Christ­mas gift guide

The best new Ap­ple-re­lated tech we’ve seen this year

iPad&iPhone user - - CONTENTS -

Christ­mas is rapidly ap­proach­ing, which means gift-buy­ing sea­son is upon us. We know how dif­fi­cult it can be to find the per­fect gift for ev­ery­one, so here we’ve rounded-up the best new Ap­ple-re­lated tech we’ve seen through­out the year.

This year, Ap­ple has launched the iPad Pro, iPad mini 4, iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, as well as a new MacBook and a brand new Ap­ple TV. That means there are plenty of new ac­ces­sories and pe­riph­er­als to choose from, whether you’re look­ing for some­thing fun, some­thing prac­ti­cal, some­thing fash­ion­able or some­thing to keep your sparkly new Ap­ple de­vices safe. We’ve got cases, bat­tery packs, stor­age de­vices, speak­ers, head­phones, quirky

gad­gets and more in our Christ­mas Gift Guide 2015, so read on to get some gift in­spi­ra­tion.

In-ear head­phones: RHA T10i

Price: £149.95 The de­sign of the RHA T10i head­phones and qual­ity of ma­te­ri­als used scream “pre­mium”, es­pe­cially the hand-made steel driv­ers. The driv­ers them­selves are a lit­tle rough around the edges per say, but we think this adds to the over­all de­sign and per­son­al­ity of the prod­uct, rather than de­tract­ing from it. That’s not all though, as the T10i fea­tures a gold plated, re­in­forced, oxy­gen free cop­per ca­ble that should help to im­prove over­all sound qual­ity and help the ca­ble last.

The head­phones come with a to­tal of 10 sets of tips (in­clud­ing two sets of mem­ory foam tips and 2 sets of dou­ble flange tips) to help find the per­fect

fit for your ears. As well as a large num­ber of tips, the T10i also comes with three cus­tom driv­ers – one for ref­er­ence, one that boosts tre­ble and one that boosts bass. There’s al­ways a worry that us­ing bass en­hance­ment will ruin the tre­ble and mid-range, drown­ing in a sea of bass. We didn’t find this to be the case with the T10i and over­all, the head­phones pro­duced a great level of clar­ity and a sat­is­fy­ing sound.

On-ear head­phones: Bow­ers & Wilkins P5 Se­ries 2 Price: £249 from Ama­zon

The Bow­ers & Wilkins P5 Se­ries 2 head­phones are vis­ually gor­geous, with a black and sil­ver combo crafted from alu­minium and sheep leather for max­i­mum com­fort, with soft cups that feel easy on the ears while help­ing to keep ex­ter­nal noise out.

The head­phones come with an iOS-spe­cific wire that al­lows you to con­trol me­dia play­back, and a built-in mic means you can take calls and even ac­cess Siri with­out get­ting your phone out of your pocket.

The P5 Se­ries 2’s boasts a drive unit sim­i­lar to those found in Hi-Fi speak­ers (ac­cord­ing to Bow­ers & Wilkins any­way) which pro­duces a drive unit with more pre­cise and con­trolled move­ment, im­prov­ing sound qual­ity. The sound pro­duced by the P5 Se­ries 2 can be de­scribed as ‘open’ and ‘spa­cious’ with pow­er­ful lev­els of bass.

Blue­tooth in-ear head­phones: Earin Price: €180 (£130)

Earin is a rel­a­tively new com­pany to the scene, es­tab­lished in 2013 and funded via a Kick­starter cam­paign. The idea was to cre­ate sim­plis­tic

wire­less in-ear head­phones that looked great and, most im­por­tantly, had no wires – an idea that was ex­tremely pop­u­lar, as the cam­paign was funded and two years down the line, Earin is fi­nally avail­able (be it in lim­ited quan­ti­ties).

Earin is small, mea­sur­ing in at 14.5x20mm and weighs just 3.5g, making them the small­est wire­less in-ear head­phones on the mar­ket. The main dif­fer­ence be­tween Earin and its com­peti­tors is that many com­pa­nies that pro­duce wire­less in-ear head­phones have to in­clude an ex­tra part that rests around your neck, hold­ing all the tech (Blue­tooth re­ceiver, bat­tery, and so on) while Earin has none of that. The ear-buds are stored in a small metal­lic cap­sule that’ll wire­lessly charge them when­ever stored, pro­vid­ing you with fully charged wire­less in­ear head­phones when­ever you need them.

