PLUS-SIZE PHONES ...tested with
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iOS 7, Google Glass & Hollywood mega-budgets are changing everything Tested
October 2013 R32.00 (incl VAT) Other countries R28.07 (excl tax) www.stuďŹ€.co.za
Leap Motion turns Minority Report into handy reality
When we started putting this issue together Nokia and BlackBerry were still independent companies. Half way through our production process BlackBerry announced it was putting itself up for sale. In the last week, in a widely expected move, Microsoft said it is buying Nokia giving it the hardware muscle to finally compete properly in this mobile era. Rumours that Nokia CEO Stephen Elop will replace Steve Ballmer started immediately. It wouldn’t be a bad bet either, Elop has stared extinction in the face with the fallen cellphone giant. He's just the man needed to take Microsoft into the mobile age as desktop PC sales continue to dwindle. Nokia's fate may seem similar to BlackBerry's, but it is vastly different, as I wrote elsewhere: bit.ly/161cUl1 And the crowning glory of Elop's time in Helsinki is the rather beautiful and somewhat photographically overpowered Lumia 1020 (p58). With a 41MP camera – yes, 41 megapixels – it is hands down the best smartphone camera you'll ever buy. And it has similar processing and software punch, cleverly saving a 5MP snap for social media sharing. Part of Elop's success at Nokia was understanding what has quickly become known as the "ecosystem" – this world is defined as much by the devices as it is by the apps that we use. This is why we're leading with what we're calling the second age of apps (p40). And, no, I don’t know why Instagram hasn’t come to Windows Phone yet. Ask them how they are spending their $1-billion from Facebook. Apps are now so essential to our daily lives, from tracking our fitness to listening to music, from communicating to playing games. And in Projects (p99) (a section I am loving, are you?) we show you how to tackle street photography, code, stream video and be prepared for a musical gig. Drones (p93) have gotten a bad press. They're actually wonders of modern technology, especially if you're a remote control whizz. As ever, let me know what you think. Toby Shapshak, Editor and Publisher / firstname.lastname@example.org / @shapshak
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CONS C CO ON THE COVER
HOT STUFF 8
14 18 20 26 30 31 36 38
The Hot Four O LG G2 O Moto X O BMW i3 O Sphero 2.0 Vital statistics Ubuntu Edge This is what happens when you throw absolutely everything at a phone concept Gigapixel Turn the macro up to 11, and hit ‘OK’ Icon Astell & Kern AK120 It’s like a smartphone with no network skills, or camera, or GPS. Yep, it’s a PMP Games “This should be an MMO video game,” the film critics wailed about Transformers. Done Apps Old Father Time ain’t gonna kill himself Apps of the year MTN Business’s app winners More than a cliché Innovation in Africa How our continent is solving real problems Playlist The discerning geek’s guide to October
58 First test Nokia Lumia 1020 Many megapixel megaphone megatest 62 Supertest Smart TVs The greatest tellies this side of 4K OLG 55LA8600 O Samsung UA55F8000 O Sony KDL-55W904A 71 Stuff picks Tools We got a bunch of tools into the office. Now we have a bunch of tools, but no office O DeWalt DW088K ODremel Multi-Max MM40 O Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Tool O Makita BFR750RFE Auto Feed Screwdriver 76 Tested Leap Motion Are we ready for gesture-control computing? 78 Supertest 6in-plus phones Damn you, hands. Evolve faster! O Huawei Ascend Mate OSamsung Galaxy Mega O Sony Xperia Z Ultra
28 Win 3-Night Tsogo Sun Getaway 3 Prizes - 3 hotels - 3 lucky couples 57 Subscribe
CON C CO S 10.13 TOP 10
OF EVERYTHING How many new TVs can we fit into one Top 10? Who’s the new kid on the camera block? What’s the best game in the world right now? Find out from p111
OF EVERYTHING Smartphones Laptops Tablets TVs Compact cameras DSLRs, etc Games Headphones
112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119
SLRs, ETC 117 T HO Y BU
Olympus OM-D E-M5
R16 0 00 +++++ R6 400
+++++ R23 0 00
40 The second age of apps By which we don’t just mean Candy Crush 2 or Evernote Extreme or some such. We’re talking about the new wave of high-tech apps that are going to change your life 93 Drones Think not of a robotic rain of terror; think instead of an unmanned flurry of slurry to a needy field or search and rescue drones 120 Next big thing? 3D Replays Not just your rubbish camphone footage, but everyone else’s too!
100 Beta yourself Street Photography You don’t need 30kg of kit and a locations team to take great shots. Just hit the street. Come back! Read the feature first, silly 102 Supergeek Coding Do cowboys ride horses without knowing how they work? No, Sir. Shouldn’t you then learn how to program your own tech? 104 How to build the ultimate tech home Part 5: video streaming Because loading a disc is a sign of failure, my friend 106 Instant upgrades Gig tech Supercharge your local open-mic night 108 Gadget Doctor You put a problem IN. You take a tech fix OUT… 109 5-minute hacks If nothing else, at least… Embrace ambient noise ODouble spamproof your mail O Survive a broken iPhone
+++++ R8 700
TOP THREE VIDEO STREAMERS
HEADPHONES 119 T HO Y BU
R5 400 +++++
R2 500 ++++,
R3 150 ++++,
R4 330 ++++,
R1 000 ++++,
R1 420 ++++,
R2 000 ++++,
STUFF PICK NEW MUSIC
LAPTOPS 113 T HO Y BU
Apple MacBook Air 13in/33cm (2013)
from R12 500 +++++
from R21 500 +++++
R12 000 +++++
R14 000 ++++, from R15 000 ++++,
from R23 000 ++++,
R16 000 ++++,
R12 500 ++++,
TOP THREE BLU-RAY PLAYERS
TVs 115 T HO Y BU
R35 000 +++++ R40 000 +++++ R20 000 +++++
R19 500 +++++
R12 000 +++++
R17 000 +++++
R9 000 +++++
R6 000 ++++,
R5 000 ++++,
R2 500 +++,,
p102 STUFF PICK NEW BLU-RAY
HOT FOUR #1 LG’S BRINGING NEXY BACK LG G2
You’ve got to feel for LG’s designers. They spend years building up their own design language and perfecting LG-esque phones, and then one day Google comes along and asks LG to build its Nexus 4. And because everyone then goes bonkers over Google’s LG phone, LG phones have to look a bit like the Nexus 4 from now on. Except bigger, and more powerful. Much, much more powerful, in this case: the G2 is the first normal-sized phone to pack Qualcomm’s 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 chip. This super-core can encode, decode and stream 4K video, decode 7.1 virtual surround sound and support up to four cameras. Oh, and it also has twice the graphics performance of the previous generation of chips and can tear phonebooks in half with its little fingers. The G2 also packs a 13MP camera, a whopping 3000mAh battery, 2GB RAM and a 1080p, 5.2in/13cm screen that comes within a hair’s breadth of the edge of the phone. It also has a volume rocker and power button on the back and a headphone port on the bottom, but you’ve got to let the designers have their fun somewhere. As hot as... a hardly-there hunch R7 300 / lg.com/za
22 PAGES OF THE BIGGEST STORIES FROM PLANET TECH
AIN’T THAT G2 SUMMIT? 1 Buttons to the back
2 Ears to the fore
3 Shout at the phone
It remains to be seen if LG’s back-mounted buttons will be useful or annoying in real life, but they do help slim the edge of the screen, giving it an almost bezel-free look.
The G2 has an audiolicious 24-bit, 192KHz DAC, which Android 4.2 had to be rewritten to support. LG: “We’ll make the Nexus; you give us 24-bit code.” Google: “Uh, OK… nerds!”
Like the Moto X, the G2 has always-on voice control, allowing you to bark commands at it while chopping chicken or handling other screensmeary substances.
HOT FOUR #2 CUSTOMS AND X-EYES Moto X
Within 20 years, all your gadgets will be custom-made. You’ll just download some designs, tweak the specs, pick a few colours and hit ‘Print’ – or, for the early adopters, ‘Ferment’. And while you’re waiting for your 3D printer or smartgerm culture to assemble your new device, you’ll think back to the days when gadgets were all black rectangles, and customisation meant drawing on them with Tipp-Ex. And you’ll remember the Moto X, the phone that changed all that. True, it didn’t have mould-breaking specs – a respectable dual-core chip, a decent battery and 2GB RAM were about all anyone needed in them days – but the simple fact that you could pick the colours yourself, from over 2000 combinations, made everyone want one. Except that it was never released anywhere but the US. As hot as... a phone in fuschia Rtba (US only) / motorola.com 10
HOT FOUR #3 BEEMER LIGHT BMW i3
There are still plenty of people who think electric cars are the exclusive preserve of lentil-munching anarchists. A plug-in from a company as big and beefy and Bavarian as BMW should change a few minds. The fact is, they’re here to stay and we’ll all be driving one soon. Car companies know this, and in the race to make electric cars reliable, efficient and fun, they’re coming up with all sorts of clever tech. To save battery, the i3 has a very light body made from aluminium and a carbon-fibre-reinforced passenger shell, a hollow steering column and aluminium bolts – all of which makes it 350kg lighter than a Nissan Leaf. Three energy efficiency modes eke as much mileage out of the battery as possible, so you’ll get an impressive 130-160km even in real life. Need to go further on a weekend, says BMW, and you can have a petrol range extender fitted, or just borrow one of its gas guzzlers. As hot as... free e-tolls Rtba (2014) / bmw.com
HOT FOUR #4 AMAZEBALLS Sphero 2.0
It might look simple, but Sphero is perhaps the most versatile toy since the throwing knife – It’s a knife! It’s a frisbee! – or the can-opening hammer. It starts out as an RC toy that you drive around bumping into things, becomes an AR toy that you drive around smashing up virtual things, tries its hand as a controller for your tablet or phone, diversifies into a bunch of tabletop games and will even teach you a bit of programming, via the right apps. Version 2.0 brings some significant upgrades: Orbotix’s new amazeball now travels twice as fast, whipping along at an ankle-smacking seven metres per second, has brighter multi-coloured lights – handy for figuring out which way it’s facing – and has an optional off-road jacket for spinning over rough ground or through water. As hot as... roboballs of fire R2 100 / core.co.za
YOU TOUCH IT TELLS
TACTILE TECHNOLOGY Touch the screen to get the ultimate sports watch experience with 11 functions including compass, tide, chronograph split and lap.
IN TOUCH WITH YOUR TIME
Experience more at www.t-touch.com
T A L S T A T S
IS THIS PHONE A PC? OR IS IT NEITHER? Ubuntu Edge R7250 / ubuntu.com
As we write, the Edge has missed its crowdfunded target, so it might not ever get made. But we’re still excited about it, and here’s why… O It runs Ubuntu and Android Ubuntu is the most popular flavour of Linux, of which a mobile version was launched in January 2013. You know Android. O It’s a pocket-sized Ultrabook The Edge will pack the sort of hardware you’d expect to see in a laptop, shoehorning in “at least” 4GB RAM and a 128GB SSD. The CPU hasn’t been named yet, but it’s likely to be a top-end, quadcore chip such as Nvidia’s Tegra 4 or Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800. It will also have a sapphire crystal screen surpassed in hardness only by diamond. O It’s a desktop PC Because it dual-boots both Android and Ubuntu, the Edge can be linked to a monitor and keyboard and used as a proper desktop PC. It won’t outperform your Mac Pro, but it should handle most desktop tasks with aplomb. O It’s a phone While it’s an Ubuntu PC when stationary, the Edge is an Android phone when it’s on the move, so you can continue using all the apps and media you’ve bought from Google Play over the years. Two LTE aerials are included for 4G at home and abroad, and it has stereo speakers, dual mics and active noise cancelling. O It’s a record breaker The Edge raised $3.5million in pledges in the first 24 hours of its campaign, and broke the Pebble smartwatch’s $10.2 million record for the most money raised for any project through crowdfunding. Pretty good by most people’s standards.
WILL IT EVER GET MADE? With a crowdfunded project (especially one of this size), there was always a chance the hardware would never see the light of day. But Ubuntu is very much on the rise: it has its own Steam client, making it one of the fastest-growing gaming platforms, it’s a hugely popular desktop OS and it has just started making a national OS for China. Even without $32 million, it might decide to start building phones anyway. The crowdfunding project will then have been a rather nice publicity exercise...
WHAT IT’S NOT OIt’s not for everyone The Edge is aimed at two groups of people: businesses who want a secure mobile PC that can be carried in a pocket, and Stuffreading geeks. Or, as Ubuntu’s Mark Shuttleworth puts it, “people like us, people who want to see the future happen faster.”
OIt’s not 1080p If you were building the ultimate phone, you’d go for a full HD screen (or more), right? Wrong, says Shuttleworth, who calls anything above 300ppi “wasted resolution”. Instead, the Edge’s 4.5in/11.4cm screen will be optimised for colour accuracy, brightness and dynamic range rather than pixels.
Seventh son of a seventh son
NEXUS 7 (2013) Google is so keen to cram more pixels into less space that in five year’s time Sergey Brin will announce an 8K display the size of a human fingernail. Right now we’re at the sweet spot, though, with the new Nexus 7 cramming a crisp 1920x1200 pixels into its handbag-friendly frame. Add in a better battery, Snapdragon S4 Pro chip and some swanky speakers, and you’ve got probably the best little tablet in the world, for a penny under two big ones. Rtba (due Nov) / asus.com/za
OIt’s not cheap Ubuntu appears to be taking a leaf from Google’s book, releasing a pricey, futuristic, “experimental” device to a limited number of geeks. Although when we say “pricey”, we mean for a new Android brand - it’s still cheaper than an off contract iPhone 5.
HASSELBLAD STELLAR UBUNTU DOESN’T CARE IF THE EDGE FAILS BECAUSE ITS MISSION WAS TO RAISE THE PROFILE OF UBUNTU
Looked at one way, Edvard Munch’s The Scream is a heart-rending exploration of grief, but it’s also a bit of cardboard with some paint on it. Similarly, you could say the Stellar is an over-priced, rebadged Sony RX100. Or you could say it’s a damn fine camera – large 20MP sensor, f/1.8 Zeiss lens, manual controls – with an exquisite grip that curls into your hand like a cat and charms anyone you point it at. And you’d also be right. Which way will you go? A lot / hasselblad-stellar.com
NOKIA LUMIA 625 Here at Stuff we find it easier to answer the question “what phone should I, a gadget fan, get?” than “what phone should I get my mum?” Because while you, a gadget fan, obviously need something from the top end of our Top 10, your mum doesn’t want a million apps and a dozen cores. She wants something with a decent 4.7in/11.9cm screen, maps, email, a browser and a 4G data connection that actually does what the adverts promise. Oh, and she wants it on contract. R3 500 / nokia.co.za
A sensor impending disaster
Giganto-mega-gun of awesomeness
SLINGATRON Rtba / hyperv.com
from R400 / kickstarter.com
You know how you only feel safe if you have total control over everything? The folks behind Canary understand: their device will allow you to remotely monitor the air quality, temperature and humidity in your home, alert you if there’s any movement and let you hear and see what’s going on in your flat in wide-angle HD. Next up, a device that alerts you if there’s an odd number of forks in the fork drawer.
The hell with music videos – this is what crowdfunding is for: bearded men building wild inventions. The engineers at HyperV want to build a mass accelerator that will fling large payloads (but not people, or cakes, on account of the thousands of Gs of acceleration involved) into space at 6-7 km/ sec, reaching orbit in a few heartbeats. If you want to colonise Titan, best chip in now.
In these last few years before the world’s tech companies implant each and every one of us with subdermal identification chips, we still have to go through the pesky business of making ourselves known to our gadgets. You even still have to tap a PIN into your phone. Unless you’ve got an NFC ring, that is, in which case you can just waft your hand over a gadget and unlock it.
Status Funded, 11x, indiegogo.com
Status Seeking funding, kickstarter.com
Funded, 5x, kickstarter.com
from R2 080 / canary.is
The month’s best concepts, start-ups, crowdfunded projects and plain crazy ideas
Join the band
The bigger picture in tech
Perhaps the most elegant use of 3D printing we’ve seen so far comes from The Sugar Lab, a husband-and-wife team of architectural designers from Los Angeles . Rather than the extruded plastic models – so last month, darling – Liz and Kyle von Hasseln design, digitally model and then 3D print sugar, creating complex, beautiful geometric forms that are strong enough to form the base of a cake and also sweet enough to pop into your coffee. Although, considering the effort they’ve gone to, that might be a bit rude.
MICROSOFT BUYS NOKIA
Will Nokia, recently bought by Microsoft for $7.2-billion, become the next Motorola? The original maker of smartphones was purchased by Google for a whopping $12.5-billion, but has failed to launch after the May 2011 deal. But Motorola is just one of many Android makers, and far down the foodchain from the almighty Samsung. Nokia is really the only major maker of Windows Phones. Being closer to the mothership can only be productive. And finally, with Nokia’s prowess as making beautiful handsets, Microsoft might get a decent tablet made.
Speaking of sales, BlackBerry also went public with its plan to sell itself – plunging a loyal fanbase of die-hard Qwerty lovers into a week of depression. At the very least a consortium of lawyers, law enforcement officials and diplomats will suddenly spring up to keep their beloved keys ticking instead of succumbing to the touchscreen dark side. There are a few Qwerty phones in BlackBerry’s roadmap, as there are touchscreen devices, but who will be the boss is still unknown. No tall handsome knight had ridden in to the rescue at the time of going to print. 19
I C O N
“IT HAS A WOLFSON DAC FOR EACH EAR”
ASTELL&KERN AK120 R13 500 / iriverinc.com
Is that price a typo? A typo? Not a chance. You are indeed looking at a Personal Music Player (PMP), a device class thought to have been slain (along with the compact camera, the calculator, the map and the handheld gaming console) by the smartphone. But, like the coelacanth, the PMP has been biding its time. Watching. Waiting.
The coelacanth? Yes, the ancient fish thought to have been extinct for millions of years, but then found swimming happily off the SA coast. Wiki it, you’re in for a treat. Anyway, while coelacanth survived by adapting to life in submarine caves, the AK120’s natural habitat is also secret and long-lasting: the homes and ears of audiophiles.
Audiophiles, eh? The Santana track on the screen was a clue. We’re deep into their happy place with the AK120. It has a high-end Wolfson DAC for each ear, so it delivers completely separate analogue audio channels to the left and right headphones. There’s 64GB of onboard space and two 64GB microSD slots, which you’ll need, because you’re going to load
it up with huge 24-bit lossless files. It supports WAV and FLAC, of course, but also DSD files from SACD. You have those, yes? Its chassis is also hewn from a solid block of joy. Manual controls are sidekicked by a touchscreen, and it has a 14-hour battery. What’s more, it also works as a USB external DAC. Starting to sound like better value yet?
WACOM CINTIQ COMPANION HYBRID It used to be that Wacom’s creative displays were one of the most useful things an illustrator could have, as long as it was plugged in. Unplugged from a PC, it became about as useful as a North Korean ballot box. Well, Wacom has good news for artists, designers and people who love practising their signature over and over and over again: its new Cintiq is still a scribbler’s dream when plugged in, but unplugged it’s a whip-smart, Tegra 4-toting, 13.3in/33.8cm Android tablet – there’s also a fullfat Windows 8 version – that you can draw on with precision and style. And a Cintiq Pro Pen. Rtba (due Q3) / wacom.com
No need for the hard cell
BRUNTON HYDROGEN REACTOR Oh cool, you have one of those battery-pack things, and you can use it to charge up your phone about one and a half times? Wow, that’s great. This? Oh, it uses hydrogen fuel cells. Yeah, each hydrogen core is about the size of two AA batteries, and each core will charge a phone five or six times (or an iPad one and a half times) before emitting a little happy death-sigh of water vapour as exhaust. So yes, with four or five cores you could have a month’s worth of mobile comms in one pocket. And the cores can be recharged at retailers, about 1000 times each. But your battery thing, that’s great too. R2 200 approx. (due 2014) / brunton.com
FUTURE STUFF VACTRAINS
Why a famous face and an old idea is a catalyst for awesomeness The announcement about Pretoria’s Elon Musk’s new Hyperloop transport concept, in which magnetically levitated pods travel at huge speed along low-pressure tubes, was heralded by some as the arrival, at long last, of the transport system we’ve all been dreaming of since we first saw Futurama. But the PayPal, Tesla and SpaceXfounding billionaire’s idea to revolutionise transport is only the latest iteration of the vactrain idea. We featured a very similar idea, ET3, in September 2012, but people have
been dreaming about travelling in tubes for over a century. It was the American engineer Robert Goddard who sketched the first prototypes for a vactrain in 1910, and they’re not dissimilar to Musk’s idea. Their trains both levitate – Goddard’s was held up by magnets, like the Japanese bullet train, while Musk’s rides on a cushion of air – and move along a closed, partial-vacuum tube at enormous speed. Coincidentally, Goddard also invented liquid-fuel rocket engines, which now power Musk’s SpaceX craft.
However, it’s not really important who had the idea first. Science fiction writers from Arthur C Clarke to Peter F Hamilton have included vactrains in their stories for ages, but have they built anything? Were there electric cars or private spaceships before Elon Musk made them desirable? Nope. So, while Musk said he might not be working on Hyperloop, his contribution could be the greatest so far, because it might persuade other people to gamble a gigaton of money on a scheme out of a sci-fi novel. 21
VS G whizz
CASIO G-SHOCK GB-6900B While the world gets excited about smartwatches, Casio is instead perfecting the cleverwatch: not fully touchscreened but still rocking Bluetooth, call/text/ email alerts and phone-finding wizardry. The new G-Shock is its smartest yet: not content with just receiving info from your phone, it beams both ways, so you can control your music, and the watch can auto-adjust to your phone’s time. And because it doesn’t have a special screen, the battery lasts for two years rather than two days. Clever. R1 600 (due 2014) / casio.com
MTM RAD A nice bit of microengineering can swing the balance. Take Nokia’s Lumia 1020 – not the greatest phone in the world, but its camera has moving parts the size of an amoeba’s tears. While the G Shock next door has many functions, the RAD makes do with an LCD that gives readings from a unique piece of micromechanics: a tiny Geiger counter. Given that Geiger-Mueller tubes are normally the size of a shoebox, that’s quite an achievement. Also, “mine has a Geiger counter” will win any smartwatch bragging contest. R18 100 (import) / specialopswatch.com
DROP EVERYTHING AND DOWNLOAD...
Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomy R160 / iPad
Another big, beautiful app from Touch Press, the developer behind The Particles and Disney Animation (see p46), this is an in-depth interactive book that mixes science, art and history. All 268 pages of da Vinci’s anatomical notebooks are scanned in zoomable high resolution, with translations and a ‘spyglass’ that lets you view Leonardo’s mirror writing the right way round. With plenty of video and several days’ worth of reading on one of history’s greatest minds, it’s a brilliant example of a high-budget app done well. 22
GLOBE CRUISER AH-NCW500 TM
Wireless Noise Cancelling On-Ear Headphones
You love the freedom to move. And you love sound quality without compromise. Get on board with Denonâ€˜s uniquely designed Globe Cruiser headphones.
