Category Archives: review

Babyface Pro FS Review



The Babyface Pro FS is one of the most powerful audio recording tools that I have seen in a long time. The Babyface Pro FS is a professional 24-Channel, USB bus-powered audio interface with pristine sound quality that can be used in the studio or throw it in a backpack and head out to do a remote interview. Podcasters should take note that this device does everything and more that you will need with the ability to bring in a guest on any online platform that you use like Skype or Zoom while controlling all levels of all parties and multi-track recording with the simple to use control interface.

While you have the option in using the included software which I recommend to set up and save your configuration you are able to configure and control nearly all inputs through the device itself. It will interface directly with your computer PC or Mac through the included USB cable and or you can connect it directly to your iPad and control it TotalMix FX for iPad™ then record directly on your iPad although using it with your iPad you will need an external power supply for the interface. External power is not needed when you are connected to your laptop.

The interface setup software is provided is called RME TotalMix FX is at first was a little intimidating but once you take a few minutes with the software to learn inputs, output the power to control what goes where is pretty awesome. The team at RME has some great beginner to advanced videos on YouTube that really show the power of this device. While a lot of their focus on this device is for musicians. The form factor and the simple fact that you can route in a Skype or Zoom call and record separate tracks on your favorite recording software is what I really love. Portability here is key and it will go with you without having to check luggage.

I was able to record multi-tracks with Adobe Audition and Himalaya very easily with two popular recording packages being used by podcasters today. With a skype call in progress all the while being able to ride the audio levels for two people on the mic in the studio.

A great general overview of the BabyFace Pro FS is below and as I said the team at RME has created a whole series of training videos. I also have a pre-set I can share with anyone that picks up one of these units to get you started fast with 2 hosts and an external guest coming in on Zoom or Skype.  While priced at $899 for me the simple fact that I do not need a pelican case to carry it around is awesome. They do provide a hard-case for the unit but again mobility is the key here.


OnePlus 8 Hands-On Review



True to form, OnePlus has announced its spring line up of smartphones, the OnePlus 8 and the OnePlus 8 Pro. Fortunately, I was sent a pair of review handsets and in this article, I’ll be going over the 8. While rumours still abound about a third lower level phone, the 8 remains the entry point into OnePlus’ range. I think it will be very popular as it shares many of the characteristics of its big brother but at a lower price. Let’s take a look…but first a word of warning. It’s really hard to write two completely different reviews for two very similar phones, so I’m going to admit right up front that some of the paragraphs are completely lifted from the review of the 8 Pro only with the detail changed for the 8. Sorry.

The 8 comes in rectangular box, bathed in the usual OnePlus red. Inside the box, the phone comes initially clothed in a slightly opaque covering. Once unwrapped, the frosted glass Glacial Green on the back becomes apparent. It’s lovely, both to look at and hold. There’s a slight matte texture to the rear glass so it’s not super slippy to hold (unlike my 6T), but you’re going need a case, and OnePlus kindly includes a transparent bumper case in the box too. In terms of colours, the Pro will offer two colour options in the UK. Onyx Black which will have 8 GB RAM and 128 GB storage, and Glacial Green with 12 GB RAM and 256 GB storage. A third colour, Interstellar Glow, will not available in the UK. I know the rear looks blue in the photos but that’s the way the back reflects light under different conditions.

Physically, the phone is 160.2 x 72.9 x 8.0 mm and weighs in at 180 g, so it’s slightly shorter and lighter than the 8 Pro, but these dimensions are very much in-line with previous generations of the phone, like the 6T. However, it’s a bigger screen for the same body size. Returning to the physical characteristics, it follows a similar layout to most OnePlus phones. USB-C 3.1 port on the bottom, volume controls on the left, power button on the right, alert slider on the right above power, cameras on the back. The SIM tray is at the bottom next to the USB port and supports two SIMS that are inserted back-to-back. A SIM ejection tool is included. There’s no audio socket and there hasn’t been for a couple of generations.

