Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

The Wrap – The Smart Home & A New MacBook Air

Interested in making the home a little more connected? This week, we’ll talk about the smart home and smart blinds, plus check out some big and expensive TVs, plus the latest Apple MacBook Air. All in five.

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For the week ending April 10, this is The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup, and even though most of us are behind our tables and desks with the phones, tablets, and computers we already own, there’s more on the way.

More phones, more tablets, and more computers, more everything. When this whole coronavirus thing is over, it seems like stores will be stocked with stuff aplenty, and even before we’re all allowed back in the real world, online stores will be there to fill the void.

In fact, online is the place to go if you need something, because freight is still working. You’ll still get mail and deliveries, and that means if you want something, you can stay in and still buy it.

That’s dependent on price, though, because while some things can feel priced in a friendly way, others can just seem so expensive. Take what’s happening in high-end phones with the new Moto Razr, which sees a big price for something with moderate specs and a foldable screen. It’s Motorola’s first foldable phone in Australia, and commands a $2700 price tag, but yet won’t see local reviews thanks to Moto not running a review program. That makes it hard to recommend, and while that’s an expensive phone, it’s nothing compared to LG’s 8K OLED TVs, which are coming to Australia with a hefty price. There are two options, but both are exy, with a buck shy of $36,000 in a 77 inch model, and as high as $72,000 in an even bigger 88 inch 8K OLED.

LG won’t have 8K OLED TVs at lower price tags, but it will have 8K LED-backlit TVs range between five and ten grand, plus a whole bunch of 4K TVs, as well.

It’s TV changeover season, though, the time of the year when TV makers bring in new gear and try to offload the old, so you might find a bargain if you go looking. They’ll be about the place, alongside new gear in other categories, as well.

In fact, there seems to be a fair amount happening in the smart home lately, be it with one of the many smart speakers, smart lights, a doorbell, or even something a little more window-bound.

If you’re new to this whole “smart home” thing, it’s basically a home with internet-connected parts, such as lights that can be controlled using your phone or voice, or speakers that play music with only a few words.

Getting started in the smart home typically happens with a smart speaker or smart display, such as a Google Nest Hub or an Amazon Echo, with these not only giving you the music playback, but also the microphone so you can call out your commands to a gadget listening out for them.

From there, it’s about finding devices that make the connection possible, such as with lightbulbs from Philips Hue or LiFX. Aside for making them do colourful lighting, you can control them by voice and make them shine, shortly before speakers read you the time, the weather, and playing some tunes.

And right before winding up the blinds in your home, because they can now be controlled by a smart home, as well. IKEA has launched that in Australia this week, as smart blinds arrive locally, working with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple’s Siri.

They’ll start from $189, but require IKEA’s wireless Tradfri hub, which adds about $50 extra to make the smart blinds talk to the rest of the smart home, though does mean you’ll be able to program an Alexa smart speaker to turn on the lights in your home, play a music station, and tell you the weather when you make a “good morning” routine.

It’s not just smart blinds in the smart home, but also a smart doorbell, as Arlo horns in on Ring’s territory with a video camera doorbell featuring water resistant design, a square picture, and even pre-recorded messages for when you’re not there.

Or maybe when you’re at home but just don’t want to come to the door, because you’re enjoying your time with a new computer.

This week, we’re reviewing one of those new computers, as we check out the latest Macbook Air, something Apple refreshed only weeks ago.

The new laptop offers the same aluminium design and build it has for a couple of years now, and the dependence on the Type C port for charging and data. Where it’s changed is the specs, the keyboard, and the price, and they’re all really important.

The specs are up to where an ultra light computer should be, with either a dual or quad core Intel chip under a 13.3 inch screen, and Apple has moved the base storage amount to 256GB, which is far more useful these days.

But the real focus for us is the keyboard, which is a return to Apple excellence. Just like on the big MacBook Pro 16, Apple has returned the scissor-switch keyboard, which makes it more like the Mac keyboards of old. And it’s not that the new keyboards were bad, just more prone to failure, needing repairs every so often. This new Air keyboard is so much better, and feels even more reliable.

Also handy is the price, which at a starting price of $1599 feels like you’re getting a little more bang for your buck. It’s a fantastic computer that is capable of so much, and while productivity is likely to be the focus of many, we’ve been using it for creative work across Photoshop and Premiere, so it’s more than capable, too. We’re not even sure why you’d go for the 13 inch MacBook Pro anymore. It’s just that good.

And that’s all the time we have for the show, so you’ve been listening to The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup. A new episode goes online every Friday at Podcast One, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts, but until then, have a great week. We’ll see you next time on The Wrap. Stay safe and take care.

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