Review: VicTsing Quad Core Android Smart TV Box

So here’s an interesting device. With the smart TV market heating up, there are more and more devices finding their way into consumers hands. Of course we’ve all heard of the big brands like the Amazon Fire TV, and the Apple TV, so what room does that leave for other, smaller, brands?

Well, apparently there is room! I personally use an Amazon TV box and I love it, so when I booted this device up I had some pretty high expectations. The first thing that struck me was the custom launcher installed on the device, something that I didn’t expect to find. I thought it would just ship with plain old Android, making it difficult to use as a TV box, but the custom launcher makes using this with a remote an absolute breeze.

The box comes pre-loaded with media streaming apps such as Netflix and there are plenty more available from the Google Play store (a bit of advice, when I first logged into the Play Store it didn’t work, however once I updated it, it worked perfectly).

Content looked great when streamed from Netflix, with sound and picture quality rivaling the big names, and having access to the Google Play Store gives users a huge range of content. Basically, if you can get something on your phone then you’ll find it on this device.

There are some issues with this device, but they are to be expected at such a low price. First thing, and it’s not a huge gripe, but the box itself is incredibly light, to the point that if you knock a cable it will go flying. The remote it comes packaged with needs clear line of sight, we really are talking direct line with no obstacles. I thought the remote had stopped working, but it was just not pointed direct at the box.

To be honest this is worth checking out. Granted, the user interface isn’t quite as nice as the big name TV boxes out there, but for the price you can’t go wrong. If all you’re after is streaming TV and Movies to your big screen then this is worth giving a go. The cons are relatively minimal, and there really are plenty of great points!

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Review: GMYLE® 2500mAh Ultra-Thin Power Bank

This is perhaps the most portable battery I’ve reviewed to date. This slim line, compact device is fantastic to use and easy to carry around no matter what.

I’ve used and reviewed a number of portable batteries, almost everyone of them boasting far more power than this little device. The one thing they all lack in comparison is the super compact design.

Now it does have its draw backs. If you’re going on a long journey and you need a lot of power for multiple devices then this isn’t the product for you. However, if you are looking to use a portable battery on your daily commute or while at work, then this product is far better suited than most others out there.

I’ve found it very convenient to slip this into my jacket pocket, taking it out and attaching it to my phone when needed. The great thing about it is that it fits in my jeans pocket along side my phone without adding any real bulk. Its comfortable to charge and carry at the same time.

Also the fact it has a relatively short cable attached is a good thing as it means you won’t have lengths of cable sticking out of your pocket.

The charge time as relatively fast, only a tiny but slower than plugging my device directly into the mains.

As I mentioned above, if you’re after something with a lot of power for long journeys this isn’t for you. However if its just a daily power boost you require then look no further.

Out of all the power banks I’ve been sent to review, this one is by far the most practical to use on a daily basis.

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News: Google Cardboard gets an update

The Google I/O has been taking place today and one thing that got announced was an update to Google Cardboard. Now, as a fan of VR, this is something that I find quite fun and intriguing, and after taking the first Google Cardboard out for a spin I was surprised by how well it works.

So what’s new with the latest build? Well, for starters it supports devices with screen sizes up to 6″ which will come in handy considering how mobile phones seem to be continually getting larger. Google have now shrunk the steps to build the device from twelve to only three, meaning once you unpack your new D.I.Y VR kit it will only take a couple of minutes to get up and running.

Perhaps the biggest update is that Google Cardboard will now support iOS, meaning that all of you iPhone users out there will get to have fun with some makeshift VR.

For anyone out there who wants to experience virtual reality without handing over a huge sum of money then this is probably worth taking a look at. Google can now boast to having over 1 million Cardboard users and over 500 apps available for the VR market. Not bad eh?

Review: 1byone® Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard

I was sent this product to offer an unbiased review and I was pretty excited to see how this keyboard and trackpad combination performed. I’ve been keeping my eye out for this sort of product for a little while now to combine with my Nvidia Shield Tablet so naturally I jumped at the opportunity to review this product. So, did it live up to what I was hoping for?

The Good

  • Stylish and slim
  • Keys feel good with no skipped presses
  • Micro USB charging
  • Good battery
  • Function keys for Android and Windows
The Bad
  • No grip for the bottom
  • A little too slim, flexes when typing
  • Trackpad sometimes stops working for a few seconds

The keyboard is very easy to pair with your device, literally hold the function key and the C key and then search for the keyboard in the bluetooth settings on the device you wish to pair with. Within only a couple of minutes of unwrapping the keyboard I was paired and ready to play.

It’s comfortable to use, with keys that feel great to type on. They offer a good click and are adequately spaced unlike some portable keyboards that have a plushy and cramped feel to them. My only criticism of typing on this product is that due to the keyboard being so slim it does seem to flex a little when in use.