For the screen, the 8 has a lovely 90 Hz “fluid display”. It’s very fast, it’s clear and the colours look great. With a resolution of 2400 x 1080 pixels and a screen size of 6.34″/6.55″, it comes out as 402 ppi. I can’t see the dots unless I look really close. The screen has rounded edges, hence the two measurements for size. It’s an AMOLED screen with 3D Corning Gorilla Glass on top keeping it safe. Like the 8 Pro, the screen has the curved edges, but I think the curves are sharper on the 8, making it more like a traditional flat screen. There’s an in-display fingerprint sensor which is impressively fast – it’s noticeably quicker than the one on my 6T.

Under the hood, and just like the 8 Pro, there’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 CPU, paired with an Adreno 650 GPU. The RAM is LPDDR4 and storage is courtesy of UFS 3.0 at either 128 GB or 256 GB. 5G is provided by the X55 chipset and WiFi 6 is supported. Performance-wise, after three runs GeekBench 5 gave average scores of 915 single-core and 3385 multi-core which comfortably beat last year’s 7T. Bizarrely, the 8’s GeekBench 5 score actually beats the 8 Pro.  I don’t know why.

Unlike the 7 and 7T, the 8 doesn’t have a teardrop camera and instead has a discreet hole-punch 16 MP camera in the top left of the screen. Round the back, the 8 has three other cameras; a 2 MP macro camera, a 16 MP ultrawide with a 116 degree field of view and a 48 MP main camera. The front camera and main camera all use Sony sensors. The cameras do stick out the back by a couple of millimetres, so a case of some kind is going to be essential to avoid scratching. The camera app itself has been improved to take advantage of the cameras automatically and will sometimes suggest that a photo would be better taken in a different mode. If you want bokeh, the portrait mode does a good job blurring the background. The macro camera’s good fun and you can play with your children to capture some of those ever-popular mini-beasts. I was really impressed by the level of magnification that was possible with the 48 MP camera and the colours are good and true to life.

The two photos below were taken from the same spot at nearly the same time. The upper one is the ultrawide and middle one is the main camera without any magnification, and the lower one is the main camera with 2x magnification.

Unlike the 8 Pro, there’s no funky colour filter camera, but there are still some effects available within the app. Here’s my shed in “black and white”. Astute readers will notice that it’s been painted (cf 8 Pro review).

Inside the phone is a 4500 mAh battery which is only 10 mAh smaller than the 8 Pro. Hmm, I think there might be a little shenanigans there to make sure that the top-end phone has the bigger battery. In what I think of as ordinary use, I got the best part of two days out of a charge, but yes, game playing is still energy expensive. For charging, OnePlus’ Warp Charge 30T delivers 30W of power and will charge the 8 from 1% to 50% in 22 minutes – I’ve actually tested this and it’s true. A Warp Charge 30 charger and cable come in the box with the 8, so there’s nothing extra to buy.

The other new feature relates to battery longevity. The perceived wisdom is that keeping lithium-ion batteries at 100% is not optimal and that overtime the capacity of the battery degrades. The 8 now has a feature (undoubtedly powered by AI) where the phone uses behaviour patterns to predict when 100% charge is needed and to charge to hit the target. For example, if you plug the 8 in at night just before going to bed, it won’t start charging until say, 0530, knowing that you usually grab the phone while having breakfast at 0700.

Based on Android 10, OxygenOS has seen a few improvements here and there but retains its closeness to stock Android that is very much part of its appeal. The most obvious of these is dynamic backgrounds which swirl and morph when the phone is turned on or you swipe between launcher pages. It’s really fun. For lovers of dark modes, OnePlus has developed a new mode theme from the ground up. I’m not generally a dark mode user, but what I did see during testing looked good: I could be a convert.

Games play really well on the 8. I tried out Call of Duty, X-Plane and Galaxy on Fire for starters and they’re all great. The 8 includes “gaming mode” and “fnatic mode” which lets you tailor the gaming experience by devoting resources and blocking notifications when you’re in the zone, as it were. It’s a super smooth experience.

