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Wacaco MiniPresso

I’m not sure when the coffee revolution started in Ireland. Whenever it was, these days in our towns and cities you’re never more than a stone’s throw from a cup of smooth Colombian and the list of options like cinnamon twists or soya milk seems to grow weekly. Many of us have even got used to the home comfort of cafe style coffee thanks to Nespresso machines but as I headed for the beach last weekend I had a dilemma. I needed a portable gagdget that would be able to provide my companion and I with a decent cup of coffee at the end of the day.

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Wacaco MiniPresso
Looks
Build Quality
Ease of Use
Reader Rating0 Votes0
Pros
Remarkable 8 Bar Pressure
Incredibly portable
Cons
Water tank capacity a little wanting
Nespresso & ground coffee versions could be combined in to one unit
4
Redcert Score
Summary
Overall, it’s a great piece of travel kit for anyone heading to the beach or camping. If you’ve ever looked at a hotel kettle and shuddered when you saw the instant coffee sachets, this could be the machine for you. Even if you’re travelling on your own the Wacaca MiniPresso makes a great cup of coffee, and an ideal travel companion.

I’m not sure when the coffee revolution started. Whenever it was, these days in our towns and cities you’re never more than a stone’s throw from a smooth Colombian or a rich Honduran and the list of options like cinnamon twists or soya milk seems to grow weekly.

Many of us have even got used to the home comfort of cafe style coffee thanks to Nespresso machines but as I headed for the beach last weekend I had a dilemma. I needed a portable gagdget that would be able to provide my companion and I with a decent cup of coffee at the end of the day.

I settled on the Wacaco MiniPresso. It’s a small, portable gizmo that lets you bring Nespresso capsules with you on a day out and with the addition of some hot water it lets you produce that creamy, cafe style coffee. Taking it out of the box reveals it’s remarkably neat and very portable. It’s no bigger than a child’s flask at less than seven inches tall and it’s easily packed if you’re walking as it weighs in at just over 12 ounces.

The only accessory that ships with the MiniPresso is a convenient cleaning brush but everything else is part of the all-in-one set-up. There’s a screw-top outer lid, which doubles as an espresso cup. I removed that and put it to one side, then opened the top of the machine. In here, is where you pop in a Nespresso capsule which should fit snugly. I reattached the screw-lid firmly and unscrewed the little water tank on the bottom of the machine.

The water tank has a capacity of 70 milliliters and there is a helpful lip on the reservoir to indicate where you should fill it to to prevent splashes of hot water. I had brought a regular flask of hot water with me, but if you’re camping you always boil up some water on a stove.

With the water tank secured, I turned the machine upside down and released the push handle that it screwed in to the side of the machine. As you unscrew it, you can feel the pressure build up in the handle. With my cup at the ready, I began to slowly pump the machine and almost immediately the air was filled with the delicious aroma of warm coffee.

The machine has an 8 bar capacity, so only slightly less than my machine at home. I discovered if I pumped more slowly, it produced a better tasting coffee than rushing. The lovely crema effect on the coffee was remarkable and it really did look better than much of the coffee I’ve been served in cafes. Looks aside, the coffee was delicious. I used the same Nespresso capsule I usually use at home and it tasted just as good.

The need to bring hot water with you is a little tedious but not a great hardship if you’re heading to the beach or countryside for the day. That said, the machine is so neat and portable, I don’t think the design could be improved.

There are additional accessories available if you think you’ll use the MiniPresoo often. There’s a carry case and an additional water tank that will produce up to 100 millilitre  coffees. As well as Nespresso there is a ground coffee version available if you want to use ground coffee.

 

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Reviews

Volkswagen Golf Highline 2017

For decades it was Formula 1 that gave the car business much of its cutting edge technology. Everything from a braking system that generates power to use later to innovations in tire technology, our road cars are more efficient and safer thanks to top-tier motor racing. These days though, mainstream car companies are investing much more in their own research and design, and they’re putting technology to work for us every day on the road.

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Volkswagen Golf Highline 2017
Looks
Build Quality
Tech Credentials
Reader Rating1 Vote4.8
Pros
Dash is the best so far from a traditional auto-maker
Cons
Voice-control needs an upgrade - use Siri or Android Auto
4.7
Redcert Score
Summary

For decades it was Formula 1 that gave the car business much of its cutting edge technology. Everything from a braking system that generates power to use later to innovations in tire technology, our road cars are more efficient and safer thanks to top-tier motor racing. These days though, mainstream car companies are investing much more in their own research and design, and they’re putting technology to work for us every day on the road.

Volkswagen’s new Golf Highline is full to the brim with tech designed to make it efficient and safe for drivers, but I was curious if all this new tech would still let motoring be fun as I took to the open road.

I picked up my Tumeric Yellow Golf Highline and it’s difficult, even for a nerdy type, not to be struck by the lines of this car. They call the Golf a family car, but the sharp colour, styling and Jurva alloy wheels catch your eye and it seems to exude an aura of sporty capability.