Moving onto the trackpad is a slightly mixed bag. On the one hand it works straight off the bat with Android and offers something closer to a laptop experience on your tablet. The trackpad is large enough to use for browsing, but it does feel a little cramped, but I suppose that’s to be expected. The one thing that really let the mouse side of things down was its tendency to either lag or just disappear entirely for a few seconds. However, it performed well enough that I didn’t need to carry a portable mouse around with me.

The design of the device is great. It’s slim, lightweight, and the keys fill up pretty much all the space on the device, giving the user a great typing experience. However, the biggest flaw with this product is in the design. It has four rubber nubs on the top, obviously to help protect your tablet screen if its faced down while in your bag, however it doesn’t have the same nubs on the bottom. It does have four, very tiny and recessed slivers of rubber in each corner on the bottom.

The issue with this design flaw… Well if you type on a smooth surface it causes the keyboard to go sliding all over the place. In the end I had to seek out some form of rubber to stick on the bottom of it because out of the because the keyboard was just too slippery to use on a smooth surface. It’ not the end of the world, but it does require some additions in order to be usable.

So in conclusion this is a pretty good keyboard, especially at the price range. Are there better keyboards out there? Of course there are, but you’ll be paying extra for that. If you’re after something to combine with your tablet for some on the go use without paying a premium then this is going to cover everything you need.

Yes it has its flaws, but for the price being asked you can’t go wrong.

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Cheaper VR Gaming

If like me, you’re looking to experience the intrigue of VR gaming, but you don’t want to invest in the short term solution of an Oculus Rift developer kit then I may have the solution for you! For a while now I’ve been following VR, especially when it comes to gaming. I love the idea of immersing myself in a game, but the VR headsets out there aren’t built for the consumer yet and they come at a price.

We either need to fork out our hard earned cash and pick up a developer kit, which will get a consumer release at some point in the near future, making our purchase almost redundant, or we can try a different route. Now I need to point out that this isn’t going to supply you with the perfect VR solution, but what I have to tell you does give you a pretty good idea of the future of gaming!

For this to work you’re going to need a few things:

  • Android Handset
  • Google Cardboard type headset
  • Trinus VR
  • Limelight Streaming
  • Nvidia GPU

So how does it all work? Well I picked up a relatively cheap Google Cardboard equivalent from Amazon and combined this with my Google Nexus 6. With these two devices alone you can have some good fun with apps downloaded from the Play Store, but the real fun comes when you download Trinus VR.

Trinus VR is an app that you download for both your gaming PC and your Android handset. The app allows you to customise how your PC and Android handset communicate, giving you different levels of connection options, e.g. wifi direct, USB etc. It will also give you a number of different options so you can chose how your games are streamed to your device, either in VR or non VR.

The great thing that Trinus VR offers is the ability to work alongside Limelight. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Limelight it’s basically a reverse engineered version of Nvidia’s Gamestream software. Limelight turns any Android device into an Nvidia Shield and allows you to stream your games from PC to your phone or tablet. Trinus VR takes this and turns it into VR.

The ultimate result is your Android device becomes the screen, that when inserted into your VR goggles gives you a pretty good virtual reality experience. As I mentioned, it’s not perfect, but it’s an awful lot of fun. While you’re stuck waiting for the final consumer versions of VR to hit the market this is a pretty good solution.

So why not check it out? You’re in for a lot of fun, and maybe some motion sickness, but hey, it’s worth it!

First Impressions: Half Life 2 Android Nvidia Shield

Recently I picked up a new Nvidia Shield Tablet and so far I love it. Obviously one of the first things I did was redeem my free copy of Half Life 2 and take it for a spin. So how does this amazing game hold up on an Android device? Are we anywhere near the stage of being able to use tablets for serious gaming?

Well the answer to the above is that it plays surprisingly well. Feel free to check out my gameplay videos that have all been recorded directly from my Nvidia Shield Tablet. The game handles well and I’ve only encountered a few slow downs in my 5 hours of gameplay so far. It tends to struggle a little when I blow everything on screen up or go a little mad with the gravity gun, but apart from that the device plays Half Life 2 amazingly smoothly.

If you really want to have a good time you’ll need a gamepad, in fact Half Life won’t run without one. Even if you hook a mouse and keyboard up to your device Half Life still won’t run. A minor issue but it works well enough with a decent games controller.

But what about that small screen? Well for starters it’s pretty much next to my face so it doesn’t really limit the experience. On top of that the display looks fantastic and really helps to bring the game to life. No issues with the screen size here! Although if I were to play on the Nvidia Shield Portable I’m not so sure I’d find it as enjoyable.