The only downside I’ve discovered to the 8 is with the pre-installed screen protector. First, it’s not as well installed as it is on the 8 Pro. On the Pro, I had to look really hard to find the edges of the screen protector; it’s just about seamless and there’s no cut-out for the camera. Whereas on the 8, it’s quite obvious, particularly round the hole-punch camera. And secondly, the screen protector on the 8 seems to be a perfect dust magnet! I didn’t have this problem with the 8 Pro and it’s very annoying.

Pricing-wise…

OnePlus 8
8 GB / 128 GB – US$699 / GB£599
12 GB / 256 GB – US$799 / GB£699
The OnePlus 8 series will be available SIM-free from OnePlus.com, John Lewis and Amazon from 0900 on 21 April, with all John Lewis purchases also coming with Bullets Wireless 2 headphones while stock lasts.

Overall, this is a seriously good phone at a good price and very much continues the progression of the standard OnePlus phones. It’s a premium-feeling phone, it looks fabulous, there’s no skimping on the performance and everything else like the screen and the cameras are within spitting distance of the 8 Pro. You get 5G, WiFi 6, fast charging and OxygenOS. Frankly, if it was my money and the choice was between an 8 at £599 and an 8 Pro at £799, I think I’d buy the 8 and keep the £200 change.

Thanks to OnePlus for supplying the 8 for review.


OnePlus 8 Pro Hands-On Review



OnePlus typically announces new models in the spring and the autumn, and despite Covid-19 this year is no different with the launch today (14th April)  of the OnePlus 8 and the flagship 8 Pro. Fortunately, I was sent a pair of review handsets and in this article, I’ll be going over the flagship edition, the 8 Pro. As will be seen shortly, the Pro has a couple of new features that bring OnePlus back to the top of its game. Let’s take a look.

The 8 Pro comes in rectangular box, bathed in the usual OnePlus red. Inside the box, the phone comes initially clothed in a slightly opaque covering. Once unwrapped, the frosted glass Glacial Green on the back becomes apparent. It’s lovely, both to look at and hold. There’s a slight matte texture to the rear glass so it’s not super slippy to hold (unlike my 6T), but you’re going need a case, and OnePlus kindly includes a transparent bumper case in the box too. In terms of colours, the Pro will offer two colour options in the UK. Onyx Black which will have 8 GB RAM and 128 GB storage, and Glacial Green with 12 GB RAM and 256 GB storage. A third colour, Ultramarine Blue, will not available in the UK. I know the rear looks blue in the photos but that’s the way the back reflects light under different conditions.

Physically, the phone is 165.3 x 74.4 x 8.5 mm and weighs in at 199 g, so it’s slightly taller than you might expect but this is reflected in the screen’s 19.8-to-9 aspect ration. More on the screen in a minute… Returning to the physical characteristics, it follows a similar layout to most OnePlus phones. USB-C port on the bottom, volume controls on the left, power button on the right, alert slider (yay!) on the right above power, cameras on the back. The SIM tray is at the bottom next to the USB port and supports two SIMS that are inserted back-to-back. A SIM ejection tool is included. There’s no audio socket and there hasn’t been for a couple of generations, but in an OnePlus first, the 8 Pro comes with an IP68 rating, meaning it will withstand water ingress at 1.5 m for 30 minutes. Perfect in case you have a little accident (but I didn’t test this).

For the screen, the 8 Pro has a gorgeous 120 Hz “fluid display” which scored the Best Smartphone Display accolade from DisplayMate, getting top scores in ten different areas. I can’t comment on that level of detail other than to say it’s pretty impressive. It’s very fast, it’s clear and the colours look fantastic. With a resolution of 3168 x 1440 pixels and a screen size of 6.55″/6.78″, it comes out as 513ppi. I can’t see the dots. The screen has rounded edges, hence the two measurements for size. It’s an AMOLED screen with 3D Corning Gorilla Glass on top keeping it safe. The display supports HDR giving blacker blacks and whiter whites, and the colour accuracy has been improved too with 10-bit colour representation. There’s an in-display fingerprint sensor which is impressively fast – it’s noticeably quicker than the one on my 6T.

