I love and hate these films but regardless, I’ve just had a geekgasm!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Below is a list of my top five favourite games that I played in 2013. Some of them really aren’t very conventional but I enjoyed all of them. There are links in each of the headings for more information on the games. Enjoy.
1: Tomb Raider
Before playing the latest Tomb Raider my commitment to single player gaming was pretty pitiful. I just couldn’t stick with any game for longer than a handful of hours and struggled to get all the way through. That changed with Tomb Raider.
The game was wonderful to play with an intruiging storyline and fantastic gameplay. At times the game grew repetitive but overall the story flowed well, leading me into some fantastic moments.
Throughout the game you get to guide Lara, watching her transform from a victim into a survivor. Its pretty intense stuff and definitely my top game.
2: Pokemon Y
Recently I rediscovered my love for Pokémon. I’d grown bored of the franchise, finding that the games had grown stale and repitive but with X and Y we are introduced to new mechanics and graphics.
The game is great fun and the new graphics make it interesting to explore. With a whole new host of monsters to collect and battle the game held my interest for a lot longer than I expected.
Pokemon Y far exceeded my expectations, shocking me with how well the updated graphics had been implemented. For anyone who was once a fan or just looking to pick up a new title for their Nintendo DS I would recommend giving this a go!
First person shooters tend to grow old fast when I’m behind the gun, especially if its a single player game. BioShock Infinite managed to stear clear of this trend, leading me from start to finish within a few days.
I loved the art style and setting. The world is so beautifully built and crafted by the developers and the story line is both touching and clever. Throughout the game I grew to care about the characters and I was genuinely interested in learning more about them.
The gameplay was often fast and furious, mixing gunplay and supernatural powers amazingly well which helped create some very unique and exciting battles. Swapping and changing your powers and loadouts really helped to add an extra layer to Bioshock.
Despite my ability to grow bored of the genre pretty quickly I absolutely loved Bioshock Infinite. Its worth diving in for so many reasons, story line, gameplay, there’s just so much to try.
I recently backed a game on Kickstarter that caught my eye. 7 Days to Die is a survival game where the world is fully customiseable. Basically its Minecraft and DayZ’s baby.
I’ve been giving the beta a whirl and have thoroughly enjoyed the game so far. Crafting my base from scavenged materials to fend off the hordes of the undead is just great fun. Mining deep into the earth to avoid detection from bandits, unbeatable.
This game has so much potential and I cannot wait to see how it turns out.
I’ll probably be hunted down for this one but I really enjoyed Resident Evil 6. No, its nowhere near as good as the original games but I loaded this up not expecting much and what I got was a whole load of chaotic fun.
The characters we know and love are back, stumbling through an interwoven and absurd storyline. They can move whiles shooting and survive the most outrageous moments. Through all of this however the game is fun.
Its not the survival horror that we are used to but its a good laugh. I recomend go into this with an open mind and you will more than likely have a pretty good time.
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.
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.
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.
3: QX10 Lens
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.
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.
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
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.
7: Nexus 7 2013
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.
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.
10: Xperia Tablet Z
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.