The 8 inch display on the Shield Tablet is just about perfect for gaming at the coach. My perfect set up is my Shield Tablet on the arm of the chair as I kick back and relax.

I’ve taken the game for a test run in console mode and I’m pleased to say it runs just as smoothly. Outputting onto my TV allowed for a true console like experience playing the game which again left me exceptionally surprised. The game looks awesome on a larger display and you can easily forget that you’re running it from a tablet.

I think it’s quite incredible to think how far Tablets and other mobile devices have come in such a short amount of time. It wasn’t that long ago that Half Life 2 was running on a current gen console! Within the year I honestly believe that Tablets will begin to really find a place in the gaming market, especially if they continue to get the support from developers such as Valve.

So is it worth playing? Definitely! If you’re a fan of Half Life and you happen to own an Nvidia Shield Tablet then why on earth are you not playing this game?

 

 

 

 

 

Galaxy Gear Fit Impressions

I’ve been using my Galaxy Gear Fit for a couple of weeks now. It was a bit of an impulse buy, on offer with O2, so I grabbed myself one. I prefer the look and feel of the Gear Fit vs the Neo or the Gear 2, and it’s definitely a much nicer device to wear on a day to day basis than the original Galaxy Gear.

For me it’s the style of the watch that I like. It’s small and compact and looks smart, giving a solid two to three days of battery life. Throw in the added water resistance and Samsung have really gotten themselves a winner.

When it comes to screen size, the Gear Fit is unusual, but work pretty well. I have my display oriented vertically, making my notifications and menus much easier to navigate through. Speaking of notifications, I don’t really use the watch much for them. Granted it’s handy to be able to see who is calling, or why my phone just vibrated, but for me they are an added bonus.

S-Health is a great complimentary piece of software for the Gear Fit, tracking your heart rate, steps walked, calories burned, sleep patterns and exercise. It’s nice to have these stats in one place, and you can chose when your Gear and phone sync up. I must admit however, the software still has leaps and bounds to go before it is any real use. Right now it’s more of a handy little link up to store your information, but you can’t do a massive amount with it.

So that’s it really, short and sweet. As I mentioned, this is a fantastic watch, and by far my favourite wearable so far. It suits me perfectly as I was looking for a nice looking watch, that had added functionality thrown in. Is it for everyone? No, but if like me, you want a nice watch, that can also link with your phone, then go ahead and take the plunge.

Neptune Pine

So a little while ago, back in December last year, I decided to back my first Kickstarter campaign. A new upstart company with an idea for a smartwatch that does it all. The device was a beast, more like something the Predator would wear rather than a normal person, but I loved the idea of it.

The device was due to ship in January this year, optimistic in most peoples eyes, but nonetheless the backers were excited. So what do I think about my new gadget? Well, it’s still not here, and the company behind the Pine are jumping from one story to the next.

There have been all sorts of reasons for delays, but the worst part about the Neptune Pine, is the inconsistent updates coming from the company, and thats when they even bother to update backers. Most people understand that backing something on Kickstarter is different to just buying a product, but when the company you are backing outright lies or withholds information, the backers start to get a little annoyed.

At this point I find myself skeptical about whether or not the Pine will ever actually ship. The updates that have come from Neptune haven’t been positive, with models getting cancelled, straps that don’t work, and features that can’t be included yet for one reason or another.

So what’s the point in this post? Nothing really, I just fancied a bit of a rant. Something so interesting and exciting, ruined by a lack of clear and open communication. If Neptune had have just been open throughout this process then the backers would be in a much happier, patient, state of mind.

Looks like I will just have to wait for a new piece of wearable tech to come along and take my fancy!

Android Wear

Well with the revelation of Android Wear things in the wearable department just got a whole lot meatier! It’s great to see that wearables will soon sport properly developed OS’s to work with our small devices rather than what we have at the moment.

What really caught my eye was Motorola’s new watch, the Moto 360. It looks smart, sleek, and above all like a watch. I can’t wait to see the flood of new wearables that will soon be hitting the market. There have been a fair few manufactures jumping onboard this announcement, proclaiming their intent to bring wearable tech to the market.

For a long time now we’ve been forced to wear clunky devices, that feel more like test products than anything else, if we have wanted to dive into the world of wearable tech. With Google’s latest announcement, a sort of Nexus platform for wearables, things look like they will soon be changing.

 


Samsung Galaxy Gear Review

Introduction

The Samsung Galaxy Gear, an intriguing bit of kit and perhaps one of the smartest wearables out there. With competition hotting up and wearables fighting to become relevant in the market place how does the Gear hold up?

Look and Feel

To start with, its a lovely looking device. Its sleek and elegant with a gorgeous premium feel to it. The screen is a good size and the metal surround looks fantastic.

