Introducing the BMW ZZZ series – the ultimate sleeping machine for babies

BMW New Zealand today announced a world first with the BMW ZZZ series cot, a high performance sleeping machine designed by automotive engineers for babies.

Skilfully blending comfort and style, this innovative premium baby cot embodies the spirit of The Ultimate Driving Machine. A fusion of German engineering and advanced technology means your baby will sleep better, for longer, in safety and comfort.

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Photo: The BMW ZZZ series being announced on Breakfast this morning.

Video: The official press video from http://www.bmwzzz.co.nz

Here are the specs for the New Zealand market.  The device costs $899 for the base model with further modifications available.

1000mm long, 750mm wide and 1000mm in height, the ZZZ Series’ compact dimensions deliver a strikingly spacious feel on the inside, giving your baby a premium nursery experience.
Versatility, design, and functionality, the BMW ZZZ Series is packed with features:

• 4 custom Ultimate Sleeping Drive-Motion settings
o City drive
o Open road
o Race track
o Off-road

• Customised Engine Sound Selector allows you access to the engine sounds of the entire BMW range

• Customised volume control delivers realistic engine noise simulation

• BMW ZZZ Series Smart Device App features:
o Integrated push button start
o The Ultimate Driving Simulation program selector
o A moisture detection sensor alerts parent via app
o In-situ Cot-Cam or remote viewing
o Integrated climate control
o Custom coloured LED hood light ambiance selector

• Lightweight military-grade carbon fibre moulding

• Multi-phase high-tensile steel in a single-joint spring strut axle concealed in the base for agile suspension and directional precision, for superior handling and stability

• Custom premium leather interior colour selector

• Trademark BMW kidney grill integration

• Customised Colour Match System for synergy with your BMW

• M Sport upgrade available

The BMW ZZZ Series is ideal for parents with new families. As is the all-new BMW 2 Series Active Tourer. With its elevated seating position, variable rear-seat bench, expandable truck space, and generous legroom, it’s The Ultimate Driving Machine for all new families.
You can take your little one for a test drive when it arrives in October and experience the comfort and safety of the all-new BMW 2 Series Active Tourer.

34 great gift ideas for Christmas 2013

Thanks to the Christmas Clock I can tell you there are only 34 shopping days until Christmas.  Eek! You’d best get onto the gift shopping then.  But where to start?  Well you could do worse than check out my Christmas Gadget Gift Guide for 2013.

Music:

Everybody loves music and there are plenty of cool music gadgets out there to help you enjoy your favourite sounds.  The UE Boom from Logitech has to be one of the must-have gadgets for the summer.  Not only does it sound great, it’s portable, rechargeable, waterproof and you can pair two together to increase the acoustics. This device will easily last for the best part of a day on one charge from a micro USB cable.  It is priced at $299 but shop around and you’ll get it for less than that. Staying with bluetooth sound, the Wowee One Pro is a neat device that pairs with Bluetooth compatible devices, providing you with a portable and fixed audio connection.  This little device can transform into a hands-free speakerphone for in car calls. The audible caller ID function lets you know who’s on the line while your listening to your music. Another recognisable name in audio Sony also has a great range of sound products.  My pick for personal audio is The 4GB waterproof MP3 Walkman.  It weighs little more than a standard set of earbuds yet can store thousands of songs and it’s waterproof, meaning you can complete many laps in the pool while listening to your favourite beats.  It’s also a steal at just $99.95.

Tablets:

Speaking of Sony,  the Tablet Xperia Z got great reviews this year and if you already have a relatively recent Sony TV this device will interact with it seamlessly. There are a lot of tablets to choose from this year.  Of course Apple have released two new models just in time for Christmas, the iPad Air and the latest iPad Mini. Also just released are the new Microsoft Surface tablets (the Surface 2 and the new Surface Pro).  What I really like about the Surface 2 is that it comes pre-installed with working versions of Microsoft Office. As long as you get a touch cover to go with it you’ll find this a very productive tablet (great for students or business people traveling between meetings). This week LG announced it’s re-entry into the tablet market with the LG G Pad 8.3 tablet, the latest addition to its G Series lineup of premium mobile devices. The new LG G Pad 8.3 has the first Full HD display on an 8-inch class tablet and wide range of connectivity features for a price of $599. Throughout the year I’ve been using the budget HP Slate 7 as a travel companion and at $229 it’s a relatively safe buy for younger members of the family.

