A week in reviews: 23 - 27 September
September is rolling to a close, and we've been walking, running, riding, driving and flying all over the place in the quest for tech perfection. Fitness and non-fitness are covered in equal measure this week.
We've been tracking our steps with the Withings Pulse pedometer, running with the Adidas micoach for Windows Phone 8, getting pedal-power-assisted around London town with the Smart electric bike and heading for the hills with our behinds firmly parked in the seats of the the Hyundai Tourer i40. It's all about getting from A to B, but are any of these products a true techie treat?
Elsewhere on the site it's been a bonanza of brand new gear. If the Surface 2 launch in New York City and Oppo N1 announcement in Beijing weren't enough to distract you, then we've been deeply invested in FIFA 14. Far more than just a kit and transfers update, it's the best football game we've ever played.
A crazy month full of crazy-good tech kit, finished off with a lush pair of Denon over-ear headphones for good measure. Here's to October when we'll be playing around with a whole stack more, including the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Gear devices in the coming week.
Withings Pulse activity tracker
This small, pocketable device tracks your daily steps, can measure heart rate (hence its name), sleep patterns, deliver information to your smartphone via an app and collate data online in a personalised Health Mate site.
For us we found the small and lightweight device was too easy to forget about and misplace, so while it's not the gadget for us we can see the wider appeal to a broader audience.
We did like the app and website integration and the fuller Withings ecosystem, including the WS-50 digital scales as also reviewed this week.
So with or without a fitness device just get out there: get walking, get exercising and be healthy. Only you can make that part happen, but for some Withings Pulse will be a non-physical kick up the backside to get started.
Quick verdict So small it's barely noticeable, but also that it's easily forgettable, we've been using the Pulse for a number of months and can see this pedometer's appeal to those looking to get a bit healthier.
Full review: Withings Pulse activity tracker
Withings Smart Body Analyzer WS-50
Digital weighing scales often have questionable accuracy, but the Withings WS-50 is a different story. We found these glass-topped scales to be ultra accurate when it comes to weight.
But that's not all you're paying for. The ability to measure heart rate, temperature, CO2 levels and body fat percentage and monitor all reads and progress via an app and website give the WS-50 a lot use within the Withings ecosystem.
It's a breeze to set up and use. Step on, step off, let the scales and Wi-Fi do all the work for you. It's that easy. If you just want to know about weight or you want to know a lot more, the Withings Smart Body Analyzer is the most accurate set of digital scales that we've seen and it'll appeal to a wide audience.
Quick verdict: Ultra-accurate digital scales with an abundance of other measurement options including body fat percentage. The Withings WS-50 work great as standalone scales or as part of the wider Withings ecosystem.
Full review: Withings WS-50 digital scales
Hyundai i40 Tourer
If you're looking for an estate car, then you're spoilt for choice. There are stacks out there, including the Hyundai i40 Tourer - a car that might not have been on your estate radar, but should make the shortlist.
The i40 Tourer is an attractive Korean machine, it offers plenty of space both for the passengers and for luggage in the boot, along with stacks of on-board tech.
Our main reservation is when it comes to the delivery of the power. We'd prefer a little more kick, or better real-world economy to really push the Tourer up to the next level.
Price: £28,210 (as tested)
Quick verdict: You get a lot of car for your money with the Hyundai i40 Tourer, but the engine leaves a little to be desired. The 6-speed manual feels like it needs a little more power behind it when the car's fully loaded. As it stands it's not hugely efficient in return. There's plenty of tech thrown in, however, making the i40 both fun and comfortable.
Full review: Hyundai Tourer i40
Smart electric bike
The Smart electric bike is an exciting product. The general public told us so with their eyes and their words.
But it feels like a first go at an interesting idea. The 26.1kg weight will rule it out for most urban commuters, while the heavyweight £2500 price further marginalises it. Carry it up even just one flight of stairs a couple of times you'll be taking it back to the dealer thinking the season ticket looks like a better deal after all.
We've wanted to love the Smart eBike but it just doesn't quite connect with us, and that's considered not from the point of view as cyclists - we threw that hobby out the window for the purpose of this review - but that the eBike is destined only for a financilly sound few who happen to live on the ground floor of a swanky pad.
Quick verdict: An eye-catching electric bike that feels more spaceship than bicycle. For the non-cyclist this is a great, take-the-weight-off assisted ride that will turn heads. But it's heavy and expensive, so much so we can't see the appeal for many urban commuters. Take this thought away with you: two Smart eBikes would cost almost as much as a Smart ForTwo car. And you don't need to carry that up the stairs.
Full review: Smart eBike
We do love a game of footie. And we're best at it on a console. FIFA 14 comes crashing in on current-gen consoles (its next-gen version looms with greater graphics), and, on the surface of things at least, doesn't appear to bring that much new with it.
Prepared for disappointment, get beyond the familiar menus and it's on the pitch that everything changes. The game is now more intricate, more detailed, more balanced with individual players' controls and animations. The in-game action proves that it's far more than just a kit and transfer update to the series.
It's not perfect though - we won't dwell too much on the debate over micro-transactions and in-game items bought for real, hard cash - but it is still the best football game out there by a country mile. It'll keep you coming back time and time again throughout the season.
Quick verdict: Far from being just another addition to the FIFA franchise, FIFA 14 brings the usual kit and transfer updates along with updated on-the-field play. Improved physics, improved sensation of realism, it's just all-round improved and well worth the investment.
Full review: FIFA 2014 (current-gen)
Adidas miCoach (Windows Phone 8)
Adidas miCoach has been on iPhone and Android for some time, but now it has arrived on Windows Phone 8 complete with support for the Adidas heart rate monitor.
It's far more than a "click go" kind of app - miCoach is all about coaching you into a better place, helping you to achieve your goals rather than mindlessly pavement pounding with no true direction.
Some shortcomings such as Lumia handset compatibility with the heart rate monitor, and a cluttered interface hold it back from perfection, but we've found it to be the best iteration of the app yet.
Price: £Free (app) | £45 (HRM and strap)
Quick verdict: The Adidas micoach running app will help you achieve any number of set goals over a course of weeks. It's down to you to commit, but the added purpose and virtual coaching works well. Say no to more mindless pavement pounding.
Full review: Adidas micoach (Windows Phone 8)
Denon AH-D340 over-ear headphones
We love a good pair of cans - the kind you put over your head, we mean, obviously - and the Denon AH-D340 over-ears sure do deliver.
For the price point these are great in terms of look, feel and audio quality. The only things we don't like about them is that the slightly better, but slightly pricier Denon AH-D600 over-ears also exist and some limited smartphones won't deliver as much volume as we'd like.
Saying that, the AH-D340 is better suited to being on the move than the more homely AH-D600 model. It's class stuff.
Quick verdict: The Denon AH-D340 headphones are great for using out on the road, although be aware that they require a decent amount of volume to drive, and some smartphones just can't supply enough for our liking.
Full review: Denon AH-D340 over-ear headphones