SoundPeats Q12 Bluetooth Headphones Review. Worthy Of Your Consideration

Sure those PowerBeats headphones Apple showed off might look the business but the reality is not everyone can afford the $199. I mean how is it possible that a set of headphones with a fraction of the technology an iPhone contains costs 1/3 the price? Granted a lot goes into speaker technology but still.

So today I’m looking at completely the other end of the spectrum of headphones with a price range that most mere mortals can afford, the SoundPeats Q12. Who knows if due to some dodgy translation it was supposed to be SoundBeats

Still with an asking price of just £19.95/ $24.99 expectations shouldn’t be too high but then again my last inexpensive wireless set won me over.

Specifications.

Before my review units arrived I raised my eyebrow sceptically after seeing the Amazon listing page.

Yes it comes with 3 different sizes ear hooks and ear tips, weighs in at 15 grams, the magnetic feature letting you “attach the two earpieces together and wear it like a cool necklace” but it all falls down when you see “built in with aptX and Bluetooth 4.3 Technology”. According to wikipedia there is no such thing.

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Construction.

Those of a self or style conscious nature may want to look elsewhere as these headphones protrude noticeably. You could be forgiven for thinking they were designed around an Uhura style Star Trek communicator, but if you stick with them you reap the reward of a comfortable fit and despite its look of bulk, a lightweight design that holds steadfast during physical activities.

In the real world of trail running, three half marathons, cycling and general dog walking duties never once have these fallen out or caused any discomfort even with several hours of usage.

With such a protruding set of earphones things get bleaker with a head wind. Unless both are firmly lodged into the cranium perhaps more than I am comfortable with, wind sheer noise and whistle is amplified.

On a run it’s not that bad unless it’s a humdinger of a headwind but on a cycle you end up having to crank up the volume to compensate. A bandanna or buff helps no end but that creates a whole load of health and safety issues all of its own.

Between each earpiece the cord does a great job of keeping cable noise out. Being slightly stiffer than similarly reviewed units, never once have I noticed distracting cable bounce, either worn with cable down the front or wrapped around the back of my skull

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Controls.

Button controls are nicely spaced on a flat controller, comprising of volume up & down and power. A firm press between thumb and forefinger is needed to register a press but the generous spacing meant I never accidentally hit the wrong button.

Siri controls are a bit finicky taking some time to master. The gap between a two second press and power off takes some mastering as you don’t get the Siri “ding dink” letting you know it’s ready for your bidding. It’s worth taking the time to read the manual to become acquainted with the controls.

Battery life hits the sweet spot of 4 hours of listening, about a day and a bit on standby and a few hours to charge up fully. A quick plug in and charge for 15 minutes from dead gave me a nice 45 minutes or thereabouts.

Yet.. for the love of god (and or any other deity you may or may not worship) please, please, please, don’t have an annoying voice that comes on every 18 seconds just to announce power low. Please.

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Sound quality.

Happily I would say “not bad at all”. There’s nothing exactly special about sound quality nor would I expect there to be at this price point of wireless earphones. However, with a vast collection of music from Taylor Swift, Iron Maiden, Dance, Trance plus Podcasts never once have I been unhappy with the sound. Stereo separation is clear and obvious, high ends manage to avoid any sibilance. A bit more booty in the bottom end for bass would be welcomed, but overall a capable set of headphones soundwise.

Support.

For months these never missed a beat, coping with runs, cycles and general dog walking across rugged terrain then one day they steadfastly refused to connect to my iPhone.

Pairing is achieved by pressing and holding the power on button, a voice then declares “power on” followed by “pairing”.

This time around no voice was to be heard and despite a flashing blue / red LED light to indicate pairing, nothing was happening. Powering off then back on with a myriad of button presses proved to be futile and left two Labradors wondering what the heck the hold up was on our Saturday afternoon run.

After 15 minutes it was time for the manual. Great for describing the functions and how to use them, but in the realms of a chocolate teapot when troubleshooting. Same for the website and even with a stupid amount of time spent googling for the issue all I could find was a PDF of a different model.

Time ran away and some 30 minutes later (45 minutes since I wanted to go out) after a strange and complex ritual of plugging in the USB cable, whilst pressing and holding buttons (all whilst chanting an ancient and arcane incantation 😉 ) I was suddenly able to connect and listen.

This is always the problem when buying Chinese based electronics. When they work a certain amount of smugness is permitted in the knowledge you bought something that works just as well as higher priced products. The price to pay is if it goes wrong, or you have an issue you’re usually screwed.

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Overall.

At £19.59 / $24.99 at the time of writing for the SoundPEATS Q12 I’d put these in a category of “heavily consider” that’s if you can bear the pokingoutness of this style. Controls are solid, after real world punishment these are still holding together nicely.

It’s a shame about the lack of English support (read: none) from SoundPeats own website. However that’s the price you pay and aside from that one time of pairing hell, they have been flawless.

