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Make the smart choice in home electronics with three free online events

Tech-Talks with Currys PC World will be hosted by The Irish Times journalist Ciara O’Brien and will help you choose the devices that are right for you

Tech-Talks with Currys PC World is an entertaining and informative new online event series that kicks off at 1pm this Friday, 11th September, and is aimed at demystifying consumer electronics.

Hosted by The Irish Times technology journalist Ciara O’Brien, the three-part series will take place on Facebook and cover a range of topics including working from home, home entertainment systems, and smart home technology.

Each 30-minute interactive session features in-house expertise from retailer Currys PC World, plus a questions and answers forum for participants looking for personal advice and guidance.

The series will provide participants with the understanding they need to make an informed purchasing decision across a range of in-home technologies.

Episode 1: Home working and education

Tune in at 1pm for first episode on Friday, 11th September, which will look at technology for home working and home schooling.

“We’ve all been thrown into this new world, after the shock of Covid-19 in March. But we are now, incredibly, six months down the line and facing the prospect of local lockdown scenarios for some time to come. As a result many of us need to have a better set up at home,” says O’Brien.

“At the time we were thrown in at the deep end, in many cases just working from the kitchen table. For people who have gone on to create an office space at home, the question now is what kind of basics do you need to have? Do you need a laptop or will a tablet do? If you need a laptop, what kind do you need and what screen size is best?” she explains.

“It’s too easy to be dazzled by things like 16 gigabytes of RAM and superfast chips. As a result, a lot of the time people buy expensive technology that they don’t need, if in fact all they require is simple word processing.”

In other circumstances spending more money to buy a higher specification computer could save you “having to buy something cheaper three times over,” so it’s about knowing what’s most appropriate for you and your family’s needs, she says.

“The series will explore issues such as whether a Chromebook will suffice or, do I need something with Windows? And, if I am to buy a laptop, how important is screen size and portability to me? It’s about giving people the information they need to decide whether to spend €2,000 for a sliver of a laptop or half that for a chunkier one,” she explains.

Homes with children may need a standby device to ensure learning continues in the event that their school has to close. “We’ll look at whether they need to have all the bells and whistles or is a tablet likely to be just perfect for them?” she says.

With more people on more devices than ever in the home, this session will also look at WiFi options, including ways to boost it throughout the house and the benefits of individual systems such as Nest mesh WiFi to avoid ‘black spots’.

Episode 2: Home entertainment

The second Tech-Talks with Currys PC World episode, happening at 1pm on Friday, 18th September, explores the options now that Covid-19 has made staying in the new going out. As a result, maximising our in-home entertainment systems has never seemed so appealing.

“This session will look at how to set up the perfect home entertainment system, looking at practical issues such as whether or not you need a full surround sound system or if you can get by with a sound bar,” says O’Brien.

It’s all about helping consumers become more tech-savvy before they spend.

“TV technology alone baffles a lot of people. We’ll be helping people to understand the differences between LED, LCD and OLED for example, and whether or not an 8K TV is really a better option than a 4K TV right not, if there’s not much 8K content to watch on it yet? If you’re in the market for a new television, it’s about finding out what’s important to you and knowing what questions to ask before you buy,” she says.

This session will also cover home cinema projectors and the streaming options available, such as the pros and cons of Chromecast versus Apple TV. “We’ll explain the things you can do to turn your television into a smart TV as well as the benefits and pitfalls of things like Bluetooth speakers,” says O’Brien.

Episode 3: Smart home

The third Tech-Talks with Currys PC World Facebook event will focus on the use of sensor based digital technology in the home. It will take place at 1pm on Friday, 25th September, and should not be missed.

“A lot of people are putting in smart thermostats now so that element has moved mainstream. What we are seeing now is that WiFi plugs are going the same way, allowing you to do things like turn lights, TVs, slow cookers and all sorts of home appliances on and off remotely via an app on your mobile phone, from outside the house. You may never have to touch another plug,” suggests O’Brien.

Simply being able to turn lights on and off remotely, at random, is a much better security option than the use of a traditional timer on a lamp when you are away, she points out. The old way of doing it meant the lights always come on and off at exactly the same time each day, a clear giveaway.

The third session will show the ways in which such devices can now be linked to motion sensors too, so that if someone opens a front door, for example, a light goes on.

They can also be geo-linked, so that a device turns on when the owner is a certain distance from home. It will cover the options for additional smart home functionality too, such as smoke or moisture sensors, alerting you via your mobile phone in the case of fire or water leaks.

It will compare smart home thermostats such as Nest and Hive and the implications they have on ancillary devices such as smart doorbells that allow you to see who has called to your front door, via an app on your mobile phone.

It will also look at the pros and cons of home assistant options such as Google and Alexa, including the implications of voice command devices on home working and privacy.

Your invite to make the smart choice

The entire series is aimed at making home electronics decision making easier, says O’Brien.

“It is about demystifying these technologies for people. Some will have more knowledge than others, but most people will have some aspect of technology that they are not sure of,” she says.

“The series is about saying, ‘Here are the main choices in each product category and here are the pros and cons of each’ so that people can make an informed choice. Basically we’re going to cover all the information I’d want to know before I walked into a store to buy.”