149 GADGET REVIEWS
Binge like a pro
MEET YOUR MASTERS
LEGO & LG’S ROBOT ARMY
S V E L P P A E L G O GO
ESSENTIAL TV POWER-U S POWER-UPS
T T A B T S E G G I B TECH’S
. D E L T T LE. SE
The Canon you’ve been waiting for
Google’s genius Echo rival
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CONS ON THE COVER
p32 Alexa lives!
HOT STUFF 10 The Hot Four ● Razer Project Valerie ● Sony Bravia A1 ● HTC U Ultra ● Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 16 Vital stats Dell XPS 13 Our favourite Windows laptop gets flippy 18 Gigapixel Navdy head-up display “I must dash, so get off my dash” 20 Apps New downloads and a virtual Touch Bar 22 Start menu Brew the perfect cup of tea from your sofa 24 Icon Nvidia Shield The TV streamer/console that listens 26 Games It’s time to practise settling on another planet 28 Choice Geek T-shirts Wear your nerdy heart on your (short) sleeve 30 Vital stats Panasonic DMC-GH5 Not-very-compact system camera with 4K 32 Best of Alexa’s new friends Is there an Echo in here? Not necessarily… 36 Your month Explore Scarborough in Minecraft
p40 Phoney war
p84 Ideal Home?
p88 Tricks for ’flix
TESTS 59 First test Canon EOS M5 Honey, I shrunk the EOS 80D 64 Group test Soundbars These sound-emitters set the bar high 74 Tested Garmin Vivosmart HR+ Get to the heart of your fitness troubles 75 Tested HTC 10 Evo If you can’t beat them, undercut them 84 Versus Smart speakers Google Home squabbles with Amazon Echo 86 Group test Sports headphones A sporting selection of run-ready buds 96 First test Apple AirPods The funny white sticks that killed your jack 98 Group test Smart TV boxes Reach for the Sky… or maybe the Fire? 100 Tested Porsche Design Huawei Mate 9 A serious phone with a comedy price 101 Test BeoSound 1 Not just a pretty wireless speaker? 102 Long-term test Asus Zenbook UX31OUA Your new MacBook Air isn’t even an Apple
FEATURES 38 The crown duels Google vs Apple, Mac vs PC, PlayStation vs Xbox – it’s survival of the techiest 62 Upvoted Board games Put down the controller, pick up the dice 72 Instant upgrades PlayStation VR Immerse yourself deeper in Sony’s world 77 The 25 best indie games It’s the golden age for bedroom-born video games, but which titles are the greatest? 82 Gadget Doctor Help, my data keeps running away! 88 Beta yourself Netflix Flick through these TV streaming tips 91 Stuff picks Smart home Turn your house into a little gadgetopia 104 Media hoard Not Snakes on a Plane, but zombies on a train
TOP TENS 109 The Stuff Top Ten of everything Your essential gadget-buying guide: Smartphones, tablets, headphones, TVs, smartwatches, fitness trackers, laptops, hi-fi, consoles, games, home cinema, smart home, system cameras 111 The big question How do I become invisible online? 115 How to buy... a TV A television guide worth reading 117 Should I upgrade? Chromecast Ultra Should you dongle up for the 4K revolution? 119 Playlist Work music Find your sonic motivators for the office 121 Streaming essentials Top treats on Netflix, Amazon and Now TV 127 5-minute hacks Make a Microsoft HoloLens for £25
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Subscriptions Hotline 0344 848 8806 World: +44 (0)1604 251 460 Email help@stuff. themagazineshop.com Web www.themagazineshop.com Advertising 020 8267 5493 Group Head Stephen Windegaard Sales Managers Robert Nevill, Ben Hardy Retail Manager Rob Kerr Display Sales Executive Amy Turner Classified Sales Executive Joshua McGonigle Creative Solutions Project Managers Liam Maguire, Hannah Pettifor Creative Solutions Editor-in-Chief Will Findlater International Advertising Director Chris Marriott Business Development Director Mike Walsh Production 020 8267 5414 Production Manager Anthony Davis Senior Production Controller Paul Skinner Newstrade Marketing Manager Nick Lyon Management Brand Director Alastair Lewis Editorial Director Mark Payton Strategy & Planning Director Bob McDowell Managing Director David Prasher Chief Executive Kevin Costello • Volume 21 issue 3 • ISSN: 1364-963 • On sale 2 February2017 • Audit Bureau of Circulations: 62,624 (Jan-Dec 2015)
Welcome A wise sod once said, “The destiny of man is to unite, not to divide.” Unfortunately, that choice phrase was uttered before the internet existed and people felt the need to argue over which smartphone OS is best. Rather than tackle such eternal conflicts in a YouTube comments section, we’ve done the job in 18 pages. So from Nikon vs Canon to PlayStation vs Xbox and Apple vs Google, this magazine is dedicated to the techy conflicts that define the gadgets we buy and what Stuff squabbles about on its lunch breaks. Mercifully, we didn’t have room for a full-blown FIFA vs Pro Evo face-off or we’d have got no work done this month. As it is, we spent the best part of a week at the CES show in Las Vegas in search of the new tech we’ll be talking about for the rest of 2017. That meant a lot of 4K TVs with awesome OLED screen wizardry, robots that are so smart they can control your entire home and, erm, a Bluetooth hairbrush. Just turn to p10 to gawp at our top picks from the show and start fostering an unhealthy resentment to all the old gadgetry you own from last year. Just as you can’t blame technology for its never-ending march towards the future, you can’t blame me for thinking the latest Pro Evo is nothing less than total guff. Sorry guys, but I’m having the last word on this one. Rob Leedham, Editor / @robleedham
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Making Stuff up Editor Rob Leedham Deputy Editor Tom Wiggins Production Editor Richard Purvis Consulting Editor Fraser Macdonald Reviews Editor Tom Morgan Features Editor Mark Wilson Deputy Features Editor Esat Dedezade Editor, Stuff.tv Marc McLaren Deputy Editor, Stuff.tv Tom Parsons Staff Writers Ryan Jones, Chris Rowlands Social Editor Natalya Paul Colouring Stuff in Brand Art Editor Chee-Chiu Lee Deputy Art Editor Ross Presly Senior Designer Will Clarke Senior Video Editor Peter Brown Keeping Stuff in order Global Editor-In-Chief Guy Cocker International Director Alastair Lewis Syndication Enquiries Isla Friend 020 8267 5058 Brand Manager Claire Griffiths Office Manager Sarah Weetch Contributors
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I PLAYED WITH VIVE’S TRACKER
On the bus ride into Las Vegas, home of the annual Consumer Electronics Show, my driver proudly noted the city’s hotspots. From beating slot machines to getting hold of medical marijuana, this woman always had a tip up her sleeve. The one thing she didn’t know about? HTC’s new Vive Tracker, which can turn anything into a VR peripheral. For one glorious hour I was a crack sniper, alien photographer and all-round badass. It’s the most fun you can have in Vegas without going broke or faking a doctor’s certificate. Rob Leedham, Editor
MY FITNESS BAND FORCED ME INTO THE GYM
Whenever I get a new gadget, I’ll spend hours on the sofa playing around with it. But when I got my hands on Samsung’s Gear Fit2 this month, I was forced into the gym for the first time in two years. Barbaric, isn’t it? I initially felt better for treating my body to some physical therapy, but in the following days I had to suffer the pain of climbing flights of stairs with aching limbs. But worst of all? My new fitness tracker still had the cheek to call me out for sitting in my chair for an hour. Ryan Jones, Staff Writer
Trips to Vegas, the Design Museum and the gym I GOT A ROBOT FOLLOWER
There I was at the Design Museum to see the exhibition Fear and Love: Reactions to a Complex World. And there Mimus was: a curious robot, sizing up and zooming towards the visitors. Hold on… aren’t the visitors meant to ogle the objects behind the glass, not the other way round? Designer Madeline Gannon wants to explore how we can build a companionship with robots. But as Mimus weigs 1200kg, if I did bring her along to a social gathering my friends might find her a little intimidating. Natalya Paul, Social Editor
I VISITED THE PINBALL HALL OF FAME
Forget TVs, drones and smart home tech – the best thing I saw in Las Vegas was the Pinball Hall of Fame. If you’re a fan of flipper-based fun, it’s an oasis in the desert, housing over 150 machines renovated to their original condition. Highlights included seeing the original 1940s Bally machines for the first time (pictured), rediscovering the Bride of Pin-Bot, and realising that they still actually make pinball tables – including Game of Thrones and The Simpsons editions. Guy Cocker, Global Editor-In-Chief
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HOT FOUR #1 THREE IS THE MAGIC NUMBER RAZER PROJECT VALERIE
Before pulling out this sucker in a coffee shop, you’re going to want some suitable entry music. The Ride of the Valkyries, say. Get that playing, roll back the cuffs on your leather trenchcoat and then break out the Razer. Try to maintain eye contact with someone as you unfold each of its three 17.3in 4K screens. Make sure the keyboard is cycling through its full LED rainbow before completing the third act of your CostBucks performance: plug in and don a VR headset. (It can be Oculus or Vive – while not revealing specs, Razer say its three-screened monster will run either.) “You’re not even using the screens,” some babyccino-sipping urchin will breathe. And your day is done. As hot as… 4K x3 £tba (prototype) / stuff.tv/ProjectValerie 10
Oi, mate, want one of these?
Some things are too awesome to go back in the cupboard after a show. This was perhaps the thinking of the thief who stole both Valerie prototypes from CES.
23 PAGES OF THE BIGGEST STORIES FROM PLANET TECH
Gee, how do they sync?
By using Nvidia’s G-Sync tech. There’s one GeForce GTX 1080 graphics board in the laptop running all three displays with, says Razer, the very minimum of lag.
TALKING ABOUT THE PRETTY LIGHTS There’s more to those backlit keys than you might be aware. Razer’s Chroma system allows game developers to set colour profiles for particular games, highlighting useful keys as the fragging happens and adding ambience. And other hardware manufacturers can get in on the act too, incorporating Chroma tech into their smart home
products. Imagine your Philips Hue bulbs pulsing when you get hit. Razer has some hardware of its own: a projector system with the prototype name of Project Ariana. At the very least it’ll project screen-matching ambient colours, but it might also show peripheral action, or display your game’s map up on the wall next to your screen.
HOT FOUR #2 FINALLY! AN OLED RETORT TO LG BORES SONY BRAVIA A1
When the A1 TV arrives on British shop shelves, neighbourhood grownups are going to grab one. Why? Because that smuggins at no.42 won’t stop sniping on about his LG OLED TV – and now that Sony is doing an OLED, they can finally return fire. As delayed ripostes go, the A1 is a doozy. Wafer-thin but with a groovy tabletop stand, its 55in, 65in and 77in sizes will all be made perceptively bigger by the lack of bezel. The coup de grace will be the sound system: Sony has turned the whole screen into a driver, vibrated by actuators behind the glass. No way no.42 can parry that blow… unless he’s bought LG’s ultra-thin W7 TV (see below). The rat! As hot as… a screen that’s a speaker that’s also a screen £tba (due spring) / stuff.tv/BraviaA1
MEANWHILE AT NO.42… Our evil neighbour has indeed ordered LG’s new Signature W7, and we can’t blame him. Despite having all the 4K and HDR badges for its 65in and 77in sizes, it’s just 2.57mm thick, with an indiscernible magnetic wall mount. Cost aside, the only thought is where to put the Dolby Atmos soundbar, as it has all the gubbins and connections.
Nearly all your acronyms and buzzwords are here: 4K, HDR10, Dolby Vision, Android TV. ‘Nearly’? There’s no HLG, the specific HDR format recently trialled by the BBC.
HOT FOUR #3 RATED ‘U’ FOR UNMETAL HTC U ULTRA
If this were a film, someone would have just said “Yeah, the Vive and Google Pixel have been solid outings for HTC, but what it really needs is… wait, do you hear that?” Cut to a glass of water, vibrating, then WALLOP. A huge truck emblazoned with the words ‘HTC’s flagship smartphone resurgence’ comes crashing through the wall. Mouths gape; dust settles. A tiny door in the side opens (FX: dry ice) and out slides the HTC U Ultra. The drama is justified, as this is a radical phone. Curved glass body, 5.7in QHD screen and, above it, a smaller 160x1040-pixel screen showing icons of wisdom from the Sense Companion assistant software. Cut to: Stuff getting one for review… As hot as… melted glass $749 (£tba) / stuff.tv/HTCUUltra 13
Hey, that’s a big watch
Many people will say this to you as an F20 owner. And they’re right: 62mm across. But then, you can add: as it’s Wear 2.0, it has the entire Google Play Store in there.
HOT FOUR #4 WATCH YOU TAKING WITH YOU? CASIO PRO TREK SMART WSD-F20
If you’ll forgive our saying so, you look like someone who’s first. First up to check the surf, first onto the lake on your paddleboard, first to the summit, first back to the ski lift, first of your group to require reconstructive knee surgery. Early adopter, or just a FOMO go-getter, you might be interested in Casio’s new outdoorsy smartwatch. As we write this, it’s set to be the first to get the 2.0 14
version of Android’s Wear OS. That means more apps that work without a smartphone; and, helpfully, the F20 also has a low-power GPS chip built in. Except that you’ll have to take your phone with you anyway – no point being first at stuff if you’re not also first to Instagram it. As hot as… burnt orange £tba (due April) / stuff.tv/ProTrekSmart
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T A L S T A T S
DELL’S XPS IS NOW FLIPPIN’ HANDY Dell XPS 13
from £1349 / dell.com
How do you make the Dell XPS 13 better? You give it tablet morphing powers... ● Same name, new game Eagle-eyed Ultrabook fans will recognise the XPS 13 name, but Dell’s taken its powerful, portable and popular laptop and cracked it. Well, sort of: it’s scooped up the best bits of the existing XPS 13 – winner of the laptops supertest in our February issue – given them a boost and stuck them into a hybrid shell that will rotate right round on itself. 16
● Small talk The complicated hinge might have added heft, but the carbon fibre and aluminium body works hard: turning the scales to 1.2kg, it’s not tablet-light but it’s hardly a rock. It’s slimmer than a Surface Book, so it ought to slip nicely into your satchel. Dell says it’s the smallest 2-in-1 laptop in the world. ● Every trick’s in the ’book But there’s more. It’s also had a host of hardware upgrades, including the option of a nifty fingerprint scanner for use
with Windows Hello. The lineup includes Kaby Lake i5 and i7 chips, SSD storage up to 512GB, and 4GB or 8GB of RAM. ● Back to basics Sadly, there’s no 4K option for the 13.3in display, with the convertible XPS 13 retaining the Full HD and Quad HD+ resolution versions of the previous model – albeit now touch-enabled. Dell reckons it’ll do 15 hours on a single charge, though, which should be enough to get you through a fair few episodes of Rick and Morty.
THINNER THAN A S C BOOK, OO , SURFACE IT’S CLAIMED TO BE THE WORLD’S SMALLEST 2-IN-1 LAPTOP
Despite going all Autobot with its power to transform into a tablet, the convertible XPS is still a powerjockey that can compete with any laptop.
It’s Mindstorms for the under-10s (and us)
For all the startups making coding toys for kids, the giant mule that is Lego just Buckaroo’d their efforts into dust. Shame. But Boost does look great: a whole system of programmable pieces and a block-coding app, aimed at a lower age point than its existing Mindstorms codables. Instructions for five starter models come with Boost, including a playable guitar, a robot called Vernie and an AutoBuilder – a miniproduction line for making Lego models. But it’s the custom projects we’ll be excited about come August. Uh, excited for our kids, we mean. £tba (due August) / lego.com
A LITTLE LESS PORTABLE, A LOT LOUDER
DELL XPS 27 Should the lack of a 4K display on the XPS 13 be a deal-killer, this new all-in-one desktop might be the pixel-munching solution. While the 3840x2160 screen is impressive, it’s your ears that’ll be overjoyed. Unlike most all-in-ones that have a couple of speakers bodged in somewhere, the XPS 27 has ten. Let’s count ’em: four front-facing mid-range drivers, surrounded by two tweeters, plus two downward-firing full-range boosters and two passive bass radiators. In a word, whoomp! from $1500 / dell.com
An unobtrusive observer of over-indulgence
FUJIFILM FINEPIX XP120
Being dropped from a height of 1.75m, then dunked to 20m, then frozen to -10°C, and then rolling in some dust – well, that’s just a standard night out for us. But we don’t normally take a proper camera with us, because of the bulk. The XP120, despite its toughness, only weighs 203g. And it also has some clever remote shooting smarts, through a smartphone app, so we can even put it down somewhere during the really exciting moments. Now then, has anyone got any antiseptic spare? US$229 (£tba) / fujifilm.com
The bigger picture in tech
YOU SAY HELLO, I SAY… It’s all the fault of your parents, encouraging you to be popular. Get a decent tribe of family and friends, they said – you’ll never want for anything. Except for some bloody peace! The constant calls about trivialities like “coming home” or “when you’re coming to pick us up from school because it’s cold”. Sheesh. You’ve had to get yourself this $799 Navdy head-up display, which connects to your phone via Bluetooth and shows calls, texts, notifications, navigation and trip data. Gesture control lets you dismiss it all while barely diverting your eyes from what’s important in life: the road. Shut up, Casey F.
VR NOT ALONE
Having dunked our minds into VR gamescapes and been tickled by the notion, we now want to take things in there with us – which means attaching one of Vive’s new Trackers to them. Gloves, guitars, guns… expect to see these prongy wonders all over the VR universe this year.
WHAT’S ON, TV?
Amazon’s Alexa earnt her money at this year’s CES show, popping up on all sorts of gadgets (see p32). Google’s Assistant, only so far found on the Allo app, Home speaker and Pixel phones, has noticed: it has a new ‘OK, Google’ home in Android TVs and Nvidia’s Shield box (see p24).
Volkswagen, you can’t keep doing this. It hurts when you promise us a new bus but then don’t deliver. And yes, the twin-motor 4WD system sounds clever and useful, but it also sounds like a good reason why we won’t see it in real life any time soon. Stop this, VW. 19
A P P S
This month’s mobile must-downloads
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
DUET DISPLAY £7.99 / iOS, macOS
1 Brian Eno: Reflection
£30 / iOS, tvOS It’s quite spendy, but this latest collaboration between Eno and Peter Chilvers is like having brainy Brian live-remixing his latest album from inside your device. And he doesn’t even need feeding.
£free (IAPs) / iOS, Android Colouring-in is good for stress but bad for grinding paint into the carpet. Pigment is the best digital take around – unlike rubbish tapto-fill pretenders, this one feels like the real thing, just without mess.
3 The Happiness Planner
£2.29/month / iOS Can you really plan for happiness? Probably not, but this minimal freebie to-do manager wants to help you try, through reflection and focusing on what matters.
4 Sensual Sax
5 Galaxy on Fire 3
6 Atomic Pinball
7 Hitman GO
9 Pokémon GO
£3.99 / iOS There can’t be many apps with a massive ‘sex’ wheel – at least not that Apple would approve. But this virtual instrument is all about the sax: spin the wheel to make it look and sound smokier and sexier.
£1.49 / tvOS With its weirdly adorable take on assassination, turn-based stealth puzzler Hitman GO was perfect on mobile. Turns out it’s a hit (oho!) on Apple TV too. The superb Lara Croft GO has also been ported. 20
£free (IAPs) / iOS Although not actually on fire, the galaxy’s again being heated up by everyone shooting at each other. More linear and less Elite-style ‘bigness of space’, this third entry is ideal for budding Han Solos.
£4.49 / iOS ● £4.99 / Android The islands of the Uncharted Seas whiff of Zelda, but it’s great to see this adventure finally show up on Android. You have hours here of duffing up aggressive wildlife, pilfering bling and getting questy.
£2 per table / iOS, Android This gorgeous ball-spanger finally arrives on Android. You can choose between ‘crazed Mexican wrestling’ and ‘huge stompy robot’ themes, both tables offering plenty of noisy, high-octane action.
£free (IAPs) / watchOS Apple made a big deal last year about Pokémon GO coming to Apple Watch, and it’s now here… sort of. The wrist-based bit is just alerts and monitoring – sadly, you can’t flick your arm to hurl balls.
Perhaps you watched Apple’s MacBook Pro reveal and had a little cry. That Touch Bar looks pretty swish, but short of mortgaging your parents you’re never going to afford one. But if you’ve an existing Mac and an iPad knocking around, you can at least sample the delights of Apple’s latest innovation. Install Duet Display on the Mac and connect the iPad using a Lightning cable. The tablet then runs as a second display… and you can weld a virtual Touch Bar to the bottom of the screen to find out what all the fuss is about. If you’re on Windows you’re out of luck regarding the Touch Bar trick, but Duet Display works with Microsoft’s finest when it comes to basic dual-display functionality.
DECIPHER ALLOW ME TO EXPLAIN…
#19 QLED Think you can just Swann in here?
SWANN SMART SECURITY CAMERA A truly industrious burglar will, before turning over your abode, map your cameras and cut your cables… then cancel the milk and send off for a load of cruise holiday catalogues to be delivered to your house for ever more. The fiend. But he didn’t figure on you having bought a squadron of Swann wireless cameras – they’re battery-powered so you can put them wherever. Infrared movement detection will trigger a video clip, night or day, with room for 3000 such clips in its 8GB memory. Battery life is three months, before microUSB recharging is required. Should Wi-Fi still be up, you can get notifications from the camera and check the footage. Even if you’re away on a cruise. £tba / swann.com
WTF? Use the wheels to steer the hi-fi
OK. Here’s how TVs were in 2016: LG’s OLEDs were the best you could buy at any price; Samsung’s Quantum Dot sets were the best you could buy without remortgaging your house. For 2017, it’s all changed. Panasonic and Sony have joined LG on the OLED bandwagon, leaving Samsung as the only one of the big four TV companies still using ‘just’ LED. It’s bigging up its own tech, though, by coming up with the cheeky QLED name. A QLED television is an LED-backlit LCD TV with special colour-enhancing particles. These particles are tiny, between 2 and 10 nanometres in diameter, and are ridiculously efficient at producing saturated blues and reds. Samsung says QLED can produce brighter sets with greater colour accuracy – and that’s becoming a really important factor in TV land thanks to the rise of HDR (High Dynamic
SAMSUNG RECKONS IT CAN GET OLED-RIVALLING PERFORMANCE AT A LOWER PRICE WITH QLED A bit of a leap
SAMSUNG H7 Once you’ve bought one of these grand, shiny boomboxes and given it pride of place in your home, you’re going to have to sit down and make a list. Stick some music on while you do it. At the top of your bit of paper write “My new speaker can upscale 8-, 16- or 24-bit music to 32-bit”. Then underneath, in two columns, list those of your friends who will say “Wow, yeah, it sounds great” and those who will go “And you believe that, do you? Ha.” Stick the list in your pocket, and adjust your introductions to suit. Or, just don’t let the second lot in. Who wants a load of audiophile snobs in their home anyway? Let them stew in their own pessimism. £tba (due summer) / samsung.com
Range), which relies heavily on increased contrast, brightness and vibrancy to deliver its eye-popping pictures. The core difference is that, while QLED TVs require a backlight, OLED TVs don’t because each OLED pixel emits its own light. That’s good for contrast – one pixel can be pure black, while the one next to it can be spanky-bright. But another key difference will be price: OLED panels are still expensive, and Samsung reckons it can squeeze OLED-rivalling performance out of its QLED sets at a lower price point. We hope it’s right, and we’ll be finding out as soon as March.
S T A R T M E N U ST KIC AR K TE R
The latest startups, crowdfunded projects and plain crazy ideas
The temperature’s risin’ and it’s rather surprisin’
Some acquisitions are made after careful quantification. You establish that the item in question will have a positive effect on your life – in this case, a kettle that can be set to any temperature you choose, and will keep it there for up to 30 minutes. For a few dollars more, you can have the EKG+ version with Bluetooth, and fiddle with your temperatures from afar. See? All this is justifiable. But sometimes higher cogitation is bypassed – we really want one of these because we think the way it pours from that long, narrow spout will be gorgeous. from US$109 / fellowproducts.com BACK IT STACK IT
ST KIC AR K TE R
ST KIC AR K TE R
Hole lot of options
You’re so vein
Some part of you already knows that, after two tries of this ‘human joystick’ core trainer’s gyroscopic games, you’re just going to download episodes of Let The X-Voice Shine and sit captivated… not realising that you’re smashing world records for length of time in the plank position. US$179 / facebook.com/gameyourcore
A considerable amount of work has gone into establishing gradations of dog behaviour. After many years of top boffinry, we can now add ‘Unhappy Dog’ to ‘Good Dog’ and ‘Bad Dog’. Scientists want to further their research using your pet and this behaviour-recording collar. £tba / jagger-lewis.com
When Apple began taking ports off its computers, we couldn’t help but snort – a product aimed at multimedia pros with nowhere to plug in cameras? Yet now we marvel at the minimalism, and wait for products like HyperDrive – a USB-C adaptor for HDMI, DisplayPort, etc – to come along so we can deminimalise. US$99 / hypershop.com
Some of us have recently been re-watching the early works of Arnold Schwarzenegger. We noticed, while watching 1977’s Pumping Iron, what a lot of veins some people have on their biceps. Which is good, because that’s where this cunning mash-up of phone holder and optical HRM will be looking to pick up the beat. €99 / shapeheart.com
ST KIC AR K TE R
I GONDI GO E-
JAGGER & LEWIS SMART COLLAR
I C O N
E THL S ND IL NK A K LD WTHA E L TA HIE EN, OGL T S IST O AN L O G IST T SS A
NVIDIA SHIELD £190 / nvidia.co.uk
That’s an odd-looking Apple TV. Quite… largely because it isn’t one. Rather, it’s Nvidia’s sequel to the original Shield box, a TV streamermeets-games-console – and it also happens to be an Android powerhouse of big-screen thrills. I’ve already got a powerhouse. Well, we’re pleased for you. But this is a little bit different: powered by a Tegra X1 chip, it’s a seriously capable bit of kit – in fact, it’s at 24
least three times faster than the Roku Ultra, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV. Which is pretty nippy. What, so it’ll play my old DVDs? Actually, no – but it’ll do much better. Think 4K HDR content, straight to your telly. It plays nice with Amazon Instant Video, as well as handling 4K content from Netflix, YouTube and more. And games, naturally, are now gathered into a single menu, regardless of
whether they’re Android titles or streamed – either from your PC or from Nvidia’s online game system, GeForce Now. Game on. But can I talk to it? The Shield will listen, courtesy of Google Voice support. When Google Assistant arrives (shortly) the Shield will support that too, for a proper ‘home hub’ experience. Telling your TV box to turn up the house heaters. Whatever next, eh?
But what if I want even more? What, more than 4K pictures, hundreds of games and smart voice control in a sub-£200 box? That seems rather greedy. Still, Nvidia seems to have anticipated this, because it’s also releasing a £280 Pro model of the new Shield. That one packs 500GB of storage – making it an ideal home for the Plex media server, which is built in. If you want even more than that, you’re just being silly.
