A week in reviews: 11 - 15 August
Ahead of the Surface Pro 3 release date on 28 August here in Blighty, we've got the full ins and outs of the latest laptop-meets-tablet. Is it the "laptop killer" it claims to be or at 12-inches is it too big to tick the successful tablet box?
Next up it's a 4K UHD TV on a budget, but can the Philips 7800 Series deliver a decent 55-inch panel for its £1,500 price or are too many corners cut?
Elsewhere we've been making coffee in our car while on the go, using the Espressgo, have reinvested time in the Blinkbox rental service to see whether improvements make it the go-to service, and have taken delivery of the Worx Landroid automated robotic lawnmower. Yes, you read that right, a robo-lawnmower! Does life get any better?
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review
Quick review: Is the Surface Pro 3 the "laptop killer" it claims to be? It's not out and out murder, more a viable laptop alternative with full Windows 8.1 that will suit a certain audience. But despite finding its large 12-inch screen size perplexing at first, a week of use in the laptop form (and with the optional keyboard accessory attached, of course) has come to make sense. Often great sense thanks to the significant screen resolution and multi window multi-tasking, variable position stand, touchscreen controls and included stylus. It's a shame that screen is so reflective though.
Pros: Finally has a proper stand with variable positioning, significant screen resolution with decent viewing angles, a viable laptop alternative (if used with keyboard cover)
Cons: Screen is horribly reflective, expensive, no keyboard included in price, nowhere to store stylus, far bigger than most tablets, no discrete graphics, no MS Office as standard
Price: from £639 (£109 extra for keyboard)
Full article: Surface Pro 3 review
Philips 7800 Series 55-inch 4K TV review
Quick review: The Philips 55PUS7809 lives in a strange place; a segment of the market that has been carved out all by itself as, in general, other 2014 UHD TV makers are focusing on the pricier but more comprehensive future-proofed solutions. This particular Philips range ignores some important decoding stuff, namely the lack of HEVC meaning no 4K decoding, so no Netflix 4K for now and, who knows, possibly other limitations in the future. That said, for the sake of a quality upscaled image and 55-inch 4K panel you're not going to find anything more affordable and in our weeks of use we've found the general quality of this Philips to be a step beyond our older stand-in TV. It has a valid place, but for how much longer is the bigger question.
Pros: Big screen for a fair price, quality for upscaling or 3D playback, decent picture with fair uniformity, lots of picture/audio settings (inc ISF presets), default sound is great
Cons: No HEVC decoding and therefore future 4K streaming issues, not the blackest blacks, two-sided Ambilight only, smart features behind the competition, subtle clouding
Full article: Philips 55PUS7809 review
Quick review: Blinkbox succeeds in offering a simple movie rental service with plenty of support for different device platforms without subscription. Once you've paid for content, or rented a movie, you can watch it as you please - although there are maximum resolution caveats depending on which device you're using to view. There are a few holes in consistency between apps and the lack of smartphone apps seems like an oddity, but we still like Blinkbox - particularly on the Xbox One and via Chromecast.
Pros: Available on lots of platforms, simple pay-as-you go system, Chromecast support
Cons: Disparity between apps - tablet app lacks features, no smartphone app, some resolution limitations in certain apps
Price: from £1.89
Full article: Blinkbox streaming service review
Worx Landroid robot lawnmower review
Quick review: It's an automated robot lawnmower. We're not sure we can think of anything cooler. However, the Landroid has a few teething issues, many similar to the problems suffered by robotic vacuum cleaners: if your garden is a mess it'll get stuck and it can't clean up large items. But if your garden is a reasonable size and fairly uncluttered, then Landroid could work very well for you. Assuming, that is, you have a spare £1000. We've become rather affectionate of our robotic buddy.
Pros: Regular lawn cutting autonomously, quiet operation, programming options
Cons: Setup feels daunting, wire prone to damage, won't suit all gardens, price
Full article: Worx Landroid review
Lavazza Modo Mio Espressgo review
Quick review: Proper coffee on the go! The Espressgo plugs into your car's cigarette lighter and the high-pressure system, used in conjunction with Lavazza Modo capsules, will deliver an espresso or Lungo in around three minutes. No more poor quality and expensive roadside coffee from those service stations. If you like your strong coffee, are on the road a lot then the Espressgo is almost certainly going to be the best gadget you've ever bought.
Pros: Fresh espresso coffee in your car, easy to use (once you know how), uses the Lavazza capsules so is tidy, easy to clean
Cons: Impossible to use without reading instructions and understanding them, you'll need to carry water (and milk) too
Full article: Espressgo review