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WELCOME Editor Jim Martin Group Managing Editor Marie Brewis Art Director Mandie Johnson Production Editor Rob Woodcock Multimedia Editor Dominik Tomaszewski Consumer Tech Editor Chris Martin Engagement Editor Ashleigh Macro Staff Writer Lewis Painter Staff Writer Christopher Minasians Staff Writer Henry Burrell Staff Writer Miriam Harris Associate Online Editor David Price Associate Editor Karen Haslam Associate Editor Neil Bennett Forum Editor Peter Thomas Editorial Director Matt Egan

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W

elcome to another packed issue of PC Advisor. Plenty has been said and written about how PC sales are in decline, but that’s certainly not the case where gaming is concerned. In fact, gaming is booming around the world and the humble PC is most definitely still king. According to stats from Intel, there are 1.3 billion PC gamers and PC games still rake in the most money for publishers. Mobile and console gaming is still massively popular of course, and Sony is making strides where Microsoft, at least where the Xbox is concerned, is not. We tried out the new PS4 Pro and Sony’s PlayStation VR headset on pages 44 and 47. It’s impressive, but while it’s certainly good value compared to the equivalent PC and HTV Vive headset, the PC will always hold the advantage of being upgradeable when the next generation of graphics cards appear. We’ve tested a selection of the best-value gaming PCs on page 52 and although you can’t pick one up for the price of a PS4, £650 will get you a respectable machine that will easily handle full-HD games and even dabble in VR. Rather than ask system builders to supply a monitor, mouse and keyboard, we’ve hand-picked our favourite gaming peripherals so you can mix and match – or simply use the screen and input devices you already own. Just as we went to press on the previous issue, Microsoft held a big launch event for its new Surface hardware. This included the new Surface Studio, the firm’s first desktop PC. It’s an all-in-one desktop that’s really aimed at creative pros, but it’s interesting nonetheless: you’ll find our initial impressions on page 78. There’s also an updated Surface Book which is even more powerful than before (and even more expensive). But Microsoft didn’t call it a ‘Surface’ event. No, it was keen to put Windows centre stage and there’s another significant update coming to Windows 10 in Spring 2017. Dubbed the Creators Update, it will add a selection of features that go hand in hand with the new hardware, but there’s also some new gaming features and – potentially – a new app to rival Apple’s Garageband. Find out more from page 70 onwards. Lenovo has been busy innovating over the past few years and the result is the stunning Yoga Book. It’s almost a new category of PC, not quite a laptop, not quite a tablet. The Halo keyboard looks futuristic and has some clever tricks: it turns into a note-taking tablet when you’re not typing. It comes in either Windows or – as we review on page 22 – Android versions, so should appeal to plenty of people. At this chilly time of year it can be frustrating to choose between warm, gloved hands or the ability to use your phone’s screen. But these days you don’t have to compromise thanks to touchscreen gloves. We’ve rounded up a selection, which have the special conductive thread on page 98.

PC Advisor is published by IDG UK IDG UK, 101 Euston Road, London NW1 2RA. Tel: 020 7756 2800 Printer: Wyndeham Press Group Ltd 01621 877 777 Distribution: Seymour Distribution Ltd 020 7429 4000 No material may be reproduced in whole or part without written permission. While every care is taken, the publisher cannot be held legally responsible for any errors in articles, listings or advertisements. All material copyright IDG UK 2016

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CONTENTS FEATURES & GROUP TESTS

NEWS & ANALYSIS 6

COVER FEATURE

Latest technology news

14 90% of phones run Android 15 Firefox users increases 16 Android Auto update 17 LastPass works for free 18 Making IoT more secure 19 Fake news sites ads ban

REGULARS & OFFERS 3

Welcome

20 Subscribe 116 Software downloads zone 146 Outbox

52 52 64 66 68

GROUP TEST: Gaming PCs GROUP TEST: Monitors GROUP TEST: Mice GROUP TEST: Keyboards