SmartPhones:

The smartphone market has begun to mature and manufacturers now seem to push the software features as much as the hardware.  You’ll need to decide for yourself what size screen you want etc. but here are a few recommendations.  The new iPhones are out. The pricey iPhone 5S is a super-smart piece of machinery and I liked the Touch ID sensor more than I thought I would.  Still I would have preferred NFC to fingerprint recognition as a feature.  The colourful 5C variety promises two hours more battery life and if you like to customise your phone with colourful cases, this is the phone for you.  The most recent Android phone I’ve got my hands on is the LG G2.  With a big 5.2 inch HD screen, a 13mp camera and a 3,000 mhz battery and snappy processor, this phone is powerful.  Like the Samsung Galaxy range it has great specs and like the Apple range it comes in a sealed body (so no adding SD cards or swapping batteries with this one).  Talking about Samsung, if you’re a leading edge tech geek then you’re probably looking to add a smart watch, namely the Galaxy Gear,  to your personal gadget arsenal.  When it came out you could only use it with the Note 3 phablet, but Samsung has since started adding support for the S4, the S3 and the Galaxy Note 2.  Handy if you like taking calls and snapping pics from your wrist.  The best waterproof phone I tested this year was the Xperia Z1.  How it manages to have an open headphone jack and yet stay waterproof I don’t know, but it does.  Plus, it has an incredible camera with a range of software features that you’d expect from a standalone video camera. All of these phones have a price tag around $1,000. For something a wee bit cheaper, yet apparently able to give you super powers, you might want to check out Huawei’s Ascend P2.  It is only 8.4mm, making it super slim with an infinity edge and a 4.7-inch HD touch display at a reasonable price point of $599.

Health and Fitness:

While the point of this column is to talk about Christmas gifts, we all know that New Years rolls along very quickly after Yuletide, bringing with it the annual resolution list.  If you’ve eaten more than your weight in turkey and pudding, losing weight might be one of these resolutions.  The TomTom multi sport watch can probably help.  Not only does it track your runs and bike rides with GPS, it can record swimming distances too (thankfully it is fully waterproof). There’s only one thing more fun than exercising, and that’s sharing tour exercise stories with everybody afterwards.  Also getting into the smart sport watch market is Adidas.  The superior $600 miCoach SMART RUN packs a host of smarts into one wrist watch.  You can use it to track runs using the GPS mapping, set a personalised training schedules and monitor your heart rate while listening to your favourite music beamed wirelessly to compatible headphones – snazzy eh? While GoPro is fast becoming the generic term for sports video recording, Sony does a nice job too with its Action Cam.  If you want to be able to show those you’ve left in your wake there’s the ATC Chameleon cam which has a front and rear mounted lens. Those two viewing angles should amount to double the drama on the replay.

For the kids: 

I reviewed last years LeapPad 2 kids educational tablet and know a certain little someone who LOVES it a lot.  This year you can buy the LeapPad Ultra which has wi-fi, a rechargeable battery and a larger screen. This may make it more appealing to kids who have outgrown the LeapPad 2 but aren’t quite ready to use an iPad (with all of that relatively unfettered access to the internet and premium apps available etc).  Half way between the LeapPad and the iPad though is the SmarTab which is designed to keep kids entertained and educated.  The SmarTab Junior Tablet is designed specifically for children aged four and up and provides straight out of the box entertainment that they can start using immediately. Just power it on and they can start reading Spiderman comics, playing Sugar Rush or learning their ABC’s straight away. The $249 tablet is pre-loaded with over 50 books, educational apps and popular Disney and Marvel games, including Wreck-it-Ralph, Spiderman and Mickey Mouse.  If you do let your kids use an iPad I highly recommend the new Crayola range of  iPad Digitool apps and accessories.  Each kit has some some really cool handheld tools which you use with an ipad app to create designs and images that can be saved in an image gallery to email off to friends or print off at home. The different packs include a 3D tool kit to create eye-popping stand out designs, airbrush tools for spray art designs, glitter and metallic pens. Please note the iPad itself is not included!  Hitting the shelves with its third generation is the popular console game Skylanders Swap Force.  If the kids in your household have played previous instalments “Spyros Adventures” and “Giants” you’ll be familiar with the setup.  Collectable characters can be inserted into the game through a “portal of power” but this time you can swap bits of characters to add new powers. Sounds like fun!