It’s looking at you too
ACER PREDATOR Z301CT During a gaming session, your wiggly fingers and burning-hot brain play very active roles. Your eyes, though, not so much. Just wobbling about in a stream of photons. It’s time for that to change. Tobii eye-tracking tech in this gaming monitor will – with compatible games such as Deus Ex – enable in-game actions or camera moves based on where you’re looking. Of course, you might flummox it by simply looking at your lovely new monitor. It’s a 2560x1080 30-incher, with 200Hz refresh and, ooh, look at the curved edges… No, concentrate! No more lazy-eyed gaming. €899 / acer.com
DROP EVERYTHING & DOWNLOAD
TomTom Sports £free / iOS, Android
We like TomTom’s wearable sports trackers, but it’s fair to say we’ve never been bowled over by their corresponding MySports app. This is a company that made its name through intuitive and minimalist sat-nav user interfaces, and yet its fitness app was both higgledy and, frankly, piggledy. Well, finally TomTom has given it a major scrub-down and dress-up. It’s now just called Sports, and promises to be a much more ordered hub for all your activity tracking. It’s got more powerful data analysis for serious sportsters, but also exercise reminders and social challenges for fitness funsters. You will need a TomTom watch: Touch, Runner, Spark and Adventurer are all supported.
Bargain among flagships
Time was, spending less than £300 on a smartphone meant risking a rough ride through shoddy components and sub-par performance. No more: the Honor 6X is the latest in a line of pound-friendly phones – and it brings some serious specs to the table. Sure, its design is hardly revolutionary, but there’s no arguing with an octa-core chip, two-day battery life and a dual-lens camera setup that should deliver stellar snaps whatever the weather. It’ll be a boon for the impatient too, unlocking in just 0.3 seconds via the fingerprint reader. £224 / hihonor.com
G A M E S
DUE 10 MAR
FIRST PLAY NIER: AUTOMATA PC, PS4 Chances are you didn’t play the original Nier game back in 2010. It’s a cult classic, which is what people call games that weren’t quite good enough to sell by the truckload. Quietly causing some excitement seven years later, though, is its sequel, which you don’t need to have played the original to understand. You play as 2B, who, as it turns out, isn’t a giant pencil but a sword-twirling humanoid robot. This being a Japanese game, 2B takes the form of an impossibly stretched femme fatale in 26
stockings, heels and a blindfold. Because that’s what we’d all put on for a day doing battle against an army of machines bent on our destruction, right? The most common machine you’ll come across looks a lot like the little green man from the Android logo, albeit made of concrete. But don’t be fooled by their chummy appearance. You’ll need to fight off their attacks using a combo of the giant swords on 2B’s back and a sentry gun that hovers over her shoulder, which can be fired independently of the
way she’s facing. That comes in handy when the game shifts perspective, becoming a top-down, twin-stick shooter reminiscent of the likes of Geometry Wars. At other times it flattens side-on to become a 2D scrolling platformer. Most of the time, though, this is a fairly familiar hack’n’slash that’s not entirely dissimilar to Bayonetta – probably because some of the same developers were involved in making both. Some dodgy voice acting aside, Nier: Automata is looming large on our gaming horizon.
FIRST LOOK BUILD A HOME AMONG THE STARS
OSIRIS: NEW DAWN PC Steam’s Early Access area might require an industrial-sized threshing machine to find your way through the chaff, but said contraption occasionally throws out one to watch. With its latest Dawn of Aziel update, survival-based space-’em-up Osiris: New Dawn is probably going to fall squarely into the ‘one to take a punt on’ crate. Like a cross between The Martian and Starship Troopers, it finds you crash-landed on an alien planet. Tsk,
typical. Fortunately, unlike The Martian’s lonely protagonist Mark Watney, you have friends to help you survive. At least, you can do. While No Man’s Sky made a point of your isolation, this planet can be explored and colonised with other human players by your side. And judging by the giant insect-like aliens that inhabit it, you’d probably be wise not to venture too far on your own. Whether you’re gathering minerals, cultivating resources on your rapidly
expanding base, braving the everchanging weather in the hope of taming an exotic alien species, or jumping in your spacecraft to explore the new ice world of Aziel, could this be the game you had in your head before playing NMS? Early Access means it’s not bug-free (“Sometimes when I’m in a cave I can still see the sun through the floor,” reads one psychedelic user comment), but even as a work in progress, there’s a lot to be excited about in the Gliese 581 system.
ALSO UNDER CONSTRUCTION… EARLY ACCESS GAMES
EVERSPACE PC, Xbox One If you’d prefer to explore the outer reaches of the galaxy from within the safe confines of a cockpit, Everspace lets you do so. But don’t get too comfortable gazing out of the window at that lovely scenery, because it won’t be long before a gang of space baddies turn up and try to put an end to your nice little sightseeing tour.
DAY OF INFAMY PC Battlefield might have finally returned to its retro roots, but with Call of Duty heading into space there’s a big crater in the market for a good old WW2 shooter. Day of Infamy’s online-only 32-player skirmishes strip things back to basics, so it’s all about good old-fashioned reactions and effective teamwork.
THE ART OF FIGHT PC The first-person multiplayer shooter is VR’s holy grail, but fast-paced movement is difficult to translate. Whether The Art of Fight’s push/pull system has solved the problem is up for debate, but using motion controllers to get around is better than bumping into a wall as you chase down a n00b with an assault rifle.
INCOMING MARCH ● HORIZON: ZERO DAWN ● GHOST RECON: WILDLANDS ● MASS EFFECT: ANDROMEDA ● SEA OF THIEVES APRIL ● SNIPER: GHOST WARRIOR 3 ● YOOKA-LAYLEE MAY ● RIME
C H O I C E
Because that Camden market Pokémon tee has seen better days
1 KITT Dashboard
Not sure about you, but we can easily divide our lives into three states of being: Auto Cruise, Normal Cruise and Pursuit. Occasionally, we’re just Parked. £11.99 / properganda.co.uk
2 Rabbit Hand Shadows
The longer you look, the more you start to question which side of the looking glass you’re even on. Is the dog actually wagging you? £17.37 / spreadshirt.co.uk
3 Origami Unicorn
It’s terrifically uncool to show any interest in the new Blade Runner remake. But this is subtle, right? You might just be a unicorn fan, something that’s never not cool. £20 / lastexittonowhere.com
4 Fin Tee
Some folk will think you’re a fan of French cinema, others that you’re a supporter of the British surfing scene. Just ignore that one guy going on about shark fin soup. £30 / finisterre.com
5 Ghetto Blaster
“Oh, cool. Is that one of those wearable tech T-shirts with the sewn-in speaker? So I just press here and… wow, OK. It’s not. Now I wish I had a rewind button.” £16 / homeofretro.com
6 I Want My MP3
Wonderfully, sublimely retro. The song is old, the format is antiquated and the very concept of a cringy text pun on a tee is deliciously 1990s. We love it. £8.99 / etsy.com
Over 170 brands booked with more to come!
24th – 26th February 2017. 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. every day at the Bristol Marriott City Centre Hotel
HI-FI, STREAMING, HOME CINEMA, PROJECTORS, VINYL, HEADPHONES - THEY ARE ALL AT BRISTOL!
ADMISSION Adults £12.50 on the door £11 online*
Multiple day tickets available online only Accompanied Children Under 16 FREE *online booking fee applies
BRANDS INCLUDE: Acoustic Energy, Air Audio, Albedo, Alpha Design Labs (ADL), Amphion, Anatech Distribution, Apollo Hi-Fi, Arcam, Armour Home Electronics, Art Vinyl, art:one, Astell & Kern, Astin Trew, Atacama Audio, Atlas Cables, Auden Distribution, Audeze, Audio Analogue, Audio Detail, Audio Note, Audio Technica, Audioengine, Audiolab, AudioQuest, Auralic, AV Tech Solutions, Avantgarde Acoustics, Bedini, Blue Horizon, Bluesound, Bowers & Wilkins, Brodmann Acoustics, Bryston, Buffalo Technology, Canton, CH Precision, Chord Company, Chord Electronics, Chord Mojo, Classé, Clearaudio, Clearer Audio, Computers Unlimited, Convert Technologies, Creaktiv, Creek Audio, Custom Design, Cyrus, Dali, Decent Audio, Devialet, Diverse Vinyl, DS Audio, Dynaudio, ELAC, Elipson, Epos, Esoteric, Exposure, Focal, Fostex, Furutech, GamuT, Goldring, Grado, Graham Audio, Harbeth Audio, Hegel, Henley Designs, Hi-Fi Racks, Hi-Fi+, HiFi Critic, hORNS, IAG, Icon Audio, iFi Audio, Innuos, IsoAcoustics, IsoTek, JL Audio, Karma AV, Kate Koeppel, KEF, Keith Monks, Kennerton, Knosti, Kog Audio, Kudos Audio, Larsen, Leema Acoustics, Lehmann, Markaudio-Sota, Mass Fidelity, MCRU, Melco Audio, Meze, Michell Engineering, Ming Da, Mission, Miyajima, Monitor Audio, MSHD Power, Music First Audio, Musical Fidelity, Musical Surroundings, Nagaoka, Naim Audio, Neat Acoustics, Nordost, Novaﬁdelity, NuForce, NuNu Distribution, Onkyo, Opera Loudspeakers, Ophidian Audio, Oracle Audio, Orbitsound, Ortofon, Pioneer, Plato, PMC, Power Wrap, Pre Audio, Pristine Vinyl, Pro-Ject, ProAc, PSB, Puritan Audio Laboratories, Q Acoustics, Q-Up, QED, Quad, quadral, Quadraspire, Questyle, Rega, REL Acoustics, Roksan, Rotel, Ruark Audio, Russell K, Scansonic, SCV Distribution, Select Audio, Sennheiser, Silent Mounts, Sonic Design, Sony, Sota Acoustics, Sound Fowndations, Spendor, SSC, Supra Cables, T+A, TAD, Tangent, Teac, Technics, Tellurium Q, The Vinyl Adventure, Timestep, Tonar International, Townshend Audio, Unison Research, van den Hul, Vinyls Best, Vivac, Wavelength Distribution, Wharfedale, What Hi-Fi?, Wilson Benesch and many more...
Students & Seniors (over 65) £11 on the door £9.50 online*
BOWERS & WILKINS demonstrate the 800 Series Diamond in a variety of conﬁgurations for the ﬁrst time in the UK
£10,000 OF HI-FI TO BE WON IN THE WHAT HI-FI? SHOW COMPETITION
Q ACOUSTICS The world’s ﬁrst public demonstration of the Concept 500 loudspeakers
REGA launch a new version of their best selling entry level integrated 50wpc stereo ampliﬁer - the Brio
SAVE TIME & MONEY Buy Your Tickets * Online
NAIM AUDIO Discover Uniti by Naim, the revolutionary new streaming platform
Witness the launch of dozens of new products, with many brought directly from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas
NOVAFIDELITY The NEW X50 Music Server with database plus much more OPHIDIAN The Prophet P1 and P2 high performance loudspeakers will make their debut alongside the award winning M-series
GETTING TO THE SHOW BY TRAIN: Temple Meads Station is a short distance from the Marriott. BY CAR: From the M4 take J19 (M32 - Bristol). Follow signs for City Centre and RAC signs to the Show. For those using satellite navigation systems the hotel post code is BS1 3AD. Easy local parking in Cabot Circus car park and Broadmead and Bond Street NCPs.
www.bristolshow.co.uk For the latest news and a full list of brands exhibiting please visit our website
In association with
T A L S T A T S
THE MOST POWERFUL 4K CAMERA EVER Panasonic DMC-GH5
The GH5 has a lovely deep grip, five customisable buttons and an OLED display.
from £1699 (body only) / panasonic.co.uk
There are 4K cameras and there are 4K cameras. And Panasonic’s new Lumix GH5 is the most 4K camera we’ve seen yet. ● This is why you should be interested
When you’re chatting about 4K video nowadays there are a whole load of other buzzwords to contend with. The Panasonic Lumix GH4’s stellar successor, the GH5, packs the whole lot of them into a ‘compact’ system camera that’s actually the size of your average DSLR. That means 60fps and 10-bit recording, as well as HDR.
● And this is that bit, but in plainer language
If you invested in an Ultra HD Premium-certified TV last year, such as LG’s OLED55C6V or the Samsung UE55KS7000, then the GH5 is a camera that can film footage worthy of your lovely new screen. It’s basically the most advanced 4K camera you can buy. And, accordingly, it’s expensive. The Lumix GH5 will cost £1699 (without a lens) when it launches in March.
● Plain language abandoned: more techy jargon here
As you’d expect for that kind of money, the GH5 is handy at still
images too. This Micro Four Thirds camera has a megapixel count of 20.3 – that’s up from 16.05MP in its predecessor – while its new Digital Live MOS sensor has ditched the low-pass filter for sharper images and finer details. Plus, with a hand from Panasonic’s latest Venus Engine image processor, this thing is capable of lightning-quick autofocusing speeds despite having no less than 225 AF points, where the GH4 only had 49. And we haven’t even got round to mentioning the upgraded 5-axis Dual Image Stabiliser, which lessens blurring in your photos and video.
THE GH5 CAN FILM FOOTAGE WORTHY OF YOUR ULTRA HD PREMIUM TV
WTF IS QUADROFOIL? That looks like a devilish dodgem car.
Hair today, trolled tomorrow
KERASTASE HAIR COACH BY WITHINGS Have a little look around. Do you see anything you’re sure isn’t smart? There! Didn’t that coffee pot just wink at you? That’s because it just read on the internet all about your hair. Your smart brush has been telling tales on you, and not just to the app. It has a festoonage of sensors, including accelerometers for measuring how you brush, force sensors for how hard you brush and – remarkably – a microphone for deducing your hair quality from the noise of the brushing. £200 / withings.com
It basically is. If you swap the wheels for foils and the electro-stick for an electrooutboard. And put it on water. Anyway, the Q2S Limited Edition is a seriously cool bit of kit. Sibling of the standard Q2S, this floater was designed by Slovenian firm Quadrofoil as a fast future for aqua transport.
Faster than my paddleboard?
It’ll top 40km/h, courtesy of a 5.5kW electric motor. Securely buoyant at rest, it rises up onto its foils at 12km/h, reducing drag and cutting through the chop like Sweeney Todd. There’s seating for two, so you’ll be able to show off your skills to your henchman/hostage/evil love interest.
It’s got holes in the side. Won’t I get my Sean Connery suit soaking wet? There might be a bit of spray, yes – but it’s all in the name of weight reduction. Composite materials mean the modular hull is seriously lightweight, with the whole craft hitting the scales at just 335kg.
I like my water crossings like my cookies: big. How far can this thing go? Well, it runs on two lithium-ion batteries which, in optimum conditions, will see you buzzing about for two hours – or around 80km. That’s more than enough time for a good Monaco harbour chase montage. Plus, no petrol means no direct emissions, and an operating cost of just €1 per hour.
So I can take it out to sea?
DENON AH-D7200 We’re love-rats, us. One minute we’re proclaiming ourselves totally committed to one pair of headphones and then, with a flash of walnut, we’re heading for the door. But can you blame us? You can, and you should. Deplorable. But there’s no denying that the D7200s are an alluring prospect. Try to resist those resonance-damping walnut housings and the sheepskin leather earpads. Plus, Denon has thrown all its audio know-how into the 50mm nano-fibre drivers. The best part? They’re available now. £699 / denon.co.uk
If you’re feeling dangerous, yes, though a decent swell might soon see you covered in salty spray. We’d be up for trying to get it across the Channel, if only Quadrofoil would lend us one to try.
Alright, sign me up.
Ah, sorry. True villains have beaten you to it. Only 100 units of the Q2S Limited Edition were made available for purchase – and they’ve all sold, even before they’ve been built. You can order a standard Q2S Electric, though, and it’ll be yours in summer for the sum of €30,000.
B E S T O F
ALEXA’S NEW FRIENDS The sweet-voiced virtual assistant is talking her way into lots of manufacturers’ R&D departments
LG Hub Robot
Ford Sync 3
Lenovo Smart Assistant
We like our Amazon Echo but, let’s be honest, it’s lacking in the face department. That’s not the case with the LG Hub, which likes going to fancy dress parties as Eve from Wall-E. Thanks to Alexa integration, it can do the usual voice-controlled tasks like finding out the weather or streaming your music. And if you happen to have a house full of LG appliances, it’ll control them too. £tba / lg.com
Uh-oh, Alexa’s learned how to leave the house. Ford’s tie-in will roll out in two stages. First, round about now, owners of the Ford Focus Electric, Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi get ‘home to car’ functionality that’ll let them use an Echo to lock and unlock doors and check its charge, all while sipping a brew in the kitchen. More excitingly, in the summer any Ford owners with Sync 3 will get in-car Alexa access. ford.co.uk
Alexa has made the leap into a more colourful cylinder known as the Lenovo Smart Assistant. With the same voicecontrolled abilities as the Echo, the main difference comes with the design – and, thanks to a Harman Kardon edition, the promise of better sound quality. Sadly, Brits will have to carry on pretending to talk to their Pringles, as Lenovo says it has no plans for a UK release. But it will be heading to US stores in the spring. from $130 / lenovo.com
SEVENHUGS SMART REMOTE If you’ve never pointed a normal remote at a universal remote and ‘taught’ it IR codes button by button, then you’ve got no right showing your face round here. Those of you still reading, good news: this smart remote needs a LOT of setting up. It uses wall-mounted spatial sensors to identify where you’re pointing and changes its touchscreen display to suit. Once it’s set up – Sonos speakers, Hue lightbulbs, Apple TV, PlayStation 4 etc – you’ll feel like a master of the dark arts, waving your wand and making change happen. But really it’s the programming part we’re looking forward to. from US$229 / remote.sevenhugs.com
DROP EVERYTHING & DOWNLOAD
The Battle of Polytopia
£free (IAPs) / Android, iOS As is becoming increasingly apparent, any old muggins can rule the world. And here’s how we’re going to do it better: we’re going to practise first. But only a little. Rather than investing weeks and months in a full sim-world game like Civilization, The Battle of Polytopia is a mobile-based ‘explore, expand and exterminate’ game, which has auto-generated maps to prevent your world-conquering skills from getting complacent. It has various modes concentrating on your favourite of those three desires, but none of them should take you much longer than it takes to, say, get a stone tablet made depicting your party manifesto.
Three into 4 does not go
GARMIN FENIX 5, 5S, 5X Rather than go from the Fenix 3, of which there is one, to three models called Fenix 4, which would be weird, Garmin has missed out 4 and gone straight to Fenix 5… of which there are, as aforesuggested, three models. All clear? They’re all jammed with the same comprehensive array of Garmin’s finest sensory whatnots – the exception being the Fenix 5X, which is the biggest, and therefore able to display Garmin Topo mapping. The smallest of the trio, the 42mm 5S, is carefully pitching itself at female fitness fans, with the only casualty of its size being some stamina. from £500 / garmin.com
THE HOUSE OF MARLEY GET TOGETHER MINI Should you be the kind of person who thinks all modern music is recycled, it might amuse you that a large proportion of this Bluetooth speaker is also sustainably sourced. The Get Together Mini is made from bamboo, hemp, organic cotton and recycled plastic. Inside is a 10hr battery, charged via microUSB, that powers two 1in tweeters, two 2.5in woofers and a passive bass radiator. Double duty as a Bluetooth handsfree comes courtesy of the built-in microphone; and if the leafy skin isn’t to your taste you can get it, karma and all, in either black or denim blue. But who wants to be black or blue when you have a speaker capable of jungle camouflage? £130 / thehouseofmarley.co.uk
A for affordable, but A for adorable too
SAMSUNG GALAXY A SERIES So you’re paying, what, £50 or £60 a month for that flashy phone there? These new Samsungs represent another path: one where you buy the phone outright, bag yourself a competitive SIM deal and save yourself maybe £30 a month. That’s a PS4 game, or subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon and Now TV. Or a monthly debit for a couple of charities, so you can walk proudly past those clipboard chuggers. This concept isn’t new, but the Galaxy A3 and A5 make it worth revisiting – these 4.7in and 5.2in Androids are waterproof, with more RAM, more storage and bigger batteries than previous Samsung models in this price bracket. Just think about it, is all we’re saying. from £299 / samsung.com
USE IT WITH…
Rejoice! You’re no longer tethered to a contract. But now you can’t call your friends. Try Giffgaff’s bargain SIM-only deals. from £5/month / giffgaff.com
FUTURE STUFF BALANCING BIKES
Fraser Macdonald leathers up in anticipation of an undroppable moto
Honda appears to have an R&D budget to rival that of Wayne Enterprises. The latest madcap mash-up to come out of its mucking-about barn is this motorcycle with self-balancing tech. At speeds below 3mph – when a rider would normally be instinctively taking a foot off the pegs – the system electro-twerks the fork angle and rake to keep the bike upright. The tech comes from Honda’s work developing the Uni-Cub, a one-wheel vehicle for people with mobility issues – think sit-on 34
Segway. Its engineers have basically bolted one of these to the front of a Honda NC750 street bike. At this point you’re thinking, “So what? I’m pretty sure I’m capable of riding a normal motorcycle, but I don’t because I have a car. Which has a heater.” Fair enough. But, you’ll have noticed, car ownership on our crowded streets is becoming progressively less viable and/or enjoyable. Coupled with the ongoing catastrophe of Britain’s expensive and shambolic public transport system, an
Asia-aping move towards mass transit on two-wheelers makes a lot of sense – and so any new tech that could make riding in traffic easier and safer is sure to raise our eager eyebrows. But forget all that socio-economic stuff, because we’re missing out on the real reason this is cool. A bike that balances itself doesn’t even need a rider! Which means it can be summoned from its parking space – possibly by shouting “To me, BatBike!” But that’s at your discretion.
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Moon LEGO WORLDS PS4, XBOX ONE, PC
● NEXT ISSUE April The Nintendo Switch takes the stage On sale 02/03/17
(2009) For no reason at all…
Perhaps excited by having seen Scarborough built in Minecraft – you do take on all our suggestions, we hope – the arrival of Lego Worlds might be of interest too. Lego’s world-building, questcompleting game is going for full release on both PC and consoles.
the cloned sheep unveiled
20 YEARS AGO
18th COASTIVAL 2017 SCARBOROUGH
Feb’s upside your head
This year’s seaside arts and music festival has an ‘Unexpected’ theme, but here’s one thing you can count on: Krash Labs and local children have created a virtual version of the town in Minecraft, which you’ll be able to explore. Handy if it’s raining in real Scarborough.
HAMLET ALMEIDA, LONDON
BBC Three goes digital
8th EDINBURGH MOUNTAIN FILM FESTIVAL
Your average film festival is full of foreign-language weirdness. A mountain film festival, though, has snappy, action-packed flicks bookended with talks by inspirational people such as cancersurviving polar explorer Luke Robertson. 36
● SUMMIT TO TALK ABOUT Steph Davis BASE jumper Greg Boswell Climber Jamie Andrew Amputee adventurer
THRILL-POWER OVERLOAD REDUX FORTY YEARS OF 2000AD Britain’s world-famous sci-fi comic had its 30th birthday in 2007. We missed it. You missed it. We were all busy. But, ker-zap!, it’s updated its 400-page retrospective hardback with the extra ten years, for us lateniks.
Watch Luisa Omielan’s What Would Beyoncé Do?
● OR, STAY IN AND PLAY… Ryan North’s To Be Or Not To Be iOS, Android / £3.99
[ Picture Spraoi/Tony Bartholomew ]
You (sotto voce): ’Ere, it’s that Andrew Scott off the telly. He plays creepy Moriarty alongside Benedict Cumberface in the BBC’s Sherlock. Which is interesting, because the Cumberman also played Hamlet a couple of years ago, at the Barbican!
Includes: UNCHARTED 4 THE LAST GUARDIAN RATCHET & CLANK NO MAN’S SKY
WIN A PS4 SLIM GAMING BUNDLE WORTH £440 There are some fun things you can do in life that don’t require a PlayStation – snowboarding, eating chips, watching two greyhounds argue over a tennis ball – but we’d trade most of them for an evening of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, the top title in Stuff’s console games Top Ten. And if you threw in the console for free, plus a gaming headset and three more cracking games – The Last Guardian, Ratchet & Clank and No Man’s Sky – we might just have a bit of a swoon. Well, as you’ve probably worked out by now, that’s the prize in this month’s competition: one winner gets a PS4 Slim (worth £204), the slinkier new version of our favourite games machine, plus a PS4 Platinum Wireless Headset (£129), with 7.1 virtual surround sound for total sonic immersion in your gaming worlds, and those four highly rated titles with a combined value of £107. Sounds like a whole lot of fun to us – and you can always go back to the greyhounds afterwards.
HOW TO ENTER
For the chance to really up your game, simply go to stuff.tv/win and answer this challenging question:
WHAT’S THE NAME OF THE CENTRAL CHARACTER IN UNCHARTED 4: HURRY! A THIEF’S END? COMPETITION CLOSES A … Nathan Drake 9 MARCH B … Nathan Woodpecker 2017 C … Terence Trent-D’Arby the Merciless Terms & conditions 1 Open to UK residents aged 18 or over. 2 Entries close 11.59pm, 9 March 2017. 3 Prizes are as stated. 4 Prizes are non-transferable. 5 Only one entry per person. For full Haymarket terms and conditions see stuff.tv/win Promoter: Haymarket, 69 London Road, Twickenham TW1 3SP
GADGET WARS p48
NIKON VS CANON
MAC VS PC
PLAYSTATION VS XBOX
T H E CR OW N D U E LS 38
GADGET WARS SAMSUNG VS LG
PSVR VS VIVE
GOOGLE VS APPLE
[ Words Tom Wiggins Photography Matthew Beedle ]
We lco me t o t h e grea t S t u f f fa n b oy fa c e -o f f, wh ere we pu t t ech ’s bi g r i v a l r i e s t o t h e t e s t an d d eci d e wh at ’s rea l ly wo r t hy o f yo u r l oy a l t y 39
GOOGLE VS APPLE G O OG LE P IXE L XL VS A P PLE i PHON E 7 P LU S
Sega vs Nintendo, ketchup vs brown sauce, Apple vs Google – all great rivalries of our times. But while one war is over and one depends entirely on what you’re eating, Apple and Google continue to fight it out for smartphone supremacy.
D I S P LAY
Google usually lets someone else design its phones, but the Pixel is all its own work. Saying that, there are some pretty obvious, er, inspirations. Those rounded corners and antenna stripes sure look familiar. The two-tone metal/glass won’t be to all tastes and the placement of the fingerprint scanner on the back divides opinion, but there’s no arguing about the big bezels on the front. What’s the point when Android uses on-screen buttons? Headphone socket removal aside, Apple might not have drastically changed the iPhone’s design since 2014, but we’ll take subtle refinements over a flawed tribute.
