Saturday, 28 February 2015

10 Things Windows 10 Won't Fix

Windows 10

Mark Pickavance finds ten elephants that the Microsoft won’t address with its new version of Windows

There’s an expression in poker that sums up well where Microsoft finds itself with Windows 10: ‘all in’. Another failure on the scale of Windows 8 could seriously undermine investor confidence in the company and those senior people it relies on to keep the company relevant in a rapidly changing technological world.

With its future riding on it, Microsoft is keen to point out how Windows 10 addresses many of the problems that its customers experienced with the previous release.

But, there are many very obvious problems with and around Windows that this new version won’t address, some through circumstance but mostly through choice.

Asus Z97-A USB 3.1

Asus Z97-A USB 3.1

It seems like only yesterday that USB 3.0 became a standard feature on Intel motherboards. It’s actually been a year and a half since Intel introduced it to the Z87 chipset, but the specification was actually created much earlier, back in 2008; Intel simply took its sweet time to integrate it into its chipsets. This is probably why the introduction of the new USB 3.1 standard feels a little premature, yet the standard has actually been around since 2013. We’ve just received the first motherboard to include the new USB format in the form of the Asus Z97-A USB 3.1. Let’s see just how fast the new connection is, and determine whether or not its time has really come.

Ultimate Final Cut Pro X workflow accessories

Final Cut Pro X

Final Cut Pro X has ironed out many of its initial creases and is certainly worthy of the Pro’ in its moniker. We take a look at what else you might need for the ultimate workflow alongside this powerful editing platform

When Final Cut Pro X was first released, a large proportion of the professional videography and editing community was outraged at the radicalisation of such an iconic piece of software. The familiar track-based editing format was swept aside in favour of a magnetic timeline, organising via bins was abolished in favour of Smart Collections utilising metadata, and the whole package was available via the App Store for around a quarter of the price of its predecessor.

Over three years down the line, and with numerous updates under its belt, adding pro features like multi-cam editing, a library structure and Apple ProRes 4444 XQ support among many others, Final Cut Pro X has re-established itself as a force to be reckoned with in the pro videography editing market. However, if you're after a super efficient workflow and want to get the most out of this platform there are a few further accessories you should be considering investing in.

HP Chromebox

HP Chromebox

David Briddock investigates the potential of a Google Chrome OS desktop

There’s no doubt hardware based on Google’s Chrome operating system (OS) has caused a mini revolution in the PC arena.

One reason is the easy-to-use nature of Chrome OS, perfect for consumers who spends their time using cloud-based social communication, games or just web surfing.

Chromebooks, essentially lightweight, Intel-powered laptops running Chrome OS, have carved out a market all of their own. With an ultra-lightweight design, complete with full keyboard and trackpad, a Chromebook is an ideal solution for email communication, web surfing or taking full advantage of today’s powerful web-centric, cloudbased apps.

And the latest range of Chromebooks are fantastic value for money. For example, you can buy a number of entry-level Chromebooks, with a 12” or 13” screen, for under $200 from HP, Asus and other companies.

Download anonymously

Download anonymously

Wayne Williams reveals how to keep your downloads completely private, so no-one will ever know which files you’re grabbing from the web

Just as you’re never truly alone when you browse the web – with advertisers, your ISP and even government agencies watching what you do – your  downloads are also vulnerable to snoopers. This might not seem too alarming if you’re not illegally downloading copyrighted films or amassing a stash of adult videos, but it’s still an invasion of privacy and allows unknown third parties to build up a picture of your online activities.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to prevent anyone else from knowing which files you’re downloading and have already downloaded, whether you’re using your PC, mobile device or somebody else’s computer.

In this feature, we show you how to use torrenting tools anonymously; download files via a proxy server or a VPN (Virtual Private Network); use a seedbox for super-fast (and totally unidentifiable) downloads; grab files from Usenet; and lock, hide and clean up folders once you’ve finished downloading.