Under the hood, there’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 CPU, paired with an Adreno 650 GPU. The RAM is LPDDR5 which is both faster (30%) and more energy-efficient (20%) than the previous generation. Storage is courtesy of UFS 3.0 at either 128 GB or 256 GB, though there are couple of new tricks to improve performance. 5G is courtesy of the X55 chipset and WiFi 6 is supported. Performance-wise, after three runs GeekBench 5 gave average scores of 893 single-core and 3302 multi-core which comfortably beat last year’s 7T.

Unlike previous the previous two Pros, the 8 doesn’t have a pop-up selfie camera and instead has a discreet hole-punch 16 MP camera in the top left of the screen. Round the back, the 8 Pro has four other cameras; a 8 MP 3x telephoto with OIS, a 48 MP ultrawide with a nearly 120 degree field of view, a 48 MP main camera and a 5 MP colour filter camera. The front camera, the ultrawide and main camera all use Sony sensors. The cameras do stick out the back by a couple of millimetres, so a case of some kind is going to be essential. The camera app itself has been improved to take advantage of the cameras automatically and will sometimes suggest that a photo would be better taken in a different mode. If you want bokeh, the portrait mode does a good job blurring the background. I was really impressed by the level of magnification that was possible – I took a photograph of a horse and could zoom in on my PC to see the individual eyelashes round her eyes.

For video, the 8 Pro uses both OIS and EIS together for smooth video, and a technology called 3-HDR which enhances lighting in video. It’s impressive especially when there’s a strong backlight.

The two photos below were taken from the same spot at nearly the same time. The upper one is the ultrawide, the middle is the main camera and lower one is the telephoto.

The colour filter camera lets you do funky things with the colours. I haven’t quite figured out all the settings but here’s my shed. Yes, it’s in need of paint, but the one on the left is colour enriched and on the right, it’s erm, different. Perfect for standing out on Instagram.

And in big (but pre-announced) news, the 8 Pro will support wireless charging. The Warp Charge 30 Wireless delivers 30W of power and will charge the 8 Pro from 0% to 50% in 30 minutes. I wasn’t able to test this as wireless chargers weren’t provided, but wired charging worked as specified, boosting the battery by 50% in 23 minutes. The wireless charging conforms to the Qi standard for 5W and 10W charging: I was able to use an old Zens wireless charger successfully on the 8 Pro but it does charge much more slowly! A Warp Charge 30 charger and cable come in the box with the 8 Pro.

Inside the phone is a 4510 mAh battery which gives absolutely oodles of power. In what I think of as ordinary use, I got the best part of two days out of a charge, but yes, game playing is still energy expensive. The other new feature relates to battery longevity. The perceived wisdom is that keeping lithium-ion batteries at 100% is not optimal and that overtime the capacity of the battery degrades. The 8 Pro now has a feature (undoubtedly powered by AI) where the phone uses behaviour patterns to predict when 100% charge is needed and to charge to hit the target. For example, if you plug the 8 Pro in at night just before going to bed, it won’t start charging until say, 0530, knowing that you usually grab the phone while having breakfast at 0700.

Based on Android 10, OxygenOS has seen a few improvements here and there but retains its closeness to stock Android that is very much part of its appeal. The most obvious of these is dynamic backgrounds which swirl and morph when the phone is turned on or you swipe between launcher pages. It’s really fun. There’s also motion estimate and motion compensation (MEMC) to smooth video playback on the 120 Hz screen. It’s intended to interpolate frames, and reduce motion blur and ghosting, when watching films and videos recorded at lower frame rates. The feature can be turned off, but Netflix looked and sounded great.

