Wednesday, 6 January 2021

The Wolf of Snow Hollow

It wasn't until I was 20 minutes into this that I realised that it was supposed to be comic! Penny dropped! Sure enough IMDb classifies it as comedy/horror/thriller!


It feels almost like a teen slasher-flick half the time with nods to the humour-base of Fargo, maybe a land-based Jaws and visuals from The Silence of the Lambs! A right old mix-up.

Amongst the funnies and cringeworthy character of son of ex-police chief trying to lead like his dad did, the audience has to try and work out, with the police, whether there's some sort of massive wolf on the loose or in fact, a human serial killer as pretty girl after another is attacked, killed and dismembered in the snow! Some of that is graphic and a bit gory, but never very far from humorous too. The music is often playful in the background, adding to the 'light' tone amongst the mayhem.

It's all good fun anyway, nice and short and a good late night one with a beer or two. I'm sure that the late, great Robert Forster could have had a better swan-song than this, but it was nice to see him one more time even if only for short bursts, filming when he was 78.

Give it a look with your tongue in cheek. Now streaming in various places.

Monday, 4 January 2021

The Secrets We Keep

A film set in 1950’s small-town USA where a Romanian Nazi camp survivor has made herself a new life with American husband and now with small a boy. She spots someone in the neighbourhood who she is sure was a Nazi and had abused her during the war and killed her sister. She is so convinced, that she kidnaps, terrorises, interrogates and abuses him in order to get him to ‘tell the truth’ about who he is and was back then.

He denies everything and has a backstory which places him in Zurich during the war and he claims to be Swiss. But he could have made all that up and planned for this day by having a backstory. She is completely convinced of his guilt. Her husband gets dragged into the scene, wanting to support her but wavers, because she has actually never been truthful with him about her past.

So the terror and anxiety continue, the complete focus of the film, keeping the audience on the edge of their seat throughout. Was it him? Wasn’t it him? Has she been so screwed-up by her ordeals in the past that she just will see anything in her quest for justice and revenge? We get stuck into the action pretty quickly. Within 15 minutes of the film starting, she’s grabbed him and tied him up in the cellar.

Noomi Rapace plays a stunning part in this powerful drama with a phenomenally Oscar-worthy performance, depicting the terror from her past and anxiety of the present whilst battling with her nightmares and thirst for truth. Scene after scene she depicts this traumatic rollercoaster of emotion with everything she has.

Chris Messina (husband) and Joel Kinnaman (captive) support her with equally convincing performances as relatively unknown director Yuval Adler brings the very best out of the small cast. Rapace and Kinnaman also starred together in Child 44 which I reviewed in 2019. It’s a claustrophobic and intense thriller, beautifully acted with very interesting cinematography making use of thoughtful lighting and camera angles. The music is haunting throughout reminding me very much of the dungeon scenes in Silence of the Lambs.

There’s no suggestion that I can find that this is a true story, so I guess it’s not! A cracking film though written by the director and Ryan Covington and my best for 2020. Available via streaming services across Europe.

Thursday, 31 December 2020

PodHub UK Podcasts for December 2020

 

...a roundup of our month of podcasting. Links to the team, communities and podcast homes on the net at the foot, so scroll down!


Projector Room
Episode 76 - The Unhinged Chicken
Wednesday 2nd December 2020
Do join Gareth, Allan and I as we once again take our fortnightly look at film, cinema and TV. This time we consider a Danish delight, top animation from Japan, some crackers coming soon and a considered look at how much Contagion got right about pandemics in Private Screening.

Phones Show Chat
Saturday 5th December 2020
Steve and I are back with another helping of all things mobile phone. This time we're joined by Zachary Kew-Denniss to look at smartphone sizes across the last decade or so.

Tech Addicts
Sunday 6th December 2020
Gareth and I delve a little deeper into all things tech. Is the under-screen camera arriving at last? Perhaps three fat ladies are arriving with Qualcomm? YouTube and Maps tweaks, stocking-fillers aplenty and loads more, so do join us!

The Phones Show
Wednesday 9th December 2020
Join Steve for a festive filmed feast of all things mobile phone once more! Would your Top 5 have looked different? And that Samsung is looking like a corker!

Whatever Works
Episode 126 - Planet Spaced Out
Friday 11th December 2020
Aidan and I are back with our fortnightly selection-box of goodies as we dig deep into the ottoman of Whatever Works for us and you! Oodles of oddments including Maggie's Nut Cracker, a very smart watch and even a trip to the ISS for all!

Phones Show Chat
Saturday 12th December 2020
Steve and I are back again and we seem to be having a Samsung-flavoured couple of weeks. Lots of thoughts about that and much more, along with a topper Top 5 Phones.

