Saturday, 31 January 2015

Expanding The Chromebook


Running Linux on a Chromebook isn't hard, as Chris Salter demonstrates

Introduced in 2011 by Google, the Chromebook was designed as a thin client to run Google web services, such as Google Documents. Chromebooks are low-cost laptops that run Chrome OS, a modified version of Linux with the Chrome browser installed on top. The devices have Google Drive installed on them, allowing users to create files using the offline Google Document editors and have them sync back to Google Drive when connected to the web. Additional apps and extensions can be installed to the Chromebook from the Chrome Web Store that allow the Chromebook to run a variety of programs online and offline. Chromebooks could therefore be viewed as something of a cross between a standard laptop and tablet - the laptop form factor but a restricted number of programs that can be run.

Apple Watch Destined For Failure?

Apple Watch

David Briddock compares the Apple Watch with previous Apple failures

In spring 2015, we'll see the first Apple Watches adorning customers wrists. First announced in October 2014, it's Apple's first brand new product line for many years.

As always, the novelty of a new Apple product means initial sales are likely to be strong. But over the longer term, will the Apple Watch be a hit with consumers?

Swann Pan and Tilt Camera

Swann Pan and Tilt Camera

A new concept in wi-fi video surveillance cameras from Swann

Not long ago, a high-resolution surveillance camera would set you back many hundreds of pounds. Only recently have prices dropped to a level that most home or small business owners can afford. This is not the first camera I've looked at like this, but the ADS-446 SwannCloud HD Pan and Tilt Wi-Fi Security Camera with Smart Alerts has features that I've not encountered before.

I guess the clues are in the rather long name: you get cloud access, HD, Pan and tilt, wi-fi and smart alerts. This means that the camera has a resolution of 720p, built in motor control, is fully wireless and capable of alerting you if it detects any movement. Notice I said ‘briefly’; that's because it's actually more sophisticated than that.

Outdoor PowerBank

Outdoor PowerBank

Checks out a battery charger designed for outdoor use

While a portable battery charger can prove useful in certain indoor circumstances (a similar product recently proved useful to me during a prolonged hospital visit, for example), this type of kit is more likely to come into its own in outdoor environments, when there are no power sockets available to charge your mobile devices.

A battery charger like this can also act as a power source substitute, and it is this rationale that is behind Sandberg's latest portable battery charging device, the Outdoor PowerBank, which offers the user a fairly substantial 10400mAh of available power.

ViewSonic VG2438SM

ViewSonic VG2438SM

What you see is what you get with this new monitor

The VG2438SM is part of ViewSonic's latest refresh of its product line-up. This particular model, as the ’G’ part of its title might indicate, is aimed more at the graphics enthusiast rather than other models in the Professional, Edutainment and Value ranges.

The VG2438SM is a 24“ TFT active matrix LCD screen with a slightly unusual 16:10 aspect ratio. The screen's optimum resolution is 1920 x 1200 pixels with a viewing angle of 178° by 178°. When setting up this monitor you will need to attach a solid ovalshaped stand to an adjustable arm fixed to the rear of the display. The adjustable arm gives plenty of flexibility when positioning the monitor on your work space. You can adjust the height of the screen by 100mm, tilt it between -5° and +37°, swivel it through 360° and pivot it by 90°.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Magix Fastcut

Magix Fastcut

Too busy doing something dangerous to edit your GoPro footage? Magix has you covered

Magix has developed and sold video and image editing software for many years, yet it's not that often that it introduces a brand new product. Now, though, it’s launching Fastcut, a video editor designed specifically for editing footage from the fast expanding range of action cameras (in particular the GoPro, which I guess is currently the most popular).

Clearly you could use any video editor, but Fastcut is optimised for speed of use and includes templates designed for the sort of action movies produced by GoPro users. Let's see if it can live up to the task.

Seagate 2-Bay NAS 8TB

Seagate 2-Bay NAS 8TB

Seagate crashes the NAS party with a user-friendly dual drive solution

A while ago we covered the Seagate Central, a simple NAS box that offers a single preinstalled mechanism for basic media sharing duties. In the summer Seagate gave me a presentation of its new NAS hardware, using a totally new embedded OS, and these products have now been released into the big wide world beyond the technology press.