One, two, skip a few…GX7, eight hundred
PANASONIC LUMIX DMC-GX7 We know what you’re thinking: “Eh? Last I heard, Panasonic had only just released the GX1. I must’ve fallen asleep for five years while they released the GX2 though GX6 models! ” Don’t worry, it’s just skipped a few numbers to underline how much extra tech it’s crammed into the GX7: a new 16MP sensor, 1/8000s max shutter speed, in-body image stabilisation, Wi-Fi, NFC, a tiltable 2760k-dot electronic viewfinder and an equally angletastic touchscreen. “And the price?” Yeah, that’s jumped a bit too, because Panosonic SA is not distributing its own products. R15 400 (body only) / wantitall.co.za
FUTURE STUFF The flies have it
FARM 432 What is it? Well, you put old food inside, then introduce some fly larvae. They turn into flies, which buzz around inside, mating and producing new larvae that crawl up a tube inside into a drawer. Then you.. you throw them away, right? No! You eat them. Insects are much better protein producers than cows or chickens, and with one of these in every kitchen, the world can continue eating meat. Healthy, nutritious insect meat. AUUGGHH! That is freaking disgusting! Well, tough. This planet’s too tiny for ten billion burger-munchers, so designers such as Farm 432’s Katharina Unger are finding ways to keep us in tasty eats. Or there’s vegetarianism? Concept / kunger.at
G A M E S
FIRST LOOK TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMOs) are back in a massive way. Many of the titles we’re most excited about seeing – Destiny, Tom Clancy’s The Division, The Elder Scrolls Online – take place in the ‘persistent online worlds’ the Xbox One and PS4 promise. But maybe you won’t need a next-gen console to play a next-gen MMO. The most popular game in the genre is the browser game RuneScape, and it is staggeringly successful: over 220 million people have registered accounts since its launch in 2001, and a community 26
larger than the entire population of London logs on every day. How does this get us to the huge robots? Transformers Universe is a new browser-based MMO from Runescape’s Cambridgebased developer Jagex. Pick a character class and custom-build your own Autobot or Decepticon (to stop everyone playing as Starscream). Tool up with armour and weaponry – certain weapons are suited to certain character types – and set out for hours of fun battling NPCs, taking on other players and ‘accidentally’ killing your friends. Weapons and
equipment will be customisable, too, to limit the embarrassment of turning up to a party to see somebot else wearing the same massive gun. And yes, Destiny will have better graphics. But while Jagex wouldn’t tell us exactly what tech is behind Transformers Universe’s prettier pixels, the new, visually luscious, HTML5 RuneScape 3 shows how quickly browser graphics are catching up. Oh, and did we mention it’s free, and that you can play it anywhere, and that it’s free? Sounds like a recipe for something massive.
2-UP GAMES YOU STAND UP TO PLAY
JUST DANCE 2014
PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U / Due October 4 There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who feel like exercising in front of a TV that’s watching you is a bit too Winston Smith, and the other five or six billion people who just fancy a bit of a boogie. For the former there’s Kraftwerk and artisan gin; for the latter there’s Just Dance, and this year’s edition comes with some belters from Ray Parker Jr, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Gloria Gaynor, George Michael and everyone’s least favourite idiot, Chris Brown.
PS3, Xbox 360, PC / Due October 25 Tired of flapping about to terrible music? Fancy making your own? Well, strap on a guitar and get ready to wail: Rocksmith returneth, bringing with it a new stable of riffs. Weezer’s Say It Ain’t So, Jack White’s Sixteen Saltines, Slayer’s War Ensemble, Iron Maiden’s The Trooper and many more are there for the learning, while the new Riff Repeater lets you single out a sweet spot and chug away on it until your neighbours kick in the door and destroy your TV with their bare hands.
WHAT WE’RE PLAYING ON STEAM
R120 / PC, Mac If you work for a budget airline or the Department of Home Affairs, turning meticulous regulations into human misery is already such a part of your life that you won’t need to play Papers, Please. For the rest of us, this game is a darkly comic experience.
KENTUCKY ROUTE ZERO
R330 / PC, Mac, Linux Now two episodes into a five-episode arc, point-and-click adventure Kentucky Route Zero is as much interactive story as game. It’s haunting, esoteric and dreamlike, not to mention completely beautiful. We’re not sure where it’s going, but we can’t wait to get there.
ELECTRONIC SUPER JOY
R65 / PC, Mac, Linux Dubstep in video games needs to be regulated, or franchises such as Saints Row will start using it relentlessly in the mistaken belief that it’s funny or clever. Still, it was both funny and clever in Far Cry 3, and this tough, stylish platformer wouldn’t be the same without it.
INCOMING OCTOBER O NBA 2K14 O BATMAN: ARKHAM ORIGINS NOVEMBER OASSASSIN’S CREED 4: BLACK FLAG OCALL OF DUTY: GHOSTS ONEED FOR SPEED RIVALS OWATCH_DOGS DECEMBER OGRAN TURISMO 6
W I N 3 LUCKY COUPLES COULD EACH WIN A 3-NIGHT GETAWAY WORTH R51 570 AT ONE OF THESE TSOGO SUN HOTELS
SOUTHERN SUN THE CULLINAN Luxury awaits at Tsogo Sun’s ﬂagship Cape Town hotel, Southern Sun The Cullinan. With its classic Art Deco architecture, 394 elegant rooms and 18 luxurious suites, the hotel oﬀers stylish accommodation, world-class service and signature attention to detail. All rooms and suites have been lavishly decorated with rich ﬁnishes 28
and décor, luxurious bathrooms and in-room amenities to make your stay completely comfortable. Enjoy stunning views of Table Mountain, the Table Bay Harbour and V&A Waterfront or the bustling city centre. The hotel is perfectly positioned within walking distance to the V&A Waterfront and Cape Town’s CBD.
For further information regarding any of these hotels, please visit tsogosun.com or call 0861 44 77 44.
SOUTHERN SUN HYDE PARK SANDTON Tsogo Sun’s state of the art Southern Sun Hyde Park Sandton is a beautiful upper four-star hotel in one of Johannesburg’s most exclusive areas, oﬀering Tsogo Sun’s promise of comfort and superior service. The design and decor has been carefully crafted by the design company to
reﬂect the lifestyle of discerning guests, with the furnishings and ﬁttings adding a touch of class. From carefully crafted décor and furnishings, to culinary delights, to technological facilities, to friendly, eﬃcient service. What more could a guest want? Perhaps, simply an excuse to come back.
and the Ocean Breeze Restaurant, to old favourites such as Daruma, Durban’s iconic Japanese restaurant, the Lingela Restaurant and Piatto Mediterranean Kitchen. A mecca of
gastronomic diversity awaits food-lovers at the newly refurbished Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani, a complex that has all the ingredients to become THE culinary hotspot of Durban.
SOUTHERN SUN ELANGENI & MAHARANI Tsogo Sun’s Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani facilities include 734 stylish bedrooms; two well-equipped gyms; three swimming pools, with one heated pool; free Wi Fi connectivity; 15 meeting
and conference rooms; two fully-equipped business centres; and 11 restaurants and bars. The restaurants include new oﬀerings ranging from The Grill Jichana, the Panorama Bar & Pool Deck,
HOW TO ENTER
SMS Tsogo to 35975
(SMSs costs R1.50) Free minutes do not apply. Errors billed.
Readers must include their names and surnames, email addresses and postal addresses. Valid from September 23rd to October 18th. Transport is not included. Terms and Conditions page 108. 29
This month’s mobile must-downloads
7 The Drowning
R42 / Android, iOS Real-time strategy games are abundant, but this one’s unique visual style and just-mash-thekeyboard name make it stand out. It’s also one of those rare games that manages to be both soothing and dangerously addictive.
Free / iOS While most document-scanning apps just take a pic and convert it to PDF, Scanny uses optical text recognition to turn your doc into an editable text file. Just the thing for zombiefying that Gideons into the ‘Grue Testament’.
Free / iOS While mobile gamers are spoilt for choice when it comes to firstperson shooters, The Drowning sets itself apart thanks to unusual but intuitive controls that use accurate tapping rather than the usual onscreen joysticks.
5 New Star Soccer 1.5
Free /Android (beta version) Don’t have a Chromecast? Do have an old Android phone (2.2 or above) lying unused in a drawer? Well, plug that old phone into your TV via HDMI, install this app and it works as a Chromecast, subject to a couple of still-in-development glitches.
Free / Android, iOS Yes, we know you’ve already widdled months of your life away on NSS, but you don’t get away that easily. This major new update adds agents, trainers, things to buy, headers and, at last, the chance to play as a woman.
Free / Android, iOS The first and de facto source for live scoring, Livescore is your friend when your signal is limited to a sad little E, or there are no TVs about. Get the goals, sets or wickets live albeit without video or any commentary.
3 GoPro App
6 djay 2
Free / Android, iOS, WinPhone If you have a GoPro HERO3 or HD HERO2 with the WiFi BacPac, then GoPro’s new app is well worth having. It adds full remote control of your camera, live preview, instant playback and speedy wireless sharing, all for free.
from R80 / iOS The sequel to every bedroom DJ’s favourite app brings a host of new features, including recording and mixing in your own samples. If you’re in any doubt as to whether it’s a worthy upgrade, have a look at the hundreds of 5-star reviews.
Free / iOS Rather than display a map for you to stare at while you wander around a busy city, Crowsflight is a ‘GPS compass’ that just shows you the distance to your goal and which direction it’s in. You do the rest yourself. Like a crow does.
APP SPOTLIGHT MIXBIT Free / iOS You might think MixBit is doomed from the start: it’s a video shoot-and-share app launching into a market that’s already occupied by Vine and Instagram. But it has a USP – you remix other users’ videos into your own. What’s more, its founders are Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, who know a little bit about video on the internet; their last project was a site you might have heard of called YouTube.
APPS OF THE YEAR
Every year, the best South African apps vie for top honours in a range of categories (consumer and enterprise) and the coveted top prize. Stuff editor Toby Shapshak was one of the judges.
WINNER SNAPSCAN SnapScan, a clever payment app from Stellenbosch start-up FireID, is the deserved overall winner of the MTN Business App of Year competition. The app is by far the most innovative app in the running, which saw 250 entries in its second year, having won the HTML 5 category. The strength of this year’s entries was demonstrated in how so many apps caught up with the clear lead held by last year’s winner, FNB’s smartphone app, which also won several categories. FNB’s new tablet app was in the top three finalists in two categories this year.
OTHER WINNERS INCLUDE:
DStv Best iOS consumer Broadcaster DStv’s tablet app, which allows for streaming of movies and TV shows, was the winner in the consumer category for Apple’s iOS. The app is both a TV guide of what shows are being screened and allows reminders to be set; but also allows for all current catch-up movies and TV shows to be streamed directly.
.comm Telco Data Visualizer
Bookly Most innovative app The most innovative app when to Bookly, made by digital agency Native, that allows people to read books on so-called feature phones via messaging service Mxit.
Best Android enterprise Broadcaster DStv’s tablet app, which allows for streaming of movies and TV shows, was the winner in the consumer category for Apple’s iOS. The app is both a TV guide of what shows are being screened and allows reminders to be set; but also allows for all current catch-up movies and TV shows to be streamed to the app.
Best iOS enterprise Estate agents get a raw deal. Anyone who has dealt with a few will have their own war stories, which is why an app like MarkItShare should be applauded. It caters specifically to estate agents and makes their jobs easier, which should make anyone dealing with them easier. How does the joke go, if their lips are moving…
Nedbank’s app suite
Best BlackBerry PriceCheck, which recently won the International App of the Year at the BlackBerry Live conference in May, won the BlackBerry category.
Best Windows Phone The best Windows Phone app went to KidsAid, which gives emergency medical advice for children and potential accidents. Useful and invaluable.
Best Android consumer What is it with bank’s winning best consumer apps? Last year it was FNB, this year Nedbank suite of apps, built on rock-solid security software.
Best garage app The judge’s favourite was GautrainBuddy, which was written by youngster Theuno de Bruin and is far superior to the official app for using this public transport service. 31
Don’t you wonder sometimes about sound and vision?
BEDDIT Trouble concentrating? Maybe it’s something to do with your low-thread-count sheets, or your duvet that’s just a bag of hay and old crows’ feathers. You spend a third of your life asleep; it’s time to throw a little money at it. Beddit is a thin sleep sensor that goes under your sheet. It tracks your heart rate, breathing, movement, snoring, and the sound levels in your slumberchamber, then the companion app looks at the data and gives you advice. No word on whether it’ll stop those dreams about turning up to work naked, but it’s worth a try. R1 800 (import) / beddit.com
O You’ve never really enjoyed your iTunes library until you’ve had Alan Partridge introduce a song by telling a story about a radicalised Bill Oddie bombing Wookey Hole – and that’s exactly what the new Radio Alan app (R10, iOS) does. It works better if you’re a fan of Partridge favourites such as Enya or Simply Red, rather than the My Bloody Valentine and OutKast that I played (“Sorry, that was just noise”). You can buy a playlist to unlock all the bespoke song introductions, although at R250 for 17 songs, it’s only for the dedicated FOP (Fan of Partridge).
UBER HITS SA Duino where we’re going?
ARDUINO ROBOT In freaking out The Cat, one must be inventive. Using a pair of Arduino boards with built-in motors, wheels and on-board sensors, Arduino’s first robot is completely open-source and hackable. It’s the perfect project for programmable pet perturberance. Said cat will probably respond by spraying your laundry with something unmentionable, but all’s fair, right? Rtba / arduino.cc 32
O Great news for Joburgers: Uber, the ubercool, ubereasy driver app has arrived in South Africa, starting off in Johannesburg. Download it for iOS or Android, load a credit card and you can have all the convenience of a private driver, as experienced from San Francisco to New York. The base price is R60, while an additional R11 per kilometre is levied. There is a minimum charge of R85. Cape Town is understood to be next on Uber’s radar. BlackBerry users can visit m.uber. com. On Twitter: @Uber_Joburg
TH 7 2 R E B FIFA M E T OM/ P E S TS.C T U O POR EAS
“FIFA 14 IS HEADED FOR GLORY” GAMEMASTER UK
FIFA 14 © 2013 Electronic Arts Inc. EA, EA SPORTS, and the EA SPORTS logo are trademarks of Electronic Arts Inc. Ofﬁcial FIFA licensed product. © The FIFA name and OLP Logo are copyright or trademark protected by FIFA. All rights reserved. Manufactured under license by Electronic Arts Inc. The Premier League Logo © The Football Association Premier League Limited 2006. The Premier League Logo is a trade mark of the Football Association Premier League Limited which is registered in the UK and other jurisdictions. The Premier League Club logos are copyright works and registered trademarks of the respective Clubs. All are used with the kind permission of their respective owners. Manufactured under licence from the Football Association Premier League Limited. No association with nor endorsement of this product by any player is intended or implied by the licence granted by the Football Association Premier League Limited to Electronic Arts. Manufactured under license from the Football Association Premier League Limited. No association with nor endorsement of this product by any player is intended or implied by the license granted by the Football Association Premier League Limited to Electronic Arts. “ ” “ ”, “ ”, “ ” are registered trademarks of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. Kinect, Xbox, Xbox 360 and the Xbox logos are trademarks of the Microsoft group of companies and are used under license from Microsoft. Wii, Wii U and Nintendo DS are trademarks of Nintendo. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
Laptop turned ninja
SONY VAIO Weighing in at 1.06 kg, Sony’s VAIO pro 13 ultrabook is light, fast and clad in very cool black carbon. The pro 13 houses a powerful 4th gen Core i7 chipset, 4GB of RAM and perhaps best of all, a 250 GB solid-state hard drive. It also has a ten-point touch screen, which is 1080p HD quality. The pro 13 is Sony’s best bet for on-the-go types that don’t want fruit, and it’s powerful enough to deal with any tech situation, be it showing off your mad slide skills or even playing the odd game. If all that fails it is 100% proven as an anti-zombie shuriken. R18 000 / sony.co.za
Rule of thirds
SONY HDR-TD30 CAMCORDER 3D full HD home video is now a reality, thanks to the guys that brought you 3D everything else. Huzzah. The TD30 has two lenses, two imaging devices and disarmingly simple controls. Film your 3D goodness in AVHCD format and you can playback or export in 2D or 3D. It’s also got a fancy pants 5.1 microphone so the sound matches the next gen image quality. This is the future of home video; someone let the porn industry know. R11 000 / sony.co.za
Are you a fan?
DYSON HOT An air-multiplier doesn’t quite have the same ring as bladeless fan, and while both are accurate descriptions of the clever Dyson Hot, the former sums it up way better. Using the same aerodynamic qualities of air moving over an aeroplane wing, Sir James Dyson discovered a way to blast air (whilst either heating it or cooling it) using his air-multiplier technology. The result - in the case of the slim, sexy and decidedly futuristic Dyson Hot - is a superb heater or cooler that is as much a design statement as a functional necessity. R5 000 / creativehousewares.co.za
MERCEDES A45 Mercâ€™s new hatchback has inspired hefty waiting lists and fervour amongst a lofty new market segment. Hot on the heels is the AMG version: the A45 that is named for its 450 Newton metres of torque rather than a monstrous engine size. It is, in fact, powered by a preposterous 2-litre, 4 cylinder miracle that delivers 265kW of power with consumption as low as 6.9 litres per 100km if you can hold off on the juice. Itâ€™s breathtakingly beautiful, insanely fast but still sensible and economical at the pumps. R600 000 / mercedes-benz.co.za
INNOVATION IS REAL IN AFRICA Toby Shapshak looks at how our continent is solving real problems.
It’s already the most overused word since Web 2.0, so how can we take anything involving “innovation” seriously anymore?. Just about everyone has expropriated the word as an inexact synonym for everything from rebranding products to launching new financial services. While in some instances it might be true – FNB does provide clever services and apps, for instance – mostly “innovation” is a tired, misappropriated, and sadly misunderstood word. But, not everywhere. In some places, innovation is thriving. There’s a phrase that you’ll hear in a myriad of industries – from high-tech start-ups to global restaurant chains – which quite correctly argues that “innovation happens at the edge”. Of course it’s happening at the edge, the middle is contentedly watching television and smugly playing Angry Birds. The biggest edge in the world right now, is the developing world, especially Africa. What after all is innovation? It’s finding a new way to do something, or provide a service, sometimes entirely novel, sometimes combining two existing things. But always, solving a problem. If invention was discovering something for the first time – such as electricity or the lightbulb – innovation is discovering a new way of doing something novel or unique. For want of a better word, let’s call it: innovation. Because that’s what it is. In Africa, we’re seeing innovation of the purest form: innovation out of necessity. 36
If you have a problem to solve, you solve that problem. Just ask any of the one billion people who live in Africa, and for whom daily problems are forgotten, taken-for-granted services like constant electricity, superfast internet access, running water, e-commerce delivery and how to eat every day.
O ENTREPRENEURS African entrepreneurs have created ways that allow farmers to check where they can get the best price for their produce, fishermen to be warned about storms, people to check whether expensive medicines are expired or still active, and rural cellphone users to send mobile money to each other using text messages. Even the pay-as-you-go payment system was pioneered in Africa by Vodacom in the 1990s. Africa is at the forefront of the world’s innovation frontier not because it wants to be, but because it is the epicentre of some of the most pressing problems that the developing world is facing. The next great genius who will be heralded around the world will not be a Steve Jobs nor a Mark Zuckerberg. They will be a Nikola Tesla or a Thomas Edison. The biggest problems the world will face,
which the developing world faces right now, is access to power. More people in Africa have a mobile phone than access to electricity. Fossil fuels are expected to run out sometime in the next hundred years and have already spawned a volatile, war-starting, corruptionenabling mega-industry. The nuclear power industry is never going to be widespread nor improve on its massive radioactive waste output, to be an efficient, economical alternative. Nor will disasters like Chernobyl or the Tsunami-exposed incompetence of Japanese power utilities help the cause. Along with food security and access to water, these are the three big global problems that future world wars will be fought over. Just like a science fiction graphic novel like 2000AD, our descendants in hundreds of years will fight wars over water, food and power.
O AFRICAN ANSWER There is, incidentally, an African-born genius revolutionising the two biggest dependents of the oil economy: motor cars and homes. Elon Musk, the Pretoria school boy who sold PayPal to eBay, is now building multiple other empires: in electric cars with Tesla, space-flight with SpaceX and solar-power with Solar City.
IN AFRICA, WE’RE SEEING INNOVATION OF THE PUREST FORM: INNOVATION OUT OF NECESSITY.
INNOVATION IN AFRICA
And, when he gets irritated by an over-budgeted, slower-than-airtravel high-speed rail link between San Francisco and Los Angeles, he comes up with a scifi alternative that will cost a tenth of the price. And then gives the plans for the so-called Hyperloop away for free. No wonder the Iron Man filmmakers chose real-life genius, billionaire inventor Musk for the inspiration for the fictional genius, billionaire inventor Tony Stark…. Musk will come a close second to Jobs and Tesla when historians calculate which man has revolutionised the most industries. While Tesla’s eccentric brand of genius and fear of being duped into selling his patents (which was done to him by both Edison and Westinghouse) meant many of his industry changing ideas never made it to market, Jobs’ legacy is certain. First he revolutionised the personal computer with the Macintosh, then digital (iTunes) and portable (iPod) music, adding in smartphones (iPhone), tablets (iPad) and the apps economy that now run all of these. Musk has micropayments (eBay) under his belt, but is triumphing in electric cars (Tesla now has 8% of the US luxury car market) and space travel (SpaceX has docked and returned from the International Space Station; and his Grasshopper craft has taken off and landed vertically). His Solar City concept is profoundly innovative at the business level: given Musk’s history in start-ups, which require massive upfront funding with little visible sign of success for several years, he is comfortable, in a way most traditionally-inclined and profitconscious entrepreneurs aren’t, which such huge risk. Solar City pays for the costly installation of solar panels and transformers on individual homes, but
retains ownership of the equipment and the output. When the homeowner has received their allotted amount of electricity, the overflow is redirected back into the power grid where Solar City gets the income. It’s a win-win for homeowners who get free electricity for life and the risk-taking installer.
O POWER FOR ALL But, he’s not the only one innovating with power. William Kamkwamba is arguably the most famous innovator to emerge from Africa having built a windmill from recycled bicycle parts using an encyclopaedia from a library. His life story is aptly summed up in his biography, called The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind, is of unknown to global hero, and being labelled a real-life MacGyver by The Daily Show.
O MOBILE SUCCESS Mobile phones are one of the great success stories of the world, and nowhere is this more evident than in Africa. Africa is the world’s fastest growing telecoms market, second in size only to Asia. It’s no surprise that some of the smartest innovations are appearing on mobiles. Everyone knows about the money-exchanging wonders of M-PESA and the real-time tracking done by Ushahidi – the two mostoften cited examples of African innovation. But the continent is awash with good examples. mPedigree is a clever, SMS-based way of verifying if medications are real and not expired. Invented in Ghana, a user simply scratches off the foil covering a unique code on each box of legitimate (not counterfeit) medicine and SMSes that number to get the verification. Also in Ghana, a service called Farmerline sends farmers basic, but enormously useful, information and advice. Also included are prices at nearby markets, thereby saving the farmer time from schlepping to various markets to compares the prices he’ll get for his harvest. In Kenya, arguably the most innovative country in terms of mobile services, there are fantastic services like iCow that help diary farmers become more profitable and rise out of poverty. The diary business in Kenya is worth $463-million a year, meaning it can turn subsistence farmers into abundance farmers – all using the most basic of phones because the communication is all by SMS. Africa is often called a mobile-first continent, but it actually is a mobileonly continent. 37
YOUR MONTH OCT If oompah bands and beer maidens are not your style, start your Oktoberfest here
04 RAGE EXPO This three-day gaming and tech event will showcase PC and console gaming hardware, games, accessories, comic books, local game developers and more. Rage 2013 also features the NAG LAN – a 52-hour event where around 2 000 gamers are plugged into to the largest LAN in the southern hemisphere.