Tech Addicts
Sunday 13th December 2020
Gareth and I delve a little deeper into all things tech. Fancy a fogged-up under-screen camera? Are Sony ever going to put a decent camera in their phones? Thoughts on Fuchsia and Kaleidoscope? What more could you want? Bargains from the basement? Oh, OK then! Do join us.

Projector Room
Episode 77 - Beyond Darkness
Wednesday 16th December 2020
Gareth, Allan and I are back again with our fortnightly roundup of what we've been watching on TV, in film and at the cinema. Loads of good stuff of course, with a Private Screening of The Hole in the Ground.

Phones Show Chat
Saturday 19th December 2020
Steve and I welcome Michael Warner back for (what should be) our cheerful xmas edition of the show! (Perhaps next year, eh!) We chat about all things mobile phone for an hour including some great device comparisons and views.

Tech Addicts
Sunday 20th December 2020
We're back again, so why not join us as Gareth and I have a crack at our first two-hour podcast together! (Spoiler: We didn't quite get there.) Plenty of tech chat as always including Google-bashing, Google-praising, retro and modern gaming galore, new apps and bargains that you might even get before Santa arrives if you move your arse/click-finger quickly! Enjoy.  Merry xmas from us both. Hic!

Whatever Works
Episode 127 - Yuletide Beans and Bread
Friday 25th December 2020
Festive cheer to one and all as Aidan and I bring you a seasonal sprinkling of all things that glitter! Specifically more of Whatever Works for us and you good folks who keep things going with us. So have a good time everyone and tune in, instead of sitting through another re-run of The Sound of Music!

Tech Addicts
Sunday 27th December 2020
We're back again, so why not join us as Gareth and I have another punt at getting ourselves lost in the wonderful world of tech! Plenty of tech chat as always including an even better iPhone camera, leaking the OnePlus 9 family and Galaxy Chromebook Lite, a tiger swimming in a lake devouring YouTube Kids and we hark back to the Magical Music Centre!

Phones Show Chat
Sunday 27th December 2020
Steve and I are back with a mid yule-new year catchup during which we chat about all things mobile phone. More on the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, tinkering with Lineage, Tasker and Android Recovery like it's 2010 again!

Projector Room
Episode 78 - Grumpy Old Maggie
Wednesday 30th December 2020
Gareth, Allan and I are back again with our fortnightly chew on the cud of all things film, cinema and TV. From a rather blue Betty to fire in the sky at midnight and much between!


The Podcasts
PodHubUK - Phones Show Chat - The Phones Show - Whatever Works - Chewing Gum for the Ears - Projector Room - Tech Addicts

The MeWe Community Groups (follow the links to join up)
Phones Show Chat & The Phones Show - Whatever Works - Chewing Gum for the Ears - Projector Room - PSC Photos - PSC Classifieds - Tech Addicts

The Team
Ted Salmon - Steve Litchfield - Aidan Bell - Gareth Myles - Allan Gildea

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Samsung Galaxy S20 FE

This cut-price mid-ranger pretending to be a flagship from Samsung is available in two flavours. Or three if you include the 4G Exynos version. Yes, a 5G SnapDragon unit or a 4G Exynos (or depending on your region) SnapDragon version. It feels like Samsung have raised to the challenge set down by the likes of Xiaomi and Oppo, hitting high specs but keeping the price down by shaving whiskers here and there. Is it any good?

The version we have here for review is the 5G SnapDragon one in blue. It's £699 SIM Free in the UK whilst the 4G version is £599. At the time of writing there's a £100 cash-back deal on the table from Samsung for either of these, so £499 and £599 respectively. For £50 more on both of these you can up the baseline 128GB storage to 256GB. It would seem that in the UK at least just now, direct from Samsung, if you want the SnapDragon chipset, you have to get the 5G version. But there are other outlets.

Anyway, on with the show and first physical impressions! Before you start, you might like to check out Steve Litchfield's video review in The Phones Show Episode 413 in which he puts this Samsung through its paces in the context of his December 2020 Top 5 Phones. The phone arrived in a simple box with charging brick, USB-A to USB-C cable, pokey-hole tool and no earphones or TPU case. Mean (on the case). In case you don't know, the 'FE' stands for Fan Edition, apparently. Which used to be applied to a phone back in the day with extra features on a phone release which fans would like - not a cheaper version like this of the S20, effectively an S20 Lite! But I guess the 'fans' might have simply been asking for less cost! Who knows.

