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Child’s Play

What impact is technology having on the next generation?

I S S U E 8 / Vo l . 1 Ju n e 2 0 1 1

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© 1999-2011 - All rights reserved. Gearbox Software, LLC. Duke Nukem, the Duke Nukem nuclear symbol, Duke Nukem Forever, Gearbox Software and the Gearbox logo are registered trademarks of Gearbox Software, LLC in the U.S. and/or other countries and used here under license. All rights reserved. This Game is published and distributed by 2K Games, a subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. 2K Games, Take-Two Interactive Software and their respective logos are trademarks of Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. Microsoft, Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox LIVE, and the Xbox logos are trademarks of the Microsoft group of companies. “2”, “PlayStation”, “PS3” , “Ô and “À” are trademarks or registered trademarks of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved. All other marks are property of their respective owners. All rights reserved.


Inside 6 From the Editor

8 Child’s Play Do technology and kids make a good combination? 14 Photography Primer Portraits - stealthy and otherwise 22 Reviews Some exciting gadgets to keep an eye out for 56 DVD Seen Another list of movies to watch - or not 66 Money to Burn Style over sense? 68 Inner Workings Touch screen magic 70 Dead End CRT nostalgia

THIS MONTH’S COVER Is technology beneficial to children? See the feature on page 8.

cover art by Katia Taliadoros

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gladget contents • issue 8 • June 2011


Reviews

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Gigabyte G1 Sniper Motherboard

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WD TV Live Hub

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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H70 Camera

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HP EliteBook 2540p

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Razer Arctosa Keyboard

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Apacer Audio Steno AU825 MP4 Player

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Gigabyte GTX560 Ti Graphics Card

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LG Flatron D2342 3D Monitor

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Atomic TVR Racing Wheel

GLADGET Volume1Issue 8 June 2011 Editor: Walt Pretorius walt@gladget.co.za Sub Editor: Charlie Fripp Writers: Dylan Bouch Richard Bingham Alex Scanlon Rob Edwards Letters: letters@gladget.co.za Competition Entries: competitions@gladget.co.za Newsletter Subscriptions: www.gladget.co.za

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Orb GP1 Headset

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Apacer Audio Steno AU221 MP3 Player

Technical Support: Brian Murdoch

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Hauppauge WinTV-HVR 1300 TV Card

Marketing Contact: Katia Taliadoros katia@gladget.co.za

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Apacer 8GB Micro-SD Flash Card

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The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (Video Game)

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LA Noire (Video Game)

Design & Photography: 1337 Media

technology. simply. CREATED USING

Adobe CS5

MASTER SUITE

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DiRT 3 (Video Game)

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Darkspore (Video Game)

All rights reserved. No content may be reproduced, copied or transmitted without the express permission of the publishers. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the editors and publishers. All Trademarks and Registered Trademarks are the sole property of the respective owners.

GAMECCA is published by 1337 MEDIA

gladget contents • issue 8 • June 2011

Copyright © 1337 Media CC 2009 - 2011

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A Bright Future? From the Editor

by Walt Pretorius

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ith winter taking an icy grip on South Africa – we’ve had a few nasty cold snaps here in Johannesburg – the desire to stay indoors intensifies. But it seems that this desire is starting to manifest itself all-yearround with youngsters, as they move away from more traditional childhood pursuits and embrace technology more and more. Our cover feature this month looks at whether kids and technology are a good mix. It does lead one to think, though, about the world and the ways that it has changed, thanks to technology. Advancement in the various fields is at an all-time high, and there are no signs that it will slow down any time soon. How, then, as adults, do we cope with the world. It’s probably easier

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for kids – they tend to be far more accepting of new ideas. People in their late thirties and early forties are OK, too, because they really have ridden the crest of this techwave. But older folks… well, many of them seem to battle. I think of the little old lady who finds a cell phone intimidating, or the elderly gentleman who buys a new SD card every time he fills one up with photos from his digital camera. There is, among older generations, a distrust and fear of technology. These devices are alien to them in so many ways, and they have not yet realised that life would be so much easier for them if they took the time to try and understand all these new gizmos and gadgets. Not all of the older generation are like that, though. I am very proud to

say that my own mother spends more time on Facebook than I do, and uses all the functions of that site – and her PC – like an absolute pro. But people like my mom tend to be the minority. Technology truly marks the generation gap in very clear ways. And what about our generation, when we get older. Will we be able to keep up with the ever steepening curve of technological advancement, or will we also become intimidated by the technology that youngsters use with such ease? That is something that time will tell, I guess, but I like to remain hopeful and think that we might have a bit of a better chance. Either that, or we will just make sure that there are a few younger folks nearby to programme whatever devices are around then for us. g

gladget column • issue 8 • June 2011


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Child’s Play Technology and children…

Feature

by Alex Scanlon

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gladget feature • issue 8 • June 2011


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t’s something that you’ll often hear in adult conversations; comments of life before cell phones, or reminiscing of how life used to be before this fastpaced computer age took hold of the globe. You’ll even hear comments like “where were those cool toys when I was a kid?” The fact is that the world has changed, and rather significantly at that. People who are now in their 30s will recall a very different set of circumstances growing up. Most will remember a time before cell phones, when telephonic conversation was restricted by location, for example. If you weren’t home, no-one could reach you at your number. And you had to use pay-phones. Today’s children exist in a very different social landscape from the one that adults these days experienced. Their world is one which is fast-paced and constantly evolving, with new technology arising on an almost daily schedule. And where older people may battle with many of the ideas and concepts that these new technologies bring, today’s children seem to accept, adapt and adopt new technologies with greater ease. In fact, it’s an often about phenomenon – you might not be able to work out your new cellular handset, but your kid figured it all out five minutes after the device was unboxed. It speaks volumes about today’s society, and indicates that the technological trend will not slow down. After all, this new generation will be the next generation to drive things forward. While today’s technologies are created by ‘explorers’ in the field, this new generation will be adults in a world where technological advance is no longer a marvel, but an expected phenomenon. Introducing children to technology is a double edge sword. It does, on one hand, guarantee that they will be able to cope with a world – and more importantly, a workplace – that is becoming more and more dependent on technology. But basic skills, ranging from everyday activities through to social interaction, may well suffer as a result. A recent survey by security software manufacturer AVG showed some results that are both encouraging and startling. The survey compared technological use to other skills in youngsters aged between two and five years. It showed numerous findings, which include: • 58% of children between two and five years of age can play a basic computer game.

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•Two thirds of children between two and five years of age can operate a computer mouse. • 25% of children between two and five years of age can open a web browser – only 20% can swim unaided. • More children between two and three years of age can play a computer game than ride a bike. • Twice as many children between two and five years of age can operate a smart-phone than tie their own shoelaces. Whether these findings are cause for concern or not depends on your view point; perhaps children are just more adept at technology, on one hand. On the other, perhaps they are not being taught the relevant skills, or are being left to their own devices ( a scenario in which technology may be a more attractive option to the children in question.) The situation comes as much from parents as it does from the children themselves. Children may know how to use technology, but parents are the ones who can monitor access to it. Take, once again, the example of the cellular telephone. While no child is capable of buying a cell phone, thanks to the cost involved, or getting a contracted cellular service, a great many kids have these devices. There is an extremely positive side to this; kids can communicate with their parents and friends at any time. But there is a massive negative aspect, that ranges from worrying through to alarming. On the worrying side of things, kids will use the device in lieu of actual social interaction, relying on the ease of communication it allows. This has even lead to a decline in spelling abilities among children, as they resort to slang words and spelling conventions that are – for some extremely unfathomable reason – becoming accepted in modern society. On the alarming side, several services may allow ‘predators’ to have access to the children. There have even been highly worrying cases of children using their cellular telephones to create and distribute homemade pornography. Technology makes our lives easier and richer in many ways, but it also leads to a degree of laziness. Many children will rather experience a computer game than play outside, relying on spoon-fed ideas to stimulate them, rather than their own imaginations. In addition, a direct correlation can be drawn between the rise in technology and an apparent decline in intellectual pursuits, like reading. Even though many uses of technology require gladget feature • issue 8 • June 2011

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reading, or even use reading as a basis (like e-book readers) the activity is declining. It’s not all bad – in fact, research has shown that exposure to technology can have several positive effects on youngsters – even playing video games. Parents, however, need to monitor and control how their children consume and experience technology. Website www. ehow.com has some interesting ideas in an article in their parenting section. The advice includes steps like: • Introduce children to a variety of technological devices from an early age, which will allow them to adapt to a world in which technology is steadily advancing. • Set up a computer workstation in a family area, rather than in the child’s bedroom. This will allow parents to monitor internet and other usage activities more effectively. • Make use of parental control systems wherever possible, to limit children’s access to inappropriate material. • Speak to you children about their experiences online, including how to avoid cyber-bullies and predators. • Encourage your children to spend time away from technology as well – playing outside, spending time with the family, and so on. Also encourage them to take part in healthy, stimulating activities like sports and playing outdoors with friends. As with all things in life, a careful balance needs to be struck in this situation. Letting your child forgo other activities in favour of lifestyle based solely on technology is a bad idea, as it can have several negative effects on them. On the other hand, keeping your child away from technology can be as negative – not least of which would be their inability to cope with a world so dependant of tech. Yes, the world has changed; there’s no denying that fact. And, quite frankly, it is up to us to give our children the best chance they can have in this modern world, a world where change is extremely rapid and life-skills are becoming more and more competitive. Balance is the key – a good mixture of modern technology and traditional activities will help not only prepare a child for their future, but also to keep them on an even keel. And, if you’re concerned, use some technology yourself – the internet is full of information, advice and tips on raising kids in an age that may be very different from the one in which you were a child. g gladget feature • issue 8 • June 2011

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Photography Primer

Faces

Taking better protraits by Walt Pretorius

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PRESENTED BY

Adobe CS5

MASTER SUITE

T

t is said that primitive tribes used to believe that a photograph could steal a portion of one’s soul. While adding a mystical element to a process that is either chemical or (in more modern times) electrical might seem laughable by today’s standards, it is undeniable that photographs of people are compelling. Few other subject matters can potentially convey the depth of emotion that a portrait does. Perhaps it is because we can relate to other people in photographs on a level that we can’t necessarily do with, say, a landscape photography or macro study. Whatever the case may be, portraits – from holiday snap-shots through to studio masterpieces – are arguably the most popular form of photography. A quick tour of virtual photo-albums on services like Facebook will verify that. We place great value of images of other people, whether they be moody press images crammed with emotion, old photos of ancestors kept in a shoe box, or images of our friends and family creating great memories. The popularity of these photographs naturally mean that they are also prone to being some of the poorest images you’ll find, particularly when they are holiday snapshots. A great background can be ruinous to a photograph, for example, if the photographer doesn’t take things like lighting and invasive elements into account – the old story of a pole “growing” out of someone head, due to poor composition, springs to mind. The truth is that an average poor snapshot can be turned into a stunning portrait with little extra effort. A little attention to detail and forward planning can be the difference between a photo that someone will gloss over or stop at and say “wow!” One of the best ways to take a photograph of a person is to do so when they don’t realise what you’re up to. We’ve mentioned candid portraiture in the past, and we’re coming back to it because it truly yields spectacular results. See, when someone knows that a photograph is being taken, they feel a strange urge to pose… either with a goofy grin, or (as kids these days seem annoyingly prone to doing in every single picture you see of them) with pouty lips and gang signs. While these might be cute, they really don’t say anything about the people they

