June 2018 Tech Trends Product Reviews

Cases, cables, PCI-E USB-C cards, nifty adapters, Gloo chargers and so much more this month in our reviews roundup!

Catalyst Apple Device cases

Are you one of those die-hard Apple fans? Do you queue up for the latest handset and strut around the streets with AirPods dangling from your ears like leaking brain matter while faux casually checking your Apple Watch, deluded that anyone with any self-respect gives a shit? Good for you, everyone needs something to live for.

Well, today I am not going to lambast the recent failures of a once great and innovative company or further ridicule the morons that follow them like sheep (well maybe just a bit), I am going to look at some seriously impressive Apple device protection from Catalyst.

I’m a fan of a good case, not the yellow tainted, transparent, Hello Kitty branded crap from the street market but a really well designed, attractive case that you don’t mind carrying around. Now most phones look pretty much identical you might as well make a statement with a stylish case that protects your device and your precious data. Catalyst focuses exclusively on Apple products but really look and feel the business and I kind of hope they broaden out to Android devices soon as they are clearly quality products.

Costing £999 here in the UK the latest (greatest?) iPhone X is worth protecting, so you should take a look at the two cases Catalyst offers. The $39.99 Impact Protection Case offers a grippy rubber bumper, lanyard attachment, rotating mute switch and clear case back to show off your iPhone. This design has an angular modern form and added impact protection from a nifty truss cushioning system and proprietary rubber polymer blend that provides drop protection up to 3m (9.9ft). Catalyst’s $89.99 Waterproof Case looks almost identical and gives you 33ft (10m) of waterproof protection but a lower impact protection of 6.6ft (2m).

If you love the fruity brand enough to have spent up to £749 on a Series 3 Apple Watch it would be wise to consider Catalyst’s Impact Protection Case that retails at $39.99, it can’t possibly make you look worse than you already do and if you fall over after too many imported lagers your Watch might survive the experience.

Augment it further with a $39.99 Sports Band so you look a proper tool jogging round central London while checking out your reflection in passing shop windows.

What self-respecting Apple fanboy doesn’t love their AirPods enough to protect them from the spittle of passing critics, salty body fluids or carelessly spilt Chardonnay? So costing a reasonable $24.99 the Waterproof AirPod Case is a must! You can even hang it from your rucksack, satchel strap or belt loop to prompt conversation with your AirHead iFriends! So Useful.

To be honest I didn’t know there was such a thing as an Apple Pencil, I seem to remember Steve Jobs deriding styluses in favour of well-designed touchscreen apps, but rolling in his grave or not, I’m sure Steve would endorse the protection of your Apple products, so if you like to carry your Pencil around, in case you need to work something out with it (Constipated mathematician anyone?), the $21.99 Catalyst Apple Pencil Carry Case should keep it safe.

However, if your fingers slip while working out a particularly sticky problem the Apple Pencil Grip Case will ensure you maintain a firm grasp on your pointless device if not on your pointless life. Apologies for the vitriol leaking through this review but rest assured Catalyst’s well made & attractive range of protective cases are not the target and even if they were, they are sturdy enough to shed said vitriol like water from a fucks dack. If they made a case for my Samsung Galaxy S9+, I would buy it in a heartbeat.

Oculus Go VR Headset

Once I got it up and running on my Wi-Fi the brand new Oculus Go was a real surprise. Every new VR headset from the big companies takes us a small step closer to enjoying the true possibilities of VR but I have become a bit jaded by the slow progress. Each baby step forwards a new device takes feels so small and iterative it leaves me feeling like I am wading through mud to get to the future of VR. The Oculus Go, however, took a solid and pleasing stride ahead of the rest, not a jump or a leap but enough to make a real difference in how we access and consume VR. Read the full review here.

Group Test — Aukey USB-C Adapters

Faster, smaller, better, thinner… Those design goals have led us here, to a new standard of connection port that I am still not sure anybody really wants. You probably know all about USB-C and its capabilities and if you own a new Mac of any kind you will be familiar with its drawbacks. USB-C adaptors and cables have made Apple a pretty penny but today Tech Trends is looking at the budget offerings from Chinese company Aukey, a four-port PCI-E card, two basic USB 3 to USB-C adapters and one braided USB-C to USB-C cable.

First off the Express PCI-E card, retailing at £28.99 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Express-4-Port-Expansion-Compatible-Windows/dp/B01GFUKCJM/ provides 4 additional USB-C ports to your desktop computer and promises super-speed USB 3.0 data transmission speeds of up to 5 Gbps. Compatible with Windows 2000 / XP / 7 / 8 / 8.1 and Linux Kernel; USB3.0 can be backwards compatible ( USB 2.0 / 1.1 / 1.0 ) it is easy to install and Windows 10 found the driver itself with no problems.

Now the spec-heads out there will confuse you with the various standards and capabilities of USB-C hardware https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USB-C that mean a USB-C connection or cable might or might not give you true USB 3.1 speed, power transfer or even the much vaunted alternate mode, depending on the manufacturer, but basically as a consumer you expect new tech to be better, faster and easier to use. Sadly not the case here. I found the transfer speeds to be slower than USB 3, the power transfer to be less quick than with a dedicated charger and the ports themselves quite shallow, so cables easily dropped out of the connections.

The adapters and cable, on the other hand, were very useful indeed. The well made £7.69 male to male USB-C cable sports sturdy aluminium heads and a 2m flexible, braided length. It fast charged Galaxy S9+ and was blazingly fast (460Mbps) at transferring large files. Now we are talking!

Of the two adapters on test, my favourite is the £8.49 USB C Male to USB A Female. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Adapter-Aluminum-Converter-MacBook-ChromeBook/dp/B071JB1J2H/ Small and good looking it effortlessly bridged the gap between old and new USB standards, it was super quick and would easily fit in a pocket or on a keychain if it had a loop. Good simple design. The second £6.99 USB C male to USB A female adapter https://www.amazon.co.uk/Adapter-Converter-Compatible-MacBook-Chromebook/dp/B074K38QC7/ features a short extension but is less attractive black plastic. This would be more useful on the back of PCs than laptops but it was fast and really cheap. Apart from the disappointing PCI-E card all the USB-C peripherals from Aukey have been excellent, very affordable and are highly recommended.

Gloo Shared Charging Station

After a record-breaking crowdfunding success with $8M raised for the ZeTime hybrid smartwatch, design innovators MyKronoz has just hit Kickstarter again to launch the Deconnect Gloo — a sleek wireless charging station that doubles as an ambient light source. Sounds great but most interestingly Gloo is the first crowdfunding project that enables you to preview exactly how different versions of a new product will look in your own home, via a unique Augmented Reality feature within the companion Deconnect app for iOS. Read the full review here.

Tom Atkinson is a Digital Producer & Photographer at R3Digital and Reviews & Dept. Editor at Tech Trends. Connect on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter @R3Digital

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