One of the whiskers shaved has been the removal of a glass back and instead, plastic. Or glasstic as Samsung like to call it! They seem to think it's plastic pretending to be glass, but to me it seems more like plastic pretending to be aluminium. The cold touch is not there, but that's how it looks to me. Anyway, who cares? A TPU in place and every phone has a plastic back anyway! The frame is indeed aluminium which travels around the edges in a pleasing enough design arriving at the front, encasing the edges of a flat front panel. Another shave. But actually, there's a growing number of people (including myself) who are pretty fed up with curved displays anyway, so this shave they can have!

The phone is not as big as I feared it would be and sizes up closely in comparison with my Motorola One Zoom. It's not giant, like the 6.7/6.8" devices, but not dinky like a Pixel. It's thinner than the One Zoom but pretty much matches it otherwise. At 190g it's not the lightest, but for the size 'feels' light enough and has been certified IP6/8 for dust/water. The volume rocker and power buttons on the right side feel sturdy enough and a little 'clicky' in use. The left side is naked, up top is a SIM Card/microSD Tray and at the bottom, a speaker and USB-C data/charging port. The card tray on this unit is a Hybrid one which will take either 2 nanoSIM Cards or one, and a microSD.

On the back there's a big lump top-left (in portrait) acting as a camera island which sticks out a millimetre or so, but is flushed by the TPU I bought. The front of the phone is mostly glass screen with a small chin (good for swipes) and even smaller bezels left, right and top. Central and top is another speaker between the glass and the frame and just underneath it a nicely small selfie punch-hole.

The 6.5" Super AMOLED flat screen is, as you would expect, glorious to look at, bright, colourful, saturated and with manual overrides in Settings to adjust it however the user wants it to look. We've come to expect this with Samsung OLED screens and this is no exception. I did read in a spec-sheet somewhere that the brightness is around 400 nits but can go up to 800 in auto-brightness mode. Indoors, for me, it's perfectly good at 25% on the slider. There is another shaving here however, as this is a 1080p panel and not 1440p, though they have added a 120Hz refresh rate option (for those who can tell the difference). The ratio is 20:9 so you end up with about 400ppi. These shavings are insignificant for me at least - they've made the right choices.

Sticking with the screen for a moment, I should just mention that unlike some other flat-screened Samsung phones, they have included the Edge Lighting options here and they work very nicely. Completely customisable in settings it means that you can set the edges of the screen to play a merry dance with lighting when notifications come in, with what colours or theme you fancy applying. There's also Edge Panels to quick-access a huge bunch of apps and settings. This, along with the excellent similarly customisable Always on Display, means that the phone is available at all times for interaction with the user visually. Choice of clocks, colours, user-submitted Themes, calendar entries, battery information - it's all there and a delight to use.

In addition to this, I have the under-glass optical fingerprint scanner employed (which can be set to be always visible as a part of the AoD). This means that I can always see the target and full desk/table access to the device when I want to get in. I am finding it to be almost always reliable - just now and again it might miss for me, but second time is good. I'd go for 95% plus for first time. The registration is quick and easy, though it seems to be restricted to only three fingerprints instead of the 'standard' Android's 5. Supporting this entry is Face Unlock which is again, very quick (maybe a little too quick) to set up and register (though to be fair, tested with someone else's mug here, they don't get in). When it is looking for the face, there's a little lit animation around the selfie camera hole, then a swipe up and you're in. See *update, below for more on this.

It would be only fair to point out that at this point I'm approaching my so-called review from the angle of not wanting to use Samsung services (unless they are better than those supplied by Google, or that I actually would intend to use them because I prefer what they do over other apps/services which I'm used to). If you think that invalidates this as a 'proper' review, then do please move along and look at the thousand and one other appraisals which dig down into those areas.

*Update. During my time with the S20 FE it did receive Android 11 and One UI 3.0 (having already been on December 2020 Security). Well done Samsung. Only two months after Google released this for Pixel phones and evidence of their seriousness about prompt, regular and long-lasting OS and Security Updates. The changes from prior are mostly cosmetic, tweaks and improvements in the UI, most of which seem to be for the better. I'm going to link to an AndroidPolice Article here as they drill through the nitty-gritty of the changes. The big one for me will be coming with One UI 3.1 apparently, when Samsung are joining most others (including Xiaomi recently) offering the user the Google Feed/Discovery option to the left of the Home Screen instead of their own Samsung Daily aggregator or nothing. I have noticed a slight increase in speed when using the fingerprint scanner and a slight decrease in standby battery performance (which no doubt they will optimise in time).