Stop your anti-virus blocking safe software

anti-virus blocking safe software

Over-vigilant security software sometimes flags harmless files as malware. Jonathan Parkyn explains what you can do to identify, prevent and report false positives

Scan the suspicious file using VirusTotal

No security software is 100-per-cent foolproof, so a second opinion is always useful, particularly if you’re not sure whether a download is genuinely malicious or not. VirusTotal ( doesn’t just give you a second opinion, it gives you more than 50, by running your file through multiple anti-virus engines, including big names such as Symantec, Bitdefender, Sophos, McAfee and Kaspersky. Best of all, this simple but powerful online tool is completely free and you don’t need to register with VirusTotal to use it.

The hypocrisy of blocking online ads

blocking online ads

Barry Collins finds that ad blockers aren’t as altruistic as they first appear

Until about a year ago, I never liked the idea of ad blockers. The fairies don’t put words on websites while you’re sleeping; most of them are put there by real journalists being paid real money by real publishers, and if you need to view a banner ad or even close a pop-up in lieu of payment for the information you’re getting, so be it. That’s your side of the unwritten deal.

Then advertisers got silly. Really silly. Auto-playing video ads with the volume cranked to 11 became the norm. You’d be sitting at your desk when suddenly a tab you hadn’t touched for two minutes would erupt into life, blasting your eardrums with advertising jingles as you flapped about in a panic, trying to find the offending tab to shut it down. You couldn’t boycott the sites that were doing it, because they were all doing it: the only way to keep the peace was to (reluctantly, in my case) install an ad blocker.

Nikon Coolpix P7800

Nikon Coolpix P7800

Putting an electronic viewfinder into the P7800 elevates Nikon’s top-of-the-line P Series Coolpix to a different level than many of its competitors. By Paul Burrows

It seems contradictory that quite a number of the enthusiast-level compact cameras – including Nikon’s own Coolpix A – don’t have built-in viewfinders. You’d think it was self evident that cameras designed for a more discerning audience should have the feature that most distinguishes them from the pointand-shooters (and the smart phones). The facility for fitting an accessory EVF at least provides the option albeit with the compromise of an additional outlay, but it’s hard to fathom the thinking behind a supposedly high-end camera with nothing, nil, zip, nada.

Panasonic Lumix GM5

Panasonic Lumix GM5

Remember how good the GM1 was? Essentially a pocket-sized version of the GX7, it had a lot going for it, but just lacked a couple of critical elements as far as the enthusiast-level shooter was concerned. Well, Panasonic has been listening to the feedback… By Paul Burrows

It’s not often you get a result quite so speedily as Panasonic has responded to the comments made about its Lumix GM1 model. You may remember that this was essentially the brilliant GX7’s vital organs repackaged into a pocket-sized bodyshell. Consequently, there was lots to like, but…

Where’s the viewfinder we asked? And what about 1080/50p video? Also, while we’re at it, why can’t we have a proper flash hotshoe? Panasonic obviously thought all these questions were fair enough and, subsequently, wasted no time rectifying matters. Just a year after the GM1, comes the GM5 complete with EVF, flash hotshoe and 1080/50p video.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Rage against the Dying Light

Dying Light

Hack, slash and parkour your way through the zombie hoards of harran

1. Regularly check your weapon stats to make sure you’re using the best ones you have available. You want as high a damage value as possible, but the handling stat is also important as it shows how difficult it is to wield – the lower the number, the slower you’ll swing it and the more stamina you’ll use up in the process. Be aware of how many hits your current weapon has left before it needs repairing, and make sure you have a backup available to quickly switch to, as you’re unlikely to have time to fix it in the middle of a fight with a horde of undead shufflers. Weapon upgrades can significantly improve your stats but they are single use items, so choose carefully when you apply them.

Booq Ta ipan Shock

Booq Ta ipan Shock

All laptops deserve to travel in luxury, according to Booq

I’ve reviewed Booq equipment before, so the real surprise in its Taipan Shock was the price, as it’s less than £100.

For those not familiar with Booq, it makes a selection of high-quality cases, sleeves, backpacks and bags, all designed to protect your precious IT hardware in transit.

It markets mostly to Apple users, so the Taipan Shock is made specifically to fit a Mac Book, though not exclusively. My Dell Ultrabook fit just as snugly into it, even if the backpack secretly felt abused at the drop in standards it was enduring.