Inside though, is where my real interest lies and the very first thing I needed to do was pair my iPhone with the car. Volkswagen’s App Connect system give the driver a number of options for connecting a phone to the car. I used plugged my phone in to the Golf’s USB port and used Apple’s CarPlay but Android Auto and Mirror Link are also available. I noticed also, that my phone began to charge which was a useful bonus.

With my phone paired with the car I felt at home and the center console displayed the huge icons from my iPhone, but in remarkable definition that functioned just like the touch screen on my phone. Instantly I got access to my contacts, SMS and Google Maps, but also my playlists from Apple Music appeared, and even my audiobooks. Once my phone was paired, the car’s comprehensive voice-control feature, which is activated from the steering, wheel let me use voice commands to make calls using my phone.

Inside the glove compartment, I discovered the discreetly placed CD player and also, surprisingly a Micro SD memory card port for additional media access. The center console displays the traditional radio stations with nice bright display of the stations logos but also, if I select the TuneIn radio app, lets me listen to a radio station from anywhere in the world as I drive.

With my connectivity and entertainment sorted out I focused on the driving tech. Instead of traditional dials and gauges, the Golf has a huge twelve inch Active Info Display. This high-res display replaces a traditional speedometer and has five different views that can be selected to your own preference, depending on what you want to keep an eye on as you drive.

As I set about reversing, I discovered putting the Golf in to reverse activates the rear view camera and sensors with large, clear image of what’s behind you displayed on the center console screen. Once in a forward gear and heading for the open road, it was time to look at the other tech that makes like easier, and safer for drivers.

Volkswagen Golf TSI by Paddy McGrath

Active Cruise Control is a remarkable innovation. The simple idea is that the Golf will help you keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front. Simple, but needs a lot of tech to make it work. I set the speed I wanted to cruise at using the controls on the steering wheel but then sensors monitored the space in front of my car and analyses their speed and how close they are. The Active Cruise Control can keep you at a safe distance from the car in front at speeds up to 160 km/h. The most pleasing part though is surprisingly in annoying traffic. I could feel the car changing gear, and braking and then accelerating again when lights changed up ahead. It reduces your effort, but I think more importantly, reduces stress.

Back on the road, other smarter features become apparent. When a car came up behind me, Light Assist dimmed my mirror to reduce glare and a camera on the front recognizes a vehicle ahead and dimmed the headlights automatically. This sounds simple, but the wonderful part of this is that technology is taking away frequent adjustments and interruptions that distract me.

Perhaps the most safety focused tech in the Golf is Fatigue Detection Driver Alert. This tech monitors driver behavior and things like erratic steering wheel movements or lane deviation and even analyses traffic signals and figures out when you’re tired and need a break.

Fuel consumption and running costs are reasonable. Sure, it’s not a Tesla, Volkswagen have been making cars for almost eighty years and what’s fascinating about this car, the biggest gadget I’ve ever tested, is how it changes how I think about driving and traditional auto makers. Yes, it’s fun driving, but it’s also smart driving,.

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Reviews

NowTV Set-Top Box | Pay As You Go, Television

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NowTV Set-Top Box | Pay As You Go, Television
Looks
Build Quality
Ease of Use
Reader Rating1 Vote4.55
Pros
Thanks to it's Roku heart, the box is fast
Lovely interface that puts many cable operators to shame
Cons
Remote control is a little small and onscreen keyboard is a tad tireseome
Other service providers like Amazon Prime should be added as apps
4
Redcert Score
Summary
Whichever of the three viewing pass you pair it with, the audio and picture quality are excellent and the available apps give it the potential to do even more. It won’t replace a Sky or Netflix subscription, but it’s a smart, decently priced way of complementing them.

Even before NowTV, television was changing. TV programs are bigger, better and more star studded than ever. Whether it’s documentaries from far flung corners of the planet or slick retro productions like Mad Men, TV makers have upped their game. There’s more to watch on terrestrial and cable, and online services like Netflix and Amazon Prime have found niche markets with their own programs.

NowTV is a service from Sky that’s joined this line-up. It’s an entertainment, cinema and sports provider that’s available online. As well as being available on laptops or mobile phones and tablets, there’s a NowTV set-top box designed to be used using your home broadband. Apps and players are fine, but this box is the most user-friendly way to bring NowTV in to the living room, for all the family to watch.

Unboxing

Unpacking this new entertainment gadget reveals the box to be compact at three and a half inches square and weighing less than five ounces. As well as the NowTV box itself, in the package are two AAA batteries for the included remote, a mains power adaptor and thankfully, a HDMI cable.

The box also has a USB port and MicroSD card slot that can be used in the future as the service adds new features. There’s an Ethernet socket on the box for plugging in to your home broadband router which I prefer to use. Wired internet connections provide a more consistent connection than using a gadget’s own built in WiFi, particularly if you have a house full of connected smartphones or children.