REVIEWS

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Subscribe to PC Advisor and

SAVE 50% SEE PAGE 20

14

22 25 27 30 33 36 40 41 42 43 44 46 48 50

Microsoft Launch Microsoft HoloLens How motherboards work Touchscreen gloves

TEST CENTRE

GAMING MONITORS

Lenovo Yoga Book Acer Chromebook 14 Apple iPhone 7 Plus Motorola Moto Z Play BlackBerry DTEK60 Asus ZenFone 3 Ricoh SP 150Uw HP LaserJet Pro MFP M130nw Nextbase 412GW Humax Eye Sony PlayStation 4 Pro Sony PlayStation 4 VR Nintendo Classic Mini Edition Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon

GAMING PCS 55 56 57 58 59

70 88 90 98

Chillblast Fusion Tracer RX 480 Mesh Storm PCA Overclockers UK Kinetic H1 Wired2Fire Diablo Fury Yoyotech Warbird RS10 V2

64

64 64 65 65 65

Acer XF270HU AOC Agon AG271QX AOC G2460VQ6 CrossOver 2795QHD ViewSonic XG2700-4K

GAMING MICE 66 66 67 67 67

Asus ROG Spatha Coolermaster CM Storm Alcor Corsair M65 RGB Logitech G502 Proteus Spectrum RGB SteelSeries Rival

GAMING KEYBOARDS 68 68 69 69 69

Corsair K70 RGB Mechanical G.Skill Ripjaws KM780 RGB Mechanical Logitech G213 Prodigy Razer Blackwidow Chroma SteelSeries Apex M800

66 68

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CONTENTS MICROSOFT PAINT 3D

77

MICROSOFT HOLOLENS

MICROSOFT SURFACE STUDIO

88

Microsoft Launch Microsoft Launch

78 MICROSOFT SURFACE BOOK i7

MICROSOFT SURFACE DIAL

80

TOUCHSCREEN GLOVES

98

Microsoft Launch

72

TEST

ON THE COVER

CENTRE

116

52

HOW TO 115

TOP 5 CHARTS: BUYER’S GUIDE 118 120 122 124 125 126 128 130 132 134 135 136 137

Laptops Budget laptops Chromebooks Gaming laptops Gaming PCs Smartphones Budget smartphones Phablets Best tablets Smartwatches Activity trackers Budget printers/Printers Wireless routers/ Powerline adaptors 138 NAS drives/External hard drives 139 SSDs/Smart thermostats 140 Budget graphics cards/ Graphics cards 141 4K flat-panel TVs/ 4K flat-panel displays 142 e-book readers/Media streamers 143 Games console/ Budget portable speakers 144 Budget headphones/Headphones 145 Power banks/Desktop chargers

102 Prevent a failed Windows update installing 104 Get the Quick Launch bar 106 Log into a PC that won’t recognise a password 107 Stop autoplaying audio 108 Make Google Chrome warn you before closing 109 Turn off Facebook Live notifications 110 Create Motion Paths

22

46

78

115 Save Vine videos

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NEWS Keep up to date with PC Advisor news: pcadvisor.co.uk/news

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CHRIS MARTIN

Future Windows 10 phones could run full-fledged PC programs x86 apps mixed with ARM’s power efficiency could be a computing holy grail. Brad Chacos reports When the HP Elite x3 launched earlier this year, we lamented its likely legacy as the last great Windows 10 phone. It stood alone as the embodiment of Microsoft’s PC-as-phone vision at a time when the firm was ruthlessly burning its mobile hardware division to the ground and gutting what few Nokia remnants lingered. But now it appears that the HP Elite x3’s highlight feature – the ability to run PC software on a phone – may actually find its way into Windows 10 Mobile’s core at some point in the future. Frequent Windows sleuth WalkingCat dredged up hints of Windows 10’s ability to emulate x86 (read: PC) software on ARM (read: mobile) processors, via a ‘CHPE’ designation in code. Mary Jo Foley, a Windows reporter with impeccable sources, followed up on the report. She says that CHPE refers to Microsoft’s plans to introduce x86 emulation to Windows 10 in a ‘Redstone 3’ update in autumn 2017. The ‘C’ stands for ‘Cobalt’, Microsoft’s codename for x86 emulation, according to her sources ‘HP’ literally stands for the company HP and ‘E’ remains unclear, but potentially stands for ‘emulation’. So why does this matter? Because native x86 software support would dramatically

limited in number and don’t include many key programs demanded by business users and hardcore PC enthusiasts. Even the Elite x3 runs its x86 PC apps in a virtualised cloud environment, rather than on-device.