Both phones arrive at this fight with 5.5in displays… but as any insecure man will tell you, it’s not the size that matters, it’s what you do with it that counts. The Pixel’s 2560x1440 AMOLED panel does make the iPhone’s look a little lacking in dots, even if Apple has made the iPhone 25% brighter than before, with more colours squashed in too. But it can’t quite compete with the Pixel’s pitch-dark blacks and rich contrast, which put it up there with this generation’s very best. In the real world the difference might not be that noticeable, but you’ll know on the inside. And that’s what really matters, right?
WINNER iPHONE 7 PLUS
WINNER PIXEL XL
GADGET WARS 719 / from £ om .c g o o g le
719 / fr o m £ .u k o th re e .c
W H AT A I D YO U S need Will youxt e n your to have phone phone a head socket?
27% 29% 44% , wires ● Nope015 2 o s are I’ll ● Meh, manage probably love ● Yep, I phones my head
B E ST O F T HE R E ST You might be able to shun Apple easily, but with Android, Google’s influence is never too far away…
CA ME RA The 7 Plus is the only iPhone to get Apple’s nifty dual-lens setup: one wide-angle, one telephoto. It means the camera’s more versatile, with optical image stabilisation, 2x optical zoom and a neat Portrait mode, which combines the two cameras to throw the background out of focus to simulate bokeh – the holy grail for proper photographers. On the Pixel XL, a 12.3MP sensor and powerful HDR+ mode combine for some impressively detailed snaps, with consistently excellent colours and exposure. There’s no optical stabilisation but the autofocus is speedy and shutter lag is non-existent. The unlimited storage on Google Photos is also a nice touch. It’s a close call, but…
WINNER iPHONE 7 PLUS
SAMSUNG GALAXY S7 E DGE Proof that Google doesn’t necessarily make the best Android phones, Samsung’s S7 Edge might be expensive but still leads the way in design.
O NEPLUS 3T Barely half the price of the Pixel XL, the OnePlus 3T is still the best value Android phone, even if the upgrade from 3 to 3T did make it more expensive.
HTC 1 0 It’s been a quiet time for HTC; and while the 10 can’t quite match its rivals, it does the fundamentals brilliantly, with a two-day battery life, pristine screen and sleek design. 42
BAT T E RY
Some people swear by the rigid familiarity of iOS, while others are certain it’s stuck in the past. The truth is there’s no right or wrong here, but the more we use it the more convinced we’ve become by 3D Touch, with most major apps now supporting its pressure-sensing tricks. The Pixel, on the other hand, is the first phone to get Android Nougat updates and patches. It’s also the purest form of the OS you can get, untouched by manufacturers or networks adding their own ‘helpful’ apps and skins. In all honesty, the differences between the two systems are probably smaller now than ever… but if you’re aligned with one, that won’t stop you slagging off the other, will it?
No matter how many cool features your smartphone has, it’s of no use if it runs out of juice quicker than a marathon runner’s fridge. iPhones are notoriously lacking in stamina but the 7 Plus’s bigger battery keeps it trucking for longer than ever. Even if you barely put it down it’ll get you through a whole day, with Low Power mode on hand to help you eke out those extra few minutes when things do get critical. The Pixel XL, on the other hand, deals well with normal day-to-day stuff but struggles to cope with more intensive work, like streaming video. Good job it comes with a fast charger, then, which can suck in seven hours of juice in just 15 minutes.
WINNER iPHONE 7 PLUS
P OWE R & STORAGE
Neither of these phones has expandable storage, so you’re stuck with whatever capacity you plump for from the beginning – that’s what cloud storage is for, right? – but Apple trumps the Pixel with its 256GB option, which is most likely more than you’ll need. As for sheer grunt, the iPhone comes out on top in benchmark tests thanks to its bespoke A10 chip, whereas the Google phone is using the same off-the-shelf Snapdragon silicon that all its rivals have to choose from. That doesn’t make it a weakling, though – it chomps through anything you throw at it with ease – but it’s the iPhone’s custom-made muscle that comes out on top here.
So what makes these glowing rectangles stand out from each other? Of course, each has its own AI assistant, but neither yet feels like an indispensable feature for a phone (the Amazon Echo is better because it just needs to be able to hear, rather than having to be fished out of your pocket first.) While the iPhone is now certifiably waterproof, the Pixel is still scared of the wet stuff, although we are quite taken by its Live Cases, which let you print your own photograph onto a slimline protective jacket. These also come with an NFC-enabled button on the back that you can program to open the camera, turn off your Wi-Fi or launch a particular app.
WINNER iPHONE 7 PLUS
WINNER PIXEL XL
WHY I’M TEAM iOS Android is customisable, but I don’t need all that stuff to post pictures of funny-shaped veg. As far as I’m concerned it might as well not be there at all. Tom Wiggins, Deputy Editor WHY I’M TEAM ANDROID Who cares about the OS? Android and iOS are near enough the same, except you can get a decent Android phone for £200. Debate over. Richard Purvis, Production Ed
OVERALL WINNER iPHONE 7 PLUS As good as its camera is, the Pixel XL is proof that Google needs help from its hardware mates if it wants to beat Apple at the smartphone game 43
M AC V S P C TOUCH AND GO
WHAT YOU SAID
If the Touch Bar is going to take off, Apple needs to get thirdparty devs on board. In the end, it’s the muscle memory of shortcut-happy Photoshoppers that will dictate whether the Touch Bar ever gets any love. Ross Presly, Deputy Art Editor
The Touch Bar on Apple’s new MacBook Pro is...
12% 36% 52% ● Undoubted genius ● Gimmicky genius ● Just a gimmick
from £1299 / dell.com
from £2349 / apple.com
M i t che l l and We bb might not be on the ads any more but M ac v s PC i s s t i l l a tech tu s s l e for ou r times. Are Mac s s t i l l j u s t fo r p ro de s igners and ’tache-tw iddl ing hip s ters ? PRO LAPTOPS
MICROSOFT SURFACE BOOK VS APPLE iPAD PRO
DELL XPS 15 VS APPLE MACBOOK PRO 15IN Who’d have predicted 12 months ago that the humble QWERTY keyboard would see the most controversial change in laptop design since Apple whipped the optical drive off the MacBook Air? And it’s Apple that’s at it again, ditching the top line of keys and replacing them with a multi-touch strip that can display emojis and tools, changing depending on what program you’re using at the time. BUTTON UP Dell’s XPS 15 is more traditional, sticking to those tried and tested buttons for its keyboard. It comes in at over a £1000 cheaper than the entry-level MacBook Pro, and under the hood you’ll find a quad-core Intel i7 processor, 8GB RAM, a 256GB hard drive teamed with a 32GB SSD, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M video card. Only the top-spec model gets a 4K display. Even boosting the memory, supercharging the processor and going fully solid state still won’t raise the asking price as high as the cheapest MacBook Pro (and we use ‘cheapest’ in the loosest possible sense).
THE POWERS THAT BE Let’s not pretend the MacBook isn’t a rip-snorting powerhouse, though. The Touch Bar might add too much to the price considering how useful it is (that is, not useful enough), but even its most basic model goes toe to toe with Dell’s most expensive one in almost every area. The Pro’s screen is an absolute doozy, and have you seen the size of its touchpad? It’s a whopper. In truth, neither of these laptops offers great battery life… but if you’re opting for the larger screen size, chances are portability isn’t your number one concern . ANY PORT IN A STORM If you’re a fan of ports the MacBook’s four USB-Cs and a headphone socket probably won’t satisfy your appetite for holes; but the Dell’s list is hardly exhaustive either: two USB 3.0 ports, one USB-C/Thunderbolt, one HDMI and a headphone socket. Still, at least you get an SD card reader – and you can still charge your iPhone on it.
WINNER XPS 15
MICROSOFT SURFACE STUDIO VS APPLE iMAC
fro from £12 £1299
from £54 £549
It might look like a regular laptop but the 13.5in touchscreen on Microsoft’s Surface Book comes away from that fancy hinge, turning it into a Windows 10 tablet. Microsoft recently powered it up with an i7 processor, which means better graphics and 30% more battery life, but we’re yet to be convinced by Windows 10 as a tablet OS. Apple’s 9.7in Pro, however, combines the portability of an iPad Air with the power and versatility of its larger sibling. Chuck in the Pencil (£99) and you have one of the best graphics tools available today. The Surface Book might look and behave like a proper laptop but Apple’s iPad Pro better suits how we use computers these days.
All-in-one desktops aren’t the obvious place to look for exciting new tech, but Microsoft’s Surface Studio has turned more heads than Go To Work Naked Day. With its Core i5 or i7 processor, Nvidia GTX 980M graphics, 32GB RAM, 28in touchscreen that can be folded pretty much flat, and the nifty Surface Dial – which attaches to the screen and allows you to scroll through tools and select different colours – it’s an arty type’s dream desktop. Aside from making its next iMacs thinner and squeezing in more pixels, Apple’s going to have to do something far more interesting to distract us from the genius of Microsoft’s Surface Studio.
WINNER iPAD PRO
OVERALL WINNER PC A closely fought battle sees the PC emerge victorious – but there’s no ignoring Apple’s attempts to innovate, even if they don’t always work 45
SAMSUNG VS LG
SAMSUNG UE55KS9000 VS LG OLED55C6V Samsung favours LCD over OLED, so while its blacks perhaps aren’t quite as all-consuming as the LG’s, its picture quality is stunning, with bounteous detail, buttery-smooth movement and impressive HDR performance.
Black pixels on an OLED panel really are black, as there’s no backlight – when the whole picture’s dark you’ll think you’ve sat on the power button. But it’s when it’s in full bloom that the LG dazzles, stuffed with colour and detail.
WINNER OLED55C6V A telly this thin really has no right to sound any good at all… but while we’d never say a soundbar is unnecessary, a 60W 4.1 setup means this Samsung is more than capable for everyday stuff like University Challenge or Westworld.
When it came to making the speakers, LG got on the blower to Harman Kardon for some help. The result is a sound that’s far better than the TV’s slimline appearance would suggest… though it could still do with a decent soundbar.
For many people the jury’s still out on curved tellies, but there’s a good chance you’ll be too busy admiring how thin the LG is to even notice the bend. Seriously, we’ve seen fatter phones than this television in recent months.
WINNER UE55KS9000 Despite its 55in screen there’s hardly anything to the KS9000. There’s practically no bezel around the display and all the connections go through a separate box that plugs into the back, so trailing wires are kept to a minimum.
WINNER OLED55C6V The Samsung’s neatest trick is the ability to connect a PS4 controller to play games. Don’t expect anything to rival Titanfall 2 or Battlefield 1 – mobile games are the order of the day – but at least you get to use a proper controller.
LG’s WebOS 3.0 has some neat tricks. Split-screen mode lets you watch two channels at once, while Magic Zoom is like having goal-line tech on your TV, letting you pause the action, magnify any detail and screenshot it.
OVERALL WINNER LG OLED55C6V Samsung offers a good deal… but if it’s the best of the best you’re after, the LG OLED offers a good deal more 46
These two titans of telly frequently trade places at the top… but in a world of 4K and HDR, who deser ves to be the centrepiece of your living room right now?
£1499 / johnlewis.co.uk
from £1799 / currys.co.uk
S AMS UNG UE5 5 K S 7000
Half the price of the KS9000 but still a real stonker of a telly. There’s a chance this is the best value TV that can show you a 4K picture.
LG O L ED65 E6V
If you thought the C6V was pricey, start saving for the £3699 E6V. It has a built-in soundbar that auto-calibrates for your living room.
S ON Y 5 5X D9305
This super-svelte Sony is superb, but it’s its ability to play PS3 games without a console in sight that we like. Just connect a controller. 47
N I KO N V S C A N O N WHAT YOU SAID
WHY I WON’T DITCH MY DSLR
It’s time to buy a new camera. Are you...?
Sure, it weighs more than a CSC and I can’t fit it in my pocket, but I can bang my DSLR off a rock and not worry about breaking it. Most crucially, there’s no substitute for having a proper viewfinder if you ask me. Rob Leedham, Editor
6% 33% 61% ● Clearly a compact fan ● Definitely a DSLR user ● Fine with your phone
£870 (body only) / store.nikon.co.uk
£1049 (body only) / store.canon.co.uk
Fanboy s don’t get mu ch more l oyal than thos e w ho al i g n t he ms el ves w ith either Canon or Nik on. Bu t w hi ch s ide w il l you c ome dow n on? MID-RANGE
NIKON D5 VS CANON 1DX MK2
NIKON D3400 VS CANON 750D
When it comes to top-end full-frame snappers, there are only two brands you’ll see hanging around the necks of pros: Canon and Nikon. Which one they choose is often dictated by experience, but put all that aside and you’ve got a head-to-head. In terms of megapixels there’s little to split them, but in an ISO fight the D5 wins at a canter. In practice, both take great shots in low light but the Nikon has the potential to go darker. Judged on rapid-fire papping, the Canon can shoot off a couple more frames than the Nikon, although that does mean the D5 can keep going for longer on a single battery. If shooting in 4K is your priority, the Nikon’s 3min limit makes the Canon a better option.
If you’re just dipping your toe into the chilly waters of DSLR ownership all those acronyms and lens options can be pretty scary. But Canon and Nikon both have very affordable cameras that ease you in gently, so you’ll be frolicking in the warm fountains of photography before you know it. Canon’s 750D is ideal for a beginner, with a 24MP sensor that’s capable of taking lovely pictures plus all-manner of user-friendly features such as a twisty-turny touchscreen and built-in Wi-Fi. Nikon’s rival D3400 is smaller and lighter, and will also take lovely snaps, but it lacks some of the 750D’s modern smarts. So, close though it is between them, we’d go for the Canon.
NIKON D7200 VS CANON EOS 80D They might be under attack from compact system cameras by the likes of Fuji, Sony and Olympus, but if it’s a proper DSLR you want, nobody knows how to make one better than Canon and Nikon. Similarly priced and specced, the 80D and D7200 aren’t cameras built for beginners – but if you’re looking to make the step up from your first DSLR, these two very capable snappers will be vying for your attention. WIRELESS WONDERS The Nikon is hardly revolutionary. Its 24.2MP APS-C sensor and 51-point autofocus system are practically the same as its predecessor’s and it looks pretty much identical, but Nikon has boosted the max ISO to 25,600 and added Wi-Fi and NFC. They’re hardly vital features but will make things feel a bit more friendly. The Canon also comes with a 24.2MP sensor and the same wireless skills (although thankfully with a better companion app), but it adds a big, responsive touchscreen that can be used to compose and even shoot your pictures. The only negative? It’s a bit on the hefty side.
GOING DARK When it comes to the actual photos, the D7200’s are sharp and rich with accurate colours, but it’s after dark that this Nikon probably does its finest work. Even with a bog standard lens stuck to the front, its low-light shots are far from the blurry, noisy mess you might expect. STAYING SHARP Speaking of sharpness, the 80D’s AF system is incredibly sophisticated, with 45 focus points that will lock on in a snap even when things start to get a little gloomy. In fact, you’d have to try pretty hard to shoot something blurry with the Canon, even if your subject is running about like a toddler after ten cans of Red Bull. At 7fps, it fires off frames rapidly enough, and the Live View mode on its 3in articulating screen is phenomenal too, locking on almost immediately. Neither of these cameras can manage 4K video, but if you want to take the hard work out of getting great pictures then the Canon is a clear winner.
WINNER EOS 80D
OVERALL WINNER CANON Look away now, Nikon fans: when it comes to the two big dogs of photography, Canon currently just edges it 49
PLAYSTATION VS HTC BUT WHAT ABOUT…? OCULUS RIFT The arrival of its Touch controllers could’ve put it on a par with the Vive but, despite the innovative design of the Touch, the Rift still feels one step behind. £549 / oculus.com
PSVR VS HTC VIVE PlayStation VR definitely wins the virtual reality beauty pageant. It’s far more comfortable to wear than the Vive too, with the position-tracking lights making it look a bit like a prop from Tron.
DESIGN & COMFORT
A VR headset’s looks matter little when your head’s inside, but the Vive won’t be asked on any dates with that face. It’s a little unwieldy to wear too, with a cable that’s almost as thick as a garden hose.
WINNER PSVR You can play PSVR games with a DualShock 4 but most work best with the Move controllers. They’re accurate enough to track your hands, but not as immersive as the Vive’s.
HTC’s Vive controllers allow you to interact with the virtual world as if you were actually standing within it. They need two sensors set up on either side of the room, though.
WINNER VIVE The PS4’s comparative lack of power means the visuals will never match up to a high-end PC, but apart from the odd jagged edge you’re usually too carried away by the mechanics to notice.
SOUND & VISION
Technically both headsets have identical displays but the Vive’s field of view is more natural. Colours are bright and blacks are deep – but the bundled buds will probably want replacing.
WINNER VIVE The majority of VR games are all too brief, but Sony has some big names to help you forget that. Driveclub is disappointing but Arkham VR is almost worth the price alone.
HTC has Valve on its side – so while we might not have Half-Life VR yet, The Lab is a fantastic, if rather short-lived, introduction to virtual reality. And the Vive will now play all Rift games.
OVERALL WINNER HTC VIVE Expensive? Yes. Impractical? For most people. But Vive is so good it’s worth moving (or selling the furniture) for 50
20 1 6 p rov e d t hat thi s re al ity is k nack ered, s o it’s ti m e to fi nd a ne w one. B ut w hich heads et l ets you e sca p e mos t c ompl et ely? Strap in and find ou t…
NOW PLAY THESE… Hardware is only as good as the software allows it to be, so here’s some stuff to get immersed in
FANTASTIC CONTRAPTION A bit like Scrapheap Challenge crossed with Super Mario World, Fantastic Contraption is a hugely tactile puzzle game that requires you to build madcap vehicles.
TH E L AB £759 / vive.com
From the creators of Half-Life and Portal comes a collection of mini games that show how good VR games can be if you know what you’re doing.
£349 / playstation.com
TILT BR US H Like climbing inside Microsoft Paint, Tilt Brush is the perfect first step into a VR environment, where everything you do appears in front of your eyes. 51
DITCH THE DISCS Everyone moaned about the PS4 Pro’s lack of an Ultra HD drive but I reckon this is the MacBook Air all over again – nobody will notice in a few months. Tom Parsons, Deputy Editor, Stuff.tv
from £349 / amazon.co.uk
from £249 / microsoftstore.com
P L AY STAT I O N VS XBOX PLAYSTATION 4 PRO VS XBOX ONE S
Gone are the days when Sega vs Nintendo was the biggest battle in gaming. For the past 15 years it’s been Sony vs Microsoft – and while there might not be a Mario or Sonic leading the fight, 2017 sees these consoles go head to head for supremacy…
D E S I GN When you’re sticking it under your telly it doesn’t matter too much what a console looks like, but these two take different routes towards lounge acceptance. Microsoft has taken the opportunity to slim down the Xbox One, cutting off a load of extra bulk and ditching the Kinect. The white paintjob is unlikely to match many tellies but the extra space its slimmer profile offers is most welcome. Sony started with a much more compact console, so while the difference in size is barely noticeable, the Pro is actually a bit bigger. That’s surely worth it for the extra grunt that comes with it, but the Xbox is the more handsome offering here.
WINNER XBOX ONE S
P E RFO RMA NCE Neither console does proper 4K gaming but the PS4 Pro is the one that comes closest. While the Xbox One S is just upscaling 1080p (and only has games optimised for HDR), the Pro has more power, so it can up the resolution to 1800p, add in more detailed textures and increase the frame rate. That’s as long as the game you’re playing has been designed to be compatible with it. That number is growing all the time but right now it’s only about 30 – and some real modern classics are missing, GTA V and Destiny to name just two. The bottom line is, both will look better than the previous models, but the Pro will look best.
WINNER PS4 PRO 53
PLAYSTATION VS XBOX UPCOMING EXCLUSIVES
P LAYSTAT IO N With The Last Of Us Part II on the way there’s barely any point in mentioning other games here... but we will anyway. Aside from Joel and Ellie’s return (which probably isn’t due until 2018) there’ll be Horizon Zero Dawn, God of War and the Uncharted spin-off The Lost Legacy, not forgetting current exclusives such as The Last Guardian and Bloodborne, plus more games for PlayStation VR. The Xbox doesn’t even have its own virtual reality headset. Pah!
CO NT RO LLE R
X B OX Aside from Sea of Thieves, upcoming exclusives are pretty thin on the ground for Microsoft; but when you’ve already got Forza Horizon 3 and Gears of War 4 under your belt it must be easy to get complacent. With an ever-growing list of 360 games that are backwards-compatible (including Red Dead Redemption, Alan Wake and all three Bioshock games), plus exclusive indies such as Superhot, it’s not as if there’s a shortage of titles.
WINNER PS4 PRO 54
Sony has done wonders with the PS4’s controller, turning the scrawny old DualShock from the PS3 days into a genuine rival to the Xbox’s gamepad. Both have had slight tweaks for their latest incarnations, with the PS4’s purely cosmetic: the light on top is now visible through the touchpad and the buttons are now grey. The Xbox One S pad hasn’t exactly had a makeover either but the sticks are now more hard-wearing and the rear is textured to stop you dropping it during frantic Rocket League matches.
Both consoles come with expanded hard drives, up to 1TB from 500GB. That’s a welcome expansion to anyone with more than about a dozen games who doesn’t want to spend all their time deleting and reinstalling stuff, especially if you buy digitally rather than on disc. You can upgrade the drive yourself on both consoles but it’s easier to do on the PS4 than on the Xbox. In fact, it’s even easier on the Pro than on the original console, with nothing to hide where the drive is. For added zip, use an SSD drive.
WINNER PS4 PRO
WINNER PS4 PRO
WHAT YOU SAID Does it matter that there’s no 4K Blu-ray drive on the PS4 Pro?
19% 31% 50% ● I’ve got an Xbox One S for that ● Nope, I’m happy to stream ● Yep, discs are way better
AP P S, O S & ONLINE
4K V IDE O When Sony announced that the PS4 Pro wouldn’t have an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive, half the internet wrote it off as a failure there and then. In reality, it’s probably only a small number of people who would’ve used one. But it does mean you’re restricted to streaming your 4K from Netflix and Amazon, whereas the Xbox One S lets you choose between physical or digital. You’ll need decent internet speeds for the latter, and the drive isn’t as capable as a standalone player from the likes of Samsung or Panasonic, but it is cheaper.
WINNER XBOX ONE S
Xbox Live used to be the undisputed king of the online platforms, but since Sony started charging for PS Plus things are much more equal. Microsoft’s insistence on making the Xbox OS as much like Windows 10 as possible is offputting, with PlayStation’s navigation bar a far simpler approach. When it comes to extracurricular apps, both platforms have their own video stores – but with Netflix and Amazon available you can easily get by without ever using them.
WINNER PS4 PRO
OVERALL WINNER PS4 PRO It might only hold the throne until Project Scorpio arrives, but right now the PS4 Pro is the superior console in almost every single category 55
App:roved FOR NEWSY NERDS
FOR AMBIENT AUTEURS
FOR STYLISH SNAPPERS
● Hyper News
● Time Locker
● Korg iWavestation
Stuff says £free / iOS
Stuff says £free / Android, iOS
Stuff says £14.99 / iOS
Stuff says £free (IAPs) / iOS
Do you spend commutes playing sardines in a train-shaped tin, cursing your mobile provider for peppering your route with dead zones? If so, Hyper News might be just the ticket (not literally – you still have to buy one of those). This app downloads news videos when on Wi-Fi for offline perusal later. The snag: the content is a bit US-biased. But the videos are smartly designed for phone use: short, sharp, and well captioned so you don’t even need blaring audio to enjoy them.
FOR WARPY WARRIORS
So you thought vertical shooters would be a mite easier if you could freeze the action? Time Locker suggests otherwise. In this dazzling low-poly world of heavily armed critters, everything moves only when you do… except for a relentlessly encroaching darkness. Initially disorientating, the action nonetheless feels fresh. And it grabs hold as you learn to play with time, slowing to weave through enemies, and risking blazing ahead when bosses are in hot pursuit.
Continuing Korg’s apparent desire to get every one of its classic synths on to iOS, here’s a slice of 1990s weirdness. The original Wavestation was lauded by everyone from Depeche Mode to X-Files theme composer Mark Snow. This was down to the lush, evolving, soundscapes you could trigger by prodding a single key, before morphing sounds by twiddling a joystick. The iOS take is authentic, nailing that distinctive sound – but it’s a bit brain-smashy to fully master.
This latest stab at bringing analogue photography’s charms to digital is full of great ideas. The icon-heavy interface flows nicely, and each of the digital film types is distinct, providing potential for unique results. Neatly, the app offers tips for best use and handy tools to improve digital snaps, such as clipping warnings, a rangefinder and editing of curves. Some of these require IAPs, but even in its free incarnation, Filmborn’s a must-download for iPhone photographers.
● Zombies, Run!
One for Walking Dead fans and anyone else terrified of being torn limb from limb by zombies, this app peppers your runs with missions and chase scenes. Hear “RRRARRGGHH!” close behind and you’d best run a bit faster or you’ll be eaten alive – quite the motivator. Need more structure? Check out the same developer’s 5K Training app. Stuff says £free (IAPs) / Android, iOS
ALT EXERCISE APPS
Christmas is gone – time to shift the extra blubber you amassed for hibernation. These unconventional apps can make all that effort fun. Well, relatively…
● Run an Empire
It feels a bit ‘beta’, but we like how Run An Empire breaks free from boring league tables of calories burned and identical daily routes. Instead, you battle locals using the app by claiming territory while walking or running (loops being particularly efficient). Shields and a cooldown timer add a further layer of strategy. Stuff says £free / iOS
● Pokémon GO
● Carrot Fit
Stuff says £free (IAPs) / Android, iOS
Stuff says £2.99 / iOS
Stuff says £free (IAPs) / Android, iOS, Windows
Stuff says £free / iOS
No, we’re not losing our minds, we’re well aware Pokémon GO is mostly about ambling along, locating tiny creatures, hurling your virtual balls at them and then ambling some more to make eggs hatch. But this involves a lot of walking, and – surprise! – that’s exercise. If only Super Mario Run had involved actual running…
A seven-minute workout app helmed by a malevolent AI intent on transforming your “lazy carcass” into something “more consistent with what celebrity magazines say you should look like” – Carrot motivates through threats, and workout regimes based on sets of ‘dragon mating dances’, ‘territory markers’ and ‘celebrity face punches’.
“Hang on,” you might be saying, “what’s so ‘alt’ about Runtastic? It’s just a conventional running app.” Yep, but the audiobookish Story Running feature can transform runs into terrifying sci-fi nightmares as you flee from all manner of horrors… at least if you’re armed with trainers and an imagination.
Several apps beat-match music to your steps, but Staywalk responds adaptively. Dawdle and you get an intense solo; up the pace and the music goes all dramatic, like someone’s composing a movie score for your very own chase sequence. It’s a touch demo-ish but hugely amusing – even if it very much encourages staccato runs.
