What is the Riva Festival?

The Riva Festival is a large £450 wireless multiroom speaker. It’s in the same price bracket as the Sonos Play:5 – and is from a name most people won’t have heard before. Confident.

However, thee Riva Festival justifies its price through its even more realistic-sounding vocals than the Sonos, alongside a far more open approach to audio streaming.

You won’t be able to place the speaker just anywhere for it to perform to its best, though. The Riva Festival needs space – plenty of it.

Related: Best wireless speakers

Riva Festival – Design and features

The Riva Festival is big brother to the Riva Arena, and looks very much like a larger version of that speaker. It’s similar in size to the Sonos Play:5.

In a practical sense it’s very different to the latter, however. The Sonos Play:5’s speaker drivers are on the front; the Riva Festival has drivers on the front and sides, and the passive radiators output sound through the back. As such, this isn’t a speaker to wedge onto a bookshelf – not if you want it to sound its best.

The curved top and bottom caps of the Riva Festival are plastic, and the rest of the exterior is a metal grille. Inside, however, the Riva Festival sports a solid frame of wood. It’s dense and non-resonant – which is the reason just about all high-quality speakers use wood. Sonos’ Play:5 is an almost all-plastic construction.

From a design perspective, the Riva Festival isn’t quite as slick as the Sonos on the outside. It uses a block of buttons on the top plate, similar to those that feature on the Riva Arena. They don’t have the tech ‘wow’ factor, nor do they look as good as the Play:5’s touch panels.

Clearly, Sonos’ generous R&D budget and 15-year experience in making speakers is apparent next to the Festival. But the latter’s wood frame is a big plus for audio fans.

Riva Festival – Streaming

The Riva Festival is extremely flexible and, for the sort of use I’m after, has an almost-perfect approach. This is down to three key elements.

First, you can plug-in non-wireless sources. There are 3.5mm aux and optical inputs on the back plate for connection to, perhaps, a vinyl deck and a TV.

The USB can be used to charge your phone

Second, you’re not tied to any third-party software. There’s a Riva Wand app, but you only really need to use this to change the EQ setting. And you’ll probably only do this to set up a stereo pair of Festival speakers.

Third, the Riva Festival uses Google Home as its audio platform instead of a proprietary one. You can stream to the Riva Festival from a very wide array of apps – any app that supports Google Cast, in fact.

Spotify owners can use it as a Spotify Connect device too, just like the Sonos Play:5. Most of the best streaming apps support Cast, including Tidal, 7Digital, Deezer, Google Play Music and Qobuz. The one big omission is Amazon Music, largely because Amazon wants you to buy a Fire Stick.

Even Amazon Music doesn’t escape the Riva Festival, though. This speaker has Bluetooth, letting it stream all audio from a phone or tablet, including game sound. A long-press on one of the buttons up top switches between modes.

Google Home has such wide support already that most folk won’t need to use Bluetooth much. Podcast apps such as Podcast Addict and Pocket Casts support Cast, for example.

There’s no longer a good reason to buy a speaker with a proprietary streaming system. Unless it’s Sonos’, of course. Setup is painless too, performed largely through Google Home rather than the Riva Wand app.

Riva Festival – Sound Quality

The Riva Festival has a number of drivers peppered around its frame. There are six active drivers and four passive radiators – which makes for 10 in total.

Riva has created a diagram showing how they all fit in. The Festival is a little like three little bookshelf speakers stuck together, with some passive radiator subwoofers jammed in-between.

Results are excellent. The Riva Festival sounds epic, with scale of sound comparable to a floorstanding speaker at higher volumes. You probably won’t be able to use top volume unless you live in a house in the country, mind. Like the best large wireless speakers, it’s extremely loud and sounds composed and effortless well into antisocial territory.

Treble is sweet and detailed. But the mid-range is, to my ears, the most impressive part of the Riva Festival. Just like the much smaller Bluetooth-only Riva S, the Festival has an unusually detailed and rich-sounding mid-range. This is what makes vocals sound lifelike and full.

Many wireless speakers focus on the bass and treble, because it’s the easiest way to make sound appear detailed and powerful at the same time. Getting the mids right takes a whole extra PhD’s worth of dedication. And Riva has once again put in the work.

Bass, too, is monstrous – and for the first few hours of listening, it made me think Riva had overdone the low-end and ruined this speaker. Feeding the Riva Festival a rising sine wave, there’s a deliberate dollop of extra bass around 45Hz. This is real sub-bass, of the type that smaller speakers struggle to recreate at all. There’s plenty of it here.

I think the aim of the sound delivered is to make you listen to the Festival and wonder where the subwoofer is hidden. It’s thrilling stuff – but it ultimately means that you can’t place the speaker anywhere near a wall. To start, I had it sat on a piece of Ikea storage furniture.

In such a location, the bass sounded overblown and uncontrolled, because the passive radiators output low-end from the front and back. Sitting the Festival on a stand away from the walls improved the sound quality significantly. The bass appeared super-powerful, yet properly separated – not the steamroller it was 10 minutes before.

It seems a shame there’s no EQ mode to tame the bass for those who can’t position the Festival optimally. There’s just a Power mode that gets rid of the default “Trillium” sound smoothing and optimisation, to help the speaker project better outdoors.

The Riva Festival isn’t the best choice for those who need to cram a speaker into a small space, or those who live in a flat with thin walls or picky neighbours.

Again, I’m left wishing there was a mode to tame the bass. At higher volumes I was as concerned about neighbours complaining as I am when using my home-cinema speakers with subwoofer switched on. As usual, Riva is uncompromising, for good and bad.

Riva Festival vs Sonos Play:5

Given the right placement, the Riva Festival can sound better than the Sonos Play:5. Feed it some Randy Newman, Jarvis Cocker’s Room 29 or a Leonard Cohen track, for example, and the Festival makes the deep, textured vocal lines sound weightier, richer and more detailed than the Play:5.

I was also surprised to find that the speaker displays a significantly more powerful low bass than the Play:5. I was already impressed by the Play:5’s bass, so to hear even more of a thump in the lowest frequencies proved a jaw-dropper.

Backed into a corner or crevice the Play:5 sounds cleaner, because all its sound comes from the front. Room-related resonance is also more of a potential issue with the Riva Festival than with just about any wireless speaker.

