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    Parallels Launch Access 3.0

    By normal, in News,

    You may remember that we spent some time reviewing Parallels Desktop and Access last year and were suitably impressed. Well, it's come to that time of year and they've upgraded their remote desktop programme.....

    Here's a quick reminder video of what it looks like:
    Here's some information from Parallels on the latest new features:
    As it says, there's a two week free trial, so it's definitely worth a go. We found it the best way to access your desktop from a mobile / tablet.

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    TVs are getting thinner and thinner, and yet sound still has to come from somewhere. This means built in speakers are often disappointing and helps explain why soundbar speakers are becoming increasingly popular. Not only are they living room / partner friendly, but also can add a great depth of sound to match the big pictures on modern televisions.

    Yamaha was one of the pioneers in this field, and have a fine pedigree, so what is the YSP-2500 sound projector like?

    The first thing to note is that whilst many cheaper soundbars provide basic stereo sound, the YSP-2500 creates a 7.1 surround sound effect. How? It has sixteen small speakers hidden behind it’s front grill, which bounce beams of sound off the walls of your living room to create the surround effect. It also comes with a wireless subwoofer to add bass to your experience.

    Features & Specification
    Alongside the surround sound and wireless subwoofer already mentioned, the YSP-2500 has 3 HDMI inputs (and one output), two digital optical inputs, one digital coaxial input, and even a socket to add an additional / alternative subwoofer. The HDMI sockets are 2.0 / ARC and allow you to pass through 4K and 3D video, as well have being able to be controlled by your TV remote. Which is just as well as the remote is very dull. If you do need to control setup or the advanced features such as sound modes, then there’s also a very handy app available for iOS and Android which works well and is really easy to use.
    Other than that, the soundbar supports a host of surround sound formats and also has bluetooth aptX to stream high definition audio from your phone.

    Build
    Taking it out of the box, the first thing you notice is that it’s a lot bigger than you expect if you’ve been looking at supermarket soundbars. Saying that, it’s still surprisingly small compared to other high end sounders, and less likely to block IR sensors on your TV. As an added bonus, the large feet on the bottom of the speaker are removable and can be replaced by small feet, making it shorter still. It also comes with a very handy, easy to use template too if you’d like to wall mount it.
    Length wise, this YSP-2500 is suited to being used with larger TV’s. Whilst you can start using it with 50” screens, I’d personally recommend using it with 55”+ size screens purely from an aesthetic point of view.

    The speaker itself is solidly built and has a nice, premium finish. To the left of the front, it has simple display which tells you which inputs are selected and the volume. There’s a couple of input selector and volume buttons on the top, two discrete sockets on the front for headphones and the set-up mic, and everything else is behind.
    The wireless subwoofer still needs to be plugged into the mains, but otherwise you're free to position it where you like in your living room, and it isn't bad looking either. It’s slim and can be positioned either standing, or lying flat, which makes it even more flexible.

    Performance
    First thing to note is that set up is really super duper easy. You plug in the mic which is included, plop in on a cardboard stand which comes with it, put that in the viewing position. Tell it to start, leave the room, and come back 3 minutes later after it’s made a variety of strange noises. That’s it. Yamaha really are very good at auto set up on all their AV gear.
    Coming back to it’s performance. If you’ve never used external speakers before, you’ll immediately be left wondering why not. It’s a night and day experience compared to any TV’s built in speakers. Everything sounds 1000% better. The subwoofer also works seamlessly with the main speaker to create the missing depth, and there’s a general improved ‘ambience’ to the sound. If you’re used to a decent separates system, and speakers, then you’ll still be surprised that you’re not sacrificing much. It’s only if you’re used to higher end equipment, that you’ll notice a drop in sound quality.
    The one thing everyone’s asked me is, does the surround sound work? I’m afraid it’s a bit of a yes / no answer. I’m used to using a 5.1 speaker set up and no matter how clever Yamaha is in bouncing sound beams off walls, it’s not as good as the real thing. Saying that, it gives a pretty good go. Whilst some people were amazed by the surround sound effects of the YSP-2500, I personally felt it didn’t give the same directness of a 5.1 speaker system, but did create and enveloping sound scape which did bring you into what you were watching. That may partially be down to the lay out of my living room, which has a number of curtains which reduce the amount of surfaces sound can be bounced off. Sound doesn’t bounce off soft furnishing or windows that well compared to walls, and it’s worth noting for all similar soundbars if you’re exploring such an option. One other factor to consider is the size of your living room. This will work excellently with your average size living room, but starts to lose its potency in large rooms.
    I really enjoyed watching a variety of films and programmes. The star of the show was the subwoofer, which was well balanced and had good control over the sound. It’s musical performance though is best described as pleasant. Although you can improve the overall sound of music being streamed from your phone, by adjusting the direction of the sound beams, I found that some sounds in the music sometimes went ‘missing’ so I wouldn’t recommend trying it. Otherwise, whilst not as good as a dedicated pair of stereo speakers, if you simply want to play music, and not worry about the fidelity of it, then the YSP-2500 does a decent job playing music and doesn’t draw any attention to any shortcomings.

