A week in reviews: 18 - 22 August

It's an eclectic week of wonders here on Pocket-lint, headed up by our review of the Plug-in Hybrid Volvo V60. At over £50k does it make sense in the UK yet, or is there still much work to be done before the concept of electric can really take off?

Elsewhere we've been playing with various toys - literally, as Anki Drive, a bit like the modern day Scalextric with iPhone controllers, show us - and audio devices including fashion star Ted Baker delving into the world of headphones and admittedly less trendy Creative showing how portable Bluetooth speakers should be done with its Sound Blaster Roar.

Long-time readers will also know we are now covering smarthome devices in depth too, with the latest Vax vacuum, the Air Cordless, doing away with the cord and going battery powered and featuring in this week's reviews. But is there any compromise?

Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid review

Quick review: Volvo's first plug-in hybrid car brings the best of electric and diesel - but it comes at a hefty price. Not just in terms of money, either, as many of the infrastructure issues that dominate the experience of living with one will affect whether it makes sense for an individual to buy one or not. But that's not the car's fault as, in our week-long experience, we've found the Plug-in Hybrid to be the best Volvo that we've driven for a long time. It's the first step in a longer journey, but one that delivers epic quiet and comfort in the usual safe-as-houses Volvo experience.

Pros: Powerful, refined, comfortable, easy to use, smug-factor of sailing around silently in pure electric mode

Cons: Batteries eat into boot space, not rapid-charger compatible, comparatively expensive

Price: £53,150 as tested (includes £5,000 UK govt. grant deduction)

Full article: Volvo V60 Hybrid review

 

Creative Sound Blaster Roar Bluetooth speaker review

Quick review: If Creative isn't among the first names that jump out at you when thinking of buying a Bluetooth speaker then, take note, because the Sound Blaster Roar is an exceptional portable. Decent battery life, sturdy design and, most importantly for any audio device, sound quality that will outsmart its rivals are obvious high points. We don't think there are many better portable Bluetooth speakers out there at this price.

Pros: Great sound, really loud, decent bass levels, independent device volume control, good battery life, record/conference/go wild

Cons: Less omni-directional than some competitors, Bluetooth range seemed short, some extras are bonkers

Price: £170

Full article: Creative Sound Blaster Roar review

 

Ted Baker Rockall headphones review

Quick review: The Ted Baker Rockall headphones are something of a surprise package. Often when a fashion brand applies its name to technology it means little more than just that: a branded device with no other redeeming qualities. The Rockall headphones step away from that and make a statement by delivering quality design and quality sound, which is very much to Ted's credit. You'll get to look good while listening to great sounding music and we can't help liking these over-ears for that.

Pros: Design is distinctive and good quality, great sound quality

Cons: Ear cups could be more articulated, cable feels a little cheap

Price: £179

Full article: Ted Baker Rockall review

 

Vax Air Cordless review

Quick review: It's a standing vacuum but with battery power there's no need for a cord. If you've never used a cordless vacuum then prepare for your world - and your home - to be turned upside down. Vax includes two batteries with the Air Cordless that last around 45-minutes each, so plenty of time to get the cleaning done. It's light, easy to manoeuvre and has large storage capacity with easy emptying feature. Our main moan is the lack of cleaning heads and a fussy wand extension, but otherwise this is one great vacuum cleaner.

Pros: Lightweight, cord-free, spare battery, long life, powerful, multi-floor

Cons: Awkward wand extension with too few heads

Price: £300

Full article: Vax Air Cordless review

 

Anki Drive review

Quick review: If you like the idea of Scalextric, but don't want to go through the rigmarole of setting up the track each time, hurtling off the track on the first corner nine times out of 10, and then not really doing much but race around for a bit, then Anki Drive is certainly worth checking out. It takes on racing in a different way thanks to iPhone/iPad control and if the racing tires then the real-world meets virtual-world crossover, including weapons and special skills, is what makes it extra fun.

Pros: Great fun, easy to setup and put away, plenty of scope to expand in the future, really clever app control including weapons and upgrades to engage for longer

Cons: One track only (at time of writing), 20 minutes life per charge, need a lot of space, no Android device control, need an iPhone/iPad per human player

Price: £180 (Starter Pack - one track, two cars)

Full article: Anki Drive review