The strap isn’t to my taste, an off rubberised texture that has started to irritate my wrist after a few days of use. I wish Samsung had opted for a metal finish for their strap as the current one really takes away from the premium look.

While we are on the subject of strap the clasp on the bottom is pretty large. This houses the speaker for the Gear and due to it being beneath your wrist it really gets in the way. I constantly found myself getting caught against desk edges or on keyboards and the clasp makes the Gear extremely uncomfortable for everyday use.

Another issue I found with the design is the camera location. I would have much preferred a front facing camera for video calls, instead we have a very large and obvious camera located on the front of the wrist band. Great if you desperately need to snap a quick picture but people will throw a fair few questioning glances at your Gear when they spot your spy camera.

User Interface

Its pretty basic yet intuitive at the same time. Lift your arm up towards you and the Gear will spring to life, by far my favourite feature. Swipe to the left to show notifications or continue scrolling for other apps.

You can also set quick gestures, for example the pre set gesture, swipe down from the top of the screen and your camera will power up, swipe up and your phone dialer will pop up. These gestures are welcome when it comes to such a tiny screen.

Normally I wouldn’t touch on this subject here but I feel sound quality needs a mention. Its good, very good in fact. During a call I could hear everything clearly even when I was in a relatively noisy area. Those around me fed back that all they could hear was muffles which allowed the call to remain private. I didn’t expect this device to be any good during calls and must admit I’m pleasantly surprised.

Camera

As I mentioned already I would have preferred a front facing camera, however Samsung opted to give us a spy camera shooter. To be honest the camera is OK, its not good, its not bad. I can’t see many occasions where you would want to use it but for some it is handy.

The major issue I have with the camera is that its relatively large and adds some bulk to the device. It also stands out like a sore thumb, with many people asking why I have a camera on my watch and giving me weird disapproving looks. I can see where they’re coming from, I mean what kind of person needs a secret camera on their watch?

Battery

I’ve heard some horror stories about the Gears battery. I managed a consistent and solid two days on my Gear between charges. Its not fantastic but its better than expected.

A word of warning for potential buyers. The Gear has to be charged in its unique cradle which doesn’t make charging on the go as easy as I’ve had liked. The reason for this is to remove the need for micro USB ports on the device itself, a trade off I wish Samsung hadn’t made.

What I liked

It does a lot more than the competition currently does and saves a lot of battery on my phone. Whenever my phone buzzes I can check wherever or not its worth while looking in more detail with a quick glance at my watch.

What I disliked

It’s uncomfortable. I thought that with a little time I would get used to wearing the Gear but I’m still very conscious its there. Its just a little too bulky in the wrong places. The clasp on the bottom ruins the device completely in my opinion, sticking out and catching far too much.

Conclusion

I really want to love the Gear but I just can’t bring myself to fall for it. Its gorgeous and well built but some of the trade offs that Samsung made are far too obvious to ignore.

The lack of compatibility also causes issues, confusing many potential customers. Unless you are sporting one of the latest Samsung Galaxy phones then you are out of luck.

The Gear feels like a gimmick at the moment with a fair bit of potential. In my opinion it just isn’t yet ready for prime time and my recommendation would be to wait for the second generation of the Gear.

Xperia Z1 Review

Introduction

The Xperia Z1, Sony’s latest flagship, is an amazing bit of kit. The specs are formidable and the build quality is fantastic. So what does this all add up to in real world use?

Look and Feel

As I mentioned above the Xperia Z1 is a wonderfully built piece of kit. It feels premium to hold. It’s a combination of glass and metal which really helps the Z1 to stand out against the competition.

The screen quality is superb, full HD 1080 with Bravia technology which really makes the screen stand out. The colors look natural and the picture quality is extremely sharp. I really can’t fault the display on the Xperia.

Where the Xperia falls short is the size of the thing. It’s a big phone, and that’s coming from someone who used the Galaxy Note 2 for almost a year. Due to the device being water and dust proof Sony have compromised on size. The Xperia Z1 is far larger than its rivals and at times can be pretty uncomfortable to hold, its sharp corners digging into your palms and making one handed usage almost impossible.

User Interface

The Xperia Z1 runs on Android and is extremely snappy, responding to almost everything I could throw at it without any lag. I found that Sony hadn’t loaded the device with too much bloat ware and their custom launcher was nice to use which is a pleasant surprise.

Camera

The Z1 packs a whopping 20.7 mega pixel camera which works fantastically well in low light conditions due to the size if its lens. Adding to this is the return of the hardware camera key on the side of the Z1 which helps to snap those perfect shots.

I absolutely loved and hated the camera on the Z1. It’s an odd beast, either taking some of the best shots I’ve ever managed or alternatively snapping nothing but a blurry mess.