18 12 CURRIE CUP: SHARKS VS WESTERN PROVINCE
Get your rugby on when the Sharks take on the Western province in the Sharktank. Sounds like there’s going to be blood in the water.
Get your sci-fi on with Gravity, a movie about a medical engineer and an astronaut that have to work together to survive after an accident leaves them adrift in space. Sounds like Open Water without sharks, and more George Clooney.
25 RIDDICK The third movie of Vin Diesel’s growly anti-hero lands in October. Despite the second movie we can’t help but be excited. Promising murderous plots, lots of action and growling, it might not be the best sci-fi out there, but should still be awesome in all the best growly ways.
29 BATTLE FIELD 4
Supposedly the next generation of war games, Battlefield 4 will have dynamic destructible environments, epic vehicles to battle with and the general chaos of digital war and shouting 12 year olds. Battlefield will be released on PC, Xbox and PS3 platforms. Did we mention it will also be available for the Xbox One and PS4?
30 HORRORFEST The Horrorfest film festival is the best Halloween event in the country screening a host of Horror/Chiller movies from around the world, including ghoulish dress-up and short-film competitions. There might also be a Johannesburg leg of the festival, go check horrorfest.info for more info.
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NEW WAVE OF APPS
SECOND OF AGE
APPS Look, just put that down for a minute, will you? Your Candy Crush kingdom won’t disappear in a puff of sugar. And this is important: it’s the arrival of a new wave of apps that will make casual games and Twitter clients look like child’s play…
NEW WAVE OF APPS
NEW WAVE OF APPS
NEW WAVE OF APPS
The second age of...
In this age of quad-core phones and tablet screens packing more pixels than your telly, mobile gaming has grown up. So how do you make the most of this pocket console?
Mobile gaming isn’t just about Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga anymore. While millions may still spend their time rearranging virtual sweets, a wave of deeper, more complex games with the scope of their full-fat console cousins has started to emerge. The iOS game Deus Ex: The Fall (R80, iOS) managed to translate the moral choices, branching dialogue and varied gameplay of its big-screen precursor Human Revolution, but was let down by frustrating touchscreen controls. That’s a problem that’s been overcome by 2K’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown ( R224, iOS) an iPhone and iPad port that recreates the single-player campaign of the console and PC versions almost exactly. “Turn-based, cursordriven games are old school but they’re perfect for mobile,” says Jake Solomon, XCOM’s lead designer. “There’s something neat about tapping an individual soldier and instructing them. It’s tactile and diminishes that layer between the player and the game.”
Spot the difference XCOM is a remake of 1994’s UFO: Enemy Unknown, a cross between a real-time strategy game and a third-person shooter. You command a squad of troops defending the earth against an alien invasion, moving your soldiers one by one through each mission and eradicating hostile ETs. While its console iteration isn’t exactly a landmark of graphical achievement, it’s certainly
better looking than any current phone or tablet could manage, so how did developer Firaxis get it to run on a mobile phone? “The vision from the very beginning was not to change the gameplay, so we always said it had to be a 1:1 transfer,” explains Solomon. “The only way that this was going to work was if iOS was just another platform to launch on. The iPhone 5 and iPad are powerful, but we had to make some cuts in terms of texture resolution, lighting and effects just to get it running at a decent frame rate.” Play the console and iOS versions one after the other and aside from missing cutscenes and less detail on the character models the differences are negligible. “We’re on the Unreal engine, which scales really well,” explains Solomon.
Size struggles On PC, XCOM is a huge 16GB – the same size as the entry-level iPad’s entire SSD. “To get it below 2GB we cut almost half of the 100 pre-made maps,” says Solomon. “That still allows you to play through the entire game without seeing a repeated map, but on the console version you could do that multiple times.” What you’re left with is a game that in many ways is more suited to mobile due to the different play patterns of on-the-go gaming. “People play mobile games while commuting and in bed,” claims Solomon, “so you need to be able to shut it down immediately and find everything as you left it when you start it back up.”
much sense for mobile is that connection to the real world,” explains Teodorecu. “You always have the device with you and it’s usually net-connected.”
“There’s something neat about tapping an individual soldier and instructing them” It’s these changes in playing habits that have informed EA’s tactics while making FIFA ( ) mobile, although exec producer Dan Teodorescu reveals that his team’s approach is almost the opposite of Firaxis’: “We’re not trying to beat consoles. Our job is to create the ultimate football game for a touchscreen, connected platform that’s always in your pocket.” That makes Teodorescu’s job very different when it comes to deciding which aspects of FIFA 14 on a console to bring to the mobile version. New this year is EA Sports Match Day, which reflects in-game the latest starting lineups, player form and injuries of real-life teams. “The reason Match Day makes so
While they may tread different paths when it comes to development, both have identified issues with control. “One thing we haven’t solved yet as an industry is how to do touchscreen input for actionbased games,” says Solomon. EA’s approach is to completely rethink the way its game plays, introducing a new control system for FIFA 14: “We believe the success of the smartphone is down to simplicity, so we ended up with the simplest of gestures: you interact by tapping, swiping and holding. No complex, three-finger gestures or anything that isn’t immediately intuitive.” The launch of iOS 7 later this year will bring Apple-certified support for gaming controllers, but it feels as if returning to the old way could actually hold mobile gaming back. And with the PS4 gaining a touchpad and Xbox pushing SmartGlass in the next generation, there could be a knock-on effect on console gaming, too. “I think touch is a better control mechanic for a game like XCOM,” says Solomon. “It’s better than mouse and keypad, and it’s certainly better than a console gamepad. I can definitely see people ‘Minority Report-ing’ their soldiers around with Microsoft’s Kinect staring back at them.”
NEW WAVE OF APPS
The second age of...
GAMING COMPANION APPS Xbox’s SmartGlass shows how seriously console makers are taking second-screen gaming – but developers are making their own apps to beat Microsoft at its own game When Xbox unveiled SmartGlass at E3 in 2012 it promised a future of two-screen gaming, with your phone or tablet used to line up songs in karaoke games, as an interactive playbook in Madden NFL and to poke around starship schematics in Halo. Over a year later and we’ve got a sat-nav for Forza Horizon (which you’ll crash if you look at) and not much else. Fortunately, developers such as EA and Ubisoft have picked up the second-screen baton and run with it. Ubi’s forthcoming cybercrime ’em up Watch_Dogs ( from R480, all platforms) will launch with a free companion app for Android and iOS called CTOS Mobile. Essentially a multiplayer game in its own right, it connects you with somebody playing the full console version of the game and dumps you into the same ultra-connected world, albeit from a map overview. “Everything Aidan Pierce can hack from the ground, you can hack from the app,” says Dominic Guay, senior producer. There are co-op and versus game modes, with the mobile player either helping or hindering the console player’s mission by hacking traffic lights, bollards and generally trying to disrupt the authorities. In versus mode they’ll also be given control of police deployment to thwart the other player’s objectives. It’s fairly notable among second-screen apps in that it doesn’t actually require a console copy of Watch_Dogs to play it,
although it will prioritise people on your Xbox Live or PlayStation Network friends list. “We have two major use cases: one is sharing a couch, the other is on a train playing against someone thousands of miles away,” says Guay. “We made a very specific choice not to restrict it to the living room.” That means it has its own thread of progression, although mobile achievements can be used to benefit your console campaign, too. Multiplayer will also be key to Battlefield 4’s companion app Battlelog. Whereas before
it could only really be used to check stats and see who’s online, the BF4 version will allow you to change weapon loadouts or look for a new server to join without leaving your current firefight. You can even use it as a map to keep tabs on your squad mates and set up attack points that’ll then appear in the game. Is all this only for next-gen consoles? “We’re going to be able to offer the same mobile experience with the current generation as the Xbox One
The mobile player can hinder the console player’s mission by hacking traffic lights
and PS4,” reveals Guay. “There are technical challenges but most of them are in game design.” Watch_Dogs isn’t the only Ubisoft ‘symmetrical gameplay’ app in development. The Division, which isn’t due until late 2014, will also feature MMO-style interjections from other players, by which time the two gaming experiences could be much closer to each other. “Right now there’s too much difference between what the platforms can do in terms of production values,” says Guay, “but the pace things are going this could all change. It’s going to be a while before we can put a game like Watch_Dogs on an iPad, but we’re not far from being able to feel like you’re playing in the same world.”
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NEW WAVE OF APPS
The second age of...
BLOCKBUSTER BOOKS Apps aren’t just for train times and making your friends look fat. Megacorps such as Disney are now throwing time and money at producing premium apps to grace your coffee table
If you thought all apps were made by lonely guys with nothing but code for company, meet London-based developer Touch Press – specialists in the app-world equivalent of the all-star Hollywood blockbuster. Their adaptation of Shakespeare’s Sonnets (R115, iOS) features video readings by the likes of Patrick Stewart and David Tennant, while creating their 2012 app The Orchestra ( R115, iOS) involved dangling expensive musical instruments from wires and suspending an HD video camera above a full orchestra as it played. You get the idea. Many Touch Press titles include a wealth of high-res, 360-degree photos that can be rotated with a swipe and zoomed at a pinch. For Skulls ( R48, iOS), an addictively macabre exploration of, well, skulls, they photographed a biker with a skull tattoo who had to remain motionless on his bike while being slowly spun on a turntable. The photographs for Gems And Jewels (R115, iOS) were taken under armed guard, so valuable were the artifacts concerned, but even that was nothing compared to photographing animators’ models for the latest Touch Press app, Disney Animated ( R115, iOS).
The new app by numbers
The amount of storage space required for all the components of the app
“We’ve never encountered anybody as paranoid,” says Theo Gray, co-founder of Touch Press. The models, called maquettes, represent some of Disney’s best-known characters, such as Pinocchio, and are stored in a climate-controlled vault. In fact, they are so rarely seen that Disney staff have asked for a custom app featuring the entire collection of maquette images to be made purely for their own use. In both apps, maquettes can be rotated and
In the app you can build animations using a fully poseable model of Vanellope von Schweetz zoomed in to see the work that went into the joints or inspect the points where the strings are attached. Text and images handle the ‘show and tell’ aspect of Disney Animated, but interactive tools let you unleash your inner Walt Disney. The Workshop gives you a fully poseable model of Vanellope von Schweetz from Wreck-It Ralph that you can use to build animations, frame by frame, that you can then send to friends.
Particles in the Elsa’s Snow interactive special effects simulation
Pictures, clips, posters and assets Disney made available to developers
Frames from Disney movies included on the app’s Colour Map
NEW WAVE OF APPS
Think Disney Animated’s price of R115 is a lot to pay for an app? Try these for size.
O XA1 marks-studio.dk A real-time spectrum analyser for your iPhone that includes a five-octave keyboard. If the R1 850 price tag is too steep for you, a pared-down ‘Lite’ version is available for R80.
O PDR Quote how-to-paintless-dent-repair.com PDR, as you’re no doubt aware, stands for Paintless Dent Repair. While this app won’t get dents out of your car, it will help you run your repair business. Hopefully you’ll make back the R3 000.
O DDS GP Yes! The Mood Shifter tool demonstrates the facial expressions of Max, the horse from Tangled, while Bouncing Ball teaches the basics of animation by letting you try a test that was given to artists in Disney’s early days. The final tool demonstrates one of the effects from Frozen (not the mediocre 2010 horror film; the 2013 Disney release of the same name). In the film, Elsa the Snow Queen can shoot swirling, sparkling snow from her fingers. The Elsa’s Snow tool simulates the algorithm Disney uses to create the effect. For its animators, creating a new ‘swirl’ can take days, so they were amazed that Touch Press’ particle simulation software worked with just a swipe.
Days of processor time required to generate the colour maps
Gray believes that apps like this have tremendous significance for Apple itself. “Anybody who’s interested in ebooks buys a Kindle,” he says. “Apple is simply not going to win that. Their only hope to compete with Kindle is ‘everything else except that’. Everything else, they do much better.” He believes that Apple’s focus on the iBookstore as a place for Kindle-style ebooks is a misstep. The figures would appear to back him up: last month Open Air, an American publisher, said that it sells up to 30 times more books through the App Store than it does through the iBookstore, making digital coffee table books such as Disney Animated more important than ever.
Total hours the Touch Press team spent building the app
Separate builds of the app created during the development process
ddsgp.com As you might have noticed, the expensive apps are aimed at professionals. This one helps dentists demonstrate treatment plans to their patients. It’s R4 000 your dentist will recoup on that root canal.
O Agro eziapp.com.au An app that takes the ‘agro’ out of being an agronomist. Which would make them nomists, we suppose. Anyway, easy form filling for farm inspectors. Ripe for picking at R8 000.
O iVIP Black ivipworld.com Need a private jet? An island for the weekend? This app can help. Lifestyle management for millionaires is the pitch for iVIP Black. If you have to ask how much the app is then you can’t afford it. (All right, it’s R1 600.)
Walt Disney Animation Studios movies covered by Disney Animated
The final size of the app submitted to the Apple App Store
NEW WAVE OF APPS
The second age of...
On-demand viewing has already shaken up the way we watch the old telly box. Now apps are set to do it all over again The future for TV? Apps. Or so Netflix believes, according to its ‘Long Term View’ manifesto published earlier this year. “Over the coming decades and across
the world, internet TV will replace linear TV. Apps will replace channels, remote controls will disappear, and screens will proliferate,” it explained,
suggesting HBO, ESPN and Netflix are “leading the way” in 2013. Pass us that trumpet, Netflix. We’ll blow it for you next time you want to big yourself up. Closer to home, MultiChoice’s DStv app, which just won the best consumer iOS at the MTN Business-sponsored App of the Year, lets you stream movies and TV shows; as well as plan your viewing and set reminders. The more TV shows we watch through apps, the more data these companies will have on what we like and don’t like, which they’ll use when deciding which shows to make. Hemlock Grove ( ) was commissioned by Netflix because the data said lots of its customers liked horror films. Critics weren’t keen, but Netflix’s ability to promote the 13-episode series to those customers – three quarters of the site’s viewing hours come from its recommendations – ensured it found a suitably werewolf-loving audience. But you don’t need to be picked up by a broadcaster or Netflix to get your programme shown on an app – just make your own instead. After conceiving The Incomplete Map of the Cosmic Genome ( ) as a documentary film project in 2011, Robin Ince and Trent Burton decided to turn it into a
IT’S TV, JIM, BUT NOT AS WE KNOW IT MultiChoice’s DStv app, which just won the best consumer iOS at the MTN Businesssponsored App of the Year, lets you stream movies and TV shows; as well as plan your viewing and set reminders. John
Kotsaftis, CEO of DStv Online , says, “The DStv app was designed to help our customers discover and search for content across the channel schedule on their mobile devices. The app enables users to watch shows they’ve missed with DStv Catch Up, viewable on the
device itself, whilst providing users the ability to set reminders for shows coming up on DStv channels. In the future, in addition to these app reminders, customers will be able to set their Explora PVR to record shows they don’t want to miss from the app itself.”
“We can be constantly adding new content to an app. A documentary is done when it’s done” R72 app. “With an app, we can be constantly adding new content and new discoveries, changing it and evolving it,” explains Burton. “With a documentary, when it’s done, it’s done.” And don’t forget YouTube, which is pumping R3bn into ‘Original Channels’ from which the next big TV star may well emerge. Swedish gamer PewDiePie, with his 10m YouTube subscribers and 2bn total views, is the tip of this future-telly iceberg. Some 25% of YouTube’s viewing is ‘mobile’ already, but gadgets such as Google’s Chromecast will see that viewing slung on to a bigger screen when desired.
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NEW WAVE OF APPS
The second age of...
It’s not just phones and tablets that run apps these days. Wearable tech is about to become more wearable and more techy than ever. You’ve been saving, yes? Wearable tech is already on wrists, belts and bra straps everywhere in the form of healthtrackers and Pebble watches. But with Google’s Glass already on the streets, and the much rumoured Apple iWatch and Samsung’s Galaxy equivalent both expected to go on sale next year, wearable tech is set to become a daily part of your wardrobe. For app developers, it’s a huge opportunity
– as long as the hardware makers get it right. Google devs are currently hampered by the decision-makers at the Googleplex failing to provide them with full access to the smart spectacles, limiting app development to fairly basic ones. That said, see below for how exciting even limited-access apps can be. And anyway, Google says this will change in the near future,
so expect far more complex Glass apps in time for launch. Redg Snodgrass runs Stained Glass Labs in San Francisco – one of the first incubators for Glass developers. “There are notable differences: wearables are always on. Be it Glass or a watch, they need to enhance reality rather than distract from it,” he says. “Practically speaking, though, it’s very similar to developing a
smartphone app – the principles are the same, and it feels like when Apple was about to launch.” Snodgrass believes this category could bring the next big boost in apps: “Long term, there is a huge amount of promise here, about voice, gesture and context rather than Glass or any one product – and we expect all the major manufacturers to create wearables sooner or later.”
THE 10 MOST EXCITING GOOGLE GLASS APPS RIGHT NOW
Trulia for Glass
Catering for the rather elite group who own both Google Glass and a Tesla Model S, this app enables you to access your car from anywhere, checking on the charging level, unlocking the doors and even seeing directions from the sat-nav without having to look down at the screen. Glass isn’t in SA yet, but is likely to be banned while driving as it has in the rest of the world.
For gym addicts, Glassfit is a very clever idea – see just how you should be exercising with videos guiding you through squats, lunges and other exercises, and monitoring how many circuits you can complete without cardiac collapse. It can even track your runs, and with a future update will show you exactly how fast you’re going. We hope they tested Glass for sweaty geek resistance.
A superb hack of an existing Google app, this allows you to look up into the night sky and see a perfectly accurate map of the star systems in front of you. It’s actually a stock Android app designed for phones that one clever developer discovered worked perfectly on Glass. However, expect a Google ‘official’ version to surface, giving more accurate information and a slicker user experience.
Google’s own Now product is unsurprisingly the most useful Glass app at the moment. It’s superb, integrating everything the search giant knows about you to give you directions, weather and sports scores right in your eye. It’s particularly useful as it syncs across platforms – so search for a bar on your laptop, and Glass directions will be ready when you put them on. If you can find them, you boozehound.
Setting the bar, Trulia is rather like having your own personal estate agent, except you can turn them off. Ah, bliss. It notifies you when you’re near an open house that meets your search criteria, such as price range, neighbourhood, and number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and can search listings and give you directions – even allowing you to call a real estate agent from the app.
NEW WAVE OF APPS
“Wearables are always on. Glass apps need to enhance reality rather than distract from it”
A fascinating and scary Glass app, People+ claims to be able to tell you who in a room is worth talking to – and who you know in common to introduce you. The firm behind it says it can mine social networks for data, as Google has banned face-recognition apps. Its demos are hugely impressive, although it remains to be seen whether the final app lives up to its promises. Now buzz off, will you?
Being a race of insatiable capitalists, shopping is an obvious use for Glass, and this neat app integrates with Amazon so you can search via voice for prices. It’s really handy when you’re out and about for price comparisons, although future versions are likely to be more useful, with object recognition essentially making you the Robocop of shopping. “Target acquired. You have ten seconds to click ‘buy’.”
This is what we need Glass to do for us. A collection of simple apps, Genie offers voice-controlled shopping lists, reminders, a food diary and even a neat ‘where did I park?’ app for absent-minded rich Glass geeks who buy a different car every other week. It’s really simple to use, and can even create a daily planner to show you your movements. No, not that kind. Though we don’t expect it will be long.
Created at a Google Glass hackathon, Navcook walks you through a recipe as you cook, covering everything from what ingredients you’ll need, to exactly when to pour in the milk. It’s at a very early stage, but expect Glass tutorial apps to be huge for everything from golf to knitting, which means it’s only a matter of time before Jamie Oliver arrives on Glass. Hopefully it’ll understand mockney.
A fairly simple little Glass app, this enables you to send pictures and other information directly to your Evernote account. It’s basic, but very useful, and gives a good indication of how Glass can integrate with other services already in use – especially those as popular as Evernote. It’s also easy to see how it can be improved, with support for voice notes and even logging GPS coordinates.
NEW WAVE OF APPS
The second age of...
Digital comics are old news, but this interactive, open-source platform might just be the future of graphic novels In the world of comics, getting Dave Gibbons on your side is a bit like having Judge Dredd guarding your front door. There’s just something about the support of Watchmen’s co-creator that generates a sense of authority – and new app Madefire has it in spades. “When I first had Madefire ( ) demonstrated to me, it got my spider-senses tingling,” says Gibbons, deploying a suitably comicbook metaphor for his excitement about the platform that allows fans to download Motion Books – dynamic graphic novels that make use of your iThing’s touchscreen, speakers and various motion sensors. “The most impactful image in a comic is a double-page spread,” explains Gibbons, “but with Madefire we can do 360-degree panoramas and look around the scene by tilting the iPad. We’re controlling the point of view of the reader, rather than just animating the picture.” Of course, many others have tried
to shake up the static world of graphic novels before, from motion comics in the early noughties, to the more recent slideshow-style Comixology app and Anomaly, a standalone digital book with augmented reality smarts. But Gibbons sees Madefire inhabiting
“There’s no reason why some kid with Photoshop couldn’t make something as interesting as I can do” a happy medium somewhere in the middle: “It’s not just a prosaic, vanilla reading experience, but it doesn’t have the kind of gimmickry that tends to pull you out of the story.” But it’s more than just another money-making platform for comics. Madefire is giving away its Motion Books Tool for free, meaning budding writers and artists can put together their own stories for the app: “There’s no reason why some kid with access
to the internet and Photoshop couldn’t produce something every bit as interesting and accessible as what I can do,” says Gibbons. “They can publish it to their own iPad without any problem at all. If they want to get it on to the Madefire store there’ll be some sort of approval process but the plan is to get newcomers on to our site. We’re really looking forward to seeing what the ‘new dogs’ come up with.” And it’s these newcomers that could really push the platform forward. While the mechanics aren’t much different to normal comic creation, none of the traditional rules apply. “There are no pages and the idea of panel one is now meaningless,” explains Gibbons. “Do I fade in? Do I show the balloons before the image, or the image before the balloons? It’s much more about timing. That makes it particularly good for horror and humour because both those genres rely on it.” Thanks, Dave. We’re off to storyboard a humorous horror comic.
The second age of...
