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My new microphone setup—ideal for cheapskates
This garish-looking thing is an el-cheapo LD-condenser that sounds amazingly good for the price. I’m using it with this inexpensive scissor-arm with integrated XLR lead.

They make a great combo. The mic comes complete with shock-mount, which fits the arm nicely. (I've not tried the included XLR-to-TRS cable, but it looks more than functional.)

Sound quality is crisp, with a decently flat response. Note that you need to talk into the side of the mic, where the diaphragm is—you can just see it if you peer through the grill. If you instead talk into the circular top—as if it were a handheld mic—it sounds a bit muddy.

The arm doesn't droop due to weight—I can even pop an old, chunky pair of Sennheiser HD25s on top. However, there's no damping on the springs, so they can make a ringing noise through the mic if you hit the stand or the desk it's clamped to.

Note that, as a condenser, the mic needs phantom power. It has a decent output: I had to turn my mixer input gain way down: about -30 dB, compared with my previous AKG190.

An absolute bargain at £26 or $39 (including delivery)

And yes, the black sock does a good job of covering up the garish gold grill!

£ (mic)
£ (arm)

$ (mic)
$ (arm)
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This Is Still An Awesome Superzoom Deal, IMHO
Fujifilm X-S1 for £230 / $400!
What sold me were the decent image quality, manual focus and zoom rings, bigger than average sensor, EVF and raw. The user-configurable buttons are handy, too. (Note that Fuji no longer make this model, which explains the great deal.)

This lens is 26x (24-624mm 35mm equiv). There are longer zooms available, but good luck getting enough light onto the sensor! And at this amazing price point, I defy you to find a better quality camera.

It's obviously not the most compact camera in the world, but the big sensor, long lens, and the excellent EVF prove their worth. Look elsewhere if you want the very best video quality, though!

Pics at 

To get the deal, without risking a 3rd-party seller, use one of the Warehouse Deal options... 
$ Amazon US: £ Amazon UK: 
Fujifilm X-S1 nearly-DSLR/bridge camera...

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Encrypted Hard Drive, Unlocked By Fingerprint
Apricorn Aegis Bio
I don't know about you, but I'm fed up of reading news about how yet another company has carelessly lost yet another batch of private customer data. Sadly, the story is all too familiar: Typically, an employee takes a copy of the data away on some sort of portable storage, which inexplicably goes missing.

I mean, how hard can it be to make sure that the data are encrypted? Actually, pretty hard, as it turns out -- at least for 'regular' users. 

Enter: automatic, hardware encryption, where the cryptography magic and its user authentication are contained within the storage device itself. 

Apricorn, Inc., based near San Diego, sent me one of its biometric devices for review. a laptop-style, 2.5" SATA drive, shock mounted inside a USB enclosure. What makes it unusual is biometric authentication -- a fingerprint scanner is built into the case. Once set up, the user simply plugs in the unit -- just like a regular external USB drive -- and then scans a fingerprint to unlock the data. No extra software needs to be installed.

A successful fingerprint scan enables the encryption hardware, which implements 256-bit AES. Up to ten fingerprints can be 'enrolled' to control the drive; an administrator can set up an additional escrow password, just in case. 

Apricorn's range of external drives are unusual for a simple, but effective piece of design thinking: a captive USB cable. This forehead-slappingly brilliant idea means you don't need to mess about with plugging in a separate cable -- there's one already neatly stowed in the side of the case.

They come in 500 GB, 1 TB, and 2 TB sizes. Highly recommended.

$ Amazon US: 
£ Amazon UK:

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Is This The Best Smartphone Car Mount Available?
Montar Air Qi
After having used the previous version unit for a several months, I'm pleased to see no difference in the sticky/suction base part, but good improvements to the clip part. 

The clip now has a quick-release button, although it's tricky to find until you get used to it. This also means you don't have to fight the strong spring to open the jaws -- just squeeze them closed against a ratchet. It also has an adjustable foot, which adds to stability (not that it needed extra stability in my experience).

The new Qi pad is an excellent idea -- now you don't need to fiddle with the charging cable, or worry about running out of battery if you can't be bothered to fiddle with it. It comes with a 12V car adapter, which fits snugly and glows a pleasant blue.

I can say this is one of the best mounts I've tried. It appears sturdy and fits the largest of phablets -- even a Nexus 6. Sadly, the Qi doesn't work through my PDair flip case, which is thick leather.

The adjustable collet system works as advertised. No appreciable wobble, either.

The base is wider than you might expect, so finding a spot for it in your vehicle could be challenging. But the suction cup seems to stick to anything, and doesn't leak suction after a few weeks. (I've not needed to try the 3M sticky pad that comes with it.)

[Full disclosure: I was sent a unit by Montar's PR company to consider, but this review is my genuinely independent opinion.]

$ Amazon US: (see comments)
£ Amazon UK: 

$ Older version US: 
£ Older version UK: 

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Vector: A beautiful smartwatch that's not made by Apple
Fashionable watch first, wearable smart tech second
It definitely takes a different direction to Apple. And at $250–$350, it's not following Cupertino's pricing script, neither.

I was offered a pre-release review unit by Vector Watch. The hardware is beautiful, but the software leaves something to be desired, but is catching up. The long battery life is a key feature (although I'm unsure if the promised 30-days is totally accurate).

$ Amazon US: *£ Amazon UK:*
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