New Gadgets – Christmas comes Early

Christmas seems to have come a little early for us with a host of new gadgets this weekend.

New Car and New Roofrack

OK, this wasn’t this weekend, but I’ve got a new car – I’ll write a full post about this story soon but I’ve got a new (to me) Vauxhall Meriva and therefore needed a new roofrack for it. I decided to go with a Thule one as they have always been really good quality in the past and in my search for one I came across a new type bar that they make called a slidebar. Rather than explain how it works, here’s a little video to show you.

I thought that it might mean that I’d be able to get the canoe onto the roof on my own so sort of wanted one. They don’t come cheap though at around £300-£350 for a complete set up, so I decided that normal bars would have to do. However while shopping around I found a company called roofracks.co.uk that had some good prices (c. £150) on complete kits with normal bars. I then also spotted that they had some 2nd hand slidebars for sale too. It was just too tempting so I soon had a decent deal on a complete set up with the 2nd hand slidebars for £268. They also helped me out with identifying my old Thule roofbars and advising me on the resale value of them. I should be able to get £50-60 for them. So, if I could sell those I’d effectively get the slidebar set up for a little over £200. A significant saving on the £350 RRP.

They were soon ordered and looked in good condition. Whilst mounting them to the fixpoints on my car I did notice a little release catch for one of the slidebars was missing, but I emailed roofracks.co.uk and they phoned me first thing on Monday morning apologising and have promised to send out a brand new end cap for me – pretty good service if you ask me.

I haven’t used them yet but the roofbars are now installed on my car and ready to go. It took a bit of time to get them all set up, but only because I decided to give my car a wash and wax beforehand. This was all done first thing on Sunday morning on what turned out to be a very productive day. I managed to sell the old roofracks later in the day as well which was pretty quick work!

I also varnished the canoe so that it is protected for winter, did a little bit of tidying up in the garden, played with our new TV (more on that new gadget in a mo), sorted out the old TV and rearranged the beach room in the process, plumbed in a new dishwasher (more on that gadget in a mo too), tidied the house, vacuumed the house, fitted a new rope to the stove door, attached a vent to the outside of the house for the tumble drier, reconstructed a large fan and completed lots of other little jobs here and there.

A new TV and Soundbar

It was almost like winning the gadget show competition this weekend. I don’t know why but I’d got it into my head that we needed a new TV and that having a soundbar would be nice too. I did think about buying one for all of us for Christmas but it wasn’t really something I felt comfortable doing on my own without Anna’s input – just in case she thought it was a waste of our ever diminishing funds – we couldn’t really afford it after all. However, Currys had a good offer on a 43″ LG 4K Ultra HD HDR Smart TV that seemed just the ticket. Anna didn’t seem to mind either

At 43″ the screen was quite a bit bigger than our 32″ model but the overall dimensions weren’t that much bigger so it would fit perfectly in our room. Our old (7 years old) TV was HD, but wasn’t 4K UHD, nor did it have HDR features or the Smart features that came with the LG thanks to WebOS 3.0. I did a little bit of research into WebOS 3.0 and it looked to do most of what we wanted and lots of other things too and the TV specs seemed good. By this time I was more convinced that we could do with an update so took the plunge and ordered one.

LG TV

LG TV

It was on offer at £369, saving £230 on the RRP of £599 and as I bought it through Quidco I got an extra 2% cashback as well. I also decided that a soundbar might be nice and Currys had a Samsung soundbar with wireless Subwoofer that was reduced from £299 to £129 saving £170, again with 2% Quidco cashback. (If you haven’t already joined Quidco then click this link and earn £3 when you do so). With the cashback and the offers I saved £410 on the RRP. Not bad, even if it did mean spending £488 that we couldn’t really afford.

I ordered online and then we collected it in between the Christmas Fete and Lantern Parade on Saturday. We then decided that it would be silly to wrap it up and put it under the tree when we could be using it in the run up to Christmas so we set it up on Saturday evening. We had expected that to be a traumatic affair but it didn’t take too long. The start up and configuration process was easy too so soon we were ready to go.

WebOS, Freeview Play and Amazon Videos

We had all of the usual channels from Freeview plus a few extra that now seemed to work where they hadn’t before. We were connected to the Wi-Fi and were therefore able to access all of the catch-up, on demand channels such as BBC iPlayer. We also signed into our Amazon Prime account and had access to all of the Amazon Prime content too. This meant that we no longer needed the Amazon FireTV stick connected to the TV but that was OK as we could connect it to the one in the bedroom instead if we wanted. The Amazon Prime app within the WebOS Smart TV does has a few extra interface features but also misses out on a few things such as access to Amazon Photos and such like. It’s just a little different really but makes access to the things we watch most nice and easy.

