Tech round-up for December 5: Apple Watch Series 4 is a step up, Edifier's bookshelf speakers fill the room, lighting design with Hue Play bars, Columbia's amazing Empire Strikes Back parka

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This week, Edifier’s bookshelf speakers, Philips Hue Play LEDs, and Columbia’s limited edition Star Wars parka. But first, the beauty of the new Apple Watch.

Apple Watch Series 4 is a bigger device in a smaller case

Since the Apple Watch was introduced back in 2015, the software and interfaces have been improved, but the device itself was mostly the same. That changes with the Series 4 model, and while the new Apple Watch has a larger display, it’s actually a smaller device. And thanks to the curved corners, it fits my wrist better than any watch before.

I love it. And I’m using it more than ever.

I’m using it to monitor messages and notifications. I’m using it as an alarm clock and as a timer for subbing on soccer players.

I’m also using it more because our family got a dog this summer. And dogs, you may not know, need to be walked. My Apple Watch helps me get up before 6 every morning so I can feed the creature, after which we go for a walk around the neighbourhood.

That’s when the ability for the device to track my time and distance becomes essential. Because while puppies can’t walk very far, older dogs require more exercise to be healthy. Thanks to the Apple Watch, I know all of the one- and two-kilometre loops around our house.

And if I forget to tell the watch that I’m taking an outdoor walk, the device automatically detects the activity is happening, and tracks it.

The extra activity has got me running, too, and that’s another thing the Apple Watch helps me with. It can help me set and keep a pace.

I’ll admit I’ve been somewhat skeptical about fitness trackers, but I do know that you will “treasure what you measure” and simply by paying attention to the activity being monitored by my Apple Watch I’ve been moving more and am better for it.

Even the heart rate monitor helps me by providing basic information about my body and its status. I’m thrilled that my resting heart rate is now at 58 bpm, where it was when I was in university too many years ago to count.

The Series 4 Apple Watch can also detect falls, and while that’s not an issue for me yet, the fact that the sensors can monitor your status and make an emergency call on your behalf is quite something.

I haven’t yet taken advantage of the cellular functionality which would allow me to use my Apple Watch independently of my iPhone, but that’s on my list of things to do once I get up the nerve to call my mobile provider.

Once I’ve done that, though, I’ll be able to listen to podcasts and Apple Music through the Apple Watch, and without needing to have my iPhone with me. My dog walks are going to become even better.

Apple Watch Series 4 comes in two case sizes, 40 mm (starting at $399 for GPS only and $499 for GPS and cellular) and 44 mm (starting at $429 for GPS only and $529 for GPS and cellular). The new watches are available now.

Edifier bookshelf speakers are great without being smart

Sometimes you don’t need a speaker that’s smart, you just want good, room-filling sound. The Edifier R1850 bookshelf speakers ($250) are designed with a slight angle, pushing sound a bit up instead of straight out.

You can connect to the speakers with an optical cable or line in, but you’ll probably use Bluetooth 4.0, which will keep your smartphone connected even if you’re on the other side of the house. The speaker pair also comes with an output for a subwoofer and a remote control.

Light bars are the newest awesome LEDs in the Philips Hue family

The latest additions to the Philips Hue lineup are the Play LED light bars ($170 for two), which are perfect for doing some lighting design at home.

You can prop these on counters or coffee tables, you can mount them on walls, and you can clip them to the back of your TV or computer monitor for some nice bias lighting.

And they work with all the other Hue products and smart home devices.

Columbia’s designed a parka straight out of The Empire Strikes Back

For the discerning collector and Star Wars aficionado only is this special, limited edition parka from Columbia, modelled after the coats that the cast and crew wore while filming the Hoth scenes of The Empire Strikes Back.

Priced at Cdn$650, only one parka can be purchased per transaction, and these are available in limited quantities, although Columbia isn’t saying what that number is.

They go on sale on Friday, December 7 at 12:01 a.m. ET, which is actually Thursday, December 6 at 9:01 p.m. here in Vancouver.

This is an officially licensed product, and Columbia says their designers consulted with Lucasfilm to get the details right.

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about the technology that makes Columbia’s gear keep you warm and dry, and all of that has gone into this Star Wars Empire Crew Parka.

It’s waterproof with fully sealed seams, but breathable. And it uses the Omni-Heat technology for warmth.

With a removable hood and faux-fir trim, the jacket has lots of pockets, too.

This is a perfect holiday gift for the right person.

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