A week in reviews: 9 - 13 December
The Christmas countdown is on and there's tech aplenty on the approach too. What will Santa put under the tree this year?
Perhaps it'll be the rather lovely 8-inch LG G Pad tablet. Or, if there's a bit more cash in the kitty and you're off on a new year's action-packed adventure then the latest GoPro HD Hero3+ mini mountable camcorder might be more up your, erm, tree.
With next-gen console stock next to impossible to obtain at the moment, it's a good job there's still a strong run of final games to get hold of. December is also the month when Gran Turismo makes its final PlayStation 3 appearance - and what an appearance it is. If that's how good gaming can look as the hardware steps outside to say goodbye, we can really, really look forward to what the PS4 will deliver in eight years' time.
Elsewhere this week we've seen a wide spread of tech fun. From an under-the-telly speaker base from Onkyo designed to beef up TV audio, to a clip-on Moga controller for the iPhone 5, there's also been much bedtime story-telling while using the Philips Hue and Disney brand tie-in StoryLight. And to try and counteract all those turkey dinners we've been running with the Echo running watch too.
GoPro HD Hero3+ Black Edition review
Quick review: There’s no doubt that the GoPro HD Hero3+ Black Edition is the best GoPro action camera yet. It’s an enabling device, one where you’ll be capturing amazing shots in no time. But it’s a subtle push compared to the earlier Hero3 model, not a giant leap forward.
Pros: An extra squeeze of battery life, small size and trimmed-back waterproof housing, quality results in variety of conditions, crop-in options for different angles of view (up to 1080p only), Wi-Fi enabled, new clip lock preferable
Cons: Battery life still not good enough, it's a minor update over the original Hero3 (not worth upgrading but good for first timer buyers), fussy user interface, 4K frame rate too low, touchscreen sold separately
Full article: GoPro Hero3 Plus review
Sony Alpha A7R review
Quick review: To some the A7R’s presence may baffle. A pricier and, in part, less featured A7 - what’s the point? Well, our friends, this specialist kit is all about superior image quality. And it’s here that the Alpha A7R really stands out. That 36-megapixel full-frame sensor and no optical low-pass filter combine for astounding images. It's just a shame that the autofocus system isn't as exceptional as we'd hoped.
Pros: Small size, incredible low ISO full-frame image quality, excellent viewfinder quality, tilt-angle LCD, button customisation. focus peaking for accurate manual focus adjust
Cons: Poor battery life, some autofocus inaccuracy - and less capable than the more budget A7, full FE lens system yet to materialise, high ISO quality not class-leading
Price: £1,699 (body only)
Full article: Sony A7R review
Gran Turismo 6 review
Quick review: Gran Turismo 6 is considerably better than its most recent predecessor and one of the greatest driving games the PlayStation 3 has been treated to. If this is a swan song for current-generation gaming, it's one that asks a mighty question of the next-gen. Gran Turismo 6 is a technical tour de force that Sony can be very proud of - and its we, the players, who benefit the most from that pride. If, that is, you haven't sold your PS3 for a PS4 already.
Pros: Simply stunning, photo-realistic graphics, a driving engine that has been honed to perfection, over 1000 cars to drive, each with their own handling characteristics, great selection of tracks
Cons: Long loading times, poor car damage mechanic, uninspiring user interface, occasional texture shortcut that can look out of place
Full article: GT6 review
LG G Pad 8.3 review
Quick review: The LG G Pad represents a strong return to the tablet market for LG. We hope the firm carries on making devices of this calibre - it feels premium thanks to top build quality and has enough strong features to make it well worthy of consideration - but that will, of course, depend on how well it sells. If you want something a bit different, that's bigger than a Nexus 7, smaller than an iPad mini and a noticeable amount smaller than one of the many 10-inch tablets out there then the G Pad could be the one for you.
Pros: Construction is great quality, lovely screen shows plenty of detail, superb battery life, speedy performance
Cons: Has to compete against the cheaper Nexus 7, camera quality, size won't suit all
Full article: LG G Pad review
Magellan Echo review
Quick review: There is a huge amounts of potential in the Echo. It is such a simple yet "open" device: pair it up with your iPhone and the right app and it delivers a clean, useful experience. As a premise, the Magellan works, but in reality unless you are a die-hard Strava or MapMyRun user - two of the four current apps available - you will struggle to find a reason to use it.
Pros: Light, easy to use, clear display, powered by a watch battery that lasts for months, works with iPhone (Android promised in the future)
Cons: Very basic - almost looks like a toy, only works with a handful of apps, needs to sync with phone to have much value, no Android (just yet)
Full article: Magellan Echo running watch review
Moga Ace Power review
Quick review: The Moga Ace Power has masses of potential, but at the moment is restricted to a handful of games that may or may not appeal. That’s not the Moga’s fault, as such, and as developers get on board the device’s breadth can also expand. There are a few minor niggles, such as the choice of plastic and inability to customise controls, but overall we are pleased with the performance and package delivered here.
Pros: Gives you physical keys to play games, extra battery to charge your phone on the go, works with iPhone 5S and 5C
Cons: Feels cheap, not all games support the controller, can't map keys to the games
Full article: Moga Ace Power review
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (iPhone & iPad) review
Quick review: The 2004 GTA classic makes a return to iOS with sharper graphics than the PlayStation 2. But playing a game as deep as this on a small screen? If you've not got a compatible controller - see the Moga review above - then forget about it. And if you've already been a San Andreas fan from its glory days, then this release might frustrate more than allowing you to revel in those classic memories. Never experienced the older games in the series? Grab a controller, part with that fiver and let San Andreas take you on a pleasure ride through the history books.
Pros: Reworked graphics, classic gameplay, touchscreen controls adapted for re-release, hours of gameplay if you have the drive to do it all again
Cons: Without a controller it's a nightmare to control some sections, iOS only for now, some things are best remembered as they were
Full article: GTA San Andreas (iOS) review
Philips Disney Friends of Hue StoryLight Starter Kit review
Quick review: The StoryLight slots into the Philips Hue range, designed as a side table light that can be used to interact with a Disney "bedtime stories" app. It's great because the execution of the technology is seamless - but the price is likely to put many people off. It’s just so much more cash than the Philips Bloom - and for some Mickey Mouse ears the extra cash needed seems too steep to us. Furthermore you only get three Disney books in the app and need to pay out yet more to get the full collection.
Pros: Interacts with the story app to create great atmosphere, easy to install and setup, works with the Hue lighting system which can be controlled by your smartphone
Cons: Expensive, app could be better, additional Disney in-app books cost extra
Price: £140 (£100 if you already have the Hue system)
Full article: Philips Hue Disney StoryLight review
Onkyo LS-T10 review
Quick review: Poor TV sound? It's Onkyo to the rescue with the under-the-telly sound base to beef up that audio. And it's the performance of the Onkyo LS-T10 that really impresses. It delivers great quality sound from a wide variety of sources, with the USB and Bluetooth as additional benefits. As an all-round solution to improving the sound coming from your TV, including all your connected devices, it's is a great performer. The only real question is whether it makes sense to invest in this or save a bit more for a full-on 5.1 system instead.
Pros: Sound quality, bass delivery, plenty of volume, Bluetooth, sound modes
Cons: Price point, cheap remote
Full article: Onkyo LS-T10 TV speaker base review