De­spite the small size, Earin doesn’t dis­ap­point when it comes to au­dio qual­ity. The ear­buds are man­u­fac­tured with two ded­i­cated amps that drive high-pre­ci­sion speak­ers, pro­vid­ing de­tailed sound with ex­cel­lent mid tones, a clear high end and a tight bass. We were blown away with the qual­ity of the ear­buds, es­pe­cially when paired with the (sup­plied) mem­ory foam tips that pro­vide a de­cent level of noise can­cel­la­tion.

There’s also an iOS and An­droid app avail­able that lets you fine-tune your Earin ex­pe­ri­ence, al­low­ing you to tweak el­e­ments like bass and bal­ance, as well as be­ing able to keep an eye on how much bat­tery life they have left.

The only is­sue? Due to such high de­mand, Earin is cur­rently be­ing sold in batches from the Earin web­site (earin.com). You can head over to the site

now, sign up and re­ceive an email when the next sale is due to launch.

Blue­tooth speaker: UE Boom 2

Price: £169.99 Ul­ti­mate Ears’ UE BOOM 2 is the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion BOOM, bring­ing with it a num­ber of im­prove­ments when com­pared to the orig­i­nal (and hugely pop­u­lar) UE BOOM. The main sell­ing point of the UE BOOM 2 is its 360-de­gree au­dio, pro­vid­ing truly room fill­ing au­dio and wav­ing good­bye to the speaker au­dio ‘sweet spot’. It’s not just au­dio pro­jec­tion that makes the UE BOOM 2 the speaker that it is though, it’s shock and dirt proof with IPX7 rated wa­ter re­sis­tance, mean­ing it’ll sur­vive any jour­ney you take it on.

The UE BOOM 2 also boasts a 15-hour bat­tery life, has a 100ft wire­less range and can con­nect to two de­vices at once, pro­vid­ing a mu­si­cal switchover with­out hav­ing to dis­con­nect from the speaker and stop the mu­sic from play­ing. It helps to make lis­ten­ing to mu­sic a more so­cia­ble ex­pe­ri­ence, rather

than hav­ing one per­son de­cid­ing what’s played. Users can also down­load the UE BOOM app to tweak the EQ of the speaker and even pair up with a sec­ond UE BOOM 2 for a true stereo ex­pe­ri­ence.

It’s avail­able in a range of colours, from a rather mod­est black and grey to a more out­landish or­ange and pur­ple combo. The best part about the UE BOOM 2 is that the com­pany is con­stantly up­dat­ing the speaker and adding new fea­tures, all of which can be in­stalled via reg­u­lar OTA up­dates, making the speaker fu­ture-proof.

Blue­tooth speaker: Denon En­vaya Price: £99.99

The Denon En­vaya Mini is a gor­geous lit­tle Blue­tooth speaker ready for use with your iPhone, iPad or Mac. It mea­sures in at just 20.9x5.4x5.1cm, but it weighs a sur­pris­ingly hefty 558g, which makes it a lit­tle less por­ta­ble than we’d like.

But where this speaker really ex­cels is the au­dio, so there’s a bit of good news for you. It boasts dual 40mm full range driv­ers with a 40x83mm pas­sive ra­di­a­tor, which pro­duces both crisp sound and im­pres­sive bass, making it a favourite of ours .

Blue­tooth speaker: iClever IC-BTS02

Price: £20.99 iClever’s IC-BTS02 is one of the best cheap Blue­tooth speak­ers we’ve tried. It looks great and it’s af­ford­able. It’s sur­pris­ing just how much sound em­anates from this tiny zinc-al­loy box. Given that you can eas­ily fit the 64.5x64.5x70.1mm 261g iClever in a sin­gle hand, the 5W speaker hid­den in­side does a much bet­ter job than we should rea­son­ably ex­pect from such a por­ta­ble speaker, both good on bass and free from dis­tor­tion at high vol­ume. The 5W speaker in­side the iClever of­fers bed­room-fill­ing sound that is much louder than what’s avail­able from your phone, tablet or lap­top, al­though its meshed­top de­sign forces it to throw au­dio up­ward rather than around the room.

