Best In Show winners revealed at CU Exposed
20th Mar 2013 | 17:45
The best new tech from Computers Unlimited's annual show
Last night, at its annual CU Exposed show, tech distributor Computers Unlimited showcased the products from some of its clients in the London Film Museum.
As usual, this correspondent went along to keep up with what's new and to meet up with folks doing great things in this industry. But this year there was another task: as editor of MacFormat, I was to join Chris Hall of Pocket-lint, Andy Clough of What Hi-Fi?, and freelance journalist Emily Peck in highlighting the very best kit there.
Although some stuff such as the new Wacom Cintiq tablet made its debut at CU Exposed, not everything here was brand new, but the six products that we journalists selected between us to receive Best In Show awards are, in big and little ways, excellent, and the sorts of things that get us excited.
Wacom Cintiq 13HD
There's nobody to touch Wacom for tablets for digital artists, and its Cintiq range, which house a monitor behind the digitizer layer, is at the top of their wish list. While those who want a huge canvas to work on can opt for its desk-bound 24HD model, you can now also choose the slim, light 13HD.
Although we liked its older (and now retired) brother, the 12WX, it was chunky and unwieldy compared to the 13HD. There's still an annoying gap between the stylus tip and where you're drawing on the screen, but this does feel much more like a proper digital sketchbook. (Oh, and we know it's a bit silly to, but we love the slim, magnetically fastening case for the new Pro Pen, which keeps your nibs together.)
Colour-changing lightbulbs that you control from your iPhone over the internet: juuuust the right side of the genius/madness divide. Actually, we really love the Philips Hue lightbulbs.
Yes, they're maddeningly expensive, but when we reviewed them recently, we got slightly addicted to creating perfect light recipes for different times of day or tasks in our living room. we gave them back to Philips only very grudgingly.
Bluelounge is a fantastic company doing very cool little accessories for smartphones and more; you really must check out what the folks there do.
There were lots of different ideas we could have awarded, but the Kii really caught our attention. It's just a little thing that you could keep on your keyring that pops out to reveal a USB port on one end and either a 30-pin dock connector or a Lightning connector depending on the model. Simple, smart, well done. (Frustratingly for Bluelounge, the costs associated with Lightning mean the price of something such as its MiniDock doubles for the Lightning version compared to the 30-pin model.)
The Braven BRV-1 Bluetooth speaker is ruggedised and highly water-resistant, to the extent that the chap from Braven merrily demonstrated it by pouring water over the poor thing as it was playing.
It also has another trick up its sleeve, in common with the high-end Braven 650 we reviewed recently: it can use its own built-in battery to juice up your smartphone when it runs out of power away from the mains.
Even high-end audio companies such as French outfit Focal are having to embrace wireless, and the EASYA floor-standing speakers, which should be available in the autumn for something around £1,800, attempt to marry 'audiophile' and 'wireless'.
The Hub-Air, which has optical, coaxial and analogue inputs, as well as two USB inputs, also has an apt-X Bluetooth receiver, so you can stream music to it from your smartphone, tablet, Mac, PC and so on.
Whatever the Hub-Air receives is then beamed wirelessly to the two tall speaker stacks, so you don't have to have wires trailing along the floor.
It was too noisy in the London Film Museum to test the audio, and in any case what we saw were prototypes, but Focal has a good reputation, so the results should be impressive.
Tylt charging products
We first saw Tylt's products at CES a couple of years back, but if we remember correctly they didn't have UK distribution then. And it's great that it now does, because it makes a range of quietly brilliant products.
Rather than awarding one particular thing Best In Show, we gave the gong to its broad range of charging accessories. Among other things, we like the Band, a car charger for 30-pin, micro-USB and soon Lightning products, not least because there's a pass-through female USB port so you can charge something else at the same time; there's also a y-shaped car charger, and the clever thing especially about one of its versions is that it can output 4.2A - enough to charge two high-power devices at once.
We liked the Energi+ Backpack, a bag with some clever cable management and a built-in 10,400mAh, 4.1A to keep your gadgets juiced away from the mains. And we liked the Vu, a smart, Qi-compatible wireless charging stand. Now all we need is for Apple to put wireless charging into the iPhone 5S...