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Earphones for every ear and wallet

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As earphone technology and manufacture improves, the ranges and variations keep expanding, from high-end to budget devices. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK highlights four very different options.

The choice of earphones available nowadays is as bewildering as that for smartphones, but the same rule applies: look for options that suit your budget, your needs and your preferred look and feel. No one option is best, or even best value for money, as it depends entirely on the user’s preferences, needs and circumstances.

Earphones are used in a variety of settings, from highly active exercising to deeply passive music enjoyment. However, increasingly, they also have to cross the boundaries between activities. While there is no one-size-fits-all earphone, the four devices selected here are versatile enough to ensure they won’t gather much dust in a drawer somewhere:

Jabra Elite Sport earbuds

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The most pricey of this batch is also the most function-rich. The Jabra Elite Sport is a set of in-ear wireless buds that link to a smartphone via an iPhone or Android app.

It is designed specifically for runners, with four features that set it apart:

• Three-hour active-use battery, and a small, chargeable carry case for another two recharges.

• Sweat-proof, with a three-year warranty against “failure due to the effects of perspiration.

• External microphone that can be switched on to pick up ambient noise, so that the user isn’t oblivious to traffic, for example.

• In-ear heart rate monitor and analyser.

• In-ear audio coaching.

The last is the possibly the most valuable. Specialised coaching is increasingly available via fitness bands, but rarely in an earbud package. The Sport Life companion app includes coaching, planning workouts and testing fitness levels, making it the ideal device for getting new year’s fitness resolutions on the road.

If those aren’t good enough, it is compatible with most independent fitness apps, like Strava, Runtastic and Endomondo.

Of course, excellent sound quality is a given, and it comes with an astonishing array of wingtips for a wide range of sizes. This will probably allay fears of the buds being dislodged and even getting lost. If not, there is always its wired cousin, the Jabra Sport Pulse.

  • The Elite Sports are available for R3 499 from Circuit City here.

Jabra Sport Pulse

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The Jabra Sport Pulse is not exactly the wired version of the Elite Sport, as it has a link connecting the two earpieces, but that is where the wired connecting stops: it still uses Bluetooth to connect to a smartphone. It’s also intended for fitness and running enthusiasts, but with slightly lower tech and at a somewhat lower cost.

Its most compelling features are:

• In-ear heart rate monitoring

• Sport button with voice prompts

• VO2 Max tracking, meaning it measures “maximal volume of oxygen” that the body delivers to the working muscles, and is one of the best measures of physical fitness.

•  Sweat-proof, with the same three-year warranty against “failure due to the effects of perspiration”.

• Five hours talk time.

The earphones are charged via a concealed Micro USB charging port in the one earbud, which then also charges the other bud. It also comes with a set of foam ear tips and has built-in active noise cancellation.

It’s a great option for listening to music while having a serious work-out.

  • The Jabra Pulse is available for R2 499 from Circuit City here.

House of Marley – Smile Jamaica

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Without a doubt, the coolest brand in sound equipment, House of Marley is best known for making its products from sustainable materials, and for donating a portion of the proceeds to 1Love (www.1love.org), the Marley family’s charitable foundation.

It makes beatboxes, headphones and in-ear headsets, among other audio merchandise, typically with the signature reggae colours and designs associated with Bob Marley. The earphones are the most affordable of its products, and make a great festive season gift.

The Smile Jamaica in-ear set offers the following key features:

• High-quality fabric cable.

• In-line remote with microphone and button to take or end calls, as well as pause, play and skip tracks.

• Enhanced bass.

• Great build quality for a low-cost device.

The package only includes one extra silicon ear tip, and may not be comfortable for non-average ears. For the price, though, it is as comfortable as an earphone is going to get.

There is one feature, however, that truly sets apart the Smile Jamaica earphones

they use wood in the earpieces, and it’s a wood that brings the device close to home: sapele, a sustainable African wood. The wood is combined with an aluminium cap, the better to connect to the earbud.

In short, it is economical, tough, looks good, serves a cause, and is “mindfully” made. What’s not to love?

  • Smile Jamaica earphones are available from Accessory Lab for only R279-R299 here.

Meizu EP52 Sports magnetic neckband Bluetooth earphones

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High-end Bluetooth earphones tend to be excessively expensive in South Africa, running to three to five thousand rands. As a result, the final choice in this selection is an import, via the Chinese site that is fast becoming a go-to site for South African gadget buyers, Gearbest.

The highlight of the product is the unboxing: a minimalist cover sleeve is pulled off to expose an elegant red box, which folds open to reveal a beautifully presented headset, charger holder and box of eartips to match various size requirements. Certainly, the unboxing does not add to the quality of the earphones themselves, but provides a quality experience that is then carried over to the device.

The main features of the earphones are:

• Waterproof.

• Six-hour battery life.

• Three-button remote on the arm, with microphone, to control volume and answer calls.

