Lifestyle: Tech Essentials

I never thought of myself as a true tech fan until I moved back to university. Then I packed up my laptop, Chromebook (which I was lucky enough to win after writing this post), my tablet*, Kindle, camera, phone…you get the picture. Turns out I have a LOT of tech!

 photo 2015-10-07 16.39.29_zpsrx2kogfr.jpgThen I thought about the fact that my phone virtually never leaves my hand at the moment (a bad thing for concentrating in lectures!) and realised that, actually, I’m pretty found of tech. I adore my camera, love blogging on the go using my Chromebook, and my laptop is a three-year old powerhouse that somehow runs as well as it did on the first day. Yes, I don’t have the best of luck with phones, but getting a new one every two years adds to the excitement…

One of my favourite bits of technology has to be a tablet. I’ve had a Nexus 7 (W kindly gave it to me, I returned the favour two weeks later with a smashed screen), which I did love however a firmware update meant it ran ridiculously slowly. When ASUS offered to send me one of their 8″ tablets* over the summer I jumped at the chance!

I’ve now had the tablet for well over a month, it’s been put through it’s paces and I’m happy to share my opinions. With things like this I always like to give them time – it’s so easy to love a new gadget before forgetting about it a few weeks later. Turns out that I haven’t fallen out of love with this tablet, and it’s getting a LOT of use.

 photo 2015-10-07 16.44.08_zpsus7xehqy.jpgIt doesn’t hurt that it looks quite sleek. I’ve never been one for white tech, but I do love this, especially with the metal-effect back. This particular tablet also lets you swap the back for bolder colours, and even use a back with a super-charged battery* – perfect for when you know you might need extra usage. I was worried that being 8″ would make the tablet chunky but it’s just thin enough to get away with it – it’s actually the perfect size to curl up in bed reading blogs with, but it’s also big enough to watch a film on. I don’t often use it to watch films (my Chromebook has an excellent screen and great sound quality) but it is pretty perfect for train journeys.

The only thing I’m not hugely thrilled with is the silver trim. Or rather how easily it seems to have scratched and chipped…

The performance is far superior to that of my Nexus. Possibly  cos my Nexus is old (it was the original one), possibly because of the recent firmware update. I’ve always been impressed with the majority of my ASUS products – both my laptop and Chromebook are from the company, my laptop in particular has lasted amazingly well.

 photo 2015-10-07 16.44.59_zpssjiey0nj.jpgI tend to use this for lazing in bed, and also a bit of cheeky online shopping (so much more enjoyable than on my phone screen!). That said I’d bought it a keyboard case and also attached it to my Logitech keyboard and used it briefly to blog – whilst not particularly easy to upload photos it’s great for quickly drafting out posts. And of course, it’s perfect for procrastination in between lectures too…

Actually, I reckon you could easily take notes on this if you were doing a more wordy subject. As a maths student I’d find it pretty difficult, but if essays are more your thing…? It’s a possibility!

 photo 2015-09-06 09.26.53_zpspxsr0el5.jpgSo is a tablet essential? Not really, and even now if I could only have one I’d take my Kindle. But I do like having it, it’s really handy for lazing in bed and using in the kitchen. And hey, it’s another bit of tech to add to my collection!

Disclaimer: ASUS sent me a tablet to review, however as always it is my honest opinion. If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t blog about it!

Do you use a tablet? What piece of tech could you not live without?

Lifestyle: Time for an Upgrade?

Mobile phones are the bane of my life. I seriously have the worst luck with them!

 photo 8b71cff1-d327-4905-be59-ae6c7c65d477_zpsr5aqvfb3.jpgMy first one was the only one that never caused me a problem. Long live the Nokia 3310! It went down hill from there. The Motorola Razr with dodgy hinge. The Samsung Tocco with no back and unpredictable touchscreen. The Samsung Galaxy S1 – if you turned it off, it never turned on again. It would have to be sent off for repair each time. Eventually they replaced it with an S2. This was better, but my first landed in a puddle as I fell (SOBER!) out of a taxi. The replaced version was dreadful, it never charged, overheated, and kept telling me there was no SIM inside.

 photo cdb24974-574a-4192-8e8f-d2e9048987aa_zpseshs8qew.jpgMy current phone is the HTC One, and other than the DREADFUL camera I did like it. Until just before Christmas, when it decided making calls was beyond it. I would ring and hear nothing, despite the other side answering. They would ring and I would answer, but the call wouldn’t connect. Not ideal when you live on your own. My contract is up at the end of August and I honestly have no clue where to go next (I’m not an Apple person). When I was offered the chance to trial a Nokia phone, I wasn’t going to say no!