Speaking of which, the phone has a 4,500mAh battery and before this update the performance was very good, even having to drive that amazing screen. I recorded 2 hours and 15 minutes on my 10% screen-on reading test and there's absolutely no problem getting to bedtime even after a heavy day of use. Light to moderate use and we're heading for two days. There's 25W charging out of the box with the charger, 15W Qi Charging and even a 4.5W Reverse Wireless Charging to charge depleted earphones or to help out a friend with a flat phone battery. That might seem a little light compared to others but on testing here it works perfectly well for those eventualities. I have no complaints about the battery or charging performance. Another (near) flagship box ticked.

As I said earlier, this review unit is the 5G version with a SnapDragon 865 chipset, but the 4G version is also available in some markets with an Exynos 990. As I have said before, maybe I don't push phones hard enough but when comparing these against each other in the past (which I was able to with the S10e and S10) I really saw no noticeable difference. I know that Samsung get some bad press for their Exynos chipsets but they're certainly sticking with it, having recently announced the 2100. On testing with car racing games here, there's never a jitter - smooth as silk. This unit has 8GB RAM and 128GB Storage but there is a 256/8 available as well as the 128/6. Check specs from retailers before buying. All this supported by a microSD Card slot - well done Samsung - and it's playing very nicely with my 512GB microSD. My SanDisk Extreme 2TB SSD plugged into the USB-C socket reads and writes more than fast enough for me (and against other tested phones) and HDMI-Out to send media to a TV or monitor by cable works perfectly.

DeX is also present and when I plugged the phone into my PC I was instantly invited to download and install the supporting Windows DeX software which was then available to control all aspects of the phone, pretty much. Apps in windows on the big screen, pass-through notifications and services, use the phone's screen as a track-pad if you like, all the bells and whistles we've come to expect with this clever stuff. Like Bixby and Exynos, they're sticking with this system and others are slowly following along with their own versions. Genuinely useful for those stuck in a hotel room and able to use a TV screen to get productive or enjoy media for leisure.

The software experience is a mixed bag. Great that Samsung now give the new user the option to not install a load of their apps by unticking boxes and great that Google have now placed even more of their basic apps into the Play Store (including even Phone, Calendar, Contacts, Clock) so people who, like me, are not interested in the Samsung versions can stick with the Vanilla ones. Bad that there remains some bloat - again, I don't get why they need to do a deal with FaceBook or LinkedIn. Surely people can go and install them if they want them. The list of stuff which are installed and you can't do anything but hide include AR Zone, Bixby, Calendar, Clock, Contacts, Galaxy Store, Gallery, Game Launcher, Messages, Phone and Smart Switch. I guess some people won't care if they use the Samsung versions of some/all of these - some may even prefer them, but as I said earlier, that's not how I'm approaching this. The apps can be hidden in the (forced to only scroll sideways) App Drawer or bundled off into a folder. What I will give them, is that they have cleaned up the 'nags' which used to blight the experience for those choosing not to use Samsung apps. In my time here, I've not seen a single one I don't think.

I give a pass to Samsung's Music and Video Apps, but that's probably for old-fashioned reasons - and that the Pixel ones are a bit rubbish! You know where you are with these and you have system-wide direct links to Dolby and a Lock Screen echo, for example. There's also a bunch of settings to play with in terms of playback and smart library management. Probably no better than installing VLC or the like, but I find them pleasing to use and good additions.

The One UI is generally pleasing to use with smart help throughout. The Settings take some getting used to when coming from Vanilla, but at least there's a good Search facility. The Notification area is clean and well arranged with loads of genuinely helpful additions including a Power-Off button in case you want to assign the physical one to something else. What Samsung also do very well is to pack the Settings full of useful additions, tools, optimisation features, tweaks to pretty much any setting you might want to change or check - and if you want to do something that it can't then Bixby Routines will fill the gap (in a Tasker type way). Bells and whistles throughout and tons of stuff to play with! Some of the stuff might not be arranged quite as I'd like it but you have to hand it to Samsung that the customisability is exhaustive with a plethora of options at every turn.

I decided to test the speakers' output with the Pixel 3 which I have here and I contend is probably pretty much up there with the best (laying aside specialist phones) and with 'proper' stereo. I say proper, because this Samsung like many, many other phones are not coming with two front-firing traditional stereo speakers but rather one bottom/down-firing and the other making use of the phone's telephone earpiece speaker. If you play some music and put the top speaker up to the ear it does sound tinny and rubbish. Try that with the Pixel 3 and you get the full left channel of the stereo. Having said that, these speakers are 'tuned by AKG' to counter these limitations and sure enough, they've done very well. Move the phone to 12/18" in front of the face and stereo effect can't be faulted. It sounds just the same as the 'proper' ones on the Pixel. Very impressive in audio and video with various 'surround' tests.