The carrying case is a nice, practical addition, matching the $99 Jaybirds Sport headphones’ one in terms of quality.

If I had to rate these earphones on a scale of 1 to 10 I would give them a 7.5 and place it in the “heavily consider” category.

Available via Amazon US and Amazon UK

STM Atlas iPad Pro case

The 12inch iPad Pro is a wonderful piece of kit. It has fast become one of my favourite pieces of Apple technology. However for the longest time it basically remained the iPad I kept at home. Both the cost of the darn thing and the insurmountable size of it made me nervous of taking it with me when I hit the road (in my case this is usually public transport as I sold my car last year). However with the recent addition of the Atlas iPad Pro case I have started to feel more comfortable taking this monstrous device out with me.

The case is primarily a solid plastic tray the the iPad clips into securely.  The outside is covered in textured fabric that gives a nice tactile feel as you hold the case. There is additionally a convenient little holder for the Apple Pencil that will ensure I’ll never loose my Apple stylus while I’m out and about. This one small feature alone sold the case for me as, although I fear dropping the case, that pales into significance compared to the fear of loosing my Apple Pencil (Hey, I never said I was a logical human being)

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The Atlas offers a wrap-around cover ensuring the device is protected as I travel about and can fold over doubling up as a stand to either prop the iPad up to make watching a movie easier or tilt the device to aid typing. I am currently sitting on a train to Chelmsford typing this review out with the iPad resting on my lap in the latter position and it is very comfortable indeed. I’m also catching a few curious glances from my fellow passengers. 

The cover feels very sturdy as do most products produced by STM. The case has all the expected cut-outs that allow for easy access to the iPad Pro’s various buttons and switches, including cutouts for the camera and speakers. 

It comes in three different colours, charcoal, denim or red. I have the charcoal case and it looks very stylish even when it is just laying there on the coffee table.

Obviously there are a number of cases out on the market serving all kinds of needs from huge padded rubber monsters to slim delicate affairs. However, if you are looking for a portfolio type case that will offer protection from the day to day knocks and compliment the slimness and style of the iPad Pro then the Atlas is an ideal option, suitable for many situations and looking pretty stylish to boot.

The STM Atlas for the 12.9″ iPad Pro currently retails at £54.95 although you can get it a little cheaper on Amazon. There is also a version for the iPad Pro 9.7″ device available.

GoEuro iOS Travelling App.

Holiday season is here and yet whilst it might be the season to be chiling out, maxing and being all cool, trying to book your holiday / day break / long weekend travel can be a royal pain in the butt.

Taking public transport, leaves you working out that thorny equation of price vs time vs aggravation. GoEuro aims to take the pain out of this, and it has one feature to make it stand out from other similar apps.

Interface-wise there’s nothing to boast about, practical with enough features to filter results which are initially sorted by cheapest first.

Searches cover trains, coaches and planes with GoEuros differentiator from other similar apps being on flying, getting to and from your chosen airport. More on that in a moment.

Keeping things local I plotted my first GoEuro journey from my home home town to Bristol. At a glance cheapest prices per travel method are shown at the top. With the train costing £39 and taking 3h 28m vs coach £20 at 6h 15m I’ll save my sanity and pay the extra for a significant reduction in journey time.

Sadly coach offerings are limited to the UK’s one main carrier, National Express, excluding the very cheap Mega bus service. Trains searches cover pretty much the whole of the UK and look thorough on a few cursory glances to foreign places I know. Flight information comes from a couple of flight comparison services primarily Fly.co.uk and Skyscanner.co.uk.

Flying is where things start to get really cool. Other apps make you select an airport to fly from, GoEuro instead lets you select a location and this is where the differentiator between this and other similar apps comes into play. [1]

To test this I put my starting location in as my local town and destination of Munich. Enter date, tap go and let GoEuro work out the magic.

The whole journey is pretty much taken care off including with train journeys and flights being sorted at least in the UK.[3][4] On distance shorts (Munich) it simply leaves you saying Public transport with no option of booking tickets for the foreign side.

   
img GoEuro iOS Travelling App.

Same train, same time, same everything yet two different booking screens, both of which horrendous to use in a mobile browser.

When it comes to purchasing things start to fall apart. On my selected flight with FlyBe I’m whisked to Fly.co.uk in an embedded Safari webview. Sometimes things loaded fine, other times I’m left blankly staring at a white screen wondering if anything will happen as there’s no progress bar or indicator. Skyscanner bookings faired better.

If flights were bad enough transit purchasing via Raileasy.co.uk was much, much worse. Despite a declaration of “Preparing your reservation” one or two things are going to happen on the booking screen. Either it will populate with the information you’ve already entered or it doesn’t.