FIRST TEST CANON EOS M5
The power of positive shrinking It looks like one of Canon’s ace DSLRs, only seen from slightly further away… so how does the M5 compact system camera measure up?
£1000 (body only) / stuff.tv/CanonM5
[ Words Amy Davies ]
ompact system cameras are the future of photography. They’re fast and lightweight, and look amazing when sat next to a chunky old DSLR. Until now, though, Canon’s CSCs have all been a bit… rubbish. Not so the new EOS M5. Canon’s first properly serious foray into CSCs is essentially a baby EOS 80D. That doesn’t mean it’s a DSLR in nappies, just
that it’s got the same sensor and image processor that made the 80D such a hit with semi-pro snappers. Well, that’s not a bad place to start. It’s fair to say that those with a fondness for Fuji and Olympus’s retro stylings won’t be immediately smitten with the M5, but it’s got enough curves to give it a likeable look. There’s a selection box of dials and buttons dotted around the body, giving you a clue that this
isn’t a CSC aimed at beginners (as if the price hadn’t told you that already). All the buttons you’re likely to use regularly are grouped together on the right, in easy reach. DSLR owners will feel right at home here. You’ll find automatic and fully manual modes, plus everything in between. And one of the great things about this camera’s design is that you can customise pretty much all of the buttons and dials to suit whatever
settings you’re likely to want to change with any regularity. Altogether it makes for a very fluid way of working, and you can switch settings quickly and easily. And for the first time in an M-series camera, the EOS M5 gets a viewfinder. This is great news for anyone who hasn’t grown up using a phone screen to compose snaps. So is this the mirrorless camera that Canon fans have been praying for?
FIRST TEST CANON EOS M5
1 Mount rush less
Just because the EOS M5’s got detachable lenses and the word ‘Canon’ on it, don’t be fooled into thinking you can attach any of your DSLR lenses. The EOS M mount is smaller – but an adaptor is available. Avoid using really large lenses, as they make the camera feel very unbalanced.
2 OK with no 4K? One area where the EOS M5 loses ground on its rivals is video. Full HD recording at 60fps is nice and all, but Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds cameras have been shooting in 4K for a while now. If movie-making is key, the Lumix DMC-GH5 could be a better bet.
Good Meh Evil
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24 hours with the Canon EOS M5
2mins 10mins 20mins
FIRST TEST CANON EOS M5
3 Zoom with a view
4 Rigorous screening
The viewfinder may not be the biggest around, but it does have an impressively high resolution and provides a good view of your scene. One small issue: colours in it look more saturated than they do on the rear touchscreen, or when you check the actual shots on a computer screen.
That rear screen switches off when you bring your eye up to the viewfinder, but has a clever system whereby you can still use it to set the autofocus point. In itself nothing new, but the ability to assign just part of the screen to this task? Brilliant. No more nose-based AF accidents.
Sensor 24.2MP APS-C AF points 49 ISO range 100-25,600 Built-in flash Yes Connectivity Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth Display 3.2in 1.6m-dot touchscreen, OLED 2360k-dot electronic viewfinder Video 1920x1080 @ 60fps Dimensions 116x89x61mm, 427g
The whole shooting match With the same sensor and brain as the much-loved EOS 80D, we’re expecting some very nice images…
No big surprises here: the M5 is capable of producing some excellent pictures. Directly from the camera, images have that satisfying punch and vibrancy that Canon has become known for.
Fine and dandy
Detail is well resolved, but you can push the camera further by using the ‘Fine Detail’ picture style setting – something you can choose from either the quick menu or the main list.
4 Decent exposure
5 Snap shot
6 Still got it The 49-point autofocus system works well enough when you’re photographing things that don’t move. Determined to track moving subjects? Switching to Servo mode will yield decent results with anything moving in a reasonably predictable and not too rapid way.
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Canon has done a great job of improving focusing speeds, something its previous CSCs really struggled with. It’s much faster… but still not as quick as other system cameras. For fast-moving subjects, you’d be better off with the Fuji X-T2 or Olympus OM-D E-M1 MkII.
Automatic white balance gets it right most of the time, with just a tendency to be a little cool under artificial light. All-purpose metering performs well, with balanced exposures in most conditions.
Noise only starts to be noticeable at ISO 3200, but you can still use these shots at smaller printing and web sizes. Only use the very highest ISO settings when you absolutely have to.
It’s great to see Canon finally taking CSCs seriously, and coming up with something that competes with big rivals from Olympus, Panasonic and Fuji. The M5 is more than capable of taking some very nice images… but at this price, unless you’re already invested in Canon, it’s hard to recommend it over more established rivals. @AmyDavies
STUFF SAYS A lovely little CSC from the camera giant, that’s slightly overpriced for what it offers 61
The God d sim
Quadropolis Q dropolis This bright, family-friendly title sees players jostling to make the best city blocks from a random grid. Your selection is limited by the architects at your disposal, making forward planning crucial. And after the kids are in bed, grownups can turn to th the d deeper ‘‘expert’ t’ version. i . £65 / amazon.co.uk k
The next-gen Jenga
Junk Art Stacking games are nothing new, but Junk Art brings a fresh coat of strategy. Players tour three cities, each with its own rules as to what constitutes ‘art’. Sometimes it’s a simple race to balance everything, but the best bit is playing card-based mini-games to make life awkward for your fellow artists. £65 / rulesofplay.co.uk y k
The steampunk storyteller
Scythe This game of combat and exploration packs in trading, economics and a deep reservoir of strategy. Despite the heavy subject matter, it’s also fun and tells an amazing story about giant mechs in an alternative 1920s through beautiful pieces and artwork. Bit of a step up from Boggle, then. £59 / stonemaiergames.com
HOW TO DECIDE? 62
The family foxer
Codenames: Pictures This more-ish word game sees one player give single-word clues for a grid of picture cards. The other players then try to guess which pictures that word relates to. What sounds easy in theory proves addictively hard in practice, especially with the added tension of possible instant defeat. £12.99 / gameslore.co.uk
The power p struggle ggle
Secret Hitler On a budget? You can make this superb social deduction game at home for free. Players take turns nominating a government and choosing policies. Most players are liberals, but some are secret fascists. It’s fun, but it’s also a real learning exercise on the allure of power. £free (PDF version) / secrethitler.com
The phone frightener
This is the golden age of board games – Matt Thrower helps you pick from the new kings of table play
The retro RPG
Last Friday Hidden movement games, where no-one else is ever quite sure where some of the players are on the board, are a hoot. This ’80s-themed number plays like a slasher movie through four acts. At the start, the maniac stalks the campers. Then he becomes the hunted as daybreak nears… £39 / pendragongamestudio.com
1 CHECK YOUR WATCH Board games can take from minutes to days to play. Most have an estimate on the box – add another 25% for a realistic figure. You can use age estimates as a rough guide to complexity.
Mansions of Madness (2nd Edition) This Lovecraftian horror game uses a smartphone app that acts as a kind of gamesmaster. No game is ever the same twice, even with the same scenario, and the app provides astonishing narrative detail. It even manages to be scary, with creepy music and sound effects. £75 / gameslore.co.uk
The spacey strategist
Terraforming Mars Though it’s inspired by The Martian, this game fortunately doesn’t involve planting potatoes in your own faeces. Instead, it leaps into a future where technology exists to make Mars habitable and you’re in a race to make it happen. The original run sold out, so you’ll need to snap up a reprint. £53 / meeplescorner.co.uk
2 CHOOSE YOUR THEME You can get games about anything, but many are quite abstract in practice. Those with ‘traditional’ themes like combat, exploration and economics tend to stick closest to the subject.
[ Photography Pete Gardner ]
The time destroyer
Star Wars: Rebellion One Death Star not enough for you? There are three in this, plus another 150 miniatures depicting all kinds of Star Wars nerdery. It takes as long to play as the whole trilogy does to watch, but it’s every bit as gripping. You’ll push starships across the board, fight epic battles and complete missions. £78 / amazon.co.uk
3 PICK A PUBLISHER Publishers like to plough a particular groove. Fantasy Flight, for example, specialises in dramatic, thematic geeky games, while Mayfair tends toward drier, heavyweight strategy titles.
4 KEEP THE PEACE Think about the type of people you’re going to play with. Competitive games are often the most fun, but for playing with your short-tempered in-laws a co-operative game might be more wise.
Head for the bar You don’t need a truck-load of speakers and cables to get your home cinema into shape
BEST ON A BUDGET
Q ACOUSTICS M3 £289 / stuff.tv/QAcousticsM3
How do you make a good thing even better? If you’re Q Acoustics, and that good thing is the superb Media 4 soundbar, you stick an HDMI port on the back and give it a new name. The M3 is the new entry-level model from a company used to pumping out much more expensive speaker systems – and that means you can expect a sleek design and great sound quality for your cash.
What’s the story?
With a streamlined, modern look, the M3 won’t look out of place under any TV, be it a supermarket special or an OLED stunner. It’s slim enough to sit beneath your telly and not block your remote control, but you can also bolt it to a wall if you fancy. There’s still room inside for a dedicated subwoofer and
separate stereo speakers, even if they’ve shrunk a bit since they first showed up in the Media 4. At least you won’t need an external subwoofer, which helps to keeps things tidy.
Is it any good?
The addition of an HDMI port really keeps setup simple, and lets you piggyback a set-top box or games console to the soundbar if your TV is running low on free sockets. And it supports Audio Return Channel, meaning it’ll sync up to let you control everything with one remote. Just keep in mind you don’t get 4K support at this price. If you’ve got a UHD TV and want to hook up a 4K Blu-ray player or console, you’ll need to skip the soundbar and plug straight into the telly. Otherwise, you get digital optical, a pair of analogue inputs and a 3.5mm socket for plugging in your portables. Don’t like cables? Good job there’s aptX Bluetooth too.
Audio quality will make or break a soundbar, and here it’s definitely more make than break – if you like a serious bit of bass, that is. Speech is clear enough, and a real step up from your tinny TV speakers, but there is a boomy nature to the sound. This muddies high-end effects like squealing tyres, bouncing bullet casings and shattering glass (if you’re not testing soundbars with the Fast & Furious films, you’re doing it wrong). Still, it fills the room with sound and has plenty of presence. The M3 has a lot going for it: it looks great for the cash, has a handy HDMI socket, and pumps out some impressively powerful sound. There may be a few shortcomings, but nothing to complain about for the price. Tech Total power output 80W HDMI Yes Bluetooth Yes Wireless subwoofer No Dimensions 1000x90x125mm Weight 4kg
STUFF SAYS The emphasis is very much on bass, but this is an ultra-affordable option that gives your TV a sonic leg-up and doesn’t look half bad doing it 64
BUTTERY BASS New for the M3 is a bass-boosting ‘MoviEQ’ mode, which ramps up the rumble. Pity this is the one thing the M3 doesn’t need more of – best stick to standard stereo mode.
GROUP TEST SOUNDBARS
Bosch Violent yet beautiful, menacing and stunning in equal measure. No, not Titus Welliver’s moody detective, but the city of LA as portrayed by Bosch’s fantastic cinematography. Season 3 will be arriving in the spring.
PAIR IT WITH…
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OOH, YOU’RE A CARD The credit-card-sized remote you get with the M3 is all too easy to lose down the back of the sofa. It’s basic, but the soundbar isn’t exactly overflowing with functions anyway.
4 A BIT MORE… The M3 is a tweaked, updated version of Q Acoustics’ Media 4, which is only £30 more and has a more rounded sound. The M3 is still a great budget buy, though.
PANASONIC TX-50DX750 £779 / johnlewis.com
Who’d have thought you could snap up a 50in 4K telly that’ll do HDR video for under a grand? A year ago, that was pretty much unthinkable, but now you can waltz in off the high street and snag one of these beauties.
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LCD system’s sound
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The Nice Guys This brilliantly dark ’70s throwback has a suitably retro soundtrack to go with it, full of classics from Kool & The Gang and Al Green. You’ll be bopping along in no time, until Ryan Gosling’s girly screams make you pay attention to the bizarre plot.
The DX750 might not have all the fancy flourishes of pricier TVs, and it doesn’t have that one-time holy grail of Panasonic telly tech, a plasma panel (it makes do with energy-friendly LCD instead). But in pretty much every other way, this is a bit of a bargain. OK, so you still aren’t getting ultra-deep blacks here, but the DX750 isn’t far off. Pop on The Dark Knight and Batman doesn’t look as grey as a pavement for once – a real problem on some LCD TVs. HDR also works a treat. It’s not the night/day difference you get with UHD Premium TVs, but the key here is subtlety: you won’t get blinding lights and psychedelic contrast, but you will get really nice shading. It’s a hard-hitter that ultimately comes up short against the best, but the DX750 is an impressive effort when you get a healthy chunk of change from £1000. STUFF SAYS This is a not-far-off-the-top-tier TV that won’t make your wallet weep
GOOGLE CHROMECAST ULTRA
£69 / currys.co.uk This tiny puck streams 4K and HDR content straight from your phone to the big screen with just a few taps. Chromecast was simple before, and it’s even better in Ultra form. Sure, your TV will probably have Netflix built in already, but can it also play Clash of Clans? STUFF SAYS
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GROUP TEST SOUNDBARS WHERE’S THE REMOTE? Just like any other Sonos speaker, there’s no dedicated remote control. The iOS or Android app handles everything in a brilliantly simple, hassle-free way.
BEST FOR UNDER £750
SONOS PLAYBAR £569 / stuff.tv/Playbar
Think multiroom audio, think Sonos – it’s been the go-to speaker specialist for kitting out our homes for years. And that includes giving the TV a much-needed audio boost, thanks to the Playbar. This isn’t just a simple soundbar: being a Sonos, it does a heck of a lot more besides that…
What’s the story?
With minimalist styling and a fantastic build, the Playbar really does look fantastic, either sitting on a TV stand or wall-mounted underneath it. It’s chock-full of neat touches, such as the accelerometers that can tell whether the Playbar is laid down or on an edge and adjust the sound accordingly. There’s also an IR repeater built in, so that signals from your
remote still get to the TV even if the Playbar is blocking the telly’s sensor, and a pair of Ethernet sockets on the back mean your other components (such as your smart TV) can piggy-back the Sonos network to get to the internet. Just remember that if you can’t hardwire the Playbar to your router, you’ll need to get some powerline adapters.
Is it any good?
It’s a shame the only one way to hook up the Playbar to your TV is with an optical cable. It’s simple, yes, but it’s not as neat as systems with multiple HDMI inputs and a single HDMI output for video. Optical outputs on TVs aren’t as common as they used to be, now that HDMI 2.0 has taken over, but as long as your telly has one you won’t have to worry about your soundbar not supporting 4K video. Anyway, once you are plugged in, the Playbar brings a massive
improvement over even the most powerful-sounding TV speakers. The width of the soundstage it creates is mighty impressive, and there’s detail, weight and tonal balance that a TV on its own simply can’t deliver. The drivers behind the grille are angled upwards – and while that means you get a big, atmospheric sound, it does sacrifice just a little bit of impact and directness. But that’s a minor flaw in what is an otherwise excellent delivery for both music and films. If you want a simple, elegant soundbar that will hugely improve your television’s sound – and then ply you with all-you-can-stream music until your ears burst – the Sonos Playbar really is the only logical choice. Tech Total power output Not stated HDMI No Bluetooth No Wireless subwoofer Optional Dimensions 85x900x140mm Weight 5.4kg
STUFF SAYS An excellent performer on its own – and if you can afford it, Sonos’s multiroom magic will even turn this soundbar into the basis of a full surround sound system 66
YOU’RE SURROUNDED Slap down another £600 on the Sonos Sub and the Playbar becomes a 3.1 system. Then add a couple of Play:3s and you’ve got a full wireless 5.1 surround sound setup.
GROUP TEST SOUNDBARS
PAIR IT WITH…
STREAM BROTHER Essentially this is a full Sonos player in a wider chassis. It’ll stream all the music on your computer, iPhone or iPad, and connect to internet radio and streaming services.
DEEPWATER HORIZON Mark Wahlberg takes the main role in what is basically The Towering Inferno, only on an oil rig (and based on something that actually happened). Those explosions are going to look amazing on 4K Blu-ray. NOW WATCH THIS
PANASONIC TX-58DX802 £1239 / johnlewis.com
A great TV doesn’t just have to have a fantastic picture – it has to look damned good when it’s switched off too. Panasonic’s 58in work of art does just that, sitting proudly on a stand resembling either an artist’s easel or the frame from a child’s swing. It helps that it’s packing all the must-have tech, including a 4K screen and HDR support.
Pan for gold
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HELL OR HIGH WATER How do you make a dark and brooding modern western, where horses and pistols at dawn have been replaced with car chases and assault rifles, even more dark and brooding? Get Nick Cave to do the soundtrack, naturally.
It might sit one level down from Panasonic’s top-end 902, so doesn’t have the UHD Premium certification, but when a picture is this effective we’re really not bothered about that. This TV can still pump up the brightness, even if it doesn’t hit that magical 1000-nit figure, so you’ll be able to watch at midday, at the height of summer, with the curtains open. Colours are punchy and 4K images from Amazon Video and Netflix look stunning, with potent blacks to go with the stunning bright whites. It’s not the last word in 4K HDR picture quality… but not far off it. If you’re looking for a signature piece for your living room, this is one you should consider. STUFF SAYS If you have space for the stand and like its looks, this is the TV for you
NOW ADD THIS
PANASONIC DMP-UB900 ULTRA HD BLU-RAY PLAYER
£449 / richersounds.com Streaming services make getting new films and TV super-easy, but not all 4K is created equal. This Blu-ray player takes a running leap over anything coming down over the net… so if you really care about picture quality, get one. STUFF SAYS
[ 67 ] [[2C]]
GROUP TEST SOUNDBARS
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A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS The upcoming Netflix reimagining of Lemony Snicket’s children’s novel series is guaranteed to erase the Jim Carrey film version from your brain. Why? Because Neil Patrick Harris, fake nose and all.
£799 / johnlewis.com
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MICROSOFT XBOX ONE S
£220 / tesco.com If the One S is meant to atone for the original Xbox One’s botched launch, it’s job done. This is a great 4K Blu-ray player, and it does a fab job of upscaling your favourite games to 4K. And with Sony deciding to ditch 4K Blu-ray for the PS4 Pro, this is your best bet for an all-round entertainment machine. STUFF SAYS
The KS7000 might be Robin to the more expensive KS9500’s Batman, but that still means it gets to hang out in the Bat Cave. This junior member of Samsung’s elite SUHD squad is still a potent TV contender, and might actually be the sweet spot in the range. 4K? Check. HDR? Check. One of the best smart TV systems out there? Yep, it’s got that too.
Better than being there
It looks impressive before you even switch it on, thanks to a ‘boundless’ frame (Samsung speak for a very thin bezel), but the picture really is punching above its weight. Everything looks pin-sharp, sure, but it’s the subtlety that really drops jaws. There’s enough definition to count the individual raindrops on a windscreen, plus the clarity to make out the accompanying condensation. HDR video goes even further. Instead of simple solar brightness and abyssal blacks, you get fine increments of shade. You’ll have to spend a lot more to get a better TV than this – what Samsung has pulled off here is nothing short of spectacular. STUFF SAYS Remarkable picture quality and TV smarts for your cash
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TAKE CONTROL The Kubik One launched a few years back with a truly dreadful remote – not good when there’s no app to take its place – but this updated version has a much slicker zapper.
GROUP TEST SOUNDBARS HIGHER CALLING The microUSB port comes in handy for hooking up to a PC or Mac to play highresolution, 24-bit/96kHz music. There’s also aptX Bluetooth for higherquality streaming.
BEST FOR UNDER £1000
PICK YOUR POSITION ‘Neutral’ mode gives the least bass, and is best for wall-mounting. ‘Bass Boost’ is the other extreme, while ‘Bass Enhance’ is our top pick for when it’s sitting under your telly.
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It’s normally the TV that takes centre stage in any home cinema setup, but with one of these underneath, it might be tough to pick a winner. The Kubik One is probably the best-looking soundbar around, with an eye-catching red grille you can swap out for other-coloured alternatives whenever you fancy. Because a lime green or petrol blue soundbar goes with every room, right?
What’s the story?
BATTLEFIELD 1 World War 1 has never sounded so epic. Rain hammering down on the trenches of the Somme, anti-aircraft batteries shooting biplanes out of the sky… Battlefield 1 will give your soundbar a real workout.
It looks like a high-end lifestyle product, and to be fair, if you’re going to charge £800 for a soundbar, it had better look the part. There’s more to the Kubik One than a pretty exterior, though. The chassis is a single aluminium piece that staves off unwanted resonances. Oh, and it’ll play nicely with an optional wireless subwoofer if you fancy kicking things up a notch. Not that you really need to…
DALI KUBIK ONE £799 / stuff.tv/KubikOne
Dali knows a thing or two about making great-looking, greatsounding loudspeakers, and that Danish heritage comes through in the Kubik One. It’s a riveting listen. The scale of sound is immense, effects pinging around with punch and precision. There’s ample low-end heft, and plenty of nuance and texture to every ounce of detail. The sound is impressively clear and controlled amidst the bold dynamics, and we couldn’t tear ourselves away from listening to it. This is not the kind of discreet performance we expect from a soundbar – it’s wholly captivating. There’s no virtual surround sound either, just a beautifully direct stereo presentation.
Is it any good?
As long as you make sure your TV is tall enough not to get cut off by this soundbar’s tall form (the Dali stands 16cm high), it’s a dream to use. That’s partly down to the
simple setup: you get two optical inputs and one analogue input, and that’s it. That means no HDMI, so more cables to add to your home cinema setup, but it also means no worries about 4K compatibility. There’s no distracting LCD screen, and no great array of buttons, settings and dials to fiddle with – just a single blinking LED to let you know it’s picked up your remote control presses, and a few basic controls on the soundbar itself. It’s delightfully simple, so if you’ve got the cash to splash, this is one talented system worth investing in. Tech Total power output 100W HDMI No Bluetooth Yes Wireless subwoofer No Dimensions 160x980x100mm Weight 9.6kg
STUFF SAYS Gorgeous looks and fantastic all-round performance, all from a single box that can be tonally tweaked and colour-matched to suit your home perfectly [ 69 ] [[2C]]
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PAIR IT WITH… THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE What if the Allies had lost WW2, leaving half of the USA ruled by the Nazis and the other half by Imperial Japan? You’d have a great plot for a novel, said Philip K Dick. And, said Amazon much later, a daring basis for one of its original series.
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£4499 / superfi.co.uk
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SKY Q 2TB
£199 + £47/ month / sky.com With 4K channels now a part of the package, Sky Q offers more telly for your money than anything else. It makes Virgin’s old TiVo look prehistoric, with a slick interface and lightning-fast set-top box. Add multiroom and secondscreen viewing, and you have every telly addict’s dream. STUFF SAYS
This is everything that absolutely blew us away in the fantastic E6V OLED TV, turned up another notch and given an even slicker design. The OLED panel delivers perfect blacks, and can even handle HDR content at a whopping 800 nits – that’s almost bright enough to require sunglasses. And in case your new Yamaha YSP-5600 fancies a night off, it has a soundbar built into the stand.
Pic of the bunch
Good? Oh, it’s a little more than good. It has easily the best picture quality from any TV we’ve seen in the past year. That OLED panel can go blacker than King Joffrey’s heart, and plays nicely with both HDR10 and Dolby Vision. It’s virtually futureproof, but can handle old-school features like 3D too. Remember 3D? Feed it an Ultra HD Blu-ray and there’s a chance you’ll never want to set foot inside a cinema ever again. LG’s WebOS is still the best smart TV system out there, and it’s overflowing with inputs, streaming services and apps. And all from something thinner than a pencil – this is the television your overdraft was made for. STUFF SAYS A superb specimen with one of the best pictures we’ve ever seen
SPOTI-HI-FI You also get Bluetooth and AirPlay streaming, Spotify Connect and internet radio, plus you can turn it into a multiroom system if you’ve got any MusicCastsupported speakers.
DOUBLING APP You’ll have to load two apps: MusicCast streams audio and helps you set up the YSP-5600 on your home network, while Home Theater Controller switches sound modes.
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MONEY NO OBJECT
HOOK ME UP Ultra HD Blu-ray players and 4K games consoles can all pass through the YSP-5600’s four HDMI inputs, unlike a lot of lesser soundbars. They’re tucked away at the back.
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Dolby Atmos is like being wrapped in a super-snug duvet… if that duvet was made from sound instead of feathers. It completely surrounds you, even throwing height channels into the mix for an even more immersive and cinema-like experience.
What’s the story?
SICARIO Taut, tense and deeply compelling, this brutal look at America’s war on drugs and its effects on Mexican border cities has a suitably atmospheric Atmos soundtrack to keep your heart pounding right to the end.
The fact that Yamaha has done all that from a single box, without also having to stick speakers into your ceiling, it nothing short of brilliance. The YSP-5600 has multiple speakers that bounce soundwaves around your room, with some upward-firing drivers that add in support for Dolby Atmos soundtracks. How many speakers, exactly? A ridiculous 46. That’s including two woofers for some low-end grunt, and 12 height channels from six upward-firing drivers on each side. They bounce sound off the ceiling at just the right angle to make it seem like it’s coming from
YAMAHA YSP-5600 £1599 / stuff.tv/YSP5600
above. This is basically a 7.1.2 surround sound system, in a single bar that sits under your telly. Wow.
Is it any good?
Setup is a little more complicated than a regular soundbar, because you’ve got to calibrate this one so it knows exactly where to angle all its speakers for the bouncing. That means plugging in the dreaded setup mic – but don’t panic. It takes about a minute, and is as easy as tapping a few buttons on the remote. You’ll also have to find some room for this thing – it’s chuffing massive. It’s so big, in fact, that it will almost definitely block out the bottom of your screen, unless you sit it on stilts. No problem if you’ve already wall-mounted your telly, but not ideal for anyone with an AV cabinet as shelves will block the upward-firing speakers. Still, once you’ve got over any placement woes and stuck on an
Atmos-enabled film, you’ll be amazed at just how well the YSP-5600 spreads sound around your room. It really does feel as if it’s coming from beside, behind and above you. Raindrops in particular really do seem to fall from the sky, which is impressive when you’re on the sofa beneath a nice white ceiling. A little more subtlety in the dynamics would’ve been nice, but otherwise it’s difficult to fault the Yamaha’s sonics; you really won’t need the optional subwoofer. So if authentic surround sound is a must, and multiple speakers are an absolute no-go, this is the ultimate one-box alternative. Tech Total power output 128W HDMI Yes Bluetooth Yes Wireless subwoofer Optional Dimensions 213x1100x92mm Weight 11.7kg
STUFF SAYS Stunning multi-dimensional surround sound from a single soundbar – this wondrous device proves Yamaha and Dolby Atmos is a potent combination [ 71 ] [[2C]]
R CH EAL EC IT K… Y 72
ONE TURTLE BEACH STEALTH 350VR
TWO PRIF DYNAMO CHARGING STATION
THREE POWERA PREMIUM PROTECTION CASE
Turtle Beach’s all-black headset was made specifically for use with VR, with a design that allows clearance for various cables without being too bulky and heavy. It’ll last 30 hours on a single charge, with various EQ adjustments and in-built audio monitoring to let you hear your own voice.