My first go at a Nokia since the glorious 3310, I was expecting good things. And mostly this phone delivered.

 photo ddaadefb-ec87-4b18-9054-7b167d041c99_zpsiwmoambq.jpgI wasn’t a huge fan of the brightly coloured back. I like my technology to look sleek and expensive, I usually stick to black pieces. This felt a bit cheap-looking and I was self-conscious using it. That said, I loved the size of it. Yes, it’s huge. No, I can’t use it one-handed. But I do like big phones, I use my phone for watching TV and reading blogs so a big (and incredibly crisp) screen was a massive bonus.

 photo 7a3cd91f-42a6-4aca-a20a-4e7c465a8201_zpsq5swrscx.jpgThe camera was excellent. Not as good as my Canon, but infinitely better than my HTC. The size meant it was also easy to hold to phone steady, leading to good quality snaps.

 photo 681ebf77-e217-45bb-9064-27cae44bda4f_zps3g4wj77g.jpgThe speed of the phone also gets a big thumbs up from me. No laggy keyboard, apps loaded immediately, no jerky scrolling. This packs in a powerful processor and it shows – it’s incredible how quickly phone technology is advancing.

 photo 4a7ad006-e891-40c8-aac2-0ce4bddcc60b_zpsf6a2llef.jpgAnother downside though, I wasn’t a huge fan of the Windows system. I loved having Windows applications on my phones (hello spreadsheets!) but the menu design and lack of apps (no Instagram, no Bloglovin) made it hard to love the phone as a whole. This was the dealbreaker for me.

 photo 5e1c206f-621e-49de-ba5c-f4f19b7e89b5_zps2a0l5noa.jpgHad the phone (in a less bright colour) been available as an Android option, I’d buy one in an instant. The size, the tech behind it, everything was great. But I just couldn’t get on with the Windows operating system and limited apps, and for that reason it is likely I’ll be sticking with Android. The only question now is what to look at next!

What phone do you have? Do you recommend it?!

University: Winter Essentials

Winter can be a really difficult time for students. Bills packages mean many are reluctant to turn the heating on, dark evenings can mean boredom, and dreary weekends mean less fresh air and exercise. Plus cold dark evenings often trigger a bit of depression, we all need comforting sometimes! I’ve been tasked by Logitech to come up with my student winter essentials…

 photo 00883175-3d92-45ea-a425-452c51ed274a_zpsjbhbrfld.jpg photo 7c265dc5-cee4-42d0-8308-0d2ad7f762f3_zpsmtoa28ff.jpgWrapping up warm is key for winter – and as I’m a huge scarf fan this isn’t difficult. I have far too many scarves, I love tartan so my trips up to Edinburgh often involve squeezing some new additions into my suitcase. I spent the heatwave up there last June, and one memorable shopping trip bought three tartan scarves, shorts, and after sun to soothe my very burnt shoulders! Blankets are also a necessity, not only as a backdrop to blog photos! I recently picked up an extremely cosy grey blanket from Home Sense for £19.99 – a bit of research later and I’ve discovered an RRP of £85. I’m now on the hunt for a grey Herringbone blanket, so send links my way! A blanket and some thick fluffy socks and you can keep your heating on low!

Comforting drinks are also high on the list – a cup of tea is my ultimate drink of choice. I’m currently cutting down on my standard strong-brew-with-plenty-of-milk-and-one-sugar and have been favoring fruity and flowery blends. Hot Chocolate is something I will never turn down, and I’ve been loving making my own mix this year. Though bonus points to W for creating the perfect mix which he gave me for Christmas, so thick, rich and indulgent!

