A week in reviews: 9 - 13 September
In a week coloured by Apple announcements and just as the packed-out IFA electronics show in Berlin draws to a close, it's a surprise we've had any time to review, well, anything at all this week. Throw in the Intel Developers Forum in San Francisco and the Frankfurt Motor Show in (obvious, really) Frankfurt and it's been non-stop on all front.
But that's not stopped our eager techie hands getting through a stack of the latest tech. We bring you goodies galore: from the latest and greatest LG G2 and Huawei P6 smartphones, through to - and in theme with the Frankfurt Motor Show, or sort of - a review of the action-packed, app-based racer Asphalt 8.
Keeping things varied as ever we also take a thorough look at the Samsung Galaxy NX - the world's first system camera to run the Android operating system - the highly stylised Playstation 3 exclusive Puppeteer and a 3D printer for the home.
Who knows, perhaps one day we'll be using the printer to 3D print every component of every gadget. Futurism, eh?
Huawei Ascend P6
We rather like the Huawei P6. It looks good, runs well and is nicely built.
But it has problems too - there's that daft headphone cover/pin thing and the battery life just isn't up to scratch. Also does the £300-ish price point really make it that much more appealing that spending a touch more for a more knockout handset such as the HTC One? It's worth considering, but its main problem is down to the other phones out there that are available for similar money.
Quick verdict: A good phone with an appealing design for a pretty sensible price. The headphone jack insert is beyond stupid though, and the battery life is really nowhere near good enough so it's just shy of being among the very best on the market.
Full review: Huawei Ascend P6
Samsung Galaxy NX
The Samsung Galaxy NX is unlike any other system camera on the market. Why? Because it uses the Android operating system that's typically found in tablets and smartphones.
Ohh, shiny, quirky fun. It works well too: the NX delivers decent image quality from its APS-C size sensor and decent performance. But it's physically massive, and demands an asking price that for many will see it dead and buried. £1299? What is this madness?
Android works a dream for on-the-go sharing and, if you want, you can do anything else that a decent spec tablet can do. Only you won't want to because this is a camera, not a phone. Still, it's a nod to where the future lies, it just doesn't feel entirely complete in this context, but it'll get there. Price aside it's a shockwave for the more established imaging brands.
Quick verdict: At £1299 it's the Galaxy NX's price that's a big hurdle to overcome. For our US readers expect to pay $1699. Undeniably good image quality and potentially great sharing from Android are its plus points, but that huge body and huge price tag feel like Samsung's thrown a bit too much at this release. That and it's more than a Canon EOS 70D.
Full review: Samsung Galaxy NX
Puppeteer is clearly a labour of love. It looks gorgeous, but the gameplay is occasionally sacrificed in favour of the theatrical themed shenanigans, and our patience was tested by (among other things) a full five-minute song and dance routine and near-painful shouty voice acting.
Destined to propagate the "games as art" debate, long-standing games magazines will probably wet the bed over this title. Our take it a bit different: over the course of a number of gruelling evenings, its limitations become apparent, with the rigidly linear gameplay approach eventually beginning to irk.
Quick verdict: There's undeniably something compelling about Puppeteer. But despite it's eye-candy looks there's also that nagging feeling that you're pressing on to the finish just so that you don't have to play it any more. How's that for a curtain call? Some will love it, but in the wake of Rayman: Legends this feels the weaker link.
Full review: Puppeteer (Playstation 3 exclusive)
Asphalt 8: Airborne
Asphalt 8: Airborne is a great racing game. But not in the true form of road racing, this is all about throwing in added fun extras such as jumps and boosts. It's plenty challenging, in its frenetic sort of way.
However, progress is a little too slow at times, with the temptation of parting with a little real-world cash in the in-app shop all too great. The best cars are very expensive too.
Another downside is some control foibles that have shown themselves when testing the game out on different devices. Our HTC One handset was much better to use than the larger Nexus 10 tablet.
Cars, speed, excitement and a great soundtrack to top things off. Asphalt 8: Airborne is well worth its 69p cover price - just don't go too crazy on the in-app purchases.
Quick verdict: If it's crazy racing you're after, Asphalt 8: Airborne delivers. There's speed, there's excitement as well as some great cars. The soundtrack tops things off, making this well worth playing. Just go easy on your real-world cash spend.
Full review: Asphalt 8: Airborne
Cubify Cube 3D printer
The Cubify Cube 3D printer makes 3D printing in the home a reality and certainly gives you a starting block that's ideal to explore what's possible.
Be warned though, there is the strong opportunity for this to be a five-minute wonder where you print whatever you can find on the internet and then the printer sits on your desk for the next six months doing nothing.
If you're serious about it and know your CAD software then there's stacks of potential - it just needs to end up in the right hands. Which we expect it will, because at £1200 it's no casual purchase that's for sure. If you want to explore, or are actually looking to use the Cubify for prototyping models, game pieces, or something else on a regular basis for your work, then the Cube 3D printer is perfect for that.
Quick verdict: If you want to explore, or are actually looking to use the Cubify for prototyping models, game pieces, or something else on a regular basis for your work, then the Cube 3D printer is perfect for that. Just be warned it might turn into an expensive paperweight if your excitement wanes.
Full review: Cubify Cub 3S printer (second gen)
The LG G2 is easily a competitor for every other high-end smartphone out there. Now you might not have expected to hear that. But LG has really gone and done it with this masterful slice of smartphone pie.
The rear-mounted button layout might be accused of being "weird", but we think it works, while there are stacks of genuinely useful features and gesture controls. There are some minor things about the G2 we don't like though. The cluttered user interface and LG's lacklustre virtual keyboard. But there's nothing major to disappoint.
Some might struggle to get over their love of Samsung or Apple, but those who do and take the dive into LG G2 land will be rewarded with a phone that features technology that enhances its usability and maintains the balance of what really matters in a handset over those gimmicks no one ever uses. Mission accomplished LG, the G2 is an astounding phone.
Quick verdict: LG has done it. The G2 really is a compelling alternative to the Samsung Galaxy S4 and even the iPhone. We like LG's take on a phone, we think it has throughtfully and successfully made a handset that does everything we want, without overloading us with features we don't need. We just wish that camera was better.
Full review: LG G2