Hannspree Micro PC

Hannspree Micro PC

The future of tiny PC technology is here, and we love it!

The Intel Compute Stick got everyone excited at this year’s CES, but while all that was going on, Hannspree launched its own version of the PC on a stick, the Micro PC.

This is an extraordinary palmsized device, complete with a quad-core 1.83GHz Intel Atom Z3735F, 2GB of DDR RAM, Intel HD Bay Trail graphics and 32GB of Samsung eMMC NAND storage. Furthermore, there’s Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11 b/g/n wi-fi, a micro-USB port for power, a full-sized USB 2.0 port, and a micro-SD card reader to further expand the storage. Ingeniously, all this manages to fit into a shell measuring just 110 x 38 x 9.8mm and weighing 38 grams.

XMG P705 17.3 Pro Gaming Laptop

XMG P705 17.3 Pro Gaming Laptop

XMG brings the latest GeForce 900 series GPUs to its gaming laptops

Gaming laptops are generally something of a compromise, because if they weren’t, then there wouldn’t be a market for desktop PCs.

It all comes down to how much making them easily transportable undermines their gaming capability. In respect of the XMG P705, that’s remarkably little.

Schenker, the company behind the XMG brand cherry picks good mobile PC technology and repackages them. The P705 was therefore a Clevo P670SA, though it exhibits some subtle changes from that core design.

Divoom Airbeat-10

Divoom Airbeat-10

Divoom widens the choice for those who like their music broadcasted

Like London Buses, once a Bluetooth speaker appears, another half dozen seem to follow in quick succession.

The Airbeat-10 slots into the well-populated category of battery-powered speakers designed to be taken on holiday or at least down to the local beach.

It carries an IPX44 water resistance rating that doesn’t protect it from full submersion, but it can handle water spray from all directions.

Edifier Prisma Encore

Edifier Prisma Encore

Michael sits back to listen to his music delivered by an Edifier speaker system

The Prisma Encore is a 2.1 speaker system from Edifier. As you would expect, it consists of a subwoofer and a pair of satellite speakers. Not surprisingly, as this is an Edifier speaker system, the appearance of the subwoofer and satellite speakers show a degree of imagination. In the case of the Prisma Encore subwoofer, Edifier has come up with a design based on a battle helmet as used many centuries ago. In complete contrast, the satellite speakers are modelled on a triangular tower such as Cleopatra’s Needle.

Epson Expression Photo XP-950

Epson Expression Photo XP-950

It won TIPA’s award for best photo printer last year – and it can print up to A3 size – but this is only one aspect of the XP-950, which is also designed to be a generalpurpose office/home printer. Trevern Dawes was keen to see if this unusual combination of capabilities actually works. By Trevern Dawes

Although multifunctional inkjet printers are capable of producing acceptable prints with their four-colour ink systems, they are not regarded as serious printers for photographic work. However, the Epson Expression Photo XP-950 takes A3 printing with multi-functional facilities to a new level using a six-colour inkset. It’s a curious combination so we were keen to see how its photo printing features stacked up.

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera

It’s designed in Australia and it combines the dimensions of a compact system camera with the ability to record cinema-quality Full HD video. Meet the remarkable Pocket Cinema Camera. By Paul Burrows

Video is the new photography. Thanks to its availability on everything from a smartphone to Pentax’s digital medium format 645Z, video is quickly becoming an integral part of today’s imaging landscape. Many snapshooters now fire off a quick video clip rather than taking a still, and there’s a growing band of enthusiast-level users who are trying their hand at everything from D-I-Y documentaries to short films. And, of course, the numerous variations on the ‘action cam’ theme are allowing video shooting to be taken to extremes.

Fujifilm X100T

Fujifilm X100T silver black

If you’ve resisted the charms of Fujifilm’s retrostyled X100 up until now, the latest version may win you over with its updated hybrid viewfinder, revised ergonomics and a host of new features. By Paul Burrows

When Fujifilm launched the original X100 back at Photokina 2010, the mirrorless interchangeable lens camera was a still an unknown quantity and the smartphone was yet to reshape the fixed-lens compact market as dramatically as it has subsequently done. So, heading towards five years on, the camera world has changed a lot. Of course, the X100 started its own revolution, legitimising the return to more traditional, dial-based control layouts which has since been taken up by the designers of both CSCs and D-SLRs, as well as other fixed-lens compacts. Fujifilm itself has expanded its line-up of X Series cameras to include lots of other goodies, including the brilliant X-T1 and its rangefinderstyled cousin, the X-E2. So… where does all this leave the venerable X100, updated in early 2013 as the X100S and again, now, as the X100T? After all, there are now a few tasty alternatives, including some offering the extra versatility of interchangeable lenses.