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Photography Primer

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gladget regular • issue 8 • June 2011


show, or what they are feeling. A natural smile is more believable than a faked one, after all. The trick is, then, to employ stealth tactics when taking photographs. Picture yourself as a photoninja, if you will, or a spy with a camera slightly bigger than a postage stamp. Virtually any modern camera will do, provided it can zoom. The key here is distance… if the camera isn’t within the subject’s ‘goofy-grin-gang-sign’ radar range, the shots will be candid and natural. But you may need to be sneakier with more observant subjects. A camera with a tiltable LCD is invaluable in these cases, especially if your subject is one of those people who insists that they aren’t photogenic and runs for the hills every time a shutter button clicks. Otherwise, quick, sneaky shots are best. The issue with these kinds of photographs is that you won’t always be able to get exactly what you want. On the upside, you’ll probably get images that are awesome in terms of their emotion. Either way, you’ll need to do some forward planning to get the best results. An automatic setting works well here, but for truly excellent images, set your camera to an aperture priority, and open up the aperture (a lower F-Stop number) to shorten the depth of field. This will cause the background to blur, shifting attention away from possibly invasive elements behind your subject. With a little practice, some stealth and a few dirty looks thrown your way, you’ll get fairly practiced at catching people unawares, and others will marvel at the skill you display in your images of people. On a more serious note, there are certain things to consider when taking portrait images – whether candid or posed. These are simple to remember, and can make a massive difference. The first is that it is preferable to use a shorter depth of field, unless there is something vital to the image in the background. This makes the viewer’s focus fall on the subject more effectively. Plain backgrounds don’t matter too much here, but busy backgrounds can be horribly disruptive to a photograph. Next remember that people connect with each other through their eyes. The eyes are a prominent feature that give off a lot of emotion, and people tend to be drawn to the eyes more than other facial features. Therefore, make sure that your focus falls

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Photography Primer

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on the “nearest’ eye – that is, the eye closest to the camera. You can take your pick if the subject is facing you head on, of course, but if their face is angled away from you, it literally refers to the eye closest to you. As long as the nearest eye is in focus, the photograph will look good. A little blurring may occur on other facial features if your depth of field is very short, but that’s only in really extreme cases. Also, remember to check that there aren’t any nasty shadows falling across the subject’s features… remember that the camera interprets light differently to our eyes and brains, and a shadow that may not seem all that deep to your naked eye may ruin an otherwise awesome photograph. Finally (and we’re not going into all the details of shutter speed and like this time around – see our back issues for that stuff) keep your composition in mind. We haven’t touched on composition much in the past – we will go into it in greater detail in a future issue. But with portraits, it is pertinent to mention. Most cameras have a focus indicator in their viewfinder, and this is generally placed smack in the middle. Many people seem to think that this indicator is a sighting reticule, and that if they don’t place it directly over their subject’s head, they will miss the shot. The result is an image in which the subject is exactly in the middle of the photograph, with far too much space around – particularly above – them. Always (with every photograph, not just portraits) remember that what you see through the viewfinder shows the whole picture. Make sure that your subject isn’t directly in the middle, like some kind of photographic bull’s eye. Using thirds in your composition is a good idea – one third from the edges, rather than half way. If your focus point isn’t falling on the nearest eye in this kind of composition, either adjust it (if your camera allows for that) or get your focus, keep the shutter button half-way depressed, recompose the image in the viewfinder and snap the shot once you are happy. Taking good portraits is easier than you may think… and doing so will guarantee that people will see you as an awesome photographer. g gladget regular • issue 8 • June 2011

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And the Award Goes To... Gamecca’s new award system explained

Bronze Award

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t may seem like third prize, but the truth is that a Bronze Award from the Gamecca crew is nothing to scoff at. This award is given to games that score between 80 and 89 on our extremely technical and algebraically challenging rating system. Needless to say, Bronze Awards will be the most common ones you see. If a game has a Bronze Award attached to it, you should consider looking into it, particularly if you are a fan of the franchise or the genre it is part of. Now you know... g

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Silver Award

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f good games get Bronze Awards, great games get silver ones. Games that are rated between 90 and 95 by our panel of experts (well, self-proclaimed experts, actually) then it will get one of these babies. Silver Awards consitute a group of ‘must-play’ games for fans of the genre or franchise they are part of, and should be strongly considered by those that own one of the platforms they appear on. Silver Award games may not be the best of the best, but they are certainly up there, and warrant at least a few more moments of consideration than others. g

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Gold Award

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he best of the best get the coveted Gamecca Magazine Gold Award. Well, we’re hoping it will be coveted. We’re prety sure it will be... Games that score between 96 and... ok, well, in theory a game can never score a perfect 100, but you see what we’re saying. Let’s leave existentialism out of this, shall we? These are the games that should require no second thought, or no questions as to whether they need to be played. These games are essential. These are games you buy new platforms for. g

gladget feature • issue 8 • June 2011

Editor’s Choice

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he Editor’s Choice Award is not necessarily presented to a title according to score. Sure, a high scoring game might get one, but a low scoring game might get one too. They tend to be rare, though. Editor’s Choice Awards mark games that stand out for one reason or another. They are the Editor’s pick to play... and while he might not be in full possession of his mental faculties, letting him select his favourite titles and stick an award on them helps keep him quiet. Seriously, though, this award marks a title that might not be superior, but still stands out. g

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Reviews Highlights 24 Gigabyte G1 Sniper Motherboard Military precision 26 WD TV Live Hub Awesome media plaing power 28 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H70 Camera Powerful pocket camera 34 Gigabyte GTX560 Ti GPU Quick and cool 38 Atomic TVR Wheel Great racing control

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ur reviews this month range from gaming peripherals to high end motherboards, and almost everything inbetween. Whether you are a PC junkie, a photographyfreak, a virtual race driver or a home entertainment fan, we have something for you. And, as an added guide, remember to check out which devices we give out awards to! g

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gladget review • issue 8 • June 2011


Gigabyte G1 Sniper Gaming Motherboard

Attention! Military style? You bet!

by Walt Pretorius

T

he military theme that can be seen in the world of computer gaming is, to a degree, amusing. I guess it’s because of the prevalence of military-style games, particularly in the first-person shooter market. Whatever the cause, component manufacturers have bought into this, and military themes and images are fast supplanting the fantasy looks of packaging we saw a few years ago. One board in particular has taken this feel to a new extreme. Not only does the Gigabyte G1 Sniper mother board have packaging that looks like an ammo-box, complete with blurbs and descriptions that feel like they should be coming out of the mouth of a gunnery sergeant, but the board itself carries the theme right into your computer case. This goes beyond the green, black and gun-metal colour scheme that is employed for the various components that make up the board – some of the components themselves look like military hardware. Literally. There’s a rifle magazine on the board, complete with

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a bullet poking out of it. There’s a red dot scope. And there’s a pistol slide and barrel. These three odd additions to the board’s design really go a long way to reinforcing the military feel. And they’re a little cheesy, to be honest. All three form part of the G1 Sniper’s extreme cooling system. The fact that the box clearly states that these parts cannot be assembled as a weapon is either a good laugh, or a sad indicator of the world we live in. ‘Weapon parts’ aside, the G1 Sniper offers extremely good performance for those who want to put together a specialised gaming rig. Four systems come into the picture to make sure this is the case. The first is the cooling system, as described above. Using a new heat pipe design, in conjunction with five strategically placed smart fan connectors, the board dissipates heat rather effectively. The second system comes in the form of support for up to three graphics cards, using either SLI or Crossfire technology. This can, naturally, lead to higher heat levels, so the user will want to make sure they combine their g l a d g e t h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 8 • J u n e 2 0 1 1


system with a good, cool case. Third is sound. With integrated Soundblaster X-Fi chips and a specialised front side headphone amplifier mean that the sound performance from the on-board sources is excellent. This is supported by EAX AHD 5.0 technology, and the overall audio quality is superb. The fourth system is speed… but not in the way that you might imagine. This board uses a unique Bigfoot Networks Killer E2100 platform, which has 1GD of dedicated DDR RAM to improve networking performance. This results in little to no lag from this end of the network, and helps the player achieve smoother performance – for better gaming, of course. Sporting the Intel X58 chipset, this board is a serious contender for top performance. It’s not quite as extreme as some of the boards we’ve seen from Gigabyte before, but it certainly acts as a more-than-capable backbone for a very good gaming rig. Naturally, the other components will make a difference too, but as a tarting point, the G1 Sniper is a superb choice. g g l a d g e t h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 8 • J u n e 2 0 1 1

AT A GLANCE: PROS:

• Excellent performance • Runs cool • Added extras

CONS:

• A bit over the top with the military theme

Manufacturer: Gigabyte Distributor: Rectron Online: www.rectron.co.za RRP: R5999

TECH SPECS: • Intel X58 chipset • Multiple GPU support • On-board SB X-Fi sound • USB 3.0 • SATA 3.0 • 5 smart fan connectors

Score

Despite going overboard on the whole military thing, this is an extremely capable gaming board.

90 25


Western Digital WD TV Live Hub

Entertainment A media player of note!

by Alex Scanlon

H

aving a decent media player these days is becoming something of an essential for entertainment fans. Whether it’s for movies, music or static images, a connection between your PC and your entertainment system – other than a multimedia home entertainment PC – is an awesome idea. And Western Digital have the perfect offering for those that want such a device. What makes the WD TV Live Hub such a fantastic device is principally the fact that it features a generous internal storage facility. The model we tried out featured 1 TB of space – enough for 120 feature films, or a quarter of a million songs (depending on file types, encoding and all that stuff, of course.) What this means is that you will be able to view media from your PC on your home entertainment system without the need to have the media player plugged into a network – it’s like having an external hard-drive that also plays media, in essence.

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It gets better. The device plays eight different types of movie files, including AVI and WMV formats; understand five image file formats; and can make use of around 13 different sound files. It also read playlist and subtitle files. The small, sturdy box connects to a network via a LAN cable, and can also be connected to a PC via a USB to USB cable. Any USB drive inserted in the unit will be synched, with the unit copying off any required media files in a flash, if you’ll excuse the pun. Connecting it to a computer network means that it will be recognised as an external drive, allowing the user to arrange files via a PC. Or, if they like, they can use the device’s built-in, multifunctional menus to do the same (and a whole bunch more.) Connections to the entertainment system are either via component cable or, for ultimate ease, HDMI cable. The unit supports Dolby Digital Plus and DTS 2.0, which means that sound quality will be as good as the source files it comes from – pretty much the same as the image quality the unit delivers. g l a d g e t h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 8 • J u n e 2 0 1 1


The unit comes with a full function remote control, and users can tweak settings to their heart’s content, customising their experience the way they like it. This particular unit derives a ‘well-done’ to its creators. It is a sensible and effective media player. In our many hours of testing, we ran into one small issue, but we think that had to do with a file that was nasty to begin with. For the rest of the time, the WD TV Live Hub performed admirably, delivering excellent performance over a wide variety of uses and file types. The device also supports internet streaming services, for those that have it hooked up to their PC network on a permanent basis. While we don’t have the luxury of all those services here just yet, it looks like the future will make the need for this kind of device even more urgent – if you love your entertainment, that is. If you are in the market for a good, versatile and above all handy media player, this is an excellent bet – the built in storage, excellent quality and extreme ease of set-up and use makes it a winner in every entertainment situation. g g l a d g e t h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 8 • J u n e 2 0 1 1

AT A GLANCE: PROS:

• Built-in storage • Multiple file formats • Portable

CONS:

• Unforgiving on bad files

Manufacturer: Western Digital Distributor: Pinnacle Africa Online: www.pinnacle.co.za RRP: R2099

Versatile, handy, easy to use and great quality – and with a generous built-in storage capacity. A real winner.