I found that a lot of the issues cropped up when I used Sony’s ‘Superior Auto’ shooting mode which automatically switches settings in order to capture the best shot. I’ll warn you now, more often than not it gets things wrong.

Switching the phone into manual shooting mode gives a much higher chance of snapping a fantastic shot, but still my experience was plagued with awful blurry pics. I don’t know why the Z1 is inconsistent but unfortunately it is. In comparison to other smartphones it may be capable of taking the better pictures but more often than not it will let you down.

Battery

For a phone like this the battery life is pretty good, which is handy considering it is built in. Consistently I’ll get a full days worth of battery which includes just over 4 hours of screen on time. For the power users amongst you I would suggest carrying a portable battery if you are going to be away from a charger for a lengthy period of time.

What I liked

I absolutely love the build quality and waterproof feature on this phone. The Z1, despite its size, is a joy to handle. Throw in the added bonus that I don’t have to worry about using it in the rain and I can capture novelty underwater photos and you’re onto a winner.

What I disliked

Potentially the best and the worst feature on the Z1, its camera. I loved how amazing some of the photos captured on the device look but I hate how inconsistent it is. Even in the exact same scene, with the exact same settings photo quality will differ drastically.

Ultimately it ruins the camera for me as it just can’t be trusted to capture those fantastic shots it is capable of. Fingers crossed it is just a software fault and not hardware.

Conclusion

The Xperia Z1 is a beautiful phone with the specs to match. For those camera enthusiasts amongst you it is worth giving a shot, that is if you can tolerate the inconsistent quality issues.

Be warned, for those who have smaller hands this may not be the device for you. It’s closer in size to the Galaxy Note 2 than it is to its 5 inch screen competitors.

For a full run down of specs check out the Sony Xperia Z1.



Nexus 7 2013

So I recently acquired a Nexus 7 2013 and so far my impressions are mixed. Its a lovely little device, small, compact and powerful. Despite this however there’s something I’m just not getting on with.

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look and feel

As I mentioned above the Nexus 7 is a small and compact device, perfect for portability. It has a lovely matte finish and the screen quality is superb. I’ve found that due to its light weight the Nexus is easy to hold in one hand for a relatively long time making it perfect for all you eBook readers out there.

What I do dislike about the Nexus is the huge bezels above and below the screen. They’ve got such slim bezels on the side that this makes the Nexus ridiculously long and partially uncomfortable for portrait typing due to the corners being so far from the screen. To me it just feels like wasted space,Im sure its not and that there is a perfectly good internal reason but nonetheless it really puts me off the design.

User Experience

Pure Android is always a good thing. There are far too may manufactures out there who destroy perfectly good hardware with their poor launchers and awful bloatware. With a Nexus device theres no need to worry about this.

The result is something lightning fast, responding without lag almost every time. There’s the odd stutter but its rare. Users also have the ability to customise from the ground up, either selecting the pre loaded apps and widgets or choose from a huge range and selection from the Play Store.

I can’t really fault the Nexus when it comes to using it. My only gripes are that the screen is a little too small for my taste and it also suffers from the occasional ghost press which drives me mad when typing. Apart from these two things the Nexus is a superb device when it comes to experience.

Stand Out Feature

The stand out feature has to be how powerful the Nexus is despite its size. Gaming on the go is superb due to the monstrous specs Asus have managed to squeeze in. Combined with the 7 inch screen this make a the Nexus 7 comfortable to game on unlike larger tablets where your thumbs are stretched.

For those who are a fan of mobile gaming the Nexus is the perfect companion. Comfortable, small and powerful.

Conclusion

I can’t really fault the Nexus 7. Its a gorgeous little device that can handle pretty much anything you throw at it. I feel its a little small but that’s personal taste.

For anyone who is looking for a well priced smaller tablet then the Nexus 7 should definitely be on the top of your list.

My Top 10 Gadgets 2013

Below is a list of my top 10 favourite gadgets that I used throughout 2013. I got to play with a whole load of different toys and enjoyed most of those. Check out my thoughts below and click the links for more details in Amazon.

1: Macbook Pro Retina 13 inch 

 

Recently I took the plunge and upgraded from my 11 inch Macbook Air and I’m very glad I did. The Macbook Pro is a stunning machine. Its fast, responsive and above all the screen is beautiful.  

I’m no Apple fan boy, far from it in fact, but I’ve got a place in my heart reserved for MacBooks. So far my pro has served me well and is a fantastic step up from my Macbook Air. I love the larger screen size and the retina display is to die for. 

The device just feels premium and is everything I could ask for. For what I need, the Macbook Pro Retina is perfect and I would recommend it above everything else. True love has been found in 2013. 

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The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 was my personal phone for the best part of 2013 and I loved it. I recently changed to the Sony Xperia Z1 and find that I miss the screen size and stylus from my Note. Even it’s cheaper plastic finish isn’t enough to put me off, in fact its a bonus, making the device light weight. The Note 2 is easily my favourite phone that I used in 2013. 