With Blue­tooth 4.0 tech­nol­ogy it also boasts good range (up to 33ft), and we ex­pe­ri­enced no dropouts

walk­ing room to room with paired phone in hand. If your mo­bile de­vice doesn’t sup­port Blue­tooth you can in­stead use the Blue­tooth Wire­less Speaker’s AUX con­nec­tion, and a ca­ble is in­cluded in the box.

Dig­i­tal compact cam­era: Fu­ji­film X-T10 Price: £499 (body only)

The X-T10 is Fuji’s en­try-level X-se­ries in­ter­change­able lens cam­era, but, thanks in part to solid-feel metal build and rangefinder-like di­als, sure doesn’t feel like it’s been com­pro­mised in or­der to ar­rive at its af­ford­able body-only price tag.

Part of the rea­son for the X-T10’s solid feel when gripped are its die-cast mag­ne­sium top and base plates, though ar­guably the real at­ten­tion grab­bers are those triple rangefinder-style top plate di­als controlling shoot­ing mode, ex­po­sure and sen­si­tiv­ity. We also get the rel­a­tive lux­ury of a 2.36 mil­lion-dot

res­o­lu­tion elec­tronic viewfinder com­plete with com­fort­able-feel eye cup. But the fact that the 3in back screen also tilts meant we of­ten ended up re­fer­ring to the larger 920K-dot res­o­lu­tion LCD for shot com­po­si­tion in­stead, as it ob­vi­ously af­fords a wider range of fram­ing op­tions.

While there are plenty of man­ual con­trols for those who rel­ish get­ting hands on, an auto mode switch lever pro­vides the op­tion to dis­en­gage brain and point and shoot with a sim­ple flick. The cam­era’s per­for­mance here is con­sis­tent and re­sult­ing im­ages are both de­tailed and colour rich. It’s worth not­ing that you’ll be only pur­chas­ing the body for £499, with the most af­ford­able kit lens op­tion be­ing the XC16-50mm lens, which can be picked up for an ad­di­tional £100.

Al­ter­na­tively, the vari­a­tion that in­cludes a stan­dard 18- to 55mm lens will set you back £710. All kit lenses are black. As any first time Fuji X-se­ries pur­chaser will be buy­ing into a whole new cam­era sys­tem with the X-T10, you’ll want to know there are cur­rently 19 Fu­ji­non X mount lenses di­rectly com­pat­i­ble with the cam­era at the time of writ­ing. In short this is our cur­rent ‘go to’ compact and proves a jack-of-all­trades op­tion for any­one want­ing DSLR-like re­sults, with­out DSLR bulk.

Mac ac­ces­sory: Ap­ple Magic Key­board for Mac Price: £79.99

Ap­ple’s Magic Key­board is a must have for diehard Ap­ple fans. The Magic Key­board of­fers an up­grade from Ap­ple’s last wire­less key­board both in terms of de­sign and tech­nol­ogy utilised. While

the orig­i­nal Ap­ple wire­less key­board was pow­ered by bat­ter­ies (which was frus­trat­ing when you were half way through typ­ing a doc­u­ment when the bat­tery died) the Magic Key­board fea­tures a builtin recharge­able bat­tery, which is charged via a sup­plied Light­ning ca­ble.

The sec­ond new fea­ture is the way that the Magic Key­board pairs with your Mac. Where with other Blue­tooth key­boards you’d have to head over to the Blue­tooth pref­er­ences, search for the key­board and pair with it, you need only plug the Key­board into your Mac to com­plete the pair­ing process. If your bat­tery does run out, you can keep the key­board plugged in for use as a wired key­board while it recharges.

Aside from the tech, the Magic Key­board is much thin­ner, lighter and compact than the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion wire­less key­board. The key place­ment has been slightly tweaked for bet­ter travel, and the mech­a­nism un­der each key has been re­designed to feel more solid when pressed, even near the edges. This pro­vides a fan­tas­tic typ­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for Mac users, and de­spite not hav­ing fea­tures like back­lit keys or sup­port for mul­ti­ple con­nec­tions, it’s a great key­board – just slightly more ex­pen­sive than we’d like.