Monday, 23 February 2015

The latest SSDs examined


We've often touted a solid state drive as being the best upgrade you give a PC - and here are our favourites

If you're upgrading a PC, it's getting harder and harder to ignore the positive effect that putting an SSD in a system can have. These days, memory and processors are so quick that mechanical drives simply can't keep up, and create a bottleneck that hampers performance in all areas - from boot times to framerates within games. Swapping your old hard drive for a solid state alternative will up your system speeds across the board.

The best current-gen CPUs for your budget

current-gen CPUs

If you have a definite spending limit, here are your best options

Putting together a new system tends to begin with selecting a the processor that fits your budget best, narrowing down make, performance and price until you have the one you need. What are the best CPUs on the market right now, though? The industry evolves constantly; so are Intel chips still better than AMDs? Which of Intel's platforms is the best? Should you buy an FX-series CPU or a Fusion APU? These questions and more will be answered in our guide to the best current-gen CPUs on the market right now.

iScrapbook 5

iScrapbook 5

Create amazing photo albums (if you have the latest OS X)

While some are content to carry thousands of digital images on mobile devices, there is still a contingent of loyal Mac users who fancy the notion of preserving memories in hardcopy for future generations to enjoy. With the fifth edition of its popular scrapbook application, Chronos appeals to both camps.

iScrapbook 5 assists users in creating digital scrapbook albums in single or dual page spreads. Individual pages or entire albums can be printed on paper or exported to PDF, TIFF, JPEG or PNG files. With more than 15 new feature categories, including texture, glass and simulated old film overlays, this version creates pages that look more authentic. Shine on imported photos comes thanks to one-click auto enhancement, while 3D headlines help modernise albums, with complete control over lighting, bevel and reflections.

New CPUs coming in 2015 (And Should You Wait For Them?)

inside cpu

Considering a system overhaul? Here's what this year has to offer...

Whether and when to upgrade your system are always hard decisions to make, especially when there are new platform refreshes due at as-yet-undetermined points in the relatively near future. Commit too early and you can end up paying a premium for hardware that becomes obsolete within weeks, but wait too long and you might discover you've been holding on for a refresh that isn't really worth spending the money on.

Of all hardware options, trying to decide on a new CPU is possibly the hardest decision - and Intel isn't making that any easier this year, with plans to bring new Haswell, Broadwell and Skylake processors to market in a single 12 month period. Even AMD's getting in on the act, though, with its new Carrizo hardware apparently just a matter of weeks away.

Fear not, though, if you're thinking of buying a new CPU now - or if you're planning to do so at any point this year - we have all the information you need to help you decide when to pull the trigger.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Is DDR4 worth buying?


James Hunt assesses the benefits of the latest standard of RAM

It's been close to a decade since DDR3 memory was first introduced and five years since it became the dominant form of RAM in home PCs. In an industry where anything older than 18 months looks seriously out of date, DDR3 is starting to seem positively ancient. It's no surprise, then, that the next evolution of the technology, DDR4 memory, is starting to creep into the latest high-end hardware.

At this point, there's a chance that the next computer you buy will indeed support DDR4. But what is DDR4 memory, and what are the practical benefits of it? And most importantly, is it worth aiming to include in your next system?

Canon Pixma MG4250

Canon Pixma MG4250

Canon Pixma MG4000 printers are the middle rung of its home and SOHO multifunction range. They generally offer better performance and are quite heavy duty machines used for mid-volume printing and scanning.

The Pixma MG4250 is the follow-up to the MG4150 from early 2012, and aside from the design of the chassis, this model having a matt-black finish as opposed to the glossy piano black of its predecessor, there's really very little difference between the pair.