TECH SPECS:

• Multiple file formats • 1 TB internal storage • HDMI out • DTS 2.0 • Live streaming • Customisable

Score

98 27


Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H70

Small Monster A small camera with big performance

by Walt Pretorius

M

any people who love taking photographs become elitists, of a sort. While they don’t necessarily realise it, people will gravitate to certain brands, and will dismiss other offhand – without even experiencing the devices they are discounting. Sony’s cameras often fall into this category. Photographers may well turn their noses up at these cameras on principle, rather than trying them out. Those that do give them a whirl are often surprised by the extremely good images that are a result. But Sony don’t get the worst of it, and their Cybershot range of pocket cameras have developed a good reputation over the years. It’s a well-deserved reputation; although Sony are better known as electronics manufacturers, their camera products are produced with the same attitude towards top quality that their other devices enjoy. The Cyber-shot DSC-H70 is one of the newer entrants into the market, and it packs quite a punch for what is essentially a rather small camera. The first bit of power comes from its delivery of 16.1

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megapixel images. Those are really big photos, which can be clearly printed at an A3 size – or even slightly larger. Whether this much megapixel power is necessary for the average joe is a good question – people who are going to be making smaller prints or uploading their images to the web (or sending them in mail) may not need quite so much in terms of image size. However, as a back-up camera for a more serious photographer, that 16 megapixel power is a handy tool. Next up comes the camera’s optical zoom. At 10x, it’s not bad at all. The beauty of this is that it’s all optical – the DSC-H70 doesn’t have digital zoom, the temptation of zooming just that little bit more – at the expense of image quality – never really comes into play. The camera uses standard SD cards, which is a nice departure from Sony’s old habit of making cameras compatible with their proprietary memory cards… Sony love format wars, it seems, but this time around they have relinquished and used a standardised format for this camera’s memory. Like most pocket cameras, the DSC-H70 has numerous g l a d g e t h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 8 • J u n e 2 0 1 1


features that make it easy to use. It’s very user friendly, yet still allows more advanced (or adventurous) photographers a fair degree of control over their camera. While this is another plus for the more serious photographer, it needs other selling points to appeal to the mass market, though. These come in the form of various special features and tools, including face detection, variable smile detection and all those other (arguably gimmicky) things that people find impressive in pocket cameras these days. In addition, it shoots HD video, which is always a nice plus. But here’s the feature that really impressed us… panoramic shots. It’s great fun to play with these ultrawide images and, thanks to some pretty smart technology, the DSC-H70 makes them easy to capture. These images are, of course, great for landscapes, but many different images can be captured with interesting shooting mode. This is a very good camera, small in size but powerful in application – and it delivers great images, too. g g l a d g e t h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 8 • J u n e 2 0 1 1

AT A GLANCE: PROS:

• Nice features • Lots of power • Convenient size

CONS:

• A little overkill for the mass market, perhaps?

Manufacturer: Sony Distributor: Sony Online: www.sony.co.za RRP: R2299

Added features and fair manual options make this a great backup camera for more serious photographers.

TECH SPECS: • • • • • •

16.1 megapixel 10x optical zoom Face detection Smile detection 80 – 3200 ASA Panoramic shooting

Score

86 29


HP EliteBook 2540p

Small but Strong

Surprising performance from this diminutive notebook by Alex Scanlon

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iniaturisation means that power becomes increasingly portable every day. Take the example of notebook computers. Once upon a time, they were not really comparable to the average desk-top computer in terms of power, because it was difficult to manage the required components in such a small housing. That’s changing quickly. Sure, top of the line desktops still out-perform notebooks on average, but the lines in the middle to upper middle ground of performance have blurred, and even disappeared in some cases. What makes this progression even better is that smaller notebook computers now have a surprisingly high level of performance. Sure, the really high end notebook is still going to weigh a ton and be generally huge in terms of size, but more diminutive units are now able to perform as viable and reliable – not to mention quick – computing solutions. The HP EliteBook 2540p falls into that category. It’s surprising small and light when considering what it can

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do. It has a starting weight of only 1.5kgs, and measures less than 30cm on both sides, with a depth of just under 3cm. Yet the performance that the unit delivers is surprising, thanks to its Intel i7 processor, which speeds along at 2.13GHz. This is supported by a standard load-out of 2GB of RAM, with storage provided by a 160GB SATA II hard drive. Graphics are taken care of by a standard Intel HD graphics chipset, so heavy tasks like gaming are a no-no for this particular model. The biggest problem with small notebooks is that monitor size invariably – and necessarily – suffers. This particular notebook sports a12.1 inch monitor, which displays a resolution of up to 1280 x 800. Additionally, the keyboard needs to be more compact in a model like this. The keys are set closely together, and the number pad is integrated into the standard alphanumeric pad through alternating key functions. Navitgation is taken care of by a good quality touch pad, although a pointstick is also built into the device for those who prefer that kind of thing. Two additional pick buttons g l a d g e t h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 8 • J u n e 2 0 1 1


make it a good option. Connectivity is provided via three USB 2.0 ports, as well as an integrated card reader, and a variety of other ports. These are fewer options here than a larger notebook, of course, but the inclusion of a DisplayPort and docking connector are nice touches. Finished in brushed metal and sturdy black plastic, the small and very portable EliteBook 2540p is a great option for people needing middle-of-the-road performance. It’s a little shy on initial RAM and hard drive space, but these can be upgraded according to the users needs. As with most other HP notebook products, it comes with a host of preinstalled utilities and programs, and offers a good degree of reliability, speed and convenience. The battery life is fairly decent too, depending on how heavily the user taps it, but the HP Fast Charge system means that recharging it never takes overly long. On the whole, it’s a stylish and affordable option, particularly for those who prefer convenience and portability over brute power. g g l a d g e t h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 8 • J u n e 2 0 1 1

AT A GLANCE: PROS:

• Small • Reliable • Good performer

CONS:

• Small HDD • Could use more RAM

Manufacturer: HP Distributor: HP Online: www.hp.co.za RRP: R17509

It’s not the most powerful notebook around, but its performance is surprising, considering its weight and size.

TECH SPECS: • Intel i7 2.13GHz processor • 2GB RAM • 12.1” monitor • 160GB HDD • 1.5 kg start weight

Score

78 31


Razer Arctosa Keyboard

Little Brother A bit run-of-the-mill?

by Rob Edwards

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azer’s keyboards are gaining popularity. If you’ll recall, last month we looked at the backlit Lycosa. This month, we’ve got the Arctosa on review, which is basically the Lycosa’s baby brother. The major difference here is that the keys aren’t backlit, and the backlighting functions of the Lycosa (like highlighting the WADS keys) are obviously not present. Other than that, it really feels like the same keyboard. It looks identical, and the performance is on par with the Lycosa. And if backlighting isn’t your thing, the better price may be a deciding factor here. But the Razer brand is all that really sets this keyboard apart from virtually any other board on the market. It really is, for all intents and purposes, a stock-standard keyboard. Not that it’s a bad product. It’s reliable and effective, with good supportive software. In the end, as a purchasing decision, this one will come down to how brand-conscious the user is, and whether the handful of added bonuses the software offers appeal or not. g

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AT A GLANCE: PROS:

• Stylish • Quick • Fairly versatile

CONS:

• Doesn’t stand out from the crowd

Manufacturer: Razer Distributor: Apex Interactive Online: www.apexint.co.za RRP: R549.95

It’s a good keyboard, but it offers very little above any standard, similar device on the market – save for slightly better performance.

TECH SPECS: • 1ms response time • Customisable profiles • Selective antighosting • Programmable keys

Score

74

g l a d g e t h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 8 • J u n e 2 0 1 1


They’re not always the best idea.

by Rob Edwards

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ortable music players – MP3 players, if you will – are an excellent way to stay entertained. Of course, they are threatened by the mobile handset market… phones these days can play music too, and movies, and have a bunch of other functions as well. So the market for portable music players is a tough one, particularly when that player tries to be more than it is. Sadly, that’s what Apacer’s Audio Steno AU825 MP4 player does. It is an excellent MP3 player, available in 2, 4, 8 and 16GB variants. The sound delivery is crisp and clear, the included headphones are not bad at all, and the preset EQ and other functions are nice extras. Why, then, make it a movie player as well – particularly when it cannot record video. The 1.8 inch screen is just too small, with most smart phones these days having a much bigger viewing area. Quite simply, if you’re going to buy it as an MP3 player, go ahead – it’s awesome. The other functions, though, feel a bit too much like window dressing. g g l a d g e t h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 8 • J u n e 2 0 1 1

AT A GLANCE: PROS:

• Good MP3 performance • Looks good • Well built

CONS:

• Some added functions aren’t competitive

Manufacturer: Apacer Distributor: Pinnacle Africa Online: www.pinnacle.co.za RRP: R599

TECH SPECS: • 2, 4, 8 or 16GB capacity • 1.8” screen • Video playbook • eBook reader • Image viewer

Score

A great MP3 player, but its other functions don’t compete well in a smartphone-heavy market.