    Summary
    The Yamaha YSP-2500 is both attractive and well built. It has a great list of features, but part of me was wishing it also had built in streaming services such as Spotify/ Deezer / Google Play etc. It wasn’t a significant niggle, as I could still stream music from my phone, but would become an issue if I received calls etc.
    At £700, this isn’t a cheap option. I know plenty of people who wouldn’t spend that on their TV. What this is is an excellent option for people who want to enjoy their TV viewing by improving the audio experience, without cluttering up the living room with extra boxes and cables. At a push, I could probably buy a better sounding separates system for the same price, but it lacks the simplicity and elegance of the YSP-2500, and therefore it still makes an excellent choice.

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    For those who don't know, I love juicing. I have at least one large homemade fruit and vegetable juice every day. I was naturally excited to be able to review Philips latest generation of juicer. So what is it like?

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    Well. Here's a video!

    It's currently selling for £100 on Amazon. If you don't have a good juicer yet, I'd highly recommend this, just don't believe Philips marketing about super easy cleaning system.

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    Following on from last month's launch of new affordable receivers, Yamaha is following it up with the launch of their new high end Aventage range, with prices starting at just £550.

    Here's a press release from Yamaha:

    These should be available from approximately August/September. The RX-A550 will be £550, RX-A850 £900, RX-A1050 £1000, RX-A2050 £1500, RX-A3050 £2000.

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    It's no secret that the digital compact camera is suffering a slow death as more and more people use their mobile phones to take snaps. It's fair to say that many top end mobiles can take better photos than the compact cameras they're replacing.

    The top end of digital compacts do continue to prosper though, offering a combination of bigger sensors, better lenses and faster auto-focus which entice enthusiasts and professionals alike. That's why we're excited that Sony has launched two new RX series cameras.

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    It's hard to know how Sony could improve on previous generations of RX cameras as they were already providing class leading photos. With that in mind, Sony has decided to focus on videography this time so that the new cameras' video skills match their photo skills.
    Here's Sony's press release about the new RX100 IV and RX10 II:


    It's also worth noting that Sony has improved on already one of the best cameras in the world by launching the new Alpha7R II. Here's their press release:

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    Yamaha were pioneers in creating the Soundbar long before they became a must have for many flat screen TV owners. Using that heritage, and dominance at the top end of the market, Yamaha have launched two new affordable soundbars.

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    The Yamaha YAS-105 hangs under your TV and connects via either optical , coaxial or 3.5mm jack inputs, as well as bluetooth.
    If you have your TV on a stand, then the Yamaha SRT-700 soundbase may be of interest. It sits directly under the TV and connects the same way. Both new products use Yamaha's latest AirSurround Xtreme technology to provide virtual surround sound without the need for calibration. If you do need to tinker, than Android and iOS apps are available.
    Both will be available shortly and the YAS-105 is £250 while the SRT-700 is £300. Both will offer a significant improvement in sound to almost any flat screen TV.

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    There's a lot of talk about smart homes and controlling your heating, but little mention of cooling. Given summer's (finally) coming, Tado have made a timely announcement about launching the first device to make any air conditioning smart.

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    Here's their press release:
    Here's a video if you'd like to see more


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    There used to be a time when having a computer in you pocket was a euphemism for a mobile phone. These days you really can have pocket size desktop computers which fit in your pocket.

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    The Dell Inspiron Micro Desktop is the size of a burger box, and contains an Intel Celeron processor, 2GB RAM, 32GB storage , has dual band 802.11ac Wifi, Bluetooth 4.0, HDMI Socket, 3 USB (1 USB 3) sockets, ethernet socket, SD card reader and Windows 8.1!
    All in all, it's a pretty good package for most day to day usage and can be connected to any modern TV/ Monitor. Carry around a nice portable keypad and you've got mobile computing all for just £199.

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    In February of this year, BQ, the European technology company, launched the Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition, the world´s first smartphone featuring the Ubuntu operating system.

    This latest model, the Aquaris E5 HD Ubuntu Edition, marks the second handset collaboration between Canonical and BQ; now working together on the launch of a convergent device.

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    Here's their press release:
    We hope to actually see one soon, as we've yet to see an Ubuntu phone in the wild.