 photo a9b59ddd-28ab-4b84-8314-f31f3d779b67_zpscmej8ojq.jpgTech-wise, I’ve found this Multi-Device Keyboard* a lifesaver this winter. I have around a 30 minute walking commute from work, and bad circulation in my hands. This often results in swelling and discomfort when I get in, to the point that texting is impossible. This keyboard connects to both my phone, tablet and laptop and allows me to send a quick text letting W know I’v survived the day. The stand makes it perfect for watching films through my tablet too, and the function keys allow volume adjustment and pausing to be effortless. A genuinely inventive bit of kit! I’m also extremely thankful for the torch* Logitech sent over in their winter survival kit (and the Baileys Hot Choc!) – the street light nearest my house has been dead for the last four weeks, so this has been great as I can actually see the lock when getting in…it will be getting lots of use next year as my student house is in a village. Curling up with a good book is the perfect way to cheer me up – with a blanket, a hot chocolate and my kindle is where you’ll almost certainly find me come 10pm right now. My Valentine’s present this year featured some Cyber-Jammies, and they are so worth it. Genuinely the softest and comfiest I’ve owner. And yep, I dropped chocolate mousse down them five minutes after putting them on for the first time…

 photo 0be7190f-82e4-49dd-985a-5426d9bdc59b_zpslfedbefu.jpgI couldn’t mention my winter essentials without looking at my beauty stash. Pixi Glow Tonic is a lifesaver for preventing flaky skin, this is the first winter I’ve used it and the difference has been amazing. Lip balms are absolutely necessary for me, to the point there’s one kept in every handbag. I’m pretty loyal to Burt’s Bees, but do own others through giveaway wins. Bodyshop ones are pretty good, and this Soap & Glory offering is great for adding a bit of colour too. Of course, cult favourite Nuxe Reve de Miel lives by my bed – though I have to say I think this is slightly overhyped!
 photo 597c927b-8bb2-4cec-ad5f-90d093184b7f_zpse8rxtv08.jpg

So that’s it, my winter essentials. Small disclaimer: I was sent over some goodies by Logitech for this post, but no money exchanged hands and as usual, my opinion is my own. If I didn’t love it, you’d know! Now, I’d love to know what you use to survive the winter?

 

University: Keeping Everything Safe

I’m a clumsy person. No idea why, but it clearly comes naturally to me.

 photo IMG_1312_zps3ea8ce05.jpgIn my first term of university I fell out of a taxi (coming home from work, completely sober), dropping my phone into a puddle. The phone developed a smashed screen, and was also very unpredictable. Luckily it was insured, and quickly replaced. In my second year, my boyfriend gifted me his old tablet. In the first fortnight of using it, it had an argument with the floor (to this day I don’t know how it feel off the table!). The floor won the argument. Unfortunately my tablet wasn’t insured, though I did replace it…and insure the replacement!

I’ve also known of multiple thefts from student accommodation. The most “amusing” being the back door left open, people came into the kitchen, blocked the inside door, and stole every bit of meat from the fridge and freezer. Others range from climbing through windows whilst residents popped to the loo and (my personal experience) post being opened by housemates and vouchers taken. A house three doors down last year left their (tiny, first floor) bathroom window open last Christmas…someone climbed in and cleared the place out.

 photo 752aab2f-38b8-48ec-b1a4-4ea766f2f691_zpsa76d96f2.jpgWith this in mind, student contents insurance is something I don’t hesitate to take out. Sure, it might seem expensive (mine’s about £125, but I do have a past claim), but it will be more expensive to replace all your belongings if something happens. I pay extra to insure whilst travelling, and to take electrical items such as my laptop outside of the house. This year much of my contents is insured on my landlady’s policy (I just rent her spareroom) so I’ve plumped for Gadget Insurance plus jewelry cover at a bargain price. I might not need to use it, but the security is there!

But physical security isn’t my only worry. I’m also clumsy when it comes to cyber-security. I’m sure we’ve all not saved work before, but I’m an expert at accidentally deleting everything permanently, at losing memory sticks, at corrupting family photos. I’ve loved using my Samsung Portable Hardrive* to back everything up, keeping files secure. It’s so huge it backs up my laptop, my sisters, and anyone else who wants to use some space. I’d definitely recommend one – I’m liking having as little saved on my laptop as possible too, as it really does run so much faster without all the photos!

 photo 53fcd68f-b6e9-4eb1-be9a-b1cb6b4ad364_zps6a9d1253.jpgDisclaimer: I was sent a selection of goodies, including the portable hardrive, by Insure2Go in exchange for a post about student security. All opinions are my own, as always, and no money exchanged hands. More the pity as I’d quite like my student loan in! 

What do you think about student insurance – worth it? Ever had a clumsy moment like me?