This is a print, copy and scan device with wi-fi and USB connectivity, Apple AirPrint, Pixma Cloud print and Google Cloud Print support, as well as a memory card reader and automatic duplex printing.

HP Envy 4507

HP Envy 4507

The HP 4500 range of multifunction printers were very much the darling of the high-street electrical store's shelves early last year. This was the newer range of inkjets from HP covering 2013/14, and for the most part they did a reasonably good job and flew off the shelves quick enough to replace the older Deskjet 3500s.

This is a fairly slim, low-profile, all-in-one printer offering print, copy and scan functionality. In terms of connectivity, there's USB and wi-fi, with Apple AirPrint and HP ePrint support. As with the Officejet, you can also send documents to print via your smartphone or tablet and, if needed, you can also administer the printer remotely.

HP DeskJet 1510

HP DeskJet 1510

The HP Deskjet range of printers have been around for what seems like an eternity. The old saying that you're never more than six feet from a rat could also be applied to HP Deskjets, as they seem to be the choice of printer for nearly every small office and home in the known universe.

The reason is, of course, that they’re generally cheap to buy, cheap to maintain and can take a surprising amount of abuse before they go on to that great recycling plant in the sky or wherever it is these things go once they leave your possession.

Canon Pixma MX525

Canon Pixma MX525

This is the second Pixma in this group, and rather than being a single-use printer as before, this time we have an all-singing, all-dancing multifunction device that's crammed full of features.

The Canon Pixma MX525 is the direct competitor to the HP 4630, in that you can copy, scan, fax and print, with support for smartphones and tablets, along with Apple AirPrint and internet printing from any device and location. It also goes one step further and adds support for cloud technologies, allowing you to scan directly to your Dropbox account and the Pixma cloud.

HP Officejet 4630

HP Officejet 4630

The HP Officejet 4630 multifunction printer is a product perfect for modern home offices. It scans, faxes, copies, prints, is wireless and USB connected, and has automatic duplexing. The only thing it doesn't do is make you a cup of tea in the morning.

This particular model was actually one of the first to accommodate printing from a smartphone or tablet, and it features AirPrint, the Apple protocol from OS X Lion and iOS 4.2 onward. There's also a scan-to-email feature, and through the wi-fi functionality you also get HP ePrint, which allows you to send a print to the printer's email address. In fact, you can administer the printer remotely if needed.

Canon Pixma iP2850

Canon Pixma iP2850

The Pixma range from Canon has proved over the years to be quite a solid workhorse and very popular with consumers. The range is, for the most part, consists of good-quality printers that tend to remain in active service for quite some time.

This particular Pixma is something of an oddity among its cousins on the shelves, as Canon has made the decision to buck the trend for multifunction printers and has released a standard printer aimed squarely at the home and SOHO user.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Motherboard upgrades: what to look for

Motherboard upgrades

Join us as we demystify the process of choosing a new board for your PC

When considering what hardware to upgrade, it's easy to get distracted by the simplicity of adding more RAM, a faster processor or a superior graphics card. But what about your motherboard?

A fresh motherboard brings with it a host of benefits. Unlike the incremental improvements that come with RAM or CPU upgrades, a new motherboard will instantly offer extra features and expansion possibilities that weren't there before. It will quite literally remake your PC.

But the number of co-dependencies your motherboard accommodates also makes it one of the most difficult pieces of hardware to upgrade - especially if you're not building an entirely fresh PC. Current operating systems have taken a lot of the strain out of swapping your motherboard for a new one, but it's still a difficult process that requires a fair amount of understanding to undertake.

Give Your Gadgets A Facelift

custom firmware

We look at how custom firmware can give your old gadgets a whole new lease of life

When hardware reaches a certain point in its life, it's normal for a company to declare it deprecated or unsupported. This means that it stops issuing updates and fixes for its software, and consumers are expected to move on to the next device, whether they want to or not.

But not everyone takes that lying down. If manufacturers don't want to update their devices, they reason, maybe they can. And so the hardware is adopted by custom firmware developers, who want to add new functions and capabilities to hardware that the industry has lost interest in. This practice of creating new operating systems and applications for 'closed' devices is also called 'homebrewing', and it's popular on a huge variety of consumer electronics, from obvious candidates like games consoles and routers to more offbeat items, like digital cameras.