Having established that we're alright with that, to the volume and quality. In order to keep the playing field level I start by turning the Samsung's Dolby off. This done and the Pixel 3 just about wins it on quality, tone, richness, depth, whatever you want to call it - but the Samsung is louder. Maybe not surprising as it's physically bigger and the sound (presumably) has more space to move around the device. However, turn on the Dolby (using Auto, not Movie/Music/Voice) and the Samsung shifts up a gear in volume and quality leaving the Pixel in its wake. A nicer, richer, louder sound. The sound coming from both of these phones is fabulous, to be fair and I'm nit-picking of course. All but the serious audiophile would be more than pleased with the sound, loud enough to fill a lounge-sized room - perhaps not a noisy party though!

When that's needed, you can turn to bluetooth and grab a speaker or 12! Bluetooth 5.0 is on display here and the hook-up to equipment is quick and easy - pairing very fast and with the ability to hold onto a signal over good distances. Dual Audio enables connection to multiple devices, simply and quickly - works very well, sending the same sound out to multiple devices. There's no 3.5mm audio-out socket here sadly but the sound across bluetooth is very good indeed, 32-bit/384kHz audio Tuned by AKGas always depending on paired equipment. I have tried that with two or three dongles/adapters to 3.5mm I have here and the output depends on the electronics in the dongle/adapter so as expected, the best booming sound which blows my head off is the Razer Phone's dongle - but it's also really not half bad using a cheaper and presumably less able one. With all of these, turn on Dolby and the sound is enhanced in every way - at least to my ears it is.

Connectivity via the usual routes as tested here is excellent, though I don't have any 5G to check that. 4G cellular appears to be strong with voice calls and data in my neck of the woods as does GPS locking and tracking onto maps and weather apps etc. The WiFi hooks up to the two broadbands at my disposal just now cleanly and holds onto the connection well (as does it my MiFi). NFC is present and although I can't test Google (or Samsung) Pay just now because of lockdown, the pairing between devices is quick and reliable.

As usual, I'm going to refer you to Steve's appraisal of the camera options in this phone, where he assesses (in his video linked to above) the pros and cons of all things photographic here. But a quick run through the specs shows that we have a 
12MP f/1.8 (normal) shooter with OIS, an 8MP f/2.4 (telephoto) again with OIS offering 3x optical zoom, a 12MP f/2.2 123˚ (wide-angle), 4K@60fps gyro-EIS stabilised video recording and a 32MP f/2.2 Selfie, again with 4K@60fps, gyro-EIS stabilised video. I like very much the 30x zoom. It won't stand up to pixel-peeping but for the vast majority of people posting to social media, it will do absolutely fine (if you can hold it still enough) and the 3x optical zoom gives pretty near close-up shots. As with the rest of the phone the camera app is littered with options, clever AI stuff, Pro Mode, Night shot, fancy filters and super slo-mo. The world is your oyster in terms of having stuff to play with here - you won't get bored!

This is a super phone, no doubt about it. It feels like a flagship and is, really. Samsung have pitched the price absolutely right here. It has more capability of many phones costing more and certainly those from China challenging the sub-£400 range. There's very little to complain about and as long as the user is alright with the size of the phone and getting used to doing things the Samsung way, it will be a winner. If I was considering buying a phone for myself just now this would certainly be high up on my shortlist as, well, it just has everything. Oodles of capability, great fun to use and available in a bunch of colours. No longer do even the most demanding of users have to consider £1000+ flagships. Clever Samsung. Hope it pays off.

Friday, 11 December 2020

Pixel 5 - More Features Dropping

I've been using the Pixel 5 as my main phone with my primary SIM Card in it now for the last couple of months so thought it might be time to reassess where I'm at with it, pros and cons and thoughts of it as a long-term investment for someone on a contract. Is there enough here to keep the user happy for two years or more, I wondered. The short answer is a positive one!

People like us who switch between phones to review them regularly are often accused of not paying attention to one for long enough to assess it properly. There may be some truth in that and we often turn to our online community members to feed back as they find aspects to report on with their loved devices as time goes on - and we're onto the next thing. I hope to be able to hang onto this one so that I can report back much more as we move forward with Google.

You know what you're getting with a Pixel to some degree. Firstly, and possibly most importantly, very prompt updates of the Android OS and Security Patches and a pure Vanilla Android experience (at least as Google intended it to be for Pixel users with their own additions). The same purity that iPhone users expect from Apple, knowing where you are, what works and (laying aside blips and experiments) as it should work. Users are also in at the nub-end with Google as they roll out new features and apps, giving the Pixel user a feeling of being a part of some sort of permanent Beta.