Mac ac­ces­sory: Log­itech MX Mas­ter

Price: £79.99 The Log­itech MX Mas­ter is a con­tender for the most com­fort­able and en­joy­able com­puter mouse we’ve ever used. The MX Mas­ter is wire­less, offering a stan­dard Blue­tooth con­nec­tion as well as a USB that en­ables wire­less sup­port for those with­out Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity. It can also switch be­tween three Blue­tooth de­vices with the flick of a switch.

The MX Mas­ter utilises Dark­field Laser Sen­sor tech­nol­ogy to achieve amaz­ing lev­els of ac­cu­racy on al­most any sur­face. While op­ti­cal and tra­di­tional laser mice rely on ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties on the sur­face to track di­rec­tion and speed, Dark­field Laser Sen­sors use “the small­est pos­si­ble de­tail to cre­ate a mi­cro-road map of the sur­face so you get bet­ter pre­ci­sion on more sur­faces, even glass” ac­cord­ing to Log­itech.

Scrolling is also a joy with the Log­itech MX Mas­ter. The pre­ci­sion wheel au­to­mat­i­cally shifts

from the stan­dard ‘click-to-click’ me­chan­i­cal style to ‘hy­per-fast-scroll’ de­pend­ing on the scrolling speed. The two modes can also be man­u­ally switched by us­ing the but­ton con­ve­niently placed be­neath the scroll wheel. It also fea­tures a side-to-side scroll wheel where your thumb sits, al­low­ing you to scroll from side to side with ease – a bonus for both graphic de­sign­ers and web surfers alike.

It lasts around 40 days on a full bat­tery charge and only re­quires 4 min­utes of charg­ing to get a sin­gle day worth of use out of it. It has a bat­tery indi­ca­tor on the side so you’ll never be caught out with a dead bat­tery, and charges us­ing Mi­cro-USB.

iPad ac­ces­sory: Log­itech Ul­tra­thin Key­board fo­lio Price: £59.99

This mod­ern offering from Log­itech brings a full­sized key­board in­te­grated into a thin case for the iPad Air 2 (also avail­able for the iPad Air and all iPad mini’s apart from iPad mini 4). The iPad Air 2

clips into the case us­ing mag­nets, making it easy to at­tach and re­move at a mo­ments no­tice. The an­gle of the iPad can also be ad­justed, making it ideal for a va­ri­ety of sit­u­a­tions as many fo­lios only of­fer a sin­gle propped-up an­gle. The Ul­tra­thin Key­board Fo­lio also folds around to pro­tect the screen of the iPad when not in use.

It’s worth not­ing that the iPad Air 2 edi­tion of the Ul­tra­thin Key­board Fo­lio is much thin­ner and lighter than older mod­els. We like the click­able key­board and the keys are well spaced with good travel. The Ul­tra­thin Key­board Fo­lio is a lit­tle more plas­tic-feel­ing than Log­itech’s FabricSkin Key­board, and it has more flex in it than we’d like, but on the whole the Ul­tra­thin Key­board is light, un­ob­tru­sive and a plea­sure to use.

iPad ac­ces­sory: Bry­dgeMini for iPad mini 1, 2 and 3 Price: £99

You can’t ruin the slim form fac­tor of the iPad mini 1, 2 or 3 with a chunky, ugly case right? Thank­fully that’s not true with the Bry­dgeMini - in­stead of tak­ing away some of the el­e­gance of the iPad mini, it adds to the ex­pe­ri­ence and trans­forms your tablet into a MacBook look-alike. In fact, they’re so sim­i­lar that we even reached for a nonex­is­tent track­pad.

As with many key­boards de­signed for use with the iPad, the keys have been shrunk down. Usu­ally this means that in­ac­cu­ra­cies start to ap­pear in your typ­ing, es­pe­cially when try­ing to type fast but with the Bry­dge, it’s just not the case – there’s great travel, and the keys feel solid when pressed. The only real ad­just­ment we had to make was with the

shift but­ton, which has a square but­ton in­stead of the usual rec­tan­gu­lar but­ton.