The idea of emulating full-fledged PC programs on mobile devices sounds challenging, especially since much of the software that pros rely on tends to be resource-hungry improve the utility of Continuum, Windows 10 Mobile’s flagship feature. Continuum allows you to use your Windows phone like a PC when you connect it to an external display and keyboard—but right now, the only software that works in Continuum mode are Universal Windows Platform apps, which are

The idea of emulating full-fledged PC applications on mobile devices sounds challenging, especially since much of the software that professionals rely on tends to be resource-hungry. Avoiding performance or battery-life penalties could prove difficult. But working x86

apps mixed with ARM’s legendary power efficiency could be a computing holy grail if Microsoft manages to pull it off. “Technically, there are really two things that are unique about Windows Mobile,” Window chief Terry Myerson explained in an interview with ZDNet late October. “One is cellular connectivity and the other one is the ARM processors that are there. So we’re going to continue to invest in ARM and cellular. And while I’m not saying what type of device, I think we’ll see devices there, Windows devices, that use ARM chips. I think we’ll see devices that have cellular connectivity.” So sure, this x86 emulation – if true – keeps the dream of the fabled Surface Phone alive. But reading between Myerson’s words, Windows 10 Mobile’s future may not even necessarily include phones.

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News

How Microsoft plans to shrink down and speed up Windows 10 updates Unified Update Platform is set to cut the size of updates, writes Blair Hanley Frank

Microsoft has revealed a Unified Update Platform (UUP) that’s designed to make it easier for devices to upgrade from one version of Windows 10 to another. It encompasses a set of behind-thescenes changes in Windows 10 that reduce the processing power needed to update, shrink the size of update files, and streamline updates on Windows smartphones. These improvements are designed to help Microsoft address user complaints about the update process. Because the company’s vision for Windows 10 includes many updates, streamlining those procedures is important. One of the biggest changes will involve Windows Update delivering only the updates relevant to the device requesting

them, Bill Karagounis, director of program management for the Windows Insider Program and OS fundamentals at Microsoft, explained in a blog post. “Because more processing is being done by the service, this will lead to faster checks for update operations,” he wrote. “It’s important to note that with UUP, nothing will look or behave differently on the surface, UUP is all underlying platform and service optimisation that happens behind the scenes.” In the future, the UUP will make it possible for Microsoft to ship updates as differential download packages, meaning users will have to download only the parts of Windows that have changed between updates. For large updates, users could see

a roughly 35 percent reduction in the size of downloads, Karagounis said. Microsoft first launched the UUP as part of a Windows 10 Mobile public beta build released in November. Members of the Windows Insider Program running beta builds on their PCs should expect to see the new update system later this year, while HoloLenses and devices running Windows 10 IoT Insider builds should, according to Karagounis see it “shortly after”. For most people, the UUP’s download size reduction benefits will only come into play after the Windows 10 Creators Update, which is expected out in early 2017. Karagounis said Insider beta users would see the benefits “sooner”, but didn’t provide an exact time.

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1and1.co.uk 22/11/2016 17:21 14.11.16 13:17


News

London next in line for Google-backed gigabit Wi-Fi After New York, Intersection is bringing its gigabit Wi-Fi street furniture to London, writes Peter Sayer London is next in line to receive the Link high-speed Wi-Fi service that briefly brought high-speed porn to the streets of New York. Intersection, the company behind LinkNYC, is partnering with BT and outdoor advertising company Primesight to deliver the service in London. Intersection is partly funded by Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Google’s parent Alphabet. Next year, BT will replace 100 of its phone booths with the LinkUK pillars, delivering gigabit Wi-Fi, free phone calls, and local information services on built-in Android tablets. The companies aim to install up to 750 of the hotspots across the UK in the coming years. The pillars will also offer free power, via USB charging sockets. There’s no risk of them slurping your phone’s contents,

or infecting them via the BadUSB vulnerabilities, as the sockets contain no data lines. “It’s just power and ground,” explained BT spokesman Yusuf King. Free web browsing will not be allowed on the London Link pillars. When the service was introduced in New York in January, some people began using the embedded tablets to watch porn in public. LinkNYC put a stop to that last month when it shut down the web-browsing option on the pillars. ISPs, including BT, are required to block adult content by default, so using the tablet to watch porn ought not to be possible there. Limiting the tablet to providing local information has other benefits, though, said King. “Another reason to remove the tablet web browser is to prevent people monopolising kiosks for long periods.”

