The Gadget Show Live @Christmas 2013

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IMG_0132IT’S CHRISTMAS! Or at least it will be in less than two short months.  I’m not one for pre-empting the joys of the festive season and tend to avoid anything festive until mid-December, but a chance to play with some of the latest tech due to hit our shelves is an opportunity I’ll never pass up.  After visiting The Gadget Show Live at the NEC earlier in the year I was eager to see what the Earl’s Court London event would have in store.

 

The Games

IMG_0029Games took up a big corner of the show, with Sony bringing a big Playstation presence to show off the hotly anticipated PS4.  In the main booth there was a raft of playable consoles with a choice of both Assassin’s Creed IV and Killzone Shadow Fall to play.  Also playable was DriveClub, Gran Turismo 6 and various other titles; Sony has pulled out all the stops to try and impress the public prior to launch, and although I wasn’t blown away by the graphics on anything other than DriveClub, the busyness of the stand is testament to it’s expected popularity.

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It wasn’t all Playstation though, with an Xbox One stand that had fallen out of the back of a truck with playable demos of Fifa 14 and Forza 4.  Forza looked very pretty indeed but as far as I was concerned, the other was just another football game.  I’d have rather seen TitanFall or Ryse to show off the 360’s power, and despite the fact that I’ve been leaning towards the One as my next-gen console choice, their showing at this particular show was rather underwhelming.

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Microsoft & Nokia

The Microsoft stand was one of the biggest and had a little corner especially for Nokia to lay out it’s wares. The soon-to-be partnership of the Windows giant and Sweden’s long standing mobile gurus is a partnership we could see coming a while off, and I’m sure it will stand to benefit them both, but it seems a little odd that with the acquisition so close to completion Nokia has just launched a tablet that is a direct competitor to Microsoft’s own Surface 2.  I had a good chat with a representative of Nokia about their new tablet the Lumia 2520 and he was confident that their RT-machine still has a place in the market, with it’s “quirky colour schemes”, “very competitive price” and “excellent specs including LTE and NFC”.  He was also sure that both the 2520 and the 1520 phablet would be in the UK before Christmas.

The 1520 is a beast of a phone.  I compared it to the HTC One Max I’m currently reviewing and it was almost identical in size.  The screen seemed very sharp and bright enough to keep up with the extreme lighting of the show floor, but I’m not entirely convinced about the shiny plastic finish when compared to the more tactile matte finish of the 1020.

Of course with such a huge Microsoft stand, there was  every concievable Windows 8-powered tablet, hybrid, ultrabook and desktop machine you could think of.  I rather liked Asus’ Transformer Book T100 that launched today in the UK; it’s a fully-fledged Windows 8.1 machine that is super thin and light. Despite the lower resolution screen it’s well connected and reasonably priced at £349, making you wonder why Microsoft (and now Nokia) are still persisting with Windows RT.

I got my hands on the The Surface Pro 2 and it genuinely feels like a machine I could happily replace my laptop with.  Excellent screen, good connectivity and plenty of power from the i5 combinations that go up to 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage.

 

Sony Mobile

Not only were Sony there with a big gaming presence, but they also had a large Mobile stand, showing off their latest Xperia Z1 and the Xperia Tablet Z.  As my first hands-on with the Z1, I was impressed to see that essentially the Z1 is what the original Z should have been on the outside – less sharp edges and a more refined design, whilst on the inside the 2.2gHz Qualcomm processor made it extremely speedy to use.

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IMG_0106As well as the multiple banks of play tables, there was also a rather unique demonstration of the phone’s waterproofing credentials.  A diver was submerged in his own underwater kingdom with only a Z1 for companionship. He was taking photos of those outside the tank to show off the ability to take photos underwater – though he didn’t manage to complete the outfit with gloves – I guess the phone still needs the human touch even when submerged.

 

British Kickstarters

IMG_0115I was really happy to see a small band of Brits whose projects are currently on Kickstarter with only days to go to secure funding.  Two of the three entrepreneurs had already exceeded their funding targets, proving that crowd-funding is becoming a great way for small ideas to get off the ground.  I’ve backed a couple of Kickstarter projects already and have not been disappointed when it came to their reviews. Check out the Pebble Smartwatch and the Meenova Micro-SD Card Reader.

First up, Mark Antony Cronin with Loafer Co, who are offering a shoulder bag with tablet pouch to backers that pledge £36.  It felt really nicely made and Mark was keen to express his commitment to making a recognisable quality brand of apparel for creative types with gadgets to carry.

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I also spoke to Julian who was showing his Astronomy Diary that is an accessible reference for stargazers to use during 2014.  I challenged him on why he thought it was good timing on releasing a paper book over an app and his answer was clear.  He prefers the physical properties of the diary and the easy ability to add your own notes to the Diary, pointing out that it doesn’t just have to contain astronomical annotations.  For a product like this, I’m inclined to agree.  A physical book is still a lovely thing to behold when compared to the cold world of a million apps.

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IMG_0122The last product on the stand I looked at comes in the form of RockStix.  I was a little dubious we’d entered gimmick territory here, but the representative from LightUpDrumGear pointed out that not only are they made of LEXAN – the plastic used to construct indestructible riot shields, so they should put up with even the most ruthless drummer’s strokes.  The sticks light up when shaken and their latest version changes colour as you bash away making for a rather amazing effect when in full flight.IMG_0124

They’ve been used by an act on Britain’s Got Talent as well as being used regularly by Johnny Jenkins (who has played with Example, Lilly Allen and The Streets). You can get your hands on a pair with a pledge of £12 or more.

 

Best of the Rest

There were a vast selection of other stands at the show.  Some were retailers with the usual focus of remote-controlled gadgetry, then there was many of the other brands you’d expect on show including Samsung, Panasonic, Pioneer and Sonos.  Rather than go for the obvious stuff I hunted down the unique products I’d never seen or heard of before.

IMG_0113Joining the growing range of ‘life-blogging’ devices I found the Narrative.  My first question to their rep Niclas Johansson was to find out what sets this apart from other devices such as the Autographer.  His answer was concise and to the point – “The Autographer is being sold as an intelligent camera, where we’ve made a relatively dumb camera that’s a lot more inconspicuous but with brilliantly intelligent software”.  The fact that I spent too much time chatting to Niclas and not enough time photographing the Narrative is testament to how engaging the idea sounds, and how well they’ve presented the idea.

IMG_0110In another corner of the show I came across the SunnyCam eyewear that incorperates a HD video camera.  I’ve seen similar products around before such as the Epiphany Eyewear and of course the more advanced Google Glass. The SunnyCam seems like a robust alternative that won’t cost you the earth at a shade under £100, and don’t look too bad either.  They’d certainly be a great idea for Christmas for that cyclist in your life, to act as either an action cam or a safety camera.

 

 

Thanks to all the representitives who gave the time to talk to me.  If you missed the main Gadget Show Live event earlier in the year, click here to take a look at my roundup.

 

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