80 33

Apacer Audio Steno AU825 MP4 Player

Added Extras


Gigabyte GTX 560 Ti Graphics Card

The Competition

A good contender in the hotly contested graphics market

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t’s starting to get tricky to buy a graphics card these days. Every single one seems to claim an increase in performance over ‘standard’ cards using the same chipset… leaving one to wonder where all these standard cards are. Still, it’s good to know that the various manufacturers are in stiff competition with each other, because that means that the end-user is spoiled for choice, and is generally able to get more bang for their buck than would be expected in a less competitive environment. Good going, guys – keep the fight churning! Gigabyte are a popular brand here in South Africa, and with good reason. While their devices perform at least as well as other cards from well-known competitors, they tend to come in at a bit of a better price. That’s a great idea here, because we South Africans often like to watch our pennies when making big purchases like this. The Gigabyte GTX 560 Ti uses the Nvidia 560 chipset. We’ve seen good things so far from cards sporting the 500 series chips, and this one is no different. The 560

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by Walt Pretorius

may not be the biggest chip in the Nvidia arsenal, but it certainly shows a performance that is nothing to sniff at. But it’s not the chip that makes the difference when it comes to selecting a specific brand of card is a particular ‘weight-class’. Rather, things come down to the added extras that the manufacturers put into their particular brand, and these come down to components and supporting software. Gigabyte generally make some good choices in these fields, although often a lot of the manufacturers will use similar components. Tricky, see? Gigabyte’s GTX 560 Ti makes use of carefully selected GPU chips, in what Gigabyte themselves describe as the world’s number one cherry-picking process. They put the chips through a series of paces, in other words, in an attempt to ensure the best quality components. Further, they make use of Japanese solid capacitors, ferrite core metal chokes and other bits and pieces that offer the best performance at the lowest resistance. What that means, essentially, is less heat, less noise and more speed. In terms of cooling, Gigabyte have made use of their g l a d g e t h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 8 • J u n e 2 0 1 1


inclined fan system, as well as inclined fins and copper heat pipes. From our measurements, while not the coolest card we have ever seen, this baby stays well within decent operating temperatures, even under the strain of overclocking. Speaking of which, this card is geared towards tweaking for better performance. Aside from components picked to handle the extra strain, it is supported by Gigabyte’s simple-to-use, very effective OC Guru software, which allows for a wide variety of tweaks to be performed with relative ease. You can squeeze quite a lot of extra juice out of this one, if you’re so inclined. The Gigabyte GTX 560 Ti comes with 1GB of GDDR 5 graphics RAM on-board, also carefully selected according to the manufacturer. It provides the user with two DVI and one mini-HDMI out ports. On the whole, you cannot really go wrong with this combination – it’s a trusted brand and a powerful GPU, supported by a good amount of RAM and more-than – decent components. As always, Gigabyte has produced a very decent card here. g g l a d g e t h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 8 • J u n e 2 0 1 1

AT A GLANCE: PROS:

• Easy overclock • Quiet • Good base power

CONS:

• More GDDR would have been nice

Manufacturer: Gigabyte Distributor: Rectron Online: www.rectron.co.za RRP: R4299

TECH SPECS: • Nvidia 560 chipset • 1GB GDDR5 RAM • Windforce 2X cooling system • 3D Vision ready • PhysX • OC Guru included

Score

A strong GPU, good components, lots of RAM and solid Gigabyte performance combine in this card.

89 35


LG Flatron D2342 3D Monitor

Deep Scenes 3D on your desktop

by Rob Edwards

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onitors are, these days, fast becoming the latest statement in computing. Actually, that’s not quite accurate… the truth is that a big monitor has always afforded the owner bragging rights. Even if it left them with very little desk-space. These days, the advent of flat screen LCD and LED technology for screens has resulted in monitors of substantial viewing size not taking up the entire work surface, and so it has become easier to sport one or two (or more) good-sized viewing devices on your desk. In fact, it’s become something of the norm. So where do the modern statements come in, then? If screen size has sort of normalised, what then? Quite simply, it’s in the latest modification springing up around the monitor fraternity: 3D. These days, even a smaller 3D monitor means ‘more’ than a big screen. LG are not sitting back in the competition for this area – not that they have ever slouched before. The LG brand has consistently been associated with good monitors, and the Flatron D2342 is no different.

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Right off the bat (and 3D capability aside) it’s an LED monitor, which delivers better back-lighting and clarity than a normal LCD screen. At 23 inches, it’s also a fairly generous size, although it is a little fatter than one might expect. The bezel around the edges is fairly narrow, making the screen appear a little larger than it actually is. In addition, it’s certified flicker-free, which makes quite a difference in 3D uses. The anti-glare screen offers full HD resolution – up to 1920 x 1080, thanks to its wide-screen aspect ratio, with a colour depth of 16.7 million colours. A response time of 5ms is also pretty good, meaning that there is very little lag between input and output. As for the 3D, the performance from this monitor is very good. As with all monitors and TVs that feature 3D technology, the depth recedes away from the user, rather than coming “out” of the screen towards him. That’s just how the technology seems to work, and it doesn’t spoil the effect at all. The screen loses some brightness in 3D, but it is still g l a d g e t h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 8 • J u n e 2 0 1 1


a pleasure to use in that mode – particularly for gaming. To this end, the monitor can easily be used with gaming consoles, thanks to an HDMI input and headphone output. Other inputs include DVI and D-Sub ports. The only real downside is that it needs to be used with the usual, ultra-ugly 3D glasses that are common with this kind of device. Until autostereoscopic screens start making their mark, this will be the norm for 3D viewing, so there’s nothing that one can do about it. With the stand, the monitor weighs in at 3.5kg, which is a bit heavier than most. It’s still highly portable, though, and showing off its stylish design to your friends is a good idea if you’re going to travel with it at all. Unlike many monitors these days, the various menu and function buttons on the face of the monitor aren’t touch sensitive. Rather, the monitor relies on good-old ‘clickable’ buttons, which are preferable at times. If you’re in the market for a decent 23” 3D monitor, this is a solid performer to consider. g g l a d g e t h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 8 • J u n e 2 0 1 1

AT A GLANCE: PROS:

• Good colour depth • Plug and play • Nice 3D effect

CONS:

• The glasses… • The price

Manufacturer: LG Distributor: LG Online: www.lg.co.za RRP: R3499

TECH SPECS: • • • • • •

23 inch 1920 x 1080 HDMI input Heaphone output LED Anti-glare

Score

A decent performer in the 3D monitor market

79 37


Atomic TVR Sagaris Racing Wheel

In Control …if not on a firm footing.

by Rob Edwards

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riving games are as popular now as ever – and that’s not something that is likely to change, ever. The ability to drive a virtual version of a real world car at least vicariously provides something of the real thrill. And what with the games getting better and better, with more realism pumped into them, one might well want to consider the purchase of a steering wheel – just to get even more out of the experience. Besides which, using a keyboard or game controller to control a car – even if it is a virtual one – just seems wrong. Atomic are a reliable producer of third party gaming peripherals, including wheels for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. This particular wheel, the TVR Sagaris racing wheel, can be used with PS3 and PC systems – and even with the older PS2. This wheel is a good option – it delvers excellent performance, even in uncalibrated conditions. We tried it with a few titles and were pleasantly surprised to see

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that it performed well with virtually every game we tried. Although it is meant for use with a PC as well, it is quite obvious (from the button markings) that this wheel is meant for the PlayStation systems, first and foremost. It features 12 buttons on the face, and two on the rear (although the rear buttons should have been a little more generous in size). All of these buttons can, of course, be programmed (although the PC does allow for more options, as the ‘start’ and ‘select’ buttons needed by the PS3, for example, are not needed for PC operation.) A thirteenth face button allows the user to turn on ‘traction control’ a system that helps with more effective cornering. The controller can be set for either PS or PC use, and can be changed between digital and analogue modes. Overall, the wheel delivers very impressive performance, but to effectively use it, the gamer will have to try and make a clamp modification for it. This is because both the wheel housing and pedal plate have rubber ‘suction cup’ g l a d g e t h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 8 • J u n e 2 0 1 1


feet. This doesn’t matter on the pedals plate so much, but there is something of a problem that comes into play with the wheel; the suctions cups suck. Or, more accurately, they don’t. The end result is that, unless the table you’re using has a perfect surface, the wheel may tilt, lift or move while playing – not ideal if you’re racing for first place. It’s a surprise, really, because the rest of the product is really good. If you’re willing to work out some kind of solution, then this is a great wheel – but if you aren’t prepared to make a plan to secure it, it will be one of the more frustrating devices you have used. With its sturdy construction and good performance, it will be tempting to make some kind of arrangement, though. It’s versatile, too, so one purchase can take care of two situations. Ideas like the traction control and being able to switch modes are nice features, too… those feet are really the only problem here. g

g l a d g e t h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 8 • J u n e 2 0 1 1

AT A GLANCE: PROS:

• Accurate • Versatile • Well built

CONS:

• Nasty suction feet

Manufacturer: Atomic Distributor: Sensation Lab Online: www.take2.co.za RRP: R699

TECH SPECS: • Multiple modes • Multiple steering angles • PS & PC • Analog / digital • Vibration function • Independent pedals

Score

A really decent wheel, scuppered by nasty feet.

79 39


Orb GP1 Gaming Headset

Sounds Good A versatile headset is always a bonus

by Rob Edwards

G

etting hold of a good gaming headset is always a good idea – there are many reasons to have a good set of headphones. And that’s exactly what the Orb GP1 Headset is – a good set of headphones. They’re comfortable and deliver great sound, which remains crisp across all volume levels. And they offer integrated voice chat, without needing to rig up a whole bunch of different devices. As an added bonus, they work on the PlayStation 3 and PC, making them fairly versatile. On the downside, though, they will need to be connected twice – one USB connection (for power) and then a connection to a sound source – either a headphone jack or an audio-out source. Being foldable, they store easily too, and they are sturdy enough in construction to be safely transported, should you need to. On the whole, this is a decent headset to look into, particularly if you’re doing things on both the PS3 and the PC. Even if you just get them for the PS3, they’re a good deal. The setup is a little lengthier than a standard headset, though. g

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AT A GLANCE: PROS:

• Good sound • Versatile

CONS:

• Setup takes a bit longer than normal

Manufacturer: Orb Distributor: Sensation Lab Online: www.take2.co.za RRP: R689

Although the setup is more complicated that your average headset, the GP1 is a good choice for PS3 and PC users.

TECH SPECS: • PS3 compatible • PC compatible • Inline volume control • Bass boost • Foldable

Score

79

g l a d g e t h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 8 • J u n e 2 0 1 1


From a tiny device

By Rob Edwards

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P3 players have come a long way, in terms of size and capacity. While they keep getting smaller in terms of physical size, their capacities seem to be increasing. This tiny Apacer player comes in 2, 4 and 8GB flavours, which is not the biggest in terms of MP3 players, but still allows the user to load a fair amount of music. The performance of the player is great, with several preset EQs to help things sound even better. Along with a decent battery life, this makes the player good value for money. On the downside, the headphones, while not bad by any means, are a little light in the bass department. Then again, they are ear-buds, and very few of these kind of headphone manage to produce decent bass tones. Overall, this easy to use MP3 player is good. Its file system is easy to use (just create your own folders) and copying music to it is quick, thanks to a USB 2.0 connection. On the whole, this is a great little device, and well worth looking at as an MP3 player option. g g l a d g e t h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 8 • J u n e 2 0 1 1

AT A GLANCE: PROS:

• Excellent sound • Good capacity • Tiny

CONS:

• Headphones could have been very slightly better

Manufacturer: Apacer Distributor: Pinnacle Africa Online: www.pinnacle.co.za RRP: R499 (8GB)

TECH SPECS: • • • •

2, 4 / 8GB Preset EQs USB 2.0 10 hour battery life • Weighs 19g

Score

A great little MP3 player, in 2, 4 and 8GB flavours.

90 41

Apacer Audio Steno AU221 MP3 Player

Big Sound


Hauppauge WinTV-HVR 1300

Right on the PC

A useful and versatile TV card for your computer by Rob Edwards

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V cards are hardly a new phenomenon, but advances in computing – and in TV, for that matter – have made them a more attractive

idea. Apart from high resolution monitors – or larger sizes – there is also the whole digital TV thing… and numerous other elements that work together to make TV a far more exciting concept. Whether you want a TV card or not is really a matter of personal choice, but if you decide to go that route, the Hauppauge WinTV-HVR 1300 is a fantastic option. It works with digital and analogue TV signals, and serves (as a big bonus) as a recorder as well. With great components, including a full function remote control, the WinTV-HVR 1300 acts much like one of those expensive PVRs that all the rich kids are buying; recording, pausing live TV, schedule recordings and even radio are all options with this handy device. It’s also compatible with Hauppauge’s MediaMVP, which will allow you to play back recorded programming on a TV set. On the whole, those in need of a good TV card need look no further than this device. g

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AT A GLANCE: PROS:

• Easy recording • Pause TV • Good remote

CONS:

• TV cards aren’t everyone’s thing…

Manufacturer: Hauppauge Distributor: Pinnacle Africa Online: www.pinnacle.co.za RRP: R1099

TECH SPECS: • • • • •

Analogue TV Digital TV Pause function Recording Full function remote

Score

If TV cards are your thing, this is an outstanding option.