LinkUK, like LinkNYC, will be funded by advertising. Instead of the posters or wraparound ad spots that Primesight will sell on 17,500 other BT phone booths around the UK, the new pillars will each carry two 55in HD displays running non-stop commercials and public service announcements. London’s traditional red phone boxes won’t disappear from London’s streets with the introduction of the new pillars. Many of the 602 remaining in the London area are legally protected as historic architectural features. Instead, the pillars’ brushed stainless steel and glass panels will replace a more recent generation of phone booths. Intersection isn’t the only game in town when it comes to public gigabit Wi-Fi: Berlin is getting its own gigabit service, thanks to mobile network operator Vodafone.

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News

Orange Pi Zero single-board computer ships The developer board includes a quad-core ARM processor and Wi-Fi, reveals Agam Shah A new Raspberry Pi competitor called Orange Pi Zero has been launched. It can be used to make electronics or robots, or it can fill in as a file or media server. Such developer boards are also used to create and test industrial devices. The computer is a competitor to the minuscule Raspberry Pi Zero, a stripped down version that sells for £4. However, the Orange Pi Zero has better hardware with a faster processor and Wi-Fi capabilities. Don’t expect it to deliver booming performance or be a full-fledged PC replacement. If you’re looking for a powerful board computer, consider buying the £40 Raspberry Pi 3. The Orange Pi Zero has a quad-core Allwinner ARM Cortex-A7 processor, which in recent years has been used to power low-end and mid-range smartphones and tablets. It also uses ARM’s Mali 400 MP2 graphics

The Orange Pi Zero can be used to make robots and electronics an SD card slot and 256MB of memory. A model with 512MB of memory ships for $8.99 (£TBC). In addition, it includes 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and ethernet networking capabilities. It also has expansion slots and pins to attach other boards and a USB 2.0 host port.

processor, which is capable of processing high-definition video. Shenzhen Xunlong, the developer of the board, claims it can handle H.265 4K video, but the board isn’t built for that. The Orange Pi Zero also doesn’t have a display out port. The tiny computer includes

Researchers hack Philips Hue smart bulbs from the sky Ian Paul reveals how drones have been used to remotely install malicious firmware Security researchers in Canada and Israel have discovered a way to take over the Internet of Things (IoT) from the sky. Okay, that’s a little dramatic, but the researchers were able to take control of some Philips Hue lights using a drone. Based on an exploit for the ZigBee Light Link Touchlink system, white hat hackers were able to remotely control the Hue lights via drone and cause them to blink S-O-S in Morse code. The drone carried out the attack from more than a thousand feet away. Using the exploit, the researchers were able to bypass any prohibitions against remote access of the networked light bulbs, and then install malicious firmware. At that point the researchers were able to block further wireless updates, which apparently made the infection irreversible. “There is no other method of reprogramming these [infected] devices without full disassemble (which is not feasible). Any old stock would also need to be recalled, as any devices with vulnerable firmware can be infected as soon as power is applied,” according to the researchers. The researchers notified Philips of the vulnerability. The company then delivered

a patch for it in October, according to The New York Times. The ability to attack Philips Hue lighting doesn’t sound all that menacing and more of an inconvenience than anything else. The obvious exception to that would be using the lights to trigger epileptic seizures in vulnerable people, or plunging properties into darkness.

Shedding light on a deeper issue

Taking over massive numbers of IoT devices may sound like alarmist nonsense, but it’s really not that hard to believe. Just a few weeks ago, an IoT botnet was responsible, at least in part, for the major DDoS attack that caused disruptions to US internet traffic. Over the past few months, it’s become increasingly clear that while we may be ready to put networked light bulbs, thermostats, and door locks on our homes, the security for many of these devices is still sub-optimal.

The bigger issue is that security researchers worry exploits like these could be used to infect devices with a computer worm. That worm could then move on to attack other IoT devices on the same network. The researchers argue this kind of attack could be used to take over a building or an area with a high concentration of connected devices within minutes. All the hacker would have to do is hover over a building with a drone or drive past an area with a computer searching for vulnerable devices.