There’s no real sur­prise that it’s con­structed from alu­minium be­cause it’s clear that Bry­dge wanted a key­board that looked like it be­longed with your (alu­minium backed) iPad mini. The keys are black, made of plas­tic and feel great to type on – some­thing that’s very im­por­tant to look out for when look­ing for a key­board. A wel­come ad­di­tion is a back­light key­board, much like the MacBook Air and helps with typ­ing in low-light con­di­tions.

It’s de­signed so that your iPad mini slots into the hinges sim­ply and eas­ily and is held in place thanks to the fric­tion caused by rub­ber in­serts. The Bry­dge comes with shims that fit into the hinges for slight width ad­just­ment be­tween the iPad mini 1, 2 and 3. If you’ve bought the re­cently re­leased iPad mini 4, hold fire – the ex­ist­ing Bry­dge won’t fit, al­though the com­pany are look­ing to launch an iPad mini 4 vari­a­tion in Jan­uary 2016.

Ap­ple prod­uct: Ap­ple TV (2015)

Price: From £129 If you’ve got an Ap­ple lov­ing TV fa­natic in your life, what bet­ter gift to buy than the new Ap­ple TV launched in Oc­to­ber 2015. What’s so dif­fer­ent be­tween this Ap­ple TV and the Ap­ple TV that has been on sale for the past few years? With­out try­ing to sound too dra­matic, it’s had a com­plete over­haul in ev­ery area apart from the de­sign of the cas­ing.

The New Ap­ple TV fea­tures tvOS, a brand new OS that brings ad­vanced func­tion­al­ity to the once ba­sic Ap­ple TV. The main high­lights in­clude Siri sup­port, which al­lows Siri to per­form the same tasks on your TV as it’s able to on your iPhone (with the ex­clu­sions of call­ing and tex­ting, of course) with a few ad­di­tional ben­e­fits. One of th­ese ben­e­fits is univer­sal search, which al­lows users to search for a genre, film or ac­tor and re­ceive re­sults not only from iTunes but also the likes of Net­flix.

It also in­cludes a ded­i­cated App Store with not only stan­dard apps, but games too, which turns the Ap­ple TV into a games con­sole, com­plete with a

Nin­tendo Wii-esque mo­tion con­trolled re­mote that also fea­tures a built-in mic for use with Siri. The Touch sur­face of the re­mote al­lows you to swipe be­tween menus in a sim­i­lar fash­ion to how you’d use your iPhone, bring­ing a more uni­fied Ap­ple ex­pe­ri­ence to the Ap­ple TV

Ap­ple prod­uct: Ap­ple Watch) Price: From £229

If you’ve got an iPhone, why not com­bine it with a brand new Ap­ple Watch? There are three vari­a­tions of Watch to choose from, rang­ing from the Sport (cheap­est) to the Watch (mid-range) and the Edi­tion (high-end), but you’ll be glad to know that in terms of func­tion­al­ity, there’s no dif­fer­ence be­tween the three. What can you do with an Ap­ple Watch? It al­lows you to view and re­spond to your no­ti­fi­ca­tions

with­out need­ing to get your phone out of your pocket – in fact, you can even take calls di­rectly from your Watch for those no-hands-free mo­ments.

It also fea­tures fit­ness track­ing tech­nol­ogy and a heart rate mon­i­tor for those that are health con­scious. It’ll track how many hours you’ve stood up for, how long you’ve ex­er­cised for and how many calo­ries you’ve burned (along with step count, dis­tance es­ti­mate, and so on) and dis­plays it in an in­tu­itive and user-friendly way – with rings. A full ring means you’ve hit your tar­get, and is some­thing that can be quickly glanced at through­out the day to pro­vide an ex­tra bit of mo­ti­va­tion.

Apps are also a huge part of the Ap­ple Watch, with many third-party app de­vel­op­ers offering Ap­ple Watch com­pan­ion apps and com­pli­ca­tions (or wid­gets) that can be dis­played di­rectly on the cus­tomis­able watch face.