These two- and four-bay NAS boxes use the NAS OS 4 (embedded Linux) operating system, based on a concept that Seagate subsidiary LaCie came up with, and it serves to elevate its NAS range to the next level.

Acer Iconia Tab 8 A1-840HD

Acer Iconia Tab 8 A1-840HD

Acer takes on Google, Amazon, Samsung and Tesco in the small tablet arena

The market for small Android tablets is rather full, if not overflowing (see this week’s Component Watch for confirmation of this), so I was curious to see what Acer might bring to this party. The Iconia Tab 8, as the name suggests, is a 8" widescreen aspect tablet that's competing directly with a plethora of other small sub-£200 Android tablets.

This one, specifically, offers a 1280 x 800 display, runs Android KitKat 4.4.4, has 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal flash storage. Where Acer went in its own direction with the Tab 8, though, is in choosing Intel’s Baytrail instead of using an ARM architecture. This tablet is built around a quad-core Atom Z3745 1,86GHz - an interesting choice but, given it’s not aiming to run x86 code, a curious one.

The Network Switch

The Network Switch

Mark Pickavance gives a crash course on understanding your network's critical component and why it's so important to have a good one

When I first got involved in networking, most PCs communicated by means of a networking technology called Token Ring.

Its popularity stemmed from it being used by IBM and it being the default network protocol for Novell Netware. Initially it offered good performance, reliability and an easily implemented topology.

But it had a major flaw: it wasn't routable. By that I mean it was very difficult to have more than a certain number of users on a token network without requiring some expensive connecting hardware, and managing 100+ users was a bit of a nightmare. It was also really expensive for the token adapters and cables.

What Can We Expect From Windows 10?

windows 10

Microsoft will launch Windows 10 later this year, replacing both 7 and 8, but what difference will it make? David Crookes finds out

When Microsoft unveiled more details of Windows 10 at a recent special event, one thing really stood out: this is a company that can keep secrets. Although a good many of the details had been second-guessed before the curtain went up on its CEO, Satya Nadella, Microsoft still managed to throw in a fair few surprises while setting out its vision for the immediate future of computing.

The years to come promise much: a pleasing operating system that will put to bed the issues surrounding Windows 8, a major belief in gaming and (most eyebrow-raising of all) the launch of a holographic computing concept that has the potential to be the basis of GUI for decades. It all seems to add up to Microsoft being a force to be reckoned with yet again.



Mojang’s card and board game fusion is no idol pursuit

As second games go, Scrolls isn’t a departure for Minecraft maker Mojang so much as a full-on transatlantic flight with no return ticket. Minecraft is the everygame, simple enough on the surface to be accessible to all, and with endless creative potential inches beneath its cuboid topsoil. Scrolls is a niche-bynature marriage of card and board games where creativity is expressed through mastery of a rigidly defined ruleset, and with labyrinthine tactical depths. Just about the only things that link them are a Mojang account, and that both can soak up as many hours as you can spare.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

ASRock Z97M Pro4

ASRock Z97M Pro4

Priced at just $139, the ASRock Z97M Pro4 is roughly half the cost of the more expensive boards in this roundup. As such, it’d be unfair to expect the wealth of features found on the premium boards, but ASRock has a reputation for delivering surprising value in its a‚ ordable products. Can the Z97M Pro4 live up to this tradition?

Opening the box reveals a distinct lack of extras – there’s a manual, backplate and a couple of SATA cables. Compared to the overflowing boxes of goodies delivered with higher price tags, it’s a rather stark presentation. The same can’t be said of the front of the motherboard though, as ASRock appears to have put every square centimetre to use. Most obvious are the expansion slots, with a single PCIe 3.0 x16, another PCIe 2.0 x16, and twin PCI slots sitting between these. This presents a couple of issues; firstly, the lack of twin PCI-E 3.0 slots means no SLI support, though CrossFire is. The biggest issue though is the placement of the first PCI slot, which will be impossible to use if a GPU resides in the first PCI-E slot. Despite this, the Z97M Pro4 is the only board in our roundup to still include legacy PCI slots, which could be reason enough to choose this product for those with old PC products that they don’t want to shelve.

