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Bournemouth

Bournemouth and Poole top for superfast broadband, but only half our residents are using it

BOURNEMOUTH has the highest availability of superfast broadband in the country, according to new Ofcom data. Broken down by constituency by the House of Commons Library, Bournemouth East has the superfast broadband availability of 99.3, and Bournemouth West has 98.6 per cent. The national average is 88 per cent.

Poole is also near the top of the pile with 97.5 per cent availability, while Mid Dorset and North Poole (90.9 per cent), Christchurch (90 per cent) and South Dorset (88.9 per cent) beat the average. The largely rural North Dorset (77.4 per cent), West Dorset (78.2 per cent) and New Forest West (82.5 per cent) all fall below average. Here, superfast lines describe those capable of receiving speeds of 30 Mb/s or greater.

However, only half of internet users are taking advantage of the high speeds available. In both Bournemouth constituencies and Poole only around 50 per cent of connections were superfast, the data showed. Although above average in superfast availability, both Mid Dorset and North Poole and Christchurch were below the average of 40 per cent in actual superfast connections.

Bournemouth West MP said the news reflected the strength of the town’s growing digital sector.

“This is good news, although more people should be taking it up,” he said.

“It is incumbent on service providers to make sure more people are able to take it up and aware they can.

“It reflects the reputation of Bournemouth being an emerging innovative tech hub in the UK.”

He said this reputation was why the previous Chancellor, George Osborne, had chosen Bournemouth as a trial location for the roll-out of future wireless technology 5G.

“This complements everything that is going on in our universities and the tech economy, and the more people who can access it the better it will be,” he said.

Openreach wants to recruit engineering trainees in Dorset to help extend its fibre broadband network

AROUND 30 jobs will be created in Dorset as part of plans to boost an engineering workforce in the region and keep the county connected. BT’s Openreach division, which develops and maintains the UK’s main telecoms network, wants to recruit 170 trainees in the South West including about 30 in Dorset, to help extend its fibre broadband network. It is part of a UK-wide initiative to hire 1,500 trainee engineers over the next eight months. Openreach expects to recruit about 30 people in Dorset in locations such as Bournemouth, Poole, Dorchester1 and Blandford.

Potential candidates will be able to discover exactly what life as a field engineer involves, with the help of virtual reality (VR). The company is trialling a VR experience which enables interested applicants to don a headset and experience climbing a telephone pole or exploring the local exchange building in immersive 3D, from the perspective of a real engineer. The 360 degree videos are available to watch on Openreach’s YouTube channel. Videos include an engineer’s eye view from the top of a telephone pole, a virtual tour of a telephone exchange and a look inside a green roadside cabinet.

Nationally, it is expected that an initial intake of 119 recruits will join the company in April, followed by around 60 new recruits joining each week through to mid-October. New trainees will embark on a tailored 12 month accredited learning programme – including on-the-job experience and culminating with the attainment of an externally recognised qualification for IT, Software and Telecoms professionals. Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Karen Bradley, said: “The Government’s ?1.7 billion rollout programme has helped take superfast broadband to more than nine out of ten homes and businesses in the UK and we are reaching thousands more every week.

Openreach engineers have played a pivotal role in helping deliver this, and these 1,500 new recruits will be a fantastic addition to our thriving digital economy.”

Openreach chief executive, Clive Selley, said: “Our customers need us to install new lines and repair our network faster than ever, and by increasing the number of people working on proactive network maintenance, we can fix more issues before people even notice them.

“We are also continuing to roll out superfast broadband services at scale and making big investments in our network to make ultrafast broadband available to up to 12 million homes by the end of 2020.”

References

  1. ^ Dorchester (www.dorsetecho.co.uk)

Amazfit Pace review: An affordable route to GPS fitness tracking

Though the smartwatch market is dominated by the Apple Watch and its expensive brand-reliant competitors, some of the best smartwatches are actually the lesser known, cheaper ones. Companies like Pebble, Misfit and Amazfit have quietly produced competitive products that don’t tend to sell very many units. This is understandable. Amazfit[1] is a sub-brand of Huami[2], a Chinese American company that also helps Xiaomi manufacture its Mi Band[3].

It has a decent presence in the US and China, but over here Amazfit isn’t exactly a household name. The Amazfit Pace is high-end on specs, but pleasingly not so on price. It packs GPS with run tracking, a heart rate monitor, music controls and more – so does the cheaper price mean it cuts some corners?

The answer is yes, but not in the worst ways possible. Here is our Amazfit Pace review.

Amazfit Pace review: UK price and availability

Amazfit doesn’t have an official UK reseller, so you’ll have to hunt one down from an international retailer like GearBest[4]. At the time of writing, an English language Pace was on sale at ?128.26[5], under half the price of the cheapest Apple Watch with comparable specs.

You may be able to find it on Amazon, but there isn’t currently a consistent, reliable seller. Amazon US however has it for sale here[6].

Amazfit Pace review: Design and build

The Pace might not be everyone’s tastes design-wise, but if you’re into your reds and blacks then you’ll be fine.

AFC Bournemouth fans will be laughing. Past that, the watch has surprisingly decent look and feel for its price point. Leaving cost aside, we used the black with red colour option (also available reversed) and liked the circular metallic rim around the face, giving it a near premium feel.