Ap­ple prod­uct: iPad mini 4 Price: From £319

Those in the mar­ket for a new iPad should set their sights on the brand new iPad mini 4, which launched in Septem­ber 2015. Un­like pre­vi­ous iPad mini up­dates, the iPad mini 4 brings a thin­ner, lighter form fac­tor and a num­ber of in­ter­nal up­grades that might make the pur­chase more worth your money. In terms of form fac­tor, the iPad mini 4 is only 6.1mm thin, making it 18% thin­ner than the iPad mini 3, and weighs a light­weight 299g.

In­side the iPad mini 4 you’ll find Ap­ple’s sec­ond gen­er­a­tion 64-bit chipset, the A8 chip, which isn’t as fast as what you’ll find in the iPad Pro but will

han­dle gam­ing, video edit­ing and brows­ing the web with ease. The cam­eras have had an up­grade too, fea­tur­ing an im­proved sen­sor and an “Ap­pledesigned im­age sig­nal pro­ces­sor” in the rear-fac­ing 8Mp cam­era, and the 1.2Mp front-fac­ing FaceTime HD cam­era now lets in 81 per­cent more light, per­fect for FaceTim­ing and selfie tak­ing.

Gam­ing ac­ces­sory: Ho­mido vir­tual re­al­ity head­set Price: From £49

The Ho­mido vir­tual re­al­ity head­set aims to bring Vir­tual Re­al­ity to the iPhone, as well as a va­ri­ety of An­droid and Win­dows Phone de­vices. The idea is that you slot your iPhone (even the 6s Plus) into the

front of the head­set and is used as the head­sets com­puter and dis­play. The best part about us­ing your iPhone in the Ho­mido VR head­set is that it makes the head­set com­pletely wire­less, so you’re free to enjoy your vir­tual world with no ca­bles hold­ing you back – and with the App Store, you’ve al­ready got ac­cess to VR games.

How­ever, if you thought that the Ho­mido VR head­set was just a more ex­pen­sive version of Google Card­board, you’d be wrong. In our opin­ion, the Google Card­board is only used to see whether VR is for you, and is in turn quite un­com­fort­able and of­fers lim­ited func­tion­al­ity. On the other hand, the Ho­mido boasts some pretty in­ter­est­ing fea­tures in­clud­ing cus­tom-made VR lenses that of­fer a 100-de­gree Field of View and an ad­justable IPD (dis­tance be­tween the lenses) as the gap be­tween the eyes isn’t the same for ev­ery­one and can af­fect the over­all ex­pe­ri­ence.

You also have the op­tion of buy­ing a Blue­tooth con­troller along with the head­set to bring true VR gam­ing to your iPhone. (Touch-based games won’t work in Ho­mido as you can’t tap the dis­play while its be­ing used in the head­set).

Gam­ing con­troller: SteelSeries Nim­bus Price: From £39.99

The SteelSeries Nim­bus is one of a few gam­ing con­trollers de­signed for use with the 2015 Ap­ple TV, al­though it’s also com­pat­i­ble with Macs, iPhones and iPads – in fact, SteelSeries has an of­fi­cial Nim­bus com­pan­ion app for iOS users that lists charts of apps that are MFi (Made for

iPhone, iPad) con­troller com­pat­i­ble, turn­ing your iPhone, iPad or Ap­ple TV into a fully fledged games con­sole. There’s a hat-tip to the Xbox One con­troller in terms of its de­sign, with sym­met­ri­cal ana­log sticks a la PlaySta­tion and the ad­di­tion of a Light­ning con­nec­tor for easy charg­ing.

As well as that, it fea­tures con­sole-level fea­tures in­clud­ing pres­sure sen­si­tive but­tons, a menu but­ton and a built-in recharge­able bat­tery that’ll last on av­er­age 40 hours on a sin­gle charge. It’s light­weight, sleek and is a must-have, es­pe­cially for Ap­ple TV users. In fact, a col­league said that the “Nim­bus of­fers the best com­bi­na­tion of feel, func­tion­al­ity and start­ing price” when com­pared to other MFi con­trollers avail­able. You can’t ar­gue with that really, can you?

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