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News

Google Maps now tells you how busy certain places are in real-time Other data-driven tricks include projections about how long people stay at a place, writes Derek Walter So you want to head over to that trendy new restaurant, but you’re not sure whether the line is going to be around the street corner. Well, Google Maps now has the answer. A new feature the company highlighted on its Keyword blog now estimates how busy or slow things are in real time, thanks to Google’s data powers. It’s unlikely that this will be available for every single location on the planet just yet, but if you live in a large city where Google has access to enough real-time information your mealtime decisions may get a whole lot easier. There’s also a spot for you to update the information if Maps doesn’t have it quite right. This feature also lets you check in to find out how long people will typically stay at that specific

venue. The search giant is adding extra detail for stores that might have separate hours for different departments. This way you won’t show up when a store is open only to find the hardware section closed two hours ago. All of these features are rolling out to Google Maps and search, which likely means they’ll be going live soon through a serverside switch. You probably won’t need to update your apps, though it can’t hurt to

make sure you have the latest version of Google Maps and Google search. The impact on you: Maps is already the perfect companion for hitting the town, but these features come at just the right time for the upcoming holiday season. If you like to dive into such products, it’ll be interesting to see just how accurate the data is and whether it can realistically tell you the current state of crowds while you’re out and about.

Google Maps has a new feature the company highlighted on its Keyword blog now estimates how busy or slow things are in real time, thanks to Google’s data powers

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News

Facebook’s latest experiment will help you find free Wi-Fi hotspots… …because uploading videos over cellular connections just doesn’t cut it. Ian Paul reports Facebook says it’s not a media company, but it just might be turning into a Wi-Fi finder service. Users of the social network’s iOS app report seeing a new feature in the More section that lets them find nearby public Wi-Fi access points. The feature does not appear to be widely available at the moment, which means this is probably something Facebook is only testing. The social network tests numerous features all the time but this one is particularly notable. As The Next Web points out, helping users find public Wi-Fi could enable more people to use Facebook Live. If your cellular connection isn’t strong, a nearby Wi-Fi location can be a big help – unless, of course, your Facebook Live broadcast is dependent on your specific location. There could be other uses for finding Wi-Fi beyond live video broadcasts. If you’re desperate to upload a photo or recorded video, then locating the closest public Wi-Fi point helps. On top of that it’s just one more reason to open the Facebook

Wi-Fi feature comes shortly after Facebook started asking businesses with pages to voluntarily contribute Wi-Fi access point information. The database may also have come from aggregating access point information from the phones of Facebook users all over the globe. That’s just speculation, but it’s not uncommon. Microsoft’s Wi-Fi Sense feature uses crowdsourced information for its database of public Wi-Fi access points. On top of that, building a Wi-Fi database is something most major technology companies do in order to help their device’s location services. Google did it using its Street View cars and, later, Android phones, and Apple collected location data from users’ iPhones, iPads, and Macs starting in 2010.

app, which Facebook obviously wants to encourage as much as possible. Check where the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot is, see that unread notifications indicator at the top of the screen, and before you know it you’re engrossed in the news feed. For now, this is just a test feature, or at least a feature that is rolling out very slowly, and very quietly. Nevertheless, it would be a handy addition to the Facebook app. It would also mean you’d need one less app on your phone since Facebook’s Wi-Fi feature would presumably negate the need for a Wi-Fi finder app. That assumes that Facebook’s Wi-Fi finding feature proves accurate and taps into a database large enough to be useful. The Next Web points out that this new

For now, this is just a test feature, or at least a feature that is rolling out very slowly, and very quietly. Nevertheless, it would be a handy addition to the Facebook app

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NEWSANALYSIS

Nearly 90 percent of smartphones worldwide now run Android Strategy Analytics paints a picture of dominance for Google’s mobile OS. Derek Walter reports ndroid just reached a new milestone in its worldwide dominance over iOS. According to new research from Strategy Analytics, 87.5 percent of smartphones around the globe are now running Android. Shipments hit a total of 328.6 million for third quarter of 2016, which is up 10.3 percent up year-on-year. While Android had always been hanging around the 80 percent mark, this latest number is a new high. Comparatively, Apple shipped 45.5 million iPhones, which is down 5.2 percent from the 48 million from 2015. The real drop is in ‘others’ such as Blackberry and Windows phone. In 2015, 8.2 million units of ‘other’ smartphones were sold in the third quarter. This year, the number is just 1.3 million. The growth worldwide is generally driven by low-cost devices, particularly in developing markets. But that may lead to