Sony hit a niche market with this product. The camera on my phone is one of the biggest features I use and now with the QX10 lens I don’t really need to worry about the camera quality onboard my chosen phone. The device has god battery, is small and compact and relatively easy to use even for an amateur like myself.  

The zoom is absolutely fantastic and snapping pics in low light conditions is amazing. The lens far exceeds any dedicated camera built into a smart phone that I have used so far and that includes the Nokia Lumia 1020. 

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So I felt it was time to upgrade my graphics card in 2013 and I’m glad I did. This was the first year that I played some big name single player games from start to finish and actually enjoyed them. Games like Bioshock Infinite ran like a dead dog on my previous card but after installing my GTX 680 it ran like a dream. 

Nvidias physx also added a little spice compared to my previous AMD card. Its nothing to really shout about but there were a few noticeable differences in certain games that caught my eye, the biggest being in Planet Side 2 with its oddly beautiful teleporter effects. 

2013 was the year that I returned to dedicated portable gaming hardware thanks to Pokemon’s lure. I had always used a tablet or phone for casual gaming, singing the devices praises and condemning portable gaming hardware, saying how redundant it was. It wasn’t until I returned to true hardware controls that I realised how wrong I had been. 

The 3DS is a lovely size and very comfortable to hold. Its got a great sized screen and has a pretty good catalogue of games. I’m glad I made the move back to a portable console and couldn’t be more impressed with this device. 

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I have a love hate relationship with Sony. I want to love their products but I’ve always been unlucky in the past with all my Sony branded products going faulty. So with great reluctance I gave up my note 2 and got myself an Xperia Z1. 

Am I glad I did? Kind of. The camera is hit and miss, half of the time it takes better quality photos than I’ve ever taken before, the other half it captures horrid blurs. It feels so solid and premium unlike most Android devices which is a welcome change and the waterproof feature actually works! Its beyond fast, responding like lightning and very rarely lagging. 

The downside is its huge and my device is already faulty which is a real shame. I’ve had it exchanged and the second unit was faulty so it appears my bad luck with Sony has continued. 

The Nexus 7 is my tablet of choice at the moment. Its a relatively low cost, yet powerful device. Sporting pure Android with no manufacturer interference leaves the Nexus running blazingly fast. 

Its light weight and feels great in the hand, its rubberised back and sides stopping it from sliding all over the place and making it easier to grip. The screen size is both a positive and a negative, small enough for light browsing, gaming and work but too small for anything more. 

Overall I’m impressed with the Nexus and have so far enjoyed using it on the train to work.  

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Ah the iPad mini. This would easily be my device of the year if it wasnt for a certain software update. The iPad mini feels and looks fantastic. The screen size is perfect for on the go work and gaming. Its not too big and not too small, the best tablet size I have used. The battery life was good and it ran smoothly, never skipping a beat. 

So what changed? iOS 7 landed, turning my iPad mini into a horribly slow device. My iPad was so slow it had become unbearable to use. I understand that older Apple hardware begins to run terribly slow as new software updates land but the iPad Mini was still a current device at the time of iOS 7. In my opinion this was a terrible move by Apple. 

I miss my iPad mini as it was easily the best tablet I have ever used. After the way Apple destroyed my device I don’t think I’ll be taking the plunge and updating to the latest model. 

My first Windows 8 tablet. There is huge potential from these hybrid devices but I still don’t feel like any manufacture has gotten dit right so far. I really enjoyed my time with the Ativ Smart PC Pro but it ultimately felt like a jack of all trades. As a tablet it was average and as a laptop it was average. 

The keyboard dock was plagued with disconnection issues and as tablet the device was just too big and bulky. The thing that really killed my experience was Windows 8 which offered a very jarring experience. Modern UI and desktop mode just don’t fit together at all killing any seamless experience you would expect from a device such as this. 

The concept is sound and the potential is massive but I can’t help but feel that these hybrid devices are just lacking. 

So I mentioned already that I have a love hate relationship with Sony and the same applies with the Xperia Tablet Z. I loved the feel of it. Its so slim, with a beautiful screen and gorgeous matte finish. Its probably the nicest looking Android tablet out there. 

However its incredibly slow. Almost everything I did on the device was laggy unless I installed a custom launcher. Web browsing was poor and just navigating menus was slow. I’m not entirely sure what Sony did to this device to make it respond so poorly! Needless to say my time was short lived with this device.

 

 

Dungeon Hunter 4

Slashy slashy time!
Slashy slashy time!