Riva strikes back with better performance at low volumes. The Festival holds onto its low-end and dynamics more successfully when playing at lower volume. If you’re looking for a speaker to whisper all the time, though, you might as well buy a Riva Arena or Sonos Play:1 instead.

Should I buy the Riva Festival?

Once again Riva gives us an compromising vision of what a wireless speaker should be. That includes amazing sound quality, brilliant connectivity and Thor-grade bass.

The issue is that the uncompromising style extends to how it fits (or doesn’t) into your life. Put it too close to a wall and the Festival’s bass begins to sound flabby. And even if you have the space, the thunderous sub-bass at higher volumes will prove discourteous for those living in flats.

If you can embrace its sheer power, the Riva Festival is an amazing wireless speaker – one with the kind of stature I normally associate with 8-inch-plus speaker drivers.

Verdict

One of the best wireless speakers money can buy – if you have the house for it.


What is the Multipro Sense Food Processor?

It might almost be easier to start with a list of food prep tasks that the Multipro Sense can’t perform, such is its long list of capabilities. It can’t crack eggs, but it will whip them, fold in sugar to make meringue, and mix them into a cake batter. It doesn’t peel vegetables, but it will chop, dice, grate and slice them in multiple ways. It can knead bread dough, whisk liquids and blend smoothies, soups and batters. All this via one base unit – which will even weigh your food as you go – and an extensive range of tools.

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Multipro Sense Food Processor – Design and features

There are two things stand out about the Multipro Sense. The first is its vast range of tools and the second is the weighty base unit. The latter isn’t the most suitable for lifting in and out of cupboards, so the Multipro Sense would be better residing on a worktop. I presume that part of the reason for this is stability when handling heavy loads, but also because this food processor functions as a set of scales. To this end, it features an LCD panel, with buttons for switching between metric and imperial, and resetting the scale.

Eight speeds plus pulse adapt the power for different attachments and tasks. An Auto button in the centre of the control dial eliminates the guesswork, which is convenient if the manual isn’t to hand. Also useful is a light that flashes on the machine if the lid isn’t properly fitted. At the rear, the base accommodates storage for the cable.

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Multipro Sense Food Processor – What’s it like to use?

One thing that would make the Multipro Sense better would be a quick-start guide or a cheat sheet – simply because there’s a lot of kit and it can initially be quite overwhelming. However, as I started to use the processor, things became more intuitive.

I started by using the blender, which twists into the centre of the machine. Adding frozen berries, milk and ice cream to the jug (a recipe taken from the included book), I blitzed this at the top speed for 15 seconds. It was noisy, but the resulting milkshake was frothy and free of lumps. Minute particles of fruit skin, which would normally be tricky to remove, could be cleaned away easily since the blades detach from the jug.

Next, I opted for the main bowl and the knife blade, which doesn’t require the drive shaft and therefore maximises the room in the bowl. Adding quarters of onion, I used the pulse function to chop it finely in a few bursts. The process visibly shook the machine each time, but the suckers on the base of the Multipro Sense kept it firmly in place on the worktop. The chopping was consistent, with no chunks remaining. Emptying the bowl was made easier by its robust handle.

The drive shaft was required for the decorative slicing disc, which is serrated to produce fluted slices. There are two size options for the lid’s feed tube: wide and narrow. I used the latter to slice up some carrots. On speed 5, I began to feed the carrots into the tube. However, since they were of varying widths, one became stuck, so I had to switch to the wide feed tube. This produced some longer slices than the previous narrow carrots.

Next I switched to the Julienne disc accompanied by the wide feed tube. I used the machine to cut chunks of potato into fine matchsticks, perfect for making rosti. Using speed 8, the disc whizzed through the task with ease. There were some waste pieces remaining, but considering that it took only seconds to complete a task that would be time-consuming by hand, this felt like a good trade-off.

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I then used the mini bowl and its blade to chop parsley on Auto. In seconds the parsley was finely processed – but as was the case with the other speeds, the machine doesn’t stop when the task is done, so requires supervision. This task was more arduous in terms of the number of items that needed cleaning – but it would certainly save time chopping nuts or making mayonnaise.

While the weighing function proved handy for measuring ingredients as I processed, the tray on its own was awkward. I used it for weighing out some sugar, but when it came to decanting it into a bowl, the tray’s wide lip resulted in it spilling. I finished by using the dual whisk with its dedicated drive to beat eggs on Auto. Although the bowl felt a little big for this small task, after a minute or so the eggs had turned a consistent colour and were light and foamy. A few items weren’t dishwasher-safe, but all parts were easy to clean by hand.

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Why buy the Multipro Sense Food Processor?

It might cost more than the average budget and come with an eye-popping amount of kit, but the Multipro Sense becomes more appealing if you consider the appliances it can replace.

It will do most of the jobs of a stand mixer, easily take over from a blender, stick blender and hand whisk, allow you to ditch your scales, and save hours of chopping by hand. If you’re the sort of person who appreciates having one machine that can handle everything, the Multipro Sense is your perfect match.

Verdict

As useful and multi-talented as a Swiss Army knife.


What is the Apple Watch Series 3?

The Apple Watch is now in its third iteration, and while it may appear that not much has changed on the surface, there have been some developments under the hood.

The big draw for the Series 3 is the option of LTE connectivity. This means greater independence from your paired iPhone, and always-on connectivity wherever you get network coverage. The best news of all is that your Apple Watch 3 will share the same phone number as your iPhone, doing away with one of the biggest grievances of previous LTE-enabled smartwatches: juggling multiple numbers.

If you’re in the UK then it’s worth noting that, right now, only EE supports LTE connectivity for the Apple Watch Series 3, and this will cost £5 in addition to your standard monthly network tariff. The feature is more widely supported by US carriers and you can expect to pay an extra $10 on top of your usual contract for a smartwatch plan.

The Watch Series 3 sees performance improvements, too. A new S3 dual-core processor runs the show with a 70% speed hike over the previous generation, and a W2 wireless chip delivers improved Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities. Now, for the first time with an Apple Watch, an altimeter is included. This provides elevation data during your exercise. In addition, built-in GPS and water-resistance to 50 metres make a welcome return.

