We’re back! We got sent a gargantuan amount of technology and merchandise to check out in the month of October, so naturally, it’s taken a little bit into November to conjure my opinions on them. Every time I thought I had this finished, a new item would arrive and the cycle would repeat. All of the items below have therefore been through vigorous testing, some being used during my trips to Blizzcon (California) and Runefest (London) to figure out if they’re all that and a pack of crackers. From backpacks to mugs, laptop sleeves to phone cases, this Quilltech has the skinny on a swathe of items that may well be worth your hard-earned cash. Let’s begin, shall we? Click the titles to pick any of these items up if you’re convinced.
You may think that the screen protector scene is non-descript and deeply saturated with providers, meaning you never really know the quality of what you’re getting.
You’re not wrong, but boy is it a surprise to get high-quality service for something as simple as sticking a layer of material to my expensive phone screen. Anker’s GlassGuard (my model catered to the iPhone XS) goes above and beyond to ensure that you never have any problems during the application process and even provides you with two screens just in case you mess up.
As a person with an anxious disposition, there is something particularly scary about applying something perfectly to ensure it does its job. Luckily, Anker does something that most other providers don’t offer. It’s pretty simple but it also makes it worth paying the extra pound or two for their product. In the box, you get an orange plastic boundary that you apply to your phone before the application process.
So basically, if your hands are shaking with worry, no matter! Just drop the guard into the slot and press down in the middle. Sure, you’re not going to totally avoid bubbles, but Anker also adds a pair of tools to squeeze the terror out. Perfect. If you need one, you can’t go wrong with this.
Since Apple removed the headphone jack, they’ve given users two options. Buy the AirPods, or choose between charging your phone and listening to music. This… isn’t ideal, truly, but luckily there is a solution baked in. The later iPhones now support wireless charging.
I picked up Anker’s offering, and it’s a delight! Especially for the commute. Stick it on the table on your train journey, lay your smartphone down and keep your headphones plugged in, and the blue lights will light up and keep your phone at peak capacity. Never a problem, just about the right size, and there’s a sense that it won’t slide away if something happens (perhaps an earthquake?) It ticks all of the boxes and is available very cheap. Not much more you can ask for here.
All I can say is I’m surprised. Solo New York’s ‘Elite’ backpack doesn’t look like much, but its humble, sleek aesthetic belies a bumper feature-set that has made it my daily driver backpack. Even though it’s not as compact as my other wardrobe offerings, the compromise is worth it for the clever design and sheer abundance of pockets. Designing a backpack is certainly no easy feat, especially when you’re trying to offer endless space within a tight form factor.
The way it is set up is kind of like a camera backpack, with the main pocket in the middle accessible under a covered flap, but none of the innards are compartmentalized meaning there’s a stack of space inside to carry everything you need. There is also a dedicated and delightfully roomy laptop partition at the back of the pack just before the handle. This fits my 14″ laptop within a sleeve, bulking with cables and plugs in the front pocket and still leaves room for more. Within the partition, there’s a pocket that I use to store my power bank with its cable so that I have easy access to charging. There is SO MUCH real estate here in this one pocket that it could be its own backpack, but that’s not the case.
As well as the bumper main portion (which could easily fit an additional three laptops if you wanted to,) there’s a pocket primarily dedicated to storing your shoes at the bottom which looks deceptively small but actually separates your dirty shoes from the rest of the items in your bag, taking up a small part of the bottom main partition. Genius! On the sides, we have two sizeable pockets for storing cans of beverages or bottled water or other miscellany en masse. An overhead flap covers the main partition with adjustable tightening clips to ensure no-one’s getting into your most valuable items. The flap has its own pocket, which I thought was perfect for things like passports and boarding passes and other valuables. It’s relatively hard to reach and super compact, especially when travelling. Handles also appear on the left and right sides of the backpack, meaning you can pick it up from any angle.
The bottom of the backpack is covered in this nice mesh texture that I assume shields it from weather conditions, but the entire kit feels like a windbreaker jacket. At first, this could come off as a negative, but to me, it appears to be a clever compromise to keep it very light whilst still being very strong. The tags and zips are also made out of a climbing-rope adjacent material, meaning they’re strong and you most likely won’t have to replace them like so many other backpacks that just opt for a simple loop.