For the home:

For some reason, this year I got to test a lot of gadgets for the home.  My wife certainly appreciated all of the vacuuming and food preparation I carried out for my segment on Breakfast.  So if you do feel brave enough to buy anybody a household product as a Christmas gift, these are the ones that carry the Gadget Guy seal of approval.  The $2,3000 Kenwood cooking chef is a top notch food mixer with a conduction heating plate, allowing you to mix and cook at the same time.  After a little accident at home (full cup of coffee meets light coloured carpet) I can tell you I have hands on experience with Bissell’s the Little Green.This waterproof vac acts like an emergency carpet cleaning unit for when accidents happen and your carpet needs quick action.  I’m guessing a lot of these spills happen around the festive season.  The vac has two chambers, one with carpet cleaner or treating the spill and one to capture all the moisture the unit vacuums up before stains set in.  If you love tasty food but hate fat, the Philips AirFryer might be the gadget for you. Philips has created a new fast and healthier way of cooking. Powered by the unique Rapid Air Technology, the Airfryer can bake, grill, roast and fry with little or no oil – yummy fries can be cooked in 12 minutes with up to 80% less fat according to Philips.

For the gaming geek:

There are plenty of options what with the launch of the latest generation of consoles from Sony and Microsoft.  One accessory that piqued my interest was the Plantronics gaming rig.  The gamer in my household likes to keep in touch with his mates via Skype while playing GTA V and this phone-jack/gaming headset lets you take calls and keep playing.

Cameras:

It might be worth talking about an unusual solution – the Kaiser Baas R1 car camera.  2013 seemed to be the year of in car camera footage thanks to the amazing captured footage of events like the Russian meteorite crash in February and footage of a 747 falling from the sky near Bagram. Whether it’s an accident, incident or a fun road trip, the R1 Car Camera is designed to record everything that happens while you drive. I reviewed a number of great cameras this year.  The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 is a premium interchangeable lens DSLR camera, built for people who have high standards when it comes to imaging.  Its retro good looks and tiltable viewfinder are obvious style cues on the outside while the range of simple menu and software options give you infinite control over your output.  For fans of Digital SLR, Canon has a new intermediate level system to choose from. The Canon EOS 700D has an interchangeable lens and incredible smarts, for example continuous auto focus when recording video and an LCD screen with touch screen controls. It’s easy to use and produces vastly superior shots when compared to a smartphone (even if the “selfie” has been crowned the word of the year).

In summary, don’t forget, Christmas is not all about buying the latest and greatest gadget.  Spend time with the ones you love first, then, when you’re tired of that, you can retreat to a corner to play with your shiny new toys!  Merry Christmas everybody.

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One very attractive family – the full Sony range for 2013/14

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been virtually drowning in Sony goodness.  The Japanese electronics giant not only released the smooth and shiny Tablet Z for review, they also threw in the new NEX-6 compact system camera to record it on.  Then the mobile division managed to provide some “hot off the press” units of the new Xperia Z1 smartphone which had just been announced at IFA 2013.

As if all that weren’t enough, Sony NZ then held an open house and showcased their upcoming products, from 4K TV’s, through portable boom boxes, action video cameras and head mounted 3D viewing screens all the way through to the unique and innovative QX100 lens cameras. Phew!

All of this goes to show one thing, Sony is not sitting back in the face of stiff competition from the likes of Samsung and Apple.  They have upped their game with some very desirable technology and applied some much needed consistency to their product family.

We don’t have time to cover off all of the above so in this post I’ve included two video reviews (for the tablet and new smartphone) and a few images from the open home event.  Hopefully this gives you a taste of what you’ll find in your local Sony store (or in leading electronics shops nationwide) and I encourage you to go in and have some hands on time with any of the products that take your fancy.

This photo: If you want to show people how loud your car stereo is, this is the perfect venue. (Sony Open Home at Orams Marine Village, Auckland)

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Photo: A first hands on with the innovative QX100 lens camera. Yes that’s an Xperia Z1 Android phone, and that zoom lens on the front? Well yes that is the lens camera which transmits the photo to the phone by wifi direct.

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(more photos after the jump).

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LG Curved 55″ OLED TV to go on sale in New Zealand

On Breakfast this morning Rawdon Christie and I took a tour of this amazing “living rooms through the decades” installation at TVNZ’s Auckland Headquarters.

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LG New Zealand has created the unique installation called “The Evolution of Television” to launch the next generation of TVs, including their revolutionary Curved OLED shown below.

The TVNZ foyer has been transformed into a series of installations, showcasing a typical living room scene from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 90s and 00s to mark the development of television through the decades.

The jewel in the crown is LG’s new 55-inch Curved OLED TV, New Zealand’s first OLED TV which goes on sale on September 11. This TV is an absolute beauty. The new technology doesn’t require a backlight as the OLED film emits it’s own light, resulting in dark blacks, excellent contrast and vibrant colour images.