Asus TUF Gryphon Z97 Armour Edition

Asus TUF Gryphon Z97 Armour Edition

Asus’s “The Ultimate Force”, aka TUF, series of motherboards have been around for several years now, and they all share one very unique feature. As you can see from the images, a special “armour” covering is available for the board that covers most of the front of the PCB. This is an optional extra that adds around $45 to the price of the board – the price we’ve used here includes the special covering. The aim of this is to deliver better airflow over the steamier components of the motherboard, but to be honest we’re a little sceptical. An absolutely tiny fan is responsible for pushing air throw the very confined armouring, and we just can’t see how this would be more effective at cooling than leaving the covering off and allowing a couple of 80mm case fans to do the job instead. There’s also the fact that the armour covering is bound to become a dust trap over time, leaving us with the feeling that this expensive armour is nothing more than a gimmick.

Thermaltake Core X9

Thermaltake Core X9

There’s big, really big, and Only-in-Texas big. The Thermaltake Core X9 falls into the latter category. This ridiculously large case is larger than many Sydney apartments, providing a wealth of space for all of your components and then some. Yet how has Thermaltake kept the price so low on such a large case? The answer is an unfortunate one.

Before we delve into the problems with this case, let’s get a grip on just how large it is. Measuring a ridiculous 502mm x 380mm x 640mm, it’s easily one of the largest cases to ever bend the desks in the PC and Tech Authority labs. Yet it only tips the scales at a relatively light 17kg – we say relatively, as it’s still quite the behemoth. It’s defi nitely not the kind of case you want to move more than once every few years, if that, and lugging it upstairs in a three story townhouse is about as much fun as moving a small fridge.

Intel’s 5th generation hits laptops

Intel’s 5th generation

Y has it taken so long for Intel to get its u boat out the door? Mark Williams deep dives into the latest CPU release from Intel.

Fifth generation Broadwell CPUs from Intel are already out in the form on its Core M line up (aka Broadwell-Y) which are at the lower performance end of Intel’s product stack (any lower and you’re into Intel’s Atom range), Broadwell-Y is aimed at low power solutions like tablets, 2-in-1 tablet convertibles and fanless Ultrabook designs.

Broadwell-U however, which Intel launched at the recent Consumer Electronics Show, is the first of Intel’s 5th generation Core CPUs that the average consumer will likely get their hands on and sits in the middle of its intended BGA packaged line up.

The next step up in power from Broadwell-Y (4.5W max) and still only dual core, Broadwell-U (15-28W max) is aimed at mid to high end Ultrabooks and other thinand-light or low end laptops, even into small integrated desktop solutions like Intel’s NUC or Gigabyte Brix-type products.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Google refuses Android patch for bug hitting a billion devices

Google bug

What happened?

Google has said it won’t fix a bug in Android, despite the fact that it will leave a billion phones and tablets vulnerable worldwide.

The bug, discovered by researchers at security firm Rapid7, is in a component called WebView, which Android uses to show web pages in apps that aren’t browsers, such as when you click a link in Twitter. It affects versions of Android older than KitKat (4.4) which, Google claims, is now too old for the company to invest time and resources to fix.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Inside the Dark Web

Dark Web

The Dark Web is supposed to be the Internet’s seedy back alley, where everything from drugs to assassins to child pornography can be obtained for a price. But the real Dark Web is a lot more complicated, and it’s growing—because we need it more than ever. BY MAX EDDY

If our popular culture is to be believed, most people assume there’s a place online where the worst of the headlines you read about drugs, money laundering, murder for hire, and vast child pornography rings are born. It’s called many things, though “Dark Web” is the most dramatic.

Although it’s true that this Dark Web exists, it’s much larger and more diverse than merely these illegal activities. What’s more, the same technology that makes it possible for such marketplaces to operate in secret is also protecting political dissidents overseas and hiding everyday Internet traffic from surveillance. It may be that this digital back alley is the path toward a more secure Internet.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Samsung's latest phablet gets nips and tucks rather than a big makeover

The Galaxy Note phablet is one of Samsung’s most popular products and it’s easy to see why. In theory, it combines the best of a smartphone and a tablet in one 6in device. The Note 4 isn’t dramatically different from its predecessor the Note 3, offering a number of modest improvements rather than an overhaul.