Apple Watch Series 3

While the Apple Watch 3 GPS + Cellular (£399/$399) offers the full raft of new features, there’s also the Apple Watch 3 GPS (£329/$329) model for consideration. This does away with the cellular capabilities but includes all the other improvements over the now discontinued Apple Watch Series 2. It has half the storage capacity (8GB) of the Cellular model, and launches at a lower price than last year’s model (originally costing £369). It’s potentially a more tantalising prospect for those not enamoured by LTE or a hiked up monthly bill.

Ultimately, the Apple Watch 3 remains a difficult sell as a must-have device – even if I do find myself missing it when I take it off. But, whether or not you feel the need to be always connected, the Apple Watch Series 3 – in both its guises – offers the best smartwatch experience to date.

While not perfect, it delivers a welcome balance of smartwatch convenience and fitness tracking to make it a versatile companion.

Related: Apple Watch Series 3 vs Apple Watch Series 2

Apple Watch 3 – Design and comfort

As mentioned, not a great deal has changed in terms of the Apple Watch’s design. While nearly every other smartwatch maker has transitioned to a circular design, Apple has stayed the course since the device’s launch in 2015. For me, the Apple Watch 3 remains one of the more tasteful smartwatch designs out there.

Each iteration of the device has seen its thickness creep up, but it’s such a negligible amount that you’ll only notice if you place each model side by side. Consider the hardware enhancements being packed into newer models, and it’s really an impressive feat of engineering that the Apple Watch 3 remains one of the more svelte smartwatches.

In the Watch Series 3, the LTE antenna has been squeezed in behind the screen, barely impacting the device’s overall thickness. The positive side effect of this move, which may come as a surprise, concerns comfort. In other LTE-enabled smartwatches, the antenna has often been placed inside the strap joint, making the join with the watch casing stiff and uncomfortable. This isn’t an issue with the Watch Series 3.

Apple Watch Series 3

Apple has also opted to include an eSIM, which is physically smaller than a nano-SIM. The embedded eSIM isn’t a component you’ll ever need to swap out; instead, changing providers is done on the network’s side. Setting up the Apple Watch 3 for LTE usage is completed through the Watch app on your iPhone. It takes you through the process of signing up to a smartwatch plan with your provider, which in my case meant adding the £5 Smartwatch Plan on top of my ongoing EE contract.

Related: What is an eSIM?

If you don’t go through this part of the setup process then your Apple Watch won’t make use of its LTE modem. Instead, it will operate much like the cheaper Apple Watch Series 3 + GPS model – although you’ll have the option of signing up for an LTE data plan at a later date (perhaps when other UK network providers get on board).

Beyond the thickness of the device, the only other visual separator from the Watch Series 2 is in fact only present if you opt for the LTE-enabled model. The Apple Watch’s Digital Crown gets a splash of colour, with a red dot denoting your always connected capability.

Is this visual flourish really necessary? Probably not. But I’ll hazard a guess that some folk will secretly enjoy letting the world know that they have the latest and greatest adorning their wrist. Personally, I actually quite like the slight visual break offered by the red dot. Especially on the silver aluminium model I have for review, which has spent most of its time paired with a Fog grey silicone sports band.

Apple Watch Series 3

Below the Digital Crown is the side button that’s been re-appropriated in use over the years. It can now either bring up your dock of favourite apps or your most recently used apps. The other side of the watch casing houses the speaker and microphones. Flip the watch over and the optical heart rate monitor is still present.

Like the Series 2, the display is made of what Apple calls ‘Ion-X strengthened glass’. I’ve accidentally bashed last year’s aluminium model on every imaginable surface, and put it through various workouts and swims, and it remains blemish-free. I’m confident this year’s model will live up to the same rigours.

As with previous models, there’s a dizzying array of Apple Watch 3 versions available for every taste and budget. The LTE model is available in both 38mm (£399/$329) and 42mm (£429/$429) size options, and these come in Silver, Space Grey or Gold aluminium finishes. Then there are the more premium stainless steel finishes starting from £599/$599 for the 38mm model. Watch Edition models are now available in either white or grey ceramic, with prices starting at £1,299/$1,299. Top these all off with returning collaborations with Hermés and Nike, and the number of options remain plentiful.

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Apple Watch Series 3

This doesn’t include the range of different bundled strap options at time of purchase, which also impacts the price. The good news is that you’re able to swap out the straps at a later date. I was provided a Burnt Orange Woven Nylon strap for review too, which added a bit more pizzazz compared to the more subdued grey silicone strap I typically wore for exercise and swimming. The standard Sport band bundle includes two different-sized straps in the box.

I also tried on the Sport Loop, one of the new straps introduced with the Apple Watch Series 3 (but compatible across all models). It’s made from a slightly elastic fabric and uses a hook and loop fixing, similar to the premium Milanese loop, to secure around your wrist. Since it’s slightly stretchy, I found it super-comfortable and great if you want to quickly adjust the tightness depending on the situation – you’ll want a snugger fit during exercise for more accurate heart rate tracking, for instance.

All models of the Apple Watch 3 remain water-resistant to 50m and will happily survive a dunk in salt water, too. The new model uses the same charming water-ejection method as the Series 2, where it will play a specific tone to eject water from the speaker.


What is the Amazon Fire HD 10?

The Amazon Fire HD 10 is the big daddy of the new low-cost Fire tablet range, and the latest version finally offers up a 1080p resolution to make the most of the display.

If you’re after something smaller then be sure to check out the Fire HD 8. But Amazon says it believes this larger version is more suited for video and a better choice for people that regularly break away from the rest of the family when they’re getting their soap fix on the TV.

BUY NOW: Amazon Fire HD 10 (2017) from Amazon for £149.99

This is a low-cost tablet great for those who have bought into Prime, but the software may prove overbearing if you haven’t already made the jump into Amazon’s ecosystem.

Amazon Fire HD 10 – Design

The Amazon Fire HD 10 has a large footprint compared to most modern tablets, which tend to be a few inches smaller.

Use the Amazon Fire HD 10 for a few minutes and the reasons why most OEMs have opted to make smaller tablets become obvious. 10-inch tablets are cumbersome to use on the train or bus. The Amazon Fire HD 10 in particular feels top-heavy and trying to hold it vertically to read a book isn’t a comfortable experience.