Remembering... Cassette Tapes

Cassette Tapes

David Hayward recalls the mighty tape but admits he liked Rick Astley in his youth

Hands up all those who fondly recall taping Radio One's Top 40 on a Sunday night and having to hit the pause button on the tape deck the second the DJ started to talk- then writing 'Top 40: 20/06/85' or something on the label and pocketing it for playing throughout the week while you did your homework.

The cassette tape was such a part of everyday life that we often forget just how much we handled these things back in the day. For most of us, there was hardly a day that went by when we weren't in possession of a tape. Usually, the tape contained music, but often it was the latest game on the ZX Spectrum or C64.

The Intel Compute Stick, what is it?

Intel Compute Stick

David Hayward has a brief look at new micro computer

ARM hardware has enjoyed substantial growth these last few years, thanks to the fact that the design processes used to make the chips are relatively cheap, and they're small enough yet also powerful enough to fit into some exceptionally tiny places.

The chief destination for ARM processors is, of course, mobile phones, but tablets and other devices are a significant factor. More recently we enjoyed ARM-and Android-powered micro consoles and handheld consoles, which again prove that you can have quad-core power in a device that's the size of your hand.

Microsoft HoloLens

Microsoft HoloLens

Not content with giving away Windows 10 free, Microsoft now wants to float 3D objects in your living room

What is it?

A futuristic-looking headset that displays 3D objects (which Microsoft calls “holograms”) to the person wearing it. It can show the weather as a floating map, turn living-room walls into virtual screens, and let you play virtual games on your coffee table. Microsoft unveiled it in January when announcing the next version of the Windows 10 Preview, and said it will go on sale when the operating system officially launches later this year. There’s no indication yet of what it will cost.

Friday, 20 February 2015

The truth about UX design

The truth about UX design

You may have mastered slick interfaces – but if you want to really affect a user’s experience, get out of Photoshop and into the boardroom, says Paul Boag

When you think about user experience design, what do you think of? A beautifully crafted interface? Sketching out a wireframe? Cracking open Photoshop or Sketch? In fact, user experience design starts not in Photoshop, but in the boardroom. If we want to call ourselves user experience designers then we need to expand our horizons.

Many of us like to call ourselves user experience designers, when in fact we are user interface designers. As soon as things beyond the interface come up we get uncomfortable. We claim that content is the client’s problem, or that we don’t have the authority to interfere in business processes. To become user experience designers we need to learn how to shape the entire experience, from beginning to end. That means moving beyond our comfort zone.

How they will make you spend…

future ads

Traditional ads are on their way out. We explores how tech is enabling brands to get more personal

Advertising has long been a dirty word. It’s all too often an unwelcome invasion into our lives – whether breaking up our favourite TV shows, splashing all over the website we’re trying to read or assaulting our eyeballs as we walk down the street.

One thing that all of these examples have in common is that they’re old school one-way broadcasts that target the mass market. What savvy brands now know is that shouting in someone’s face is rarely as effective as taking them by the hand and leading them somewhere. Everything is changing.



Ever intrigued by little boxes and blueprints, Jonni Bidwell explores a Pipowered Internet of Things hub that you can redesign yourself.

Wireless Things is the new name for Ciseco, the Nottingham-based Internet of Things company responsible for the critically acclaimed EVE Alpha device. EVE is a compact device that fits snugly on top a Raspberry Pi, connecting via the GPIO pins. There are a plethora of modules that can be fitted to the EVE board: SRF or RFM12B radios, real-time clocks (RTCs), temperature sensors and more. With the OpenPi, Wireless Things hope to take this idea one step further and it’s in the middle of a crowdfunder as we write this (

Mad Catz Strike M

Mad Catz Strike M

A tiny keyboard that packs a big punch

With the launch of the M.O.J.O., Mad Catz is making a name for itself as the undisputed king of the Android-powered micro console. Because of the nature of Android, though, and the fact that the M.O.J.O. is really just a tablet on your TV, there comes the inherent difficulty of entering text.

