A Ferrari-level Ultra HD disc player – and more
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
A Ferrari-level Ultra HD disc player
Here’s a geeky confession. I have been known to sit through entire albums on a stereo or films on a TV – the contents of which I found utterly boring – simply because I admired the technical quality of the equipment delivering the material. Take the, in my opinion, yawnworthy Avengers: Infinity War, which I recently watched on Ultra HD Blu‑ray. I lapped up all two hours 40 minutes of it purely because I was so enchanted by the extraordinary picture – its sharpness and subtlety of colour – and mind-blowing audio delivered by this flagship disc player from Pioneer.
Using media discs at all when it’s almost 2020 is a bit retro. You can stream supposedly ultra-high-definition films (albeit rather compressed) from multiple mainstream online sources. Discs are arguably a dying form, with Ultra HD a dwindling category within that dying form, even though it is by far the finest way to show a movie at home. So why buy the ultimate disc player, which the squat, professional-looking Pioneer UDP-LX800 is? For the same, if less show-off, reason people buy a Ferrari when they live in Hong Kong or Jersey, where there’s nowhere much to drive it. Because excellence in any field is a goal in itself. So if you have a top-rank TV, you’ll want a Ferrari-level disc player in your entertainment armoury.
This Pioneer is a dense brute of a machine and this old-school technology will be future proof, I’d say, for a decade, just as fine petrol-engined cars will still be prized in 2030.
Insanely good Manhattan speakers
The UK audio company Q Acoustics has excelled itself with these insanely beautiful and terrific-sounding new speakers called Concept 300. I am a huge fan of Q Acoustics’ speakers and have a pair of its Concept 20 bookshelf ones in my audio retinue, but the official stands for these, which I didn’t go for, are unusually quite ugly. The Concept 300s’, on the other hand, are cool Manhattan-loftworthy tripods – and they are not just for show. A loudspeaker’s biggest challenge is to ensure that all the vibration taking place is musical rather than serving to rattle the teacups. The tripod legs of the Concept 300 stands are braced in a very specific way to stop vibration making its way down to your floor and, if you have an apartment, to your downstairs neighbours.
The result is a sound much bigger than you would expect from speakers of their size (40cm x 35cm x 22cm). I found the Concept 300s a little harsh at first when playing female vocalists, but the bass on the industry-standard speaker-torturing track, Massive Attack’s Inertia Creeps, sounds like it’s from a much more substantial, hidden source.
Dyson’s brilliant new take on the floor lamp
My eyes are doing what many people’s eyes do when they pass 45: demanding more and better light to read printed material. So I recently bought one of those British designed-and-made Serious Readers lights you see advertised in magazines, aimed at the more mature market. It’s pretty basic technology with a heavily engineered stand, and it does the job – making old-school reading less strenuous on the eyes. Its design is, however, rather British Leyland c1980. When my younger daughter saw it, she said, “Dad, why have you got a dentist’s light?”
This new model from James Dyson’s lighting specialist son Jake, now integrated into the family mothership down in Wiltshire (and, yes, Singapore), is the other end of the scale from my Serious Readers clunker. It looks ludicrously cool; it’s a superb piece of physical and electronic design; and it also makes reading for the tired-of-eyeball much, much easier.
What I love about the literally brilliant Lightcycle Floor Light is that you can adjust both the intensity and the colour – from smoochily low to ultra-bright. What I admire, but can’t be bothered with, is that you can run the
light from an app and program it to track the time of day, adjusting the light accordingly. Thank you. Life. Too. Short.
A 5G phone that’s setting the pace in the UK
I will be looking at many 5G phones in times to come; it might, indeed, be the last G I ever have to think about because at up to 20 times faster than the best 4G, and with latency (aka delay) almost as minimal as in the human brain, many in telecoms believe there will never be a 6G.
But Technopolis’s first 5G phone is from newbie phone maker OnePlus, which beat all the big phone cheeses to market in a deal with EE, which was also the first with 5G in the UK. It isn’t just OnePlus’s agility that deserves respect. Its 7 Pro 5G with 10 different radio aerials inside – 5G is complicated – is just so good. Apart from lacking the (frankly) gimmicky waterproof rating and not-so-big-deal wireless charging offered by established manufacturers, it is every bit as good as the 5G competitors that will be rampant when you read this. It even has its own gimmick – a pop-up selfie camera that leaves the big, glorious screen free of notches for the usual camera.
5G is incredible. I was getting speeds in the hundreds of MBps in London right after EE’s launch. Someone in Birmingham got 1.8GBps. That’s double the fastest broadband speed. And it means you could download a film before getting on a plane, say, in seconds. Ingesting a 10GB film will, of course, put a dent in your monthly data allowance, so EE (I’m sure others will follow) offers a limitless video data pass on top of your regular data.