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Amazon Fire HD 10

Why am I levelling such criticisms at the Fire HD 10, say, while I might not say the same about an iPad 9.7-inch? The Amazon Fire HD 10 is a widescreen tablet, with a 16:10 aspect. Large widescreen tablets always feels a little awkward in terms of portability, with their shape and weight balance being that bit harder to manage than a large 4:3 tablet, such as the iPad.

In summary: it’s probably best to keep it at home.

The Amazon Fire HD 10 design appears to be concerned with making the tablet as easy to manufacture as it is in trying to impress your fingers. It has some of the classic traits of cheap, no-brand tablets. All the controls and primary sockets are laid along one edge – the top one.

This isn’t hugely practical. Held upright it means the controls are out of easy reach, and when the device is held in a landscape position your hand will always rest over either the power or volume buttons.

Compromise is a common theme here. While there’s a metal frame inside the Amazon Fire HD 10 that helps to stop it flexing – under normal pressure, it doesn’t flex at all – on the outside, it’s covered in matte plastic. Overall, it just feels a little cheap.

Nevertheless, if you’re picking up the Fire HD 10 for the kids to happily chuck around, or keep entertained on long journeys, it fits the bill perfectly.

Related: Best Fire TV deals

Amazon Fire HD 10

Amazon Fire HD 10 – Screen

The most obvious upgrade to the new version of the Fire 10 is the screen. No longer is it a terrible 10.1-inch 1280 x 800 blur-fest, but a perfectly respectable 1080p display.

The IPS panel offers decent viewing angles and colours displayed onscreen are nice and bright. But it lacks the deep blacks and pop of saturation of an OLED panel. Nevertheless, for a tablet that costs £150, it remains quite impressive.

Movies streamed from Prime Video or Netflix look good, and text in Kindle books is crisp enough to comfortably read for long periods. I do find the whites a tad bright, often with a yellow tinge – but once again, it’s forgivable at this price.

Related: Best Kindle deals

Amazon Fire HD 10

This is a huge jump forward from the older model.


Kindle Oasis (2017) hands-on: Water-resistance and Audible integration ramp up the luxury factor on this new e-reader 

Kindle Oasis (2017) release date

You can pre-order the new Kindle Oasis from today; it will ship towards the end of the month.

Kindle Oasis (2017) price

Prices start from £229 for an 8GB model and £259 for the 32GB version. There’s a 3G option available too, which is a 32GB model for £319.

It’s been a busy few weeks for Amazon, with the company unveiling a shed-load of Alexa-toting Echo speakers, 4K HDR TV dongles and Amazon Fire tablets. But one particular product has been missing from the ramble: a new version of the Amazon Kindle.

Since there hasn’t been much by way of disruption to the Kindle e-reader’s dominance this year, Amazon appears happy to keep its budget options the same this time around. Instead, the company is updating its higher-end Oasis reader.

When the Kindle Oasis first launched, it was clearly a luxurious product. While it struggled to up its offering in terms of functionality next to the cheaper Kindles – even lacking in some areas – it looked gorgeous.

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Kindle Oasis 2 (2017)

The second-generation Kindle Oasis fixes the majority of the problems seen with the first iteration – but more exciting is the fact that it offers features that we haven’t seen on Kindles before. These additions could actually make the Oasis 2 worth the money, even with a starting price of £229.

Like the original Oasis, the Oasis 2 looks visibly different to the other Kindles. The screen sits to one side, next to a duo of physical page-turning buttons. The device is somewhat bulbous beneath the display, slimming out to a very thin point. This provides something to clutch on to, and it’s also where the battery and other internals live.

The previous Oasis was supplied with a small battery inside the actual device, and a much larger one inside a leather cover that came in the box. This was fine, but it limited you to using that particular case. I also found that without the case, the battery barely lasted a few days. Amazon has removed the need for the case with the new model, instead fitting a much bigger battery inside the Kindle Oasis. Amazon reps told me to expect six weeks of battery life with this new setup, which sounds fair.

The lack of case has led to a few other design tweaks too. The rear of the Kindle Oasis is now aluminium, rather than soft-touch plastic, and gone are the visible pins that were previously used to charge the case. The design feels much cleaner and classier.

Another big design change is the switch to a larger 7-inch screen, rather than the 6-inch one used previously. Although this makes the Oasis 2 less pocketable, the bigger panel and less-cramped viewing area makes for a worthy trade-off.

Related: Kindle Voyage vs Paperwhite

Kindle Oasis 2 (2017)

The screen itself retains the 300 pixels-per-inch (PPI) of the outgoing Oasis, but it finally adds in the auto-brightness option that debuted on the Kindle Voyage. This automatically adjusts the intensity of the front light depending on the environment you’re in.

I appreciate the new design, but the two most significant upgrades that would see me choose this Kindle over the Paperwhite or Voyage are Audible integration and an IPX8 waterproof rating.

Having a Kindle that I can happily leave by the pool without fear of it becoming damaged is something I’ve longed for over the years, and I’m surprised it’s taken Amazon this long to add it in. An IPX8 rating means the Kindle Oasis 2 will happily survive being submerged in water for two hours – which is more than most phones boasting an IP67/8 rating.

Audiobook integration has been added too. Amazon owns Audible – the biggest name in audiobooks – and the company has done a fine job at making it work properly on the Oasis.

Related: Kindle Paperwhite review | Kindle Voyage review

Kindle Oasis 2 (2017)

Already downloaded audiobooks from Audible will show up alongside your regular books. If you own both the Kindle book and Audible audiobook then they’ll show up as one; you can switch between the two with the tap of the button. It’s a seamless process that works as advertised, at least in my short time with the reader.

There’s a small caveat here, though: there’s no headphone jack or speaker on the Kindle Oasis 2. Instead, you’ll have to use Bluetooth headphones and a Bluetooth speaker. Amazon told me this was to retain the slim form factor of the device – which doesn’t make it any less annoying.

First impressions

Water-resistance and Audible integration have been two of the biggest features missing from previous Kindles, so having them here instantly makes the new Oasis an interesting prospect.