MAPPING & LOCATION Lost again? Don’t worry. The next wave of location apps will know where you are even when you don’t have a clue
IN THE CAR
Mobile phones and driving usually go together like doughnuts and mustard, but your smartphone could soon be as vital to a journey as your sat-nav is now. Due to launch in 2014, Apple’s iOS In The Car will connect an iPhone running iOS 7 to new Apple-riddled cars from the likes of Audi, Ford, Honda and Jaguar. It’ll send maps, messages and music to your car’s dashboard, with the whole thing controlled by – and things like texts and directions read out to you by – everyone’s buddy, Siri. For those without a fancy new
motor, Automatic (R700, automatic.com) uses a Bluetooth dongle plugged into your car’s data port to send info to an Android or iPhone app. As well as giving you money-saving tips based on your driving style, it’ll nudge you via push notifications if your engine needs attention and even give you tips on how to fix minor issues yourself. For more major stuff it’ll record diagnostics from the engine management system, meaning you can share the problem with a mechanic rather than calling for a tow. It’ll even remember where you parked, too. It’s the most helpful, least annoying backseat driver ever.
Other than being used to appoint you the Foursquare ‘mayor’ of your local Pick ‘n Pay Express store, location-based tech hasn’t really got beyond the ‘what if’ stage. That’s all set to change with an explosion in navigation apps that work with a roof over their head. Watch out, that hard-
earned mayorship could hang in the balance. Google’s Indoor Maps (above) and Nokia’s HERE Maps have
been quietly stockpiling a catalogue of buildings that can be navigated by phone. Christof Hellmis, VP of the HERE Map Platform at Nokia, says, “We’ve mapped more than 49,000 buildings in 45 countries and we’re adding up to a thousand a month.” But the next step is to have your phone interact with what’s around you. Built into iOS 7,
iBeacons uses low-energy Bluetooth (Bluetooth LE) to transmit and decode location data from devices nearby. The technology detects the proximity of a Bluetooth node – another iPhone or third-party Bluetooth transmitter – calculating distance by the strength of the signal. Not just for guiding you to the toilets, the tech could turn the lights on when you get there.
NEW WAVE OF APPS
The second age of...
MUSIC APPS With Spotify, Rdio, Deezer and friends jostling with the likes of Apple, Sony and Google, the world of music apps is getting ever more crowded. So where are they going next?
At the end of 2012 more than 20m people around the world were paying to have music streamed into their ears from the internet. That might sound like a lot, but compared to download stores such as iTunes, it’s still niche. Those 20m people account for just 10% of the cash being made from digital music. But if we’ve all got all the music in the world stuffed in our pockets, what’s holding it back? In a word: discovery. Digital music services still struggle to recommend music to you beyond ‘if you liked X, you must like Y’ based purely on the fact that other people do, which is far too simplistic for something as personal as music. It needs to get a lot smarter – and both Rdio and Spotify ( ) are already hard at work on it. The more you stream, the more the service knows about your musical preferences. “It’s about investment in time,” says Rdio’s VP of Product Chris Bercherer, noting his company’s recent launch of personalised radiolike ‘stations’ to complement its on-demand service. “Whether you’re listening to a station or an album, we’re learning about you, taking that into account and curating that station experience even further as you listen.” Spotify’s Daniel Ek has also cited Google Now’s ability to detect your location, learn your daily habits and serve up information accordingly as inspiration for the future of his company’s apps. “The more we learn, the better job we will do. This is what the future of music is,” he said, earlier this year. With over 20% of Spotify users paying to unlock the ad-free mobile app, exploiting the portable nature of smartphones will be key. Songza got the context
bandwagon rolling in 2012, playing music for a specific place, mood or activity at a particular time of day. Spotify’s new Browse feature in its mobile apps is a good example, offering contextual playlists created by real people for a range of situations. It was built by the same people behind Tunigo – a Songzastyle app snapped up by Spotify earlier in the year. Combining that with actual location data (perhaps informed by Apple’s new iBeacons in iOS 7), apps could serve up suggestions based on the type of pubs you frequent or the support bands at gigs you go to.
Apps could base their suggestions on pubs you frequent or the support bands at gigs you go to This idea of location is also key to Soundhalo ( ), which records and films live shows before uploading audio and video for purchase the very next day. It’s available as an app on Android or web app on iPhones, and enables you to stream purchased songs and videos. You have to use a computer to download them, with songs available as 192kbps M4A files or video up to 720p. It can even use your device’s GPS to find any upcoming Soundhalo-supported gigs nearby, although Alt-J and Atoms For Peace (Thom Yorke’s supergroup) are the only two bands to have used it. So far, the free subscription seems to be the default for mobile streaming, but services may be about to get cheaper – or at least
NEW WAVE OF APPS
4 WAYS TO RELEASE AN ALBUM Streaming sites and CDs are no longer the only ways to put out a record. If you’re after innovation, look no further than these four groundbreakers
O Boris Dlugosch
O Jay Z
A promo stunt rather than a proper release, Boris Dlugosch’s last single was sent out on good old-fashioned 12in/30cm vinyl. Rather than a turntable, it used a phone positioned on top of the record as a virtual needle, with a web app used to skip through the song. Caused a stir online.
While Jay Z is always keen to point out how well off he is, his latest stunt felt a bit like showing off. Samsung Galaxy owners could download an app to get access to Hov’s album early, while Jigga himself pocketed approximately four squillion dollars and the album went platinum before it even went on sale.
O L Pierre
O Lady Gaga
A pseudonym of former Arab Strap member Aidan Moffat, L Pierre’s The Eternalist was released as eight separate, looping Vine videos. OK, so it’s unlikely to trouble One Direction in the charts (if only because it’s not eligible) but as an experiment it’s pretty neat. We can’t wait for the follow-up. Instagram double album, anyone?
The failure of the Android version of Björk’s app-as-album to hit its Kickstarter target hasn’t put Lady Gaga off trying the concept out herself. Artpop will be an ‘interactive jewel case’ giving her fans somewhere to buy the album from and to socialise with each other. A bit like a virtual record shop. Remember them?
Back To Vinyl: The Office Turntable
feel as if they are. The music industry is very keen to see more ‘bundling’ of streaming services with mobile and home-broadband tariffs, a tactic that has worked well in Sweden, France and the US. But it’s the musicians themselves that hold the key to this wonderful streaming future. A recent bust-up involving Spotify and Atoms For Peace highlighted concern among some artists about the amount of money they receive from streaming services – and whether new artists in particular will struggle to make ends meet as Spotify and its rivals take over from CD and iTunes sales. Indie artist Damon Krukowski suggested recently that artists should fight back by promoting “an open market of free streaming by musicians and fans” as an alternative to the big streaming services. There’s certainly innovation to be found in music apps, but the biggest challenge Spotify, Rdio, et al face is ensuring artists feel they’re being paid fairly for joining in. With mecacorps such as Google and Apple involved, that seems like a pretty slim chance.
Magna Carta Holy Grail
BUT APPS ARE FOR MAKING MUSIC TOO
GarageBand and Traktor have shown that the iPad is as good for making music as any boring old analogue instrument and the next wave of partner apps is taking that to the next level. Apple’s latest version of Logic Pro X for Mac can be controlled via a free companion app for the iPad, which also allows you to add keyboard, drums or guitar straight from your tablet’s screen. DJ favourite Serato has also launched a remote app (R200, iOS) that works in tandem with its desktop software and allows you to do everything without laying a finger on your laptop: trigger samples, control loops and add effects. That leaves you free to prance around the DJ booth pouring Panda Pops into the faces of your crowd.
NEW WAVE OF APPS
The second age of...
Apple’s new iOS 7 is just around the corner, with a new iPhone likely to tag along with it. But what does it means for the apps you run already?
Until now, iOS gaming has been all about touchscreen and accelerometer. iOS 7 finally allows game controllers into the MFi program for official accessories. There are likely to be two variants, using all or some of D-pads, shoulder buttons, analogue sticks and four-button layouts. Good news for games which don’t work well on touchscreens, such as Minecraft.
For any kind of app that involves access to your files, Apple’s new AirDrop API could be a boon. It’s a way to share photos, documents and other files with Apple devices nearby, and besides working with the built-in iOS apps, it’ll also be available for developers to use. For an app such as Dropbox, this could mean an easy way to ping files about using Wi-Fi peer-to-peer technology.
Any app that uses the iPhone’s camera to record video will now be able to shoot at 60fps under iOS 7. Apple is also allowing developers’ apps to use video zoom (both true and digital) in their recordings. In other words, the length of your videos in apps such as Vine and Instagram may be capped (seven and 15 seconds respectively), but the quality will be better than ever.
The first thing that’ll strike you about iOS 7 is how different it looks – that’s unless you’ve been using Citymapper since its last update, which has already had a makeover to fit in with the flatter look of the new OS. It’s likely many other apps will follow suit, swapping the current skeuomorphism for an Ive-approved aesthetic with flatter, more Androidesque icons and sharper text.
Apple has tweaked the way it handles multitasking for iOS 7, and social networking apps in particular will benefit. Apps can wake up periodically in the background to download new content (e.g. tweets), or they can download it when they send you a push notification. In other words, no more annoying waits to download the @mention or direct message that you’ve just read half of in a notification.
Talk to developers of apps that involve Bluetooth and external gadgets – particularly fitness-tracking gizmos such as Fitbit – and they’re chuffed that iOS 7 will feature better support for the Bluetooth 4 LE (low energy) standard. Some of this will simply be about working more efficiently and avoiding crashes, but it’ll also be about configuring kit from within their iOS apps.
Musicmakers will love the new Inter-App Audio feature, which will let apps “make beautiful music together”. Essentially, it lets music apps send MIDI commands or stream audio between one another. In other words, those drum machine, synth and digital guitar apps you own will now not only be able to work together, but also be compiled into a sequencer such as GarageBand for mixing.
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FIRST TEST NOKIA LUMIA 1020
THE CAMERAPHONE COMES OF AGE
With more megapixels than a posse of paparazzi, this phone might even challenge SLRs. R10000 / nokia.com
Every smartphone packs enough pixels for snapshots and shakyhand concert footage, but there has never been a mobile that really deserved the “cameraphone” name. Until now. The Lumia 1020 doesn’t just match the proper flash and optical zoom of today’s compact cams; it breezes straight past many SLRs thanks to an amazing 41 megapixels under the hood. That’s over five times the number in the iPhone 5. But the reason all those pixels have been squeezed in like rushhour commuters on the N1 isn’t just so you can create epic, wallspanning prints. Yes, you can do that – but more importantly it allows Nokia to merge multiple pixels into “superpixels” for everyday 5MP shots. That means better low-light shooting, less distortion and brighter colours. It also means you can “zoom” into the image after you’ve taken it. Other photo treats include excellent image stabilisation, a proper xenon flash and an LED light for HD video. But a camera is only half the story of a cameraphone. If the Lumia is awkward to use, lacks apps or if its ultra-high-resolution pictures are tricky to share, all those photo treats will go to waste. So, no pressure then.
Good Meh Evil
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Six days with 41 megapixels
8mins 8min10secs 10mins
1 Screen The Lumia’s monstrous megapixels aren’t reflected in its modest 4.5in/11.4cm, 1280x768 display resolution. But OLED tech gives it a rainbow of colours pumped up to brain-searing intensity, and it also has exceptional off-axis viewing. All of which makes it great for sharing photos and vids. 2 Power There’s no lag from the dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon silicon inside the 1020, even when 3D gaming on NOVA 3 with apps running in the background. The body gets warm around the camera area in use but, thanks to WP8’s frugal operation, the battery will easily last a whole day. 3 Design Oh, Nokia, we’re not all 19-year-olds skateboarding from a nu-rave to our Maboneng loft. Banana yellow plastic may look lovely under the wan light of a Finnish moon, but it’s too cheerful for most of us. Fortunately, black and white versions are coming. The matte finish is rather slippery, too, and we’d have liked an SD card slot.
4 Controls The dedicated shutter release button is handy, and doubly so as it pops the Lumia into camera mode. And trebly so as it half-presses to autofocus like a real cam. Less splendid is the hairtrigger power button, perfectly positioned to press as you pick it up or reach for the volume rocker.
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5 Apps There’s much to love about Windows Phone 8 on the Lumia 1020, from informative live tiles and social feeds to some of the best maps and local search on any phone. But the app store still lacks many camera-related apps (Instagram, Pixlr, Photoshop Touch), which sucks for a phone with such lofty photo ambitions.
THE LUMIA 1020’S PHOTO OPPORTUNITIES
QThe Pro zone The default Nokia Pro Camera app shoots full-res 38MP or 34MP (wide) images alongside more easily shareable 5MP snaps. It’s simple and powerful, with finger-friendly dials for settings. Image quality is superb, even in low light. But the autofocus wanders and shot-to-shot time can be as much as five seconds.
QThere be apps for that The preloaded Smart Cam app fires a burst of shots and either chooses the best or merges them, the bizarre Glam App is useful for airbrushed selfies and there’s a panorama app too. Nokia’s animated GIF Cinemagraph and Microsoft’s impressive Photosynth apps are also essential downloads. QEditing images Here’s where the Lumia starts to trounce compacts. With the Creative Studio applets you can do everything from cropping, rotating and applying filters to tweaking exposures and adding blurs and tilt-shift effects, all on the phone and with the flick of a finger. QSharing The big win for cameraphones is their ability to share images in a jiffy. You can fire 5MP images to Twitter and tag photos to Facebook, although you’ll need third-party clients to interact with Instagram and Vine. NFC lets you beam images to other WinPhones (if you can find them), but fullfat photos have to be USB’d.
NOW ADD THIS
Camera Grip Serious snappers embarrassed to be seen taking pictures on a phone can cloak their shame with this handy cover. A larger shutter button, grip and tripod socket are welcome bonuses, nicely completed by a built-in 1050mAh battery that extends shooting time by nearly an hour. R800 / nokia.com 59
versus NOKIA 1020 vs HTC ONE vs SONY XPERIA Z 8 7
9 10 1 6 5 4
9 10 1 6 5 4
9 10 1 6 5 4
9 10 1 6 5 4
The Nokia Lumia 1020 is hard to categorise. For starters, it’s on Windows Phone 8 – which puts a downer on it immediately. Lovely looking OS and all that, but until it gets more camera apps we’ll stick to Android and iOS. Apps not important? The sleek Lumia 925 is a better WinPho mobile anyway. On the other hand, the 1020’s camera is the best we’ve ever used on a smartphone, and after spending a week with it, we really, really want one. For the noncamera obsessed though, the HTC One is
Tech specs OS Windows Phone 8 Screen 4.5in/11.4cm, AMOLED, 1280x768, 334ppi Processor Dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 @ 1.5GHz RAM 2GB Storage 32GB (+ 7GB SkyDrive) Connectivity NFC, LTE (on selected carriers), Bluetooth 3.0, USB2.0, microUSB, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n Camera 41MP PureView with xenon flash, f2.2, 1080p (rear); 2MP, 720p (front) Battery 2000mAh, 6.8hrs video, 12.5hrs talk, 15 days standby Size 130x71x10.4mm, 158g
STUFF SAYS The 1020’s not phonificent, but it is camazing ★★★★,
a better bet. It’s got a slinky metal design, a retina-massaging 1080p screen and a 4MP “ultrapixel” camera. OK, so that’s one-tenth of the pixels on the 1020, but each is larger and captures more light than its cramped cousins on the Lumia. Or there’s the Sony Xperia Z: it’s waterproof, with a crisp 5in/12.7cm full HD display and sockknocking quad-core grunt. Its 13MP cam is fairly traditional, but image stabilisation and high dynamic range, even in videos, are major plus points.
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SMARTEST To call the F8000 smart would be an insult – this TV is nothing short of a genius. The Smart Hub is supremely well stocked, it’s packed with clever features and the whole thing runs on a quadcore processor – a first for a TV. Turn it on and that powerful chip soon makes its presence felt, with apps loading quickly as you
whizz around the Smart Hub’s five homescreens. And there are plenty of apps to choose from (most of which don’t work here). It also has a TiVo-style feature called S Recommendation, which suggests shows you might like based on your viewing habits, a built-in pop-up camera for Skype and Smart View, which
streams the picture from one of the F800’s two tuners to a (Samsung) phone or tablet. What’s not so smart are the voice and gesture commands, which are gimmicky and actually don’t work as well as others here. But what of picture quality? Well, there’s plenty of crisp detail to admire plus a subtler, more
natural handling of colour than on last year’s sets. Skin tones are also good, while its active 3D performance is as impressive as its 2D one. But it has one major flaw, which is in its handling of black levels. They’re just not inky enough for us when compared to its new rivals here, and that’s enough to deny it that fifth star.
O SAMSUNG UA55F8000 R32000 ++++,
Samsung’s included Smart Remote continues the premium design of its TV, with a metallic finish and satisfyingly clickable icons rather than buttons. There’s a touchpad too, for swiping through the Smart Hub homescreens – plus a built-in mic for the voice commands.
A mixed bag. The F8000 serves up a crisp picture with natural colours and an excellent 3D performance. But blacks lack the inky levels we crave and while tweaking the settings improved them, contrast suffered.
All barely-there bezel, sweeping silver stand and neat pop-up cam, the Samsung is gorgeous. Sadly, the stand is as wide as the screen, which may leave its legs dangling precariously over the edge of many an AV rack.
Samsung’s Smart Hub is slick and easy to use, with apps intuitively spread over five homescreens. It all runs super-fast due to that quad-core chip, and the likes of S Recommendation are nice extras to have.
With two woofers and 40W of power, the F8000 sounds better than the average TV, despite its slim design. But it’s still a little on the thin side, struggling to project sound much wider than the TV itself.
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T E ST H I G H - E N D T Vs
If this test was based on design alone, Sony’s W804 would win it with ease. It is strikingly good looking. Seemingly hovering above a silver circular stand and with a black brushed-metal bezel, the W804 has a delicacy that’s a world away from the more angular design of its 2012 sets. And for the most part, its
picture is similarly impressive. Stick on a Blu-ray and you’re immediately struck by the pure level of detail on offer. Better still, Sony’s new Triluminos screen tech gives it a wonderfully rich and vibrant colour palette, plus snowy whites and deep blacks. Unfortunately, we found this was a trade-off for a rather heavy loss
of detail and texture in darker scenes, which leads us to our major niggle with the W804 – its viewing angle. Move even slightly to the left or right of centre and colours begin to look washed out; try it with a dark scene and blacks swiftly turn to greys. Shame. Feature-wise it’s all good. Sony’s Internet TV is excellent,
with almost all you could want for on-demand viewing, although the interface isn’t perfect. There’s also built-in NFC for slick mirroring of Xperia devices and a Side View app for extra info on what you’re watching. Both work very well. All very impressive, but at this price and in this test, the Sony’s picture isn’t quite good enough.
OSONY KDL-55W904A R13 0 00 ++++,
You get two remotes with the Sony: one standard, one slim. The latter is light on buttons but packs NFC; tap it on any compatible Xperia device and you can mirror the phone’s screen on the TV. There’s no upscaling, though, so it’ll work best with HD clips.
There’s plenty to love about the Sony’s picture: its pin-sharp detailing, a rich palette of colours and seriously black blacks. But it lacks detail in dark scenes and has horrible viewing angles – not good enough at this price.
With its circular stand and flash of blue along the top, the Sony is one stylish set. The new Intelligent Core, which glows different colours depending on how you’re interacting with the TV, only adds to the flair.
Sony’s TV lacks a smart ‘hub’, instead opting for a single page of scrollable apps. It’s a bit clunky but packed with apps, including Sony’s Video Unlimited and the now default social media and YouTube.
There’s a 1.2m-long speaker duct on the back of the TV to boost the bass and downward-firing speakers to push the sound forward. No matter – while dialogue is crisp and clear everything else sounds thin and weedy.
Angle no poise
Pump it up
T E ST H I G H - E N D T Vs
Got lots of friends? Then this LG may be the set for you. Unlike the others here, it’s got passive 3D tech, which means cheaper, lighter glasses, which means it’s great for a film or footie night with mates. LG helpfully includes six pairs with the set, while some others get a mere two of the active variety. Yes, you lose out on full HD 3D, but that’s
offset by an increase in picture brightness and the cheaper specs. Picture-wise, there’s a lot to like here. HD content shines, with great colours and bags of detail. Shade detail and contrast performance are just short of the best, but we’re being picky. Flick it to 3D, meanwhile, and you’ll get active-bothering depth and scale.
The good news continues with the design. We may have declared Sony’s set the best looking, but the LG is snapping at its well-dressed heels. Its barely there bezel gives it the impression that it has an edgeto-edge picture and its stand is stylish and stable. And that’s it: everything else is just screen. Its smart features are mostly
great, with a top selection of apps, streamlined interface and voice control that works. Like the Sony it has NFC and like the Samsung it can mirror your smartphone screen via an app. But neither is as slickly executed as we’d like and that sums up the LG. There’s lots to like here, and overall it just squeaks ahead.
O LG 55LA8600 R24 0 00 ++++,
T TES R E NN WI
LG’s Magic Remote sits nicely in the hand, and allows for point-and-click navigation of the Smart TV menus. It’s responsive and keeps up with your movements, with a nice scrolling wheel at its centre for browsing websites or flicking through the app selection.
LG’s picture does a lot of things right – it has a strikingly natural colour palette and a great level of detail and clarity. It’s an impressive package you’d struggle to pick holes in, even if it trails slightly for contrast and shade detail.
Bezelophobes rejoice – LG has damn near done away with it entirely on the 860W. That means 16:9 content really shines, with almost-borderless edge-to-edge brilliance. We wish we had one sat in our front room.
LG’s Smart Home package now has a more simplified design and greater room for customisation. Voice commands actually work and app selection is good, with LoveFilm and Netflix, although these are not available in SA. Kinda.
The 860W won’t win any awards for its sound, but it’s not terrible either. There’s a touch of harshness in the top end and it can feel a little hollow, but stick on a Blu-ray and it’s perfectly listenable.
TV without borders
Stuck in the middle
in association with
T E ST H I G H - E N D T Vs
O Samsung UE55F8000 OSony KDL-55W904A O LG 55LA860W
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
DESIGN 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
SMART TV 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
SOUND QUALITY 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
LG 55LA8600++++, There’s little to complain about here: lovely design, great screen, good hub. But it lacks the standout features to beat the best R24 000 / lg.com/za
LCD, 1080p, 800Hz Edge LED, local dimming
Passive (6 pairs of glasses inc)
1229x788 x316mm, 26.2kg
Samsung UA55F8000++++, Its every pore oozes cutting-edge tech and its Smart Hub is among the best out there. But some picture flaws lose it a star R32 000 / samsung.com
LCD, 1080p, 1000Hz Edge LED, local dimming
Active (2 pairs of glasses inc)
40W (2x10W, 2x 10W woofer)
1224x742 x310mm, 18.3kg
Sony KDL-55W904A++++, The Sony does so many things right that 4 stars may seem harsh, but poor viewing angles are a critical flaw at this price Rtba / sony.co.za
LCD, 1080p, 800Hz Edge LED, local dimming
Active (4 pairs of glasses inc)
1241x756 x298mm, 22kg
in association with
[ *Dimensions include stand ]
Off to buy a 4K set? Just hold on there a second… Until this year 4K was an impossible dream for all but the super-rich or the super-good-at-bulgary. New TV tech has always been pricey, but R300k for an 84in set? That’s just ridiculous. But these things always come down in price fairly swiftly, and if you want proof of that, Sony has now introduced a 55in/140cm 4K TV for R50 000. Hardly pocket change, granted, but within the reach of those with good jobs or big credit cards. So could 4K TVs be the standard in our living rooms by this time next year? Er, probably not. The problem is content: a 4K film will likely be more than 10TB in size, making it too big for any existing optical media let alone current broadband speeds. Nothing to watch equals no point in buying one. Someone will solve the problem – there’s already too much invested in it for it to die – but until they do, full HD still reigns supreme.