A

a difficult field for the companies that are competing in this space, according to Woody Oh, director of Strategy Analytics: “The Android platform is getting overcrowded with hundreds of manufacturers, few Android device vendors make profits, and Google’s new Pixel range is attacking its own hardware partners that made Android popular in the first place.” Android’s dominance may not slow, but competing in the league may still be a challenge for hardware makers who have to fight for profits at such thin margins. Android is big, which has both been a boon for Google services and a challenge for how to manage fragmentation. The Pixel line frees Google to focus on building the optimal mobile OS experience with its own devices at the high end, while still serving up the Android Open Source Project to hardware partners. J

Google Pixel

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NEWSANALYSIS

Another 40 million people bolt from Microsoft’s web browsers as mass exodus continues Firefox is back above 11 percent, wiping out a year’s losses in just two months, reveals Gregg Keizer

icrosoft’s browsers haemorrhaged another 40 million users in October, according to analytics vendor Net Applications, pushing the year’s total number of deserters near the one third of a billion mark. Net Applications pegged the combined user share of Internet Explorer (IE) and Edge at 28.4 percent for October, a fall of 2.3 percentage points. The decline was the second-largest ever for Microsoft’s browsers, behind only May’s plummet of 2.7 points. Unlike in most previous months, Microsoft’s bane was not Google’s boon, but instead Mozilla’s. Firefox’s user share jumped nearly two percentage points, to 11.1 percent. Atop an almost-as-large increase in September, Mozilla’s Firefox has stepped away from a precipice, and in two months recovered almost all the losses it incurred during the past year. IE has shed 20.2 percentage points in 2016, and the fall shows no sign of stopping, or even slowing. In the past six months, four have recorded declines of 2 points or more, twice the number of the six months before that.

M

If declines continue at the rate of the past 12 months, IE + Edge will drop below the 25 percent mark in December, and under 20 percent by March, our colleagues at Computerworld calculated. Although most Microsoft deserters have ended up on Google’s Chrome, the pace of the latter’s gains has slowed the past two months. Chrome added six-tenths of a percentage point to its share in October, just over a third of the average over the past 12 months. Chrome accounted for 55 percent of all browsers for October. Firefox’s very large increases in September and again in October were puzzling. It was the largest singlemonth boost to Firefox’s user share in Computerworld’s tracking, which began in January 2005. One possible explanation: Net

Applications’ measurement may represent a recalibration of Firefox’s performance, and thus a rejection of the steady decline it previously portrayed for the last year. Using Net Applications’ data for browser and operating system user share, as well as Microsoft’s claim that about 1.5 billion PCs run Windows worldwide, Computerworld put the collapse of IE (and Edge’s inability to make up those losses) in terms of millions of users. At the end of October, IE and Edge were being run by approximately 466 million users, down 40 million from September’s 506 million. Since January 1, 2016, IE and Edge have lost about 331 million users. To put that in perspective, Net Applications’ data showed that Windows 10 powered about 371 million PCs in October. J

Atop an almost-as-large increase in September, Firefox has stepped away from a precipice, and in two months recovered almost all the losses it incurred during the past year February 2017 www.pcadvisor.co.uk/news 15

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News: Analysis

Android Auto gets rid of that pesky car requirement With the latest update, you can use the driver-optimised interface on your phone, writes Jason Cross

B

ack in May, we gave you an early look at Google’s work to put Android Auto interface right on your phone. The company has since made good on its promise to release the new one‑phone experience ‘later this year’. With the latest update, you no longer need an Android Auto‑compatible infotainment system. All you need is your phone.