With prices starting at £229 for an 8GB model and £259 for 32GB, the Oasis remains a luxury product that’s likely only to attract the most obsessive of Kindle fans. Nevertheless, having features that actually set the Oasis apart from the £59 Kindle and £109.99 Paperwhite at least make it an easier sell than the previous model.


What is the Ubiquiti AmpliFi Mesh Wi-Fi System?

The Ubiquiti AmpliFi is a mesh networking kit, designed to provide excellent Wi-Fi coverage through the use of multiple Wi-Fi nodes that you can place throughout your home. It kit comprises a base router and two Wi-Fi extensions, known as mesh points.

Like all mesh networks, the key appeal of the AmpliFi is twofold. First, there’s the simple way in which the different components of the system work together to extend and manage your Wi-Fi network without any need for complicated setup.

Second, there’s the fact that despite using multiple Wi-Fi devices, each of which has two Wi-Fi bands, you don’t ever have to worry about connecting to each band separately. The system takes care of everything.

The AmpliFi is a simpler take on the concept than some, but it has a few unique features of its own too.

Ubiquiti AmpliFi – Design and features

Ubiquiti was one of the first companies to really push the idea of mesh networking, and it’s been offering a range of very capable solutions for several years now. However, the majority have been aimed at the business end of the market, and as such have required a degree of expertise to set up. The AmpliFi’s focus is on continuing to provide the level of performance for which the company is known, but in a far more user-friendly package.

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The standard AmpliFi kit consists of one router and two mesh points, but you can also buy each component separately. Moreover, you can add extra mesh points to the standard kit, so if your home is large enough to require, say, five mesh points then you can just buy an extra three.

The router sits at the heart of the system. This impressively compact and stylish cube is beautifully made, with a soft-touch white finish, and attractive white glowing LED strip around the bottom. It houses four Gigabit Ethernet LAN sockets, an Ethernet WAN socket (the connection to your modem, for instance), a USB port and its own Wi-Fi. The power socket is also a Type-C USB connection, so it is possible to potentially power the router from your computer, plus finding spare cables should seldom be a problem.

Buy it on its own and you’ll have a perfectly acceptable conventional router with range that’s sufficient for a small terraced house, for instance. It isn’t exactly brimming with extra features, but it will do the basics of getting you online.

Related: Mesh networking explained

A touch of flare is added to the router in the form of a 1.6-inch diameter circular LCD touchscreen on the front. This shows the day, date and time, and then at the tap of its face it will show how much data throughput is being used. Tap it again and it will display WAN status and IP addresses, as well as the number of devices connected.

You can’t configure the router from the screen, however. As such, it feels a little pointless. If you’re in the habit of putting your router in your home office or kitchen then it might be nice to glance at the information it displays once in a while, but it’s just too limited to be of any real use.

Moving on to more practical considerations, the router’s internal Wi-Fi is a dual-band affair, with one 2.4GHz frequency band and one 5GHz band. Each is configured in a 3×3 system (three spatial streams in each direction), with the 2.4GHz band totalling up to 450Mbps and the 5GHz band up to 1300Mbps.

This puts it ahead of the likes of the Eero, Google WiFi and Linksys Velop, which all use 2×2 systems; out in front is the Netgear Orbi, which uses 2×2 for its client device connections but a dedicated 4×4 connection for wireless backhaul (the connection from the router to its extension).

Of course, the key appeal of mesh router systems isn’t so much raw Wi-Fi speed as range and consistency of connection, which is where the mesh points come in. Plug these in at strategic points throughout your home and you can easily cover even large homes with just this three-part kit.

They’re different to any other mesh extension we’ve seen before. Instead of a standalone unit with a separate power supply, the mesh points plug directly into a plug socket and then point upwards, above the socket, for a total length of 7.1 inches. A clever magnetic ball-and-socket system attaches the bulk of the adapter to the plug, and it also allows you to move the antenna around in order to achieve the best signal.

What’s particularly clever about this joint is that the two pieces can pull apart completely. This means that if a child or pet were to knock into the unit, it’s unlikely to snap – although, of course, this is only a potential problem anyway because such an odd design was used in the first place.

On each mesh point you’ll find a useful LED signal-strength meter – but that’s it. There are no buttons, Ethernet sockets or other features. You just plug them in and, assuming they were bought in a kit with the router, away they go. If you buy extra mesh points then you’ll have to pair them up, but this is a simple enough process.

Overall, this all adds up to a fairly basic feature set. Since the mesh points have no LAN functionality, you can’t connect wired devices to them and neither do they support wired backhaul – this is where you might lay out a cable to your garage and plug the mesh point into that connection so you can spread the Wi-Fi connection over longer distances.

Meanwhile, the router has very little in the way of extra software features too. There’s no built in antivirus, USB sharing, and so on. It can be configured to function in a bridge mode, however, where it just acts as an access point rather than a router.

Most simple, consumer-focused mesh systems are fairly limited, but the AmpliFi is more limited than most.


What is the Dell Inspiron AIO 5475?

The Dell Inspiron AIO 5475 is part of Dell’s new Inspiron 5000 all-in-one line-up. With its classy exterior upgrade, the AIO 5475 looks far nicer than its predecessors and much more like a premium desktop.

But, inside sits an older generation AMD processor, which makes this computer slower than many of its rivals. Given the relatively high price, this is an all-in-one with some significant challenges and tough competition.

Related: Best desktop PC 

Dell Inspiron AIO 5475 – Design and Build

I can’t complain about the AIO 5475’s design. While the old Inspiron 5000-series had rather thick bezels, the AIO 5475 has Dell’s increasingly-common ‘InfityEdge’ screen, similar to that seen on the excellent XPS 13 laptop.

With the screen reaching from edge-to-edge, the AIO 5475 looks gorgeous. And with the thinnest of borders, the 23.8-inch panel isn’t overly imposing; this all-in-one doesn’t take up much room on the desk. A small ‘chin’ runs across the bottom, housing the computer’s speakers and webcam. With its black grille, this strip looks great and gives the AIO 5475 a smart and unique look. I think it’s fair to say that this all-in-one is every bit as attractive as the iMac.

Dell’s used plastic, rather than metal, for the chassis but with so little of it on display from the front, the AIO 5475 maintains its classy high-end looks. Around the back, you get a glossy white panel and white fully-articulated stand.