It is precisely because of the above that others can be unhappy. Many want the flavours of Android that their favourite manufacturer has applied over the base-line. Many, and with fair points, are able to enjoy different and in some cases, better hardware attributes such as Samsung with DeX and HDMI-Out, fancy Always on Display options, better speakers, different camera options and so forth. As always, users have a choice - which was always going to be as a direct result of Google enabling anyone who fancies it running with Android and doing what they like with it. In recent times, some of that has been locked down more (usually in the name of security) but certainly there is still huge scope for manufacturers to do their own thing.

Google made some different decisions in 2020 in terms of the direction of their hardware rollout, focusing on (in some respects) mid-range specs, pricing options and hardware elements. The boundary-pushing of the 2019 Pixel 4 range with Soli Radar and FaceID were shelved for now (maybe to make a reappearance sometime) and instead, a more pragmatic approach to three models. I have reviewed the £349 Pixel 4a and £499 Pixel 4a 5G and compared the £599 Pixel 5 with my Pixel 3 as well, the latter being my daily phone up until a couple of months ago.

I think that this has been a hit, providing something-for-many across three price-tiers and giving people a less expensive way into the Pixel line of phones. More people who can enjoy all the above, as well as Google's Feature-Drop every quarter giving them a look at what the latest features are and what's being worked on. As I said above, sometimes that may feel like a test-bed, but many of us enjoy that. The December 2020 Security Update came along with an interesting Feature Drop which included 
Adaptive Sound using the phone's microphones to assess the acoustics nearby and adjusting the output to make the most of the speakers, Adaptive Connectivity to save battery by automatically switching between 4G & 5G auto-decided on what you're needing at the time, Adaptive Charging which protects the health of the battery by deciding how much to charge, at what rate and when based on learned usage patterns, Hold for Me call-waiting (USA Only for now) which manages your place in a queue for you and lets you know when you're at the front and Extreme Battery Saver shutting stuff down to keep the phone alive as long as possible when battery is very low.

There's some 3D mapping stuff which improves GPS in certain cities (again USA only for now), the fabulous Now Playing can now export songs from the list to a YouTube Music playlist, Google Duo screen sharing is supposed to work but it may also be USA Only for now as we can't seem to get it to work in the UK - and a load of other stuff less visibly significant. Some of these features were already on the 5, 4a 5G and 4a, some are new to the Pixel 3 and 4 range as they filter down. It's all great fun to play with new toys and admirable that Google are enabling new features as far back down the line as they can, taking into account hardware limitations.

I continue to be very impressed with the battery life of the Pixel 5. It's the best performing battery on any Pixel yet - and not far off being the best performing battery of any phone yet! I've tested many, many phones over the years and laying aside specialist units (mainly from the far-east) and Moto Mods, it really is a leader. I continue to be very impressed with the speakers output, regardless of the under-glass unit making up the 'left' stereo channel. Held away from the head, yes alright, the stereo effect is minimal, but the overall sound output is more than good enough and not that far behind the more traditional speakers setup of the Pixel 3/4.

The capacitive rear-mounted fingerprint scanner continues to impress me and I will happily trade in the loss of access on desktop for the quick, easy and reliable 'old fashioned' method. Until under-glass scanners are significantly better than they are now, this remains a winner. Under the bonnet, the chipset may not be flagship level, but it seems fast enough to me in ongoing use. I never experience any slowdown over the time I have been using this phone and task switching feels delightful, supported by the 8GB RAM. The screen is bright and colourful, always-on-display great and for those who can see it, that 90Hz refresh rate. All come together to make this a great little phone. One could argue a phone-sized-phone kicking against the pricks of the giant phones trend which seems to be littering the phone world just now. It's beautifully made with that aluminium back and pebble-like curves but unlike many, retaining a flat screen. It has my vote!

I would still like a microSD Card slot personally, but I know that Google are trying to get us all to live online and in the cloud. I get that, but I'd still like it! Second best is the increase of the baseline models from 64GB storage to 128, so I guess that's something. The camera remains class leading (pretty much) because of the partnership in photography with smart software and results defy the specs of the hardware. Nobody can complain really except those who would rather have a telephoto than wide-angle. On the other hand, cropping in on images to attain closer views is handled so well in software that again, it's hard to complain.

It's an excellent phone and will continue to hold my SIM Card as long as I have it. It's not quite the perfect phone, but I doubt that we'll ever see that! It comes a very close second for me, topped off with Qi Charging with Reverse too and that excellent 2/3 day battery. I hope to be able to continue to report back on the evolution of the Pixel line as monthly updates and quarterly feature-drops roll out. I'll do that for as long as I am able and report back my findings at each stage along the way with Steve Litchfield in The Phones Show and our Phones Show Chat podcast.