No car, no problem You have, of course, always needed an Android phone with Android Auto running on it. You would plug it into your car via USB and then your infotainment system would show the interface, but use your phone’s data connection and information to play music, send texts, navigate via maps, place phone calls, and so on. For a lot of users, that’s no good. Yes, a large and growing number of cars support the standard, but people don’t go buy a new car every year. And you can’t always just insert in a new infotainment system. Consider this reviewer’s case, who drives a Prius. Toyota is invested in its own Entune software, and supports neither Android Auto nor Apple CarPlay. And it’s leased, so we can’t just go hacking into the dash. But we use a phone in the car all the time. It’s mounted to a bracket that clips to the A/C vent, and we use the Bluetooth connection to make calls, listen to music, and get Google Maps navigation. It’s great, but it’s hard to use while driving.

That’s where this new update really makes all the difference. After giving the new Android Auto app a huge host of permissions (it needs to make calls, send texts, get your location, play music, and so much more), We were given the option to have the app automatically launch when it connects to our car’s Bluetooth. After that, it all seemed very familiar. The on‑phone experience is not exactly like the in‑dash one, but close enough. It assumes you’ve got a smaller display, and doesn’t want to overwhelm you with as much stuff to tap on. And, of course, you can’t control it with buttons on your steering wheel. But all the main features are there: Maps, directions, and traffic. Making calls. Sending texts by voice. Listening to one of the many supported audio streaming services. You could do this stuff with your phone before, but with Android Auto it’s all pulled into a cohesive, driver‑friendly interface that sticks to a small

Calls, maps, music, and more. It’s all there, in a driver-friendly interface

number of large touch targets, so you don’t kill yourself trying to start up your favourite car journey playlist.

Strong app support The list of apps that support Android Auto is strong. The real downside has been the difficulty of getting it in your car. Now that you get the driver‑friendly interface right on your phone, the app really is worth picking up for nearly everyone who drives. There’s no split in‑app support with this new version – all current Android Auto apps are supposed to work just fine, and developers don’t need to do anything in particular to support the on‑phone experience. Not everything is quite as perfect as we would like it to be, though. Using “OK Google” voice commands isn’t yet enabled, and will come in another update before the end of the year. There’s an ever‑present microphone in the top right; you’ll have to tap that to give Android Auto a voice command. Once you do, all the voice commands that work on the in‑dash experience appear to work here. Now that you don’t actually need a car, we can see Android Auto being useful for other types of users. Bicyclists who mount their phones to their handlebars, for instance. Pair it with a Bluetooth speaker and use it on your boat, you won’t find nautical ‘traffic’ reports but the rest of the features might prove useful. J

16 www.pcadvisor.co.uk/news February 2017

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News: Analysis

Google Home shares the Chromecast’s guts, teardown reveals Google Home doesn’t have a Chromecast inside, but the two have a lot in common, reveals Ian Paul

T

he Amazon Echo challenger Google Home is now available in the US, and the teardown kings at iFixit wasted no time in ripping one apart. What the firm found inside wasn’t all that exciting, but it discovered that Google Home is a close cousin of the 2015 Chromecast owing to the similarity of components on both motherboards. They’re not identical twins by any stretch, as each features some device-specific components that wouldn’t make sense on the other. Google Home has a Texas Instruments TAS5720 audio amplifier, for example, which the Chromecast doesn’t need. However, both devices have the same

The Google Home motherboard

dual-core ARM Cortex-A7 media processor, and the same kind of Toshiba NAND flash for internal storage: the Chromecast has 2GB onboard, while Google Home has 256MB. They also both have the same Marvell Avastar wireless connectivity module for WLAN, Bluetooth, NFC, and similar SDRAM from Samsung. Google Home has 512MB of Samsung K4B4G16 B-Die DDR3 SDRAM, while the Chromecast comes with 4GB of Samsung KK4B4G1646D-BY DDR3L SDRAM. Other than the motherboard echo from 2015, there’s not much exciting lurking inside Google Home from a hardware standpoint. The device does have a hidden mini-USB port for debugging/programming hidden under the Home base. Incidentally, Google is now selling a variety of Home bases to add a splash of colour to your smart speaker, as first reported by Android Police. Google Home may not have all that much excitement in terms of specs, but it doesn’t need to. The real magic of a device like Google Home happens on Google’s

servers, for which the Home is merely a conduit. The only thing it can’t skimp on is the sound, which we were impressed by. IFixit discovered the Google Home’s audio is driven by a Peerless PLS series speaker. One last interesting tidbit to note: iFixit only found two far-field microphones stashed in Google Home, which is a big drop compared to the seven mics in the Amazon Echo. Nevertheless, we found Google Home’s mic range superior to its rival’s. J