So I decided to delve into another one of Gameloft’s clones. They make some pretty good mobile games and Dungeon Hunter 4 is no different. It’s a great little game, packed filled with some brilliant RPG elements, fantastic graphics and great controls. The gameplay is fun, button mashing mayhem. I’ve sunk hours into hacking and slashing my way through hordes of enemies and upgrading my loot. For a mobile game this is pretty great fun.

This is something you will see a lot during the game
This is something you will see a lot during the game

Where the fun stops however is Gamelofts insistence on in app purchases. Simple things like using potions more often than every couple of hours will end up costing you gems, and gems will cost you real world cash. In order to progress in the game you need better equipment and the quickest way to get your hands on this is to spend some gems on it. In fact pop up sales will appear in-between loading screens, enticing you to spend spend spend. Now, you can earn all the loot for free and upgrade gathered loot with in gold that you find in game. However this is a long process. I’ve already repeated one level about 20 times in order to grind my way to the higher level equipment.

At the end of the day this game is free to play and you’re not being forced to spend any money. However in app purchases pop up around every corner, leaving me wishing I could just pay for the app up front and have a better in game experience without being pestered every other minute.

I’d recommend giving this app a go if you fancy playing a premium RPG on your mobile device. It others some good old fashioned button mashing fun and is worth giving a chance. Just make sure you avoid the temptation to blow your real world cash on this game, it could turn into a real money pit.

DownloadiPhone    DownloadiPad

Technology Got Stuck

I can’t help but shake the feeling that right now technology feels stuck in the novelty and experimental stage. Progression seems to be mixed with different companies and industries experimenting with all sorts. Where will a product line end up?

Let’s take tablets and netbooks, hell, even laptops as an example. Apple undoubtedly managed to persuade the general public that every single one of them needed an iPad to replace their laptop and now other manufactures are following this example. But who’s going to come out on top? Everyone is experimenting. We have ultrabooks, we have hybrid tablets, we have convertibles we have plain simple tablets… then we have iOS, we have Android, we have windows…. and thats just tablets…. there’s more operating systems coming!

This isn’t the only example. Look at smart phones currently. Manufactures are simply recycling their older products and bumping up the screen size and internal specs. Where has the innovation gone? I remember eagerly watching as a phone was announced and being wowed or shocked by the complete new design. Gone are those days.

I just can’t help but shake the feeling that manufactures are pushing their products into niches they just don’t fit into. It reminds me of the HD DVD vs BLU Ray race. People held off dedicating themselves to a technology because they didn’t know what would win out. I feel the same right now, especially with things such as tablets/laptops. I honestly couldn’t say which is going to win out and last into the foreseeable future.

Everything just seems as though its manufactures testing the water and experimenting without actually truly dedicating to what it is they want to do. Come on guys back to what made technology so exciting! Stick with the direction you want to go in and throw your weight behind it! 😀

Samsung Ativ PC Pro Day by Day

Well my Samsung Ativ PC Pro has just arrived and I’ll be writing my thoughts on the device one day at a time. So far I’m very impressed by it and I look forward to using it more and seeing how it really performs in real world usage. So what will I look at when reviewing this beast?

Samsung

Right now I use a MacBook Air which I absolutely love. Its a great piece of kit and does most things that I need but its getting old and lacks power now. I also love the form factor of something like the Ativ PC Pro and I’m intrigued to see how well it performs as a tablet and also ultrabook. Obviously I do a lot of writing and the Mac has proved to be a great companion for all of my notes and work. I’ll take the Ativ PC Pro for a real spin and see how productive it really can be!

I’ve ordered myself a larger 256GB SSD (http://amzn.to/Z43Ec9) which I will fit into the tablet. This will hopefully be arriving this week and I’ll let you know how well the installation goes!

Day One

I’ve been using the Ativ PC Pro for just over 24 hours now and I must say I’m pleasantly surprised. I felt that I was going to be underwhelmed by this tablet due to the negativity that Windows 8 has received but I’ve got to admit that the OS actually performs very well. The tablet feels premium and performs well handling pretty much everything I’ve thrown at it. I’ve spent most of my time installing my applications and customizing the device but so far I’m impressed.

My first impressions of the OS is that it offers the best of both worlds. On the one hand I have the traditional desktop mode which I’ve spent most time using with my tablet docked in the keyboard. This performs exactly how you would expect from a Windows device. I’ve not had a chance to spend much time with Modern UI but from my brief play it handles well and gives a touch friendly environment. The thing that I love about this device when compared to other tablets is that it offers me everything. There’s no need to worry about where I will download my media content for example, I’ve got the choice to use iTunes or Google Music and I don’t need to worry about converting files. This is a full Windows experience and I love it so far.

