A week in reviews: 4 - 8 November
November's headlines are largely going to be owed to gaming. Ahead of PS4 and Xbox One launches we've been shooting the faces off, well, pretty much everybody in Call of Duty: Ghosts on the Playstation 3. It's a game that'll sell boat loads of copies despite fairly negative critical reception. Our view? It's a fun, albeit dumb, game with huge set pieces that make it an visually impressive feast.
Beyond just sitting slumped in front of the TV, we've also been testing the limits of our bodies with the TomTom Multi-Sport smartwatch. Cycle, run, swim - this three-in-one talks the talk, but does it cross the finish line ahead of the now plentiful competition?
To wind down we've been reading via the new Kobo Arc 7HD and testing out Lenovo's tablet alternative, the Yoga 10, which comes complete with bulbous stand built-in.
Elsewhere the continuation of laptop-hybrid Windows 8 machines has seen both the HP Split x2 and Asus Transformer Book T100 pass through our hands, we've been boosting TV audio via the Orbitsound SB60, pumping out the tunes over Wi-Fi using the Pure Jongo T6 and, ultimately, keep resorting to listening to everything via the Sol Republic Master Track XC headphones because they're so darn good.
HP Split x2 review
Quick review: The HP Split x2 hasn’t split our verdict on where this product sits. Literally: it should sit on a desk. And that defies what the product is supposed to be about. For all its efforts at being a two-in-one device - well, physically at least, it succeeds in being that - it fails to deliver a truly portable tablet device; it’s just too large and heavy and, therefore, confused as to what it's meant to be.
Pros: Decent keyboard and trackpad, ample battery life, screen viewing angles are good, sturdy build quality, fair price to power balance, SSD is swift, dual headphone jack
Cons: Massive as a tablet, top-heavy as a laptop, not comfortable for lap use, heavy in either configuration, screen should be higher resolution, fiddly tablet reconnection process, 13.3-inch tablet makes little sense, last-gen Intel
Full article: HP Split x2 hybrid laptop-tablet review
TomTom Multi-Sport review
Quick review: The TomTom Multi-Sport offers a reasonable running and cycling solution but is questionable as a swimming device. But what it does show is that the company is listening: the latest firmware takes the device up a notch compared to where it was at launch with new modes. However, the device's irksome cradle to link to a computer, lack of app, Bluetooth or wireless connectivity and no Ant+ compatibility for third party peripherals make it feel as though it's living a step behind. Ditch the cradle, go wireless, tweak the design, speed up GPS locating needed to start and we’ll talk again.
Pros: Comfortable to wear, latest firmware expands functionality - plenty of options for various sports, open platform support for services like RunKeeper, good enough battery life, waterproof, average pace display useful
Cons: Slow to find GPS connection, need a computer as there's no app connection - dislike cradle-based connection, swimming accelerometer doesn’t seem accurate, TomTom MySports is poor and slow, not a "one button" control, no Ant+ peripheral compatibility
Full article: TomTom Multi-Sport sports watch review
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10 review
Quick review: The Lenovo Yoga Tablet tries something a little different and to a certain extent it succeeds. This is a tablet that offers multi-mode use thanks to its integrated adjustable stand. It's an elegant, clean looking solution and people we've shown it to have found the stand a convenience and the device itself comfortable to hold thanks to the design. But there are more powerful, resolute and lighter tablets out there, so while the Lenovo doesn't offer the best of the best it does provide a blend of unique functionality with a price point that's competitive.
Pros: Unique design makes it comfortable to hold, stand is convenient, good battery performance, good value for money
Cons: Low resolution display, speaker perfomance not great, camera performance below average, UI tweaks miss the mark
Full article: Lenovo Yoga Tablet review
Asus Transformer Book T100 review
Quick review: We’re really impressed with the Asus Transformer Book T100. Its 10.1-inch scale works well as either a tablet or a laptop, even if the keyboard does feel a little squeezed up on initial use. Otherwise the T100 gets a whole lot right: full Windows 8.1, a battery life that lasts out for ages, Microsoft Office on board and a price point that opens up Windows 8.1 to a wider audience. Sounds like the beginning of the end of Windows RT devices to us.