• Magnetic earpieces that clip together when the set is worn round the neck while not in use.

• Machined aluminium ends.

• Four extra wingtips and four eartips.

• Lightweight

The sound quality is superior to that of any earphones that come with smartphones, including Samsung or Apple variants, and includes noise cancellation.

The red cables combine with black neck rest to provide a deeply aesthetically pleasing look, making for one of the best looking earphones around for both sport and leisure.

When shopping on Gearbest, look out for discount codes or vouchers that can reduce the cost of a device by up to a third.

  • The Meizu EP52 is available from Gearbest at $89.99, excluding shipping is available here.

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Legion gets a pro makeover

Lenovo’s latest Legion gaming laptop, the Y530, pulls out all the stops to deliver a sleek looking computer at a lower price point, writes BRYAN TURNER

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Gaming laptops have become synonymous with thick bodies, loud fans, and rainbow lights. Lenovo’s latest gaming laptop is here to change that.

The unit we reviewed housed an Intel Core i7-8750H, with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU. It featured dual storage, one bay fitted with a Samsung 256GB NVMe SSD and the other with a 1TB HDD.

The latest addition to the Legion lineup has become far more professional-looking, compared to the previous generation Y520. This trend is becoming more prevalent in the gaming laptop market and appeals to those who want to use a single device for work and play. Instead of sporting flashy colours, Lenovo has opted for an all-black computer body and a monochromatic, white light scheme. 

The laptop features an all-metal body with sharp edges and comes in at just under 24mm thick. Lenovo opted to make the Y530’s screen lid a little shorter than the bottom half of the laptop, which allowed for more goodies to be packed in the unit while still keeping it thin. The lid of the laptop features Legion branding that’s subtly engraved in the metal and aligned to the side. It also features a white light in the O of Legion that glows when the computer is in use.

The extra bit of the laptop body facilitates better cooling. Lenovo has upgraded its Legion fan system from the previous generation. For passive cooling, a type of cooling that relies on the body’s build instead of the fans, it handles regular office use without starting up the fans. A gaming laptop with good passive cooling is rare to find and Lenovo has shown that it can be achieved with a good build.

The internal fans start when gaming, as one would expect. They are about as loud as other gaming laptops, but this won’t be a problem for gamers who use headsets.

Click here to read about the screen quality, and how it performs in-game.

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Serious about security? Time to talk ISO 20000

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By EDWARD CARBUTT, executive director at Marval Africa

The looming Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) Act in South Africa and the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union (EU) have brought information security to the fore for many organisations. This in addition to the ISO 27001 standard that needs to be adhered to in order to assist the protection of information has caused organisations to scramble and ensure their information security measures are in line with regulatory requirements.

However, few businesses know or realise that if they are already ISO 20000 certified and follow Information Technology Infrastructure Library’s (ITIL) best practices they are effectively positioning themselves with other regulatory standards such as ISO 27001. In doing so, organisations are able to decrease the effort and time taken to adhere to the policies of this security standard.

ISO 20000, ITSM and ITIL – Where does ISO 27001 fit in?

ISO 20000 is the international standard for IT service management (ITSM) and reflects a business’s ability to adhere to best practice guidelines contained within the ITIL frameworks. 

ISO 20000 is process-based, it tackles many of the same topics as ISO 27001, such as incident management, problem management, change control and risk management. It’s therefore clear that if security forms part of ITSM’s outcomes, it should already be taken care of… So, why aren’t more businesses looking towards ISO 20000 to assist them in becoming ISO 27001 compliant?

The link to information security compliance

Information security management is a process that runs across the ITIL service life cycle interacting with all other processes in the framework. It is one of the key aspects of the ‘warranty of the service’, managed within the Service Level Agreement (SLA). The focus is ensuring that the quality of services produces the desired business value.

So, how are these standards different?

Even though ISO 20000 and ISO 27001 have many similarities and elements in common, there are still many differences. Organisations should take cognisance that ISO 20000 considers risk as one of the building elements of ITSM, but the standard is still service-based. Conversely, ISO 27001 is completely risk management-based and has risk management at its foundation whereas ISO 20000 encompasses much more

Why ISO 20000?

Organisations should ask themselves how they will derive value from ISO 20000. In Short, the ISO 20000 certification gives ITIL ‘teeth’. ITIL is not prescriptive, it is difficult to maintain momentum without adequate governance controls, however – ISO 20000 is.  ITIL does not insist on continual service improvement – ISO 20000 does. In addition, ITIL does not insist on evidence to prove quality and progress – ISO 20000 does.  ITIL is not being demanded by business – governance controls, auditability & agility are. This certification verifies an organisation’s ability to deliver ITSM within ITIL standards.

Ensuring ISO 20000 compliance provides peace of mind and shortens the journey to achieving other certifications, such as ISO 27001 compliance.

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