The DeWalt is built like a weapon, with toughened glass and a heavily moulded body. It can also be mounted on a camera tripod with the included kit.
TOO LS tur Man n th y h in a eir ha arde hea nd ned p. H to D gad ere IY o get ’s h nly eer ow to s th we end ink get up the the gibb y ca job erin n don g e
F P IC K
DeWalt DW088K Levelness is godliness when it comes to DIY, so it’s a shame that most houses have croocked walls. Enter the DeWalt. Placed on any surface, or magnetically attached to a sheet of metal, its self-levelling mechanism will compensate for +/-4º of tilt, and it casts a laser cross (you can switch off the horizonal or vertical if you want) over up to 10m, ready to be marked, drilled and affixed to. It’s pricey, and only works properly if it’s placed horizontally, but the level it generates is so ideal it could be one of Plato’s forms. R2700 / purpleflytrading.co.za Stuff says ++++,
The square cutting heads cut forwards, so if you need to trim the bottom of a door or shorten a pipe, you can do it in place without removing what you need to cut.
Dremel Multi-Max MM40 DIY is a piece of cake. All you need is a few simple tools, and a phone to call out a professional after you’ve ruined whatever part of your house you were trying to improve. If you don’t have space for a workshop full of things to damage your home, with the MultiMax you don’t need one: it’s a one-device workshop that, in the right hands, will cut wood, metal and plastic with precision, sand wood, scrape grouting and paint, and carry out many more tasks that most of us don’t have the skills for. But if you do, it could be the most versatile power tool you can buy. R2 000 / bomon.co.za Stuff says ++++, 72 [[1C]]
Makita BFR750RFE Auto Feed Screwdriver There’s one thing you should consider over all else when choosing a tool, and that’s how useful it will be in the impending zombie apocalypse. This Makita will be very useful. It’ll last 22 minutes on battery, and given how quickly it feeds screws we reckon that’s enough time to board up an entire house, giving you the rest of the day to figure out how to recharge it and ponder the point of existence in a zed-filled wasteland. The only downside in this scenario is the 76dB noise it makes, but if you’re considering it for actual DIY we don’t think that should put you off. R3 200 / allhardware.co.za Stuff says +++++
At 2.3kg, the Makita is light enough for easy DIYing at the top of a ladder, but still heavy enough for bashing zombie brains in, should the need arise.
Though Bear Grylls put his name to this 12-purpose tool, we don’t know whether he specified superstiff blade release levers. We don’t all have bear paws, Bear.
Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Tool Pack In your garage, you’ve probably got an oddly sized cone spanner that you needed to single-speed a bike that was stolen five years ago. There’s a specific spark plug removal thing that is essential if you’ve still got a 1988 Ford Sierra 1.8. In fact, the only dust-free item in one’s toolbox is a multitool, because so much can be achieved by this bundle of converged usefulness. Any one will do, though we prefer spring-loaded pliers, a Gerber default. And this one comes with a sparky fire stick, which can go in the box with the other things you might need. R1 080 / iwarehouse.co.za Stuff says ++++,
TESTED LEAP MOTION
Wave goodbye to the mouse, wave hello to the future: touchless control of your PC.
R1 450 / yuppygadgets.co.za
We’re waggling our toes in front of a virtual piano, and the virtual piano is playing along as we do so. But we’re not using an Xbox Kinect – in fact we sat in front of a standard laptop. What? How? Who? It’s all the work of the Leap Motion controller, a two-fingerKitKat-sized box of tricks that might just signal the end of the keyboard ’n’ mouse era. Sure, the touchscreen has already snatched a huge chunk of their territory, but Leap Motion promises to take PC control to the next level, ushering in a Minority Report-style world in which we wave, swish and waggle our way to computing nirvana. Or at least that’s the promise. First impressions are certainly good: the device is sexy enough to sit proudly next to a high-end Ultrabook or MacBook, and small enough to sling in a laptop bag. And that’s something you might well do, because although it hooks up to your PC or Mac via USB, it draws little enough power that using it on the road shouldn’t be a problem. Software comes via its own Airspace Store – which launched with 75 free or relatively cheap apps – and its price tag is a temptingly bargainous R1 450. So it’s perfect, then? Well not quite, as we gradually learnt upon testing it…
Good Meh Evil
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One day with Leap Motion
G an ett ar ing m b -s ad ta ca nd s ac e o ce f a ss rm or a y ch pr e. on N to ee d
1 Accuracy The first time you use Leap Motion is a huge buzz. It’s accurate to a bonkers 0.01mm, tracks all ten of your digits and speedily recognises pinches, jabs and swipes. Inside, apparently, are two CMOS sensors – but all you need to know is that it leaves the current Kinect looking clunky. 2 Input The controller detects movement up to 60cm above it or on either side – a comfortably big enough space in practice. It’s got built-in ‘face-rejection’ tech – don’t take it personally – but can get confused by stray elbows and knees. So those games of Leap Motion Twister might have to wait. 3 Gestures You’ll soon get to grips with swooping, hovering, circling and waggling, but poking – the equivalent of a mouse click – is deeply unsatisfying without physical feedback. The lack of consistency between apps is another drawback, as is the constant menace of arm ache. 4 Control With the right app, Leap Motion is impressively sci-fi. With the wrong one, it’s just frustrating. A spin around Google Earth taught us that quickly enough, with our less-than-accurate swipes soon leaving us dizzy. Still, games such as Fruit Ninja use bigger, simpler gestures – a good job, in our case.
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H I ju ow st do ho I g ve et r n ou ea t o M rt ft fo us he hi r. ic Th cr sc s a e P ea re pp en ? A ho tion bo h, to a tto sc pp ap s a m e a re pp we is ll c gr at ea er t t ed oo If J all ed -in i M -o as ne te s, rs th us is ed is W ho i w nd th ow ey s ’d 8 do it
5 AppsThe initial Airspace line-up is good, with plug-ins for the likes of Autodesk’s Maya 3D modelling software alongside more standard apps (some of which are Mac- or Windows-only). Plus, hacks can enable it to control anything your keyboard/mouse can, from Surgeon Simulator to RC boats – with varying degrees of success.
Leap Motion’s best apps
QBetterTouchTool Leap’s own make-or-break Touchless For Windows (and Mac) isn’t quite there yet – though expect lots of updates. Quick and accurate, BTT lets you configure your own OS gesture commands.
Block 54 Too scared to face the cold, harsh reality that is knocking over a Jenga tower? Hey, it keeps us in night sweats too. Block 54 offers a safe, intergalactic 3D space to hone your skills. Fiendish fun.
Dropchord An arcade-style, two-digit game that’s easy to pick up, nails the interactive menus and won’t have you recoiling too much from the Leap Motion controller. We dig the disco bonus round too.
Unlock There’s a couple of geek home gems on Airspace. Unlock scans your hand to create a biometric profile (this bit takes ages) – then you can use it to log in, literally waving goodbye to passwords.
STUFF SAYS More than a toy, with time and apps Leap Motion will be huge ★★★+,
SUPERTEST 6in-PLUS PHONES
LAND OF THE
GIANTS Long fingers and big pockets mark the phableteer*, but they’re a happy and fleet-footed lot. Here’s why… In times gone by, ker-plonking your 5in/12.7cm phone on to a bar table would be met with cackling and lewd jokes about compensating for something. And yet, more and more people are turning to even bigger phones as a handy hybrid of smartphone portability and tablet screen. They want to be the only device you’ll ever need, and they want you to forsake all others by succumbing to their media and browsing might – as long as you don’t mind your pockets getting a little stretched. But which one earns the right to your precious cash? *Yes, we hate the word “phablet” too, and will use it no more. Well, not in this test.
1 Huawei Ascend Mate The smallest of the three, the Mate has a teensy (!) 6.1in/15.4cm screen, but is also the cheapest.
2 Sony Xperia Z Ultra An Xperia-Z-onsteroids that dwarfs even this competition with its 6.4in/16cm display.
3 Samsung Galaxy Mega No stylus means the Mega isn’t a Note, but a 6.3in/16.2cm screen sure makes it noteworthy.
SUPERTEST 6in-PLUS PHONES
Samsung Mega. Not a Note, then, but it’s still playing the big league At first glance the Mega looks like a disgruntled baker took a rolling pin to a Galaxy S4, flattening it out to comical proportions. Sadly it also shares the S4’s plastic construction, though this will lead to a pocket money ecosystem of back covers and cases. Clothe it how you will, you’ll still feel selfconcious holding it to your face.
Its 6.3in/16cm, 720p screen falls in-between the Xperia and the Mate and it joins the latter in failing miserably at reproducing the detail of the Sony when watching HD videos. Still, it’s more than crisp enough for everyday use. As a Samsung, the Mega comes crammed with tricks and software doodahs such as Smart
Stay, to keep the screen on while you’re looking at it, and Air View – which lets you use your finger like a “hover over” mouse command in various apps. The most useful of these tricks is the Dual View multitasking feature, which lets you run two resizable apps simultaneously – a handy tool for gadgeteers who
want to watch while they read. Or read while they watch. Despite being the only dualcore phone in the test and having an odd 1.5GB of RAM, the Mega easily handles this kind of app duplicity, though it adversely affects the battery life – a criticism that can be levelled at all of these big-screen phones.
OSAMSUNG GALAXY MEGA FROM R5 7 00 ++++,
1 Like the mega-seller S4, the Mega’s plastic build is a shame. It’s solid, though, and its plastic back won’t shatter if you drop it. Just don’t drop it screen-down.
Samsung has opted for an LCD screen for once, which should please oversaturation haters, and text is damn sharp despite its low pixel count. If only its whites were as white as the whiter-than-white whites of the Xperia.
Shots in bright light are a bit too warm and fuzzily focused for our liking, but the Mega makes amends by besting its competitors in low light. Given the run of the party, it’ll take clear, balanced images.
By the spec sheet, the Mega should be left in the dust by its two rivals, but its dual-core 1.7GHz processor took on all we asked of it without a thought. That said, Android apps and games are only getting more demanding.
The garish colours and icons of TouchWiz go against our love for clean and simple lines, but installing a custom launcher (such as Apex) would kill some of the useful features such as Air View. Hmm. Dilemma.
Bye bye AMOLED
2 The Mega has a microSD slot for expansion and a removable battery for on-the-go juice swapping during heavy use. Shame it lacks a Note-like stylus.
Small dog, big bark
SUPERTEST 6in-PLUS PHONES
The baby of the group, yet still evidence of Huawei’s ascendence The Huawei name tends to be besmirched by phone snobs, but the Mate’s bright IPS+ display is almost indistinguishable from that of the Mega. If anything, it’s slightly better at displaying photos, with a smidgen more sharpness, and an extra spoonful of contrast. This, on the smallest screen of the three, though the
handset itself is as big as the Mega. Hands will find fast friendship with the Mate, thanks to its rough-textured outer plastic band and matte removable rear. Huawei’s opted for an in-house 1.5GHz quad-core processor that sadly undoes much of the goodwill garnered by the Mate’s screen. Switching between apps
often requires a good ladle of patience and games suffer from unwanted helpings of stuttering and micro pauses. Not the sort of niggles you’d expect from a device that looks so classy. The Mate’s camera, meanwhile, performs better than its rivals for close-up and daytime shots, producing sharper, more detailed
pictures. It tends to under expose landscape scenes, and produce more low-light noise than the Samsung, though its LED flash exactly one-ups the Sony’s complete lack of photo lighting. When you come to upload your photos, you’ll notice the Mate lacks the 4G/LTE of the other two phones. Problem? Your call.
O HUAWEI ASCEND MATE R4 5 00 (8GB) ++++,
1 The thickness and heft coupled with its curved grippy plastic finish mean its comfortable to hold, though it can’t match the premium feel of the Xperia.
2 The Mate squeezes in a 4050mAh battery. With its slightly smaller screen and low clock-speed processor, it should last longest. On paper at least.
Arguably, if you’re going all-out on a big screen, then 6.1in/15.4cm and 1280x720 might not be enough. But, the Mate’s screen is great as long as you don’t (a) look too close, or (b) put it near the Sony.
As long as light levels aren’t too low, the camera has a rather good tap-totrack focus that does a fine job of ensuring moving subjects aren’t fuzzed out of view. Now where did those blasted cats scamper off to?
Playing Carmageddon with screen tearing just isn’t fun. The Mate’s quad-core processor just can’t seem to pick up its skirts and run, contrary to its specs. And while the screen and camera are trying so hard, too.
Huawei’s Emotion UI comes with 20 home screen and icon themes Some are stylish, others just a bit outlandish Japanese manga anyone? Having the choice is great though. Eh, Samsung?
Sizing up the competition
What’s your flavour?
SUPERTEST 6in-PLUS PHONES
Oh, it’s that 16.2cm screen, 6.5mm thing you didn’t know you’d want The size of the Xperia Z Ultra slaps you in the eyeballs the moment you see it. And it won’t apologise. It’s ludicrously large, even compared to the Samsung and the Huawei, but pick it up and you’ll marvel at its sleek, solid glass build and thin 6.5mm body. The 1080p screen, in particular, will reduce anyone to amorous
“oohs”. It’s bright, incredibly crisp, and serves up rich, vivid colours in both videos and pictures, with sharp text-rendering. Because it’s only a little smaller than a Nexus 7 you’ll get the full tablet browsing and ebook experience too, but in a far more pocket-able package. Not only that, but touchscreen magic enables you to use normal
pens and pencils as a stylus. Despite our palms getting in the way, Sony’s handwriting recognition is quite decent and often even snappier than the benchmark Galaxy Note 2. Opening and switching between apps with reckless abandon doesn’t make the Xperia’s mighty 2.2GHz Snapdragon 800 processor
even break step, let alone work up a sweat. This is the first device with said chip, making it the world’s most powerful smartphone. For now, at least. If there’s a fly in the Xperia ointment, it’s the 8MP camera, which takes slightly soft photos, and lacks a flash. Well, that and its R6 000 price. But we’d still buy it.
O SONY XPERIA Z ULTRA R6 0 00 +++++
404, flash not found
Pixel-packed perfection The poor viewing angles and muted colours of the Xperia Z are, thankfully, not present. Instead, the Z Ultra’s bright, stunning full HD screen simply jumps all over the 720p resolution of its test rivals. It really comes into its own during HD video comparisons – the Ultra makes the Mate and Mega screens look as if they’ve got a layer of Vaseline smeared over them, such is the difference in
the level of detail. You can see cracks and crannies in boulders, make out more detail in faces, read on-screen text – things that are simply not visible on the lower-resolution displays of the others. The extra pixels mean that you can fit more on the screen too, which comes in handy when reading ebooks and browsing the web. All that, and you can use a standard pencil to doodle on it. The Sammy Note III needs to hit the ground running.
While the Xperia takes decent snaps in well-lit conditions, its lack of a flash means it (quite literally) can’t hold a candle to its rivals on a night out. Low-light shots are grainy with plenty of noise and sharp details give way to fuzziness. To be fair, if ditching the flash resulted in the shaving of an extra few millimetres from the Ultra’s body, resulting in its supersexy thinness, then we’re down with it. You wouldn’t want to whip this imposing slab of silicon out at a dimly lit rave anyway – neither these big phones nor tablets are really destined to be serious photography implements. (For a phone that does snap like a pro, see the Nokia Lumia 1020 test on p58 of this issue.) Sony’s famous Cyber-shot skills are still in evidence, however, with tricks that include an iPhoto-like effects preview which shows off up to nine filter effects at the same time. Terribly clever stuff.
SUPERTEST 6in-PLUS PHONES 1 The Xperia completely embarrasses its plastic rivals with a thin and solid glass body. Just don’t drop it. The mere thought of it makes us cringe. 2 Covered ports? Check. Able to survive the Stuff team bath? Check. Not since the Nokia 5210 has it been so cool to have a waterproof phone.
Will it last? PERFORMANCE
The Qualcomm quad-core silicon makes mincemeat out of 3D games and laughs in the face of multitasking. Simultaneous streaming, email and browsing, without a single complaint. Hear that? That’s the Huawei Ascend Mate weeping in the corner.
Sony’s mercifully light dusting of Android’s UI starkly contrasts with Samsung’s all-out cartoony approach. The Stamina Mode feature is handy, too, cutting data access when the screen is off to make the most of the non-replaceable battery.
Less is more
The Xperia Z Ultra is a terrible thing to happen. It’s so big it might just signal the revival of the moonbag for you to transport it. But we’ve given it ten or 20 seconds of thought, and we’re still hooked on the Ultra. Our chief concern (apart from hiding the moonbag) is the battery life, but all three of these guys have big batteries to match their displays, which even out to make them last One Standard Geek Day. Perfect.
SUPERTEST 6in-PLUS PHONES
THE WINNER IS...
SONY XPERIA Z ULTRA Let’s address the elephant in the room quickly, before it gets grumpy. The Xperia is the most expensive phone of the three. Yet all three are here because they sate the same desire: phone connectivity with a 6in/15.2cm-plus screen to give you tablet-like space to play with. Given that this is a device that you’ll use every hour of every day and that will, like it or not, attract a lot of attention, it seems prudent to buy the one with the absolute best screen, the most powerful mobile processor, and the one that you can take in the shower. OK, we’re less sold on the waterproofing, and we’re slightly huffy about the camera performance. Plus, there’s the incoming Samsung Note III to watch. But, today, we’d reach for the Xperia Z Ultra.
ST TE ER NN WI
+ Now add these 1 Sony Smart Bluetooth Handset SBH52 This adorable HD voice handset will let you make and receive calls without looking like a Borrower. It’s a wireless headphone adapter too. Rtba / sonymobile.com/za
2 Charging Dock DK30
Charge the Xperia through its magnetic connector while propping it up at a comfy angle for watching movies. Rtba (due September) / clove.co.uk
3 Sony Smartwatch 2
Pair this Bluetooth wrist-hugger with the Xperia for notifications, music control, navigation, remote camera controls. Take that, (mythical) iWatch. Rtba /sony.co.za
SUPERTEST 6in-PLUS PHONES
O Sony Xperia Z Ultra OSamsung Galaxy Mega O Huawei Ascend Mate
Now that the Xperia has proven itself a genuine mini tablet contender, we’re casting our eyes to the upcoming release of the long-awaited Samsung Galaxy Note III – which should be announced in September as part of the IFA electronics show in Berlin. A descendant of the first phablet – we said we wouldn’t use that term again, but retrospectively that’s what the Note II will always be known as – the Note III promises plenty more stylus action, a bucket load of software tricks and all on another massive full HD screen. Possibly, if the rumours are to be believed, a range of sizes. But that seems unlikely. And what of this bigscreened category itself? It looks like it will expand, feeding the demand from big-screen convergence fiends and the roll out of more 4G networks that will supercharge these already powerful devices.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
10 1 98 7 654 3 2 1
PERFORMANCE 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
ANDROID UI 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
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Sony Xperia Z Ultra+++++ An Xperia Z on steroids that dwarfs even this competition with its tablet-rivalling 6.4in/16.2cm screen R6 000 / sonymobile.com
179.4x92 x6.5mm, 212g
6.4in, 1920x1080, 334ppi
Samsung Galaxy Mega++++, The Mega combines a big screen with Samsung jiggery-pokery, but just a dual-core processor from R5 700 / samsung.com/uk
167.6x88 x8mm, 200g
6.3in, 1280x720, 223ppi
Huawei Ascend Mate++++, The wallet-friendly Mate serves up quad-core power on a budget, but still has a decent 6.1in/16cm screen. Lacks 4G, though R4 500 / huaweidevice.co.uk
163.5x85.7 x9.9mm, 198g
6.1in, 1280x720, 241ppi
8.2MP/2MP, 1080p video @ 30fps
Quad-core Snapdragon 800 @ 2.2GHz, 2GB RAM
16GB + up to 64GB microSD
8MP/1.9MP, 1080p video @30fps
Dual-core Snapdragon firstname.lastname@example.orgGHz, 1.5GB RAM
8/16GB + up to 64GB microSD
8MP/1MP, 1080p video @30fps
Quad-core Huawei K3V2 @ 1.5GHz, 2GB RAM
8GB + up to 32GB microSD
DESIGN MISFIT SHINE
We lived in caves, where it was be fit or die. Then we moved into castles and got fat on meat and mead. Next, Edwardian houses, where we smoked cigars and ignored our body’s cries for abstinence. Now, in the 21st century, we’re still useless at looking after ourselves, but we do at least have widgets to help us. Building on the Fitbit Flex’s lead, the Kickstarted Shine uses LEDs to show progress and can track your runs, cycles, swims and sleeps. It also syncs with your iPhone when you place it on the screen. How? Who knows – but try that in olden times and you’d be burnt as a witch. R1 000 (import) / misfitwearables.com
public dispys of These style-conscious gadgets wouldn’t be seen dead with a boring LCD screen 86
Designed with the intricate mechanisms of Swiss watches in mind, the Momentum pre-amplifier’s display is similar to that found on the matching stereo and mono power amplifiers. But while they display power output in Watts, this needle swings with its rotating bezel to indicate volume level. It’s an indulgence. You don’t need a display to tell you what your ears are already in rapture over – namely that master audio designer Dan D’Agostino has made what just might be one of the best amplifiers ever. R522 000 (import) / absolutesounds.com
DESIGN PHILIPS HUE
Light bulbs already tell us much. That it’s dark, for one. That ever since the invention of fire, we’ve been mucking about with our body clocks to the point where we’re not nocturnal and not really diurnal. We’re omniurnal, or just a bit tired all of the time. Hue bulbs tell us yet more – that despite our homes being a geeky cacophony of notifications and vibrations and beeps, we still want something new. We want our lightbulbs – already colourmatched to the colour of our walls by the clever Hue app – to blink when we get a retweet. A modern-day smoke signal. R900 per bulb / phoenix-tech.net
DESIGN RECON JET
As well as “display” (noun), to describe the output of an electronic device, there is also “display” (verb) that describes what Google Glass owners are doing. They’re exhibiting: “I am willing to pay megabucks for something that could almost as easily be achieved by taking out my phone.” If, however, your hands are holding on to a rope or some other gnarly peripheral, you have an excuse for needing GPS, ANT+, weather and trainer tweets displayed (verb) straight into your eyeballs. So we won’t judge you for wearing the Recon Jets. R6 000 (import) / jet.reconinstrument.com
DESIGN MIDI FIGHTER SPECTRA
Information comes in many forms. That which bears relevance to, or is even legible to, anyone who happens across it. Or the other type, typified by this here midi controller. Its vivid design and completely customisable LED-backlit button bank – which harks back to arcade game design – is a joy for the user. As they flit between four programmable maps, their fingers a blur, the accompanying sounds are ear nectar of the sweetest kind. But to an onlooker, the information relayed by its coloured lights is heavily coded. Best not tell the NSA about it, then. from R1 780 (import) / midifighter.com
NO NEED TO BE SHOWY DISPLAY-LESS TECH
The radical iPod Shuffle (left) revived the “what song is this?” aspect of cassettes. iTunes decided the tracks; you simply hit “play”. Then “skip”. Then “skip”. Then “off”.
A vibrating GPS belt was developed by students: buzz on the left for “turn left”, right for “right”. Genius. But it was a Nokiasponsored scheme, so it went nowhere.
