x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Monster scores while Sony wows

The new Monster surge protector saves power as it protects your equipment from electrical malfunctions, while the latest version of the Sony Vaio X laptop is so light you may forget you have it in your bag. They are among four devices in the spotlight.

Monster Cables are perhaps a bit pricey compared with what you can find in the market, but in my experience they deliver on what they promise.
Monster Cables are perhaps a bit pricey compared with what you can find in the market, but in my experience they deliver on what they promise.

Jabra Halo Bluetooth headphones Dh399 (US$108) shuffle.to/jabrahalo It seems that often when I try out Bluetooth headphones, I have to try to convince myself that I will like them because I've been disappointed with so many. Jabra's Halo Bluetooth headphones at first struck me as very comfortable and cleverly designed.

They are over-the-head type earphones that do not pressure your head or ears. In terms of sound they are very good, but the Halo headphones are very open to the environment since they do not close around your ear, so there is sound coming in from around you. Perhaps because they are comfortable to wear they slide off very easily, at least when I wear them. Possibly it was just the unit I received but I had occasional problems with the Bluetooth connection. It happened that it would break up and drop out even on very short distances of about a metre or so. What was more annoying, though, was the touch volume control on the right earpiece because I could rarely get it to work. I tapped to set volume and music disappeared for a few seconds, or I heard static before the music came back on.

The conclusion is that Jabra's Halo Bluetooth headset is stylish and comfortable, but it will not be suitable for everyone, especially someone moving around a lot. Monster HDP 750G Power HD Green Power CentreDh599 shuffle.to/monsterhdp850g Cables and plugs are not the sexiest topics in technology but they are important ones. The bottom line is that if we do not take care of our gadgets by using appropriate cables, we run the risk of the gadgets not performing to their optimum level and even damaging them.

Monster Cables are perhaps a bit pricey compared with what you can find in the market, but in my experience they deliver on what they promise. I would say it's usually worth investing a bit more than you might normally do in cables and other equipment, whether they are from Monster or not, which could potentially protect your investment. That is true for their Power HD Green Power Centre, which essentially is a surge protector with some added features.

The 750G protects you from variations in your building's electricity, variations that can damage or destroy your equipment if they are too large. Monster takes that a step further by saying they are also cleaning out noise and interference. A big caveat with this in testing terms is that it is impossible to verify any such claims unless you have extensive and specialised lab facilities, which we do not.

So in some ways we have to take Monster's word for it, but I don't doubt the claims are real. The "green" part of this item refers to the fact that it can save you money by cutting down on energy consumption. There is a control outlet into which you plug your TV set. Then you plug the associated items such as a DVD player, cable box and so on into what is called the switched outlets. When you turn off your TV set the Monster 750G knows that and automatically turns off devices plugged into the switched outlets as well, so that your whole set-up turns off.

When the TV is turned on again the 750G will start up the associated items as well. That is pretty clever and it worked well in our testing. While I tested the 750G model, Monster also sells an 850G model and the only difference between the two is the level of protection: the 850G covers up to 4590 joules and the 750G up to 3672 joules. That basically means the 850G protects your equipment from higher levels of energy coming at it from the power lines. A general recommendation is that you should have a surge protector on all your electrical equipment. The 750G is a good, albeit a bit pricey, alternative and the green aspect of it is really clever and useful.

Sony Vaio X Dh4,500 shuffle.to/sonyvaiox I rarely say "wow" when I take a computer out of its box, but it was with real excitement and surprise that I experienced the latest Sony notebook. It is thinner and lighter than anything I can remember trying out, and that is quite a feat. How thin and light, you ask? Thin enough that the monitor port on the right side just barely fits. Thin enough that the Ethernet port does not fit height-wise; Sony engineers have very cleverly made it collapsible so the slim notebook can still accommodate wired networking.

The weight of this model with SSD drive is just under 700 grams. That means you can put it in any bag and you will probably not even notice it. Sony put a 2.2GHz Intel Atom, 2GB RAM, Samsung 128GB SSD drive, and Integrated Intel graphics in this model of the Vaio X. With all that, it performs perfectly well in most regular tasks such as e-mail, web, word processing and so forth. However, with all the Windows graphics goodies in Aero turned on the Vaio X dragged its feet significantly, with windows, menus and dialogues appearing after a slight delay.

With a more optimised Windows configuration, things flow very smoothly, though. The graphics on the 1366x768, 11.1-inch (28.2cm) display show up with good clarity and colours. Understandably, the Vaio X is very sparse with ports. It has two USB ports, a monitor port, an Ethernet port and slots for SD and memory stick cards on the front. It also includes a Wi-Fi, a Bluetooth and a webcam. The keyboard is very similar to what Apple introduced with its Unibody MacBooks; the keys are flat and sit fairly close to the surface underneath.

They are small but have a large space in between, fairly comfortable for typing. I wrote the first draft of this review on it without any major issues. Sony claims that with the standard battery and using "default settings" mode, you should get about 3.5 hours out of one charge with the Vaio X. Running in "power saver" mode, the Vaio X indicated it could run for about five hours when fully charged. After about two hours of use while writing and researching this article, the Vaio said it still had 50 per cent charge left.

That means battery life is not amazing, especially considering there are netbooks and notebooks that reach eight hours and more on one charge. But considering the slim profile, that is not too bad. Sony is shipping the Vaio X mostly with the Windows 7 Home Premium operating system, but our test model came with the Professional version. In conclusion, Sony has created an amazingly small and light notebook in the Vaio X. It has good performance and decent battery life, but durability is still a question mark.

Epson TX800FW Dh1,199 shuffle.to/epsontx800 The TX800FW is a multifunctional printer that can also scan, copy and fax documents up to A4 size. While it is very stylish and printing and scanning performance is good for an inkjet printer, it is let down by questionable build quality in some details. Designed in black plastic, with rounded corners and sweeping lines, there is no doubt it is a good-looking printer. The most noticeable feature is a 7.8-inch touch panel that can tilt up. That makes it easy for a user to put it at a comfortable angle, something many printer makers do not seem to consider when they design their products. In the middle of the panel is a 3.5-inch touch screen and on either side of it are buttons that light up, depending on the task.

Epson should have implemented the tilt locking function differently, though. You can freely pull it up, but have to press a button to fold it down again. I can visualise situations where someone accidentally presses too hard on the display to move it down, and it breaks. The in and out trays also seem a bit flimsy. If you are not very careful when adjusting them or otherwise working with them, they can easily break.

Leaving that aside, print performance is good. On "fast economy" mode it printed 10 A4 black and white pages full of text in 1 minute and 43 seconds. An A4 photo in "photo RPM" mode - the highest quality - took 2 minutes and 25 seconds. Scanning performance is also good. It took the TX800FW 2 minutes 28 seconds to finish an A4 colour page on the highest quality setting. Although scans generally came out a bit dark, that is not something to worry about.

I like the Epson, especially for the design but if it was a choice between the Epson and the Canon Pixma MP560 I tested two weeks ago (see The National 10-11), I would have to pick the Canon. Magnus Nystedt is the managing editor of Shufflegazine; www.-shufflegazine.com