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Mapped: the UK’s best places to live for 2017

The grass is always greener – unless you happen to live in one of Britain’s best places for quality of life. But before you pack your bags to move, Which? explains how to find the right area for you. A new survey from Halifax has identified the 50 areas which are most desirable to live in, based on a range of factors including income, crime levels, happiness scores, health and even proximity to pubs.

Which? reveals the areas that topped the rankings this year, as well as the top signs that an area is a great place to live.

  • Thinking about buying a new home? For expert, impartial advice on getting a mortgage, call Which? Mortgage Advisers[1] on 0808 252 7987.

Where is the best place to live?

The most desirable location in the UK turned out to be Hart in Hampshire – an unsurprising result, as it also topped the rankings from 2011-2015.

Home to around 94,000 people, Hart boasts the longest female life-expectancy in the UK, and the third-longest for males. As well as one of the highest employment rates in the country, with 84% of 16-64 year olds in work, residents also benefit from average weekly earnings of GBP884. To top it off, Hart boasts more days of sunshine than the national average – 32.5 hours per week, against 29.7.

But perfection comes at a price. Hart’s average property price is GBP411,823 – almost double the UK average of GBP224,000, according to the ONS. The Orkney Islands were named in second place, Scotland’s only appearance in the top 50 best-ranked local authorities.

Wales was only represented by Monmouthshire, which came in 31st. Overall, the South East emerged the best place to live, with 14 spots of the top 50. The East of England was close behind, with nine top-ranked areas, followed by Yorkshire and the Humber with six.

Top 50 best places to live in 2018

See the top-ranked English regions mapped, or search the full list below:

Which area is the healthiest, wealthiest or sunniest?

Depending on what you’re looking for in a region, other areas may have more to offer you.

Halifax identified the areas that topped their individual categories. Unsurprisingly, London residents emerged as the best paid, with residents of Kensington & Chelsea taking home the highest weekly earnings of GBP1,566 per week – though residents of the City of London had the highest qualifications. But central Londoners are also squeezed into the smallest houses.

By contrast, the residents of Uttlesford, Chiltern, South Buckinghamshire and Rutland can spread out, with an average of 6.4 habitable rooms per home. If you prefer solitude, the least densely populated areas were the Western Isles and the Highlands, both of which have just nine people per square kilometre – compared to 15,524 people per square kilometre in London’s Islington. But overall, people are happiest in Craven, where adults gave their happiness a rating of 8.3 out of 10 – significantly above the UK average of 7.5.

How can you find the best area to live?

If you’re thinking of buying a home, location can be one of the most stressful things to decide upon.

These tips can help you find an area that meets your needs:

  • Local authority planning: what’s in the works that will affect your new home – either positively or negatively?
  • School catchment areas: how well do local schools perform?
  • Crime rates: how safe will you feel in your new home?
  • Local amenities: are there hospitals nearby? Are you close to the park, to pubs, to the gym or other places you go regularly?
  • Environment: how busy are the roads? Will your commute be easy, or a nightmare?
  • Flood risks: has the area ever flooded – or is there a possibility it could?

To find more tips, read our guide to finding the best places to live.[2]

You should also consider whether your property will gain in value and whether the area is likely to be in demand in future. Past performance is no guarantee of future success – but looking at an area’s track record on growth can give you some idea of recent trends. It’s also worth considering any changes to the local area that may indicate its value is on the rise.

We set out other factors to consider in our guide to finding an up-and-coming area.[3]

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage. Which? Limited is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Which?

Financial Services Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 527029). Which? Mortgage Advisers and Which?

Money Compare are trading names of Which?

Financial Services Limited.

References

  1. ^ Which?

    Mortgage Advisers (mortgageadvisers.which.co.uk)

  2. ^ guide to finding the best places to live. (www.which.co.uk)
  3. ^ guide to finding an up-and-coming area. (www.which.co.uk)

How good is the Google Pixel Buds translation feature?

Google’s new Pixel Buds headphones feature real-time translation, so we decided to put it to the test to see whether learning foreign languages could become a thing of the past. Read on and watch our video to find out what happened. The Pixel Buds are Google’s new premium wireless earbuds, launching just after the Google Pixel 2 smartphone[1].

Their big selling point is real-time translation with Google Translate, exclusive to Pixel phones. We enlisted the help of three foreign-language-speaking colleagues from Italy, China and Norway, to put the Google Pixel Buds translation through its paces. See how well it performed in the video below:

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Best Buy headphones[2] – discover which models are the top scorers.

As you can see, the Pixel Buds’ translation performed surprisingly well. In most cases, you’ll be able to understand what the other person is saying, even if the translation isn’t quite perfect. It performed well in Italian with few errors, and our Italian speaker even said she thought it sounded too Italian.

The two Norwegian dialects prevented it from sounding quite right to our Norwegian speaker, and with Chinese – a more difficult test compared to the European languages – it also performed remarkably well, although it didn’t always have natural-sounding phrasing. So while it’s not going to fool anyone that it’s human, the Pixel Buds translation feature seems to work well enough in day-to-day conversation to get by, for example if you’re on holiday and the taxi driver fails to turn up at the airport.

How the translation process works

When you speak, the Pixel Buds hear your voice, and your Pixel phone’s speaker plays the translation of what you said out loud to the person you’re talking to. When they speak back, your smartphone hears it and the Google Pixel Buds play the translation of what they said directly into your ears.

It all takes place using the Google Translate app on your Pixel phone. The Pixel Buds have a touch-sensitive pad on the right earbud that you hold down to cue the Google Assistant. You then say the language you want to translate, like this: ‘Help me speak French.’

The Google Translate app then pops up, and you’re ready to go. Just hold down the Pixel Buds’ touch-sensitive pad while you’re speaking, and let go when you want it to play back the translation. And to hear the translation of the person you’re speaking to, hold down the microphone icon in the Google Translate app while they’re speaking.

At each stage, you’ll see a transcript of what’s being said on the app screen.

Other Pixel Buds headphone features

The Pixel Buds are Bluetooth wireless earphones, Google’s answer to Apple’s popular Airpods[3] and Samsung’s Gear IconX 2018[4]. All of them work with carrying cases that also charge them, allowing their batteries to last throughout the day, despite the diminutive size. To make them even smaller, Google has opted to have a cord linking them (handy if you fear losing Apple’s Airpods).

The touch-sensitive pad on the right earbud allows you to play and pause music, change volume with a swipe and activate the Google Assistant voice assistant to perform a task with a long press.

To read our first impressions when we tried them, read our full Google Pixel Buds first look review[5].

References

  1. ^ Google Pixel 2 smartphone (www.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ Best Buy headphones (www.which.co.uk)
  3. ^ Apple’s popular Airpods (www.which.co.uk)
  4. ^ Samsung’s Gear IconX 2018 (www.which.co.uk)
  5. ^ Google Pixel Buds first look review (www.which.co.uk)