So the device itself, what’s it like? Nice, very nice. It’s obviously bigger than your traditional tablet but that suits me just fine. It feels premium and when docked in it’s keyboard it feels and handles like an ultrabook. It’s on the heavy side so one handed use will get uncomfortable after a while and it’s also very long so using this device in portrait seems odd. It has all the ports I require and doesn’t really compromise on anything.

One of the biggest advantages is also the biggest let downs. I went for the Samsung Ativ PC Pro over the Microsoft Surface Pro due to it’s keyboard dock. The keyboard is great to use and the trackpad works well although it is a little on the small side. However the keyboard disconnects that are so widely reported are exceptionally annoying causing the keyboard to disconnect at even the slightest movement. The dock also feels extremely cheap and light which is odd considering how well made the tablet itself feels. It’s a shame that Samsung didn’t really go to the same effort in building the keyboard dock as they did the tablet. What I would have loved to see is something that employs the same materials as the tablet and perhaps uses bluetooth to connect with the tablet to avoid disconnection issues.

I’ve installed a couple of games onto the tablet just to test out how well it handles them. So far I’ve tried out Torchlight 2 and Guild Wars 2 and both games have handled well. As I mentioned I’ve not had a great deal of time yet to really test out the tablet but I’ll get some benchmarks etc in my day 2 experience.

Day Two

Well another day down and I’m still impressed by the Ativ. One thing that has struck me is how well the battery performs. I expected a couple of hours at best but I’ve squeezed over to 5 hours of screen on time and a couple of these were spent playing Guild Wars 2. Considering the power needed to keep this going it doesn’t overheat even when gaming and just keeps on performing.

So when it comes to gaming how well does it actually do it? It’s acceptable but won’t blow your socks off. If you’re looking for something that’s going to act as your gaming machine then look elsewhere, perhaps the Razer Edge? Yes the Ativ can game but it doesn’t deliver stellar performance. My session in Guild Wars was relatively smooth but bear in mind I had to drop all settings to low and lower the resolution to 720. The other problem I faced when gaming with this tablet was the keyboard dock. For whatever reason you cannot use the trackpad simultaneously with the keyboard which makes controlling your character difficult. I just hooked up a bluetooth mouse and problem solved but still it’s just another flaw with the dock.

I also decided to spend a few hours using the Ativ as a tablet because lets face it Windows 8 has been marketed at the touchscreen crowd. Desktop performed reasonably well with only a few icons being too small to hit
but at the end of the day it’s what you would expect. What I really wanted to find out is how well Modern UI performed. It was all lovely, pleasant boring. It just felt like a really dumbed down windows and left me constantly longing for my keyboard and mouse. It’s ok for those occasions when space is limited but in comparison to the likes of Android left me feeling underwhelmed. The other issue with using the Ativ as a tablet only is its weight! After a few minutes of using this I had to rest it somewhere because it is big. It’s also long which makes using it in portrait feel a little bit odd.

So to sum up if you plan on using it as a tablet only it maybe worth looking at other options unless you need the sheer power of this machine. However if like me you want a good mix and a hybrid machine then don’t let my experience of using it as a tablet put you off.

Day Three

I think I’ve got a good grasp of how well this tablet performs now. I went into this wondering if I would be getting rid of my MacBook and using only one device. My expectations were low, Windows 8 hasn’t exactly had a great ride since it’s launch. So what’s the outcome?

I love it! Sure there are things that aren’t up to scratch within the OS but for the most part it does what it needs to and its got a lot of polish and even better it offers a full desktop OS unlike any others offer right now. I can load up all my old applications and also play full PC games on my tablet. No other OS gives me this power right now and that’s where Windows 8 beats Android and iOS hands down.

When it comes to hardware I love pretty much everything about the tablet. It gets a little hot when under heavy load but its not uncomfortable. The biggest let down is the keyboard dock which has an appalling trackpad and is missing so many features. It’s just too light so tips over on non flat surfaces, could have been solved with an additional battery and the disconnection issues… the less said about that the better. If Samsung can manufacture a better dock then this device will be absolutely fantastic.

The tablet market is about to get flooded with Windows 8 devices but in my opinion the Samsung Ativ PC Pro is head and shoulders above the rest. I just really hope that manufactures don’t start pulling out of the Windows 8 space. I thought I was going to hate it but this has been a refreshing experience. It’s a no compromise device and I all I can say is that if you’re in the market for something portable but with power then this is your device.

For a full spec list and current prices check out Amazon for details:

http://amzn.to/Yb7ih6

For a full list of accessories available check out Amazon for details:

http://amzn.to/11Ul2kL

Another Smartphone OS

I find myself reading through the tech blogs and websites on a regular basis. It’s how I keep up to date with my job and I love it. However one thing coming or of MWC this year that I find relatively shocking is we are one again being treated to hands on demos of a new smartphone os from Mozilla.
Continue reading “Another Smartphone OS” »