78

g l a d g e t h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 8 • J u n e 2 0 1 1


Sometimes brand loyalty isn’t the most rewarding approach… by Walt Pretorius

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n a country where brand loyalty seems to be all pervasive, it’s actually refreshing to find a new brand that performs as well as – if not better than – the one you’re used to. It might not even necessarily be a new brand… just new to you. Take SD cards, for example. I am pretty set in my ways but, thanks to reviewing Apacer’s products, I think my loyalty may just be swayed. With good pricing and reliable performance, the Apacer range of SD cards is a good bet. And the versatility of their Micro-SD cards, which come packaged with a standard SD card adapter, makes the purchase even sweeter. While they may not be a brand that immediately spring to mind for SD cards, Apacer’s long track record with excellent memory products shows in these flash storage units. And, at a price which is undeniably good, they’re well worth checking out. g g l a d g e t h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 8 • J u n e 2 0 1 1

AT A GLANCE: PROS:

• Versatile • Reliable • Good price

CONS:

• These things are so easy to lose!

TECH SPECS: • 8GB • Ships with adapter

Manufacturer: Apacer Distributor: Pinnacle Africa Online: www.pinnacle.co.za RRP: R120

Score

The Apacer range are a great option for SD cards – reliable and very well priced.

80 43

Apacer Micro-SD Flash Card

New Names


The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

The White Wolf Returns And he’s as awesome as ever! by Walt Pretorius

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D Projekt Red kind of came out of nowhere a few years back and delivered a game that would quickly become a cult smash-hit. The Witcher introduced us to a unique fantasy setting in which the hero, Geralt of Rivia, plied his trade as a monster hunter called a Witcher. Not quite human anymore, the Witcher is a creature who’s prowess at fighting is renowned, and Geralt was top of his class. The original game truly was a diamond in the rough, devoid of a lot of the hype that often surrounds games and, happily, a pleasant surprise for anyone who tried it out. A sequel was pretty much inevitable. That sequel has arrived in the form of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. Supported by considerably more fanfare that the previous game, this second title from CD Projekt Red once again demonstrates that this particular development studio is more interested in quality over

44

quantity. The player once again assumes the role of Geralt. The game begins with the hero as a prisoner in a dungeon, where he is interrogated regarding the events that make up the prologue. From there, it’s off into a wide world of adventure that will have RPG fans drooling. To call the story told in The Witcher 2 expansive is something of an understatement. The game features four different beginnings, and 16 possible endings. If the player still has saved games from the original game on their PC, those will come into play, too. Each decision the player makes and each action they undertake has the potential to spin the tale off in a new direction, even if it is not obvious at the time that the decision is made. That’s something that CD Projekt Red are good at; delivering a subtly branching plot line that, while it still follow a general course, delivers varied experiences for different

g agm l aedcgc ea t rve ivdi e ow g• a ims seu •e i1s 7 s u •e N8o v• eJmu bn ee r 22001110


players - and even play-throughs. Decisions made might have obvious consequences fairly early in the tale, or may come back to haunt the player a long way down the line. This is the masterful approach to the multi-branched plot in evidence. The story isn’t the only complex part of this game. In fact, the whole thing is pretty intricate. Aside from careful made choices and well-picked actions, the player will also have to deal with several other complexities – not least of which is the character of Geralt himself. The player does not get to choose what he looks like, or what his class and race is. This is prescribed. Even so, there is a lot that the player can do to personalise this unique and interesting character. Like all role playing games, the player will gain experience and levels as the game progresses. These allow him to choose to improve skills in four branches

gladget video game • issue 8 • June 2011

of the game’s skill tree. Further, certain skills can be modified with mutagens, that improve the player in various permanent ways. Aside from character progression, the player will be able to modify Geralt in terms of equipment, whether it be armour, weapons, potions or modifiers applied to existing equipment. The player will be able to use alchemy skills to create potions and bombs, gathering needed ingredients in the massive game world. The player will also be able to have certain specialised equipment crafted by in-game craftsmen, and will naturally be able to gather a wide variety of weapons and other equipment as they explore their surroundings and defeat enemies. In true role playing style, a degree of character advancement and modification even comes in during the quests the player undertakes. This is particularly true of the game’s numerous side quests… choosing whether

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or not to do certain quests can have a wide variety of effects on Geralt, apart from the obvious gaining of extra experience. The game is infused with a large amount of freedom. While the player will more or less be restricted to certain areas, these spaces are massive, and allow ultimate freedom within their borders. They are not only filled with interesting story quests and challenging side quests, but also with lots of random encounters and other stuff to keep the player coming back for more. As first impressions go, The Witcher 2 creates a good one, thanks to absolutely brilliant graphics, top-notch voice acting and a story line that is gripping from the word go. The story is not only well crafted, but it is populated with extremely interesting and colourful characters, all of which are presented as unique individuals with distinctive

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personalities, quirks and habits. But we need to go back to the graphics for a moment… they really are impressive. The world comes alive, thanks to careful attention to detail, rich imagination and dedication on the part of the developers. The looks of the environment, as well as the detailed character models, add greatly to the unique feel that this game possesses. There is little repetition, which is refreshing when considering other recent role playing releases, and players will find themselves immersed in a world that is believable, thanks to its rich diversity and painstaking attention to detail. What may be a bit of a thorn in many players’ sides is the fact that the game is extremely tough. Even on the lowest difficulty levels, The Witcher 2 will give seasoned RPG combat veterans a run for their money. And not only

gladget video game • issue 8 • June 2011


us what RPG titles should be. But further than that, it speaks of a dedicated development team that believes in delivering a brilliant experience to players, rather than churning out lots of mediocre titles. If you’re after an engrossing, awe-inspiring RPG experience on PC, you need look no further than this masterfully crafted game. The Witcher 2 is complex, deep, challenging and extremely satisfying; it’s awesome depth and rich, massive setting will suck you in and have you spending many hours in Geralt’s beautifully crafted reality. It’s games like this that makes being a gamer great, despite a handful of flaws, and it stands testament to the skill of CD Projekt Red. We cannot wait to see more from this studio – particularly if those games deal with the awesome world of the Witcher. g

AT A GLANCE: The Witcher 2 is an excellent example of what a RPG video game should be: deep, complex, challenging and utterly engrossing. Developer: CD Projekt Red Publisher: Namco Bandai Distributor: Megarom

Parental Advisory Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

18+ gladget video game • issue 8 • June 2011

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

PC Platforms

in the extremely challenging boss battles – even a group of smaller enemies stand a good chance of handing Geralt a very solid beating. In trying to improve the game as much as possible, the developers opted for a streamlined control system that has a few of the more hard-core players out there complaining. In truth, though, the simplified controls allow for a more fluid game play experience, which features surprisingly few bugs (considering the ambitious scale of the game.) They take a bit of getting used to, and the bugs that do exist are being worked on constantly by the dedicated design team. It is pertinent to note that The Witcher 2 is a work of adult entertainment. Not only is it violent and crammed with all kinds of nasty four-lettered words, but it has a fair amount of sexual content in it, too. Not one for the kids. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings is a game that shows

PC X360 Kinect

PS3 Move

Wii PSP DS 3DS

Score

97 47


LA Noire

Fallen Angels Crime and corruption in Tinsel Town

P

rogress: it drives mankind forward towards an exciting, unfathomable future. But with progress comes opportunities for avarice and exploitation, corruption and crime. We would be lost without it, but it also serves as a great burden to society in many ways. Progress is a big theme in LA Noire, the new action adventure title from Rockstar. But aside from that thematic tie-in, the game itself also displays a great degree of progress in itself. It might sound somewhat idealistic to say that LA Noire takes this genre of gaming to new heights and explores exciting new ideas, but it really is the truth. In many ways, LA Noire is unique, and it stands out… we won’t likely see another game quite like this too soon (unless they make a sequel). First things first, though. With a name like Rockstar behind the publishing of the game, one might expect a title that offers huge amounts of free roaming action and tons of opportunity to mess around within the game world, like what we got with Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption. However, this isn’t the case. In

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by Walt Pretorius

fact, the game feels more like Mafia II than those other well-known Rockstar titles; Team Bondi, the developers of this game, opted to go with a more linear experience, punctuated by moments of freeform play. This actually serves the game perfectly. LA Noire possesses a complex plot, and too much freedom might have messed with it. Still, there are around 40 ‘side missions’ that the player can take part in while travelling to different locations within the city – the choice is theirs, adding an element of freedom to the title. LA Noire tells the tale of Cole Phelps, an ambitious cop who works his way through the Los Angeles Police Department in the latter part of the 1940s. World War II is still fresh in everyone’s mind, but the USA’s victory over their enemies – and the end of the great Depression – has spurred on a time of growth in the city. The fast growing city attracts people from all over the US, as Hollywood continues to grow in prominence as a major city. Even back then, Los Angeles was a massive city, and it shows in the game. It offers the player a huge amount

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of terrain to explore, which adds quite a bit more to do within the game, aside from the story and the side missions. Thankfully the story isn’t time dependant, and the enterprising player can tour the city, unlocking various faithfully recreated landmarks, driving any of the 95 vehicles available in the game, or doing a number of other things that are available. The story missions are rather complex. Each one is a case that the player undertakes as Phelps, either in the Patrol, Traffic, Homicide, Vice or Arson divisions of the LAPD. The player will progress through these divisions, and will be given one case at a time. Investigations involve several aspects; gathering clues and interrogating witnesses and suspects are the norm, but some also include driving, combat and even puzzle solving and movement challenges. The cases are quite varied, but sometimes the process can feel a bit repetitive – although not overly so. The crux of the game comes down to interrogation. To this end, a new technology has been employed in the facial

gladget video game • issue 8 • June 2011

animation of the characters (involving lots of cameras and perfectly captured live actors.) The player will need to read the facial expressions of witnesses and suspects to try and determine whether they are telling the truth, lying, or making doubtful statements. While this sounds relatively easy, the process gets quite tricky before long. Getting things wrong is going to happen in this game. Accusing a suspect of lying, for example, means nothing if the player doesn’t have some kind of evidence to back it up. But the extremely high grade facial animation does make it possible – in fact, you could even lip-read in this game – the faces are that impressive. In truth, all the graphics are impressive. The recreation of the surroundings is fantastic, and the character animations and vehicle models are top notch. The voice acting, needless to say, is perfectly matched to the characters (what with proper actors being used… you’ll even doubtlessly recognise a few faces.) Even the music is well handled, being a collection of era classics and original songs.