Games play really well on the 8 Pro. I tried out Call of Duty, X-Plane and Galaxy on Fire for starters and they’re all great. The 8 Pro includes “gaming mode” and “fnatic mode” which lets you tailor the gaming experience by devoting resources and blocking notifications when you’re in the zone, as it were. It’s a super smooth experience. In addition, Google Stadia is coming to the One Plus 8 Pro and other OnePlus phones.

Pricing-wise…

OnePlus 8 Pro
8 GB / 128 GB – US$899 / GB£799
12 GB / 256 GB – US$999 / GB£899
The OnePlus 8 series will be available SIM-free from OnePlus.com, John Lewis and Amazon from 0900 on 21 April, with all John Lewis purchases also coming with Bullets Wireless 2 headphones while stock lasts.

Overall, this is a flagship phone with premium materials and high-end features. The feel in the hand is lovely, the cameras are impressive, the display is gorgeous. And the new features like 5G, IP68 and wireless charging are all very welcome. I’m not going to pretend the 8 Pro is cheap, because it’s not, but you are buying a great phone.

Thanks to OnePlus for supplying the 8 Pro for review.


Good News for Roku Fans in UK



Roku’s had a busy news week (or two) and much of it will be of interest to UK Roku fans. It’s particularly serendipitous as we’re stuck inside avoiding the Coronavirus lurgy, so let’s get stuck in with the fun stuff.

First up, the free Roku Channel is now available to UK residents. It’s a free (ad supported) selection of movies and miniseries, with a couple of big(ish) Hollywood movies from a few years back. There’s a good Kids & Family selection with Teletubbies, In the Night Garden, Bob The Builder and Fireman Sam. Inevitably Ryan’s Adventures puts in an appearance too, along with a Minecraft selection. As I mentioned, it’s completely free so there’s nothing to lose in checking it out.

Next, StarzPlay has appeared in the channel list. It’s a subscription channel priced at £4.99 per month, but there is a free week to whet your appetite. Plenty of recognisable films here: The Hunger Games; Veronica Mars; Sex, Lies and Videotape; Terminal. In addition, a strong selection of series such as Heathers, Castle Rock and Leavenworth.

The House of Mouse drops in on Roku with Disney+. There’s not much more to say other than it’s pure, undiluted fun with the biggest names in cinema history – Disney, Star Wars (Lucas Film), Marvel and Pixar. Oh, and National Geographic’s in there too. I think I’m going to pony up for a subscription. (Sadly, Apple TV+ just doesn’t cut it, though the Roku app is beautiful.)

Finally, there’s an OS update coming soon, bouncing it up to 9.3. This brings a selection of enhancements, included improved performance, better voice search, integration with Amazon Alexa and Google Search, and there’s an updated Roku app.

I think the Roku is the best of the streaming sticks, particularly as it’s platform agnostic and not constantly trying to sell stuff. I’ve reviewed all the Rokus currently on the UK market so if you want to see what they’re like, have a look at these videos.

Roku Streaming Stick+

Roku Express and Premiere
(this is quite a long review!)


Pacum Sucks…And That’s a Good Thing



Master Space LogoBudget airlines have revolutionised air travel over the past few decades, and while the seats might be cheap, putting luggage in the hold can be pricey: I was recently on a trip where the ticket price trebled when hold baggage was added, so you really want to try and get everything into your hand luggage to get the cost down. Clothes can be bulky, though, and it’s difficult to get everything needed into a small trolley case.

Sitting on the bag in the hope of getting the zip done up isn’t the solution, but the Masterspace Pacum Travel Vacuum Compressor might be. It’s a personal vacuum packer, meaning the clothes go in an airtight bag before the air is sucked out by the Pacum, squeezing the garments down to a fraction of their size. That’s how you get more clothes in the trolley case. Let’s take a closer look.

Pacum vacuum compressor with accessoriesThe Pacum comes in a box which belies the diminutive size of the Pacum itself. Available in three colours; red, white and black, the Pacum is smaller than a 330 ml drinks can and is more rectangular than round. The actual dimensions are 86 x 43 x 43 mm and weighs in at 145 g. The Pacum looks good with features on three of the six surfaces. On the bottom are two rubberised air holes, one for vacuuming and one for inflation. On the top is a USB C port for powering the Pacum and on the side are three buttons for Eco, Super and Inflation modes.

