A week in reviews: 7 - 11 October
Varied. That's the word to best describe the mixture of tech goodness that we bring you this week.
October has landed in style, and the trickle of gaming is starting to burst its banks into a torrent of wonderfulness. The first heavyweight title ahead of some spectacular releases is the appearance of the Playstation 3 exclusive Beyond: Two Souls. It's a point-and-click style masterpiece for the modern day, starring Ellen Page as Jodie, and Willem Defoe as a government scientist tasked with researching her unusual condition. How about that for Hollywood? Some will hate it, others will think it's ingenius.
In addition there's the refresh of the Apple iMac, now with super-power Intel Haswell at its core; we've been plugging away using Tesco's first tablet, the Hudl, for a week; snapping away with the rather good Canon PowerShot S120 compact camera; and wrapping the week by filling our eyes with delight thanks to the last truly great plasma TV that we'll ever see in the shape of Panasonic's ZT65.
Apple iMac 27-inch (2013)
However powerful you need it, if your wallet is deep enough then the gorgeous looking iMac will be able to dig just as deep in the power stakes. If you're after a Mac and your work is desk bound - yet needs an injection of oomph behind it - then the large-screen iMac is a no-brainer, despite its potentially massive price tag.
The 27-inch iMac is available with starts at £1,599. Our review unit cost an impressive £2,229 thanks to its 3.5 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 with Turbo Boost up to 3.9 GHz and the Nvidia GeForce GTX 780M. If you go all-out crazy and tick every box for internal upgrades then it'll cost a whopping £3,349. Kerpow.
The combination of speed, design, and screen real estate make it a lovely machine to use, even if it's not a Retina screen. That's the thing about the 2013 update: it's the same exterior as last year, it's just the more powerful innards that change. But that's no bad thing, it keeps everything bang up to date.
Once bought you also won't really be able to tinker with anything much, except for adding in RAM, so the concept of upgrading isn't just a pain, it's pretty much off the table. But that's part of the beauty of the iMac: this is a simple and unfussy solution that looks great and is a wonderful workhorse for pretty much anything you'd care to throw at it.
Price: From £1,599
Quick verdict The 2013 upgrade to the iMac is all internal. But that's no bad thing: it keeps the gorgeous, slim-screen all-in-one model up to date and makes it a serious powerhouse if you put the money behind it. That's the only real downer, that it can cost a huge chunk of cash.
Full review: Apple iMac 27-inch (2013)
Beyond: Two Souls
Beyond: Two Souls isn't your average game. Developers Quantic Dream has crafted an invested, emotive story above all else, then delivered it on a scale reminiscent of a Hollywood movie by embellishing its on-screen characters with a true A-list cast.
Ellen Page stars as Jodie, the lead who has a unique tie to a supernatural entity named Aiden, alongside Willem Defoe who lends his distinct voice and facial features to Nathan Dawkings, the government scientist tasked with studying Jodie's condition.
And it's a genuinely engaging emotional thrill ride that represents a new benchmark for in-game acting and storytelling. You'll feel connected to the central characters in the same way a good movie will pull you in and keep you wrapped up in its fictional bubble. It feels meaningful.
It's not flawless though - but much of that comes down to personal taste, the occasional mis-paced chapter and, ultimately, whether you'll love or loathe the gameplay and control system. If you liked Heavy Rain then this is a step beyond, whereas if you weren't on board with that title then Beyond will feel like more of the same.
Quick verdict: Beyond: Two Souls delivers a rich experience that most games could only ever dream. It'll divide opinion, no doubt, but we're totally on side with it - it's that rare landmark moment in gaming, delivered with Hollywood gusto and a lick of Quantic Dream's French je ne cest quoi. Utterly brilliant.
Full review: Beyond: Two Souls (Playstation 3 exclusive)
A Tesco tablet? Say what? But, no, hang about, it's no bad thing. We've been using the Hudl for a week and, given its budget price point, we think it's a rather clever prospect. Buy it for £119 outright or use £60 of Clubcard vouchers via Tesco Boost and it's yours. That makes it a bargain, and a fairly capable one at that.
Now we're not saying it's a Google Nexus 7 killer, because it really isn't. But if price is the wall that's kept you away from buying a tablet then the Hudl is the perfect introduction. If it's top quality that you're after then this probably won't be for you.
But hats off to Tesco for getting plenty right here. There's something to suit all ages, tastes and abilities. Irrelevant of what we think - in context the tech's just not as top-notch as the (admittedly slightly pricier) competition - this tablet will more or less walk itself off the shelves thanks to the affordable price point.
Price: £119 (£60 with Clubcard Boost)
Quick verdict: We live tech day in day out, and after a week with the Hudl it just doesn't quite compete against some of its near competitors. Got the cash then get the Nexus 7 or a step beyond. If not then while Hudl isn't a product that's going to set the tech world ablaze with excitement, it will more or less carry itself off the shelves thanks to its affordable price.
Full review: Tesco Hudl tablet
Canon PowerShot S120
Even if the PowerShot S120 doesn't reinvent the wheel, it does inject some added pep into the S-series high-end compact camera range.
If small is your number one aim then here is a camera that is truly pocketable but that doesn't scrimp on the features or image quality fronts. Low-mid ISO sensitivities see it win in the 1/1.7-inch sensor size category in our books. Good job.
But it's not quite perfect. We'd like to see a stronger battery performance, there's some overexposure in shots that's a bit of a nuisance, while the Wi-Fi mode needs to be polished up before it's a perfectly smooth runner. Not to mention that it's just as pricey as ever, but that's an inevitability.
If small is top of your list then the S120 is very likely to be the number one choice. And with good reason: it's a truly great high-end compact camera.
Quick verdict One for those seeking high-spec on a small scale. Save for the Panasonic Lumix LX7 there's little else worth looking at in this camera category. In short, despite some minor quibbles, the Canon S120 is a cracker of a compact camera. Big thumbs up from us.
Full review: Canon PowerShot S120
Panasonic TX-P60ZT65B 60-inch plasma TV
The Panasonic ZT65 is the gold standard of TV. We doubt we'll see a better plasma than the P60ZT65 any time soon, if ever again. It has everything going for it: beautiful design, stunning picture quality, and a really usable and well thought-out smart portal.
However, the biggest problem by far for us - if you ignore the price - is the noise from the cooling fans. We believe our particular model could have an issue, because the noise from the fans was irritating. Not only was it loud, but the pulsing hum made it near impossible to ignore.
Otherwise this Panasonic has reminded us why plasma TVs are in every way superior to everything else on the market right now. If you've got the money, don't make the mistake of not ordering one of these, because TVs of this quality don't come along all that often.
Quick verdict: This is probably the last great Plasma TV we're going to see. But great is the word, it's even able to stand up the likes of the much-loved Pioneer Kuro. If you're in the market for a plasma and have the cash to spend then this truly is as good as it gets.
Full review: Panasonic ZT65 plasma TV