The curved perspex stand is also a bit sexy (can I say that? Oh well, I just did).

This is the industry’s very first curved screen ergonomic design, providing an “IMAX-like” viewing experience in the home.

Only 4.3 millimetres at its thinnest point and weighing just 17 kilograms, LG’s curved OLED TV produces astoundingly vivid and realistic images. This is the TV for early adopters with $17,000 in their back pocket. If that sounds like you, you can make an expression of interest through the website at http://www.lg.com/nz

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The OLED TV surrounded by the new range of UHDTV’s (featuring 5 models in 55″, 65″ and 84″).

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Up close and personal with the OLED TV. The clear perspex stand almost makes it seem like the image is floating in the air.

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Tweet-powered mystery tour to help document BNZ’s Closed For Good Day

Closed for Good is BNZ’s national day of volunteering and is the single largest day of corporate volunteering in New Zealand. They close their stores and offices and roll up their sleeves to help communities be good with money.

This year they are in 452 locations and will be donating 25,000 volunteer hours to the bottom lines of charities and communities all over New Zealand.

The social media team at BNZ have challenged me to go on a magical mystery tour around Auckland today to find out just what projects the staff are working on.  I’m starting off at 9 am  at Project Jonah in Mt Eden where they’ll be working on a plan to develop financial sustainability.

The team will then tweet 2 options of where I should go next – so it’s over to you, the online public, to decide which projects I get to document.  I’ve loaded up my gadget bag and will post updates here and on Twitter/Vine/Instagram – just look up @bucklesnz

 

1pm-ish Okay – I made it back to town, though I’m running low on batteries.  I got to the Auckland City Mission – but the team were having a quick lunch break off-site.  Shame I couldn’t stick around.  Luckily I have helpers everywhere and these are some of the photos the team had already taken and were able to share with me.  It looks like they are having fun sorting the donated goods that are provided to the Mission into packs for the end recipients.  Good work Auckland City Mission. Good work BNZ team.

ACM BNZ CFG 1

ACM BNZ CFG 2

ACM BNZ CFG 3

 

 

12:00 And here we are at the Endeavour Sea Scouts in Te Atatu.  A large team has been at work since 9 this morning and they’ve been blessed with sunshine and low winds (unlike the teams in Wellington and the South Island who I hear are battling snow and gales).  This shed has been completely prepped and painted.  The second coat is well under way.

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10:30 The kids and staff at Appleseed Educare are lovely.  I hope they like the new bench the guys are making for them.  It was in the early stages when I got there, but I’m sure if Craig (Herbison, Chief Marketing Officer) has anything to do with it it’s going to be top notch.

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9:33 Dominion Road, Auckland. Team brain-storm and planning with Project Jonah (http://www.projectjonah.org.nz/).  Very interesting. Great to be a fly on the wall.

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8: 10 – Getting my tech sorted for the day – HP Ultrabook, Apple iPad, iPhone, MacBook Air, Sony Xperia Z tablet and NEX 6 compact system camera, Blackberry Z10 smartphone.

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Life on Planet Samsung

I brought a new family home this Christmas.  As a very Apple friendly household you could have expected some consternation when I showed up with a bunch of Samsung’s latest hot products. Don’t worry though folks, in the true spirit of the season, there was peace on earth and good will to all platforms.

Yes, so, while Breakfast is on it’s Summer recess, I’ve been testing out the latest Samsung family of products.  The new toys are the Series 5 Ultrabook, the Galaxy Note 2 and the shiny new Galaxy Camera.    While I’ve grown to know and love them individually, some of them are going to be harder to return than others when the loan period expires next week.  Check out my comments below to see what I thought.

Samsung Family Gathering

Happy Family: The Samsung Series 5 Ultrabook, Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy Camera and (reviewers own) Galaxy S3.

The Series 5 Touch Ultrabook is a high performance PC sporting a touch-screen that allows it to really take advantage of the new Windows operating system.  If you’d like the full specs you can view all of the nuggety details here on the Samsung site.

To begin with I wasn’t sold on the idea of a touch screen laptop, but when I ran a photo slideshow for a work function I found the touch screen control added a new dimension to the “theatre” of a presentation.  Battery life was excellent clocking in at a good 4-5 hours.  That’s much better than my own work laptop (a 3yr old HP Elitebook 8530p which struggles to hit 90 mins on on one charge).

I did find that the battery heated the bottom of the case quite quickly and establishing a WiFi connection was patchy at times (it felt like the digital equivalent of getting on a racehorse, a bit tricky to do but once in the saddle you began a fast and exhilarating ride).

