A week in reviews: May 13 - May 17
An interesting week in reviews again with cars, headphones and the mighty Popcorn Hour A-400. There was a time when the Popcorn Hour was the must-have gadget for the home cinema aficionado with a lot of video stored on computers, but these days, things have changed and smart TVs have a lot of the same features, so is it still worth investing?
We also took some time to republish our Samsung Galaxy S4 review this week after the phone was in the news for a lack of internal storage space. While the 16GB version sounds like a capacious enough device, it turns out, once you remove the space taken by Samsung's software, you get down to a fairly paltry 9GB. Samsung has said it will look into optimising the phone to free up some space. Take a look at our review though, you'll find that this is still a phone we rate very highly.
We'll be honest, Sony has been through some dark times lately. Massive losses at the firm prove that people will no longer buy Sony because of the brand name. But that's good news, because the shock has forced Sony to work far harder than everyone else to make its products better, and more affordable.
This is very obvious in its TV range, which has seen picture quality improve enormously, and this is very clear on the W9 range, which has some of the best picture quality we've ever seen on an LCD TV. It might not be super-cheap, but it competes on price with TVs from other firms, and that puts Sony back in the game.
Quick verdict: The KDL-40W905A is an outstanding screen which pushes the boundaries of LED LCD picture performance. While we’ve yet to access the true potential of its Triluminos edge-lighting, the fact it can run rings around the competition with standard broadcast fare already has us excited. If picture quality is a priority, then this set should go to the top of your must-audition list. We also rate the refreshed user interface highly and applaud the use of NFC to make mobile streaming simpler. An early contender for telly of the year? We kinda think it is
Full review: Sony KDL-40W905A smart 3D TV review
Panasonic Lumix GF6
Panasonic's GF cameras are always solid performers. Sensibly priced with superb picture quality, you get a lot more for your money that you would with a budget SLR, and picture quality that can match cameras that cost a lot more.
We love the articulated screen, photo mode dial and snappy autofocus. The only major problem though, is battery life, which we still think is nowhere near as long-lasting as it should be. Yes, you can buy a spare, and avoid using Wi-Fi, but if there's one area for Panasonic to improve, this would be it.
Quick verdict: The GF6 is without a doubt better than its GF5 predecessor. However the addition of Wi-Fi hasn't really pushed the series forward - instead it's down to the improved 16-megapixel sensor, ongoing ace autofocus, new mode dial and fairer sub-£500 price that makes this camera well worth a look. Battery life, the reflective LCD screen and Wi-Fi's limitations are the areas we'd like to see improvements in, but otherwise the GF6 has got both image quality and movie mode wrapped up nicely.
Full review: Panasonic Lumix GF6 review
We say this a lot, but £200 is the sweet spot for headphones at the moment. Expectations somehow created by Beats mean that people are prepared to spend a bit more on headphones than they would even five years ago. But the good news is, you get something pretty amazing for your money too.
Here, the HF300s have a clean sound that's ideal for audiophiles, but when given a little bass boost through EQ produce some of the most powerful bass anyone could hope for.
Quick verdict: A marvellous set of headphones that are priced well, given the competition in the market. A clean, crisp sound is possible and there's loads of bass here if you push a bit of EQ on your playback device. Good all-rounders, but watch out for low-quality audio, as they don't suffer it gladly.
Full review: Onkyo ES-HF300 review
Samsung Galaxy S4
We took another look at the Galaxy S4 this week. The phone has been out for some time now, but in light of the recent discussions about storage space, we thought we'd update our review with some thoughts. The crux of this is that, while we appreciate the irritation of so much of your 16GB phone being taken up with Samsung software, at least you can get cheap microSD cards to fill the gap.
And the storage space might be an issue for some, but this phone still offers the larget number of features on any smartphone we've seen. Is it slight overkill? perhaps, but this handset remains one of our favourites for this year - along with HTCs fantastic One - and we highly recommend it.
Price: £630 (16GB)
Quick verdict: We love it, honestly. The new design might look the same as the old, but it isn't. New, more squared-off sides mean it feels nicer than the old model, and it's got so many new features that it's impossible not to love some of them. Battery life is still a major issue for Samsung though, and that's a big deal for most users.
Full review: Samsung Galaxy S4 review
Lotus Evora S IPS
The Lotus Evora S IPS is a tricky car. When it comes to performance, it's far and away the best value sportscar you can buy. It has the power and chassis of a car that costs twice as much, and it's some of the best fun you can have on the roads.
The problem is, with the Porsche Cayman offering the extra cabin refinement and comfort needed for your day-to-day car it becomes a choice between having the more racecar feel of the Lotus or the everyday comfort of the Porsche - with epic performance. The choice is yours, but we adore the Evora.
Quick verdict: A brilliant car from Lotus which anyone who fancies something exciting should definitely take for a test drive.
Full review: Lotus Evora S IPS review
Popcorn Hour A-400
There was a time when the Popcorn Hour was the only choice for people who took media playback seriously. With its wide range of codec support and stunning picture quality, it was streets ahead of the competition.
Happily, that's still true and while an increasing number of devices can play back video, not many can handle the sheer number of codecs, bitrates and audio formats that the A-400 manages. It's also got brilliant picture quality, and the ease with which you can add a hard drive makes it perfect for those who want to have a self-contained media player.
Quick verdict: The Popcorn Hour is still the king of media players, but its lack of UK catch-up TV services and high price make it a choice that only the very dedicated will make. That said, the picture and sound quality is the best you can get on a media player, and if you have a lot of TV and movies to watch, then it's capable of showing everything in the best possible quality.
Full review: Popcorn Hour A-400 review