This backpack was ideal for my trip to California as my carry-on luggage, and I plan to use it for every upcoming holiday. It’s a dreamy travel solution that is deceptively discreet but packed with space for you to carry almost anything with ease.
I only have a couple of small gripes with it, and most can be passed off in favour of the positives. The top of the shoulder padding has started to fray a bit, and I feel like the straps by which they’re attached to the body of the backpack could be a bit more reinforced, especially when the whole point is shoving as much stuff as possible into it. I don’t want to have to worry about it snapping ever, but it’s safe to say I’m a tiny bit concerned.
The thinking filmmakers backpack. This piece of kit has so obviously been designed with people’s needs in mind. I cannot think of a corner that has been cut here. I struggled to fill it, truly, and I had everything: a DSLR, a tripod, shotgun and lapel mics, my laptop, power banks, hard drives… I could keep listing chunky items that every filmmaker needs, but best believe Thule’s Covert Rolltop will house it with relative ease. Make no mistake, this is not a commuter backpack like the ‘Elite’, it is built for a specific purpose, and my god does it deliver on every need there.
As I said, I struggled to fill the thing. If you have a drone (Thule lists the DJI Mavic Pro as it’s bench) it will fit perfectly in the backpack too alongside everything I’ve mentioned. Your camera basically slides into a firm divider that even has pads for the battery bump. This already feels pretty rigid when you set it up and pad the adjacent divider sections with lenses and battery packs, but then you slide it into this genius black box of a camera pod. This is all before you put it into the backpack through a hatch on the side. It can be daunting if you’ve never used a DSLR pack before, but you soon realize that the design is different and very clever for it. This is the way it should be.
Thule also claims that the ‘Safezone’ is crushproof which I can totally attest to. Much to the demerit of my own anxiety I sat on it, piled other things on it, did my best to pack it out and crush it, and I couldn’t. You’d probably need some kind of vehicle to destroy its integrity.
The tripod carrying mechanism on the side even has a genius bit of stretchy fabric in the pocket. If you’ve ever made a film you probably know that storing a tripod is the ultimate nightmare when you’re transporting kit on your lonesome. This sits comfortably in its pocket without any trouble. The straps hold the tripod to the side too, instead of letting it flap about, which is incredibly important. Tripods deserve a pocket and necessitate being held down for transport. Any other backpack I’ve used compromises here and pays for it. Thule have sorted this one out. Amazing.
I often just feel anxious when I’m carrying expensive kit like this anywhere in a less than suitable backpack, but in this case, I genuinely stopped worrying about things getting crushed or broken because everything is compartmentalized. You know that something cant fall out of place onto another item or contort because proper space has been allocated for each item. The rolltop is designed in such a way that it looks like it can’t hold much but is absolutely massive. It’s like a Tardis. You can chuck most shapely items in here and twist the top down to lock them in. Sometimes backpacks put easily-pickpocketed zips on the back so that anyone behind you could easily nab something. This backpack avoids this. If you fail to notice someone trying to get into this bad boy, I’d imagine you’re hard of hearing or probably asleep. Sure, that does mean that there are a couple more zips to get to your items, but if you’re a filmmaker, it’s not like you’re going to be reaching in here that often. It’s more like you arrive on set or on the scene, set it down and get everything out
As far as durability goes, I’m pretty sure you’d struggle to put a sharp object through this material. It’s ready for rough and tumble, and I imagine it’d do well in any biome if that’s your prerogative. Water just pours off it. It would look stylish in the jungle too whilst you’re at it.
Laptops slide neatly behind the back pads of the backpack, which, if I might interject, are luxurious to the touch. Also, if you’re wondering, it doesn’t feel bumpy or bad when you’re wearing it either. Despite the chaotic amount of items you can shove in it, it’s lovely to carry and doesn’t make your traps burn like hell. Sure, it’s £175, but if you don’t want to buy another camera backpack ever again, it’s a fair price for the quality and lifelong reliability, like a good pair of boots. A pristine pair of durable Doc Martens would run you about the same, so think of it like that.
UAG is renowned for rock-solid phone cases, and the one I received for my iPhone XS was no different. You pay a little more for it, and naturally, It feels vehemently sturdy, with all the heft caught in the middle of the case. Feel like it would hurt if someone chucked it at you.