For now, I'm probably recommending this phone as my absolute No.1 device certainly for 2020 and possibly, for me at least, of all time! With all that richness of updates from Google, three years of support, going back to my original question, there's no phone that I would rather recommend to anyone entering even a long phone contract.

Monday, 7 December 2020

Sony XDR-S41D Portable DAB/DAB+ Radio

I got this cute little radio a couple of years back and forgot to share the news with you! It's been doing sterling service as a kitchen companion ever since and performing very well. I love this 'eggshell' kind of blue colour, though it is available in others.

The reason that it's a 'kitchen' radio is that in some ways it's pretty basic, mono, no control over tone, but actually the sound is pretty well tuned and top volume doesn't distort or lose the pleasant tone it has. It's not bass-rich, but this is not a party sound blaster! However, what it does, it does well.

The box provides a proprietary Sony charger with a surprisingly long cable, about 10 feet, but it certainly would have been better with a universal charging solution like USB-C (or even microUSB) like the Sony XDR-P1DBP which I reviewed in the summer of 2018. I guess that's about size - and the fact that the latter has a rechargeable battery on-board. This unit relies rather on the AC cable or alternatively 4 'AA' batteries, excellent for those who do wish to travel of course as they're available so widely. I have tested a fresh set of 'AA' alkaline batteries and on medium volume and DAB it went on for about 24 hours, so intermittent use a couple of hours a day and presumably two or three weeks. Perhaps a bit longer on FM.

The radio has DAB and DAB+ (for those locations which can use it) along with FM. The radio being tested in North Wales performs very well with signal on DAB (inside and out) and FM (stronger outside) but your mileage will vary on location. There are 5 Pre-Set buttons on the top panel which can be assigned to stations, 5 for DAB and 5 for FM. The buttons are 'clicky' and feel like good quality with shallow-travel. Next to these on the left is the power button, with similar quality. At the other end of the top plate is a volume control which spins (endlessly) and is shaped nicely in keeping with the curves of the design throughout.

The aerial extends telescopically out by about 2 feet and tucks away into a clip on the back when not needed. Depending on location, you may or may not need the aerial at all. It almost works here without but not quite! On the back is the sizeable battery cover which is on a pivot (so can't get lost unless you break it off). The unit is about a inch fat so feels pretty sturdy in terms of not toppling over.

On the right side is the port for the aforementioned charger next to a 3.5mm audio-out socket which produces stereo for headphones or earphones. Testing here with reference headphones the output is good enough for quality but not terribly loud. I'm guessing that most people using this facility are likely to be using it to listen to football commentary, not expecting to blow their ears off with their favourite album! There's no bluetooth in or out on offer here. Another good reason why it feels like - and is employed here as - a simple kitchen radio.

Exactly the same as the little brother, mentioned above, on the front there is an Auto Tune button, which scans for stations, large buttons for DAB/FM switching, Back (in Menus), a navigating/enter rocker and Menu. The Menu button moves you into all the Settings including Sleep Timer, Time setting, Station Information, Pre-sets etc. The LCD screen lights up for about 30 seconds after last input (or can be set to 'always on') and the screen echoes information about what you're listening to and whatever data the broadcast is carrying along with a battery-state icon. Clearly the same LCD panel and control-cluster. Works well.

So yes, a cute little kitchen radio, very capable sound output for that purpose, the usual Sony quality throughout, nice, thoughtful design and functional. You pay a bit more for Sony stuff, as we know. There are cheaper options out there of course, with similar functionality but I'm a sucker for Sony and think it is worth paying a bit extra. Recommended for use in the right place, for the right purpose. This is currently £58 at AmazonUK. Please use this link if you want to buy one as I get a few pennies from AmazonUK if you do so. Thanks.

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

PodHub UK Podcasts for November 2020

...a roundup of our month of podcasting. Links to the team, communities and podcast homes on the net at the foot, so scroll down!


Tech Addicts
Sunday 1st November 2020
Gareth and I delve a little deeper into all things tech. Do you think the bend and the fold is inevitable? How about wrap-around camera design? Maybe a fancy new Canon Monocular Camera is up your street? If not, just have a Golden Weekend! It's all here and much more - do join us!

Phones Show Chat
Tuesday 3rd November 2020
Steve and I take a further look at the Pixel 5 in the context of the 4a and 4a 5G whilst we continue to decide which fits the bill best!

Projector Room
Episode 74 - Scotland Forever
Wednesday 4th November 2020
Gareth, Allan and I are back again with another of our fortnightly looks into what we and you have been watching in film, cinema and TV. This time we see the shine in Shane and care for My Zoe - but more importantly mark the extraordinary career of Sean Connery.