Pros: Most affordable Windows 8 device we’ve seen, better screen brightness and viewing angles than most Chromebooks, full Windows 8.1 and MS Office for the price, great battery life, the death knell for Windows RT
Cons: Needs a better trackpad, on-board power isn’t going to blow you away, plasticky build, so slow to charge up, keyboard is squeezed, auto colour and brightness adjustment a bit annoying, not Full HD or greater
Full article: Asus T100 review
Sol Republic Master Tracks XC headphones Studio Tuned by Calvin Harris review
Quick review: Although the asking price for these Sol Republic headphones isn't a snip for most people, we think the build quality will see them last a very long time. And when it comes to sound quality these Calvin Harris tuned cans totally nail it. Whether you're a fan of the man or not it doesn't matter: the branding is subtle as it's on the inside of the headband out of view. Perhaps the Master Tracks XC isn't the best pair of headphones to buy for classical music, or jazz, but the more we've been listening to music lately, the more we've wanted to listen using these headphones. We think they're great.
Pros: Solid build quality, sound amazing, two cables included, comfortable to wear, subtle branding, modular build
Cons: Expensive, not ideal for classical or some musical genres, a little bright at times
Full article: Sol Republic Calvin Harris headphones review
Call of Duty: Ghosts review
Quick review: Call of Duty: Ghosts is a nonsense of storytelling that also happens to be a blast. A dumb blast, mind, but it’s fun nonetheless - even if you’re not typically a first person shooting fan. You won’t care what your character’s name is, nor why anything really matters - you’ll just want to delight in the visual set pieces and well crafted shooting sequences in the single player campaign mode. But the real life lies in the multiplayer, that's where we see "the billion dollar effect" in full swing, despite Ghosts offering a subtle upgrade compared to its predecessor.
Pros: Wonderful set-pieces, mix of semi-stealth and gung-ho shoot outs, looks great for the most, multiplayer will appease a huge chunk of prospective players, there’s a dog - everyone likes dogs right?
Cons: It’s all a bit the same isn’t it?, that juddery "caught behind comrade" irk, one or two frame rate drops (PS3 version tested), storyline is bonkers
Full article: Call of Duty: Ghosts review
Kobo Arc 7HD review
Quick review: The Kobo Arc 7HD is not only ideal for catching up on eBook downloads via its Wi-Fi connection, it's also an open Android 4.2.2 system and that means full access to Google Play. No lockdown like in Amazon's Kindle devices - here you're free to download any apps available on the store, including those eBook apps from competitors. The 1920 x 1200 screen resolution is great, as is the £159 price tag for the 16GB model. It's only letdown is lack of 3G/4G wireless connectivity options.
Pros: Inexpensive, attractive reading environment, Android implementation open to all competitors' apps, pocket integration, Collections bookmarking
Cons: Kindle Fire HDX is more powerful on paper, no 3G/4G option limits on-the-go use somewhat, rear-facing speaker underwhelming
Price: £159 (16GB)
Full article: Kobo Arc 7HD Android tablet eReader review
Orbitsound SB60 Airsound Base review
Quick review: Modern day televisions are getting thinner and thinner. And so, therefore, is their inherent sound quality. That’s an issue that the Orbitsound SB60 Airsound Base looks to rectify. This all-in-one box solution sits underneath the TV - literally, it can support plenty of weight on top, which translates into a TV up to 55-inches in size - and through its four 2-inch drivers and single 5-inch down-firing integrated subwoofer boosts audio output. Get used to it and you’ll quickly forget just how bad standard TV audio so often is. For the price the SB60 delivers plenty of audio thump and the adjustable EQ and built-in down-firing sub see that quality remains high.
Pros: Unobtrusive design underneath TV, takes plenty of weight on top, considerably boosts typically thin TV sound, enough bass, doesn't disrupt image, easy setup
Cons: No on-screen menus to simplify source and EQ controls, not on par with a surround system and separate sub, no Bluetooth, stereo only, "crunchy" top-end
Full article: Orbisound SB60 Airsound Base review
Pure Jongo T6 review
Quick review: We’ve settled in with the Pure Jongo T6 and while we’ve succumbed to many of its charms, there’s this niggling scratch in our minds. Where’s the big bass? For the £300 price tag there’s just not enough of the low-end, while the scattered top-end sound doesn’t deliver as smooth a listen as we’d like. There’s the makings of something solid here, and it doesn’t sound bad by any means, it’s just not quite met our expectations at this price point.
Pros: Pure Connect app works well, plenty of volume, easy to pair devices, can connect to home network for multi-room output
Cons: Not enough low-end, Wi-Fi network is a must, vanilla plasticky design, top-end over-bright and sound overly separated from the overall mix, Pure Connect streams at 128kbps limit
Full article: Pure Jongo T6 wireless Bluetooth speaker review