A week in reviews: 17 - 21 March
Gaming season is upon us, with two major launches this week: Infamous and Metal Gear Solid. Second Son and Ground Zeroes to give the games their respective full title names are both fresh looks at established series, delivering in equal measure of pleasure and disappointment. What's missing from each game? Read our in-depth reviews.
But the big hit this week has been the UK introduction of Chromecast, the HDMI dongle that plugs into your TV is controlled via smart device and can stream online video or local files and browser tabs to your TV. It's a different solution to many set-top boxes out there and one that's stronger now than it was when released in the US in the middle of 2013.
At the beginning of 2014 Samsung also announced yet more tablets to its ever-expanding range. The "Pro" series, here in the TabPro 8.4 and NotePro 12.2, tackle different sizes but both deliver on the power and high-resolution fronts. Are they pro enough to warrant purchase or just an excuse to push the price up for much of the same?
Elsewhere on the site we've been driving the Jaguar F-Type Coupe around Spain, racing the Alfa Romeo 4C up an airstrip on the Isle of Man, watching the rather lovely sub-£1,000 Sony W8 TV and blasting out the beats via the Harman Kardon Sabre kit. Never a dull moment here on the 'Lint.
Google Chromecast (UK)
Quick review: Chromecast is a bit different from anything else out there. In terms of functionality and performance it's the most affordable and ideal method of not just streaming video on a TV but also casting Chrome browser tabs to the screen too. As for other streaming devices, such as Apple TV and Roku, well, they are more expensive and physically larger than Chromecast. Google's offering is quite brilliant and in the UK adds BBC iPlayer support too.
Pros: Affordable, simple, all-in-one, likely to get better over time
Cons: Limited native support currently, HDMI limis older TV compatibility
Full article: Google Chromecast review
Samsung Galaxy TabPro 8.4 review
Quick review: There's a lot of great features on the Samsung Galaxy TabPro 8.4. It's a well-built, slim and light tablet, offering all-day battery life, great internal hardware and some useful software tweaks. The £349 asking price might be something of a barrier, however, as we would expect to be holding something that felt a little more premium for the price.
Pros: Fantastic display, plenty of power, useful software additions
Cons: Auto brightness, speakers a little lacklustre, high price, plasticky build
Full article: Samsung Galaxy TabPro review
Samsung Galaxy NotePro 12.2 review
Quick review: There's a heap of things to like about the Samsung Galaxy NotePro 12.2. It's got a great screen resolution, the integrated S Pen stylus elevates it beyond tablet to a viable laptop alternative and there's plenty enough power under the hood to run just about anything you'd care to throw at it. However, that 12.2-inch screen size may perplex some and it did have us scratching our head at first. But then it clicked: if you want a laptop alternative then we think Samsung's on to something here.
Pros: Great looking screen, included S Pen stylus, a potential laptop replacement, plenty of power, Magazine UX skin works well
Cons: Too big for most users, lots of money, not keen on the faux leather rear, some Samsung software unnecessary
Full article: Samsung Galaxy NotePro review
Infamous Second Son review
Quick review: Superhero powers and shootouts are all well and good, which Infamous: Second Son delivers on aplenty, but it's the variety that lacks. For many it will still define a great game, because despite repetition and some pacing issues it's a title that continued to lure us in. Throughout the two weeks we've been playing we've wanted to come back for more until we had completed the story. And then there's the scope to start it all again and complete it at the opposite end of the good or evil path.
Pros: Open world play, ‘good and evil’ replay value, power swap mechanics lend to game’s individuality
Cons: Repetitious play, linear missions, new powers feel much the same
Full article: Infamous PS4 review
Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes review
Quick review: It would be unfair to say that Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes is a game in its own right. It is really just an appetiser to The Phantom Pain due at some point next year. However, it does offer a decent slice of action for a cut down price. It's highly entertaining but very short.
Pros: Excellent voice debut for Kiefer Sutherland as Solid Snake, intuitive controls, free-flowing combat, stealth doesn’t feel a chore like some games, unlockable missions add more
Cons: Very very short main mission, overpriced a little considering length
Full article: MGS5 review
Sony KDL-50W829 W8 Series TV review
Quick review: It’s difficult not to be a little in awe of the Sony W8. From the KDL-50W829's contemporary design to its astonishingly accomplished picture, the screen barely puts a pixel wrong. The brand’s new One-Flick search and recommendation tools are extremely powerful too. For a 50-inch 1080p internet connected TV priced at under £1,000 the Sony W8 outperforms its price tag and then some.
Pros: Top class Full HD image quality with exceptional motion handling make this a screen a great all-rounder, new One-Flick search and recommendation engine works well, minimalist design is a crowd pleaser
Cons: Sony still lacks a full complement of catch-up TV services, the user interface is a little sluggish to navigate, new onscreen Social View Twitter app is somewhat antisocial
Full article: Sony W8 review (50-inch)
Harman Kardon Sabre SB35 review
Quick review: The Harman Kardon Sabre is a really beautiful soundbar and subwoofer combination. One enhances the other wherever they are placed in the room, in both aesthetic and acoustic terms. The ability to balance the bass to suit the room via manual adjustments is brilliant too, as it makes for a sound that we would call pretty much perfect. But for all its perfect points we had issues with the device cutting out when using Netflix via PS3 and even our Sky HD box. It's this sole reason that the Sabre doesn't achieve full marks.
Pros: Fantastic sound quality, beautiful design, slim, simple to use
Cons: Rather pricey for a 2.1 solution, cut-out issue irks, glitchy software
Full article: HK Sabre review