Most action cams lack a screen, because they’re designed to be placed in awkward positions. But many use a smartphone as an external viewfinder or as your shoot’s DoP.
Despite Siri and Google, neither voice input nor output lives up to sci-fi ideals. But the Ubi (theubi.com) is an Android OS news and notification widget that tries hard.
Turn your everyday life into a path to ďŹ tness. Get Active
TRACK ACTIVITY & SLEEP
DYNAMIC & REAL TIME FEEDBACK TRACK WEIGHT
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Drones aren’t menacing aerial overlords – from saving lives to helping make Hollywood films, they’re ready to become man’s best robotic friend…
ROM HEADLINES ABOUT THEIR MILITARY ANTICS TO MEMORIES of Kyle Reese cowering in the searchlights of a “Hunter Killer” in The Terminator, drones don’t have the most glowing reputation. In fact, they’re often seen as heartless death-hawks with a grudge against humanity. But while combat drones are rightly controversial beasts, they overshadow the positive and sometimes life-saving work of a growing number of benevolent Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Whether it’s helping farmers fertilise their fields, filming spectacular documentaries or finding survivors of natural disasters, drones are ready to rehab their reputation and become our philanthropic worker bees… 93
// what is a drone?
Drones are pilotless robotic vehicles capable of autonomous movement. Commonly they’re Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), which can include remote-controlled craft that are flown beyond the operator’s line of sight. Drones are, by their nature, inconspicuous souls that prefer shadows to stagelights. But in January 2012 a team of 20 autonomous quadroters became overnight YouTube stars. In two videos posted by the Philadelphia company KMel Robotics, they were seen formation flying, organising themselves into a fluid figure of eight and, in a memorable encore, playing the James Bond theme tune on specially modified instruments. More than 10 million views later, drones had garnered a reputation as fun-bots with exciting potential. They weren’t the first non-military drones to capture the imagination – Parrot’s original gaming AR Drone was announced as far back as 2010. But after growing bad press about lethal, pilotless military strikes, they were a timely reminder that autonomous bots could yet become a force for good. Eighteen months later, with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approving the first commercial drones in the US and prices plummeting, drones are ready to become familiar faces.
Rise of the robots Drones didn’t just burst into life like the worker bees they’re named after: perhaps unsurprisingly, their roots are in military research. As far back as 1935,
the RAF was testing modified Tiger Moth biplanes which could be flown from the ground and these days the aviation industry has perfected the art, with drones such as the Global Hawk — which weighs 14 tonnes and can fly for 32 hours — carrying out missions the world over. But just like the birth of computing, where IBM mainframes inspired hobbyists to create desktop computers for fun, so drones have garden-shed enthusiasts too. Online forums such as DIYDrones.com boast over 30,000 users sharing stories about homemade flying machines. “People are really turned on by the technological challenges and understanding that comes with building their own drone,” says Chris Anderson, ex-WIRED editorin-chief and CEO of DIYDrones.com.
What’s in a drone? Building your own drone is possible because they’re relatively simple (see p98). Sure, they vary: big or small, winged or rotored, cost hundreds of pounds or hundreds of thousands. But essentially they’re built around an autopilot, made up of a combination of sensors — such as GPS, gyroscopes, and accelerometers — along with a processing unit to interpret the data and control the craft. Strap that autopilot to an airframe, with motors teamed with rotors or wings, and you’re good to go. If the tech sounds familiar, it’s because you have something similar in your pocket right now. “A drone is essentially a paper plane plus an iPhone,” says Henri Seydoux, CEO of Parrot. And fortunately, the essential components have been getting better, smaller and cheaper. “We have the mobile phone market to thank,” adds Anderson. “The thirst for better phones has driven down the prices, and improved the quality, of sensors, batteries and chips.”
Flight for the masses Plummeting costs means drones are becoming available to the everyday guy.
Just as IBM seized on hobbyists’ interpretations of mainframes to sell PCs to the masses, so the aviation industry is doing the same with drones. “What captures the imagination of the customer is to fly,” explains Seydoux. “Flying looks so beautiful and simple.” Whether it’s a Parrot AR Drone 2.0 that lets you play augmented reality or a fixed-wing Lehmann L100 carrying a GoPro camera, the market’s flooding with automated flying machines, many of which can be controlled via your smartphone or tablet. Getting there hasn’t been easy, though. “A big part is safety and reliability,” explains Jonathan Downey, CEO at AirWare, which makes hardware for drones. “You have to walk the line of using low-cost sensors available in commercial products and then wrapping that up in software that accounts for failures and deals with them in a reliable way.”
The perfect payload In fact, that’s exactly what sets the R320 000 drones – made by companies such as Microdrones and Draganfly and used by pros – apart from those available in the shops. Sure, commercial drones can fly for about an hour rather than a few minutes and are made using more expensive components, but it’s reliability that expert users demand. The most exciting thing about drones, though, is what they can carry. We’re not talking bombs or missiles here, but high-res cameras, laser scanners, and other exotic imaging systems strapped to their undercarriage, the data from which is beamed back to the ground. And the more expensive the drone, the better the sensors. So while the Parrot AR Drone 2.0 packs a 720p HD digital camera, a pro drone such as the Draganflyer X6 could come kitted out with an infrared thermal imaging system.
Being put to work Dripping in tech bling as they are, it’s no surprise that drones are being put to task on some big projects. Remember the motorbike chase in Skyfall? You have drones to thank. “Directors often want a grand vista as well as intimate detail,” explains Haik Gazarian, director of operations for Flying-Cam, a company that’s supplied drones for James Bond, Harry Potter, and, er, Smurfs 2. “The only way to achieve it is to get close up to the action. Drones offer a safe and reliable way to do that.” And films are far from their only new workplaces. In July 2013, the first fleet of autonomous marine drones was tested in Toulon as part of the MORPH project, with the aim of creating underwater 3D maps and providing surveillance. The agricultural industry is embracing them, too. “A farmer’s field will be a daily updated Google map,” explains Seydoux. “With a good camera, he’s able to see every tree or every plant.” The result is better crop management — and
“A drone is essentially a paper plane plus an iPhone.” Henri Seydoux big savings. There’s no shortage of applications: from chasing poachers to mapping disaster zones, inspecting structures and delivering food, drones are versatile vehicles (see p96).
Teething troubles It’s not all good news, though. Like any immature technology, drones have problems, and perhaps their biggest right now is lack of power. “Flight time will improve, but slowly,” says Seydoux. “It’s a result of poor battery performance.” There’s hope, though: battery tech is improving, and manufacturers are contemplating solar panels or fuel cells as an alternative. There are legal issues, too: while legislation varies from country to
country, it’s still relatively draconian the world over (see panel below), but the industry is confident that will soon change. “Whether people want to admit it or not, drones are going to become more populist,” explains Kevin Lauscher from Draganfly. “It’s just a matter of time before legislation catches up.” As for the privacy concerns? “Google Glass is much more dangerous for privacy,” says Seydoux. “Drones fly for a limited time; Google Glass you wear all day.”
Improved engineering Technology’s ever-advancing march is certain to make drones better — and fast. Top of the list is ever-more sophisticated autonomous flight. While drones can happily fly simple missions
According to the SACAA, South Africa has been highly successful in the development and application of remotely piloted aircraft systems for military operations. SA was also one of the first countries that successfully use remotely piloted aircrafts for civilian mission like the 1994 Democratic Elections and Crime prevention with the SEEKER II. Recently, Google has spent $5 Million on drones to spy on rhino poachers.
South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has as of yet no concrete legislation published on their site with regards to ownership and permission of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) use. Although SACAA does state that existing policies and procedures applicable to airworthiness, certification, design and so forth will from part of upcoming legislation for UAS usage.
THEN AND NOW
//who can fly drones in SA? So far SACAA has given no real statements on who can or cannot use a UAS, although it does look like they want to get some form of legislation up soon. Get while the gettings good in that case.
1 //DRONES AS... LIFE SAVERS
// Drones in the wild
When conventional ground and air searches failed to locate a missing man in Saskatchewan, Canada, earlier this year, they sent in a Draganflyer X4-ES with heatsensing equipment. The X4-ES soon found him, saving him from a night in sub-zero conditions. It was the first time a drone had rescued a human from serious danger.
2 //DRONES AS... CAMERAMEN
“The Draganflyer X4ES found the victim in just 3 minutes — after 2hrs of ground search and a helicopter with night vision failed to do so.” Kevin Lauscher, Draganfly Their small size and nimble nature allows drones to get close to the action on film sets. Video specialists Flying-Cam have a system called SARAH which features autopilot, inertial stabilisation and a 5K RED EPIC camera setup. No surprise, then, that they’ve shot footage for Mission Impossible and Skyfall.
4 //DRONES AS... CARTOGRAPHERS
“We thought a drone would work well for the motorcycle scene at the start. We did a rehearsal with Sam Mendes, and he was so impressed that we went to Istanbul to film.” Haik Gazarian, Flying-Cam Fly a drone back-and-forth and you can create detailed maps of hard-toreach places such as the Ad Deir Plateau. Flying pre-defined routes covering tens of square kilometres, drones acquire images where each pixel represents as little as 3cm on the ground. Software such as Pix4D can stitch them into amazingly detailed 3D maps.
5 //DRONES AS... COMPUTER GAMES
“The detailed map we created of the Ad Deir Plateau in Petra, Jordan is the first of its kind. The results are the talk of the archaeological community.” Scott Ure, Brigham Young University
Just as your camera’s phone allows you to augment reality as you walk down the street, so drones can create part-real, part-fictional worlds to explore. Games such as Parrot’s AR Race let you plot out a course then pilot an AR Drone 2.0 around it, while AR Rescue overlays your surroundings with missions. “For me, the dream was to use drones to turn video game into a real thing — so that’s what we’ve done. These games aren’t for kids; they’re high-tech games for everyone.” Henri Seydoux, Parrot
guided by GPS now, expect them soon to be reacting to their surroundings. “Autonomous flight is coming along quickly thanks to the proliferation of 3D sensing,” explains Seydoux. “We have demos with a Kinect on the drone, which can see in 3D. It can reconstruct its environment and fly by itself, avoiding obstacles.” Not only will they fly better — they’ll be able to do more, too. “The next real advance will be in payloads,” says Anderson. “As sensors become cheaper, you’ll start seeing things like infrared sensors and lidar on the bottom of more drones.”
A flighty future So what does the future hold for drones? Well, we can expect them to
take on more demanding imaging tasks, creating hyper-realistic 3D worlds for cinema and computer games and playing a central role in real-life video games. They’ll also dive further into difficult situations, hunting storms and getting to the heart of natural disasters. There are more basic possibilities, too. In June 2013 Domino’s Pizza carried out its first delivery by drone, albeit one steered by remote control. Imagine load-carrying drones buzzing around the city, each one delivering your latest Amazon package — or perhaps transporting something even larger. “People are even talking about using them to carry passengers,” speculates Lauscher. Google’s driverless cars suddenly seem a bit less exciting.
Stuff says Drones are already becoming incredibly popular — just look at Dronestagr.am, an Instagram feed showcasing their aerial photography. And with components constantly improving in quality and decreasing in price, the sky is literally the limit. While commercial drones are already dripping in expensive technology, we can expect them to do more for us — from insane Hollywood camera work to delivering our online shopping. But plummeting costs mean that the most dramatic changes will be seen in consumer drones, which will come equipped with better autopilots, amazing cameras, and exotic sensors such as thermal imaging systems. Soon, every home could own a drone.
1//PARROT AR DRONE 2.0 QUADRICOPTER
Parrot’s second-generation quadcopter is easily controlled via smartphone or iPad, can do flips, and packs a 720p HD video camera, allowing you to play insanely fun augmented reality games — or just snoop on the neighbours. Don’t really do that. R4 200 / mantality.co.za
2//LEHMANN LA100 GOPRO DRONE
Designed to carry a GoPro camera, this fixed-wing drone flies independently once launched. Constructed from foam and carbon fibre, it’ll fly at altitudes of up to 100m, acquiring footage for five minutes before it lands. R15 900 (import) / lehmannaviation.com
3//DJI PHANTOM GPS DRONE
This quadcopter packs a powerful on-board GPS system, accurate to within less than 1m. It can hover in a single spot indefinitely, which is great for movie makers, and has a setting that allows you to control it as if you’re always standing behind it. R7 900 / dronezone.co.za
4//WALKERA DRAGONFLY QR INFRA X
//Drones 4 you
Dirt cheap and small enough to fit in your palm, the Walkera Dragonfly is equipped with 10 collision sensors which make it impossible to crash. Two ultrasonic altitude sensors even let it climb stairs step-by-step, adjusting its height as it goes. R1 500 / banggood.com
Not all drones take to the sky: Ziphius is set to be the first waterborne consumer drone. An hour of battery life will let you explore the sea at 10kmph, shooting 720p video both above and below water level. And don’t worry: it can never capsize. R2 070 (import) / kickstarter.com
// How to... build a drone
Buying a drone not quite A-Team enough for you? Build one with a hobby kit. Warning: requires soldering China’s DJI Innovations makes some of the best homebrew drone kits. This is one of its entry-level setups, but you’ll still need a soldering iron and glue gun. Once you have those, crack open the 1 DJI F450 Flame Wheel Quadcopter (R3 195) box and start by soldering the ESC (Electronic Speed Controllers) to the bottom board, followed by the power line and Versatile Unit (VU). Glue gun the joints then grab your screwdriver to mount the four motors and arms together. Now it’s time to install the 2 DJI Naza M V2 flight controller (R1 700), the drone’s brain and conductor of cool tricks including an instant “go home” manoeuvre or “holding” an altitude. Point this towards the F450’s nose (the drone’s two red legs) and attach to your motors. Plug in the LED interface then attach the GPS/compass mast to the top. Now for power. Charge your 3 3300 mAh battery (R885) using the 4 Charger (R1 400), attach it to your Naza controller and fasten it with the velcro strap. Lastly, it’s time to configure the drone and pair it with your remote control, the 5 Futaba 6JG (R1 700). Plug your Futaba receiver into the controller’s S-Bus port and download the assistant software and drivers from dji.com. After some tweaking and calibration, you should be ready to fly. Want to take some aerial video with your GoPro? You’ll need to snap up a DJI H3 2D gimbal (R10 000, shopmania.co.za) – or go super-geeky and 3D print one of the mounts available from thingiverse.com.
Total cost (without GoPro and camera mount): R19 000 (approx)
By using a headband which measures brain activity, researchers from the University of Minnesota have detected what physical movements a person is thinking about, then used the results to control a drone.
Say hello to the future of play: a single sheet which folds into a plane, with flaps on the back to steer and a simple autopilot to control them. Throw it, then watch it work out its own route as it glides to a predefined spot.
Imagine shrinking down drone tech into something insect-sized. These RoboBees from Harvard University weigh just 80 milligrams and flap their piezoelectric wings to fly.
SMART PAPER PLANES
//Future drones/ California-based start-up Matternet wants to set up an international network of drones to ship packages from local storage hubs. It claims 2kg parcels can be shipped over 10km for just 3 bucks.
PROJECTS MAKE. DO. UPGRADE.
p100 BETA YOURSELF: STREET PHOTOGRAPHY Train your lens on the wild sights of the human jungle
p102 SUPER GEEK: CODING
In the future, we’ll all think in binary and speak C++. So best start learning
p106 6 INSTANT UPGRADES: GIG TECH
The only thing missing is an amp that goes up to 11
p109 IF NOTHING ELSE, AT LEAST...
Fix your iPhone’s home button and spam-proof Gmail
PROJECTS | 10.13 BETA YOURSELF
STREET PHOTOGRAPHY You don’t need to ﬂy over NYC or the Norwegian fjords to take great photos. Internationally acclaimed snapper Nick Turpin shows us how to pan for gold in the street
THE BASICS Embrace the mundane. Street photography is an approach, a way of seeing the everyday differently and realising that remarkable stories are being played out on every pavement all of the time.
Visualise a frame. Look where the corners finish and when the composition is nice, think about the optimum moment to release that shutter. You are editing time and space.
Be ready. Always have your
Don’t be timid. You are legally
camera switched on with no lens cap and a shutter speed of 1/500s (use Shutter Priority or Manual mode) to freeze that moment when it arrives.
allowed to photograph anything in a public place, but not matters of national security such as military installations, airports etc.
Be patient. This is the hardest challenge in photography, so be close by, across the street, even prepared to fail more than succeed. above you. You never know where But capture your first great that next shot is coming from. moment and you’ll be hooked. Don’t just look ahead. Look
RULES Never be camera-less. The first rule of street photography is to always have your camera with you, because the street delivers amazing happenings even when you’re not looking for them.
Don’t intervene. Great street photographs work because they appear surreal or remarkable but are simultaneously documents of real life. So never set them up.
Prune and tweak. You can’t edit too much. Shoot in RAW then import into Photo Mechanic (R1 500, camerabits.com). It’s the fastest RAW editor by a mile.
10.13 | PROJECTS LEVEL UP WITH...
everybodystreet.com This Kickstarter-fuelled dip into the murky, visceral world of New York street photography includes interviews and narration from some of the greats of the genre, including Joel Meyerowitz, Bruce Davidson and Jill Freedman. It’s not secured distribution yet, but even the trailer provides a good shot of inspiration.
in-public.com Now in its 14th year, this site invites the best international street photographers to publish galleries of their work and grants the best “master” status. It’s the perfect place to study the variation in individual styles and the techniques used by the world’s best chroniclers of human habits and conditions.
EQUIPMENT Go minimalist. Arm yourself with a small, discreet camera with no shutter delay. Leave everything else at home – you don’t want to look like a photographer. Aim for speed. You’ll want a fast shutter speed to freeze passing pedestrians, plus as much depth of field (smallest aperture) as possible to keep things in focus. High ISO settings will help you get both.
Avoid zoom. You won’t have time for zooming, so go for primes or use tape to fix your zoom at 35mm (or equivalent).
EXERCISES 1. Find an interesting backdrop in the street with a striking element to it. For example, a mannequin or street performer. 2. Spend an hour taking photographs of everything that passes. Don’t hold back, make lots of frames. Shoot every time something comes into juxtaposition with your striking background element.
3. Back home, go through all of your frames and look for all of the subtle gestures and incongruities that you didn’t spot at the time. The camera always sees more than you do.
TACTICS Employ charm. A quick smile is often enough to reassure people who spot you taking photos. Or you can offer a reason such as “I like your hat” or “lovely jacket”.
Take the side road. If you want to photograph someone candidly, avoid facing them. Try standing sideways-on while you wait for your moment.
Use props. If you’re waiting for a scene to develop but are looking conspicuous, employ displacement behaviour. Look at a map, “fix” your camera, pretend to be on the phone, etc.
STREET PHOTOGRAPHY NOW
R352 / exclus1ves.co.za A fine survey of the modern street photography scene, this book gathers the work of 52 eminent camera-wielders and studies how the genre has changed in this photography-soaked era of Google Street View and smartphone snapping.
PROJECTS | 10.13 SUPER GEEK
eople say that coders are the new rockstars. They’re not – hacker conferences aren’t exactly a Mötley Crüe afterparty – but they do have a point. We live in a connected, computerised world that sits on hardware and is driven by software. Being able to build new machines and write custom programs is, I think, the coolest skill there is. Animations, games, visualisations, robots, interactive web pages: the world is now more hackable and customisable than ever before, and it’s never been easier to learn.
Web developer and Decoded trainer Alasdair Blackwell says there has never been a better time to start playing with the building blocks of our digital existence
Back in 2004 my friends and I needed a website. The result was far from a Webby contender, but the thing actually worked. The satisfaction of opening up a browser, typing in the address, and seeing a page that I’d made from scratch was immense. And it inspired me to go on to building sites for the student theatre society, artist friends and local pubs (in exchange for free booze). Code is just a tool to get things done. Don’t learn to code; learn to make stuff. In a world of open data and connected services, there are an infinite
number of things you could hack together. Building websites in 2004 was a real challenge. Internet Explorer 6 was a relic from the year 2000 and there was no concept of a mobile app. Most websites were static pictures of animated gifs. It’s a very different world today. Technologies are converging around the web. You can do some really cool stuff in a browser with HTML5 that will work automatically on desktop and mobile (think Geolocation, NFC, video and animation). There are a gazillion resources
out there that you can use to learn, including a wealth of open-source code on GitHub. And the explosion in physical hacking (think Raspberry Pi and Makey Makey) means we can plug the web into the world around us. It’s the perfect hobby, and a hobby that could easily turn into well-paid work. So go get your hands dirty. Innovation has been open sourced. The next breakthrough won’t be Apple; it’ll be some dude in his bedroom hacking something awesome on the Raspberry Pi.
GAME YOUR WAY THROUGH THE BASICS
To make stuff with coding you need to learn two things: the principles of programming and how to write code. Start with a visual programming game such as Blockly Maze (blockly-demo.appspot.com) to get the core concepts like conditions, loops, functions and variables nailed without the brackets and braces of syntax getting in the way. Then try other games such as Isla (left, islalanguage. org), which is aimed at kids but useful for any coding novice, and Cargo-Bot, a game which was itself created entirely by a programming novice on an iPad using the coding app Codea (R80, iPad). Inspired? On we go.
THE NEXT STEP
DO A DAY COURSE
We’ve all probably spent some time rummaging around on the net trying to teach ourselves how to code. The truth of the matter is that coding is quite challenging, and finding a decent learning experience is difficult. Have no fear, because with websites such as Codeacademy (codeacademy.com), becoming an expert coder (or novice let’s first get our feet off the ground) is easier than ever. Codeacademy teaches multiple coding languages and its’ user friendly interface makes it a pleasure to use. There’s no rush either. You can learn whenever suits you best. The best part of all, it’s completely free.
10.13 | PROJECTS WHERE TO SEE CODE IN ACTION
CHROME EXPERIMENTS Not quite sure what you’d code? Peruse the ingenious Chrome browser experiments on show in this repository of user-submitted creations, all based on open technologies. We’re particularly fond of “Deleting Borders”, a music sequencer that interacts with the highlights of your background photo. chromeexperiments. com
CODEPEN Like a social network and Google docs for coding, this browserbased editor lets you do live testing, create “pens” for your code and “follow” other users for inspiration. Upgrade to a Pro account (from R90/month) and you’ll get private “pens” as well as the chance to engage professor mode for teaching students once you’ve earned your coding stripes in the field. codepen.io
BUILD A CITY IN MINECRAFT
All you really need to build stuff on the web is a browser and a text editor like Sublime Text. But coding starts to get really interesting when you combine software with things made out of atoms. A Raspberry Pi (Model B R400, za.rs-online.com; shown above with Pibow Timber case R240, pimoroni.com) is a fine starting point, especially with the free Minecraft: Pi Edition. This special edition lets you modify its world with code – for example, building your own Manhattan or adding sound effects. After that you can set about turning your Pi into a Spotify server, “carputer” or anything your heart desires.