Lifestyle: Blending Technology Into Your Home*

I’ve often found than my love for modern gadgets and shabby chic interiors clash a little. Wires spoil the look, I often hide my laptop away. So when Logitech got in touch asking me to post about blending style with technology, I couldn’t help but be intrigued! Here’s their tips…

 photo fc22ea8f-a9fc-4c73-88e5-e5fe1e01b52c_zps07d1429a.jpgThree Ways to Brilliantly Blend Tech into the Home

 Will Taylor, interiors author, journalist and blogger, has been used to finding inventive ways to seamlessly introduce technology into his home for many years. Having contended with a myriad of TV’s, computers, control pads and tablets that have passed through his front door over the years, he’s learned that tech doesn’t have to be tricky when it comes to styling the home. Logitech teamed up with Will to shoot the new K830 Living Room keyboard to show how tech can easily fit into people’s everyday lives. Read on for his three top tips to invite tech into your home without impacting on style:

 photo 5b278e4d-7670-4282-9b69-8e5b997fa305_zpsfe6bb5e2.jpg1. Co-Ordinating Colours

Given technology is now so entrenched in our daily lives, it’s ironic that we often consider tech last when it comes to decorating. Whether you already own a TV or decide to invest in a new one when you move into a new home, it’s a good idea to consider upfront where it will be placed in the room, and how it will sit alongside the surrounding decorating scheme.

With some clever pre-planning, you can make a TV an interesting style statement in a space, without having to hide it away behind closed doors. For example, if you have a black TV, pick a wall to hang the TV from and then pick a dark wallpaper or paint for the wall behind. Alternatively, if you have a white TV, you could go for a stylish monochrome scheme and hang a white TV against a black wall to create striking contrast.

Hanging black and white prints in white frames around the TV will help blend it into the gallery wall. This approach will not only stop the TV from overpowering a room, but it will open up valuable floor space, too.

 photo 77b3d243-bada-4201-adf9-7558daf9cd43_zps948670a8.jpg 2. Boxed Beauties

Tablets, keyboards, remotes, phones – the living room can quickly become a paraphernalia playground for tech if left unattended, as people increasingly use integrated tech, such as keyboards, to make Smart TVs even more interactive. But the good news is you can clear the clutter by introducing strategically placed storage across your space.

A docking station placed upon a side table is great for keeping charging cords and leads hidden away, without having to continually open and close a unit to use a remote or wireless keyboard; something you would no doubt quickly tire of.

Consider a sleek white lacquered or marble box for a modern, contemporary space, or a jute-lidded tray for a more organic, country-meets-coastal look. Simply pull the wires up through the back, or drill a hole to slide the cables through, and then place your tech on top. You’ll have stylishly streamlined your tech into the space without impacting on practicality.

 photo 6fb2f61c-b41e-4429-a6b5-a1f3e1405910_zps7d540657.jpg3. Hue Hero

As technology becomes an ever-greater part of our lives, the colour options available are increasing. The benefit of this means you can now often match your tech to the colour palette of the room. One approach is to opt for a co-ordinated feel between the scheme and the technology by choosing tech designs in the same, or a similar, shade to the main colour in the room. Alternatively, you could switch things up by opting to use colourful technology as the elements for introducing accent colour into a scheme. Simply pick tech items in a contrasting hue to the surrounding scheme and watch the space soar in the style stakes.

Ultimately, the key to successfully blending tech into the home is to consider technology as an element of the decorating scheme in its own right. Alter your decorating approach from the outset so that you consider the role and position of tech in a scheme, and you will find it easier to marry technology with other parts of the space. Taking time to invest in these stylish solutions will streamline how you use and store tech in the home, paying dividends and resulting in a more stylish space.

I definitely agree with hiding cables away in boxes – it looks so much better. I’ve also found that choosing white pieces (like my speakers) goes better with my existing decor, everything blends in so nicely! I’m still in a rented room so have absolutely no freedom in decoration right now, but I’ll definitely be taking these tips with me when I eventually get a little more leeway!

 photo 8f114ca0-05f1-4ac2-a537-9c48324c8e9f_zps5c6396ea.jpgDisclaimer: I was sent the K830 in exchange for publishing this post – I’ll review this soon. As always, all opinions are my own, and I received no monetary compensation for the post.

How do you blend modern technology into your interior decoration?