Previous Notes have felt cheaply made, but that’s not the case with the Note 4. It’s bounded by a metal band that runs around its edge, providing welcome rigidity. The Note 4 retains the plastic rear that’s meant to resemble leather, but the absence of fake stitching makes it far less tacky than the Note 3.

Asus ZenFone 5 LTE

Asus ZenFone 5 LTE

A cheap Android 4G phone with one critical flaw

There are plenty of cheap Android phones and the standard by which we judge all of them is Motorola’s Moto G 4G. While it’s by no means perfect, its combination of performance, responsiveness, battery life and price makes it hard to beat. This means Asus has its work cut out with the ZenFone 5 LTE. Not to be confused with its cheaper 3G-only stablemate (which has a different processor), it costs £200 without a contract - £50 more than the Moto G.

Apple Mac mini (2014)

Apple Mac mini (2014)

Apple's smallest and cheapest desktop computer

Although there are smaller desktop computers, this one is still compact enough to fit inside a laptop bag. There are several variants of the Mac mini but we tested the mid-range £569 version which comes with 8GB of memory, a 2.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 4278U processor ana а 1TB hard drive.

There is an even cheaper version available for £399, but it’s not great value. Equipped with 4GB of memory a 1.4GHz dual-core i5 processor and a 500GB hard drive, it’s almost 50 per cent slower yet only costs 35 per cent less. The drop-off in performance is significant, especially if you want to edit photos and movies or run multiple programs simultaneously, so the cheaper model is best avoided unless you’re really strapped for cash. Both are sold without a keyboard, mouse or monitor so you’ll have to supply your own.

Acer Aspire V3-371

Acer Aspire V3-371

A sleek and inexpensive Windows 8.1 laptop with an infuriating flaw

Inexpensive laptops tend to be cheaply made and plain in appearance - or even downright ugly. The Acer Aspire V3-371 proves this doesn’t have to be the case. Despite costing just £430, it’s a surprisingly well-made and classy-looking laptop.

Most of the V3-371 is made of rigid white plastic. The exception being the lid, which is all eye-catching brushed metal, giving the laptop a touch of style. While it looks good, the lid is the one weak spot in the laptop’s otherwise robust construction - flexing as it does under pressure more than we’d like. But this is a price we're willing to pay, given how slender and lightweight the laptop is - at just 1.5kg, carrying it around all day is a breeze.

MSI Wind Box DC111

MSI Wind Box DC111 front

A very cheap mini PC

The MSI Wind Box DC111 is an incredibly cheap mini Windows 8.1 PC that’s roughly the size of a router. Although we’ve seen even smaller mini PCs, this is still impressively compact. The DC111 comes with a stand as it needs to be kept upright due to the cooling vents on both sides, but it doesn’t come with a keyboard, mouse or monitor. The stand angles the DClll’s four front USB 2.0 ports and audio jacks upwards for easy connection. All other ports are at the rear and include two USB 3.0 connectors, a Gigabit Ethernet port, a HDMI connector and a VGA port. However, we found it far too easy to inadvertently press the power button when turning the PC around to access the rear ports. Another annoyance is the close proximity of the USB 3.0 ports to the HDMI port. Attempting to plug in a particularly chunky cable or USB stick was often a tight, fiddly fit.

Asus ZenWatch

Asus ZenWatch

A stylish but flawed Android Wear smartwatch

Smartwatches are difficult to judge. Because they’re so new, we’re not just evaluating each individual smartwatch on its own merits - we’re also determining if there’s any worth in the very idea of a smartwatch itself. When so many of us already own smartphones, tablets and laptops, it’s hard to see the value in having yet another portable computer.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

YotaPhone 2

YotaPhone 2

The YotaPhone 2 proves that dual-display technology is much more than a gimmick

It takes something special to stand out from the factory line of Android devices constantly hitting the market, but it’s a task that Yota has willingly undertaken with the launch of its latest dual-display device. From the front, the YotaPhone 2 looks like your familiar black slab smartphone, but turning it over reveals a smart e-ink display. The original YotaPhone also had two screens but flew way under the radar. While it had some moderate success, this revamped model looks better, performs better and generally works better Roth displays are no bigger than 5 inches, with quite a hefty bezel at both the top and bottom of the device. There’s the familiar 8-megapixel camera sensor above the e-ink display, while a small 2-megapixel sensor sits above the smartphone screen. Due to the lack of a backplate, there’s no removable battery here and another annoyance is the lack of a microSD slot. Users will have to make do with the 32GB of internal storage, as well as various cloud options on offer.