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Control-wise, Team Bondi used a sensible set of controls in the game, most of which are rather standard (making the title easy to pick up and play.) With a great story, mind-blowing presentation and lots to do, LA Noire sounds like the perfect game for those who enjoy an adventure title that is driven by the narrative, yet allows for some freedom. And, in many ways, it is far, far above par. It’s not free of bugs though – any game this ambitious is likely have a few – but none of the minor glitches are deal breakers. In fact, most of them are rather amusing, much like the well documented bugs that arose in last year’s Red Dead Redemption. Of far greater concern are reports that folks playing LA Noire on older consoles will experience technical difficulties. We had a hiccup or two while reviewing the game, but there are ways around it. In the most extreme cases, installing the title to your console’s hard-drive should sort everything out.

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But that speaks volumes about the game’s technology. It is a bit longer than average, based purely on the story missions. Yet the Xbox 360 version comes on three discs. This can only mean lots of complex code (hence some of the difficulties.) Despite these two quibbles (which, realistically, are very minor) LA Noire is a very fine game. It feels wonderfully authentic, complete with characters that feel more ‘real’ and a setting that is rich and detailed. It is a challenging game that offers a fair amount of replay value (players can go back and retry cases they could have performed better in) and it will provide those that enjoy this moderately linear, sometimes free style of game with a lot of enjoyment, and even a few jaw dropping moments. LA Noire is a perfect example, not only of a good video game, but of excellent adult-oriented interactive entertainment. Not playing it would be a sin – it’s just one of those games that needs to be experienced. g

gladget video game • issue 8 • June 2011


LA Noire goes beyond being a game – it is an interactive experience that everyone should go through. Developer: Team Bondi Publisher: Rockstar Distributor: Megarom

Parental Advisory Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

18+ gladget video game • issue 8 • June 2011

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

X360 Platforms

AT A GLANCE:

PC X360 Kinect

PS3 Move

Wii PSP DS 3DS

Score

93 51


Dirt 3

Dust

It’s leaving you in it

R

ally and off-road games have carved themselves neatly into the gaming circuit, with a wide variety available for any player who has the inkling to take to the dust. But none has been more iconic than the Dirt franchise, which started a fuss in 2008 with the first game. Now in its third instalment, the title has fully evolved from being the new kid on the block to being a front runner in the genre, spearheading many changes and inspiring a whole bunch of other titles and ideas. Before delving into the mechanics of the game, the first thing that will strike players is the incredible amount of detail and brilliant graphics. The opening sequence sees Dirt ambassador Ken Block’s car reversing out of a truck, and the graphics just seem to be your typical cutscene brilliance – but it soon becomes apparent that it’s actually in-game visuals. Loading up a race and choosing a location will leave many players picking up their jaw from the floor, as the crisp graphics and high-attention to detail is absolutely

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by Charlie Fripp amazing. It might sound stupid to mention, but the trees have actual leaves and individual blades of grass will sway in the wind. But it’s not just the overall graphics that are brilliant – it’s also the small touches that make the game so unique. In real life some spectators will stand in the middle of the road to watch an approaching car, and quickly jump out of the way when it gets close. Well, that has all been included. Even the photographer at the starting line will adjust his camera settings in between shots. Dirt 2’s graphics were very much above-par when it was released, but the third game has definitely set the stakes very high for any possible follow-up titles – and for any other games to be released. The title’s sound is another major plus point on the ratings scale. Every car sounds different and distinct, and many engines will instantly be recognisable. But that is almost part-and-parcel of racing games, and once again it’s the little details that shine though. Racing past any spectators, players will hear cheers, whistling and clapping

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once again decided to drop the Rally Raid T4 trucks from the line-up. It was speculated while the game was still in development that the T4 trucks from the original Dirt will be included, but they have been omitted in the end. Codemasters decided to include a Gymkhana mode for more adventurous players. In this mode, players have to “perform” for points in the form of doing jumps, doughnuts and drifts in a very small obstacle course. It’s great fun. In terms of the career mode, players will have to race in various rallies of different disciplines around the world in order to unlock sponsors and more cars – and ultimately be the top driver. It spans all the sub-genres of rally and teach the player different driving tactics. The flashbacks from Dirt 2 have also been preserved for use. Dirt 3 is definitely a dream-come-true for any rally and off-road fan, and it’s well-worth a purchase. The graphics are absolutely brilliant, the cars handle perfectly well and the sounds are fantastic. There is nothing else on the market quiet like it. g

AT A GLANCE: With brilliant graphics, it’s Codemasters’ best rally game to date. Developer: Codemasters Southam Publisher: Codemasters Distributor: Megarom

Parental Advisory Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

12+ gladget video game • issue 8 • June 2011

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

X360 Platforms

hands coming from the crowd, and just as quickly fading away as the driver leaves them in the dust. Starting a race in Kenya, players will also be able to hear the bells of goats before they pull away. In terms of driving mechanics, developers Codemasters have once again included several difficulty settings. Driving on the casual setting, players will have braking assist and a racing line, while the more difficult settings leave the players to their own expertise. In general, the vehicles handle perfectly well and behave when they have to. Obviously different terrain will cause cars to react in different fashions, but that is all expected and would be unrealistic otherwise. Speaking of vehicles, a large variety has been included, and there is more than enough to keep even the most finicky driver happy. The game comes shipped with an Online Pass, which, apart from YouTube uploading and multiplayer access, also provides a handful of extra cars – like the Hummer H3. The only real downside to the title is that Codemasters

PC X360 Kinect

PS3 Move

Wii PSP DS 3DS

Score

92 53


Darkspore

A New Direction Maxis takes a bold step

M

axis developed quite a name for themselves thanks to the large variety of simulators they have made in the past. In fact, whatever reputation they have is based on these games, ranging from SimCity through to the rather interesting Spore. But the company has made a bold move with their latest title, taking it in an entirely new direction – at least, new for Maxis. Darkspore belongs to a genre we have seen before, when all is said and done, but the take that the company has on the genre is interesting. To try and define it, imagine if Spore – that interesting creature creation game in which the player guided the evolution of a species – had a love-child with Diablo. The result is an isometric action game that allows the player to extensively modify the characters. That’s really what Darkspore is, in a nutshell – a slasher with lots of modification. Sure, other games like this have allowed modification, in terms of equipment found, but Darkspore takes things a little further. By allowing the players to modify characters in a new version of the same creature creator used in Spore,

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by Walt Pretorius Darkspore allows for a high degree of visual customisation, as well as equipment based improvement. It might not be quite as free as Spore was, but it offers a lot more creative expression than any action adventure of this type ever seen before. The story is simple; a group of alien genetic engineers, called Crogenitors, unwittingly unleashed an extremely harmful genetic mutation agent on the galaxy. After having been all but destroyed, the Crogenitors are now mounting a battle against the creatures that this mutation agent has created. The player takes on the role of a Crogenitor, and unlocks up to 100 different characters to use in the battle. OK, different is a bit strong. There are actually around 25 characters, each with four different variant. But that’s still a lot of unlocking to do, and a lot of variety in game approach. During missions, the player uses a squad of three of these characters. There’s only one on screen at a time, but the player can switch between them pretty much at will, to try and deal with situations that arise. See, there are five groups of creatures, each with a dominant element. When

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to do it, but it fumbles every now and then. This fumbling places the game in the category that patient players will love, but others may hate. It needs a bit of forgiveness, and initial patching will chew up a lot of bandwidth to boot. But it is a good first step in a very new direction for Maxis, and with a bit of refinement, future sequels and expansions may just deliver an extremely unique action adventure experience. If you want to try something different, and are willing to forgive the game’s oddities, Darkspore makes a nice change to the genre, and comes at a time when isometric action-adventures are really thin on the ground. The modification aspect is fun for creative players, who can tweak their characters almost endlessly. It’s fairly fast paced and extremely challenging, which are good aspects of the title, and the community is fairly healthy. But if you are looking for gaming perfection, you won’t find it in the Darkspore franchise – yet. Knowing Maxis, though, it’s something that they will strive for in future releases. g

AT A GLANCE: Darkspore is far from perfect, but it is fun, and fills a big gap in the current action adventure market. Developer: Maxis Publisher: Electronic Arts Distributor: EA South Africa

Parental Advisory Violence Language Sex Drug Use Prejudice

16+ gladget video game • issue 8 • June 2011

Accessibility Hard-Core Medium Casual

PC Platforms

a character meets enemies of the same element as he is, he takes more damage – swapping out is a good option. Also, when a character takes a lot of damage, the player can preserve him by a well-timed swap. This is supported by the fact that health and energy boosts picked up by the character on screen are applied to the whole squad; a character near death can be literally rescued by another character gathering lots of health pods. That makes things sound easier than they are. Darkspore can be extremely difficult, particularly for single players. It’s designed to be played co-op, and a permanent connection to the Internet is required for play. Taking on levels solo is really tough, but can be accomplished. As a first attempt in this genre, Darkspore is laudable. It makes all the right moves, and has some great ideas. However, a lot of the game’s execution is clumsy, and there are a few bugs that crop up fairly often. They’re not ruinous (except for the odd one that might disconnect the player from the server) but they can be a bit annoying. The game makes one think of a clumsy teenager destined to grow into a graceful adult. It knows what to do, and when

PC X360 Kinect

PS3 Move

Wii PSP DS 3DS

Score

77 55


Movie of the Month DVD Seen

An American tale... with a European flavour

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gladget regular • issue 8 • June 2011


The American When events in Sweden leave as assassin wondering where his loyalties should lie and wanting to get out of the game, he heads for a small town in the Italian countryside. Hiding out in a small medieval town, he enjoys the peace and quiet, while still being subject to a healthy dose of paranoia. He is tasked with creating a custom weapon for a mysterious woman. While doing so, he befriends the local priest and falls in love with a beautiful prostitute. Just when things seem to be safe and quiet, however, his past comes back to haunt him. The plot outline reads like something you’ve probably seen before. And, if it was a big budget American film, it probably had awesome car chases, tons of gunfight, barroom brawls and all that kind of stuff. This is the kind of thing we are fed by US cinema, and it’s what we have come to expect from far too many movies. But The American is a European film, put together by a crew from around that continent, under the leadership of director Anton Corbijn. In fact, George Clooney is the only recognisable American name associated with the film, and he plays the titular role. The American is a slow paced drama with action elements, rather than a fast paced movie in which everything blows up. If you’re expecting an action flick, you will be sorely disappointed. However, if you’re looking for something a bit more cerebral and emotionally charged, this is a good movie to consider. It’s well made, with beautiful cine and expert editing complementing a decent plot. g DIRECTOR: Anton Corbijn DISTRIBUTOR: Ster Kinekor

FPB Rating: 16VSN Score

STARRING: George Clooney Paolo Bonacelli Violante Placido

80

MOVIE

OF THE MONTH gladget regular • issue 8 • June 2011

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DVD Seen

In the Electric Mist

Sometimes a film that is a bit derivative can still have an important message – even if the lead actor is someone that we all thought had disappeared. Lou Diamond Phillips is surprising adept in his role as an ex-cop turned security guard who discovers a smuggling ring dealing in human cargo – Eastern European girls destined to become sex-slaves. In his attempt to right wrongs from the past, the cop becomes embroiled ever-deeper in a plot that goes far higher and wider than he could ever have imagined. Although the film often reminds of Liam Neeson’s Taken, it still goes a long way to drive a message home. The film is well made, and excellent performances by the cast help to deliver a film that is entertaining and thought provoking. On a side note, there is a distinct European flavour to this film, despite it being American. It delivers its story with style and grace, without resorting to many cheap shots. Action fans will likely enjoy this movie, and those that appreciate good acting will possibly be surprised at the level that Phillips performs at. On the whole, it’s a good film, and well worth giving a try. g