I like this case for how it feels, but certainly not how it fits. When I swapped out my current Spigen case for it I instantly noticed that whilst it definitely felt more sturdy at the back, it doesn’t provide much of a rim on the corners, meaning the screen is pretty much exposed. This means if I dropped it face down the screen would probably crack with ease, rather than the impact being held up in the corners of the device.
In the hand, it also feels more chubby than the case I currently use, which is another big point of contention. I don’t want my already large phone to feel even bigger than normal, especially when I can pick up a more sleek case at a better price point. Sure, it’s going to survive a drop, but its design has a couple of annoying issues that make it hard to recommend.
Another product from Thule, this time a laptop sleeve designed specifically for Macbooks, but this product has a use case across most modern portable computers, hell, even tablets would fit snugly in this. The interior of this thing feels like a plush toy and is wonderfully soft to the touch. It’s a generous size too, meaning you could shove a couple of things in with your laptop in that pouch. Yet, we’re not even just limited to the one pocket. A side sleeve is also present which is wonderfully compact. I usually shove a lot of items in here and it still never feels full. My charger, power bank, headphones, books, tablets, every tech accessory you need fits. If you’re so inclined, you could just carry this sleeve around with you and have everything you need for a day of work.
For me, it fits snugly in the Solo’s laptop compartment, and I shove loose items in the rest of the pack. It’s comfortable to hold too, and it feels like you could really fling it about without too much trouble. Very durable on the corners, and the kevlar-esque finish on the front quells any worry you might have about dropping it. Pretty sure this could take a hard landing (within reason.) It’s also resistant to water, meaning if you drop it in a puddle I’m pretty sure the contents would be totally peachy. My god, I know you may think I go on a bit about zippers, but hear me out again. The zippers on this laptop sleeve are coated in plastic and moulded, which add an extra layer of protection on to the already rappel-level fibre that is wrapped around the metal zip. I’m pretty sure these are never going to come off. It may seem small, but every other laptop sleeve I’ve had, the zippers have let me down time and time again. Thule are thinking of that.
This is a pretty clever piece of kit right here. the Sandisk iXpand looks like a USB stick with a Lightning connector on the other end, and that’s pretty much all it is, but let the value proposition speak for itself, would you? It’s a USB 3.0 storage space creator. You plug it into the bottom of your iPhone and it saps all of your photos onto the drive so you can easily transfer it to your computer and free up your (let’s face it) limited storage space. You can also password protect these files if you want to keep them encrypted if you’re a sneaky character.
Simply plug it in and access the app on your phone to drag the files over, no matter how big. I found it super useful for getting holiday videos off my phone and onto the PC. Not many storage devices include a lightning plug, meaning you have to go through another middleman to access your phone files. This cuts that out with ease and makes it simple to transfer data. You can also store movies on the drive for commute watching instead of keeping them on your phone and taking up space. Now that iPhones are pretty much matching the modern standard for photo fidelity, this is a handy bit of kit to access and edit your best snaps wherever you are in the world.
We were sent a couple of samples from Numskull’s excellent Spyro the Dragon range, to coincide with the Reignited Trilogy remaster collection launching in November.
The first product received was a 3D mug designed to look like the fire-breathing dragon’s body sans limbs and head. The design on this thing is brilliant, and it feels genuinely sturdy to hold. Spyro’s wings are intricately designed, and his tail is worked into the handle of the mug. What’s best is despite all the spiky edges, it’s not a pain to hold. It’s an icebreaker if you have friends over. Try explaining your dragon trophy teacup to non-gamers…
We were also sent a notebook, which is bound in a material that feels much like leather. Emblazoned on the front is the face of the beast, with a slight inset lined engraving into the material, making the mural really pop.
On the back, you have an engraved logo and some motifs. Inside, there is some lovely quality paper with bits of flair on each page. This is certainly well-made, and not just branded with symbols for the sake of it, all the way down to the bookmark, which, in adorable fashion, is actually Spyro’s tail! Cute, and whilst I don’t think I’d use it in public, I’m sure Spyro fans would go mad for this, especially little ones who are first introduced to the heroic dragon when the remaster drops.
Products supplied by PR