August 2017 Tech Trends Product Reviews

We certainly had our share of gorgeous gadgets this month, from a spy’s dream drive to the lovely Microsoft Surface Book to the Samsung Galaxy S8, plus the usual sprinkling of more random tech.

iStorage diskAshur 2 SSD

Testing out the new diskAshur 2 SSD 256GB from iStorage shows that industrial grade security need not slow down your workflow, or look unappealing. This very sexy little portable USB SSD features real-time AES-XTS 256-bit hardware encryption and software free design, setup and operation. Unlike any other portable drive I have tested before, this is platform/device independent and works across all operating systems including all versions of MS Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, Chrome, Thin Clients, Zero Clients and embedded systems, any device with a USB port, in fact. Now THAT’s impressive.

As a media professional who is constantly moving large and rather important files around on drives, so this was a bit of a revelation. On the subject of large files, I tested out the speed of the diskAshur 2 SSD via its built-in USB 3.1 cable and wow! Blackmagic Disk Speed Test read 310 MBps READ / 250 MBps WRITE with 5GB files. This is very swift indeed, specially when you consider the encryption involved. I think the drive is able to be so fast due to a dedicated hardware-based secure microprocessor (Common Criteria EAL4+ ready), which also employs built-in physical protection mechanisms designed to defend against external tamper, bypass attacks and more.

The diskAshur 2 SSD has a really nice keypad and each key clicks softly but confidently when pushed so you know when a number has registered. The keypad lets you securely access the drive with your own unique 7–15 digit PIN. Following the instructions to setup my personalised passcode was easy, but do choose carefully, as you’ll only want to do this once. When that is done you simply plug it into your computer, input your code and push the unlock button, and off you go! A really nice feature is that when you want to finish using the drive you simply use your computer interface to eject the drive and that is that, your data is automatically secured.

Unlike other solutions out there, the diskAshur 2 SSD reacts to an automated attack by entering the deadlock frozen state, which renders all such attacks as useless, and if you input the code wrongly fifteen consecutive times, the device assumes it is being attacked and will delete the encryption key and lock itself, rendering all data previously stored on the drive lost forever. At this point the drive can be reset to factory default settings.

And if you are on the run from the foreign spies or the KGB and need to ensure your data does not fall into enemy hands you can pre-program the diskAshur 2 SSD with your own unique Self Destruct PIN which, once implemented, instantly deletes the encryption key, all PINs, data and then creates a new encryption key! Below are a few more specs and you can check out the full spec here.

  • USB 3.1 Encrypted Portable SSD
  • Capacities up to 4TB*
  • FIPS PUB 197 validated
  • AES-XTS 256-bit hardware encryption — no software required
  • OS & Platform independent
  • Employs EDGE* Technology
  • Available in 4 colours: Phantom Black, Ocean Blue, Fiery Red & Racing Green

RRP: £219 256GB version

Samsung Galaxy S8

When I first realised that the Galaxy S8 was entirely buttonless, I wondered whether I’d miss the functionality of the home button in any way, but the short answer to that has been a resounding “No”. The most impressive thing about this phone is its screen, and the fact that you don’t get a button, together with the gorgeous Infinity Display, means that every inch of real estate on this baby is pure, vivid screen. And that’s no bad thing in my book. Besides, for those — like me — who are upgrading from the previous Galaxy models, there is still the exact same button functionality, in the same place where the physical one used to be. So your brain soon gets used to it, and starts wondering why we ever put up with buttons in the first place.

Read Tech Trends full review here

RRP: £689

Microsoft Surface Book

In October last year Microsoft released an upgraded Surface Book with a Performance Base featuring a new, more powerful Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M with 2GB of VRAM and a larger battery. They had not bumped the Intel i7 up from 6th generation to 7th but that was not a deal breaker and promises of a faster internal SSD and the upcoming Windows 10 Creators Update hooked me in. Unfortunately these things do take time to arrive here in the UK, but as I unpacked it last week I couldn’t help but think it had been worth the wait.

Read Tech Trends full review here.

RRP: $2,799 / £2,399

Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve Micro Panel

After writing my recent article about Democratising the Tools of Media Production where I reviewed the fantastic video production suite Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve 14, I have borrowed the smallest — and arguably the cutest — from their range of control panels to test. Designed specifically for colour correction and working exclusively with DaVinci Resolve, this Micro Panel is a plug-and-play beginner/intermediate colourist’s dream. While DaVinci Resolve’s onscreen colour controls are very small and can be a bit fiddly, it is possible to grade effectively with only a mouse, however the software is designed to work best and fastest with an attached control surface like the Micro, that features damped knobs and large trackballs to facilitate those fine tuned colour adjustments.

Read Tech Trends full review here.

RRP: $995

AnySharp Pro Knife Sharpener

We like to stay sharp here at Tech Trends so were pleased to see that the AnySharp Pro Knife Sharpener lives up to its claim of being ‘The Worlds Best Knife Sharpener’. A sharp knife is essential for opening all those ultra-securely packaged gadgets that arrive in the post, specially those those evil clear plastic blister packs that USB drives always come in. I tell you, a sharp knife can really save your sanity when trying to open one of those!