Booking a domestic journey from my home town to Cardiff, RailEasy came up as the vendor. One tap later I arrive at the booking screen with my date and departure all nicely selected for me

Time to broaden the Horizons so in the next test I travelled from my Home town on the same day as my previous test bu this time to Munich. Despite the train selection being exactly the same as my local travel test, this time I was taken to a completely different looking booking screen with only the date already selected not the time.

Meaning if you forget the time of travel you are left clicking back out of the bookings screen, finding the transit time, re-clicking purchase and manually making those selections. It’s odd, inconsistent and frustrating the same journey means more work.

The site in question Raileasy doesnt provied a good browsing experienced on a normal desktop looking like a site designed back in the 90’s and you can forget about responsive design on a mobile browser.

This places me in the reviewers predicament. GoEuro has a solid engine to power searched but is at the mercy of third party websites, some of which I’m almost sure bump the prices up ever so slightly if you repeatedly search for them.

Other new updates for the latest GoEuro update includes profile creation, saving name and credit card details. However profile creation uses Facebook and I’m way to paranoid for letting that service know more about me even if GoEuro is only access your public profile, email address and doesn’t post to Facebook. Don’t let my paranoia influence you as creating a profile is not mandatory.

GoEuro has a decent scraping engine with the App itself really only having a few niggles to complain about but the experience afterwards leaves a lot to be desired.

Being bounced from an app experience to a webview which sometimes populates information and sometimes doesnt make for a frustrating time. Couple that with no forward or back controls if you make a mistake during the booking process youre pretty screwed.

For example your purchasing on foreign website and change the language. Somesites will bounce to you to the home page in your chosen locale but then how do you go back to your booking or navigate back if you mis click something?

You could use GoEuro as an accessory to finding the information and then booking via desktop but that might defeat the point somewhat.

Despite the third party flaws and webview let downs, if you are looking to go away or often need travel info whilst out and about this new release of GoEuro is a fine update to an already sturdy offering.

[1] Apps that I’ve tried so far which were sent in for review.

[2] Actually there is no train to Cardiff airport but to it’s town. A shuttle service runs a bus service which costs £1.00

[3] It’s offered me an interesting changing point rather than Swansea it’s determined to make me wait at a platform in the middle of no where for some odd reason.

[4]Cardiff airport doesnt have a train station. The town does and a shuttle service runs often but it’s a worry to say you can get to the airport without 3rd party help. (https://www.cardiff-airport.com/by-rail/)

Review: STM Dux iPad Pro Case

I love my iPad Pro despite Apple recently introducing a little brother at the recent ‘In the Loop’ event. However one thing I wasn’t so thrilled about with the Pro was the cost of some of the accessories. I can understand Apple expecting us to shell out for such items as the Apple Pencil and even for the Smart Keyboard but where I often find Apples charges becoming more than a little harder to swallow is the cost of their cases.
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App Review : Drops The Rain Alarm

Drops – The Rain Alarm is an iOS app to do with one of the United Kingdom’s favourite talking points. the weather. More particularly the rain. Its sole task is to let you know when the rain is about to start, albeit with a bit of warning, in your area. Or anywhere else you’d like to know about. The premise is basic but Drops has a clever trick up it’s sleeve.

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Aftershokz Bluez 2S Review – Cycle And Run Safer With Music In Your Head

The Aftershokz Bluez 2S are a different type of headphones, headphones that will let you run or cycle whilst still being able to hear what’s going on around you. The Aftershockz are wireless but they don’t go in or over the ear.

They actually conduct the sound via your cheekbone which is really weird but the technology is really cool and also really works.

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Brydge+ with Speakers iPad keyboard Review

Brydge+ Keyboard

Since the iPad Pro’s release I’ve been looking at Apple’s new fondle slab with eyes of grabbing one in my next upgrade cycle.  Dusting off my original iPad Air I wanted to see if I could do most of my daily computing tasks on the iPad.

Hammering out long form text on the iPad might be ok for the new generations of bloggers whose keyboard experiences have started on glass, not forged in the experience of using mechanical keyboards from yesteryear, but it isn’t really for me.

If you are going to invest in a keyboard then it might as well be a good one, especially if it’s going to be an everyday carry and a main workhorse.  Enter the Brydge+ Bluetooth keyboard which has the option of bluetooth speakers built in.

An all aluminium construction, speakers and rechargeable batteries means Brydge+ will add a touch of bulk to your bag as on it own it weighs in at 1.15lbs (0.52kg).  Combining with an iPad 2 brings the combined weight up to 2.46lbs (1.12kg), for iPad 3 and 4 2.46lbs (1.17kg).  For comparison a Macbook weighs 2lbs, Macbook Air 2.5lbs and a non Retina Macbook Pro 13” 2.06 kg (4.5 pounds).

When the Mac first went to unibody aluminium construction a lot of people weren’t happy with the sharp edges, whilst the Brydge+ does look fairly angular and somewhat unforgiving at first appearances, I have found it comfortable throughout many hours of continuous usage.

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