FIREFOX 3D VIEW Now you’re a coder, here’s something to show off to friends/ family/pets – in the Firefox browser (version 16 or higher). Right click on any web page and go to “inspect element”. Click on the cube icon and the web page will be displayed in 3D. It’s a great way to see how pages are constructed and make you look like a fearless hacker to the your uninitiated friends. mozilla.org
PROJECTS | 10.13
HOW TO BUILD THE ULTIMATE TECH HOME
This is the ﬁnal stage of your networked home. Once you’ve got the video streaming sorted, you need never get up again…
If your televisual diet consists mainly of catch-up services rather than streaming films from a NAS drive, the Roku LT (R1 286, wantitall.co.za) is your best bet. This tiny box delivers over 450 on-demand services*, including Netflix, Now TV and Hulu, and can manage basic streaming from your local storage or smartphone via the Plex app. It comes with its own remote control. Sure, it maxes out at 720p and lacks a wired Ethernet port (for improvements on those, see the R1 626 Roku 2 XS), but for the price, it’ll serve up years of TV delight.
Unlike the “Roku” guy (left), you have a big collection of rippedfrom-DVD shows and are less dependent on streaming. Enter the Popcorn Hour A-400 (R3 600, cloudmedia.co.za). What this fanless box lacks in catch-up services (no iPlayer, currently), it makes up for in versatility. If you don’t have a networked NAS drive there’s a bay for installing up to a 3TB hard disk, and it also has SD card and USB3.0 connectivity. If you don’t have Gigabit Ethernet, remember to order the optional R280 Wi-Fi dongle.
It might not stream TV or films, but the Kaleidescape Cinema One (R52 800, import, kaleidescape. com) can store up to 100 of your ripped Blu-rays (or 600 DVDs) on a 4TB hard disk. That, and letting you download others from the Kaleidescape Store, complete with all the Blu-ray trimmings, including HD audio soundtracks. With its bespoke interface and custom operating system, it doesn’t come cheap. The rich can link two Cinema Ones together and create a multiroom system.
You want a simple catch-up TV box
*VIDEO APP STREAMING
Video apps are awesome, but unfortunately the services of apps like Spotify, Netflix and Hulu, amongst others, are not available in good ol’ SA. As with most things, there are ways around this problem, but Stuff can’t be the one to tell you how.
You need a versatile network media streamer
You want a vault of Blu-ray-quality films rather than a streamer
PROJECTS | 10.13
6 INSTANT UPGRADES GIG TECH These magic musoboxes will turn your street session into a legendary event. Well, legendary in Alberton at least
10.13 | PROJECTS THE ’APPY CROONER…
1 MOOER GREEN MILE Who knew it was possible to nail the classic (and endlessly imitated) low-gain overdrive tones of the Ibanez Tube Screamer pedal for just R5 000? Designed around the original JRC4558 chip, the Green Mile is gerbil-sized but barks like a beast and even has an added gain booster switch to beef things up for solos. It’s just the thing for giving your guitar a big, bluesy sound; just the thing if your act is a little light on members. Don’t forget your 9V adapter, though – something had to give, and it was the battery compartment. R5 000 / wantitall.co.za
4 KORG VOLCA BEATS If you’ve ever been trapped in a lift with a Korg Monotron, you’ll already know it’s possible for a cheap analogue synth to be more fun than an expensive digital one. Is it the accessibility of buttons? A feeling that the device isn’t hiding its true capabilities from you? Whatever it is, the Volca series takes that thinking one step further – the Monotron’s stocking-ﬁller quirkiness is still there, but these are tools you can actually build a sound around. Start with the Beats model, for creating drum loops that pump with vintage grit. R695 / djmixclub.co.za
2 NOVATION MININOVA There are only two things “mini” about this hardware synth: the keys and the price. It has the same sound engine as the excellent UltraNova, oﬀering 256 tweakable tones covering everything from squelchy bass ﬂatulence to haircut-altering retro bleepage. Not enough? Download more for free. You get a microphone for vocoder hilarity and USB/ MIDI connections as well as the standard stereo outputs for live use. Just be aware that those 37 little keys aren’t designed for the sausage-esque of ﬁnger. R5 200 / djmixclub.co.za
5 PJB DOUBLE FOUR It’s barely bigger than a box of Romony Creams, but this 70W bass ampliﬁer has stunned pro players with its thumping tones and eyebrow-wobbling low-down response – all from a pair of 4in/10.2cm drivers. The secret is the RALFR “low frequency radiator”, which tackles all the boomy stuﬀ and lets the neodymium cones deal with everything else. This lunchbox amp won’t ﬁll Soccer City, but its one-handed portability makes it ideal for more intimate performances. PJB does tiny guitar amps too. R4 700 (import) / philjonespuresound.com
3 HARDWIRE HT-6 What’s that? You’re still using a guitar tuner that only tunes one string at a time? How delightfully quaint! Polyphonic tuners – which hear every string note simultaneously – are the future, and HardWire’s is as eﬀective as it is easy to use: just strum all the open strings and tweak away until all six rows of lights are lined up in the middle. Simple – and even the crappiest stage lighting won’t stop you being able to make out those blazing LEDs. But be warned: your audience won’t ﬁnd your new-fangled tuner device as fascinating as you do. R5 000 / wantitall.co.za
6 TC-HELICON HARMONY SINGER A disturbingly easy way to turn a solo singer-songwriterguitarist into a Fleet Foxes tribute act, this little blue box adds multi-part harmonies (and reverb) to live vocals. It has inputs and outputs for both a mic and a guitar; the latter carries on to your amp unmolested, but not before the pedal has worked out what chord you’re playing and, from that, calculated what notes to add to your vocal melody. There’s a dial to choose where the harmonies sit around your voice. Lekker. R5 500 / wantitall.co.za
1 MOBILE METRONOME Ideal for drummers who always play too fast after a beer or two (which is pretty much all of them), this metronome app is designed to be simple, ﬂexible and easy to see and hear on the darkest of stages. Free / Android 2 DEEPDISH GIGBOOK Creative? Yes. Sensible? Not so much. GigBook turns your iPad into the world’s lowest-paid tour manager: use it to keep your set lists, lyrics or even chord charts in order and share gig progress over Twitter. R80 / iPad 3 ON THE MUSIC PATH Need a bit of a brush-up before you take to the stage in those sequinned trousers. This app can help, with downloadable paid-for lessons covering a variety of instruments and from a host of well-known maestros. Free / iPad
SHOOT EVERY GIG WITH THE iON AIR PRO2 The iOn Air Pro2 oﬀers a compact, lightweight and fully waterproof camera that might just be just the thing for your gig at the next dodgy, rained out mud-fest. The Air Pro2 can ﬁlm at 1080p with a 180-degree lens. At 14 megapixels, it captures at 60 fps and can be strapped pretty much anywhere and ﬁlms under the harshest of conditions. The Pro2 has built-in wiﬁ which synergizes with the iON app (free) and lets you control the camera with your smartphone, so sharing your video won’t be a hassle.
PROJECTS | 09.13
G A D G E T D O C T O R
ALWAYS ON CALL facebook.com/stuffsa @StuffSA
MAIL OF THE MONTH Q
ANDROID OR WINDOWS MOBILE 8
I need great advice on which handset to purchase between the Samsung Galaxy Zoom or the Nokia Lumia 1020? I am a photographer and having either these phones would save me time on having to use my DSLR. Please help. Owen Sithole
The impending demise of the Apple iPod Classic and the fact my current 160GB model is about to burst at the seams means I am in trouble. There don’t seem to be any largecapacity players any more. I use my iPod in the car and while abroad, and I like to keep all my music with me. Do you guys have any suggestions for a potential replacement? Alex Brady We do, Bradders, and we don’t. There’s the Astell & Kern AK120 from pXX. It has 64GB of internal storage, plus – count ’em – two microSDXC
Well, we’re big fans of the Nokia, which just launched in South Africa. Its camera is really in another league. See our in-depth test on p58 where we put it through its paces. The Galaxy Zoom is a good camera too, but it’s hard to argue with Nokia’s 41MP and those Zeiss lenses. I mean 41MP. Seriously?
expansion slots. That’s 192GB! Except, um, it costs R17 500. Plus R2 000 for two 64GB cards. Next option, and you’re not going to like this one either… Wait for the 64GB Samsung Galaxy S4, and add another 64GB microSD to make 128GB (minus all the other stuff on your phone). Then subscribe to Spotify for free. Keep your favourite stuff on the phone, especially for when you’re abroad; use Spotify with an unlimited internet tariff for all the rest. Any good?
My cricket-loving friends
and I are keen to add some Hawk-Eye-style tech to our Sunday league games. Can you recommend some iOScompatible kit that we can use to stream a video feed to the boundary and instantly review LBW decisions? Jay Penny It’s not quite Hawk-Eye, JP, but if you can convince the umpire to wear a headcam you’ll be able to get a second opinion. iON’s Air Pro 2 Wi-Fi (R4 600, iontheaction.co.za) allows you to record video directly to a connected iThing, so rather than just streaming it in real-time you can watch it back again and again to make sure the ball definitely pitched inside leg stump.
I’m starting sixth form in September and would like a laptop that could be used for school work and leisure. Since the new Intel Haswell processors have come out, I was hoping for the previous generation of i5s to
come down in price. What i5 laptop would you recommend for a budget of R10 700? Thomas Wall Well, T-Dubs, you might want to have a gander at the Lenovo IdeaPad Z500T, which can currently be had for under R10 700 on pcshopper. co.za. Not only does it have a Core i5 processor, 6GB RAM and 1TB hard drive, it earns extra geek points for the 15.6in touchscreen, which makes Windows 8’s panels and tiles a lot easier to navigate.
APPLE TV GUIDE
I have recently taken the plunge and now have three Apple TVs streaming from my Mac Mini and 3TB LaCie drive. But what are the options for downloading TV or ﬁlms outside of iTunes? Dai Jones Apple TV isn’t exactly famous for its format friendliness, DJ. Ripped DVDs is pretty much it unless you want to get adventurous with streaming foreign content.
Congratulations to our 3 Blackberry Q10 Smartphone competition winners: Christopher Roberts, Vivienne Reynolds and Hannes Groenewald
WIN The best letter wins an
amazing Tudortech prize hamper: an Olympus SZ-16 camera, SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip and a Belkin iPhone 5 two pack cover, worth a total R3 750.
Stuﬀ competition terms and conditions: 1 Promotions, giveaways and competitions are entered through a controlled SMS line. The cost per SMS is R1,50. Premium rates apply. Free SMSes do not apply. SMS lines open for Issue 39 2013 on 23 September 2013 and close on 18 October 2013. 2 The judges’ decision is final and no correspondence can be entered into. 3 Employees of Stuff Group and their families are not allowed to enter. Advertising and public relations representatives may not enter competitions in the issue in which their promotions, giveaways or competitions are carried. 4 Prizes are not exchangeable for cash and/or other products. Prizes are available while stocks last. It is at the discretion of Stuff Group and the custodian of the prizes to ensure that, should there be a problem with the stipulated prize won, a reasonable replacement of the same value will be offered. 5 Stuff Group carries promotions, giveaways and competitions in good faith and cannot be held responsible for any misrepresentation on the part of the custodian of the promotions, giveaways and competitions. 6 Winners will be notified telephonically and by mail. It is the responsibility of the winner to ensure that the correct address and contact details are given. It is the responsibility of the custodian of the promotion, giveaway and competition to ensure that prizes are sent out correctly and within the specified time. 7 Prize delivery will take four to six weeks from the time the winner has been notified. 8 Promotions, giveaways and competitions are open to South African residents only. 9 All prize-winners will be published on www.stuff.co.za the following month, once the competition lines have closed. 10 Readers may not claim for more than one prize at a time, and once announced as a winner in any Stuff promotions, giveaways or competitions, will not be eligible for another prize for three (3) months thereafter. 11 By entering any promotions, giveaways or competitions, or by accepting any prize, entrants agree that their personal details may be retained by the promoter and/or Stuff magazine and used for the purpose of sending them information about future promotions, events and news, as well as for internal administration and analysis. 12 Participation in any promotion, giveaway or competition and/or acceptance of any prize implies full knowledge and acceptance of all rules.
10.13 | PROJECTS 5-MINUTE HACKS
…EMBRACE AMBIENT NOISE Science says your brain is happier when coddled in a cloud of white noise. Feed it these aural treats:
IF NOTHING ELSE, AT LEAST... …DOUBLE SPAM-PROOF YOUR GMAIL Need to sign up for email updates from a company you don’t completely trust? Add this extra layer of spam protection:
O The perfect noise level for creativity is apparently a pleasant 70 decibels. Plug into coﬃtivity.com’s coﬀee shop hubbub and play your music just slightly louder for the perfect working soundscape.
O Rather than give your standard Gmail address in an online form, add a “+” to the ﬁrst part of your email address, followed by some letters related to the company.
O When out for a jog, use Around Sound Pro (R26, Android) to feed noises above a certain trigger level into your earphones via the mic. It could save you from being truck sauce.
O For example, if your address is “email@example.com” and you’re signing up for updates from Derek’s Drone Supplies, tell Derek your email is “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
O At night, use apps such as Ambiance (R31, iOS/Android) and Sleep Pillow (Free, iOS) to lull you into sleep with soporiﬁc sounds including “rain on a tent”.
O Now, if you start to get a torrent of spam, go into “settings” and create a ﬁlter that sends all mail sent to your modiﬁed address to your trash.
…SURVIVE BROKEN iPHONE BUTTONS While you wait for a Genius Bar slot, shortcut your way around busted iPhone buttons with AssistiveTouch: O Go to “Settings” > “General” > “Accessibility”. Here you’ll ﬁnd a list of options for those who can’t get on with the iPhone’s default interfaces or gestures and want to customise them. O Head to the “Physical & Motor” section and turn on “AssistiveTouch”. A white circle will appear in the top left corner of your screen – press it. O Among the four options is a soft “home” button to replace your broken “hard” version. For other broken buttons such as volume or screen lock, simply go into the “Device” option.
TUNE IN NEXT MONTH FOR... O Create your own home studio O Become a meteorological marvel O Reinvigorate your ageing Xbox 360
STU FF PRO MOTIO N
KING OF CLUBS Kong is one of Johannesburg’s most exclusive night venues, situated in the heart of the metropolitan in the suburb of Rosebank. In holding to Kong’s prestigious reputation, this nightclub has hosted celebrities such as D’ Banj and Justin Bieber. Kong has invested a lot of time and energy in redesigning the venue to create the perfect synergy bewteen simple design that is glamorous, without being ostentatious, and the ever-growing demand for a venue that can satisfy the thirst that this city’s nightlife craves. Walking through the doors of Kong, you are instantly transported to a diﬀerent part of the world. This is apparent as the
venue’s décor is centered around the Hong Kong theme. Friday nights are for all urban music lovers and hip-hop party-goers. Saturday nights accommodate for the commerical crowd and if heavy partying isn’t really your thing, venture to Kong on Sundays for a more relaxed vibe. For more info contact: Twitter: @kong_rosebank/@kong_urban Facebook: facebook.com/kongrosebank facebook.com/kong.urban Email: email@example.com Tell: 0114470993 Cell: 0796593164 BBM: 20C4B675
TOP TEN OF EVERYTHING Smartphones Laptops Tablets TVs Compact cameras DSLRs, etc Games Headphones
112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119
Have your say on the Stuff Facebook page tinyurl.com/StuffZA For reviews of products featured in the top 10s, visit stuff.co.za Prices quoted are the best available at the time of printing
T HO Y BU
1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10
HTC’s days of being overshadowed by Samsung and Sony are over: the One is better than the best offered by either of its Android rivals. Of course we’re writing this before we’ve tested the Galaxy S4 – by the time you read this, Sammy’s new flagship may well have taken the top spot. If it has, it’ll be some phone – because the One is a masterclass in smartphone craft, from its impossibly clear 1080p screen to its strokable aluminium body, clever Sense 5 skin and UltraPixel camera.
Samsung Galaxy S4
It didn’t need much fixing but Samsung’s new flagship packs in a bunch of under-thehood improvements. A bigger 5in/12.7cm screen and the ability to control the phone without touching it are not nearly enough to regain top spot here.
Sony Xperia Z
Unseated after a brief spell at the top the Xperia is still a star performer. While it loses the ergonomic and screen-res fights with the HTC, Sony’s 5in/12.7cm screened flagship remains a gorgeously monolithic slab of a smartphone.
Apple iPhone 5
STUFF SAYS Super-stylish, ultra-smart and a pleasure to use, the HTC One is a masterclass in smartphone design
R7 800 +++++ R8 000 +++++ R7 500 +++++
It’s got the best app store, the subtlest design and continues to offer the smoothest smartphone experience out there, but iOS is looks increasingly dated next to Android and the technical superiority of flagship rivals means the iPhone 5 is no longer best-in-class.
R8 300 +++++
BEST FOR UNPARALLELED APP CHOICE
Samsung Galaxy Note II
from R7 500 +++++
BEST FOR BIG-HANDED CREATIVES
Its 5.5in / 14cm, 720p screen might be too much for most of us but the Note II’s supreme power, handy S Pen stylus and features such as Popup Browser and Multiscreen will be exactly what some gadgeteers want. The time for mainstream phablets is here.
Huawei Ascend P6
Featuring a custom Huawei quad-core chip and laying claim to the title of world’s thinnest smartphone, the Ascend P6 is an improvement on the lower-specced P1 in every department. The 5MP front camera just seals the deal. Once it’s available, that is.
Nokia Lumia 1020
Finally, a cameraphone worthy of the name. The WP8-running 1020 takes superb 38MP snaps helped by such treats as optical stabilisation and a xenon flash. Or it can scale them down to 5MP and cram in more detail. But as a phone, it’s good rather than great.
Sony Xperia Z Ultra
Can’t decide between tablet and phone? Have them both with the 6.4in Ultra. It’s beautifully built, with a 6.5mm-thin body, waterproofing and pin-sharp 1080p screen. And with the most powerful processor ever found on a phone inside it, it’s fast too.
BlackBerry’s Z10 may have grabbed the headlines, but it’s the Q10 (p94) the QWERTY faithful have been waiting for. They won’t be disappointed: the combination of great little screen, lovely big keyboard and lots of grunt makes it a productivity powerhouse.
The cheapest handset in the Lumia Windows Phone 8 lineup doesn’t do badly in the performance line, lobbing a 1GHz dual core CPU, 5MP camera and a very sensitive display. It has dropped a few features, like NFC, but you’d expect that at this price point.
PLUG INTO STUFF’S SOCIAL NETWORK facebook.com/stuffsa
R5 000 ++++, Rtba ++++,
BEST FOR CAMERA OBSESSIVES
BEST FOR BIG-HANDED WANT-IT-ALLS
R7 000 ++++, R1 900 ++++,
BEST FOR VALUE FOR MONEY
O Prices quoted are for handset only unless otherwise stated
LAPTOPS 113 T HO Y BU
1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10
Apple MacBook Air 13in/33cm (2013)
The Air has had its annual spruce up, which means our favourite old laptop is now our favourite new laptop. So what’s changed? Nothing on the outside, but a whole lot of lovely stuff on the inside. For starters, it gets one of Intel’s new Haswell chips (i5 or i7), plus HD5000 graphics and improvements to RAM and SSD speeds. Couple that with its new 802.11ac Wi-Fi and you have one super-fast laptop. And somehow, despite all that power, it now has a 12-hour battery to boot. Crazily good.
Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display
Simply put, the 15/38.1cm is the best laptop (ever) thanks to power, portability and the best screen of any laptop we’ve seen. The 13in/33cm model has less grunt but is a tidier size. So why No.2? Because they’re both pricey, and in real life we’d go for the Air.
HP Envy 6 Sleekbook
AMD Trinity processors power this Ultrabook alternative, making it cheaper and more battery-filled. The Envy 6 has a quality metal lid and rubberised base, 15.6in screen and its 4GB RAM gives the 500GB hard drive faster boot times than a similar Intel core i3.
Sony VAIO T13
Sony laptop users brand loyalty is legendary and this full metal-bodied ultrabook builds on that reputation with a raft of power saving features such as the 13in/33cm LED screen, Intel’s top-of-the-line Core i7 CPU and a hybrid SSD drive for startup in under 5 seconds.
Samsung Series 7 Ultra
STUFF SAYS The 2013 Air is powerful, fast, sexy and has bags of stamina. If it was any better, we’d think we were dreaming
from R12 500 +++++ from R21 500 +++++ R10000 +++++ R12 000 +++++
Despite ourselves, we bloody love the MacBook Air. Even when there are perfectly good Windows 8 rivals, such as this new Series 7 Ultra. It has an i5 chip (albeit last generation), but also a gorgeous 1080p touchscreen and a discrete graphics card.
R14 000 ++++,
Samsung Series 7 Chronos
from R15 000 ++++,
More of a Win 8 than Mac type? This brushed-aluminium MacBook Pro alternative has plenty of power (Core i7 brain, AMD Radeon HD6750M graphics), a 15.6in/39.6cm full HD screen and a 6hr battery. It’s not the most portable at 2.4kg, but we can live with that.
Acer Aspire S7
The Aspire S7 is almost the perfect Ultrabook – it matches the MacBook Air for weight, beats it for slimness by 6mm, and has a gorgeous 1920x1080 touch-friendly screen. Only its battery, which lasted a mere 5hrs on test, prevents it getting that fifth star.
from R23 000 ++++,
At 4.26kg the M17x is only really portable in theory, but it’s carrying the good kind of weight – the kind that includes Radeon HD7970M graphics, an Intel Core i7 Ivy Bridge chip, and a precise 17in/43.2cm 1080p screen. The kind of weight that crushes modern games.
Asus Taichi 21
You don’t need to be a travelling salesman to love the Taichi. This Win8 hybrid sticks a live tile-friendly touchscreen on top of a full laptop sporting Core i7 innards. You know how the saying goes: why settle for one 11.6in/28cm HD screen when you can have two?
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13
This 13.1in/33.3cm, 1600x900 touchscreen laptop hinges back on itself, turning a full-on Ultrabook into a full-sized tablet. A bit too hefty to be sexy, but you do get a Win 8 laptop with up to Core i7 innards. One issue: in tablet mode the keys rub your knees.
TOP THREE BLU-RAY PLAYERS
BEST FOR EVERYTHING BAR THE PRICE
BEST FOR TOUCHY-FEELY WINDOWS 8
BEST FOR SERIOUS GAMERS
R16 000 ++++, R12 500 ++++,
R3 500 / takealot.com A quite remarkable device, this Sony sounds great, has a wonderful picture in 2D or 3D and is crammed with on-demand content including Sony’s own Movies Unlimited. Its trump card is 4K video upscaling: you may not need it yet, but you soon will.
R3 300 / wantitall.co.za A fine budget player with picture and sound quality that would grace many a more expensive model. It doesn’t quite rival the Sony above for smart features – although you do still get Netflix and iPlayer – but for pure Blu-ray watching it’ll do you proud.
R16 000 / rendosaudio.co.za Pricey like an Aston Martin is pricey and about as satisfying to own, this Marantz can play any disc you like, streams music at high-def resolutions and can withstand an earthquake. If you really, really take movies and music seriously, this is your player.
BEST FOR ON-DEMAND FILMS
BEST FOR BLU-RAY ON A BUDGET
BEST FOR THE ULTIMATE IN QUALITY
114 T HO Y BU
The 4th-gen iPad still stands above all tablets, with an amazing screen that renders everything in glorious 2048x1536 on its 9.7in/24.6cm Retina display. Photos, games and movies look incredible and text is eggshell-smooth. The A6X chip’s quad-core graphics and the LTE browsing speeds (EE only) make it slicker and more user-friendly than ever, while the unparallelled riches of the App Store mean it’s still the most fun, too. That said, we’re looking forward to an iOS refresh.