Once I’d connected the HDMI cable to my TV and the powered up the box an introductory screen prompted me to connect to my broadband network which took only a few seconds. With that done, I used the remote control to enter my NowTV account details which I’d created earlier on my laptop.

Interface

The onscreen interface is attractive and easy to navigate. There’s an apps section which gives you access to the likes of YouTube and RedBullTV. TuneIn Radio is also available as an app and you can bring full internet radio to your TV and living-room via the NowTV box.

The settings section allows you to choose the resolution, with 1080 high-definition available and there are useful features like the ability to add closed-captions for those hard of hearing.

With the NowTV account I set up, I can watch on up to four screens, and two of them at the same time. NowTV works sort of like a Pay-As-You-Go mobile phone. You can buy passes for the cinema, entertainment or sports packages. They’re priced fairly, but the standout value seems to be the cinema package which I discovered has an array of films I hadn’t seen.

Using the box & NowTV

Using the box is straightforward and it’s performance surprised me with most apps and programs opening and playing instantly. The home screen that’s displayed on your TV is usefully organised to show content that you may have missed in the catch-up section. There’s also eleven live television channels if you have the entertainment pass and includes channels like Sky Atlantic and Gold.

NowTV is a service that’s likely to appeal to those wanting to shirk off the commitment of annual contracts for TV. That’s likely perhaps, to be students or those sharing houses but I think the NowTV box would also be ideal for second or holiday homes, given the a la carte nature of the viewing passes.

Overall, the box worked well for me. I’m not that keen on the remote control and it’s onscreen keyboard when you need to key in search terms or passwords. A dual sided remote with keyboard would be useful addition. That said, for a device that’s priced as it is, it’s well made and its performance is lightning quick.

Whichever of the three viewing pass you pair it with, the audio and picture quality are excellent and the available apps give it the potential to do even more. It won’t replace a Sky or Netflix subscription, but it’s a smart, decently priced way of complementing them.

More info: www.nowtv.com

 

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Reviews

Emfit QS Smart Mattress Sleep Monitor

Most of us recognise the value of getting a good night’s sleep. Over the last few years though, scientists have highlighted the benefits for mind, body and mood of a getting a good eight hours. The arrival of fitness trackers with their sleep monitoring feature helped many of us to be more aware of how much and how well we’re sleeping.

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Emfit QS Smart Mattress Sleep Monitor
Looks
Build Quality
Ease of Use
Data Quality
Pros
Ample data for even serious athletes
Long term analysis made easy
Cons
An iOS app would be a useful addition to the set-up
Availability for a double bed would be a nice option
4
Redcert Score
Summary
Overall, it’s provides a fascinating insight in to an important part of our lives. The device could even be useful for monitoring a relative who you’re concerned about or even for addressing sleep problems. It’s well made, good value and while not a medical device, it gave me more than enough data to change some bad habits and sleep a little sounder.

The fitness tracker is useful, but it can’t give you the holistic or detailed analysis that dedicated sleep monitors can. Emfit are a Finnish company who’ve been in business for decades but the evolution of home wifi and smartphones have given them the opportunity to create consumer friendly products more likely to be used by you and me.

The Emfit QS is one such gadget that’s designed to seamlessly integrate in to your nightly routine and give you feedback on your sleep. The device itself arrives in a small box and isn’t actually a mattress but a strip of synthetic leather that’s placed under your mattress. As well as the sensor strip, which has a power lead attached is a mains adapter.

Setting up the Emfit is reasonably straightforward. Unusually it doesn’t use Bluetooth, but Wifi to connect to your home network and the Emfit servers. I needed my Wifi password and the Emfit’s unique code to register it online, but it was quickly up and running.

The positioning of the sensor strip itself is important. It’s about half the width of a double bed and needs to be placed under the mattress. There is no contact between you and the gadget, instead it used incredibly sensitive sensors to monitor your sleep. I placed it under the mattress roughly level with my chest to ensure the cardio readings were accurate.

Once the device is powered up and positioned, I forgot about it for a couple of days. I find devices like these don’t tell you anything useful until you have a few days or even weeks of information to review. When I signed in online and connected to my account though, the broadness of what the Emfit can tell you becomes apparent.

The data is presented clearly and in chart form. As well as telling me how long I slept each night the data also shows the class of sleep from deep to light and even REM sleep. My breathing was also monitored every night and my heart rate was recorded. One of the most interesting statistics is how much you move during the night with any tossing and turning recorded.

There is more technical analysis available including heart-rate variability and athletes can use the data to review their recovery from exercise. For the average user though the data the basics that the Emfit records would be enough and there’s a useful daily wellness report.

The sleep data is presented using the Emfit website and while it looks good I think a dedicated app would be useful. Also, the device is made for one person whereas a bigger, double bed version would let a health conscious couple keep an eye on their sleeping stats.

 

 

 

 

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