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Do I need a digital camera as well as my smartphone?

As smartphones have developed so have their in-built cameras.  For example, the iPhone 12 Pro, comes with an ultra-wide, wide and telephoto lens, 2x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out and 4x optical zoom range with a digital zoom upto 10x and completed with night mode.  With this spec is there any need to invest in a digital camera?

There are thoughts, that yes there is.  Options such as the GoPro or a high-end DSLR with bring added enjoyment and quality to your photos.  Before making the decision, ask yourself the following: –

Exactly what are you going to use the camera for? – Both options are there to capture your memories, whether you are on holiday, at a family event or simply out and about walking.  It is important to think, once taken, what do you want to do with your photos.  It is obvious that using your smartphone as your sole camera is convenient – you already carry your phone with you, so it makes sense.  It also means that you are ready to capture a photo at any time.  The apps for photo editing that are now available to download to your smartphone are also endless which makes it easy for you to make changes to create the perfect picture.  In today’s experiences and with the social media platforms such as TikTok, it is likely that many photos taken will just end up on social media. With larger screens now available with smartphones you can even see more of what you are capturing and great for video playback.

Higher quality with digital cameras

Even though smartphone cameras have developed with technology, they are still best capturing a static picture and one that has good lighting.  Capturing moving pictures and those that aren’t in great light should drive you towards buying a digital camera.  Not only are they better here but they provide higher quality images which is enabled by larger sensors on a digital camera which capture more light.  You can also add on a more powerful flash and with a 10x optical zoom – you just won’t get this with a smartphone.

You will have many options available to you for lenses if you opt for a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) that enables you to capture the results you want depending on the type of photos that you are taking.

If you plan on printing pictures you will get a higher quality image using a digital camera.  Typically, with a smartphone image you will need to blow it up for a larger print, meaning the grain levels are more noticeable than with digital cameras which have higher megapixels and resolution.

Most people will continue to use their smartphone as it is so convenient and for its purpose, they provide good quality pictures and video which suit uploading to social media etc.  If you want high quality printable pictures or take photography a bit more seriously then a digital camera is a must.  GoPros are great for action shots and DSLR’s are great for pure photography for the best images.

Make your Smart Home secure

Years ago, a secure home meant you had locks, deadbolts, and latchkeys with little keys for all your windows.  Since then, home security has come a long way with smart and keyless security options for your home.

Before deciding on what you need or want, it is worth taking a bit of time to research the options such as motion sensors, alarms, cameras, and smart locks.  With online security a hot topic, also take the time to understand what data is stored and shared by the devices that you opt for.

Here we explore smart locks.

Keyless systems for the home may seem new and almost futuristic but we have been using this type of technology for years from the office down to the local gym.  It seems a sensible and obvious step for this technology to be used for the home.  Don’t be scared off by the technology.  Digital keys are safer than the more traditional keys that we are all used to due to dual encryption used in many keyless solutions – think about it being like the encryption used when you log into online banking.  Many solutions now also link to your Alexa or Google Assistant making is easy and integrated to what you may have already in the home.  In many circumstances you may also be able to link in light and heater timings so your smart lock can act as a trigger.

Worried about physical keys ending up in the wrong hands? Geofencing technology is provided with many options – this technology uses a smartphones GPS capability to understand where you are and will secure or unlock your home accordingly – far better than searching for your keys at the bottom of your bag!  Some that come with the Yale Access App will unlock your door as soon as it senses that you are within five metres of your front door, or you can set the mode to away or change the distance.  You have the control of timing to always suit you best with remote access to check the status of your locks.

We recommend you explore the web to find out more about smart locks..

Get Ready for the Summer with WiFi in your garden

We are still set to have a heatwave in August and even without the heatwave, the weather hasn’t been too bad.  With the kids off, wouldn’t it be great to get even more out of your garden and enjoy summer nights of entertainment.

Having WiFi in your garden will enable you to enjoy streaming films, playing music and even connecting to other smart devices and solutions like lighting.

Before you start anything, it is best to check that your broadband and WiFi in the home is working at the best level it can – this will ensure that you get the best experience as you extend into your garden.

Here are the best options to get the connectivity you need:-

WiFi Extenders

Using extenders provide one of the easiest and simplest ways to increase your connectivity to the garden.  You may already be using extenders around your home, so this will be an easy solution for you.

You need to consider where your router is and where you place your extender is important.  Pick a plug socket that is closest to your garden but still as close to your router as possible.  Just bear in mind though – they boost your signal range from your router but they won’t boost the speed – this is why it is important to ensure you have the best broadband service available for your area.  When choosing an extender, it is also worth checking the maximum speed it can handle, invest in a good model.

Two extenders which may be worth considering are the Netgear Nighthawk X6 WiFi Range Extender (£113).  Handles speeds upto 2.2Gbps and also comes with a Smart Roaming feature.

Or a more affordable option is the TP-Link RE450 WiFi Range Extender (£52).  Handles speeds upto 1.75 Gbps and has an intelligent signal indicator which helps you find the best location to plug it in.

Mesh Network

There are a few reasons to consider a mesh network; if you have a large house, large garden or just worried that the extender won’t give you the strength of signal needed.  Mesh networks operate in a similar way to extenders but they typically provide a more powerful solution, offer greater reliability and are more effective at creating a network for your garden for multiple devices.

To simply explain what a mesh network is – it is a group of devices that act together as a single WiFi network for you to connect to.  Compared to the extenders, they don’t boost the signal they act as additional access points for WiFi across your home or garden.  Placed in the correct position they can cover dead-spots in your home and then out into the garden with many mesh devices designed specifically for the garden. Some broadband providers can supply you with a solution so it is worth checking with them first before you invest independently.   The benefit of buying independently is that it will work with any broadband solution.

