A week in reviews: 24 - 28 February
In a week that has been all about the phones - courtesy of our coverage from MWC 2014 - and so we've taken the opportunity to focus the reviews section on different areas of tech this week. Granted it's hard to ignore the heavyweights, such as the unveiling of the Samsung Galaxy S5, but plenty else has occurred this week too.
Panasonic is a strong name in the camera business, but can its all-encompassing Lumix TZ60 tick as many boxes as its travel zoom predecessor? It's a 30x optical zoom compact with an electronic viewfinder built in, but no touchscreen this time around. The right decision or the wrong one?
On the gaming front we also take a look at the 2014 re-rub of the classic stealth title Thief. Can a game franchise untouched for a decade have new life breathed into it by the same studio behind the Deus Ex rework?
In addition we've seen the 20-inch tablet-meets-laptop HP Envy Rove 20 and a super-size Maxell soundbase that has resonated our ears in all the right places.
Next week it's the turn of the Geneva Motor Show, so in addition to our usual glut of gadget reviews you can expect there to be a heap of car-focused techie fun to feast your eyes on too.
Thief review (2014)
Quick review: Thief is an occasionally tense, sometimes frustrating, weirdly depressing slice of modern gaming. The atmosphere does suck you in, proving immersive and sometimes even downright terrifying. With lengthy, involving missions, you do start to inhabit the character's headspace, stepping into the soft shoes of a borderline psychotic who lives in a clock tower and goes out on the rob. It delivers on the title promise, that's for sure. But in today's big bad world of gaming it just doesn't quite deliver that something special, despite looking the part.
Pros: Tense, adult-oriented, story-driven, looks great
Cons: Unpolished, glitchy, lengthy loading times
Full article: Thief review
Panasonic Lumix TZ60 review
Quick review: As far as 30x optical zoom compact cameras go the Panasonic Lumix TZ60 has plenty of successes. There's decent autofocus, good image quality, excellent image stabilisation and a whole roster of other top features that show the TZ60's aspirations to be a one-stop shop for all things. But the inclusion of a so-so viewfinder and lack of a touchscreen leaves us somewhat perplexed at the change in direction. If you're after a big zoom with big features then the Lumix TZ60 still scores the big points. This is a camera to be considered in high regard, but one that's trying to one thing too many in our view.
Pros: 30x optical zoom is small scale, excellent image stabilisation system, physical lens ring control, manual focus options, improved Wi-Fi for sharing images
Cons: No touchscreen, viewfinder isn't that useful due to size, autofocus falls below speed expectations to top-end of zoom, flash doesn't clear lens, fiddly Wi-Fi options
Full article: Panasonic TZ60 review
HP Envy Rove 20 review
Quick review: The HP Envy Rove 20 is a well-rounded, beautifully put together "portable" bundle, even if it's not something that people will use much as a true portable. As a desktop replacement with Windows 8 there the HP Envy Rove 20 has plenty of promise and it arrives at a fair price point too. Can't say better than that.
Pros: Smart multi-tilt stand, great touch-sensitive interface, bundled Ethernet dongle, quiet in general use, stays very cool
Cons: No height adjustment, inconvenient SD slot placement, love-or-hate keyboard and mouse, heavy for a 'portable'
Full article: HP Envy Rove review
Maxell MXSP-SB3000 Soundbar review
Quick review: Soundbars are one thing, but TV speaker bases are the latest trend in affordable home cinema sound. The Maxell MXSP-SB3000 Soundbar is a giant under-the-telly base with integrated subwoofers and speakers to boost that TV sound. It's got a huge footprint that will limit its audience due to space, but despite this it uses that space well internally - delivering decent audio for an affordable price.
Pros: Decent push in sound, can support 80kgs, built-in sub adds bass, affordable, Bluetooth for music, lots of inputs
Cons: It's really huge, audio not as distinct as separates, limitations to bass/treb adjustment, inputs tucked away
Full article: Maxell SB3000 review