The rear casing that sits next to the wrist is comfortable and matte (Amazfit claims it is ceramic), with 4 flat connectors for the proprietary charging dock. These sit above the heart rate sensor, while the standard 22mm strap connectors hold a rubberised, comfortable band that is OK for work and for excessive sweat when exercising. There aren’t different band size options, but the band has 15 different holes for adjustment, to the point at which the extreme ones are decorative, so this will fit everyone.

The screen and body aren’t tiny, but it never felt like it dwarfed our relatively small wrists. The screen does also have a flat tyre effect (a small cut-off at the bottom of the circular display) that is annoying on smartwatches. But because the entire screen has a thin black rim between it and the metallic rim, you don’t really notice it.

Then again, it’s a shame that the screen doesn’t reach fully to the edges of its own casing. The ceramic, metal and rubber combination is a winner for the Pace. As long as you like the colour options, this is an attractive watch with a decent, reassuring weigh to it (54.5g, to be precise.

Here is our list of the best smartwatches[7].

Amazfit Pace review: Features and specifications

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty, then. The circular display is 34mm across with a resolution of 320×300 (blame the flat tyre for the lack of 320×320). A neat trick of the Pace is its always-on transflective colour LCD.

Watches rarely do always-on exactly right, and it’s the same here – though it’s an inate fault of the technology. Think of it like a screensaver, where power consumption is reduced by dumb projection. The Pace will still tell you the time and all your stats on the watch face in always-on mode, which turns on after a period of inactivity.

The only way to come out of the mode though is to press the only physical button on the watch, which is on the right at two o’clock. It’s a small niggle, but not being able to tap the screen or turn a bezel to wake is a tad less convenient and intuitive. The screen also has trouble with auto-brightness.

This is on by default, and you cant override to select a preferred constant brightness level. Therefore in bright sunlight, the screen is very hard to read. The always-on display is also darker, so you may think at first, like we did, that there was a fault.

There isn’t, it’s just a small reminder of the price point and tech that the Amazfit Pace has. This is one of the watch’s only major drawbacks, at least in terms of affecting daily use. The 1.2GHz core processor and 512MB RAM keep things ticking over nicely, and there is rarely significant delay when browsing menus, selecting functions or using GPS tracking.

The vibration motor is noticeable, but not the strongest we’ve ever found on a watch.

The Pace also has Bluetooth 4.0, essential to connect to your iPhone running iOS 9 and later or Android phone running 4.4 and later. There’s also the option to connect to a Wi-Fi network, which you can use to wander out of Bluetooth range in your house or at work and still stay connected to your phone.

You also need Wi-Fi to update the software on the Pace. It is rated IP67, the same as gadgets like the iPhone 7, which means its resistant to water (sweat!) and dust, just don’t take it swimming or in the shower for too long. The on-board battery is 280mAh and is pretty good at keeping the thing powered.

Amazfit quotes 5 days normal use, and 11 on just watch mode. No one uses a smartwatch with all the functions turned off, but we comfortably got three days out of the Pace, even with constant Bluetooth on connected to an iPhone and intermittent GPS use to track walks and runs. Unfortunately where the watch falls down slightly again is after it’s recorded this GPS information.

Amazfit Pace review: Software

Maddeningly, you cannot view GPS data anywhere but on the watch face – you can’t even look at it in the iOS or Android Amazfit app that you sync the watch with.

This means GPS records are only on the 4GB hard drive of the watch and meant that we never bothered fiddling about looking at them. Other running watch set-ups allow you to take a deeper look at stats on your workouts, whether that’s on your phone or computer. Here, the cool little map of where you ran is just a squiggle on a watch screen, with no map behind it.

It’s frustrating, and means you will never really be able to see if you’ve improved by looking at the raw data, such is how it’s presented. To add to this disappointment, the app is meant to communicate with Strava[8], a more popular social exercise analysis app, but basically it doesn’t work, and the interfaces within the Amazfit app are frustrating.

This is a real shame because the Pace excels at GPS data collection when out running or on a workout.

You can record run, walk, indoor run, bike, indoor bike and trail run. It’s fairly easy to pause and record workouts once you’ve got used to the touch only inputs of the screen, waking it first with the button. Swipe right to go back on menus and you’re sorted.

The software also presents watch faces nicely, with many different complications and settings available to have it just how you want it. Generally, everything works like you’d expect, though small things are missing like the ability to clear all notifications. Also, notifications are set to display a certain number of characters that annoyingly split words in half to the next line, something we’ve not seen on many other devices.

App notifications are also bug ridden; sometimes we got them immediately, at other times never. It meant we had mixed feelings when successfully and easily recording a run, only for the Pace to them miss all our texts for the next two hours. It’s also worth noting you can’t interact with notifications to reply or action – this is pure viewing only.

Also included when swiping left on the home screen is activity progress. Heart rate graphs, weather, music, alarms, compass, stopwatch and sleep tracking. This is a healthy number of functions for, sorry to say it again, the price.

There’s a lot here, but it doesn’t work on apps; you can’t close stuff to make it run faster.

Either way, overall, the interface is well designed but slow and has one too many bugs.

A recent software update has improved things slightly, though.

References

  1. ^ Amazfit (us.amazfit.com)
  2. ^ Huami (www.huami-usa.com)
  3. ^ Mi Band 2 review (www.pcadvisor.co.uk)
  4. ^ GearBest (www.gearbest.com)
  5. ^ Amazfit Pace UK (www.gearbest.com)
  6. ^ here (amzn.to)
  7. ^ the best smartwatches (www.pcadvisor.co.uk)
  8. ^ Download Strava (www.strava.com)