Two options outside of your broadband supplier include the Google WiFi Mesh Whole Home System which starts at £189 for a triple pack or another option is the Amazon eero system – these are sold in packs from one to three with each additional units priced at £89 rising to £399 for the Amazon eero pro.

Ethernet Cable

This option will provide you the best and most robust option and will give you the best internet speeds in your garden.  You need to run ethernet cables direct from your router into any ethernet port – for example, into the back of your TV or laptop – you can also place a secondary router in a suitable position in your garden, maybe in a shed for example.  It prevents loss of signal which you often get with WiFi.  Cabling can be a cheap option but when using cables it is advised to protect the cable from weather and the sun.  You can buy different casing and trunking which will help you to achieve this and remember to protect any ports, sockets or routers from the rain.  We recommend getting this option professionally installed.

Powerline

A good option for you if you don’t want to run cables.  You build a network using two plug in adaptors into a regular mains plug socket.  Each has a short ethernet cable with the first being plugged into the mains and the cable plugged into the back of your router.  You then plug the second adaptor into a location where you want the signal – so close to your garden even into a garage.  From here you can then use the cable to plug into the back of your TV, laptop, etc.  Or as with previous solutions you can opt to plug the cable into the back of a secondary router again where you are looking to gain connectivity to which you can connect to wirelessly.

Powerline adaptor kits can be purchased for as little as £25 or you can opt for more sophisticated solutions costing nearer £250.  The main difference is usually the number of adaptors you get and the speeds that they are capable of achieving.

Two options include the TP-Link AV600 Nano Powerline Starter Kit (£24), which comes complete with two adaptors and transfer speeds upto 600 Mbps or opt for the Devolo Magic 2 WiFi Next Powerline Whole Home Kit, priced at £250 and comes with three adaptors with transfer speeds upto 2.4Gbps.

We hope that you have the solution that suits you and you enjoy your summer nights in the garden.

If you need any help or advice on installing your WiFi, it may be useful to contact one of our Approved WiFi Installers.

Thinking about getting a smart doorbell?

Smart Doorbells are becoming more and more popular to enable homeowners to see who is at their door and to provide additional home security.  With the increase of smart devices and smart assistants, we can all get a bit overwhelmed with the different options, amount of apps we have to install to control and interact with the devices – it can be enough to put you off.

Smart Doorbells can be a great addition to your home and a great new feature which will be available soon, may encourage you now to take the plunge.

The new feature is Quick Replies which enables you to use an automated response from your Amazon Alexa to answer the doorbell for you if you are unable to make it to the door in time.  You need to select a pre-recorded messages so a little time is required initially.  You are able to choose from six pre-recorded messages which options such as ‘Please leave the parcel outside’ or a simple message to ask the caller to wait to give you time to get to the door.

It has the flexibility to be set to be activated with the ring of the doorbell or even just by the detection of motion – this is helpful if you have concerns for parcels being taken from your doorstep when left by a delivery driver.

If you opt for the Ring Video Doorbell Pro – you will have more options, however, you will need an active Ring Protect subscription.  The added features include, when the bell is rung, your Alexa can ask how she can help the caller – either take a message or even provide a location for a parcel to be left. The messages can be easily accessed via your Ring app and can also be watched back or in real-time if you can’t make it to the door.

Linking it to your Alexa could just be the right time to take the plunge and get a smart doorbell from Ring.

If you need any help or advice on installing your doorbell, it may be useful to contact one of our Approved Installers by using the search box on our homepage.

Should you have a smart meter fitted when offered

Most utility companies have a program of rolling out smart meters and are encouraging their customers to have one fitted or replacing really old meters with smart meters. But do you know what is best to do?

Here is some useful information:-

Qualified engineers will come to your home and install your new smart meter to ensure it is done safely. The new unit/s will replace what you have already with the old unit/s being taken away. The units will send your meter readings direct to your supplier so you don’t need to worry anymore about sending in your meter readings yourself.

You will be able to see a display screen which will show you your energy usage in real time which is useful to see when you are using your energy most and how much. When you switch on your kettle you will see your energy usage increase so this will help with monitoring and potentially creating better habits.

There is no charge to consumers to have a smart meter fitted and you will still be able to see and check your bills – most displays will allow you to look at daily, weekly and monthly usage so you can track how much you are using.

When switching supplier you should be able to do this really easily irrelevant of who installed your smart meter – with some models you may still need to report your final meter readings.

Renting or have a PAYG (Pay as You Go) meter – not a problem. With the PAYG meter, there are many that come with an app so you get a warning when your credit is running low and will give you the ability to top up your account. If you are renting you can still opt for a smart meter but it is wise to advise your landlord and also check your tenancy agreement.

All in all, a smart meter should make your life easier and help you to keep track of your bills and energy usage and even save you money if you change your habits.

Apple Watch Series 6 and SE

If you go to buy the latest Apple Watch, you will typically be presented with the series 6 or SE options. It is worth thinking before you go to purchase your watch, what it is exactly you want to use it for and the features you wish to benefit from – this will help you choose the best option for you.

In essence, these two models are very similar. They both run from the latest watchOS 7 software and have GPS built in – the benefit of this is so you can go out running or even just out and about knowing you will still get the accurate fitness stats you want. They both have good bright screens and are water resistant upto 50m.

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Why create a cinema room

Home cinema rooms have been around for some time and quite often have been associated with millionaires and footballers’ mansions, however, you will be surprised how many households are turning dining rooms, lesser used rooms into an entertainment space. Not only do we want to get the most out of watching our favourite films and programmes, but there’s also nothing like a global pandemic to force you to spend more time at home and re-evaluate family time. The trend in investing in our homes does not seem to be slowing down and home entertainment is certainly an area where there has been a focus.

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