Sure, technically this is nothing more than an elaborately shaped lump of plastic with charging ports built in, but it’ll let you store the PSVR headset as well as charging and storing two Move Controllers and a standard PS4 controller. Neat, functional… your mother will be pleased.
There’s not much we can say about this. It’s black. It’s officially licensed. It’s basically a case that’s made to perfectly hold and protect the PSVR headset. Exciting? Maybe not, but it’s handy for transporting your expensive bit of kit and protecting it from the sun (see no.6 opposite).
£60 / amazon.co.uk
£30 / smythstoys.com
£30 / amazon.co.uk
NO TH W IS DO …
N TH OW ES TR E… Y
[ Words Esat Dedezade ]
PLAYSTATION VR DEMO DISC
1 SEE IN THE DARK
2 SAY NO TO GLOW
3 SEE EYE TO EYE
First things first – the PSVR does not like light. The darker your room the better, so turn off the lights (obviously), draw the curtains, and try to make sure there aren’t any reflective surfaces between you and the PlayStation Camera. Speaking of which, you’re going to want to be sitting or standing around two metres from the camera to ensure the optimal playing experience.
If you find you’re having niggling problems with tracking, then you can usually pinpoint the culprits by going to Settings > Devices > PlayStation Camera and Adjust PlayStation Camera. From here, you’ll be able to see if your PSVR headset and Move Controllers are being picked up properly. This makes it easier to see any pesky reflective surfaces that could be confusing the camera.
While you’re asked to go through some basic headset adjustments when you first fire up the PSVR, there are more detailed calibration settings in the VR options of the PS4’s settings toolbox. These include holding the headset and controllers close to the camera to calibrate their light. It’ll also check the distance between your eyes by asking you to position crosshairs.
4 PLAY PEEKABOO
5 STAY IN CONTROL
6 SHUN THE SUN
Every now and then you’re going to have to go back to the real world to sip a drink or reach for the remote. Instead of taking off the headset every time reality calls, you can peek through the PlayStation Camera by holding the PS button and selecting Adjust PlayStation VR from the menu. Select Confirm Your Position from the sub-menu, and boom: you’ve got real-life-vision.
Even if you’re using the PlayStation Move Controllers, you’re still going to want your DualShock 4 controller for easier, more comfortable navigation. Annoyingly, the PS4 controller turns itself off after 10 minutes of inactivity. Thankfully, there’s a simple fix. Hit up Settings, select Power Saving Settings, and make sure ‘Turn Off DualShock 4 Automatically’ is set to ‘off’.
Never expose your headset’s lenses to strong sunlight. Doing so causes them to focus the sun’s beams like a magnifying glass, burning the in-built screens beyond repair, resulting in black spots in your VR vision. You’ll also want to avoid alcoholbased lens wipes. They damage the special film Sony has placed over the PSVR’s lenses, resulting in discolouration and annoying marks.
This download from the PlayStation store is packed with eight game demos, including Battlezone, Eve: Valkyrie and DriveClub. £free
HEADMASTER Practise your Olivier Giroud skills by heading the ball into the back of the net. It might sound simple, but this is a great introduction to the capabilities of virtual reality. £15.99
BATMAN: ARKHAM VR
One of the most impressive VR experiences we’ve tried yet, Batman: Arkham VR places you into the clunky black boots of the dark knight himself. £15.99
TEST GARMIN VIVOSMART HR+
Incremental pains Garmin has added GPS to the popular Vivosmart HR fitness tracker, so you can add precision to your self-inflicted agony £200 / stuff.tv/VivosmartHRPlus The original Vivosmart HR went down a treat, but for this upgraded version Garmin has thrown in GPS to make it even more tempting. It’s also had a play around with the looks, but other than that this is pretty much the same band. The HR+ is on the bulky side for a fitness tracker, possibly on account of the added GPS smarts. The strap – which you’ll have to wear pretty tight for a proper heart-rate reading – isn’t all that comfy either. Its monochrome display is alright, though, with enough detail to give you a clear readout of your stats. The HR+ does everything a fitness tracker should do – time, steps, calories, distance – and a whole bunch more. Once you’re hooked up to your phone via Bluetooth, you can receive notifications, control your music and even check the weather to make sure you don’t get caught with your shorts on in a storm. The main attraction, as with the Apple Watch Series 2, is GPS. This gives a much more accurate measure of speed and distance than a simple accelerometer, and can map out routes as you run. Unless you’re running daily marathons, you should easily get between three and four days on the average charge. That’s if you’re not using GPS, though. Fire that up and battery life will tank down to about eight hours.
Tech specs Display 1in 160x68 Sensors Accelerometer, altimeter, GPS, heart-rate monitor Connectivity Bluetooth, ANT+ Battery life Up to 5 days Weight 31g (regular), 33g (X-large)
Fit and appy
Garmin Connect is a slick app, with a clear homescreen giving a rundown of all your stats. Steps walked, time slept, calories burnt – it’s all there, and there’s a detailed page for each statistic.
As is becoming standard for fitness apps, there’s a fair bit of community going on here. You can compare your progress with friends with the same app, and the daily challenges are fun.
STUFF SAYS A feature-packed tracker that’s a bit obtrusive for wearing 24/7 It’ll get you in shape… but could lose a bit of weight itself Daniel James
For getting fit without going for the whole ‘sports watch’ thing, the Vivosmart HR+ is an impressive box-ticker. It’s packed with all the features you’d expect, including GPS. The only issue we have is with the design. It’s bulky and uncomfortable, making wearing it all day a pain. If you’re keeping it casual on the fitness front and need something unobtrusive, this one’s probably going to get on your nerves.
TEST HTC 10 EVO
A little Evo boost
This is the smartphone the HTC 10 should have been – at a much more affordable price £420 / stuff.tv/HTC10Evo As much as we liked it, the HTC 10 didn’t really have any stand-out features. And in 2017 we demand more: you’ve got to be waterproof, with a storming display, and a great camera to boot. Is the HTC 10 Evo that phone? It’s a second try, if you like, but built to compete at the midrange rather than going up against the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S7. Rocking an all-metal body and 5.5in screen wrapped in Gorilla Glass 5, it feels very much a premium phone. This sturdy body is also equipped to survive watery accidents to a depth of 1 metre. The screen has grown from 5.2 to 5.5in while retaining its crisp 2560x1440 resolution. The slightly lower pixel density may detract from the experience if you’re using a magnifying glass to read cat comments on YouTube. The Evo has followed Apple’s most controversial recent move and dumped the headphone port. You’re stuck with HTC’s own noisecancelling USB-C buds, which are OK but nothing to squeal about. And no, there isn’t an adaptor in the box for using your own cans. With 16MP on the rear and 8MP on the front, the Evo’s cameras are impressive. Clarity vanishes quickly when it’s dark or you zoom in, but there are a lot of handy pro features hidden in the menus.
Tech specs Sticky Nougat
The Evo runs on Android Nougat out the box, but with HTC’s own Sense UI layered on top. This feels a bit less of an upgrade and more of a hindrance, but you can switch most of it off in the menus.
Powered by the Snapdragon 810, this phone can pump out fairly quick loading times and smooth general performance. It’s a pity HTC didn’t fit the newer 821, as non-stop gaming and video will quickly get the phone hot.
Screen 5.5in 2560x1440 LCD Processor Octa-core Snapdragon 810 @ 2GHz OS Android 7.0 with HTC Sense Cameras 16MP rear, 8MP front RAM 3GB Storage 32GB, expandable up to 2TB Battery 3200mAh Dimensions 154x77x8.1mm, 174g
STUFF SAYS A solid mid-market entry… but it’s no match for the OnePlus 3T HTC gives up on the flagships… and aims for OnePlus instead Tom Morgan
Unless you’re particularly irked about the missing headphone jack, the HTC 10 Evo doesn’t get very much wrong at all. It’s got a high-quality display, decent enough performance, the latest version of Android and a minimal custom skin on top. Sure, it’s not as fast as a current flagship; but as with the OnePlus 3T, you just won’t notice if you spend half your day staring at Instagram feeds or Twitter. 75
HEARING IS BELIEVING
The M3 Soundbar. We know hearing is believing when it comes to sound quality. We can tell you it will fill your living room with superbly detailed and dynamic sound from both music and movies, but you’d be taking our word for it. To hear for yourself how the M3 brings life to sound, visit one of the approved Q Acoustics retailers below. Bringing Life to Sound.
Search Q Acoustics M3
Ultra Wide Sound Dispersion
MoviEQ™ Enhanced Listening
Visit qacoustics.co.uk/hear to find out more.
BEST INDIE GAMES
BEST INDIE GAMES
Whoever said bigger is better obviously hasn’t tried these shed-built classics. But which small-time hero tops our list?
Super Meat Boy
PLATFORM GAMES Shovel Knight
[ Words Ryan Jones ]
Most knights prefer swords and the ‘stick them with the pointy end’ technique, but the hero in this 2D platformer prefers a shovel. Looking at Shovel Knight’s style and pixel art, you’d think it was a NES classic rather than a game born from Kickstarter. Inspired by titles such as Super Mario Bros and DuckTales, it’ll wallop you with platforming nostalgia. PS4, Xbox One, PC, Wii U, 3DS
Games used to be really, really hard – and Super Meat Boy certainly shares this philosophy, being a 300-level 2D platformer that requires split-second timing. The titular Meat Boy is… well, a boy made of meat, and he’s attempting to rescue a damsel in distress who happens to be located on the other side of many screens of blades, needles, enemies and bosses.
Limbo is a sidescrolling 2D platform game packed with puzzles – but it’s that mood that lingers long in the memory, rather than the gameplay itself. The black and white presentation sets a sombre tone; the mechanics are simple and the story minimal, but the grainy monochrome visuals and frequent gruesome deaths make playing Limbo a gloriously gloomy experience.
PS4, PC, mobile, Wii U
PS4, Xbox One, PC, mobile, Wii U
BEST INDIE GAMES
S t a r d e w Va l l e y Video games are full of blazing guns and bloodied swords, but sometimes we’re in the mood for a more relaxing experience. Stardew Valley is the perfect tonic to soothe your stress, as you take ownership of a small farm. Growing crops and raising chickens might sound like a dull affair, but it’s surprisingly joyous to watch your farm expand. And you’re not restricted to farming either: whether you see yourself as a fisherman, an explorer or a social butterfly, you can lead whatever life you want – as long as it doesn’t involve sitting in an office.
Fez is a perspective-based puzzle game set in a world that looks two-dimensional but is actually a cube that rotates 90° with the press of a button. Each rotation rearranges the platforms, and figuring out how to use that to navigate around each level offers a brain-aching challenge that is both ingenious and delightful. It’s a fabulous mix: bouncy platforming, head-bending puzzles and an expertly executed difficulty curve all wrapped up in a retro world.
PS4, Xbox One, PC
Undertale This is an RPG, but it’s self-aware, becoming almost a satire of the genre. Yet this harrowing tale never loses its identity, being able to make you laugh one second and fill you with dread moments later. There are multiple options available for tackling your opponents, whether you want to leave a trail of destruction or resolve matters with a non-lethal approach. As much as there is to say about Undertale, it’s best left under a shroud of at least some secrecy – but we can say that creator Toby Fox clearly put a lot of heart into this masterpiece. PC
Among the first crop of ‘new wave indie’ titles, Braid is a platformer created by the mercurial Jonathan Blow. The protagonist has to rescue a princess from a monster and jump on Goombaesque enemies. So far, it sounds like Super Mario Bros… but Braid’s killer USP, the ability to reverse time, results in a collection of mindstretching puzzles. Add in the storybook artwork and it’s hard to deny this indie game’s status as a piece of art.
People have called this a first-person shooter, but we think of it more as a puzzle game. The twist is simple: time doesn’t move unless you do. Enemies remain frozen in mid-action, allowing you to sidestep gunfire and plan your attack. Whether you’re throwing glass bottles to disarm enemies, stealing their weapons or enacting Matrix-like dodge manoeuvres to stay alive, this is one of the most innovative takes on the genre in years.
Xbox One, PC
Casting you as a lowly border control agent in a fictional dystopian state, this surprise hit weaves an enthralling story through its portrayal of day-to-day drudgery against a backdrop of social unrest, mass poverty and 1984-style surveillance. Do you take bribes in order to feed your family, or perform your job to the letter and hope the regime rewards your loyalty? Stamping passports has never been so gripping.
Another Jonathan Blow puzzler, but this time it takes place on a beautiful yet mysterious island. Most of the puzzles are displayed on electronic boards, usually requiring you to draw a line between dots of different colours. Sounds simple and boring, right? Yet each puzzle is enthralling and solving them brings you closer to debunking the island’s mysteries. You’ll feel like a genius by the end.
PS4, Xbox One, PC
BEST INDIE GAMES Staff picks RESOGUN Ryan Jones, Staff Writer I don’t always want convoluted plots when I sit down to play a game; sometimes I just want explosions. This pimped up Space Invaders satisfies my shoot-’em-up thirst. And while I’m supposed to be rescuing stranded humans from an alien invasion, I prefer to fling them into deadly tractor beams.
Don’t Starve This is a survival simulator in which food, shelter and sanity are vital, and you’re as likely to die from lack of one of those as you are from getting eaten by the wildlife. You must scour the procedurally generated world scavenging food to eat and materials to craft with, while growing your tech tree until you reach a Crusoe-esque zen moment where you’ve built yourself a self-sustaining utopia. PS4, Xbox One, PC, mobile, Wii U
The Binding of Isaac
Bastion We challenge you to play Bastion and not fall in love with it. You play as The Kid, who wakes up after the Calamity, a literally earth-shattering event that’s left the world in tiny floating bits. As you walk, the environment rebuilds under your feet, but brings with it a host of enemies and obstacles that you’ll have to defeat in order to progress. With gorgeous animation, clever level design and a touch of humour to boot, this is an outstanding fully featured adventure. PS4, Xbox One, PC, mobile
Take one look at The Binding of Isaac and you’ll feel slightly disturbed. Nintendo initially pulled the plug on a port due to its religious themes. Thankfully, they eventually saw sense, as this dungeon crawler takes inspiration from The Legend of Zelda but is even tougher. Randomly generated dungeons also mean you can never familiarise yourself with the map’s layout. PS4, Xbox One, PC, mobile, Wii U
To w e r F a l l Ascension Sadly, the days of couch multiplayer are dying out in favour of online skirmishes – if you don’t own a Nintendo system and a copy of Smash Bros, what on earth do you do when friends come round? TowerFall Ascension is a great alternative, as up to four players can battle it out with a quiver of arrows to zing across the screen. Just don’t be surprised if friendships end once you’ve pinned your bestie to the wall one too many times. PS4, PC
I’m rubbish at first-person shooters. I don’t have hours to spare getting insulted by teenage bigots online. But let me float over an ’80s apartment block, put me in control of a mask-wearing, gun-toting psychopath, and I’m deadlier than a hungry fox in a home for blind chickens.
While it might look at first like another old-school dungeon-crawling platformer, Spelunky is transformed into something truly special by its rogue-like elements. Each level is procedurally generated, so in effect you’ll never play the same one twice. Enemies, ladders, traps and treasure will all be placed differently, and the very layout of the platforms will rarely, if ever, be the same – making it that little bit harder to stuff your pockets full of loot. PS4, PC
Tom Wiggins, Deputy Editor
Staff picks 79
BEST INDIE GAMES Staff picks
Firewatch This is a beautiful, meditative game about isolation in the American wilderness. With lustrous, tangerinesoaked wilderness to explore, you’re going to want to get lost in the forests of Wyoming, however foreboding that idea may seem. One of the first things you’ll pick up on, when you’re not melting into the glorious sunset, is that Firewatch is almost entirely devoid of anything resembling traditional video-game mechanics. So the gameplay doesn’t quite match its storyline and visuals, but it’ll hit you right in the feels. PS4, Xbox One, PC
OLLIOLLI 2: WELCOME TO OLLIWOOD
Ross Presly, Deputy Art Editor
F i v e N i g h t s a t F r e d d y ’s Animatronics are creepy enough already, but they’re taken to a new level when they start coming to life at night with a killer instinct that would put Jason Voorhees to shame. And unluckily for you, your role is that of a security guard who’s been lumbered with the night shift. Keep checking those security cameras and keep the door shut, otherwise you’re going to be jumped by a psychopathic teddy bear. Toy Story will never be the same.
The joy and adrenaline you feel when chaining an entire level together into one uber-combo is exhilarating… and the rage and frustration you feel when you stack it on the last manual is short-lived, due to the instant restart. Learn the level, beat the high score and skate your way to victory.
A first-person narrative exploration game that casts you as a girl returning from a year of travelling to find her family aren’t home. What sets Gone Home apart from the growing number of walking simulators is its immersive atmosphere. Even the bravest will hold their breath with apprehension as they venture into the basement. The story of what happened to the girl’s family will unfold through audio narration and visual clues. This is an incredibly engrossing and emotionally charged way to spend a couple of hours. PS4, Xbox One, PC
In the ‘run for your life’ mould of other recent horror games, SOMA sees you trapped in an underwater scientific installation. Frictional Games isn’t content with providing the odd jump scare – they want to give you a psychological horror experience. Each monster that you encounter embodies one of the game’s dark themes. To survive you must understand how they tick, but what you discover will plunge you deeper into the void.
Horror games, you may have noticed, are back in vogue. Instead of goresoaked shooting galleries like Resident Evil 5, we’re now getting a wave of games that want to give you nightmares. Outlast is one of the best of these new-breed chillers. There’s no weaponry, just a camcorder with night vision to help you see in a dark asylum filled with terrifying hulks and mutilated patients. This is the scariest game of hide and seek we’ve played.
After impressing us with Limbo, developers Playdead have proved their talent for creating dark and creepy puzzle-platformers once again with Inside. You take control of a young, nameless boy who can die in many horrifically graphic ways, giving you a realistic view of this depressing world. It may be a short venture, lasting roughly four hours, but every frame is worth hanging up in your memory’s hall of fame. PS4, Xbox One, PC
PS4, Xbox One, PC
When I retired my plastic Guitar Hero controller, I thought my rhythmic game obsession was over. Who’d have thought that a beetle sliding through psychedelic worlds would get my fingers tapping to a beat again? Thumper is surprisingly fun and disturbingly chilling. Rob Leedham, Editor
THUMPER Staff picks
BEST INDIE GAMES
THE NEXT BIG INDIE GAMES
3 Rocket League
4 Journey Journey is a minimalist sound-and-vision experience where you guide a pin-legged pilgrim through beautiful, desolate landscapes towards a distant mountaintop. There’s little in the way of challenge and it’s short, but while it should be dull, Journey’s mellow adventure is captivating. This isn’t a game that demands multiple replays. Instead you get a wonderful, meditative experience that will lodge itself in your mind forever. PS4
The idea of combining monster trucks and football would have sounded like a car crash of a game prior to Rocket League, yet it succeeds with rocket-powered style. There’s a lot of customisation and unlockable content available, from the Batmobile to Back to the Future’s DeLorean. It’s perhaps the best multiplayer game of this generation, beating even the most heavyweight of AAA titles. PS4, Xbox One, PC
2 The Walking Dead Few could have predicted a resurgence of the point-and-click adventure genre, but Telltale Games’ multi-episode game set in the world of the hit TV series showed that people will always flock to great interactive storytelling. Not only does The Walking Dead have superb writing and relatable characters; it offers the player choices that are genuinely heart-wrenching.
Well, who’d have thought that the on-screen equivalent of Lego would become the second-highestselling game of all time? Minecraft’s emergence started an earthquake that proved indie games really can make it big. Its blocky appearance might look outdated and childish, but you’d be naive to dismiss the potential of the creative sandbox, which has led to some mesmerising creations.
PS4, Xbox One, PC, mobile
PS4, Xbox One, PC, mobile, Wii U
CUPHEAD What do you get if you cross a Disney cartoon with Dark Souls? Cuphead is the answer, with its brutal boss battles and colourful animations.
We’ve been begging for a Banjo-Kazooie successor for almost two decades and we’ll finally get one this year.
WE HAPPY FEW
In this dystopian horror, everyone is forced to take a drug that makes them happy… but suppresses their morality.
THE TOP FIVE
Touted as the spiritual successor to P.T., this psychological horror wants to make you squirm.
Help! I’m out of data… again
Find the data hogs
READER IN NEED Steph Legg Keeps springing data leaks ● Scour your iPhone’s settings
Stuff! I would have Snapchatted this SOS, but I’m worried my network will charge me £10 for the privilege. How do I stop hitting my data cap every month? And don’t just tell me to cut down on my Instagram, Spotify and Netflix fixations. This is the 21st century and I refuse to live like a philistine.
If you’re running out of data on the regular, you’re probably overdoing it on a couple of apps. To uncover the main offenders on iPhone, head to Settings > Mobile Data. You’ll see a list of all your apps and how much internet they’ve used. Plus, you can toggle off their data usage so they only work over Wi-Fi.
● Delve into Android’s app info
And on Android? It’s a little trickier. You’ll have to select Settings > Apps, and then select individual downloads to see what they’ve been up to recently. If that sounds like a right faff, then be sure to start with any apps that play a lot of video, such as Twitter and YouTube. You’ll also want to take a look at any games that require a constant internet connection. Pokémon GO, we’re looking at you.
● Check with your network THE EXPERT Rob Leedham Editor
Sick of that monthly text? You know, the one that says you’ve only got 250MB of data left. Download your network’s official app for a regularly updated feed of the minutes, texts and data you have left. By keeping an eye on this you won’t have to resort to rationing your remaining data like the dregs of a Nutella jar.
GADGET DOCTOR WE’RE ALWAYS ON CALL
Hack your apps
Up your data limit
google com/ +stufftv
OR TRY THIS
Negotiate with your provider
● Turn off Facebook’s auto-play
● Go SIM-only for less
● Don’t stream in Extreme
● Sign up for Sky Mobile
● Download your TV
● Try unlimited with Three
Facebook’s app is a huge data hog – but let’s be realistic, you’re not going to delete it. What you should do, though, is alter your video auto-play settings so you only watch the clips you want to with your data and play the rest over Wi-Fi. Head to the Facebook app, tap Settings > Videos and Photos > Auto-Play, and select ‘Wi-Fi only’.
Signed up to Spotify, Apple Music or another music streaming service? Then you’ll probably know their apps give you several settings for both streaming and downloading quality. For example, Spotify has Normal, High and Extreme. If you don’t have much data to spare then stream your flights of fancy in Normal and download your faves in Extreme over Wi-Fi.
It’s the same deal if you’re watching Stranger Things on the train. Now Netflix has joined Amazon Instant Video and BBC iPlayer in offering downloads of select shows, there’s no excuse for using your data to find out what perilous fate befalls Barb – especially since watching one show could easily shove your monthly spend into the red.
So you’ve tried all our tips and still need more data? It’s time to stump up for a new phone contract. As ever, you’re best off shopping around before paying out, but the good news is that there are plenty of bumper deals around right now. At the time of writing EE is selling 12GB data for £19.99/month as part of a SIM-only offer.
Perhaps you don’t run short on data every month, just the ones where you’ve been out of the office a lot or got debilitatingly addicted to Clash Royale. Then Sky’s Mobile service is well worth a look. Launching this year, the new 4G SIM-only service will allow you to roll unused data over to the next month and keep it for up to three years. As long as you have some restraint, it’s a great solution.
If you’re a ‘bigger is best’ kind of person, there’s one final resort here: Three’s all-you-can-eat SIM-only contract, which gives you unlimited data for £35/month. In an age where Wi-Fi hotspots are abundant, you’ve no real need to pay so much, but it’s a taste of the future when even faster 5G speeds roll out to the UK.
Before you go through the hassle of switching providers, it’s always worth trying to squeeze more out of your existing one. It’s surprisingly easy if you try: call them up and threaten to quit. Then, once you’ve been passed on to the cancellations team – who can offer the best deals – be specific about why you’re leaving them and name any better offers that you’ve seen elsewhere.
VERSUS SMART SPEAKERS
Battling butlers With their virtual personal assistants, these speakers both promise to make our lives easier and less, y’know, fiddly. But which is best?
Google Home What’s the story?
The Google Home looks a lot like one of those automated air fresheners that puff out a whiff of lavender whenever you walk by. That’s no bad thing, mind. Its angled top and rounded base (available in a range of colours) give it a modern and unobtrusive look. AI butlers should be heard and not seen, after all. The controls are touch-sensitive – a quick circular swipe around the top panel raises or lowers the volume, and you can long-press it to wake up Google Assistant – but where’s the fun in that when you can summon her from across the room?
Is it any good?
[ Words Tom Morgan ]
The Home is a much smarter searcher than the Echo. Ask Google Assistant if snakes can climb up walls, for example, and you’ll get a full and satisfactory answer (yes, some can, if there’s enough grip). It’s clear that Google’s background gives it the edge as a hands-free search engine. But smart home functionality is limited, for the moment, to Nest, SmartThings and Philips Hue. And what the Home sorely lacks at time of writing is a good selection of apps and services. You can’t even use it to create appointments or send messages using Google’s own services. We’re hoping for big improvements here in the wake of the any-minute-now UK launch. As a music device it works well enough, especially if your chosen streaming service is Spotify, but the killer feature here is the Home’s ability to send media to your TV via a Google Chromecast. And it’s usually clever enough to understand what you want to watch even if you don’t know the full name.
Amazon Echo What’s the story?
Back in the December issue, we were dazzled by the Amazon Echo’s ability to do everything from playing music and setting timers to searching Wikipedia and telling jokes – all by listening to your voice. Now that Alexa isn’t the only virtual butler in town, we’re keen to see how this futuristic black tube matches up to Google’s shorter, more homely-looking rival. Alexa’s English accent is certainly more comforting and less jarring than Google Assistant’s slightly robotic American voice – but we’re looking for cleverness, not just reassurance.
Is it any good?
Alexa is totally stumped by questions that you might expect her to handle with ease, and fails miserably compared to Google Assistant in almost every round of our trivia test – including the vital query “Do insects have brains?” (They do, by the way.) The two are more evenly matched when it comes to home automation, but the Echo wins because it’s compatible with so many more devices and services – including Hive, LIFX lights and Belkin WeMo switches. The Echo is also easier to use as a music player, allowing you to verbally save songs to your Spotify library or specific playlists, although it isn’t as good as the Home at helping you out with vague requests – you’ll need the full title of that Cliff Richard B-side. Most importantly, at the time of writing the Echo has way more connected apps than the Home. Alexa lets you browse, search and enable a plethora of UK-specific services, from National Rail train times to The Guardian.