A complaint with all-in-ones is that it can often be impractical and annoying to get the rear ports. There are no such issues with the AIO 5475. On the left-hand side, there’s a single USB 3.1 port, 3.5mm headset jack and SD card reader. For most ordinary jobs, then, you don’t need to spin this computer around to get the ports.

At the rear, you get a bunch of ports for more permanently connected devices, all neatly positioned around the stand where they’re easy to reach.

Related: Best gaming PC specs to build yourself

Ports include two USB 2.0, three USB 3.1, one USB Type-C, audio output and Gigabit Ethernet (802.11ac Wi-Fi is built-in, too). You’ll need to give up one USB port for the wireless keyboard and mouse’s receiver; again, it appears as though Apple is the only company that can make an integrated receiver.

Impressively, there’s both an HDMI input and HDMI output so that you can use the AIO 5475’s screen for external devices such as a games console, and hook up a second display. Conveniently, the input selector is located underneath the screen on the right-hand side.

Dell Inspiron AIO 5475 – Keyboard and Mouse

Dell has bundled a basic keyboard and mouse with the AIO 5475. I’m not a huge fan of the keyboard. Its keys are spongy and a little unresponsive, so I found it hard to type accurately at speed. I’d definitely swap this keyboard out for a better one.

The mouse is rather basic with just two buttons and a scroll wheel, but it’s responsive enough and fits comfortably in the hand. Even so, I’d prefer a mouse with back and forward buttons, so would most likely upgrade this peripheral, too.

Dell Inspiron AIO 5475 – Screen

Using 1920 x 1080 resolution is a fair choice on a display this size. It’s enough resolution to provide plenty of space for work while remaining sharp and detailed enough for photos, videos and games.

Dell has used an IPS panel for this all-in-one. Image quality is pretty good, and I measured it as able to produce 91.4% of the sRGB colour gamut, with Delta E of 1.45 (closer to zero is better) demonstrating decent colour accuracy. Maximum brightness of 198 nits is a little low, and the contrast ratio of 823:1 a bit disappointing. As a result of the low contrast, turning up the brightness to an acceptable level left blacks looking a little too bright.

Viewing angles are excellent, and there’s no loss of picture quality as you move around the screen. That’s good news, as you can use the display at all the angles that the articulated stand allows. With every position available from upright to practically flat, I found that the stand made using the touchscreen simple.

Dell Inspiron AIO 5475 – Audio and Webcam

Sound quality from the AIO 5475 is great. Whacking the volume up shows that this computer can produce loud audio without distortion. Bass is a little lacking, but the clean, balanced audio from this PC means that you can watch videos without immediately reaching for a headset.

Dell has placed the camera at the bottom of the screen, shooting rather unflatteringly upwards. Image quality is fine for the occasional video chat, but the picture is very noisy. The camera is Windows Hello compatible, so you can use it to unlock your PC just by looking at it, which is a very convenient feature still not present on all AIO PCs.

There’s an integrated microphone, too, which clearly picked up my voice when sitting in front of the PC.

Dell Inspiron AIO 5475 – Performance

It’s more than a little disappointing that Dell has opted to use an older-generation AMD A12 CPU, rather than a more modern AMD Ryzen or Intel chip. The 3.1GHz quad-core A12-9800E, paired with 8GB of RAM, wasn’t particularly quick in the benchmarks I put it through.

In Geekbench 4, scores of 2404 in the single-core and 5923 in the multi-core tests are a way off the pace set by the competition. In fact, these are similar scores as the Samsung Galaxy Book 10 got, and that uses a low-power dual-core Core m3-7Y30. As a result, the AIO 5475 can feel slightly sluggish. For example, switching to a full-screen video in YouTube takes a couple of seconds, which I don’t expect to see on a modern PC and certainly not one at this price.

Gaming performance is better thanks to the 4GB Radeon RX560 GPU. Managing a 38.46fps in Shadow of Mordor and 29.57fps in Rise of the Tomb Raider, at maximum graphics settings, this graphics chip can handle most games. You may need to dial down detail settings to get smooth frame rates.

When idle, the AIO 5475 is exceptionally quiet, with just a gentle fan hum that you have to strain to hear. As the processor and GPU come under load, the fan speed kicks up and is audible, but far from annoying.

It’s good to see a 128GB SSD for Windows 10 and your most-used applications. This makes the PC feel snappy, and it boots quickly, even if the SSD’s read speeds of 561.2MB/s and write speeds of 135.8MB/s aren’t the quickest. A 1TB mechanical hard disk gives plenty of storage, although 2TB would seem fairer at this price.

Should I buy the Dell Inspiron AIO 5475?

Dell has done a beautiful job with the AIO 5475’s design, and this is a classy-looking desktop computer. Paired with the quality screen, great range of ports and smart articulated stand, this really should be a great all-rounder. However, the choice of the AMD A12 CPU really lets the side down, and it’s an underpowered processor that feels out-of-place at this price. If this PC was considerably cheaper, the processor choice wouldn’t be so much of a problem; as it stands, it’s far too expensive to recommend.

Verdict

A great-looking and smartly-designed all-in-one, but the processor really lets it down.


What is the Razer Lancehead?

The Lancehead is an ambidextrous gaming mouse that Razer hopes will take the world by storm. It has a good weight, fits in my hands well, and is highly responsive across a wide range of applications. It’s a looker too, with that signature Razer logo brightening up the desk, and offers long-lasting battery life to boot.

The Lancehead isn’t without its shortcomings, however. While the laser sensor is accurate, it doesn’t feel quite as pinpoint as that found in Corsair’s Glaive – and I did encounter range issues that did sour the otherwise excellent experience.

Related: Best gaming mouse

Razer Lancehead – Design, build and features

Adopting a mid-tier size and weight, the Lancehead fits brilliantly in my hand. It’s ambidextrous in design, so each side is symmetrical, and therefore suitable for both left- and right-handed users.

The Razer logo sits on the top of the mouse; it wouldn’t be a Razer product without a loud and proud RGB LED shining through. The plastic finish feels smooth to the touch, while the thick rubber sides provide a good level of grip. My review unit is finished in a grey gunmetal, while a jet-black variant is also available.  

