The week in gadgets: Roku Streaming Stick, iOS bacon alarm clock and Chromebook 2

10 Mar 2014

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The Roku Streaming Stick

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A look at gadget happenings, as the Roku Streaming Stick will turn your regular TV into a smart one, a bacon-making alarm clock aims to help you rise and shine, and Samsung is to launch the Chromebook 2 next month.

Roku Streaming Stick

Roku, the company behind the popular content streaming box, has decided to bring the size of the device down to a handy dongle that can be inserted into a TV’s HDMI port.

This is not the first time the company has released a streaming stick. The first version came out in 2012, but was limited in its capabilities, given it could only work with a select list of Roku-ready TVs, which included not-so-well-known brands Insignia, Proscan and oCosmo.

Now, however, this stand-alone device will work with any HDMI-ported TV (with a USB or plug socket power supply) and is expected to sell for about US$50 (€36). Details have not been released on when it will become available in Europe.

The device’s obvious competitor is Google’s own Google Chromecast, which offers a similar service. That is limited to a small number of apps but is expected to change as the company has recently opened up the streaming dongle to developers to work on their own apps.

However, the Chromecast differs greatly in that the device itself does not contain native apps but is rather a conduit to be used with PCs and Android devices, hence the less expensive cost of US$35.

The Chromecast has also yet to be released in the UK and Ireland.

Bacon-making alarm clock

Smartphones that stink seem to be one of the latest trends to have appeared in the last year. To wit, food production company Oscar Mayer’s new bacon-scented iPhone attachment that will release a puff of bacon scent along with the sound of bacon grilling when your alarm goes off in a genius bit of marketing.

Surprisingly, this is not the first alarm clock to implement the power of frying bacon as a means of getting you up in the morning.

The Wake’n Bacon, which has been available online to purchase for a number of years, refuses to dabble in mere imitation smell and sound and goes for the real thing, with a small, timed bacon cooker inside a rather large and impractical alarm clock.

For those who would rather just enjoy the smell, the bad news is Oscar Mayer has only officially released the smartphone attachment to competition winners in the US but it will no doubt start appearing online with people anxious to cash in on the novelty item.

Oscar Mayer bacon alarm clock

Samsung Chromebook 2

Consumer tech giant Samsung has announced it will launch the second version of its Google Chromebook, Chromebook 2, in April this year.

The laptop, with the options of a 11.1-inch or 13.3-inch screen, should be a pretty reasonable all-round device at an equally reasonable price.

Its previous 2012 version was popular with consumers and Samsung hopes the latest version will be equally successful.

In terms of spec for the 13.3-inch screen, it’s expected to weigh in at just over 1kg with a resolution of 920 x 1,080, contain 4GB of RAM, 16GB of storage and Samsung’s latest 2.1GHz Exynos 5 Octa processor.

Its biggest selling point, however, is the estimated 8.5 hours of battery life, which would put it in one of the highest categories of good battery life.

The Chromebook 2’s smaller brother, the 11.1-inch version, has the same storage capacity with a slightly slower 1.9GHz processor, lower screen resolution of 1,366 x 768, and a marginally lower battery life of eight hours.

For those easily impressed by design features, the new Chromebook 2 will feature a padded leather-imitation back which looks nice and could potentially be practical if anything is dropped on it.

Euro prices have yet to be announced but the 13.3-inch version is expected to retail at US$399 while the 11.1-inch should be US$80 less at US$319.

Chromebook 2

Medion Lifetab tablet

Not content with other retailers releasing a series of low-cost Android tablets, German supermarket chain Aldi has launched its own 7-inch tablet, the Medion Lifetab, which will come in at the less-than €100 range, €99 exactly.

Due to go on sale 27 March, the Chinese-built tablet is hardly going to set the tablet world on fire but will offer a cheap and useful tablet to families and children especially, who are looking to play one of the thousands of games available on Android or Skype with loved ones abroad.

For its price, the LCD screen has a decent resolution of 1,024 x 600 and it features a rather low 2MP rear camera and 0.3MP front-facing camera, so high-resolution images are out of the question.

In terms of computing power, the device has a basic 1.6GHz quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage, with the option of an additional SD card up to 64GB. The tablet runs on the Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean OS.

Perhaps the key selling point is that it hasn’t tinkered with the Android OS like some of its rivals, but has left it as it is, meaning an enjoyable enough means of playing games and keeping the kids entertained on long car journeys.

Cheap tablets are snapped up pretty fast, especially in stores like Aldi, so you may need to pre-order one if you’re particularly keen on it.

Aldi Medion tablet

Wello

With wearable tech, such as smartwatches, expected to be released this year with the ability to monitor people’s fitness regimes, one company is looking to keep people fit with the more traditional, if you can call it that, iPhone, using a health-monitoring case.

Known as Wello, the case will monitor your body with regard to your heart rate, lung capacity, body temperature and other measurements, at a cost of US$199 for iPhone 4S, 5 and 5S users.

The case also has enormous potential for the developing world, where access to doctors and basic healthcare is limited as the person can, with a considerable accuracy, find their vitals using the phone and could then send that data to a doctor miles away.

The device works by the user holding it for a minute or two while hidden sensors take measurements and pass on gathered information to the Wello app. The user will then receive their results almost instantaneously.

Wello case

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Colm Gorey is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com