Build perfect website

Build perfect website

Mark Llobrera on how content, communication and collaboration will help you make your next site the best one yet

This article’s title aside, there is no perfect site, workflow or tool. But you can probably relate to the feeling that I have at the start of every new project: no matter how well the last one went, I want this one to be even better. To put together this piece I interviewed a group of writers, editors, designers and developers to get an idea of how they go about planning sites. Their answers surprised me.

Instead of a list of favourite techniques and tools (don’t worry, there’s plenty of those in the resources section!), a few common themes emerged: the importance of content, internal and external communication, prototyping, and breaking down the divide between design and development. Their responses indicated that teams and clients are struggling with bigger, more fundamental issues than which CSS preprocessor to use.

So this is a snapshot of contemporary web workflow, touching on familiar phases and disciplines – content strategy, information architecture, design and development – but placing those in the context of the broader themes just mentioned. There’s so much that goes into planning and building a site that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. I hope this article will provide some new approaches to those broader issues, while also giving you new tools to test out and explore.

Why Native Apps Hinder Innovation

Native Apps

Former Mozilla evangelist Christian Heilmann argues that creating iOS and Android apps slows the development of new experiences – and we should stand up for an open alternative

Apps are consumed by us, the users, across many of our devices. They do a good job of directing us to focused content; a single source of the information we need on a single topic. With the rise of smart devices, arguments that apps are a ‘web killer’ have increased. Developers have also flocked to native app  development as they see the monetary rewards that creating a successful app can bring.

However, are native apps really the best platform for developer innovation or user experience? In this article, I will argue that the web remains the best platform for app development: not only for users but also for developers who want to push technical boundaries.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

How virtual reality will change the world

virtual reality

After 25 years of a failed dream, 2015 looks to be the year we all put on headsets to explore strange new worlds. Richard Cobbett investigates why we should hope it works out this time.

Virtual reality isn’t simply a new way to look at screens. Your first experience is, admittedly, a slightly drunken out-of-body one; of reaching for things that aren’t really there – of knowing that you’re sitting with a fancy headset and tangle of wires on your head, yet your brain is convinced it’s in deep space. Or a movie. Or a cyberpunk cafe. It’s an experience that can’t quite be described, and which has little do with the very primitive first attempts that took arcades by storm and then flamed out at the start of the ’90s. This time, some of the smartest minds in the tech industry have devoted themselves to taking us to incredible new places.

Field Review: Samsung NX1

Samsung NX1

Samsung’s tech-laden flagship model might be thecamera to get DSLR users to switch to mirrorless. by JACK NEUBART

I’ve worked with mirrorless cameras in the past, but never found them quite up to the task. After unpacking the new Samsung NX1 ($1,499, body only) and 16-50mm f/2-2.8 S ED OIS lens ($1,299) and taking a closer look at the two, I thought, this could be the deal changer. I might finally be ready to trade in my digital SLRs for a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera.

On the face of it, the NX1 can go head-to-head with my Nikon and Canon gear, beginning with a 28.2MP backsideilluminated (BSI) CMOS APS-C (cropped) sensor—without a low-pass filter (for added sharpness). Add to that a crystal-clear electronic viewfinder (EVF), touch-panel display, maximum 15 fps still capture at full resolution, 4K video capture, and fast AF.

This camera is certainly loaded with enough features to attract even the most hardened among us. But performance is what counts. Is the NX1 a solid-enough performer to sway the pro or serious amateur away from DSLR-dom for good? We shall see.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Memory Upgrades

Memory Upgrades

One of the easiest and cheapest ways to turbocharge your old laptop or PC is to give it some extra RAM. But there are a few things you’ll need to know first...

Memory is an often forgotten part of a PC, but it should be the first thing you look at when you’re trying to upgrade an old machine to a more sprightly specification. Increasing the amount of RAM in your PC can make a huge difference when playing games and using intensive software such as video- and photo-editing programs. Newer operating systems also tend to be more RAM-hungry, so if a Windows upgrade has reduced your PC to running at a crawl, a lack of memory could well be the cause.

