especially stable – a fairly mediocre knock will leave it lying flat, which is a bit of a nuisance. Other than that, it’s excellent”.

And thus concluded my contribution to the reviewing. There you have it. A solid radio.

Philips Hue Go

This is a light, with a battery. If that sounds a little simplistic to have found its way onto these pages then worry not. Because the Hue Go is actually a component in a larger and more sophisticated chain. Above all else, it’s awesome. You should absolutely give this as a gift/want to receive it this Christmas.

The Hue Go is part of the wider Philips Hue brand. If you haven’t heard of that, you haven’t been on public transport in the last few years. This stuff has been advertised extensively. It’s a system of lighting based on WiFi, lent extra sophistication by virtue of the features WiFi brings. Beyond just being pretty, colour changing lighting, you can sent it to do all sorts of smart stuff – wake up lighting, timed lighting (home automation), etc.

The Hue Go, which is a standalone light, costs £70. You need to also get the WiFi bridge in order to make use of the juicier features, which costs a further £50. If £120 for a light sounds a little costly, then put it in perspective. It’s beautifully designed and incredibly clever from a technical standpoint. An Anglepoise bedside lamp costs around £150.

This little light allows you to really colour a whole room, to create some ambience, to just make your home a nicer place to inhabit. It’s as well suited to a college dorm (Netflix and Chill mood lighting?) to a home kitchen. Once you have the bridge, you can add more lights further down the line.

Home Automation, also known as ‘smart homes’ are going to be a huge part of tomorrow’s technology. This is a great first step, at a reasonable price, and an extraordinarily good gift.

Take a look at this video from Philips:

Toshiba Kira

Billed as a luxury laptop, the Toshiba is one to avoid sadly. The substantial amount of money you’re asked to fork over (my unit, the Kira-109 Ultrabook, will set you back £800 at John Lewis) doesn’t seem to translate into a high-end product. It has a Full HD (1920*1080) screen, which is the exact same resolution as a smartphone from 2013. It just doesn’t cut the mustard anymore. The HP spectre, the MacBook Pro, all the various Lenovo Ultrabooks – they all just do better here. Further, the Toshiba is thicker and heavier than just about all of its competitors. None of this, though. is unforgivable.

But here’s what is. Pre-installed crapware. If you buy a laptop, irrespective of price, it should not come preloaded with sponsored junk. This stinks even more on a laptop this expensive. It obliterates the notion of a premium product. Toshiba is treating its customers awfully in this respect. The baffling part in all of this is that clearly somewhere inside the industrial works of Toshiba, someone gets this. On the Toshiba Chromebook 2, a laptop a fraction of the price of this one, there was no adware. I suspect this is because Chrome OS doesn’t allow for it, but even so, the clear point here is that this is unacceptable at all price ranges.

There were other software issues. The laptop comes with Windows 8, like most laptops do. Theoretically, it’s upgradable to Windows 10. I tried to upgrade it. It took me six attempts and a hell of a lot of fiddling. I review tech, as a job. It shouldn’t take me six tries to do anything with a laptop, let alone something that the vast majority of consumers will want to do.

This laptop isn’t wholly without redeeming features. The battery life is outstanding (though this was somewhat soured by the realisation that it was probably because the screen was underwhelming). The processor, RAM and SSD all work in unison to produce a seriously quick experience. With that said, it only became seriously quick after I’d upgraded (with difficulty) to Windows 10 and removed a load of bloatware. It won’t be this quick out of the box. 

The laptop is OK. Indeed, for a substantial price cut, it’d be excellent. But it isn’t an Ultrabook. It isn’t premium enough, slim enough, slick enough or light enough. Toshiba, you have work to do.

With thanks to Toshiba, Philips and Pure for sending over review units and being cool with us using their press photos. With thanks also to my mother, a budding tech reviewer.