Question I want to invest in a new smartphone and laptop. My old laptop and iPhone 6 are acting up and I thought I would not only buy new ones but spend big. Having read your columns, I decided I would buy an iPhone 12 Pro and a MacBook Pro. I called into two specialist stores. In one I was told they could not let me hold or test a phone due to Covid, while in the other I was told they don’t allow testing or holding for security reasons. Would you have any guidance on whether I can buy a phone and laptop with access to the phone prior to committing such a large amount of money? — Noeleen H
It’s a really good question: the answer falls into the category of being ‘a bit Irish’. The more you formally ask about testing or holding a phone or laptop, the more likely you’ll be told that you can’t, for (correct) Covid rules. But if you simply stroll into one of the less specialist stores — such as Currys or Harvey Norman — you’re more likely to be allowed walk over and simply open a laptop or feel the surface of a phone to physically compare it to the size of your hand.
I realise that this isn’t quite what you’re looking for, that you’re after more than simply a quick tactile experience or close-up view. Attentive service from an expert who will not only walk you through the device, but point out the pros and cons as you’re giving it a go, is great. But what these stores are telling you is correct and laudable for important health and safety reasons. So for that level of service, you may need to hold on another few months.
For what it’s worth, I do have one or two tips.
First, unless you really have a strong graphical reason, I’d strongly consider the cheaper MacBook Air instead of the MacBook Pro. The reason is that it’s actually as powerful (with the same core engine) and as long-lasting as the MacBook Pro, while costing a few hundred euro less. (But make sure it’s the new M1 model, not the old Intel model, which are slower and have nothing like the battery life of the new ones.)
As for the iPhone 12 Pro, while it’s a cracking phone, the standard iPhone 12 really does have 90pc (at least) of the power and capability at about €200 less. I’d strongly consider it instead.
Physically, the main usability difference between either of these new phones and your existing model is the absence of a function button on the front of the phone — with the newer devices, you do almost everything by either swiping on the screen or unlocking it using Face ID. It’s not hard to get used to, but if you’ve any trepidation about it, you can hedge your bets by buying an iPhone SE, which is basically a modern version of the iPhone 6 (and which costs less than half the price of an iPhone 12 Pro).
If you’re wondering about how either of the iPhone 12 models would feel in your hand, they’re both about the same size as your iPhone 6 or an iPhone SE. But their screens are actually much bigger because there’s no front-facing buttons and almost no borders (or ‘bezels’, as Apple calls them). That means they’re much better for things like video calls, watching clips on Facebook or reading texts, emails and web pages (because you can increase the font size and still have as much content to look at as the smaller-screen models).
Recommendation: The iPhone 12 and MacBook Air M1
Email your questions to [email protected]
Tech Two reviews
Garmin Descent Mk2S
€1,332 from garmin.com/en-IE/
This review column often brings you interesting budget fitness smartwatches. This week, we go to the other extreme: Garmin’s new ultra-premium dive watch. This is aimed at female divers, having a smaller-than-normal screen. As well a host of diving measurements and smart notifications, it also has regular health tracking, including stress, heart and blood.
Glam Doll desktop ring light
€69.99 from glamdoll.ie
This handy ring light is good for two things: a budget lighting kit for YouTube and Instagram ‘creators’ and an accessory to make Zoom calls look less orange or fuzzy. It’s easy to set up and gives you controls for dimming the light and to adjust its ‘temperature’ (from yellow to blueish white). It’s powered by a micro-USB cable.