Using images in your web and print publications

images in your web

It’s always worth livening up a newsletter or website with images, but how do you do it without spending a fortune? Ben Pitt explores the options

Images are an integral part of virtually every online and printed document you see. They draw the reader in, giving an instant understanding of what the accompanying text is about. They also make documents more attractive than if they were just a sea of text.

Images can be expensive to create, though. Professional photographers and illustrators require wages in line with their skills and experience, not to mention the time involved and the equipment costs. If you need to pay people to appear in photos, it can get even more expensive. That’s fine for professional projects with big budgets, but there are lots of web and printed publications that don’t have much cash to spend. In many cases the text is written and edited by hobbyists and volunteers, and there’s literally no budget for the entire project because it generates no income.

The objective of this article isn’t to do photographers and illustrators out of a living. However, if hiring a professional isn’t an option, it doesn’t necessarily mean your publication must be devoid of graphics.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Can you survive a web avalanche?

web avalanche

How would your website cope with a sudden surge intraffic? Darien Graham-Smith examines the solutions that will help you keep a step a head.

If your business gets linked to from a major website, or referred to by a popular Twitter feed, you may find you suddenly have more traffic than you can handle – meaning visitors will suffer a slow experience or no response at all. So what precautions can you take to protect your site from a sudden flood of visitors?

Philips BDM4065UC

Philips BDM4065UC

Is this the screen we’ve been searching for?

Ten years. It’s a staggeringly long time in tech. Back in 2005, you’d be looking at a dual-core Intel Pentium D and its craptastic NetBurst architecture. On the graphics side, it’s Nvidia GeForce 6800 and 16 pixel pipes. Wowee. As for storage, the notion of an SSD wasn’t even a twinkle in the NAND industry’s eye. It was a very different time.

Yet it was nearly a decade ago Dell wheeled out the monitor by which pretty much all others have since been measured, the 3007WFP, and then the 3007WFP-HC. And, yes, more recently some interesting technologies have cast doubt on the Dell’s mastery, that’s for sure. But the broader point holds: a decade-long reign at the top is extraordinary. It’s impossible to imagine for any other major component.

But here we are in early 2015 and it looks like a new high-end default in the monitor market has arrived, at least in terms of the form factor – if perhaps not this actual Philips model. Let’s find out why.

Oh, brother, where art thou?

Uncharted 4 - bro Nathan Drake

The game you bought a PS4 for took the world by storm at The PlayStation Experience. Now, Dave Meikleham prepares for one last treasure hunt, taking you deep inside that astonishing real-time demo. Get ready to discover the sibling secrets and tech at the heart of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End…

Holy hell in a handbasket. How does Naughty Dog keep doing this? Just when we think we’ve clocked what PS4 is capable of, the Santa Monica outfit delivers a glimpse of Indyinspired action that effortlessly blows away our expectations. You came for a slice of the best damn graphics and shooting in town? Here, have an insanely detailed, dreamboat hero who could have been plucked from a Pixar film. While you’re at it, tuck into some thrillingly freeform, stealth-informed combat. Oh, and don’t forget to take Nathan Drake’s big brother with you in a doggy bag. Houston, we have a bromance.

The Order: 1886

The Order: 1886

Moustached steampunk shooter targets success next month

It’s been a long old while since we were first forced to pick our eyes up off the floor and sluice them clean in the wake of Ready At Dawn’s steampunk action adventure’s initial reveal. Aside from brief hands-on demos at E3 and Gamescom we’ve had very little time to get to grips with how this ridiculously good-looking game actually plays. But after an extensive dissection of the fifth chapter we’ve now plenty of thoughts to share, so strap in as we rappel down the most salient slices of our assault on the Agamemnon.

Friday, 16 January 2015

The Secret History of LucasArts

lucasarts heroes

George Lucas’s studio has built some of the best PC games in existence. But what of the ones they never finished? By Rick Lane

Monkey Island, X-Wing, Day of Tentacle, Grim Fandango are each worthy of a chapter in the virtual history books. But for every game that LucasArts has released, there were another two or three that never made it onto the shelves. Some of these unfinished works were near-complete productions that almost made it out of the door. Others only ever existed as a few pages of concept outlines, the errant ideas of creative minds. Together, they form a secret history of the studio that, until now, has never been revealed in its entirety.