58

DIRECTOR: Raul Sanches DISTRIBUTOR: Ster Kinekor

FPB Rating: 16VLN Score

STARRING: Lou Diamond Phillips Estella Warren Deborah Kara Unger

80

In the Electric Mist is a strange film. Ostensibly it’s a murder mystery set in post-Katrina Louisiana (a very popular setting these days). Tommy Lee Jones plays a cop on the trail of a hardened killer who is preying on young woman, while the small parish he serves is under the spell of having a movie made nearby. When one of the actors finds skeletal remains in the swamp, Jones decides to also investigate a decades old crime that no-one seems interested in talking about. Here’s the thing, though… the movie leaves the world of reality behind every now and then, bringing a supernatural element into the picture. It’s not a cheap shot… if anything, the supernatural element is underexploited in the film. It almost seems out of place, because there is very little importance placed on it, even though (at times) it seems like it might sway the picture. Jones is, as always, superb, with a thick accent that is sometimes difficult to understand. In the end, it’s a good, if slow-paced thriller that dips into the realms of surrealism every now and then. Don’t expect an action packed roller-coaster of a movie, though... g

STARRING: Tommy Lee Jones John Goodman Peter Sarsgaard

DIRECTOR: Bertrand Tavernier DISTRIBUTOR: Ster Kinekor

FPB Rating: 16L Score

Take Down

79

gladget regular • issue 8 • June 2011


The Maid

This is a touching story of tribal law, broken clan rules, tradition, survival, a sweet love story and a new found admiration and fascination for an enemy. Sixteen year old Sergei (Nicolas Brioudes) of the Batagi clan of reindeer breeders joins the Evank tribe. When he is chosen by his elders to embark on the task of keeping their most prized possession safe during their summer cattle drive, he commences a journey of his own. Filmed on location in the north east of Siberia with a unique documentary feel, one can enjoy the magnificent cine and impressive camera angles as nature filmmaker and director Nicolas Vanier creates a compelling look at a modern day tribal dilemma on the other side of the world. Within his tale of human contact with nature, Vanier also points out the indictment of ecological disasters in this region, such as deforestation. Its only downfall is what feels like an odd combination of watching Asian influenced Russians speaking in French while dubbed into American accents. But if you can forgive this oddity, you will be pleasantly entertained, educated and even dazzled. g

DIRECTOR: Nicolas Vanier DISTRIBUTOR: Ster Kinekor

gladget regular • issue 8 • June 2011

FPB Rating: PGV Score

STARRING: Nicolas Brioudes Pom Klementief Min Man Ma

79

Right off the bat, it’s important to state that The Maid is not a movie for everyone. But if you enjoy art cinema, or have an interest in foreign films in general, this Sundance award winner will almost certainly be of interest to you – after all, it’s not every day that we get to see a Chilean film. Raquel is a maid who has worked in the same affluent household for twenty years. Although they consider her a part of the family, Raquel is bitter, angry and not very pleasant to be around. When she falls ill her employer decides to hire another maid to help her out, but each applicant suffers under Raquel’s nasty temper and cruel tricks. That is until Lucy joins the household… The Maid is not the biggest budget film around, but it is extremely well made when all is said and done. But the real value to draw from watching this film is the very human story behind it. It never degrades itself by stooping to silliness. The characters may be extreme, but they remain believable. If this is the standard of films that are coming out of Chile, we hope to see more soon. Just be warned – it’s subtitled. g

STARRING: Catalina Saavedra Claudia Celedon Mariana Loyola

DIRECTOR: Sedastian Silva DISTRIBUTOR: Ster Kinekor

FPB Rating: 16LN Score

Loup

80

59


DVD Seen

Make-out with Violence

Challenging the norms of society is something that Hollywood often explores, both seriously and in jest. Who’s Your Caddy, as the name suggests, takes the latter route. When a wealthy hip-hop artist is refused entry to an exclusive golf club, he begins an unofficial war against them. He buys up property right on the course’s border, and does everything he can to make the club president’s life difficult. The thing with movies like this is that they have something to say. But when their message is couched in toilet humour and old jokes we have seen a million times before, the message gets lost. OK, so ignore the message – can’t we just have a funny golf movie? Sure, but we’ve seen that before too, from the likes of Caddy Shack through to Happy Gilmore – both of which were far better films. Who’s Your Caddy does have its moments, but they’re few and far between. The rest of the gags really just pit the cool rappers against the stuffy white folks in ways that are often juvenile, and very often unoriginal. When a film needs to resort to fart-jokes to try and get a laugh, you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s not going to be funny. g

60

DIRECTOR: Don Michael Paul DISTRIBUTOR: Ster Kinekor

FPB Rating: 13LP Score

STARRING: Antwan Andre Patton Jeffrey Jones

45

Seriously? Maybe we just don’t get it, but we fail to see how Make-out with Violence got funded. Not that it’s a high budget film, or anything. The idea sounds awesome; a beautiful teenage girl goes missing. After the search for her is called off and her family hold a memorial service for her, she gets found by a group of friends… one of whom happened to be in love with her. The catch is that she has inexplicably come back from the dead, and the lovestruck guy has the chance to now finally get the girl – even if she is a zombie. That idea could have gone in many directions, any one of them better than the film’s creators, the Deagol Brothers, decided to go. What we’re left with is a bland, long winded and ostentatious film in which all the actors affect emotionless characters in an attempt to make some or other obscure point. We’re not sure whether they’re trying to make a statement or not with this film. Hell, we’re not sure if they knew. But what we are sure of is that Make-out with Violence deserves a wide berth. g

STARRING: Eric Lehning Cody De Vos Leah High

FPB Rating: DIRECTOR: The Deagol Brothers 13 DISTRIBUTOR: Ster Kinekor

Score

Who’s Your Caddy

35

gladget regular • issue 8 • June 2011


Happy Tears

Summer Eleven

FPB Rating: DIRECTOR: Mitchell Lichtenstein 16LD DISTRIBUTOR: Ster Kinekor

gladget regular • issue 8 • June 2011

Score

STARRING: Parker Posey Demi Moore Rip Torn

60

This heart-warming film tells the tale of four young girls and the summer they spend together. It’s the time between elementary and middle school – a time when they all feel the pressure to be more adult than they should at eleven years old. In addition, each one of them has a unique situation to cope with – a brother fighting in Iraq, a mother who has lost everything, a family torn apart by divorce, a parent putting on too much pressure to be successful. Summer Eleven is a well-crafted film that ties disparate plots together through the relationship shared by the four kids. It has tender and funny moments, and shows not only great skill in direction, but also in the performances by all the actors, including the four youngsters. It’s a potential tear jerker in places, but the unique view granted it by looking at the world through the eyes of a child is quite refreshing. If you’re in the mood for a drama that doesn’t have a massive message, yet is still entertaining, Summer Eleven is a good bet. g

STARRING: Adam Arkin Valerie Mahaffrey Deborah Theaker

DIRECTOR: Joseph Kell DISTRIBUTOR: Ster Kinekor

FPB Rating: PG Score

As the name applies, Mitchell Lichtenstein’s independent movie ‘Happy Tears’ lends itself towards a contradiction of sorts. Two sisters, Jayne (Parker Posey) and Laura (Demi Moore) of extreme characters are forced to come together in their childhood home, to look after their cranky, ill, widower father, played by a very entertaining Rip Torn. To top it off they are also introduced to their father’s shady “nurse”, Shelly (played by Ellen Barkin) who “assist” his “needs” for her survival. As the two sisters are confronted with their quirky, deteriorating father whose dementia increases by the day, their own childhood issues from a dysfunctional family begin to emerge. Very early in the movie Lichtenstein tries very hard to set the vibe of a crude comedy by shocking it’s viewers with scenes of excrement wiped off with bare hands. With its increasingly predictable, weird formula and bursts of surreal dreamlike symbolism, I began to feel the urge to want to disconnect. I give it credit for helping my hips from enlarging any further as I placed my chocolate chip cookie down, but beyond that, this felt as though this movie was trying very hard to be something it wasn’t. g

78

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DVD Seen

The Devil’s Tomb

Battle for Terra

62

DIRECTOR: Jason Connery DISTRIBUTOR: Ster Kinekor

FPB Rating: 18LV Score

STARRING: Cuba Gooding Jr Taryn manning Henry Rollins

47

Battle for Terra is an animation film that not a lot of people might have heard of, or even can remember for that matter. It tells the story of human survival in a scifi era, as humans try to find themselves another place to call home. But obviously there needs to be a twist in the tale, and a young rebellious Terrian named Mala will have nothing of the human invaders. It leads to a battle for survival, and with a cast that includes Evan Rachel Wood, Chris Evans, Danny Glover, Amanda Peet and Luke Wilson, it is well worth a watch. All the actors involved provide decent voice-overs for the lovable creatures, and most will be instantly recognisable. In terms of the animation itself, the design studio did a fantastic job. It bears a striking resemblance to any Pixar film, yet it still carries its own identity. The graphics are actually rather cute, and it’s impossible to not fall in love with the various characters. It’s a great film for the younger generations, but some fluffy adults will also find it enjoyable. g

STARRING: Evan Rachel Wood Danny Glover Luke Wilson

FPB Rating: DIRECTOR: Aristomenis Tsirbas 16 DISTRIBUTOR: Ster Kinekor

Score

Some things are best left buried. Had this film been an ancient relic interred in mysterious ruins, it would have been one of them. The Devil’s Tomb tells of a crack military squad sent to extract a team of scientists after an excavation in the Middle Eastern desert goes wrong. It seems that the scientists have uncovered something in the category of ‘ancient evil’, and that particular thing wants to take over the world. This film takes a whole bunch of science fiction and horror ideas and smashes them together in a generally bad way. Where it fails to keep the viewer’s attention, it tries to resort to obvious cheap shots to keep them engaged. We’re talking possessed-zombie-lesbian level of cheap. Devil’s Tomb might have been a good concept. Hell, it might even have been a good movie. No, scratch that – without an extensive rewrite and some good, original ideas, the script behind this one was flawed from the start. It features some decent action sequences, but that’s about it. Even the moderately big names making appearances in this production couldn’t save it from the doom it faced right from its inception. g

79

gladget regular • issue 8 • June 2011


Arctic Blast

Cami Winters (Tracy Spiridakos) is a seventeen year old straight-A high school student, who becomes infatuated with the handsome Jake Meyers (Jon Cor) after “meeting” him in an online dating forum. Cami believes that he is the perfect college guy with a future in engineering and is deceived as he chats to her from a State Prison. When Jake gets out of prison on probation they meet and Cami’s life takes a turn for the worst. “There are some mistakes that are the kind you can learn from, and there are some mistakes that are the kind that can change your whole life”, is the advice family friend Kendra (Thea Gill) gives Cami in the hope to get through to her. Even after she finds out the truth, her infatuation soon turns to love and she is lead down a road of emotional misguided loyalty. Single mother Tori (Alexander Paul) is frustrated with the changes in her daughter and feels that she is losing control as a mother. The concept is interesting and it certainly addresses some serious concerns about online predators and parental hopelessness. Due to its lack of profanity and violence it is available to a larger audience. g