The issue isn't just with the M.O.J.O.; it's with every device that's hooked up to a TV and uses some form of controller as the main method of input. A smart TV, for example, uses the remote, a PS3 uses its controller and so on. What's needed in these situations is a good old-fashioned keyboard.

H1Z1 Early Access


After the apocalypse, the undead are the least of your worries

We're not cruel or callous people here at Micro Mart. In fact, despite the constant pressures of getting a weekly magazine out on time, we're actually quite well tempered. That pretty much went out of the window, though, when we came across our first 'real' person deep in the wilderness of H1Z1.

H1Z1, if you're not aware is the newest zombie infested MMO from Daybreak Games (formally Sony Online entertainment). It's still in the early access alpha release stage, but we were given the opportunity to see what all the fuss is about with regards to a zombie apocalypse.

Tesoro Kuven Pro 5.1 Headset

Tesoro Kuven Pro 5.1 Headset

The Helm of Darkness is surprisingly comfortable

Before we begin, Kuven, in case you're wondering, was the name for the helmet of Hades, also known as the Helm of Darkness. It apparently renders the wearer invisible to all, even the eyes of the gods, and it was forged for Hades by the cyclopes during the war against the Titans, alongside the trident of Poseidon and Zeus's thunderbolts.

The Tesoro Kuven Pro 5.1 headset unfortunately doesn't render you invisible, and we can confidently state that it wasn't forged by a cyclops -although we have been known to be wrong in the past. It is, however, a very well designed, comfortable and exceedingly good headset.

Acer Predator XB270HA G-Sync Gaming Display

Acer Predator XB270HA G-Sync Gaming Display

Nvidia G-Sync is the latest feature for Acer's gaming monitors

Computer displays are going through an odd phase at this time.

For those who like strong colours and excellent viewing angles, there are amazingly priced IPS panels. And for gamers, there's enhanced twisted nematic film (TN) technology. It might have less colour saturation and poor viewing angles, but it can also deliver the high refresh rates that gamers need to work with the high frame rates modern video cards can easily generate.

The Acer XB270HA is a TN panel made for that specific gaming market, offering a 1ms response time and a 144MHz refresh rate on a sizeable 27" screen.

Toshiba Canvio AeroCast 1TB

Toshiba Canvio AeroCast 1TB

Toshiba blends a 1TB hard drive with a wireless access point

Both Seagate and Western Digital have released wireless external drives in the past year, and now it's Toshiba's turn with the Canvio AeroCast.

This sticks firmly to the same model we've seen previously, where you need an installed app to access any contents from mobile devices. Technically you can attach the drive as a mountable drive on the PC, but \\\share isn't an obvious location, and a web interface might have been much more helpful.


AOMEI Backupper

Prepare for disaster but hope it never happens. Roland Waddilove tries a handy backup solution

Only a small percentage of computer disk drives fail, and many people never encounter a problem, but just as you wouldn't drive a car without an insurance policy that will replace it in the event of a crash, you really shouldn't use a computer without a backup solution in place that can replace the contents if it crashes.

There are many backup programs, but one you may not have heard of is AOMEI Backupper. There are several versions, and the one on test is Backupper Professional. There is a free version that is surprisingly comprehensive, but the Pro edition has a few extras that make managing backup jobs easier.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Sony Walkman NWZ-WS613

Sony Walkman NWZ-WS613

Sony's waterproof and lightweight MP3 player

Dedicated MP3 players are now something of a rarity, as these days most of us tend to use our smartphones for music on the go. Sony has therefore gone out on a limb with its latest Walkman, the 4GB NWZ-WS613, which is aimed at runners, walkers and swimmers.

Sony has miniaturised its MP3 player to such an extent that it’s entirely self-contained inside earphones. It weighs just 40g and is waterproof. Tiny buttons on the left earphone control volume and Bluetooth, while power and playback controls are on the right. We’d prefer these buttons if they were a different shape, making it easier to distinguish them by touch alone, but we soon got the hang of them. Built-in Bluetooth means you can use the NWZ-WS613 as wireless earphones for your phone or tablet. A small Bluetooth remote control, which is designed to fit around your fingers like a ring, is included for joggers, but it’s not waterproof.