Student Summer: Logitech Speaker Adapter* (Sneaky Money Saving Tip!)

Now, speakers aren’t an essential bit of kit to take to university, but when you come to second year and living off campus it’s a good idea if you have a set in your house. They are great for parties, but also improving the sound quality during a film night, or even (in my case a few years ago) when the speakers on your laptop break. Now, wireless ones are best, purely because it doesn’t matter if you need to use the device, and its easy to pair up other people’s devices too. But wireless ones are often more expensive, and cheap ones aren’t too reliable. Here’s where Logitech come in.

 photo 2014-09-10175827_zps9e95ae3c.jpgThey’ve created a wonderful little device that converts your wired speakers into wireless. I won’t pretend to understand how it works (though in reality it’s probably quite simple) but it works well.

 photo 2014-09-10175524_zps89d9f317.jpgI was lucky enough to be spent some gorgeous (is that a legitimate way to describe speakers?!) speakers* as I didn’t have any, just so I could test the adapter* out! The speakers work really well, I’ve always loved Logitech’s pieces anyway, and the build and sound quality of these is second to none. From what I’ve tried at least!

 photo 2014-09-10175510_zpsc050e64e.jpgWhen using the adapter the sound quality does drop slightly, but it’s only noticeable if you go from one to the other virtually immediately. It definitely doesn’t detract from whatever you’re playing. My only niggle with the adapter is that I’d love it to match my speakers – the white and black look is a little strange in my opinion! But I keep the speakers out on show, and only use the adapter when needed so it’s not a huge deal. Something to consider if you’re buying both at the same time though.

 photo 2014-09-10175806_zpsf591d325.jpgIn terms of whether to pick up an adapter for your existing speakers or buy a whole new set, I would wholeheartedly recommend the adapter. Probably cheaper in the long-run, as I find cheaper wireless speakers just aren’t great. Definitely something worth picking up!

 photo 2014-09-10175854_zps77f2e7c7.jpgDisclaimer: I was sent the speakers and adapter for the purpose of this review, but I genuinely enjoy using them and do think the adapter is a great bit of kit for students! I also love how the speakers don’t out of place in my new shabby-chic room! And now I shall stop writing…and dance around the room to what is probably excessively-loud Bon Jovi. Yep, weird music taste alert!

What music do you listen to?

Student Summer: Logitech Wireless Mouse Review*

I find that a laptop is pretty much essential for university, even for a maths-related degree. Yes, I hardly use it, it gets more use for blogging, but when I do need it for coursework I’m pretty much glued to it for a few weeks. A desktop for me wouldn’t cut it as I know there are occasions where I need access to it on campus, so laptop it is.

However a laptop isn’t ideal for someone, like me, who has Repetitive Strain Injury tendencies. Since suffering badly over exam period I’ve been prone to really painful twinges (in my other hand) if I use my laptop too often, so I started looking for a decent wireless mouse. Imagine my delight when Logitech contact me wondering if I’d want to review some products – the answer to my problems!
 photo 7d050e03-4e75-4ebf-8cb2-c902c1ef5039_zps00cf9003.jpg

After a great deal of discussion they sent out the mouse they felt would suit me most, the T630 Ultrathin Touch Mouse*. I have to say, I love it!

 photo 0173c082-ed07-4c07-94e1-8c03bde0f1e9_zps995d0527.jpgIts small and lightweight; I can take this to work and pack in my pocket if I need to. It doesn’t aggravate any pain in my wrist, hand or fingers, and best of all its incredible easy to set up. I did have to order a Bluetooth Adapter as for some reason my laptop seems to have forgotten it’s got one built in, but other than that getting this mouse good to go was painfree. Quite literally!

 photo 1ed69b5c-3422-4edc-aff9-fdef090ac401_zps470ae2a0.jpgIt is pricy for a mouse, but the quality is so, so high. If you do a lot of tedious work using a touchpad I’d highly recommend investing in a mouse. And if you are going to be using it often, I’d go for the best you can afford; I’ve actually gone through several cheaper ones throughout university so you’ll be getting your monies worth. Maybe not a university essential, but it’s an item that’s pretty damn important to me! So whilst it is a luxury item, its also something thats necessary for me!

Disclaimer: The mouse was sent to me for the purpose of this review. I received no monetary compensation, and all opinions are my own – I genuinely loved this product!

What necessary ‘luxuries’ do you use?