A week in reviews: May 6 - May 10
It’s fitness week on Pocket-lint, at least informally, with two reviews of things you put on your wrist that help keep you fit: the Polar RC3 and Jawbone Up. But there were also cars, cameras, a phone and a satellite receiver that blows everything from Sky or Freesat out of the water.
Highlights for the week have to be the Mercedes Shooting Brake though, which takes the estate car to new highs and style. We’re also happy that the Canon EOS 100D is so good, when we first saw it, we had reservations about it, but as it turns out, it’s a really good camera.
Mercedes-Benz CLS 250 CDI BlueEfficiency AMG Sport Shooting Brake
The Shooting Brake is an old British tradition in cars, and now the Germans are on board. Originally used for driving to a shooting hunt, the original design had two doors, but Mercedes has taken some different approaches. You can get a solid wood boot floor though.
As far as cars go, it might be expensive, but the CLS 250 earns its keep by being a brilliant car to drive and the sort of vehicle that’s comfortable enough to live in, should the desire take you.
QUICK VERDICT: Plane, boat, train? No, it’s a shooting brake – a more practical but still striking CLS, which ups both the interior space and the wow factor. Extremely good at most things, consider the 350cdi for a more cultured engine note though. Oh and shrinking violets need not apply.
Canon EOS 100D
It’s a tiny camera, and initially we were worried about the form factor. People looking for small cameras would almost certainly be better off with a compact system camera, or so we thought. In fact, the 100D produces beautiful images, and uses the massive library of Canon SLR lenses. As it turns out, it won us over somewhat.
In an ideal world, the autofocus would be a bit better, and you could get better features with the 700D, albeit in a larger camera.
QUICK VERDICT: The EOS 100D is an engineering marvel and while we doff our hats to Canon for showing off in making such a small DSLR, it doesn't match up to head or heart: the 700D is better in every way and this puts the brakes on the 100D for us. However, paired with the right small-scale Canon glass and the image quality is undeniable - it remains an impressive bit of kit, it just won't suit all users.
FULL REVIEW: Canon EOS 100D review
Honda Civic 1.6 CDTi SE
It’s incredibly economic, we have to say, but the Honda diesel isn’t the most exciting engine we’ve driven recently. With that said, if you’re looking to save money, and want to keep both tax and fuel costs down, then you can’t go wrong. The engine will last forever too.
QUICK VERDICT: A great new diesel engine adds to the Civic’s appeal and provides admirable economy. But the rest of the car isn’t quite as great – it’s still different and has appealing qualities but without doing anything fantastically. There are ultimately better cars in the class
FULL REVIEW: Honda Civic 1.6 CDTi SE review
Canon PowerShot N
It’s an odd looking thing this, but it’s tiny, and that will work for some users. Picture quality isn’t the best we’ve ever seen, but the form factor means that as a convenience item, it’s worth considering.
QUICK VERDICT: Results and the form factor of this camera mean that it's worth considering. It is arguably a little expensive, but for the sort of person that wants a very compact camera, the PowerShot N will no doubt fit the bill.
FULL REVIEW: Canon PowerShot N review
Sony Xperia SP
Sony brings some of last year’s best tech to a more sensibly priced phone. It’s not cheap by any measure, but buying this now is a lot more cost-effective than it would have been last year. We liked the design – although the illuminated bar is too much – and we found the camera to be a bit of a let-down.
QUICK VERDICT: The Sony Xperia SP is a reasonable mid-range performer with good battery life. There's plenty of power under the skin and a display that's mostly good, with plenty of space to play in a frame at feels nice and solid in the hand. The camera isn't great, however, with focusing being something of a problem.
FULL REVIEW: Sony Xperia SP review
Canon PowerShot SX280
While we liked the image quality of the PowerShot N, it's shown the door by the superior quality here. The SX280 has a tremendous 20x zoom lens and good stabilisation. The Wi-Fi is a bit of a faff though, and it will burn through your battery.
QUICK VERDICT: Even if the SX280 adds little new compared to its predecessor, it does succeed in one important area: delivering the best-in-class image quality. Wi-Fi is still a faff to use, there are fewer features than its Lumix TZ40 competitor, but if image quality is the number one priority then you needn't look further than this PowerShot.
FULL REVIEW: Canon PowerShot SX280 review
Jawbone Up (2013)
It might not be a “serious” exercise tool, but as a way of motivating you, it’s a solid and well-designed product. The apps for Android and iOS are both great, and the ability to track sleep is a really nice touch.
QUICK VERDICT: Simple to use, plenty of nice features and a good social element make this a good way to stay motivated about getting decent amounts of activity. The sleep monitor is also quite handy, and being able to track how you feel in relation to what you eat, how much you exercise and sleep is a nifty idea.
FULL REVIEW: Jawbone Up review
Polar RC3 GPS Tour De France edition
This is one watch that does more than just tell you the time. It’s got all the sports features you’d need, including a heart rate monitor and cadence sensor for keeping track of your pedalling. It might be a bit expensive, but when it comes to being a simple, usable sports watch, you really can’t beat the Polar, it’s a winner.
QUICK VERDICT: The closest thing to Le Tour winner's yellow jersey that we'll ever get to, we've got a lot of respect for the Polar RC3. It's upped our training by providing stacks of detail to sessions and is only really let down by a high price, compared to watch competitors, non-customisable training screens and the not-so-sticky adhesive elements needed to install a working cadence sensor. Once it's all up and running we found the RC3's trio of sensors to deliver data where it mattered and provide detail way beyond lesser devices. C'est bon.
FULL REVIEW: Polar RC3 GPS review
Linux sounds scary, especially when it comes to a box for TV that’s supposed to be simple. In fact, the Technomate can be as simple, or complicated as you like. From streaming video to a PC to watching channels from across Europe. It’s all here if you want it.
QUICK VERDICT: We'd never pretend the Technomate is for everyone, but if you're interested in getting far more out of your satellite receiver than the big brands will allow, then this is the machine to use. It's not complicated to learn how to get the various bits working,
FULL REVIEW: Technomate TM-Twin-OE review