3D Systems Cube 3

3D Systems Cube 3

A printer that can create actual, three-dimensional objects

3D printing is one of the most intriguing technologies to emerge in years. The Cube 3 works in a similar way to inkjet printers, but creates actual physical objects you can use rather than a printed page. It uses plastic rather than ink, and this is heated to the point of melting and then forced out through the print nozzles, creating a fine, sticky thread. Motors move the nozzles back and forth over a flat surface. The nozzles are raised slightly after each pass so that the next layer of thread is stacked upon the previous one. Once this process has finished, and the layers of thread have cooled, you have your 3D object.

HP Envy x213

HP Envy x213

HP's answer to Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 falls flat

Intel’s new Broadwell processors are supposed to herald a new era of lighter, more flexible Windows 8.1 laptop-tablet hybrids, but HP has opted for a highly derivative design for its first Broadwell-equipped computer. The Envy x213’s design resembles that of Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3, but not only has HP failed to learn from Microsoft’s mistakes, it’s managed to make plenty of new ones.

The x213 weighs 1.3kg, but attach the included screen cover (which doubles as a keyboard) and the weight balloons to 1.8kg. Throw in the charger and this bulks up further to 2kg. This isn’t overly hefty for a laptop, but it’s heavy for a tablet. This weight, along with its thickset design, makes the x213 uncomfortable to use as a tablet. Thanks to the Intel Core M 5Y10 fan-less processor, there are at least no cooling vents pumping out hot air over your hands and it’s whisper quiet.

Synology DiskStation DS415play

Synology DiskStation DS415play

A versatile NAS for large storage needs

Synology’s network attached storage (NAS) devices are generally more expensive than the competition, but we’ve been impressed with their previous models - they’re easy to use and come with a wide range of useful features. The DS415play is particularly pricey (at just under £400 without hard drives), but it can accommodate up to four drives and its new features really set it apart.

Fitting your hard drives is very straightforward. The four drive trays are easily accessed by removing the front panel. You don’t need any tools for this unless you’re inserting laptop hard drives or SSDs, which are physically smaller than desktop hard drives. We installed four 3TB Western Digital Red drives in a matter of minutes. With two or more drives installed, you have the option of using RAID if you want. We used RAID 5, which means that should one drive stop working, all your data is still safely stored on the other.

Serif WebPlus X8

Serif WebPlus X8

Make your own website with this sophisticated software for beginners

As a way of building attractive websites without having to learn how to code, Serif WebPlus has always been one of our favourite programs. Recent versions have added features aimed at small businesses, such as the ability to add various types of contact forms and a booking system to your website, alongside more fundamental improvements like 64bit support and cleaner, faster-loading HTML code. The latest version, WebPlus X8, builds upon this sound foundation.

Epson Expression Premium XP-620

Epson Expression Premium XP-620

A flexible MFP that can even print on discs

Epson’s Expression Premium XP-620 is an inkjet multifunction printer (MFP) designed for general use in the home. As its name promises, it’s got reasonably high-spec features, including wireless networking, a colour screen and automatic duplex (double-sided) printing. There are two paper trays - one handles sizes up to A4, while the other handles photo paper up to 5x7in. You can load both trays and the printer wall choose the appropriate one for the job. Tucked away underneath is a tray for loading printable CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs.

Asus MeMO Pad 7 (ME572C)

Asus MeMO Pad 7 (ME572C)

The cheap Android tablet that's better than the Tesco Hudl 2

Asus isn’t a household name, which is a shame because the Taiwanese company makes some great products, such as top-notch Chromebooks and Windows laptops. It also made the discontinued Nexus 7 Android mini tablet, which does now at least have a spiritual successor in the shape of the MeMO Pad 7.

Like the Nexus 7, the MeMO Pad 7 (not to be confused with previous models with similar names) is a 7in Android tablet with a 1920x1200-pixel screen. Unlike the Nexus it’s not guaranteed to get the latest versions of Android, although it does come with the second most recent version (4.4 KitKat) installed. There are rumours the 5.0 Lollipop upgrade will come in May, but this is no cause for alarm because KitKat is a good operating system.