Price US$129 / stuff.tv/GoogleHome
Price £149 / stuff.tv/AmazonEcho
It has huge potential, but for now Google’s speaker just isn’t as useful as the Echo
The Home has a better search brain, but the Echo works much better as a home hub
EVERYONE’S GOT A HIDDEN TALENT… ● Dans l’air ce soir One of the Home’s smartest skills is Google Translate. We asked it to translate random sentences to various languages, and it provided us with verbal translations instantly. The Echo, on the other hand, had no idea what we were on about. It’s not a dealbreaking feature for most people, but could be truly useful to some. Going on holiday this year? ● Happy shopper The Echo is the only speaker that lets you order things online (from Amazon, of course) using nothing but your voice. Alexa will give you a list of the site’s top search results, asking you if you want to buy any of them. And you can set a verbal PIN to prevent your pranky mates from ordering you a MacBook Pro every few seconds.
VERSUS SMART SPEAKERS
1 Take note, Google
Unlike its rival, the Echo can be used to create shopping lists, reminders and calendar entries… using Google Calendar.
2 Tube screamer
As a speaker, the Echo edges ahead in terms of both power and clarity. Pity you can’t plug it into your hi-fi like the Echo Dot.
3 Easy listening
Google’s device can send music to your hi-fi via a Chromecast Audio, or you can use several Homes for multiroom sound.
4 Taxi for Google!
The Home isn’t much use for driving directions or public transport info, but at least you can use it to order an Uber.
3 OF THE BEST
Sports headphones Because you don’t want to sweat into a big pair of padded on-ears, do you? BEST FOR iPHONE 7
BEST FOR STYLE
BEST FOR VALUE
Soul Electronics Flex Born to run?
Our favourite sports headphones for yonks are now cheaper than ever and just as good. They might look rather simple, but we can’t fault them for build and sound quality, both of which are top-notch. Plus, they’re water-resistant so you can take them out in a downpour knowing your Drake megamix isn’t going to cut out.
Fit but you know it?
Born to run?
Jaybird’s latest cord-cutting in-ears promise to help you ditch the wires in style with a premium build, eight-hour battery life and a tonne of different earbud sizes and curved attachments to make sure they stay in your lugholes. So while your running style might not be flash, at least these things are.
Fit but you know it?
Beats Powerbeats3 Wireless Born to run?
Beats has had a rough history with wireless: its Powerbeats2 tended to leap out of your ears like a puppy who’s just heard the postman. Thankfully, these successors stayed put through hour-long runs without any trouble, while water-resistance means they’re impervious to both an unexpected downpour and your sweat.
The ear-hooks are both comfortable and unobtrusive and, crucially, the buds stay in place as you run for the best possible sound. The absence of Bluetooth isn’t any real loss either, as the 1.2m cable (with inline remote) doesn’t bounce around too much. As for sound quality, it’s excellent, with crisp treble notes, clean and clear vocals and a decent amount of bass for the money.
These in-ears aren’t cheap, and they certainly don’t feel it thanks to their metal construction. They’re a little tinny out of the box, but the app’s powerful EQ settings make a world of difference – suddenly Skrillex doesn’t sound like he’s stuck in an empty can. Battery life is disappointing, though – while the charging dock boosts it to eight hours, it’s clunky and you definitely wouldn’t want to run with it.
Price £40 / stuff.tv/SoulFlex
Price £170 / stuff.tv/FreedomWireless
Price £170 / stuff.tv/Powerbeats3Wireless
A comfortable design coupled with a solid, balanced sound at a great price 86
Jaybird Freedom Wireless
A premium build and flexible fit, but we’d want better battery life at this price
Fit but you know it?
Thanks to Apple’s W1 chip, the Powerbeats3 are automatically picked up by an iPhone 7 with no need to dig around in Settings. It’s ace – as is battery life, which has doubled from six hours to 12. And while you can get better-sounding earphones for the money, these Beats can go really loud without distorting and offer plenty of fine detail.
A fine pair of sports buds that are ideal for iPhone 7 owners
Can you stop the next hack? SCJobs
THE CYBER-SECURITY SOURCE FOR JOBS & CAREERS
You may be only skimming over the surface of Netflix’s televisual talents… Mark Wilson reveals the tactics and hidden treats that will help turn you into a stream machine THE BASICS
favourite Netflix shows with the best of Amazon, iPlayer and Now TV? JustWatch (£free, iOS and Android) comes closest to this organisational dream, and alerts you when new Netflix shows have been added.
Netflix’s algorithms use both your viewing history and your star ratings to serve up suitable suggestions, so remember to hand out verdicts when the end credits roll. Or do it later in one go by going to your profile’s ‘viewing history’ in a web browser.
Play with profiles. Your kids might love Peppa Pig’s intriguing plots, but you don’t want that skewing your own recommendations away from Spike Jonze and John Woo films. It’s easy to set profiles for everyone in your family, or make separate ones for movies and TV shows.
of the ‘My List’ section and start editing its running order, go to netflix.com/mylistorder and click ‘manual ordering’. You can now drag and drop titles and make your own schedule.
Go manual. Think you know better than Netflix’s algorithms? To gain control
Mix and match. Wouldn’t it be great to have one big watchlist that combines your
Don’t miss out. Though you can see expiry dates in a show or film’s details page, it’s still easy to get caught out when titles are deleted. Follow @NewOnNetflixUK on Twitter for #lastchance alerts on things that are about to get the axe. Down it in one. Netflix’s downloading feature for iOS and Android devices is a godsend for flights and long commutes. Press the down-facing arrow next to shows you want and you’ll find them in the ‘my downloads’ section.
FIND YOUR MATCH Extend yourself. Build your Netflix watchlist in Chrome, where you can use browser extensions to pull in extra info. FindFlix and Flix Plus (both £free, chrome.google. com) will give you access to Netflix’s hidden sub-genres and Rotten Tomatoes scores. Ask a bot. The Facebook Messenger bot AndChill (andchill.io) gives surprisingly good recommendations. Have a shuffle. Feeling daring? Netflix Roulette (netflixroulette.com) will randomly pick your evening watch for you.
LEVEL UP WITH...
Put on your VR headset of choice (Gear VR or Daydream), fire up this app and sit back in your cosy log cabin, complete with a snowy view, comfy sofa and massive TV. It won’t be as sharp as your real 4K telly, but it’s handy for avoiding scheduling arguments. £free / Gear VR, Daydream
YAMAHA YSP-2700 WATCH AND LEARN
GO OFFLINE Size it up. Go to ‘app settings’ in Netflix’s main menu to see a graph of how much storage your downloads are eating up. Download quality can be set to ‘higher’ (HD), but SD quality is good enough for most tablet or smartphone screens. Move to SD. Netflix only lets you download shows to your phone’s internal storage. But if you’re rocking an Android phone with a microSD slot, there are some workarounds to let you get them onto a big SD card. To find out how, head to bit.ly/netflixsdcard
Beat the buffer. If a flaky connection is giving you the buffer wheel of death, you can tweak your streaming quality. In Chrome, press Control-Shift-Option-S and choose a lower bit-rate. On a console, pressing ‘up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, up, up, up, up’ will let you check connection speeds. Party on. The Chrome extension Netflix Party (£free, netflixparty.com) syncs playback to let people in different locations follow the action together, while a side-screen chat box lets you gossip about the actors’ hair. Stop squinting. Want to go all Euro arthouse but struggling to read the subtitles? Change their size, style and colour in Netflix’s browser interface by going to ‘your account’ then ‘subtitle appearance’.
If your planning application for a full surround sound system has been rejected by your other half’s interior design committee, this soundbar with wireless sub is a fine way to keep your immersive Netflix dreams alive. £649 / richersounds.com
Make a Netflix button.
If you’re a soldering wizard and know your way around a circuit board, you can build a one-touch button to fire up your fave show, order a takeaway and dim the lights. You’ll find instructions here: makeit.netflix.com/projects/ the-switch
Mix it up. Helping your parents to get started on Netflix, or just want to share your immaculate televisual taste? Log into Flixtape (flixtape.netflix.com) with your account and make a themed playlist of shows to email your lucky recipient.
Worried about disturbing your family and/or goldfish with late-night Michael Bay explosion fests? This streamer’s remote has a headphone jack, so you can plug in your cans and keep watching without getting glares at breakfast. £69 / amazon.co.uk
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Guy Cocker, Global Editor-In-Chief Unlike my colleagues’ choices on the following pages, which are all pointless luxuries, the Amplifi HD is an absolute necessity for anyone who really cares about the Wi-Fi in their home. It’s a mesh-based system, which means it uses multiple routers to blanket the house with fast, stable wireless signals. It’s not cheap, but Amplifi’s solution is slick and compact, and if you’re rich enough to own a mansion you can just keep adding routers as you go. The rest of us will just be happy to know that the system is easy to set up and manage thanks to the iOS/Android app. And the range includes two cheaper versions (from $199) that should suffice for smaller, less geek-heavy homes. US$349 (UK price tbc) / store.amplifi.com
smart home “Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?” Well, there’s this… [ Photography Mitch Payne ]
BASE DESIRES The starter kit includes a base station and two access points, which is enough to cover most homes. The base station is way more sexy than a traditional router, and even has a built-in LCD screen.
If you want the ultimate home Wi-Fi and don’t mind paying for it, then go for the Netgear Orbi. The starter pack contains two routers, which look great and, more importantly, supercharge your home with fantastic wireless speeds and range. £399 / amazon.co.uk
Withings Aura Smart Sleep System Tom Parsons, Deputy Web Editor
SLEEP CYCLE ALARM CLOCK If it’s just the sleep monitoring and gentle waking that you’re after, this app does the job admirably, cleverly using your phone’s mic and/or accelerometer to monitor the quality of your sleep. No, I’m not sure how it works either, but it does. £free / iOS 99p / Android
I’m the sort of person who thinks the final hours of any day are for gaming, which means I go to bed wired and struggle to sleep. I could just stop playing games, but that sounds no fun at all, does it? Instead I’ve invested in a Withings Aura, which uses warm light and soothing sound to beckon the Sandman. It also wakes you gently with a simulated sunrise and audio when you’re sleeping the lightest, and gives you a very thorough breakdown of your night’s sleep. (You can get the clock/light without the sleep sensor for £100 less.) It’s definitely helped me… and is only let down by an absolutely dreadful built-in speaker that makes lapping waves sound like traffic noise. £250 / withings.com
WAKE UP, TURN DOWN The Aura supports internet radio and Spotify Connect for alarms and general music listening, which would be brilliant were it not for that rubbish sound quality. 92
LIGHT TILES Well obviously they’re light tiles – that’s the whole concept. But they’re also light in weight, so you won’t need to drill holes to mount them. They weigh so little they can be mounted with stickers.
Ross Presly, Deputy Art Editor I’m pretty picky – I know what I like and those things are very specific: skulls, black, bicycles, tropical plants. As you can imagine, this makes buying things for the home quite difficult – there is the distinct risk that my flat will end up as gothic jungle chic. That’s a thing, right? But this light will save me from the darkness, being reconfigurable into any shape you can imagine and any colour you fancy. Tropical jungle sunrise? Gothic thunderstorm? No trouble. Colour themes can be saved to the free Nanoleaf Smarter Series app, and you can add animations too. It’s controllable by Siri and Alexa, and you can add extra tiles with expansion packs (three tiles for £55). £180 / nanoleaf.me
PHILIPS HUE COLOUR STARTER KIT If you’re not really into devoting an entire wall to a light, these slot into your existing sockets, and can change colour and be controlled by Alexa et al. They’ll also work with your Philips AmbiLux TV to enhance the moods of those Muppet films. from £60 / meethue.com
Ring Video Doorbell
Mark Wilson, Features Editor My Amazon Prime addiction means I get deliveries galore, most of which seem to instinctively know when I’m going to be out. This video doorbell lets me see and chat to delivery folk from the Stuff office on the other side of London, making sure boxes are left in my safe place rather than whisked back to the depot. It promises to run for months on its rechargeable battery (it also hooks up to a doorbell transformer, if you have one), while the motion-sensitivity smarts let me keep a beady eye on who or what is lurking around the doorstep. £159 / ring.com
NETATMO PRESENCE This security cam goes a step further than the Ring by automatically distinguishing between people, animals and cars, theoretically leading to fewer false alarms. Unlike the Ring, it also doesn’t demand any subscriptions for saving data, although setup is more of a faff. £250 / netatmo.com
NIGHT SPOT The Ring’s wide-angle lens captures doorstep drama in 720p and has night vision too, just in case Feathers McGraw tries to sneak in while you’re stocking up at the allnight cheese shop.
SELF-RAISING FLOWER The Pot’s companion app, Parrot Flower Power, has a database of over 8000 plants with care instructions for each one. So you’ve no excuses for an ex-orchid or flaccid fern.
Esat Dedezade, Deputy Features Editor Having recently moved into a new house, I’ve found myself buying boringly sensible things like toilet paper, tiny bathroom pedal bins and towel hooks. On a less mind-numbing note, I’ve also decided to invest in a nice house plant for emergency feng-shui purposes. My memory is notoriously lax, so rather than running the risk of starving the poor thing of life-giving fluids, I’ve left Parrot’s little wonder-Pot to automatically monitor soil moisture and fertiliser levels before kindly watering it for me, from its internal battery-powered reservoir – handy for when I’m away on a city break or Destiny LARPing weekend. £130 / parrot.com/uk
FLOATING TERRA While the Floating Terra won’t water anything automatically or monitor water levels, it makes up for that with its levitation powers, thanks to the anti-gravity wonder of magnets. One best suited for cat-free homes. €150 / floating-terra.com 95
FIRST TEST APPLE AIRPODS
The escape Pods Apple is keen to free us from the tyranny of cables since killing off the iPhone’s jack socket, but are its AirPods capable of leading a wireless revolution? £159 / stuff.tv/AirPods The AirPods are the most Apple product in absolutely ages, for better and for worse. Yes, the AirPods look like a pair of Apple EarPods with the cable snipped off and yes, that looks a bit daft. But they deliberately hark back to the earbuds of the original iPod – which, it’s fair to say, changed the direction of consumer electronics and the fortunes of what had been until then a computer company. But while they nod to the past, the AirPods are also stunningly futuristic. Apple’s constantly claiming it’s reinvented stuff, but for once it’s not arrogance or hyperbole. The AirPods are an undeniably huge step forward for headphones. The W1 chip is ushering in a new dawn for wireless cans, and the AirPods could go a long way to soothing the pain left by the cull of the headphone jack. But that’s not to say they’re perfect. A divisive design and a reliance on Siri could leave many of us resisting hard as Apple tries to drag us into a wireless future.
1 The ugly stick? That Apple has managed to cram some truly astonishing wireless tech into such a small device is little short of mindblowing, but the way the inch-long arm extends from the bud gives the whole design a distinctly ‘pendant earrings’ appearance.
3 2 Snug as a bud in a lug The fit is pretty amazing – at least, it is for me. They’re actually slightly bigger and more rounded than the wired EarPods, and they sit perfectly and comfortably in the ears. They’re surprisingly secure in there, even when running or cycling.
3 Post-’tooth Thanks to the revolutionary W1 chip, wireless setup is so quick and intuitive that it makes standard Bluetooth look archaic. You can still use the AirPods as standard Bluetooth headphones, should you want to connect them to a non-Apple device.
[ Words Tom Parsons ]
Good Meh Evil
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16 hours with the Apple AirPods
2mins 10mins 17mins
FIRST TEST APPLE AIRPODS
Tech specs Sensors Dual beam-forming microphones, dual optical sensors, accelerometers for motion and speech Connectivity AirPods: Bluetooth; charging case: Lightning connector Compatibility iOS 10 or later Dimensions AirPods (each) 117x41x18mm, 4g; charging case 54x44x21mm, 38g
Gift from the Pods Apple aren’t content with creating ‘normal’ wireless buds, so they’ve given the AirPods some nifty tricks
Just in case
The carry case can keep your AirPods juiced up while you’re not using them. The AirPods will handle five hours of constant music, but the carry case holds another 19 hours of charge.
Open for business
5 Keep talking There are no buttons on the AirPods, and that’s both a blessing and a curse. On one hand it contributes to the tiny size of the buds, but on the other it means you’re heavily reliant on Siri if you don’t want to keep digging out your phone.
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4 Music to our ears Apple’s own earphones aren’t exactly renowned for amazing sound, so we were pleasantly surprised with what the AirPods have to offer. No, they’re not incredibly detailed or subtle, but for most music most of the time, they’re really very listenable.
Bluetooth headphones can be a faff, but with the AirPods all you need to do is open the carry case. Then an AirPods window appears on your iPhone; press a button and you’re connected.
Ask a Siri question
To activate Siri you just double-tap either of the AirPods. This is simple enough, but then you have to wait a second or two for the Siri sound effect before you can issue your instruction.
Play it by ear
To pause your music, you simply have to take one of the buds out of your ear. Pop it back in and your music resumes. Holding a bud in your hand can fool the sensors and restart the tunes, though.
Engineering-wise the AirPods are stunning, fitting the most advanced and user-friendly wireless tech into a compact design. But their looks are going to put a lot of people off, and the heavy reliance on Siri can be a real irritation. All of which needs to be carefully considered before you drop £159 on a pair of earphones. @TomParsons
STUFF SAYS They make you look daft, but techwise the AirPods are ushering in a new dawn for wireless headphones 97
GROUP TEST SMART TV BOXES
One-box wonders Forgotten where that Westworld episode is saved, or which streamer has All 4 on catch-up? These boxes bring your favourite shows together with a minimum of fuss…
T WIN EST NER
Sky Q from £15 + £22/month / stuff.tv/SkyQ Essential for hardcore TV fans, Sky Q is the best way to watch both live and recorded shows. Plus, its multiroom skills are a joy to behold. With up to 2TB storage for recordings and downloads, the silver box can stockpile 350 hours of HD programming and acts as a mothership to any Mini boxes you have dotted around your home, with catch-up stuff being
fired off in their direction. The process is slick, and even runs on its own Wi-Fi mesh network so it won’t slow down anyone in the house who’s not into Mr Robot. Plus, only the Q box can handle 4K football and movies at the moment. STUFF SAYS The best TV experience currently available
It may not support Netflix, but Sky Q’s own Box Sets service is pretty handy, whether you’ve still not watched The Wire or want to wrap your brain around Lost again.
MORE 4K TO COME
Although Sky probably has the best selection of 4K content out there, it’s still a little on the slim side. Formula 1 coverage will help with that once the new season starts.
APP TO THE JOB
The Sky Q app is a must-download for subscribers. It almost exactly mimics the TV interface, enabling you to set recordings and download shows to watch on the go.
GROUP TEST SMART TV BOXES
AND NOW… VIRGIN TV V6 HANDS-ON REVIEW
Sky NowTV Smart Box
£40 / stuff.tv/NowTV from £15 + £45/month / virginmedia.com
Having been invited to get up close with Virgin’s new box ahead of our review in the next issue, we’re quite impressed with what we’ve seen so far. In truth, the V6 offers viewers more of the same, only faster. Much faster. Virgin says its latest creation is ten times more speedy than the outgoing TiVo box. Elsewhere, the familiar purple UI remains unchanged, but the only 4K content available to
Never heard of NowTV? It’s Sky’s contract-free offering for people who can’t afford Q Silver or install a satellite on their home. Stump up the funds for a Sky Entertainment, Cinema, Sports or Kids pass and you’ll be able to watch the shows you want for a set period of time. The catch? Streaming only works
£160 / stuff.tv/BTYouViewPlus at 720p, so not even Full HD, and you’ll really notice this shortcoming on a fancy set. But who cares when you have access to Game of Thrones? Apps for iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and Demand 5 are all available, so there’s plenty of telly to be digging into. STUFF SAYS NowTV is a flexible way to watch some top stuff
away from your usual channel-hopping fare, which is mighty convenient. And you can use the BT Sport app to catch up on Champions League and Europa League highlights. If you want the footie in 4K, go for the YouView+ Ultra HD. STUFF SAYS A fab HD box for (nearly) all your TV in one place
BE S VA T LU E
Amazon Fire TV £80 / stuff.tv/FireTV viewers so far is from Netflix and YouTube. So it’s not all good news for this upgrade. Can it rival Sky Q for televisual brilliance? We reckon multiroom will be key for this particular face-off.
Thinking of signing up to BT? This is the box you’ll most likely be getting. A Humax DTR-T2000 with some added BT apps, it does HD viewing as well as you could hope for. If you’ve not encountered YouView before, it basically combines Freeview and catch-up services into the same package. That means Netflix and NowTV are just a couple of taps
While Amazon’s 4K streamer is less of an essential than it was last year – the majority of UHD TVs now come with its apps installed – there’s still plenty to like about this box. Full HD picture quality isn’t far off what you get from a Blu-ray, while 4K content is a huge leap up, lathering your screen in a stunning amount of detail. Plus,
Apple TV from £139 / stuff.tv/AppleTV
the Fire TV has enough power to play games, such as Shovel Knight, Minecraft and GTA Vice City. Sound good? You’ll need to cough up an extra £40 for an official Game Controller. Considering this thing’s bargain price, it’s hard to complain. STUFF SAYS Slightly outdated, but still a bargain 4K streamer
Remember when Apple was going to make a TV? Well what we actually got was this box, and in hindsight that seems like quite the trade-down. Since iTunes doesn’t sell 4K movies, this thing won’t play Ultra HD content – and, despite a reasonable push, gaming hasn’t taken off on the tvOS platform either. This all means that,
beyond a handful of apps such as Kitchen Stories and Carrot Weather, and the ability to AirPlay your iPhone or iPad’s screen to a TV, there’s little this box does that’s unique. We’ll be shocked if it doesn’t get an overhaul at some point in 2017. STUFF SAYS With no 4K streaming, this box needs an update
T E S T P O R S C H E D E S I G N H U AW E I M AT E 9
Quick, call 911
Porsche Design screeches into the high-end smartphone race with a luxury version of the Huawei Mate 9 – and it’s not just a pretty logo €1395 / stuff.tv/Mate9 The regular Huawei Mate 9 is a great phone with a massive 5.9in screen and a £600-ish price tag. This is not a regular Huawei Mate 9. You might think you’re paying your life savings for the name across the top, but you’d be wrong – it’s a very different handset. The skinny 7.5mm body wears a stylish near-black hue and is carved from a single sheet of brushed aluminium. Gorilla Glass 4 with a factory-applied screen protector covers the more compact 5.5in screen, which has curved edges. There’s no water-resistance, mind. The fingerprint scanner sits on the front of the phone, sneaking round from its usual place on the rear of other Huaweis. There’s no button, just a recessed pad that offers lightning-fast responses. Despite having a smaller screen than the original Mate 9, this model packs in more pixels – 2560x1440. It’s an impressive display to rival any other high-end phone. The display barely bends at the edges at all, which you’ll like if you find Samsung’s Edge curves distracting. Like the HTC 10 Evo on p75, this is an Android phone with the maker’s own software layered over the top. Critics have long griped that Huawei tarts up the OS too much, but now there’s an option to make EmotionUI feel more like normal Android.
Tech specs High horsepower
Powered by a Kirin 960 processor with four super-fast Cortex-A73 cores and four A53s, the Porsche Mate 9 is a beast when it comes to performance. Gaming is pretty great with the Mali-G71 GPU.
The Porsche phone retains the standard Mate 9’s 12MP colour sensor paired with a 20MP B&W one, but Huawei has improved the processing of images to keep down visual ‘noise’ levels.
Screen 5.5in 2560x1440 OLED Processor Octa-core Kirin 960 @ 2.4GHz OS Android 7.0 with EmotionUI Cameras 12MP colour & 20MP B&W rear, 8MP front RAM 6GB Storage 256GB, non-expandable Battery 4000mAh Dimensions 152x75x7.5mm, 169g
STUFF SAYS One of the best phones ever made… at a completely insane price The best phone you almost certainly shouldn’t buy Andrew Williams
You’d have to be a bit mad to buy this phone ahead of the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. In fact, you can get it without the Porsche name for less than half the price in the shape of the Huawei Mate 9 Pro. Sure, you’d have to go all the way to China to buy one, as it’s not on sale in the UK, but you could actually afford the air fare with the difference.
TEST BEOSOUND 1
Shiny dancer This might be the best-looking wireless speaker ever… but does it sound as precious as it looks? £1295 / stuff.tv/BeoSound1 We wouldn’t expect anything less than gorgeously chic styling from a B&O speaker, and the BeoSound 1 delivers. That conical shape is carved out of a single block of aluminium, to make sure there aren’t any unsightly seams or joins. From certain angles it even appears to be floating. That shape’s not just for show. The down-firing woofer and up-firing midrange driver pump sound out in all directions, so it doesn’t matter where you plonk it down – your music will always fill the room. It’ll handle all the main streaming formats, and works within B&O’s multiroom system. Sensors let you tap the top of the speaker to play and pause songs, or swipe left and right to change tracks. Or you can queue up tracks through the BeoSound app, in case you just can’t be bothered to get up off the sofa. A built-in battery lets you lug it around the house or bring the party outside. It’ll last 16 hours on a charge if you’re not actively trying to enrage the neighbours; at full whack you’ll be out of juice in about four. If you do crank up the volume, it might not only be the neighbours who aren’t happy. The sound is nuanced and detailed at low levels, with decent bass and clean treble, but at maximum output distortion becomes a problem. A shame, especially as it’s so easy to knock the volume dial by mistake.
Tech specs Connectivity Apple AirPlay, Google Cast, Bluetooth, Spotify Connect Battery life 16 hours Dimensions 162x162x327mm, 3.5kg
App to speed
Right now, this speaker only works with the iOS version of the BeoSound app – irritating for Android users. You can still beam tracks directly over Bluetooth, until app support arrives later.
Brass for class
Too chic for stainless steel and brushed aluminium? Go for the limited-edition, Art Deco-inspired brass version. It’s because B&O was founded in the 1920s. So yes, Miss Marple probably had one.
STUFF SAYS Killer looks, with a killer price… but ‘killer sound’ might be pushing it Superb styling, but the sound doesn’t quite match it
Is ultra-modern, ultra-minimal design your idea of domestic heaven? Then the BeoSound 1 is probably the ideal wireless speaker for your designer apartment. It might not have perfect pitch if you like your music loud, but for more relaxed listening, perhaps over a discussion of fiscal stimuli with a glass of Kir Royale in hand, it’ll fit right in. 101
3 WEEKS WITH THE ASUS ZENBOOK UX310UA
The MacBook heir? Tom Morgan spends 21 long, geeky days finding out if Asus’s latest lightweight stunner is ready to be crowned the new king of sub-£1000 Ultrabooks £800 as reviewed / stuff.tv/UX310UA
Opt for an HD screen, an i3 processor and less memory to slash the asking price.