Reports from the States suggest the sales of hardware sporting Windows 8 are falling behind expectations.  Personally I like the OS and expect more devices like the Series 5 to really showcase it’s attributes, especially to a business audience.

I briefly tested the Note 2 Smartphone slash Tablet before taking it on TV in December.  Spending a bit more time with it, I appreciated the software as much as I did the large screen. However when the Jelly Bean 4.1.1 update rolled out for the Galaxy S3, I put the Note 2 down and failed to return to it.  It’s selling pretty well though if recent accounts are correct.

The final product proved to be a revelation.  At the press launch in Sydney in December, journalists seemed to politely tolerate the announcement of the Galaxy Camera before settling in to hear the “real” news about the launch of the Galaxy Note 2 smartphone.

In actual fact, the Galaxy Camera should be grabbing the headlines.  It’s a strange looking beast.  Several times I have been asked whether the camera is a case or some kind of attachment for my phone. That’s because that is what it looks like – a zoom lens camera clipped onto the front of a smartphone.  It’s not ugly, but it is different.

Galaxy Camera - one out of the box

I took a lot of photos with it. I loved the 21x zoom (you can see its effects here or below) and  enjoyed having the ability to post pics to my social network of choice immediately via WiFi or 3G (with additional SIM).  Because it’s essentially an Android tablet, you can also download apps to your hearts content, including the most popular photo apps such as Instagram.

I’ve read plenty of reviews since and the consensus seems to be ‘shop around before buying’.  With an in-store price of between $720 and $860, there are a lot of good cameras to consider in or around this price range.  Which camera you end up buying will depend on your own specific needs and circumstances.  Having said that, the connectivity and innovation contained within the Galaxy Camera will almost certainly make it a  popular choice amongst the social-sharing generation.

No snooping - 21 x zoom

Super Sonic Gadgets (see what we did there?)

If you’re a Doctor Who fan, you’ll know that the ultimate timelord gadget is a sonic screwdriver.

Well, today’s manufacturers haven’t quite perfected that piece of technology, but there are a few helpful sonic accessories on the market.

But today we looked at some super gadgets with sonic powers, from filling a room with sound to helping keep your teeth clean.

Logitech Ultimate Ears (UE) Brand

The Ultimate Ears brand is well known amongst professional musicians.  It began life in 1995 when one of Van Halen’s sound engineers invented a new in-ear monitor to help block stage noise for the band.  Fast-forward 17 years and Logitech is bringing the Ultimate Ears brand to the masses.

UE 9000 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones: Wireless listening no longer means sound-quality compromises. The UE9000 wireless headphones use the highest quality codecs and advanced digital signal processing to get the best out of a Bluetooth music connection.

The custom drivers produce a great sound and a remarkable level of power, punch and clarity.  An optional, detachable cable is included for when Bluetooth isn’t an option (i.e. on planes).

UE Boombox: A powerful portable music solution, the UE Boombox allows you to use your smartphone or tablet to stream clear sounding music from across the room or across the street. Bring it to a party and connect it with multiple phones so everyone can take turns playing music.

 

Product Website: http://ue.logitech.com/en-nz

Price: UE 9000 Headphones $599.90, UE Boombox $349.90

Availability: Leading electronics retailers such as Noel Leeming and JB HiFi

Philips Sonicare

Philips has introduced two new Sonicare products that push the boundaries of personal oral hygiene − the DiamondClean power toothbrush and a unique alternative to flossing, the AirFloss.

Powered by patented sonic technology, the DiamondClean is the most advanced power toothbrush in the Sonicare range, with a dynamic cleaning action that drives fluid between the teeth and along the gum for healthier gums and whiter teeth.

The toothbrush, which has won numerous design awards, features an advanced dual charging system. Users can either use a glass charging unit or a USB travel case that can plug into a laptop to charge on the go without the need for plugs and adaptors.

The innovative AirFloss makes flossing easier and more effective than using traditional string dental floss. It uses microburst technology that delivers a quick burst of air and water through an innovative nozzle guidance tip to clean between teeth, dislodging hard to remove food and forcing plaque and bacteria out.

The AirFloss is quick and efficient, taking only one minute and using only one teaspoon of water per session, and is proven to be easier to use than string floss.

Price: Philips Sonicare DiamondClean (HX9332) $389.95, Philips Sonicare AirFloss (HX8111) $199.95

Availability: From leading electronic stores nationwide.

Website: www.philips.co.nz/sonicare