The entire WebOS interface was easy to use and we soon had it set up the way we wanted it with access to everything we watch at our fingertips. I did play around with various image and sound settings on Sunday morning as well. As usual though we’ll probably just leave it the way we have it set now. The new TV might have 9 picture modes and 6 sound modes along with a host of other configuration settings but we rarely play with these once it’s set up. We certainly don’t change it based on what we are watching.

We have attached the old Digibox to the new TV and the DVD player as well. We rarely watch DVD’s but it’s nice to have the option of watching some of my surf and windsurf DVD’s when I want. The digibox will be used as a recorder as it has a Hard Drive built in. We could attach a USB hard drive to the TV and use the recording features of WebOS to record programs, but there is a limitation with this as the TV only has a single Freeview tuner. This means that you can’t record one Freeview channel and watch another Freeview channel at the same time. The digibox however has two Freeview tuners and a decent sized Hard Drive so we will use that to record anything that we want to record. It means one extra step when setting up something to record or playing it back, but switching between the LiveTV input and the Digibox input is easy so it’s no real hardship and it does mean that we could in theory record two Freeview channels on the digibox and watch a third on the TV if we wanted.

I’m sure there are some other nice features we’ll discover as we continue to use it and there is access to a wealth of content either from LiveTV on Freeview, on demand TV from Amazon Prime or other services, and catch-up TV from Freeview Play. It’s all there. (Freeview Play didn’t appear until I had updated WebOS to the latest version).

Soundbar

Soundbar

The picture quality is much better than we are used to, so far everything just works as well which is good. The soundbar is probably the biggest upgrade though. We do sometimes have to have the TV very loud so as to hear it over the sound of the wind and rain. We usually just end up putting subtitles on when the weather is raging. The new TV itself has better sound than the old one with decent 20W speakers, but the 220W speakers and subwoofer of the soundbar are in a different realm again. It’s not the volume that’s important, it’s the quality of the sound and this is what is most noticeable so far. I’m sure we’ll get used to it and think of it as normal but at the moment we can help but be impressed by the more immersive quality of the sound. I can’t wait to watch a decent film with it in full 4K glory with immersive surround sound!

Turbo Training Entertainment

With the new TV and soundbar in the living room, I then had to find something to do with the old one. I had thought of putting it in the bedroom, but Anna suggested the beach room or conservatory instead so that Morgan could have it attached to the Wii and use it as a games room. Soon I had it set up in the beach room in front of my turbo trainer.

Turbo Trainer Entertainment

Turbo Trainer Entertainment

There’s no aerial socket in this room so I won’t be able to get terrestrial TV on it through Freeview but I have connected it to the laptop to it so can see TrainerRoad workouts on the big screen and can watch movies and TV series from Amazon Prime whilst working out on the bike. I also had to deconstruct the fan so that I could install it below the TV without it obscuring the screen. It’s not ideal yet as I have to have headphones on in order to hear the TV over the sound of the trainer. Most sounds are OK, but hearing dialogue was really difficult. Maybe I need a new, quieter turbo trainer, and a smart one at that so that TrainerRoad can control it! Mind you, I’d then also need a new laptop as the latest version of TrainerRoad won’t work on mine. Saying that, a new laptop would also give me the ability to use Zwift and then, coupled with the large screen and a new smart trainer I’d have a fully interactive virtual training environment in the beach room. I’d be able to race people up a virtual Alpe D’huez all from the comfort of my own home and without the traffic!

New Dishwasher

Dishwasher

Dishwasher

The new gadgetry didn’t stop there as a new dishwasher also arrived on Sunday. Maybe not quite as exciting but it’s still a new gadget. The old was was doing something a little like our washing machine had been. It was still working but we weren’t convinced that it was working as well as it could have been. Again, it was quite old so we went for an upgrade. This one is actually very similar to our old one. A little more economical maybe and with an extra ‘eco-wash’ setting too but that’s about it really. Although it does have an LCD display as well.

Hopefully it’ll get our dishes sparkly clean.

I think that will have to do for the new gadgets though – Time to earn some money to pay for them now.

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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