The AnySharp claimed that sculpting your old dull blades to the perfect 20 degree angle was no problem, and I duly tested this on some of my very old knives (I hate throwing knives away) I found the best candidate rattling around in my toolkit, where it had lived for about fifteen years or so. It was a serious challenge, but a few swipes across the tungsten carbide v section brought it right back to life. It works on most blades; hunting knives, kitchen knives and even serrated knives but maybe not your good old zombie machete. I was always a purist and favoured whetstones for knife sharpening but I am, well, a rather lazy man, so the AnySharp is a very welcome addition to the kitchen drawer. The best thing about it is its PowerGrip suction cup base, which attaches securely to any smooth surface or worktop without the need for any tools. Once it’s attached you can sharpen any knife safely hands-free! No whetstone does that!

Add endorsements from Jamie Oliver and (bizarrely) Jilly Cooper, plus a lifetime warranty and you’re laughing. Say good-bye to those raggedy tomato slices.

RRP: $22.99

You will rarely pass a Techie at work without spotting a fancy water bottle or filter bottle on their desk. We Technophiles take hydration seriously! Sitting in front of a computer for days on end with the aircon drying you out like an Inca mummy is no joke so Tech Trends is looking at two top level water filter devices, one very old school and one 21st century.

Black+Blum Eau Good Filter Bottle

This super elegant Eau Good Filter water bottle from Black+Blum uses a ancient traditional Japanese Binchotan charcoal to make your tap water taste great. Yes charcoal, you read me right, but this is no ordinary charcoal like for a BBQ, Binchotan charcoal was introduced to Japan by a Japanese monk and scholar called Kukai 1,200 years ago and is made by wood being placed in a kiln and charred at a relatively low temperature for some time, then, near the end of the process, the kiln temperature is raised to about 1000 degree Celsius to make the wood red-hot. The charcoal is then removed and quickly covered with a special powder made from earth, sand and ash, and this gives the charcoal surface a whitish hue. The rapid rise in temperature, followed by a rapid cooling, incinerates the bark and leaves a smooth, hard surface. If you strike it, you’ll hear a clear, metallic sound. Now this is sounding serious! This super charcoal has an incredibly porous surface with tiny cavities oriented in many directions. Just 1 gram has a surface area in excess of 500 m2 (about one tenth the size of a football field). It is also known as active carbon as the ions of contaminants are attracted to the surface of the carbon, where they will be held. It is also able to release minerals such as calcium, iron and magnesium back into the water, which enhances its taste and health benefits.

OK so that was all quite complex but does it do the job? Tech Trends first flicked the charcoal and blow me down if it didn’t ping a bit like metal, popped it in the bottle, wedged it into the special locking bulge and filled it up. After leaving it for a few hours we quaffed it down and indeed it tasted a lot better that straight out the tap. It’s a winner! Five replacement charcoal sticks are £30.95 including a 10% discount but it probably works out cheaper than buying water, specially if you happen to travel a lot. You can take an empty water bottle through security and most airports now have handy taps to refill them at the other end, so with one of these you can avoid paying that ever-so-reasonable who said good water was cheap.

  • BPA free tritan, cork, stainless steel, silicon
  • Includes x1 binchotan active charcoal filter (6 months life)
  • Automatic email updates for when to boil and replace charcoal
  • W 8.5cm H 24cm / W 3.3″ H 9.4″
  • 800 ml 27 floz

RRP: £19.95

ZeroWater Filter and TDS Meter

This 12-cup water filter jug from ZeroWater looks much like every other water filter out there but what makes it a more high-tech drinking solution is its patented, 5-stage Ion Exchange Filtration system, which removes virtually all dissolved solids from your water. These solids may include minerals, salts, metals, chemicals and runoff. Mmmm runoff, my favourite non-specific dissolved solid! The ZeroWater filter is also the first in its class to benefit from a sealed lid and reservoir, which allows filtered water to be poured while water, which hasn’t yet been, filtered remains in the reservoir. This adds a further 2 cups of capacity to the 10 cups of filtered water in the jug. It also features a very cool one-handed, pull and pour button spout for easy pouring from the fridge or for filling bottles. Four additional stages of water filtration ensure larger particles and other impurities are removed.

Well I used the laboratory-grade Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) meter provided on our unfiltered tap water and got a reading of 078. I then filled up the jug and measured the filtered water and… dum dum duuuum! Got a reading of 000. So this seems to do a fine job of removing those unpleasant impurities from your water, and that can only be a good thing. Our water normally tastes fine if a little chloriney and after filtering through the ZeroWater tasted very different. It’s difficult to describe the taste but it is not unpleasant and definitely better than straight out of the tap.

  • Certified* to reduce Lead, Chromium, & Mercury
  • Premium 5-Stage Dual-Ion Exchange filtration system
  • Ion-Exchange system that removes virtually all dissolved solids in your water
  • The FDA requires the TDS level in PURIFIED bottled water to reach 000–010ppm. ZeroWater is the only filter in its class to achieve this level.

RRP: £39.99

Technology writer for FastCo, Quartz, The Next Web, Ars Technica, Wired + more. Consultant specializing in VR #MixedReality and Strategic Communications

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