In terms of buttons, there isn’t anything particularly unusual here. Each side of the mouse is home to two buttons pre-configured as backwards and forwards. The top of the mouse has two buttons for changing the DPI, and the usual left/right clicks and a scroll wheel. Each click-switch uses Razer’s ‘mechanical’ switches, which have a short travel distance and are great in operation. The scroll wheel feels good, too, but lacks the infinite scroll wheel found on Logitech’s G900.

The wireless nature of the Lancehead requires a USB dongle for operation, which can neatly rest in the base of the mouse when not use. In the box you’ll also find a USB cable for charging and/or wired operation, as well as an adapter block that can be used to position the wireless adapter closer to your desk.

Other than housing the transceiver, the base of the mouse holds the 16,000dpi laser sensor and three Teflon pads. It’s a shame that there isn’t any weight adjustment here – although, personally, I found the 111g to be comfortable and ergonomic.

The majority of the weight is at the front of the mouse, however. As a result, some customisability to tailor the fit would have been appreciated. Having said this, the Lancehead is far more comfortable in my hands than the Asus ROG Spatha.

Razer Lancehead – Performance

Using a wireless mouse for gaming may sound like a no-no to some, but Razer is definitely proving otherwise. When set up correctly, performance proves slick and it’s easy to operate. You’ll wonder why you didn’t cut the cord sooner. The key for best possible performance is to ensure the transmitter is on your desk. Plugging into the PC under my desk resulted in infrequent but irritating drop-outs.

Using the mouse for all my daily workflow needs was a pleasure, with its unobtrusive size making it a breeze to power through web browsing and video editing. The 16,000dpi laser sensor far exceeds what most people would ever use; I opted for a sensible 1800 setting. Having said that, it’s great to have the flexibility, and those with multiple high-resolution displays will find themselves making full use of what’s on offer.

If I were to be picky, I’d say that the 16,000dpi sensor inside Corsair’s Glaive and Scimitar Pro mice feels slightly more accurate when it comes to micro-movements, but I doubt anyone would have any complaints with the Lancehead’s accuracy.

For my gaming tests, I opted to re-install Titanfall 2 – Respawn’s highly vertical first-person shooter. The Lancehead was excellent here, with smooth and reliable tracking, which made it easy to rack up some leaderboard-topping scores. I never felt at any disadvantage from the lack of that infamous cable, and throwing the mouse around my desk felt all the better for it – flick-shots are really easy with this mouse.

Obviously, you’ll need to charge the Lancehead on a regular basis, but this isn’t as much of an issue as you might think. Rated for 24 hours of continuous use, the battery life is super-impressive, and those opting to turn off the lighting should expect to get even more out of it.

In practice, 24 hours is perhaps a little over ambitious, but my only gripe is with the cable itself: the shape of the mouse connector can be tad tricky to connect. Logitech’s system is more user-friendly.

Razer Lancehead – Software and lighting

Razer Synapse is nothing new, but the Lancehead uses an entirely revamped version dubbed ‘3.0’. It’s still in beta, but it will self-install – if you allow it – on connecting the mouse for the first time. It’s really well designed, and has a fresh new look that’s visually appealing and easy to use. It does require you to set up a free online account, but profiles are then stored in the cloud – useful if you use multiple PCs.

You can reassign each of the buttons, alter the DPI and change the RGB lighting. There are plenty of options to assign, with the ability to create and assign macros, adjust the sensitivity and use windows shortcuts. Razer also incorporates a ‘Hypershift’ mode, which allows you to assign an additional function per button; this can then be activated by holding down the self-assigned Hypershift button. I opted to control volume with the scroll wheel while holding down the backwards button, for instance.

As an RGB peripheral, the mouse has plenty of visual customisation too. You can choose from a range of pre-made effects, or create your own with the Chroma module. If you have any other Razer peripherals, you can of course link them up for an even cooler vibe. Despite having four lighting zones, the Lancehead seems a little understated compared with rivals from Corsair and Asus. This isn’t a bad thing in my book, since it looks great without being over the top.

Should I buy the Razer Lancehead?

There’s plenty to like about Razer’s Lancehead. It’s super-ergonomic, looks attractive and performs well in games. The benefits of wireless mice go beyond desk appeal too, since the freedom of movement really can help in those intense firefights.

At £139.99, the price for a mouse is eye-watering. You do get a high level of precision, but you’ll be able to pick up a wired model offering similar performance for less than half that price. Factor in the fact that the receiver really needs to sit near your mouse-pad for the best performance, and you have something that won’t appeal to everyone.  

However, if you’re prepared to spend to part with that amount of cash and demand wireless then the Lancehead is certainly worthy of your cash.

Verdict

An expensive wireless mouse, but one that delivers where it counts.


What is the Kenwood HDP406WH?

The Kenwood HDP406WH is a pricey hand blender with five attachments. It can blend, whisk, chop, mash and make soup.

It’s a good blender, but there are too many attachments to store and they’re not all necessary.

Related: Best coffee machines

Kenwood HDP406WH

Kenwood HDP406WH – Design and features

Hand blenders are a paradox. You want lots of cool attachments so you can save time in the kitchen, but lots of attachments means lots to store. This Kenwood suffers from the latter: the gubbins take up half a kitchen cupboard.

The Triblade name comes from the blending foot, which is stainless steel (more heat- and stain-resistant than plastic) and has three blades: one flat and two that bend upwards. It’s teamed with a 750ml beaker, graduated in millilitres and fluid ounces. It has a rubber, grippy base and a lid but annoyingly no spout.

Kenwood HDP406WH

Next up are a straightforward metal whisk and a good-sized vegetable chopper, big enough to blitz a couple of onions at a time. Again there’s a lid for the container.

Finally there’s a large, flat, plastic blending attachment specifically for soup and a similar-sized attachment for making mash. All the attachments pop off by squeezing two buttons at the bottom of the body.

Kenwood HDP406WH

The blender body is grey, easy-grip rubber at the top and your fingers naturally fall on the power and turbo buttons. There’s no loop at the top for hanging it. There is a dial to adjust power but it’s stiff and tricky to turn with clean hands, let alone when you’re cooking, so you won’t change the speed much.

Kenwood HDP406WH

Kenwood HDP406WH – What’s it like to use?