The Ninja Theory team on Hellblade, and how they’re reinventing the way they make games. By Samuel Roberts

Ninja Theory is motion-capturing the cutscenes for Hellblade in its boardroom. I feel this is worth pointing out because I’ve never even heard of it being done before.

This DIY method of creating something that’s usually professionally outsourced is Hellblade all over. Ninja Theory wants to make a third-person actionadventure that’s as accomplished as its previous games without getting a publisher to pay for it.

Gigabyte Force M63

Gigabyte Force M63

The end result of Gigabyte’s Make It Real mouse design competition (a Taiwan-only affair, just in case you’re wondering what happened to your entry form), the Force M63 is the brainchild of three amateur gamers that’s been made into a real product.

Aimed squarely at right-handed claw and finger-grip FPS gamers, the mouse is a strange-looking beast, thanks to its bulbous, flared-out rear and contrasting, skinny, low-slung nose. Indeed, at its slimmest point (which is roughly where the mouse wheel lies), it’s only 50mm wide, making the whole mouse feel rather small.

Galax GeForce GTX 970 OC Silent Infinity Black Edition

Galax GeForce GTX 970 OC Silent Infinity Black Edition

Galax’s new GTX 970 OC Silent Infinity Black Edition isn’t just any old overclocked GTX 970 card; it sports a few extra modifications courtesy of UK etailer The build quality is great – there’s a thick metal backplate and the cooler shroud is also made of metal. The card has an aggressive, angular design and the shroud, backplate and PCB are all clad in black, while the I/O plate, heatpipes and heatsink are nickel-plated for contrast.

XFX Type-01 Series Bravo Edition

XFX Type-01 Series Bravo Edition

Best known for its AMD graphics cards, XFX has just made a debut in the chassis market with the Type-01 Series, an ATX tower chassis. The Bravo Edition retails for £69, which is an attractive price for such a case, being not quite what we’d consider a budget chassis, but it certainly sits towards the lower end of mid-range.

Standing out anew in the case market is difficult, but it would be hard to argue that the Type-01 Bravo doesn’t look unique. The entire front panel has a corrugated mesh effect, the lines of which hide the power and reset buttons, as well as the three 5.25in bay covers. The effect is continued in the cutaway sections of the roof and side panel too – it’s a wellventilated case. Plastic top and bottom sections add further visual interest, but also contribute to the case’s large diameters – it’s over 560mm tall.

Synology DS215J

Synology DS215J

A relentless launch schedule sees Synology releasing new NAS boxes regularly, and if you wondered where the dual-bay DS214j went, the answer is that you’re looking at it. The DS215j is the successor to the DS213j, with Synology focusing on the budget-friendly DS214SE instead of releasing a new mid-range NAS box. The DS215j is quite an upgrade too.

Tesoro Excalibur RGB Edition

Tesoro Excalibur RGB Edition

A keyboard that would probably draw an envious glance from King Arthur himself

We reviewed the core Tesoro Excalibur some months back and found it to be an excellent, competitively priced, mechanical gaming keyboard. Indeed, there didn’t seem much else that could be added to enhance it, but Tesoro have tried to do just that – and now we have the Excalibur RGB Edition.

As with the previously reviewed Excalibur, the RGB Edition is still named after King Arthur’s legendary sword, and still offers full N-Key Rollover and antighosting, with a six-key Rollover for the USB version. The Tesoro preferred Kailh switches this time though come in a choice of four colours: Blue, Brown, Black or Red, with each having a slightly different feel, be that clickly or non-clicky tactile, silent or low actuation force.