In the box, there’s the Pacum itself, a 1 m USB C cable, a Pacum vacuum bag and adaptors for other vacuum bags, pool toys and sports balls, plus a small travel drawstring bag. To be clear, there is no USB charger supplied and, contrary to my first thoughts, there’s no battery in the Pacum either. It’s fully powered by the USB C port on the top, and a 2 A power supply is required, either from a mains charger or a battery pack. 1 A will not work and the Pacum will cut out with a flashing red light. Trust me on this.

Pacum on Bag Before CompressionReady to go on your holidays? Put the clothes you’re taking into the vacuum bag and arrange them to suit the available space in the luggage – you’ll not be able to do this afterwards. Close up the bag and make sure it’s properly sealed along the edge. Unscrew the cap in middle on the vacuum bag and then slip the Pacum over the nozzle. It uses the larger of the two air holes on the bottom so it’s hard to go wrong.

Assuming that the power cable is plugged in to suitable power source, pressing either of the two “minus” buttons (-) and (=) will start the Pacum up in either Eco or Super mode. Simplistically, Super sucks harder than Eco, although I can’t really see any good reason to use Eco mode. While sucking, the light on the Pacum flashes blue and it’ll go red if there’s not enough power being supplied to the device.

Pacum on Bag After CompressionUsing the supplied bag with a couple of t-shirts and jumper (that’s a sweater for those across the pond), it took about 90 seconds for the Pacum to evacuate all the air from the bag, resulting in a stiff but thin packet that uses a fraction of the original space. The two before and after pictures show the difference and you can watch my review video below.

The main purpose for Pacum is to remove air from vacuum bags, but that’s not its only trick. Inflating holiday pool toys usually involves much huffing and puffing, but Pacum will pump up the inflatables in no time. Use one of the three adaptors in the air outlet and press the Inflation (+) button. It would take awhile to inflate a large paddling pool but makes short work of rubber rings and footballs. The air outlet looks to be a standard size, so existing adaptors will likely work fine with the Pacum.

My only real gripe with the Pacum is that the supplied USB C cable is frustratingly short at only 1 m and would recommend twice the length for any practical use. Yes, you might get lucky with a hotel that has sockets on the counter but frequently they’re down behind the bed which is just a PITA with a short cable.

Pricewise, the Pacum is currently on sale at US$60 / GB£46 (RRP is $80/£61) and a set of five vacuum bags is US$29 / GB£22 (prices are rounded).

Overall, the Pacum is really neat little gadget that’s well-designed and works as described. Is it worth buying? Ultimately that’s a maths problem. If you fly frequently or travel as a family, I imagine it will be easy to save money with the Pacum by reducing or avoiding hold luggage charges. Do the sums.

There’s more in the unboxing and demo video below.

Thanks to Master Space for providing the Pacum for review.


Fenix LD30 Outdoor Flashlight



Big things come in a small package. The Fenix LD30 Outdoor flashlight has one of the most innovative designs I have seen in a while. When ordered with the ARB-L-18-3500u 18650 rechargeable Li-ion battery you unlock some very cool features. First of all the battery is recharged directly by plugging into the battery I have never seen anything like it. This allows the flashlight to be 100% waterproof. Providing 1600 Lumens of lumination and a multi-selection switch to change intensity. The onboard sensor even indicates battery charge life.

Priced at $79.95 with the battery included this is an incredible flashlight packed in a small package.


MyCharge Product Reviews



MyCharge Product Reviews, I look at two products from MyCharge.com The UnPlugged 10k Wireless portable charging station priced at $69.99 with a battery capacity of 10,000mAh with two additional USB-A ports and the RazorExtreme PD 26,800mah battery capable of charging a compatible device at 45W with 2 USB-A ports, and 1 USB-C port priced at $99.99 designed for Small Laptops, Tablets & Smartphones.