The chopper is excellent. It blitzed parmesan in an instant and chopped two onions at a time with ease; setting a low speed and just tapping the button four times was a good way to get chopped onions, not mush.

The soup accessory is simply a large, plastic blending attachment too wide to fit in the beaker, so it’s clearly designed to be used in the saucepan. It did a fine job on onion soup but so did the blending attachment. The advantage of plastic is that it won’t scratch a non-stick pan… but that seems to be the only reason for this accessory.

Kenwood HDP406WH

The blender was fine on chickpeas too. The whisk was very good on egg whites. And the masher did a good, efficient job. The results are less like mashing by hand and more like putting potatoes through a ricer. But unless you’re a mash aficionado or you make gnocchi, you just don’t need it. And as mentioned above, changing the Kenwood’s speed is hard because the dial is hard to grip.

Cleaning was generally easy. There are no slits to get bunged up at the bottom of the blending attachment so blitzing some soapy water is all it needs. The masher needs to be unscrewed and thoroughly cleaned though.

Kenwood HDP406WH

 

Should I buy the Kenwood HDP406WH?

Probably not. If you have heaps of cupboard space so you don’t mind the clutter then it’s a fine product. But we didn’t like the clutter of all the attachments.

If you want a good blender with a fair few attachments then we recommend the Tefal Infiny Force. Or if you have the space and want all mod cons then get the Sage Control Grip All In One, which has a masher and much, much more.

Verdict

A good blender… but you’re paying for attachments you don’t need.


What is the Z-Edge Z3?

The Z-Edge Z3 is a budget-priced dash cam currently selling online for just £85.99. Made by American-registered company Zero Edge Technology LLC, there isn’t much information available about any production premises in the USA. In reality, many dash cams are made in China, so even if this is a Chinese company with a small American foothold, the Z3 could still be worth considering – especially since its Z2 Plus impressed earlier in the year

Z-Edge Z3 – Specification and windscreen mounting

Unlike the Z2 Plus, the Z3 sports a more conventional form factor. The main body is quite thin, but this is marred by a huge lens protruding from its centre that virtually triples the width. It makes the Z3 look like a compact pocket camera.

Z-Edge is slightly modest by calling the Z3 a 2K device, when in fact it offers video resolutions up to 2304 x 1296 at 30fps, or 2560 x 1080 at 30fps – something other manufacturers refer to as Super HD. Full HD (1920 x 1080) is also available at 30 or 45fps with HDR, and 720p at 30 or 60fps.

Related: Best dash cams 2017

Footage is recorded at a top data rate of 17.7Mbits/sec to microSD. The supplied 32GB module will be sufficient for 241 minutes of footage before the recording loops, overwriting the oldest files with new ones. This is a reasonable data rate for maintaining video quality at this resolution.

The Z3 doesn’t come with any kind of quick-release mount. The dash cam itself sports a standard-sized screw hole on the top, with the reasonably sized windscreen suction mount screwing into this. There’s a lockable ball joint on the mount so you can adjust the direction in which the camera points precisely.

The usual lengthy power cable is included, alongside some adhesive clips so you can secure the cable around your windscreen – a nice touch, considering most dash cam manufacturers leave you to sort this yourself. Another pleasant surprise is the fact that the power cable doesn’t end in a captured car cigarette lighter adapter, but a regular USB plug.

So, if your car has USB power, you could it – but Z-Edge also supplies an adapter with two USB ports, so in theory you can power your satnav simultaneously, which is very handy indeed. I tried this with a TomTom GO 5200 and it worked just fine.

Z-Edge Z3 – Menu, manual settings and optional safety features

The Z3 is equipped with a sizeable 3-inch LCD screen that takes up much of the rear of the device, with space left just for some status LEDs and graphics to show what the control buttons do. Six buttons are available along the edge of the device, three on each side. These are used to control the menu, with the bottom left calling it up, and the three buttons on the right providing navigation.

The menu isn’t exactly packed with features. You can change the resolution of video or still images, and in either case choose between Super Fine, Fine and Normal quality modes. The length of each clip in the looping process can be set to one, three or five minutes. You can reduce the flickering caused by artificial lighting via a 60Hz or 50Hz setting, to correspond to the local AC power system.

It’s also possible to configure whether to stamp your video with the date and time, which is on by default, although you have to set this manually. But there are precious few bonus safety features. You can select three levels of sensitivity for the G-sensor, which will tag sharp motion as an event and store the clip currently being recorded in a protected folder that won’t get overwritten during the looping process.

You can turn on motion detection and parking mode. This allows the device to be used for surveillance when the car is left unattended. When motion is detected, it will power up and grab a clip. So, if someone runs into your car when it’s parked, you might just catch the culprit in the act.

But beyond this, you don’t get any of the advanced features that have crept into dash cams over the past couple of years. There’s no built-in GPS, so location isn’t captured alongside the video. There are no safety camera locations, nor are there any collision-detection warnings, or notifications when you’re straying out of your lane on a motorway.

Z-Edge Z3 – Image quality

Although Z-Edge doesn’t divulge the size of the sensor it uses in the Z3, image quality is reasonable for the price. There’s a decent level of detail, and performance in low light is surprisingly good, with not much sign of grain. High contrast isn’t dealt with as well as the best dash cams I’ve seen, but the Z3 is definitely up to the job intended of providing a useful record of any traffic incidents in which you might be involved.

Here’s a sample of footage from the Z-Edge Z3.

The Z3 can also take photos at a maximum resolution of 13 megapixels (4800 x 2700). An example is shown below.

Should I buy the Z-Edge Z3?

The Z-Edge Z3 is a fairly limited dash cam, focusing on just the two key functions of recording your journeys and keeping an eye on things when your car is parked. But it performs these well for the price, albeit in a no-frills fashion, and that may be all you’re looking for in a dash cam.

Currently, Amazon is selling the Z3 for £85.99 with a 32GB microSD card, which is a bit of a bargain. The RRP of £199.99 isn’t so enticing, but if you can get the Z-Edge Z3 for the Amazon sale price with media, it’s well worth considering.

Verdict

The Z-Edge Z3 isn’t packed with features, but image quality is decent and the sale price at time of writing makes it a bargain.