DAY 01 Picking a lightweight laptop used to be easy. Short on cash? Grab a Chromebook. Got a bit more spending money? Tough to get better than a MacBook Air. But that’s not true any more. Apple seems to have abandoned the Air to starve in the cupboard under the stairs, lavishing all its love on the ultra-thin (and ultra-expensive) MacBook and MacBook Pro. It opens the door for another brilliant sub-£1000
ultraportable to take its place… and Asus is hoping that will be the ZenBook UX310UA. Taking it out of the box, it’s clear that this little Asus is a stunner. And while the one I’m testing looks fantastic in silver, there’s also a fetching bronze alternative. Some distinctive design choices set it apart from the likes of the MacBook, with a brushed concentric circle design on the lid. It looks ace and glints
Distinctive design choices set this Asus apart – the concentric circle design on the lid makes it look instantly expensive
in the light – it instantly looks like a more expensive machine. The all-aluminium shell weighs in at 1.45kg and is 19mm thick – not quite as skinny as a MacBook Air, and 100kg heavier. That’s not much, but every gramme counts when you’re trying to shed as much weight as possible for on-the-go working.
DAY 05 After a whole day of typing, I’m relieved to say that the keyboard hasn’t given me any finger cramps. That’s not to say it’s perfect – it’s on the wrong side
of spongy – but you still get enough travel in each key to type comfortably without filling your files with typos. There’s also a full keyboard backlight, so I can still see which keys I’m hitting once the sun’s gone down. The touchpad has two built-in buttons and a huge glass surface that lets your fingers glide across with the smallest hint of friction. I’ve had to up the sensitivity to make it feel properly responsive, but with a bit of tweaking it’s perfectly usable – even the multi-touch gestures work after some practice, with no anguished hair-tearing required.
LO N G -T E R M T E S T
Donut of Truth™
01 Looks slick, and available in two great colours 02 Super-detailed QHD+ screen looks fantastic 03 Great performance for your cash
04 Not quite as thin and light as the more expensive competition 05 Poor battery life means you’ll spend most of your time by a mains socket
Tech specs Display 13.3in 3200x1800 QHD+ OS Windows 10 Processor Intel Core i7 RAM 8GB Storage 500GB plus 128GB SSD Connectivity USB 3.1 type-C x1, USB 3.0 x1, USB 2.0 x2, headphone jack, HDMI, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Battery life 6hrs Dimensions 323x223x19mm, 1.45kg
DAY 09 I like to listen to music as I work (mostly Abba), so it’s good to discover that this Asus has a decent pair of speakers. Crank the volume and you’ll expose the lack of bass, but c’mon – anything more would be breaking the laws of physics: this is a slim laptop, not a hi-fi. And the UX310UA has a headphone jack – which is becoming a rare treat now – meaning I can rock out to Waterloo without needing wireless buds.
DAY 14 While there is a Full HD version, it’s difficult to resist the QHD+, 3200x1800 screen. It’s a world ahead of the MacBook Air’s, making pictures and text look absolutely pin-sharp. Dark images don’t get quite as inky and lighter photos look a little on the dull side, but it’s hard to complain for the price. Frustratingly, the battery struggles to reach four hours while streaming Full HD Netflix. Stick to more basic tasks, such as web browsing, and you’ll squeeze out an extra two hours, but it’s still poor compared to its competitors. You’ll want to keep the mains adaptor handy if you’re planning a full day away from your desk.
DAY 17 With a dual-core Intel i7 CPU and 8GB of RAM on board, the UX310UA handles just about every basic job I can lob at it. The i7-6500U is an energy-efficient chip, though, so don’t expect masses of power. You’d need a crazy number of browser tabs open to slow it down, but do anything fancy with 4K video and it’ll feel the heat. If you’re looking for a gaming machine, this laptop isn’t for you. There’s no fancy Intel Iris graphics card here – just an HD 520 built into the CPU. It’s enough for older, less demanding games, but only if you drop the resolution down to 720p. That high-res panel would be hard work for a top-end laptop GPU, but here it makes new games unplayable. No trouble if you just want a Minecraft fix, though.
DAY 21 OK, it might be a basic clamshell laptop – a decidedly retro concept in 2017 – but Asus has added enough tricks and talents to help the UX310UA stand out. Plus, it’s hit that sweet spot of pricing, undercutting the competition and making potential MacBook Air buyers think twice before hitching themselves to Apple and macOS.
STUFF SAYS Apple style, but not for Apple money: Asus offers a sleek ultraportable at a good price ★★★★★
Media hoard Since the events that defined 2016, putting politics and horror next to each other suddenly seems quite natural
Miss Sloane_cinema ollywood has developed a habit of taking subjects as dry as a bowl of muesli in a drought and turning them into gripping films – think journalism in Spotlight or the financial crash in The Big Short. Its latest is lobbying: the dark art of attempting to influence the decisions of people in power. Elizabeth Sloane (an intense Jessica Chastain) is the pillpopping, no-nonsense superstar of this murky world, who puts up so many emotional walls she’ll probably have Donald Trump’s architects on the phone. After being approached by the NRA to help them block a tightening of American gun laws, Sloane jumps ship to the company trying to see through the bill’s safe
passage, taking half of her team with her. You can probably guess the rest. Like Keyser Söze in The Usual Suspects, only Sloane knows the secret of how this will all unfold – and just as the film starts to lag a little, it ramps up the jeopardy and espionage. In fact, on a couple of occasions it stretches things a little too far. Miss Sloane reaches for a few dramatic zingers but at times the script is so clunky it takes everything the actors have not to lose their footing. Even in Sloane’s heels Chastain has the chops to handle this; the supporting cast aren’t so lucky. Tom Wiggins
The excellent Alice Lowe wrote, stars in and directs this gruesome, laugh-outloud tale of an expectant mother who hears the murderous voice of her unborn child. The bloodthirsty baby sends her on a deadly rampage, although not without continuing to attend her regular antenatal checkups. She’s not totally mad. Tom Wiggins
Travelling on Southern trains might be a nightmare right now, but at least they aren’t full of zombies. Divorcee Seok Woo and his daughter Soo-an aren’t so lucky when they catch a train and find it overrun by the undead. There’s plenty of social commentary here, but it’s just as easy to sit back and enjoy the ride. Tom Wiggins
Train to Busan
_Blu-ray, DVD, VOD
WANT MORE LIKE THIS?
The Lives of Others_Netflix When Stasi officer Gerd Wiesler starts listening in on the day-to-day business of an East German playwright, he hears more than what his subject is planning to have for tea. But instead of discovering a plot to overthrow the government, the state snooper soon realises he’s merely being used as a puppet in a personal grudge held by one of his superiors. Wiesler’s
influence on the lives of the writer and his girlfriend starts to shift. The Lives of Others weaves a gripping story, but it wouldn’t be half as good without the brilliant performances of its central characters.
Little Fictions_Elbow Elbow are often maligned for the overplaying of One Day Like This, but beyond that slice of montagefriendly schmaltz they’re a band with an uncanny knack of tapping into a British way of thinking – there’s even a track here called K2 that’s far better than a song that could be called a Brexit anthem has any right to be. Little Fictions is a record of subtle melodies and multi-layered percussion,
and the low-key instrumentation on songs like Head for Supplies and Montparnasse puts Guy Garvey’s incredible voice front and centre – the latter track filled with the kind of knock-you-sideways lines that the frontman has made his trademark. But it’s the title track that will live longest in Elbow’s setlists. Tom Wiggins STUFF SAYS
Bridge of Spies_Now TV POLITICAL MUSIC THRILLERS MOVIES
The dream team of Hanks and Spielberg is reunited, with Hanks playing the conduit in a spy-swapping deal between the US and the Russians in the late ’50s.
The Conversation_NowTV Sandwiched between the first two Godfather films on Francis Ford Coppola’s rather impressive CV, surveillance thriller The Conversation is riddled with paranoia.
Argo_Amazon Prime The true story of a hostage rescue disguised as a sci-fi film shoot takes a few liberties with the facts, but it’s almost worth watching for Batfleck’s luxurious beard alone.
Impressions _Tall Ships
Coming more than four years after Tall Ships’ last album, Impressions is their most energetic and mainstream record to date. This writer misses some of the weirdness of old, but the charming combination of the earthy, spiritual and cosmic remains in the lyrics and raises Tall Ships above the Britrock pack. Tom Parsons
There’s an art to matching an upbeat sound with downbeat lyrics, and on their sixth album Los Campesinos! come close to nailing it. Singer Gareth Paisey is still fighting his demons in I Broke Up in Amarante, while A Slow, Slow Death finds him “face-down in a puddle” – yet musically they’re more dynamic than ever. Marc McLaren
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This gadget has leapt straight outta testing and into our rankings.
OF EVERYTHING Time changes everything, including Stuff Top Ten placings.
BARGAIN BUY UPDATE Searing with techy genius, a product thatâ€™s set our hearts aflame.
A solid gold bargain. Worth owning, regardless of cashflow.
Smartphones The big question: How can I be invisible? Tablets & headphones TVs How to buy a TV Smartwatches & fitness trackers Should I upgrade? Laptops
110 111 112 114 115 116 117 118
Playlist: Work music Hi-fi Streaming guide Consoles Games Home cinema & smart home Cameras Budget buys 5-minute hacks
119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127
HOW TO USE THEM
TOP TENS SMARTPHONES
TIPS & TRICKS Thanks to the AMOLED display, any black pixels are turned off to reduce battery drain.
HOT OT BUY UY
OnePlus 3T This phone is just like the OnePlus 3, aside from its higher price and a few little extras that don’t really change how it is to use – or, crucially, where it sits relative to its pricier rivals. In other words, it remains a bargain. If you could still get the original OnePlus 3, we’d advise you to save your £70 – but when the only genuine alternatives to the 3T cost over £500, this continues to be the best smartphone choice for shrewd buyers.
The 3T’s Night Mode will gradually crank up the display’s orange warmth as the evening goes on. If you’re not a fan of the 3T’s simple Android interface, we recommend Nova Launcher.
Stuff says It’s not quite as bargain-tastic any more, but the 3T still packs great performance ● NOW ADD THIS Anker PowerCore+ The massive 20,100mAh capacity gives you enough juice to charge the OnePlus 3T more than five times over while you’re on the go. £28 / anker.com
4 5 6 7
Samsung Galaxy S7
Apple iPhone 7 Plus
The Galaxy S7 looks a lot like the old S6 but has been improved all round, not least with an excellent camera. The Edge edition offers enhanced battery life, but pound for pound this model is actually the better buy. It sets a high bar for Samsung’s competitors.
The 7 and 7 Plus look almost identical to last year’s models, except for the glossy jet black option and Lightning headphone output. But they’re waterproof, processing power and battery life have been improved, and the Plus gets a tasty dual-lens camera.
Stuff says An imperious update of our favourite phone from 2015
Stuff says The best iPhone camera, screen and battery: there’s no better iOS choice
£519 / samsung.com
from £719 / apple.com
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
£599 / samsung.com Basically the same phone as the standard S7, but with a nifty curved screen and superior battery life.
from £570 / htc.com This handset barely puts a foot wrong and has the battery life to survive the most impromptu pub trips.
Apple iPhone 7
from £599 / apple.com Forget the headphone furore; the iPhone 7 is a slick update packed with worthwhile new features.
£530 / lg.com The first smartphone to do modular design in a big way – the scale of the G5’s ambition is breathtaking.
Lenovo Moto G4
from £159 / motorola.co.uk Showing every other big phone maker what can be done for less than £200. The No1 budget phone.
Vodafone Smart Prime 7
£70 / vodafone.co.uk On specs alone, the Smart Prime 7 easily holds its own against rivals that cost twice the price.
Apple iPhone SE
from £359 / apple.com The cheapest iPhone packs all the power of the iPhone 6s into the 4in shell of the iPhone 5s.
FOR UP-TO-DATE NEWS AND REVIEWS OF ALL THE BEST NEW PHONES, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10/SMARTPHONES
● Prices quoted are for handset only unless otherwise stated
£399 / oneplus.net
THE BIG QUESTION TOP TENS
THE BIG HOW DO I BECOME QUESTION INVISIBLE ONLINE? THE PRIVATE EYE
What is a VPN? A virtual private network connects you to a server and encrypts the connection so your activity can’t be monitored. This isn’t just useful for trying to hide your location – it also stops you from being hijacked by rogue Wi-Fi.
NORDVPN from $11.99/month / Android, iOS Ready to use a virtual private network to guard yourself from identity thieves and sinister surveillance? This one works across your laptop, phone and even games consoles. There’s a monthly fee, but it’ll keep your data totally private and protect you from dodgy public Wi-Fi. After all, do you want your personal information being auctioned off like stolen goods on eBay? Once you’ve downloaded it, NordVPN will route your traffic through more than 50 countries to shake off the spies. How’s that for a world tour? It’s also far less limited than the freebie options out there. You can pipe unlimited data through it, and connect six different devices simultaneously to the same account. And if you
have a fancy router, you can VPN-up your whole home. If you’re really worried about your internet provider spying on you, NordVPN even has a ‘killswitch’ that cuts off your access if the service goes down, so there’s no danger of getting caught with your pants around your ankles. Virtually speaking, of course.
THE FREE ALTERNATIVE Travelling abroad and only need a temporary VPN? TunnelBear’s free option (tunnelbear.com) gives you a taste of the full-fat experience, routing traffic from your phone or laptop through a different country’s server to keep all prying eyes away.
THE TRUSTY TEXTER
SPECIAL SKILL GIF BROWSER Signal may sound a bit po-faced, but it’s got a fun side as well. There’s a gif browser that lets you send animations of dogs giving high fives and cats falling over to inject some colour into your top-secret discussions.
£free / Android, iOS Like WhatsApp, Signal uses end-to-end encryption, but it takes privacy and security to MI6 levels by not logging any of your messages’ metadata. Signal can also act as your default SMS messages hub (if you’re still sending those) and, as a crafty bonus, routes calls and texts through your data connection, so you won’t have to use up any of your allowance. It might be tricky to convince your WhatsApp contacts to migrate, but the Android app’s ability to handle unencrypted SMSs means you won’t be completely cut off from non-Signallers.
How do I choose? The security of a VPN depends on the strength of its encryption – and its business model. The best ones use 256-bit encryption, and we suggest signing up to a paid service rather than a free one that might be looking to sell your data.
THE FULL MONTY
£free / Windows, Mac, Linux Forget internet security apps; how about a whole secure operating system? This Linux package (tails.boum.org) routes all your activity through anonymous browser Tor and is so effective that Edward Snowden used it to dodge the NSA. It’s not exactly everyday software, but is a great way to shop for presents without later being bombarded with ads for the same products.
Are there downsides? Not many, but using a secure VPN will affect your internet speed. With great power comes a little inconvenience and extra faff. The most important thing, though, is to make sure the VPN provider you use is trustworthy.
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TOP TENS TABLETS, HEADPHONES
HOT BUY UY
Apple iPad Pro 9.7
The iPad Pro 9.7 takes everything we loved about Apple’s original 12.9in Pro tablet, makes it a lot more portable, and then even adds in a few cool extras of its own. The True Tone display, for example – which changes intensity and colour balance automatically based on ambient conditions – is an absolute marvel, while the 12MP shooter is frankly overkill for those brave enough to use it out and about. It’s expensive, yes, but quality comes at a price.
With the SoundMagic E10Cs you get fantastic sound for the money, a quality cable and plenty of ear tips – and unlike the E10Ss, you don’t need to tell these buds whether you’re plugging into an (old) iPhone or an Android phone. In truth, there’s still nothing out there that can topple SoundMagic as the king of cheap headphones, but the E10Cs prove that it is still possible to improve on something good without hammering up the price at the same time.
Stuff says Incredible power, superb features and flawless design: the iPad Pro 9.7 is pure tablet perfection
Stuff says A phenomenally good pair of headphones for the price, plus the remote now works with every phone
from £549 / apple.com
Apple iPad Mini 4
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.0
Google Pixel C
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7
£39 / soundmagicheadphones.com
Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless
Bose QuietComfort 35
from £379 / apple.com Just the right size for a great portable entertainment hub, while subtle display tweaks do great justice to games and graphic novels alike. Plus it will easily last three days on a charge. Stuff says The best small tablet you can buy right now
from £300 / samsung.com A top 8in Android tablet that packs loads of fab features into a small, lightweight design. It’s ace for reading magazines, playing games and watching films, while still being easy to hold in one hand. Stuff says Small but mighty, this is a seriously good tab
from £380 / store.google.com Turns out the future of laptops looks a lot like Google’s Android hybrid tablet.
£350 / samsung.com With a brilliant screen and serious stamina, this is our favourite full-size Android tablet.
£40 / uk.akg.com These on-ears offer agile and punchy sound in a stylish foldable design. Add standard and three-button control cables for maximising compatibility, and there’s no excuse for not getting brilliant sound from your phone. Stuff says Fantastic sound for minimal cash
£120 / uk.akg.com Proof that good wireless sound doesn’t have to cost the Earth, these serve up truckloads of detail, with a full charge promising 20 hours… and with none of the hiss or popping that’s often a glitch of Bluetooth headphones. Stuff says Just the ticket for your iPhone 7
£229 / bowers-wilkins.co.uk The brand’s first foray into wireless brings luxury for your ears inside and out.
£290 / bose.co.uk These wireless QCs are high on clarity and spaciousness: perfect for a long-haul journey.
FOR THE FULL TOP TENS AND REVIEWS, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10/TABLETS & STUFF.TV/TOP-10/HEADPHONES
NAD’s New Classic Amplifiers NEW 5 YEAR WARRANTY
C 368 & C 388 requires optional MDC module
C 368 £799
C 338 £599
C 388 £1499
This advanced amplifier includes many cutting-edge technological breakthroughs developed by NAD over decades of creating affordable ultra-high performance audio components.
The C 338 includes Wi-Fi and Network Streaming and supports both Google Cast and Spotify Connect. It also provides access to internet radio stations and can serve as an UPnP Client for network streaming from a local NAS library.
Every detail of the powerful C388 has been carefully planned and perfectly executed to wring out every last drop of performance. Featuring NAD’s exclusive modular design, adding the optional BluOS Module provides access to your local area network via Wi-Fi or wired Ethernet connection and adds Hi-Res Audio streaming.
FUTURE-PROOF MODULAR DESIGN. This NAD exclusive feature allows you to customise your C 368 amplifier with additional capabilities and features, now or in the future. The two available MDC slots can accommodate a variety of upgrade modules including 4K video capable HDMI switching, additional Digital Inputs, additional Analogue and Phono Inputs, and one of the most advanced Hi-Res Audio multi-room wireless systems available, the BluOS music management system developed by Bluesound. BluOS connects to your network and is controlled via smartphone, tablet or desktop to manage your music collection and connect to a growing list of high-quality streaming music services.
You can connect instantly to the C 338 with Bluetooth allowing you to stream music wirelessly from any Bluetooth-enabled device. The high performance aptX codec is fully supported for true CD-quality sound.
HiFi for a wireless generation
5 YEAR WARRANTY
PULSE SOUNDBAR £999
The PULSE SOUNDBAR is the world’s first Hi-Res Audio soundbar, supporting audio resolutions of 24 bits and up to 192kHz sampling rate. Furthermore, it supports Mater Quality Authenticated (MQA) high-resolution audio streams, another first in the soundbar category. But it is not just the ability to handle hi-res audio streams that make the PULSE SOUNDBAR so unique, it is how it brings music and movies to life with its natural and dynamic sound quality.
P7 WIRELESS £319 Wireless headphones with Bluetooth apX.
NAIM UNITI ATOM NEW ALL-IN-ONE STREAMING SYSTEM £1750 P5 WIRELESS £229
On-ear wireless headphones which offer an enticing blend of great sound and stunning design.
A beautiful, compact multi-source music player that will seduce you with its amazing sound quality and outstanding feature-set. Its 40-watt integrated amplifier and high-resolution music streaming capabilities will fill your home with stunning high-fidelity sound. Atom is perfect as a high-end main system or even for use in the kitchen or study, where space is at a premium.
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TOP TENS TVs TIPS & TRICKS
Magic Zoom lets you magnify anything on the screen, and pause to screenshot if you see fit.
You can connect your phone to the telly via LG’s TV Plus app with Magic Mobile Connection.
LG OLED55C6V £1799 / lg.com
A truly stunning television. LG’s OLED panel can go blacker than most TVs and will dazzle your senses with its brightness; it offers sharply etched detail, excellent viewing angles and solid HD upscaling. It also boasts support for both HDR standards – HDR10 and Dolby Vision – so you’ll be able to watch compatible content from Amazon, Netflix and UHD Blu-rays regardless of which format wins out in the future. If you’ve got the money, this is the 4K TV to own.
Stuff says Packed full of tech, with jaw-dropping performance to send you into TV reverie ● NOW ADD THIS Sky Q Once you’ve got a 4K TV, you’ll want access to the best 4K content. Sky Q is a good bet for watching and recording all your favourite shows and films. from £15 + £22/month / sky.com
4 5 HOT BUY
This set sprinkles extra stardust on top of its 4K and HDR brilliance in the form of ‘Quantum Dot’ tech, which claims to offer over a billion colours. The result? An impressively refined performance, and most of the benefits of a top-of-the-range TV at a fraction of the price.
This Sony ticks every box for a thoroughly modern TV. You get the full 4K and HDR package in a set that’s large but not ridiculous for the average living room. Indeed, for a 55in TV, it’s as svelte as we can imagine. It looks great and performs, if anything, even better.
Stuff says A real winner, and significantly cheaper than some of its rivals
Stuff says A whole lot of superbly performing 4K HDR TV for your money
£899 / samsung.com
£1299 / sony.co.uk
£3699 / lg.com A regal TV that excels across the board. There are few better you can buy at any price.
£1549 / samsung.com Stunning performance for the money, proving there’s plenty of life in LCD yet.
£4599 / lg.com A superb specimen of technology and design, with one of the best pictures we’ve ever seen.
£1289 / panasonic.com One of most stylish tellies we’ve seen in ages, with a great 4K HDR picture and punchy sound.
£1599 / panasonic.com This 65in Panasonic is tempting, but falls slightly short on brightness and colour bit depth.
£3999 / sony.co.uk Stylish and slick with a stunning picture, but there are rivals that perform even better.
£3999 / philips.co.uk (Harrods exclusive) Expensive 4K TV with an AmbiLux twist: nine projectors extend the screen onto the wall.
FOR UP-TO-DATE NEWS AND FULL REVIEWS OF ALL THE BEST NEW TELEVISIONS, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10/TVs
HOW TO BUY A TV
HOW TO BUY TOP TENS
You’re ready to invest in the greatest glowing rectangle of them all: a new telly. Here’s how to navigate the minefield of acronyms and jargon…
These screens have selfilluminating pixels, creating stunning contrast… at a price.
Stands for High Dynamic Range. Compatible tellies will deliver great subtlety and detail.
This measures (in milliseconds) how long the TV takes to respond to signals.
TV GUIDE 1
Size it up
Big can look brilliant, but you will need to put some distance between yourself and your new TV, otherwise you’ll start to pick apart the picture. With 4K TVs you can sit a little closer. ● Get this: Sony KD-65ZD9 £3999 / sony.co.uk
Optimum viewing distance is 1.6x your screen size (HDTV)
NOW ADD THESE
EXTRA FEATURES 2 Judging panel
Now plasma has been consigned to that big recycling bin in the sky, there are only two TV technologies battling for supremacy: LCD and OLED. The latter is limited to 55in or 65in sizes, and you can expect to pay a premium compared to the LCD equivalent. However, OLED’s wafer-thin designs, deep blacks and wide viewing angles could swing your decision. ● Get this: LG OLED55C6V £1799 / lg.com
● A SOUNDBAR
3 Time to 4K out?
There’s still life in Full HD tellies – they’re a good shout if you’re after an affordable second screen for a bedroom or kitchen. But if your budget is north of £1000 and your sights are firmly set on 4K services, it’s a no-brainer. Although the leap in quality from HD to Ultra HD isn’t as huge as the jump from SD to HD was, you can still see a real difference. Get this: Samsung UE49KS8000 £1199 / samsung.com
A full surround system isn’t always viable, but a good soundbar like the Yamaha YSP-2700 (£649, richersounds.com) can get close. It has all the 4K-compatible HDMI inputs you could ever need.
4 Curved or flat?
If you need to squeeze your set into the corner of a room, the curve can help slot it into place. Picture quality is affected by seating position, though. If you’re going to be sat straight in front, right in the curve’s sweetspot, video can look amazing. But if your seats are flung out to the four corners of your living room, images can appear distorted. ● Get this: Samsung UE55KS9000 £1549 / samsung.com
5 Be smart
As with smartphones and tablets, different TV manufacturers use different operating systems for their sets. The Firefox OS system used by the majority of Panasonic’s 4K TVs is clear and concise, not to mention quick and responsive. You’ll also need to check the basics, such as which on-demand and catch-up services are supported. ● Get this: Panasonic TX-65DX750 £1599 / panasonic.com
● A 4K BLU-RAY PLAYER If you want the ultimate picture, you should consider investing in an Ultra HD Blu-ray player. The Panasonic DMP-UB900 (£449, richersounds.com) serves up a brilliant display.
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TOP TENS SMARTWATCHES, FITNESS TRACKERS
HOT BUY UY
116 HOT BUY
Apple Watch Series 2
Garmin Vivoactive HR
Last year’s Apple Watch was already the best smartwatch to date; now it’s found its focus. The Series 2 devices come with an array of upgrades – more power, a brighter screen – along with a greater emphasis on fitness functions without a phone in tow. Both GPS and waterproofing make this a far more compelling gadget for exercise obsessives. No alternative is as fast or as well made, or has the same quality and quantity of bespoke apps.
Garmin has a frankly bewildering array of fitness trackers and outdoorsy GPS watches, but the Vivoactive HR is the one you really want. It’s packed to the gills with long-lasting, easy-to-use and rewarding fitness cleverness. That means it contains the daily step and sleep tracking that you can get in other bands costing under a ton, but also the optical heart-rate monitor, touchscreen display and smartphone notifications that you’d normally pay more for.
Stuff says Apple’s small tweaks and renewed sports focus add up to make the Series 2 a watershed wearable
Stuff says Not super-stylish, perhaps, but crammed with sensors, sports and stamina: a fab all-round fitness tracker
from £369 / apple.com
2 HOT H BUY UY
£100 / pebble.com Buy the Pebble 2 for the effortless way it handles notifications, the geeky app and the watchface selection – rather than the rudimentary fitness tracking – and you’ll be very happy indeed. Stuff says Slick smartwatch skills for a bargain price
£140 / fitbit.com Almost as much a fitness tracker as it is a smartwatch, the Blaze delivers accurate heart-rate tracking, multi-sport modes and a lovely interface – even if its design won’t appeal to everyone. Stuff says The Blaze is built to be an ace workout buddy
Samsung Gear S2
£140 / garmin.com Free up a space on your wrist – this is everything you need from a fitness watch.