DIRECTOR: Curtis Carwford DISTRIBUTOR: Ster Kinekor

gladget regular • issue 8 • June 2011

FPB Rating: 13V Score

STARRING: Alexandra Paul Tracy Spiridkos Jon Cor

60

Arctic Blast is the latest disaster movie dealing with things going wrong with the global climate. This time it’s all about a hole in the ozone layer allowing superchilled air wash over the earth. The killer mist freezes everything in its path and (naturally) only one man knows how to reverse it. The film reminds one of The Day After Tomorrow more than what is comfortable, but without the high budget special effects that that particular blockbuster featured. Most of the action is set in Southern Australia (where the rift in the ozone layer happens) which is an unusual and interesting setting, when all is said and done. But interesting setting aside, Arctic Blasts smacks of low budget and B-movie sentiments. In fact, the plot gets a little laughable at times – any film where only one human being – who is generally a rogue or an outcast – figures out how to save the whole world stands the danger of doing this, with only the best of plots and directors able to keep them from going down all the wrong paths. Arctic Blast has neither of those elements. With a little more money behind it and a better director at the helm, this could have been a very good movie. g

STARRING: Michael Shanks Alexander Davies Indiana Evens

DIRECTOR: Jason Bourque DISTRIBUTOR: Ster Kinekor

FPB Rating: 13PG Score

The Boy She Met Online

65

63


The Classics DVD Seen

Reliving your childhood with a timely rerelease

64

gladget regular • issue 8 • June 2011


Alien Quadrilogy No science fiction fan can be complete without owning the four movies that make up the Alien Quadrilogy. These four films, made over a time span of around three decades, tell the story of Ellen Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver in every film) and her battle against a nefarious alien xenomorph… but then we don’t really need to tell you that, now do we. True collectors – of either DVDs, sci-fi or both) will want to keep an eye out for the Alien Quadrilogy boxed set. There have been a few versions of these, ranging from boxes containing all four movies through to deluxe editions that have up to five extra DVDs crammed with special features, as well as the director’s cuts of all four films. Whichever set you manage to get your hands on, they’re well worth owning. And the wonderful thing about the Alien saga is that, with four different directors and four very different settings, the series spans everything from horror to action to suspense to down-right surrealism. Keep an eye out for these collected adventures of Ellen Ripley – there are few science-fiction films that come close. g

DIRECTOR: Various DISTRIBUTOR: Ster Kinekor

FPB Rating: Various Score

STARRING: Sigourney Weaver Lance Henriksen Michael Biehn

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CLASSIC OF THE MONTH

gladget regular • issue 8 • June 2011

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Bling Book

Money to Burn

Performance isn’t everything… impressions are! by Walt Pretorius

W

e all know that having an expensive computer is a good thing, because it means that you’re sitting on a top-of-the-line, super-powered monster of a machine. Right? Right? I mean, surely… Actually, it’s not necessarily the case. There are a large number of people that will rather make a statement than a sensible purchase. We kind of think that’s silly. You can cover a dog-turd in diamonds… but it’s still a dog turd. Not that the Tulip E-Go is a poor notebook PC. It runs an AMD Turion 64 bit processor, and comes with 2GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive, a 12 inch anti-glare screen and all the other bits that make it a decent, mid- to high-mid-range computer. The spec isn’t bad, really, and it would probably be, in terms of computing, worth a few grand. However, paying US$350 000 for it might seem a little… well, downright crazy. That’s around R2.5 million. Excuse me for being possibly overly-pragmatic here, but you can get a whole lot more computer for around 2% of that price… a fifty grand PC would be quite a monster, and would blow the E-Go’s specs clear out of the water. But US$350 000 is exactly what the Tulip E-Go will

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cost you. Created by a Dutch company, this spiffy little piece of frankly over-rated hardware is all about the image, and less about the performance. And, although we’re doing it through gritted teeth, it does look… ok, good is not the word I am looking for. Impressive. Pretentious. Ostentatious. Yes, those are the ones. Actually, it’s the Diamond Edition of this notebook that sports that very hefty price, thanks to an array of flawless diamonds set into a tulip shaped logo on the case. The case, incidentally, is shaped to resemble a lady’s handbag, so guys, you may not want to get one of these if you’re one of those really macho types. There are slightly cheaper versions, but the price is determined by the look, not the PC inside. Can you say ‘fashion victim’? But hey, if a unique, diamond encrusted notebook is your thing, why not. Hell, no one will think you’re a show-off, or that you have more money than sense. Seriously, they won’t, even if they know that the spec of the machine is just above the mediocre mark. Sure, it’s good quality, great craftsmanship and extremely unique, but is a notebook worth the price of a fairly decent house? We are battling with that idea. g g l a d g e t h a r d wa r e • i s s u e 8 • J u n e 2 0 1 1


Touch Me Touch screens explained

Inner Workings

by Charlie Fripp

I

t seems as though every handheld device these days come out with some form of touch screen. It has become commonplace to see the technology used in phones, tablets, computer screens and information screens in malls. When thinking about it, it could seem like magic, as just lightly touching the screen will trigger a response, and while there are different kinds of touchscreens, it is still a marvel as to how they actually work. But how do touchscreens work? How does the device know where users are pressing? There are mainly three different kinds of touchscreens, namely resistive, capacitive and surface acoustic wave. Resistive screens have been used in mainstream electronics for a long time, were the front runner and were most commonly used. Capacitive screens can today be found in electronics like iPhones, iPads and the latest models of smart phones. A resistive screen works with an electrical current, as do the rest, but consists of a normal glass panel that is covered with a conductive and a resistive metallic layer. When the screen is switched on, an electrical current runs

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through the two layers. When the screen is touched, the layers make contact at that exact spot, and the change in electrical field is registered by the device, while the exact coordinates are calculated by the device’s internal computer. This naturally happens at an incredibly fast pace, and once the coordinates are known, a driver translates the touch into a language that the operating system can understand. A resistive screen also doesn’t discriminate as to what is used to touch the monitor, as long as two layers make contact. This is clear in older GPS models (that can work with a finger or a nail) and some handheld gaming systems that use a stylus. A capacitive screen works on the same principle, but obviously there are a number of changes involved. An electrically charged layer is placed on the glass screen of the device, and when the screen is touched, some of that charge is transferred to the user. So when the charge on the capacitive layer is decreased, it is measured by circuits situated at each corner of the screen. The device’s internal computer then calculates the relative differences in charge from each of the corners, gladget regular • issue 8 • June 2011


and can deduce where the touch on the screen took place, and sends the gathered information to the touchscreen driver. Users will notice that using a stylus or a fingernail will have no response on the screen. A surface acoustic wave system has no metallic layers, and work by means of two transducers, one receiving and one sending, which are placed along the x and the y axis of the monitor. Various reflectors are also placed in the screen which reflects an electrical signal sent from one transducer to the other. Since the setup creates a wave of electrical energy, the receiving transducer will be able to distinguish if the wave has been disturbed by a touch, and can also automatically determine where it took place, which is then sent to the drivers. Surface acoustic wave system are best for displaying detailed graphics as they allow for 100-percent light throughput and perfect image clarity, since they have no metallic layers on the screen. Capacitive systems transmit almost 90 percent of the light from the monitor, while resistive system only transmits about 75 percent. The system can also be gladget regular • issue 8 • June 2011

touched by pretty much anything, except with hard and small objects like a pen tip. When cost is compared of the three systems, resistive screens are by far the cheapest to manufacture, but they tend to be damaged rather quickly. Capacitive screens are a great alternative but tend to be slightly more expensive to make. But surface acoustic wave systems are the most expensive to manufacture because of the clarity and versatility. In the last couple of years Haptic touch has also started to break into the market, and while there are many forms of haptic technology, gamers will recognise one such form – force feedback. Haptic technology used in phones allows users to feel clicks, vibrations and other tactile inputs, and Samsung’s Anycall Haptic was one of the first phones in 2008 to use the technology. In video games, the Novint Falcon haptic controller allows the gamer to tell the difference between a pistol shot and a shotgun blast just by the way it vibrates, and it can also replicate the resistance of a longbow as gamers draw it back. g

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The Tube

The sudden demise of CRT

Dead End

by Walt Pretorius

R

emember sitting clustered around the old family TV as it flickered away, showing your favourite shows – or at least, the favourite shows of the person who held the remote, which was probably your dad? Remember how big and boxy the TV was, not in terms of screen size, but in terms of depth? For that matter, remember those massive old PC monitors that seemed to take up your whole desk, even though they only had a screen dimension of 17 inches? Ah, yes, the wonderful world of the cathode ray tube. Older TVs and monitors made use of this technology, which consisted of a vacuum tube, an electron gun and a fluorescent screen as well as an internal means to deflect the electron beam. The result was images on the screen. This is a technology that was a standard for more than 100 years.

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Although average South Africans only became familiar with cathode ray tube TVs in 1976 (when public broadcasting arrived here) the earliest version of the technology was first created in 1897 by German physicist Ferdinand Braun. In 1907, Russian scientist Boris Rosing first introduced technology tying cathode ray tubes in with broadcast signals… something that would later become known as television. Cathode ray tubes began appearing everywhere – from oscilloscopes through to family TV sets and, yes, big computer monitors. The technology was wide spread, and constantly evolved to produce better devices. In essence, though, the tube – made largely of glass, was a fragile device, so the need for a better medium always existed. Despite being the standard for almost a century, gladget regular • issue 8 • June 2011


cathode ray tubes suffered very quick demise, thanks to new standards like LCD flat panels. In fact, the fall-off in cathode ray tube use since the year 2000 can only be described as extreme. In the UK, for example, retailer DSG reported that CRT sales made up 80 to 90% of their television sales at Christmas time. A year later, the number had dropped staggeringly to 12 to 20%. By 2010, most production of cathode ray tubes – including high end models – had stopped. The end began for cathode ray tubes largely because of size constraints. These were bulky devices, and the larger the screen, the bigger the cabinet that housed it needed to be. That meant that creating a screen larger than 40 inches was impractical. However, LCD technology soon surpassed the 40 inch mark. This, combined with rapid price drops in LCD screens (brought about by accelerated technological gladget regular • issue 8 • June 2011

advancement) meant that CRT’s days were numbered. But the technology hasn’t dies out completely; CRTs are still in use here and there, because they deliver better picture quality (in terms of colour, contrast and brightness) than the average LCD. They also have less lag for certain activities, like computer gaming. But the LCD wheel keeps turning, and as these devices catch up to cathode ray tubes, (thanks, in part, to new LED screen technologies) the older screens disappear at a faster rate. It’s a little sad, really, to see a mainstay like the cathode ray tube disappear. Perhaps it has to do with the sentimentality attached to the old family TV and the great times spent in its presence. Whatever the case may be, cathode ray tubes are evidence that, in today’s fast-advancing world of technology, those that cannot keep up are quickly forgotten. g

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Gladget Magazine June 2011  

Gladget Magazine June 2011 (Volume 1, Issue 8)

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