The Phones Show
Wednesday 4th November 2020
A terrific new Sony which fixes all the 1 mark ii's issues. And it's 'cheaper' and a lot smaller in the hand. What's not to like? Join Steve as he takes a look at the latest Sony offering.

Phones Show Chat
Saturday 7th November 2020
Steve and I welcome back Tim Evans to chat about his devices of choice just now - from Folds to Apples and back, while we also consider the latest Sony and loads of other great stuff.

Tech Addicts
Sunday 8th November 2020
Gareth and I delve a little deeper into all things tech. Fancy a BIG Moto? A vacuum cleaner for railway enthusiasts? How about getting Android (or Google) to Go? It's all here and much more - do join us!

Phones Show Chat
Tuesday 10th November 2020
Steve and I are back for a short midweek catch-up as we tidy up the loose ends with the new-improved Fairphone offering, look forward to a new-look OnePlus Nord and the bigger-and-better iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Whatever Works
Episode 124 - Whatever Works, Works!
Friday 13th November 2020
The first of our All New Whatever Works shows! So join Aidan and I as we warble on for an hour about Whatever Works and throw in something that may have been Better Before!

Phones Show Chat
Saturday 14th November 2020
Do join Steve and I again as we welcome back wind-swept Torquay adventurer Dan Carter to catch up with where he is at - and what devices he's been reviewing, liking and not!

Tech Addicts
Sunday 15th November 2020
Gareth and I delve a little deeper into all things tech. Want to know what might be coming from Sammy? Or if Honor really is for sale this time? Perhaps a Nokia feature phone? It's all here and much more - do join us!

Phones Show Chat
Tuesday 17th November 2020
Steve and I are back with a short'n'sweet midweek catchup during which we look at the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE specs, hear about how people are getting on the the new iPhones and consider how we all view photos differently.

Projector Room
Episode 75 - DNA Liberator
Wednesday 18th November 2020
Do join Gareth, Allan and I as we once again take a peek at all things film, cinema and TV. We seek the truth on DNA, freak out in castles and much more - from your team of Ladykillers!

The Phones Show
Join Steve as he takes a close look at the biggest, baddest, highest concentration of tech in an iPhone... ever. So how does it stack up across the board and would he recommend it? Tune in to find out.

Phones Show Chat
Episode 611 - Parallel Options
Saturday 21st November 2020
Michael Hell is guest of honour this week joining Steve and I as we dip, once again, into the depths of all things mobile phone. Xperia coverage draws to a close for now, huge iPhones remain centre-stage and we look forward to a Galaxy of options.

Tech Addicts
Sunday 22nd November 2020
Gareth and I delve a little deeper into all things tech. Fancy a Chromebox or Samsung Smart Monitor to challenge Windows? Find out about the future of pocket computing with Oppo? Or settle for a Virginal rant about Stadia!

Phones Show Chat
Episode 612 - A POCO Sort of Day
Tuesday 24th November 2020
Steve and I are back again with a midweek catch-up as we look at the growing number of value (and well specified) phones coming out from China, whilst continuing to appreciate the flagships too, of course!

Whatever Works
Episode 125 - The Silicone Nipple
Friday 27th November 2020
Aidan and I are back with our fortnightly box of goodies as we dip into the potpourri of Whatever Works for us and you! From paper stools to rhubarb gin, bath mats, chairs and filters!

Phones Show Chat
Saturday 28th November 2020
Steve and I are back again for our weekend show and this time we welcome back Juan Carlos Bagnell of SomeGadgetGuy fame! We chat about all sorts of mobile stuff and announce the winner of Photo of the Month in a show with flow!

Tech Addicts
Sunday 29th November 2020
Gareth and I delve a little deeper into all things tech. Bargain Chinese phones, staggeringly expensive cameras pushing tech boundaries, leather laptops - or perhaps come play a Game, Boy!


The Podcasts
PodHubUK - Phones Show Chat - The Phones Show - Whatever Works - Chewing Gum for the Ears - Projector Room - Tech Addicts - Better Before

The MeWe Community Groups (follow the links to join up)
Phones Show Chat & The Phones Show - Whatever Works - Chewing Gum for the Ears - Projector Room - PSC Photos - PSC Classifieds - Tech Addicts

The Team
Ted Salmon - Steve Litchfield - Aidan Bell - Dave Rich - Gareth Myles - Allan Gildea

The Wolf of Snow Hollow

It wasn't until I was 20 minutes into this that I realised that it was supposed to be comic! Penny dropped! Sure enough IMDb classifies ...