£229 / samsung.com The rotating bezel is a genius bit of design. Needs more apps, though.
£180 / garmin.com
2 3 4 5
£49 / moov.cc Since it’s cheaper than the Fitbit Flex 2 and basically does the same stuff, the Moov Now has been elevated up this list. Thanks to its guided workouts with voice coaching, it also does a better job of getting you in shape. Stuff says Our favourite bargain fitness tracker
Apple Watch Nike+ £369 / apple.com In terms of specification this is identical to the standard Apple Watch Series 2, but it does get a couple of Nike-flavoured exclusive faces. The sporty strap alone makes this Watch the one to buy for the energetic type. Stuff says Small tweaks make the Series 2 even sportier
Fitbit Flex 2
£70 / fitbit.com The cheapest Fitbit you can buy is also its only water-resistant tracker.
£50 / misfit.com The Shine is a £60 tracker that feels anything but cheap. Its app isn’t great, however.
FOR THE FULL REVIEWS, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10/SMARTWATCHES & STUFF.TV/TOP-10/FITNESS-TRACKERS
SHOULD I UPGRADE? TOP TENS
Picked up cheap
DENON D-M40DAB Will Clarke Senior Designer
Should I upgrade?
CHROMECAST ULTRA Ryan Jones Staff Writer
Your television needs a brain if it’s to be considered smart. Fortunately, brain surgery for our tech is nowhere near as complex as it is for us humans. In fact, with a Chromecast you simply have to plug it into the HDMI port of your TV and it’ll start speaking the language of your favourite apps. You don’t need to look under the sofa cushions for the remote either, as you can use your smartphone instead. Plus, the Chromecast lets you cast whatever’s on your Android device or Chrome browser right to your television screen – and it’s available for a bargain price of £39. What more could it possibly offer? Cast away Well, it could offer 4K. For £69, the Chromecast Ultra allows you to stream from 4K-enabled apps such as Netflix and YouTube, so you can see it all in stunning detail. The only snag: it’s 2017, and smart TVs are now the norm, especially for sets that can do Ultra HD. And while casting your Android device onto the television screen is surprisingly useful, the regular Chromecast does that anyway. So if your TV already has a brain, there’s not much point in buying it another.
Can’t afford to go to a gig every weekend? Plug your iPod or TV into this old-school micro hi-fi for lifelike sound instead – wired hardware like this is going cheap these days. You’ll struggle to fling your undies at AC/DC from your living room, mind. £179 / superfi.co.uk
You also get a built-in DAB radio and, yes, a CD player.
Everywhere you are Read it, like it, share it
Most TVs already stream Limited 4K apps
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TOP TENS LAPTOPS TIPS & TRICKS
Who needs the Touch Bar when you can log into your Mac with the Touch ID on your iPhone?
The universal clipboard lets you copy text on your iPhone and paste it directly to your Mac.
Apple MacBook Pro from £1449 / apple.com
It can be easy to focus on what this entry-level version of the MacBook Pro doesn’t have: it’s missing the new Touch Bar for a start, and is down on ports and power compared to the next model up. But it’s also £300 cheaper, and has the same diminutive form and truly gorgeous screen. It also has the brilliant second-gen butterfly keyboard. In fact, you’re better off sparing your wallet and forgetting about the Touch Bar. It’s just not worth the extra cash.
Stuff says The standard Pro is beautiful, compact and a pleasure to work on ● NOW ADD THIS Satechi Type-C USB 3 Hub Two ports not enough? This hub adds loads more and sits snugly against the new MacBook Pro. £31 / satechi.net
Dell Chromebook 13
The original XPS 13 was already a great lightweight laptop, but now Dell has given it a Windows 10 refresh. If the last one was the thinking person’s Ultrabook, this is that and a whole lot more. With improved battery life and performance, it’s hard to beat.
This Dell brings quality construction together with horsepower that outclasses almost every other Chromebook on the market. The price is roughly double that of similar devices, but the Dell 13 offers a true ‘laptop experience’ for the extra cash.
Stuff says An excellent Windows 10 Ultrabook, small in size and great in stature
Stuff says Not the flashiest laptop, but the top-notch screen is a stunner
from £999 / dell.co.uk
from £1249 / apple.com Aside from an extra hour’s battery life, the 2016 MacBook isn’t that different to the previous one.
HP Spectre 13
Razer Blade Stealth
from £1149 / hp.com Until recently the world’s thinnest laptop – but this machine still has serious power to spare.
from £1000 / razerzone.com This jet black slab of laptop loveliness is purpose-built for on-the-go gamers.
Apple MacBook Air 13in
Microsoft Surface Book
Acer Chromebook R 11
Dell XPS 13
from £513 / dell.co.uk
from £330 / asus.com This bargain crams in a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a responsive trackpad. Impressive.
from £949 / apple.com If a portable road warrior is what you’re after, this slinky MacBook remains a great choice.
from £1299 / microsoftstore.com Shorn of its initial bugs, the Surface Book is a lustrous Windows hybrid with luxe appeal.
£200 / acer.com This Chrome-tab hybrid is tiny enough to carry everywhere, and super-flexible.
FOR UP-TO-DATE NEWS AND FULL REVIEWS OF ALL THE BEST NEW LAPTOPS, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10/LAPTOPS
PLAYLIST WORK MUSIC
PLAYLIST TOP TENS
From thunderstorms to Brian Eno, these sounds will help you rediscover focus in an office full of coughing fits and tedious chatter
BEST BUY FOR PEACEKEEPERS Noisli
Neighbours got the strimmer out again? This white noise creator will get you back in the zone. As you mix top-quality loops including weather, trains and fans, its background cycles through some lovely relaxing colours. You can also set timers and use its text editor for writing seamless prose. £1.49 / Android, iOS
This free site immerses your ears in the sounds of nature – or at least ‘soundscapes’ inspired by nature. You get six in total, the first of which is all bells and ambient tones, like a track from a meditation CD escaped to the internet. zenmix.io
OR MAKE YOUR OWN GENERATIVE MUSIC…
Though it’s designed for role-playing board games, this site has plenty of atmospheric fare for general work focus. These can be added to a playlist – although we’d avoid ‘Disembodied Spirits’ unless you want a major case of the heebie-jeebies. tabletopaudio.com
This selection of streams, loops, beats and synthetic noises doesn’t have the prettiest of designs, but you get a huge variety of sounds. Any clicked link takes you to a page with a graphic equaliser, making it useful for screening out jarring frequencies. mynoise.net
This app sees you create a kind of mesh from nodes and attached notes that leads to evolving music. £1.18 / iOS, Android
Like the sound of cafe hubbub but can’t be bothered to leave your flat? This site will bring the coffee house to you. Well, not the coffee – just the sounds, from Morning Murmur’s gentle hum to Paris Paradise, ensuring you feel refreshed for a working morning. coffitivity.com
The latest app from Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers gives you an entire ambient album to play with. £8.99 / iOS
Sometimes, only music can keep you focused. But where to find that mix of instrumentals and electronica that’s subtly propulsive without being distracting? Why, at Stuff ’s specially made ‘work music’ Spotify playlist: bit.ly/ stuffworkmusic
If you fancy some background melodies, this app will interpret your photos as a looping soundtrack. £free (IAPs) / iOS
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TOP TENS HIFI TIPS & TRICKS
With iPhones and Android devices, you can control your Sonos speakers from your lock screen.
The Sonos Play:5 uses a feature called Trueplay that tunes the sound to your room’s acoustics.
Sonos multiroom system from £147 / sonos.com If you want to pretend your favourite band are playing in your living room, there’s no better option than a Sonos wireless speaker. They look great, work with your smartphone and, most importantly, boom out your tunes with dazzling finesse – from the compact Play:1 (£147) to the flagship Play:5 (£389), a speaker redesigned from the ground up in 2016.
Stuff says Infinite music in every room without the need for custom installers? Sign us up! ● NOW ADD THIS Spotify Premium Sick of playing your iTunes library on repeat? Sign up to Spotify for more new music than you could ever possibly listen to. £9.99/month / spotify.com
4 BARGAIN BUY
6 7 Naim Mu-so
How much for a wireless speaker?! Well, yes, but what a wireless speaker it is. Naim has ploughed all of its high-end hi-fi experience into delivering a beautifully made, great-sounding device with AirPlay, Spotify Connect and aptX Bluetooth all on board.
The KEF Muo sounds as good as it looks, which is very nice indeed. It may be the size of a beer can but it creates a room-filling sound, brilliantly balanced and packed with vim and vigour. The Muo has the audio solidity of the B&W T7, but with even greater detail.
Stuff says A wireless speaker that can make a valid claim to be genuine hi-fi
Stuff says Portable Bluetooth at its best, with premium sound and design
£895 / naimaudio.com
£250 / uk.kef.com
8 9 BARGAIN BUY
Naim Mu-so Qb
£595 / naimaudio.com Complements its big brother’s more refined character with a confident presentation.
Google Chromecast Audio
£30 / google.com/chromecast Stream Spotify to your old hi-fi with this smart and highly affordable dongle.
Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless
£499 / bowers-wilkins.co.uk This is the ultimate wireless speaker for the streaming-savvy audiophile.
Bowers & Wilkins T7
£300 / bowers-wilkins.co.uk There are a million portable Bluetooth speakers in the world, but few better than the B&W T7.
Cambridge Audio Go
£99 / cambridgeaudio.com It sounds awesome, it’s really well built and its battery lasts a massive 18 hours.
Bluesound multiroom system
from £299 / bluesound.com A Sonos-style multiroom system but with better-than-CD-quality hi-res audio.
UE Boom 2
£85 / ultimateears.com It may look like a sporty water bottle but this speaker sounds great and is mighty tough.
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YOUR STREAMING ESSENTIALS NETFLIX
NEW TO STREAMING TOP TENS
Certain TV shows will kill your braincells quicker than a barrel of gin – so get a healthy dose of quality entertainment with these binge-worthy picks AMAZON VIDEO
Guardians of the Galaxy
“Imagine a talking tree and raccoon in space”, went the pitch at Marvel Comics back in 2008. Yet despite the lunacy of such a concept, it’s led to a fun sci-fi flick that rivals any of Marvel’s superhero films to date.
We can deal with a load of monsters. Zombies? Sure. Creepy ghosts? Bring ’em on. But a possessed, child-like doll? Hell no. Serving as a spin-off to The Conjuring, this horror film will not rest until you’ve soiled something.
Having a mutation in reality could simply mean a change in eye colour, but in the X-Men universe it can result in superpowers. Legion focuses on Charles Xavier’s son, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Imagine having to share your inner thoughts with eight strangers. This is what the leading characters in Sense8 have to put up with. And you thought admitting you “don’t mind” Jeremy Clarkson was the end of the world.
Being locked inside a room for your whole life might be a dream for some introverts (as long as there’s decent Wi-Fi). But Joy and her five-year-old son don’t have such pleasures in this dark indie drama.
In a typical day, most of us will spend more time drinking coffee and sending emails than anything else. Compare this to the actions of the characters in this real-time thriller, a 24 spin-off, and you might feel just a bit lazy.
V for Vendetta
The Walking Dead
While we drink pumpkin lattes and twirl sparklers on Bonfire Night, we don’t think how messed up it is that we’re basking in the heat of a burning Guy Fawkes. V for Vendetta reminds us in this dystopian political thriller.
Lawyers have to be one of the most despised professions, yet we can’t stop watching them on TV. After one episode of Goliath, starring Billy Bob Thornton and William Hurt, you’ll be guilty of a new addiction.
What moves sluggishly with a constant moaning sound? Yes, it’s you with a hangover… but also the walking dead, and they’re returning for the second half of season 7 – although Rick should be more afraid of Negan’s baseball bat.
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GOT EARS? THEN CHECK OUT THE…
PlayStation 4 Pro £350 / playstation.com
As a gaming platform, PlayStation 4 is the best around – which makes the PS4 Pro the best of the best. Games optimised for the new console look stunning on a 4K HDR TV, and are substantially improved by the extra grunt inside this slightly bigger machine. If you’ve already splashed out for a 4K HDR screen and you enjoy video games at all, it’s well worth the upgrade. The missing 4K Blu-ray drive means it isn’t a perfect entertainment system, but streaming converts won’t care.
Stuff says The system for console gamers who have a 4K TV and want the best gaming experience possible
Xbox One S
from £219 / xbox.com Microsoft dumps Kinect, the £400+ asking price and the fugly power brick to create a supremely enticing console that also has a 4K Blu-ray player. It remains a serious alternative to the PS4 Pro. Stuff says A fine console with some big exclusive titles
PlayStation 4 Slim
£204 / playstation.com This is the old PS4 squeezed into a 20% smaller package, and it still delivers an awesome console gaming experience. But if you see a 4K TV in your future, you’re better off saving for the PS4 Pro. Stuff says Better than the old PS4 in almost every way
£759 / vive.com Our VR headset of choice offers a completely new way to experience gaming.
£549 / oculus.com Even with the Touch controllers, the Rift can’t beat the Vive for losing yourself in a game.
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GAMES TOP TENS
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
from £31 / unchartedthegame.com
TIPS & TRICKS
The flagship series of the PlayStation 3 swings its way onto the PS4, and boy was it a successful landing. Full of adrenaline-fuelled action sequences and funny one-liners, Uncharted 4 keeps you hooked all the way. As Nathan Drake’s story finally comes to a close you’ll be sad to say goodbye to this seminal gaming series, but also satisfied with its conclusion.
The new open-level design means you can outflank your enemies rather than going bullet-crazy.
Stuff says A fittingly epic send-off for one of gaming’s most thrilling series
Areas of long grass can be used to hide yourself before pouncing on an unsuspecting enemy.
● NOW PLAY THIS Spelunky Can’t satisfy that treasure-hunting itch? Not to worry, as Spelunky has an endless number of randomly generated caves to explore. £11.99 / spelunkyworld.com
Use the grappling hook to swing in on your enemies and take them down in style.
The Last Guardian
Ratchet & Clank
Forza Horizon 3
Forget Call of Duty and Battlefield – this is the best multiplayer shooter. Full of crazy characters with a range of powers, Overwatch is one long party that you’d be mad to miss… so grab your controller, pick up a hero and dive in – you won’t regret it.
Forza Horizon 3 accelerates to the top of our list of open-world racers, providing thrilling fun in incredible amounts and looking absolutely gorgeous in HDR. It nails that sweet spot of being fun but not silly or obnoxious, and serious but crucially not too serious.
Stuff says Blizzard’s chaotic shooter is as good as multiplayer mayhem gets
Stuff says Nothing but blue skies – this is the best open-world racer around
£41 / playoverwatch.com
£30 / xbox.com
£15 / xcom.com It’s your job to save humanity from aliens in this thrilling turn-based strategy game.
£39 / battlefield.com A bombastic shooter that really makes the most of its bloody World War I setting.
£16 / ubi.com The Division wraps up the best bits of multiple genres into one action-heavy package.
£29 / titanfall.com Loads of giant mech carnage and a gripping, planet-hopping campaign to boot.
£25 / playstation.com Seriously flawed in some ways, but The Last Guardian is a feathery masterpiece.
£23 / insomniacgames.com More revolution than remake, this updated classic is one of the best reasons to own a PS4.
£14 / doom.com It’s bloody. It’s brutal. It’s brilliant. Doom is back, and it’s packing a super shotgun.
FOR UP-TO-DATE NEWS AND REVIEWS OF ALL THE BEST NEW GAMES, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10/GAMES
TOP TENS HOME CINEMA, SMART HOME
HOT OT BUY UY
Amazon’s latest Fire TV is faster and more powerful than the old model, but more importantly, it supports ultra-detailed 4K video: TV and movies in four times the resolution of Full HD. Of course, you’ll need a 4K set to enjoy all those extra pixels, but if you’re thinking of making the upgrade soon, this streamer is a tele-futurist’s delight. With the added attractions of neat voice controls and great gaming functionality, it’s the most complete streaming box available.
The Nest 3.0 is not a dramatic reinvention, but it didn’t need to be: this is still the best-looking and most rewarding smart thermostat on the market. Impressively, and slightly scarily, Nest learns your habits – when you’re in the house, when you’re likely to need a lot of hot water and so on – so it can control the boiler to save energy and keep that shower nice and toasty. That, paired with a nicely designed app, is enough to put the third-gen Nest ahead of its competition.
Stuff says Netflix, iPlayer, Amazon Video and Android games in one 4K-capable streaming box
Stuff says Our favourite thermostat cranks up the heat up on its smart home rivals with a solid upgrade
Q Acoustics Media 4
Amazon Fire TV 4K £80 / amazon.co.uk
£249 with installation / nest.com
from £15 + £22/month / sky.com A Sky subscription is already an expensive option, but Sky Q works flawlessly and could change the way you watch TV – especially now 4K’s arrived. Undoubtedly the best TV experience you can get. Stuff says The slickest TV box you can currently buy
£309 / qacoustics.co.uk This soundbar has won awards two years in a row from our friends at What Hi-Fi? The Media 4 combines subtle detail with precise surround effects to be the best-sounding and best-value soundbar you can buy. Stuff says A whole lot of under-telly hi-fi for the money
£299 / weybridge-audio.co.uk This soundbase is as practical as they come for those with modest-sized living rooms.
£30 / google.com Chromecast lets you search multiple streaming services from one app.
Hive Active Heating 2
Philips Hue Starter Kit
£158 / neatmo.com Netatmo’s smartcam has face recognition capability, which works well once it’s got to know you, and the usual motion and noise detection is easy to control. We like the way individual profiles can be adjusted. Stuff says Slick and hugely informative
£199 with installation / hivehome.com Hive is simple enough for anyone to use and powerful enough to be truly useful, with features such as geolocation and holiday mode. For a family-friendly introduction to the smart home, it’s a solid choice. Stuff says This smart thermostat is hot, hot, hot
from £60 / meethue.com Become an indoor god with the smartest way of lighting up your home remotely.
£150 / amazon.co.uk The AI revolution starts here – Alexa can control your house, and makes a great DJ.
FOR FULL REVIEWS, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10/HOME-CINEMA & STUFF.TV/TOP-10/SMART-HOME-DEVICES
SYSTEM CAMERAS TOP TENS
Fuji Film X-T2 £1360 / fujifilm.eu
The X-T2 is an excellent lesson in how to upgrade an already great gadget. The X-T1 was itself a brilliant camera, so Fuji gave it superb video and autofocus skills to go with the already top weatherproof build. Sure, it’s pricey, but it’s also worth every penny. What you’re getting here is a camera that approaches the most desirable DSLRs for speed, and rivals pretty much any camera for image quality – so it’s a truly superb all-rounder.
TIPS & TRICKS For aperture-priority shots, set shutter speed to auto and turn that lens ring to the desired f-number.
Stuff says A dream of a camera that barely strays from perfection from start to finish
The ISO and shutter dials can now be locked with a simple press of the middle button.
● NOW ADD THIS Manfrotto 190 Go! Carbon Fibre Tripod You no longer have an excuse for wobbly photos with this carbon-fibre tripod. It weighs just 1.65kg. £235 / manfrotto.co.uk
The X-T2’s film simulation modes give your shots massive amounts of character.
Sony A7R II
Canon EOS 80D
Sony has made a no-compromise camera that combines impeccable build quality with a class-leading full-frame sensor, 5-axis image stabilisation, huge ISO range, fast autofocus, an excellent viewfinder and 4K video recording. And it’s far more compact than a DSLR.
It’s the photographic equivalent of playing FIFA 17 as Barcelona, on full auto mode, against Burnley: you’ll be convinced that you’re a genius, but really you’ve not got much to do with the results. Put the 80D in the hands of a child and they’d get some great shots.
Stuff says A no-compromise compact system camera for well-heeled enthusiasts
Stuff says The step-up DSLR for anyone looking to learn manual shooting
£2499 / sony.co.uk
£1049 / canon.co.uk
Canon EOS 5DS
Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II
£449 / fujifilm.eu The Fujifilm X-T10 would be a great camera at any price, but at this one it’s unbeatable.
£2799 / canon.co.uk A fantastic piece of kit that any pixel-peeping SLR fan will get heaps of enjoyment out of.
£743 / olympus.co.uk The second coming of the E-M5 smashes it on both design and performance fronts.
£5099 / europe-nikon.com The pro-level camera to go for if you spend a lot of time on the sports field.
£949 / olympus.co.uk An immensely desirable piece of design and an immensely capable all-round camera.
£799 / sony.co.uk A camera that delivers on all fronts: compact size, great photos and excellent video.
£1599 / europe-nikon.com It’s big and bulky, but this is one of the most comfortable, intuitive SLRs money can buy.
FOR FULL REVIEWS OF ALL THE BEST NEW CAMERAS, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10/SYSTEM-CAMERAS
TOP TENS BUDGET BUYS
Raspberry Pi 3 £33 / raspberrypi.org
You don’t have to be big on coding to enjoy the Raspberry Pi. With some basic tweaking, you can turn this £33 tiny-puter into a very respectable desktop PC, retro gaming machine or media centre – and that’s just the start. The Pi 3 is also the perfect update to its predecessor: you get loads more power (about the same as a mid-range smartphone), integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and it still costs less than a PS4 game.
TIPS & TRICKS Plonk that Pi camera you bought on a birdfeeder and you’ll be able edit your own Springwatch.
Stuff says Opens up a world of tech possibilities for what is a positively diddy asking price
The free, open-source Kodi will turn a Pi into a media centre for watching your locally stored films and telly.
● NOW ADD THIS Raspberry Pi Camera Module V2 Not every Pi 3 project has to be a homage to your childhood console. This adds smartphone photo-pizazz. £18 / raspberrypi.org
Planning on turning your Pi into a SNES emulator? Legally, you must own the games to play them.
HOT BUY HOT OT BUY UY
5 6 7
Google Chromecast Audio
This disc doesn’t just transform the streaming capabilities of your speakers – its lossless hi-res audio option can also boost their sound quality. This is an infinitely superior alternative to streaming via Bluetooth, with less battery drain and no interruption from calls.
You know you’re onto a winner when your fitness gadget isn’t just a tracker but a personal trainer. The Moov is a honeycomb-covered workout guide with voice coaching and rep-counting. And yes, it still tracks your daily steps and auto-detects your sleep.
Stuff says If you’ve not got a Sonos setup, this’ll do roughly the same job
Stuff says The best budget tracker – gives most Fitbits a run for their money
£30 / madeby.google.com
£49 / moov.cc
8 9 10
Amazon Echo Dot
£50 / amazon.co.uk This smart home assistant is a lot smaller than the full-size Echo, but it’s a much bigger bargain.
£39 / soundmagicheadphones.com SoundMagic is royalty when it comes to budget buds. For the cash, these are stupendous.
Amazon Fire TV 4K
£80 / amazon.co.uk If you’ve bought a 4K TV, fill it with lovely content from Amazon’s Ultra HD media streamer.
Philips Hue Starter Kit
from £60 / meethue.com Start your smart home with two bulbs and a bridge before turning it into a palace with more.
£57 / amazon.co.uk Top of our holiday packing list, the basic Kindle is thinner and lighter than its predecessor.
Google Daydream View
£69 / madeby.google.com An inexpensive headset that works with your Google phone to deliver VR experiences.
£48 / xiaomi-mi.com If you like being woken up gently, get this smart Bluetooth bedside lamp.
FOR FULL REVIEWS OF ALL THESE GADGETS, AND TO EXPLORE MORE TOP TEN LISTS, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10
5-MINUTE HACKS TOP TENS
IN THE NEXT ISSUE OF MAKE A MICROSOFT HOLOLENS FOR £25 Microsoft’s ‘mixed reality’ headset is a bit spendy at £2719, but you can get a flavour of its power for a pittance with this Google Cardboard-like tribute: ● Get a ZapBox. First, you need a cardboard headset for your phone that lets you play virtual mini golf on your lounge floor. That’s the ZapBox ($30, kickstarter.com), which is due to ship in April and includes everything you need for stripped-down AR, including cardboard controllers.
● Place your point codes. These are the markers that the ZapBox app will use to map your room and place objects. Once these are in position, your similarly coded handheld controllers will be ready to interact with them. ● Move the sofa. All done? Put your smartphone in the ZapBox headset and you’ll be ready to play its free games, including ZapBrush and mini-golf. Congrats, you’ve made the first step towards building a holodeck.
NINTENDO: FROM NES TO SWITCH
XIAOMI MI MIX RATED
MIRRORLESS CAM SUPERTEST
ON SALE 2 MARCH SUBSCRIBE ONLINE NOW… GET IT DELIVERED FOR FREE AND SAVE UP TO 53% ON THE COVER PRICE! www.themagazineshop.com/stu/mar17 Subscribe now and get a free Case Logic Larimer backpack! Full details on p106.
CUSTOMISE YOUR AIRPODS Apple’s white AirPods aren’t to everyone’s tastes (as you’ll know if you read our review on p96). Here’s how to tweak their colour and theft-proofing: Give them a paintjob. Whether you fancy giving your AirPods a matt black look or a full turquoise makeover, the Grafixpressions store has a generous range of skin overlays. Each pack comes with two spare stickers plus a matching one for your charging case (from $6, bit.ly/airpodoverlays). Make a cunning disguise. Apple has kindly made the AirPods’ charging
case look like a pack of dental floss, so all you need to add to throw thieves off the scent is one sticker ($4, bit.ly/airpodisguise). Your dentist will be impressed too.
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NEXT BIG THING?
h no. Are you going to bring up the time I cried when my Companion Cube died in Portal? Er, no. Wait, you cried? That’s so pathe… actually, we did too. But we digress. The ‘emotional’ thing isn’t about games that cause you to laugh or cry. Instead, the idea behind it is to create games that adapt and react to your emotions. Imagine a dialogue-driven game like Mass Effect, but instead of picking from preset on-screen responses, the game could select the narrative based on your emotional reaction to the action.
That sounds creepy. I’m not one for probing. Thankfully there’s no need for any Matrix-style needles prodding your grey matter. All you need is a wrist-worn wearable designed to measure your emotions, which are then fed back to compatible games. The Ankkoro is one such device. It’s got a built-in heart-rate sensor and a galvanic skin sensor that detects your sweat levels based on the conductivity of your skin. Of course, sweating buckets and an increased heart rate are symptoms of both love and terror, so there’s a clever algorithm involved to detect which emotional state a player is in.
Clever, yes. But real? I doubt it. The Ankkoro isn’t ready for mainstream release, so we understand your caution. But the sensors are all there, and we’re told that several years of research with a cognitive neuroscience lab took place to help develop it. Obviously, clever tech is nothing without the software to support it, so we’ll have to wait and see if game developers jump on board too. As for us? We’re keeping our fingers crossed for a survival horror game in which the monsters can hear the sound of your frantic heart beating away, and then slowly crawl towards you…
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[ Words Esat Dedezade ]
Developing the next generation of Sport Scientists and Coaches.
Sam Lawson, UCS Sport Science Graduate. Now Director of Performance Analysis in the US. Be bold. Be brave. Go far.
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