Asus Transformer Pad Infinity
from R7 500 +++++
Apple iPad Mini
from R3 600 +++++
Sony Xperia Tablet Z
BEST FOR BATH-BASED TABLET FUN
We used to be bowled over by the Nexus 10’s 300ppi screen, but now its little brother has overtaken it. That said, if you’ve got productivity on your mind, a bigger screen always wins. With decent power and good battery life, it’s still a classy iPad rival.
R6 500 +++++
BEST FOR MOVIE-FIEND ANDROID FANS
Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2
from R9000 ++++,
BEST FOR DESKTOP VERSATILITY
ASUS VivoTab Smart
from R7 000 ++++,
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
from R6 500 ++++,
Google Nexus 10
You’re a high flyer. You have work to do and neither iOS or Android has the oomph. You need the Windows 8 Pro-running Tablet 2. It lasts all day, is powerful enough for full-fat desktop software and with the R1 700 keyboard dock it’s an ultraportable laptop.
Asus is winning both ways by adding well-built, fully stocked Windows 8 tablets to its formidable Android lineup. This one uses Intel’s power-sipping Atom dual core CPU and weighs a delightful 580g. Spring for the optional TranSleeve keyboard (+445g).
This 10in/25.4cm Ice Cream Sandwich tab has an IR blaster, the ability to run certain Samsung apps side-by-side – albeit slowly – and the S Pen, a super-precise stylus with loads of optimised apps. It’s just a shame, then, that its screen is a mere 1280x800.
NOW AVAILABLE MONTHLY
XPERIA Z ULTRA
PRINTERS Time to build your own gadgets
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JABRA REVO HEADPHONES
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ith ors w en do n O Op kitche September 2013 R32.00 (incl VAT) Other countries R28.07 (excl tax) www.stuﬀ.co.za
BEST FOR VALUE AND PERFORMANCE
R9 000 ++++,
Sony just refuses to play by the rules. Stretching its stylish Xperia Z smartphone out to 10in should have made it thicker, but it hasn’t; less crisply screened, but it isn’t; and not waterproof, but it is. The price for this extreme engineering, however, is high.
from R3 000 +++++
A stunning finish makes this the prettiest Apple tablet yet. It shares the 1024x768 res of the iPad 2, but it’s not as crisp as the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD. Excellent apps push it out in front – but at R1 400 more than the Nexus 7, it’s hard to recommend to all.
Don’t underestimate the keyboard dock. The Infinity uses it not just for its trackpad and keys, but also for connections and extra battery life. Along with quad-core power, it makes this full-HD-screener a netbook beater.
from R5 500 +++++ from R3 200 +++++
Where once the FonePad was a touch more than a Nexus 7, it’s now cheaper and still has Intel innards, 3G and a microSD slot. But, sad news: the Nexus 7 has grown up into a 1080p screen, leaving this other Asus-made tablet looking positively archaic.
Does everything the iPad has ever done, but now it’s twice as fast and four times as pretty. Amazing
Google Nexus 7
Google have updated the Nexus 7, lobbing a Full HD display, 1.7GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro, Adreno 320 GPU and an extra camera at the low-cost 7-incher. The Nexus just got even better.
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TVs 115 T HO Y BU
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The world’s best TV? No question. The 55in F8000 has the best picture, the smartest features, the biggest sound and the most innovative controls of any telly out there. This is a TV you’ll never tire of watching, which is just as well, because there’s plenty to watch on it: Freeview, Freesat and all the riches of the revamped Smart Hub, complete with Netflix, LoveFilm, iPlayer and more. Other highlights include the TiVo-style S-Recommendation tool and the Touch remote. Superb.
Samsung’s stunning 8000-series 55in/140cm LED TV range is available in four models, 46- through 65-inch (117 to 165cm) and all are excellent. As well as great 2D and 3D the Smart dashboard can be controlled through voice or gesture. Pricey, but superb picture.
With seven pairs of 3D specs in the box – two of which allow for full-screen gaming – this passive 3D TV is great for social occasions. It’s just been updated with the Game World portal, featuring 2D and 3D games – some playable with LG’s Magic Remote.
The 3D upscaler and HyperReal image processing engine now have more horsepower to produce a better picture, it has both wifi and wired LAN and there’s 3D glasses thrown in. A quality buy at the price.
While not the very latest incarnation, outperforms most other sets in this class. It’s a safe buy; there’s wifi and wired LAN, no corners cut and with the superb build quality you’ll get great performance for the longer term. Great price, but no 3D glasses.
The strong picture quality and no-fuss, passive 3D are matched by great styling, minimal brushed metal finishes and an “almost gone” 5mm bezel. Wifi and LAN, 4 pairs of glasses, dual fiull screen gaming, Magic remote and Smart dash come standard.
Surprisingly for this price range LG has cut no corners. Picture quality is welll above average then there’s LG’s passive Cinema 3D, smart dashboard for downloading apps and wired and wireless networking and a bevy of HDMI and USB ports.
Featuring Sony’s top-end X-Reality image engine this edge-lit LED panel outclasses sets costing much more. There’s no 3D but this smart TV holds the sweet spot for pairing great picture quality with smart connectivity.
It’s definitely trailing in the high spec TV race, but as a second screen for your guest room, garage or kitchen you won’t be embarrassed by this full HD picture, the 100Hz motion smoothing and video capable USB port panel.
It’s small but potent with the full HD image quality capabilities of it’s much bigger siblings in this range. With a reasonably slim profile its the perfect size for the kitchen or workshop to catch the news or cricket score.
STUFF PICK NEW BLU-RAY
Start saving up now – the super-smart Samsung F8000 is the TV your eyes have been waiting for
R35 000 +++++ R40 000 +++++ R20 000 +++++
BEST FOR 3D MOVIES WITH FRIENDS
R19 500 +++++ R12 000 +++++ R17 000 +++++
BEST FOR SPECS-FREE 3D VIEWING
R9 000 +++++ R6 000 ++++, R5 000 ++++,
BEST FOR BUDGET BIGSCREEN FUN
R2 500 +++,,
Olympus Has Fallen
Iron Man 3
A crime thriller about art, amnesia and shaved genitalia. Despite being visually exotic, things take a turn for the silly, and it’s not nearly as clever as Danny Boyle seems to think it is. Just like the Olympics, then. Oh, and apparently you can hypnotise people using iPads. Stylish nonsense. +++,,
Another beloved series gets an unnecessary reboot. There’s plenty of butchery, and gore levels have been ramped up to sadistic levels. It’s more of a tribute act: gone are the original’s director, protagonist and absurd humour. Still, it’s a fun and effective way to wet your pants. +++,,
The White House gets overrun by Koreans. Only a disgraced government agent can save the day. It really calls for Jack Bauer, but Gerard Butler does a solid job. It’s relentless and entertaining, even if there’s no originality aside from a joke about hash keys. And Morgan Freeman’s in it. Which is nice. +++,,
Robert Downey Jr returns as Tony Stark, battling genetically modified soldiers with his arsenal of robot suits. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang director Shane Black brings fast-paced wit to proceedings, while Sir Ben Kingsley is clearly having a hoot playing terrorist The Mandarin. You’ll never see him coming. ++++,
116 T HO Y BU
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In the blink of an eye in which Fujifilm elected to update its Top 10-topping X10, the HX50 jumped in its seat and declared itself king of the castle. And, despite protestations from the lowly rascal X20 below, the Sony’s position is justified. Its 20.4MP CMOS sensor and 24-270mm (35mm equiv.) lens combine to produce awesome images in a wide range of situations. There’s also a hot shoe for a flash or an electronic viewfinder, so its lack of RAW shooting is its only real flaw.
The X20 isn’t all retro looks and no trousers. It excels in Advanced Auto mode and has manual controls and RAW shooting for creative days. The optical viewfinder, though small, is linked to the 4x zoom and frames well. All this, and it looks damn cool.
Canon PowerShot S110
Superb image quality at most ISO settings, manual controls and a new touchscreen are enough to put this truly compact snapper in the No.3 spot. And while its Wi-Fi sharing isn’t as easy to use as we’d like, an update to CameraWindow should remedy it.
Nikon Coolpix AW110
With a metallic body, sturdy locking mechanism and optional camo finish, our new favourite tough cam has got that whole military chic thing nailed. Its army – geddit? – of features include excellent 16MP stills, 1080p@30fps video and glove-friendly controls.
The 20MP RX100 is just what we’re looking for in an advanced compact. Genuinely pocketable with a huge 1in sensor and customisable lens ring, it takes natural, well-balanced images and is able to shoot silky 1080p@50fps video. Top notch.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200
If you want a superzoom cam, the Lumix FZ200 wipes the floor with its rival snoopy snappers. A small and solid build is coupled with a 24x optical zoom, an excellent auto mode and spot on exposure abilities. The downside is the video, which is a mixed bag.
Fujifilm FinePix X100S
Fujifilm’s souped-up its fixed lens retro shooter, with faster focusing and a big APS-C sensor. It’s not all new though, keeping the 35mm-equivalent f/2 lens and hybrid viewfinder that we loved from the X100. An alternative finish would be nice, mind you.
Canon PowerShot G15
Looking for a compact(ish) camera with pro flourishes such as optical viewfinder, external flash, filter ring and manual controls? The G15 will do you proud. You’ll also get crisp, clean photos with accurate colours, plus a nippy AF and a tank-like build.
Samsung Galaxy Camera
The new king of snap-sharing has a 4.8in/12cm screen, Android 4.1, auto Dropbox uploads and loads of filter and editing apps. Its 16.3MP images aren’t the best, but it’s a sexy slice of the future and updates bring new scene modes including ‘food’. Yes, food.
Canon IXUS 125 HS
A surprisingly powerful camera given its tiny dimensions, the IXUS 125 HS has strippedback controls, 5x optical zoom and no fewer than 58 different settings in auto mode. It’s not one for enthusiasts, then, but neither does it compromise on image quality.
STUFF SAYS Unassuming looks hide an amazingly capable camera to suit beginners or burgeoning Bailey-ettes
R3650 +++++ R6700 +++++ R4000 +++++ R3800 +++++
BEST FOR ADVENTUROUS SNAPPERS
R8000 +++++ R2000 +++++
BEST FOR AT-A-DISTANCE SHOOTING
BEST FOR DSLR PICS IN A SMALL BODY
R5400 +++++ R5500 ++++,
BEST FOR ON-THE-GO IMAGE SHARING
BEST FOR BUDGET BUYERS
SLRs, ETC 117 T HO Y BU
Olympus OM-D E-M5
After its success in resurrecting the PEN brand, it was inevitable Olympus would emblazon the legendary OM moniker across its first compact system camera with a viewfinder. And boy, does it live up to the name. This is a CSC with pro aspirations: astoundingly fast AF, 9fps burst shooting, an excellent EVF, weatherproof body, tons of controls and superb 16MP pics right through to ISO 25,600. Best of all is the Live Time mode for a live view of long exposures. It’s well-priced these days too.
The best compact system camera so far, boasting super-fast autofocus and great advanced features
R16 0 00 +++++ (w/12-50mm lens)
Canon EOS 650D
Our favourite DSLR has a hybrid 18MP sensor that enables continuous autofocus during video recording, a responsive touchscreen and 5fps burst shooting. Its replacement the 700D brings a few minor upgrades to the party and is only a little more expensive.
+++++ (w/18-55mm lens)
Improvements over our old favourite the D5000 are a vari-angle screen that’s grown to 3in, 1080p video recording and a 16.2MP chip sensitive up to ISO 6400. Its sensor is amazing in low light, serving up punchy stills and hi-def video.
Canon EOS 60D
The Canon 60D is a DSLR aimed at the serious amateur: a ruggedly built, feature-stuffed snapper with full 1080p video. The newly announced 70D adds a new 20.2MP sensor, Wi-Fi and a touchscreen, plus a new autofocus system for video. Review soon.
Canon EOS 6D
Canon’s cheapest ever full-framer is an awesome little SLR with a few clever tricks up its lens. As well as its all-new 20.2MP sensor, it boasts a GPS receiver for geotagging your pics and Wi-Fi for direct uploading or remote control from an iPhone or Android device.
This Sony is super-capable, with continuous shooting speeds of up to 12fps, a 24MP sensor, rugged body and an absolutely stunning electronic viewfinder. Despite the A77’s SLR-ish looks, it has to make do with a digital eye viewfinder rather than an optical one.
Canon EOS M
R9 000 (body only)
+++++ R19 000 (body only)
+++++ R14 300
+++++ R8 700
Canon’s turned up fashionably late to the mirrorless interchangeable-lens party - but superbly dressed. The M is like a small EOS 650D, easy to operate, with an 18MP APS-C hybrid CMOS sensor, DIGIC 5 processing, a fast shutter and ISO extendable to 25600.
BEST FOR SHOOTING LIKE THE PROS
BEST FOR ALL-ROUND VALUE
A host of manual photo and video controls are available via its gorgeously minimalist unmarked knobs, but it’s the exceptional quality of its 24.3MP images that really impresses. We suspect that an updated model may be just around the corner, though.
+++++ (body only)
R23 0 00
Pro power has never come at such a reasonable price. A full-frame 24.3MP sensor combines with accurate 39-point autofocus for stunning results. Dual SD card slots, built-in flash and 5.5fps shooting speed complete a seriously powerful proposition.
Like its D3100 predecessor, the D3200 has an excellent photography-course-in-acamera Guide mode, although that’s no longer the star attraction. This entry-level DSLR has a very non-entry-level 24MP sensor capable of producing truly professional results.
R5 700 (body only)
BEST FOR NEWBIE SNAPPERS
TOP THREE VIDEO STREAMERS Microsoft Xbox 360
R2 100 / takealot.com So now we have all the deets of the next generation of consoles. The Xbox One will be more media-centric than ever before, but expensive. The PS4 still looks better, retains its music and movie skills and is cheaper. The battle, as ever, will rage…
R1 200 / zastore.co.za We’re still waiting on Apple’s TV set, but this box is a good start. It can stream in 1080p, access Netflix and Youtube and opens up the riches of the iTunes store. It even makes a neat, dualscreen games machine when teamed with an iOS device.
R2 700 (import) / sony.com Sony’s near clean-sweep of this page owes much to its fantastic smart TV roster, and this 1080p-capable box has ’em all. So you get iPlayer, Lovefilm and Sony’s own Video Unlimited, plus the ability to stream your own files, and all for less than a (big) night out.
BEST FOR MULTIMEDIA FUN
BEST FOR BIG-SCREEN IPAD GAMING
BEST FOR SMARTING UP A DUMB TV
118 T HO Y BU
The Last Of Us PS3
You might think there’s no life left in the soon-to-be-obsolete PlayStation 3. And you might think the zombie-game genre has reached saturation point, given the 137 undead-themed releases this year. But you’d be wrong on both counts. Gloriously, thrillingly, nerve-shreddingly wrong. With its compelling story, wonderful acting and superb gameplay, spending a few hours with The Last Of Us is like having a final fling with an old flame. You know there’s no future in it. But it’s magnificent while it lasts.
STUFF SAYS A captivating, terrifying triumph from start to ﬁnish, The Last Of Us is as good as current-gen gaming gets
from R700 +++++
Tomb Raider PC/PS3/Xbox 360 Yes, it’s a Franchise Reboot, but the well-paced mixture of puzzles, action sequences, gun fights and stealth make the latest Lara Croft adventure an immersive, cinematic experience. Possibly the best fun we’ve ever had pretending to be a 21-year-old girl.
from R300 +++++
Bioshock Infinite PC/PS3/Xbox 360 From its achingly gorgeous setting in the skies to a super-intelligent story that tackles religion, racism and metaphysics, Infinite is an innovative tour de force. None of that would matter if the gameplay lagged – but it barely puts a foot wrong either. Stunning.
from R450 +++++
BEST FOR MIND-BENDING STORYLINES
from R300 +++++
BEST FOR OPEN-WORLD ADVENTURING
from R400 +++++
BEST FOR HOLLYWOODSCALE VISUALS
4 5 6
Far Cry 3 PC/PS3/Xbox 360
Incredibly, Ubisoft has taken the ‘rich white tourist goes to war on third-world islanders’ premise and turned it into an enjoyable, open-world adventure. Too serious for you? Try ’80s cyborg spin-off Blood Dragon. It’s mad but brilliant.
Dishonored PC/PS3/Xbox 360
This whale-oil-fuelled steampunk adventure is Deus Ex with a crossbow, and as such it’s all about choice: ‘ghost’ the game without killing anyone, go in stabbing with your sword or use your eldritch powers to summon a swarm of man-eating rats.
Assassin’s Creed 3 PC/PS3/Xbox 360
A huge game in every sense, with a very long central campaign, a cornucopia of minigames and side missions, and a vast world to explore. Finished all that and thirsty for more? The final part of DLC trilogy, The Tyranny of King Washington, is now available.
FIFA 13 PC/PS3/Xbox 360
The field of choice for Stuff’s office league continues to impress. The tweaks are relatively subtle, but add up to a huge advance in realism. They’ve even sorted out some of our gripes such as AI team-mates running offside with frustrating regularity.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch PS3 Even if you haven’t played a Japanese RPG since 1998, this charming story is worth revisiting the genre for – and if you’re a fan of Studio Ghibli animation, it’s a must-play. Plus, it features an amusing potato-creature with a lantern in his nose.
Borderlands 2 PC/PS3/Xbox 360
The first Borderlands took a big gamble on its boldly original, cel-shaded animation style, and won a big pile of fans and money. The sequel looks even better, while also serving up extra helpings of humour, explosions and frenetic gunishment.
Grid 2 PC/PS3/Xbox 360
Don’t come to it expecting the realism of Gran Turismo and you’ll find much to love about Grid 2. It’s gorgeous to look at and playable as hell, thanks to some genuinely tough AI opponents, tons of courses and the sheer variety of thrills on offer.
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from R300 +++++ from R300 +++++
BEST FOR MULTIPLAYER BATTLES
from R550 +++++
BEST FOR CHARM AND INVENTION
from R400 +++++ from R400 +++++
HEADPHONES 119 T HO Y BU
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The specialised lossless encoding and transmission system makes these the closest we’ve ever come to perfect wireless sound across all music types, and despite its intimidating size, the low weight and luxuriant fit helps you forget you’re wearing headphones at all.
You get the feeling Sony put everything they know about sound into these headphones, cutting no corners and sparing no expense. The result is an audiophile’s delight: a “true”, but still exciting sound across all music genre. Pricey and too big to lug around.
Harmon Kardon NC
Hifi maker Harmon Kardon has managed to meet and exceed unreasonably high expectations. Noise cancelling helps you appreciate the full range, detail and balance of this rousing audio performance. Smaller CL and cordless BT models also available.
Luxuriantly finished in soft leather these high-end Sennheisers are designed to be out and about. They’re light and extremely comfortable. Whether you’re on the couch or at the airport, the signature uncompromised sound quality is now always at hand.
They’re not cheap but they are, quite simply the best sounding in-ear phones you can get. Balanced Armature technology means there’s dedicated high, mid and bass frequency drivers, and standard one-driver earbud models aren’t even on the same playing field.
In this first headset sporting Skullcandy’s own Rex 40mm drivers emphasis has shifted away from making a brash personal fashion statement towards sound quality. They’re a practical size and weight, they’re extremely comfortable and they sound fantastic.
The unusual design of these phones extends from odd-shaped memory-foam buds to a combination of both dynamic and balanced armature drivers, but the neutral sound is perfect for music purists. The package includes a bunch of neat accessories.
These well-padded on-ear cans deliver a good dose of bass and frenetic highs that brings the bounce to contemporary pop. We like the compact shape, compared to some gratuitously oversized competitors.
It’s past time for Apple to upgrade its standard buds and this thoughtful re-design is right on the money, from the unique, sculpted shape to the common-sense bass expansion ports. Not the ultimate but at this price who cares?
Purpose built to deliver all kinds of bass-heavy pop music these buds do a great job getting the best sound out of your smartphone. They’ll get attention on the street and, made from a variety of recycled materials, they also make a gnarly social statement.
STUFF PICK NEW MUSIC
Wireless was never a word for lossless or ﬁdelity until Sennheiser made it so. The ultimate cans.
R5 400 +++++ R2 500 ++++,
BEST FOR ON-EAR EXCELLENCE
R3 150 ++++, R4 330 ++++, R800 ++++,
BEST FOR IN-EAR EXCELLENCE
R1 000 ++++, R1 420 ++++,
BEST FOR SHUTTING OUT THE WORLD
R2 000 ++++,
BEST FOR QUALITY AND STYLE IN ONE
R300 ++++, R600 +++,,
Arctic Monkeys – AM
No Age – An Object
Pond – Hobo Rocket
A fifth album in seven years for the Monkeys, and this one slots in neatly between their previous two. So for every sludgey, Humbug-style guitar wig-out (R U Mine?) there’s a gem from Suck It And See territory (the gorgeous Knee Socks). Britain’s best band right now? No contest. +++++
This LA art-punk duo would never do anything so mainstream as write a pop song, but at times An Object strays perilously close to being tuneful. Alright, so such moments are usually hidden behind walls of scuzzy noise and indistinct vocals, but then that’s probably the point. ++++,
Pond are an Aussie collective who share members with Tame Impala, so it’s no surprise that Hobo Rocket is hewn from the same slab of psychedelic rock as TA’s Lonerism. It’s heavier than that album, with tracks more likely to spiral into frantic jams than blissful reveries, but still a great place to hang out. ++++,
BEST FOR TUNE-LOVING EARTH FANS
Typhoon – White Lighter A peach of an album studded with blasts of brass and stabs of string, White Lighter seemingly exists in a state that’s either fully anthemic or on the verge of becoming anthemic. Fans of Arcade Fire and Sufjan Stevens’ midnoughties heights will love it. ++++,
NEXT BIG THING?
3d repys won’t pay another dime to have a robot put its ﬁnger in my eye. An admirable stand, friend, but here we refer not to the faltering unnecessarianism that is 3D on the big screen. We are considering the untapped potential of creating 3D from many thousands of tiny screens. You and me and Joe Soap and his 80,000 friends are at a sporting event. “Rhino” van Rensburg has just scored what must be the try/goal/whatsit of the century. What a moment! What skill! Are you having fun?
Certainly not. Sport is neanderthal. OK, change the scene. You are at a WWI/O keynote, and Jeﬀ Jobs has just held up the new iNexus smartwatch. Do you try and take a camphone shot? Or do you later trawl all the online services looking for a good memory? Or do you take advantage of the thousands of geeks who did get the shot, or took decent, stable video? Take advantage you do, utilising the emerging wonder – being developed by separate teams at MIT and the University of Berkeley – that is crowd cam!
I’m not sure I like having my existence dictated by you all the time. Shhh, construct. A number of your peers upload their photos – taken from various angles – and through the use of complicated processing a single, scrollable 3D widget is created. (Think The Matrix’s “bullet time”.) Or a multi-angle, time-sync’d video feed. Why do they do this? Joy, perhaps. But mostly money. The service providers need your footage, so might oﬀer each participant a few bucks per image or per minute of video. It’s an actual revolution in event coverage.
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