Building A HDTV Media Centre

Building A HDTV Media Centre

Leo Maxwell decides to increase his resolution for the New Year

Many of us are interested in the versatility of a media PC (sometimes called a home theatre PC, or HTPC for short), but is it worth building your own? If you only want a comparatively simple PVR, there are many hardware based solutions, some more accomplished than others. If you just want to watch the odd TV program on your PC, then you just need a simple media player. What we are talking about, though, is a dedicated PC to supply all of your home entertainment requirements.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Gigabyte Z97M-DS3H

Gigabyte Z97M-DS3H

A Micro-ATX motherboard that packs a decent punch

Gigabyte offers the consumer a wealth of choice when it comes to motherboards. It can deliver low-end/low-price (but relatively high-spec) boards for system builders, all the way up to models offering extreme overclocking, and feature suitable for high-end gaming desktops – at prices to match. However, it has felt like Gigabyte has taken a backseat recently with MSI leading the way in terms of features and component quality.

JXD S7800b

JXD S7800b

The ultimate handheld retro gaming tablet?

The handheld gaming, console market has exploded in recent times with the slew of Chinese-developed units invading our pockets. In the past these open and unlocked gaming handhelds didn’t exactly set the world on fire, but they did fill a gap (certainly in terms of price), underneath the rival Sony Vita and Nintendo DS, as well as allowing unrestricted access to homebrew development.

Elite: Dangerous

Elite: Dangerous

Elite Dangerous’ premise is as simple as it is unbelievable. This sequel to the classic 1980s space simulation gives you a small Sidewinder spacecraft, 100 credits in your pocket and a galaxy to explore and exploit as you like. That’s a 100-billion star system rendered at a scale of one-to-one. Approximately 150,000 of the stars are real systems, while the rest are procedurally generated and entirely unexplored.

CubieBoard 4

CubieBoard 4

I ’m not going to lie, I was excited when I heard from Jason King at low-power computing specialist that he was going to send me the latest device from CubieTech. I had good reason: it’s the first single-board computer I’ve had a chance to use that has a whopping eight ARM Cortex processing cores on-board.

Readers who keep up with advances in mobile technology will be familiar with ARM’s big.LITTLE architecture: the combination of four high-performance cores with four lowpower cores on a single die, which provides on-demand performance alongside the ability to keep the battery drain to a minimum in low-power situations.

Dell Inspiron 15 5000 Series

Dell Inspiron 15 5000 Series

Is the new Dell Inspiron 15 5000 series too good to be true?

If someone in a pub offered you a Core i7 laptop at a knock down price, you’d probably wonder where they got it, wouldn’t you? When the new Dell Inspiron 15 5000 series arrived at my door I had a similar feeling, because not many PC manufacturers are packaging an Intel Core i7 CPU, 8GB of DRR3 and a 1TB hard drive in a portable package for less than £500.

Actually, if you’re willing to drop your expectations to a Core i5 this machine can be less than £450 – and that includes Windows 8.1 and a 15” screen.

Canon Powershot SX700 HS

Canon Powershot SX700 HS

Canon demonstrates its skill in shoehorning great optics into small cameras

Canon's Powershot SX700 HS sits amongst a range of its cameras made mostly for travellers who want a decent zoom lens. Compared with its cousins in the Canon stable, the Ixus models, the SX700 HS is modestly larger (112.7 x 65.8 x 34.8 mm), though it is made to the same high quality using an attractive mix of metal and plastic. This additional space allows for the mounting of at 30x optical assembly that provides the equivalent of 25-750mm zoom with f/3.2-6.9 on a old-school 35mm.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Brother MFC-J5620DW

Brother MFC-J5620DW

This compact inkjet pretty much prints everything, including A3 paper

Brother’s MFC-J5620DW is a versatile inkjet multifunction printer (MFP). It prints, scans, photocopies and faxes. It also supports duplex printing, has a 35-page ADF to take the strain out of copying and faxing multiple pages, and has a reader for memory cards and USB sticks. It also supports both wired and wireless networks, so it’s easy to use in conjunction with a number of PCs, smartphones and tablets. And to top things off, everything is controlled via an easily adjustable colour touchscreen

Ricoh Aficio SG 2100N

Ricoh Aficio SG 2100N

A gel-based alternative to an inkjet or laser printer

The Ricoh Aficio SG 2100N is an unusual colour printer. Instead of using ink or toner cartridges like an inkjet or laser, it uses blocks of soy-based gel. Ricoh claims this technology allows the printer to match a cheap mono laser for speed and ainning costs, but with the high-quality colour printing of an inkjet. One clear advantage is that prints made with its gel-based inks dry quickly without smudges.