The Google Home’s insides

Password manager LastPass now works on all your devices for free Get LastPass on your computer and phone without paying £8.99 per year. Ian Paul shows how

P

assword manager LastPass is taking a big leap forward for all its free users. The company announced that its service is now free to use across all devices at the same time. LastPass’s switch to a free model for multi-device access comes one year after the password management service gave up on its PC-first policy. Originally, LastPass free was only available on the PC, while mobile devices were only supported for premium subscribers. That changed in August 2015 when LastPass decided free users would be restricted to a single device type of their choice, including PCs, smartphones, or tablets. Now, multiple devices are open to free users.

All the devices, all the time Anyone who’s already using the free version of LastPass can download the company’s mobile apps or the browser extensions to get the service everywhere. LastPass will work the same way across all devices including

the ability to save and fill out passwords, a password generator, secure notes, and two-factor authentication. Premium users may not be too impressed with this news. The whole point of paying £8.99 a year for LastPass was that you could use it across all your devices. Now that feature is free. Nevertheless, LastPass is hoping premium users will stick around for the other paid benefits, including priority tech support, the ability to share folders with up to five users, 1GB of encrypted file storage, advanced 2FA functionality for devices such as the YubiKey, the ability to save desktop application passwords and an ad-free experience.

If you’re a premium user of LastPass right now you might take a hard look at whether it’s worth it to continue paying. Yes, £8.99 per year isn’t a huge amount of money, but what’s the point of paying that fee if you’re not going to use any of the premium features? If all you wanted from LastPass was multi-device access you can now get that for no cost. J

February 2017 www.pcadvisor.co.uk/news 17

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News: Analysis

How to make home IoT more secure: assume the worst Device vendors need to make a lot of changes, an advisory group said. Stephen Lawson reports ometimes the truth hurts but you just have to face it. The internet advisory group BITAG lays it on the line for the IoT industry in a new report. “It’s safe to assume that most end users will never take action on their own to update software,” the Broadband Internet Technology Advisory Group said. Its recommendation: build in mechanisms for automatic, secure updates. That bit of human nature is just one of the harsh realities BITAG acknowledges in the report. It also points out that some consumer IoT devices ship with weak built-in usernames and passwords such as ‘admin’ and ‘password’, can’t do authentication or encryption, or can easily be taken over by malware that turns them into bots. The latter fact became obvious earlier this year when Mirai botnets wreaked havoc with the internet due to vulnerable security cameras and other devices. But BITAG was on the case months before that, launching the research for the report in June. BITAG has several pieces of advice for vendors of home IoT software and hardware. Given that the organisation includes representatives from companies such as

S

Cisco Systems, Google, AT&T and Comcast, those tips might find their way into future products and services. The most basic one is that IoT vendors should assume that, eventually, whatever they build will have bugs and vulnerabilities. That’s why they need automatic over-theair update tools that don’t force users to do anything – even to opt in, BITAG said. The report called on device makers to follow a list of best practices for security, including authenticating all communications, encrypting data stored on the device, and providing a way to revoke certificates when they’ve been compromised. By default, IoT devices shouldn’t be reachable through inbound network connections, even from devices in the same house, because those might have been compromised, BITAG said. The report also recommended IoT devices use IPv6, the latest version of Internet Protocol. It allows for end-to-end connections between devices over the internet and has some security features that the older IPv4 doesn’t. Other experts have said IPv6 will be necessary just to supply unique IP addresses for all the billions of anticipated IoT devices.

However, implementing the new protocol in networks can be a difficult process that’s not without hazards. Other BITAG recommendations don’t address security directly but touch on headaches some consumers have had with home IoT. The report calls on manufacturers to make devices that can work offline, since errors and certain kinds of attacks can kick a home off the internet. They should also be able to work if the accompanying cloud service fails. Also, the group called on vendors to tell consumers how long they’ll support the products they’re selling, including whether they may disable features in the future. Nest’s deactivation of Revolv smart-home hubs earlier this year caused a stir among some US consumers who had paid $299 for the devices before Nest acquired Revolv. Will there be a way to quickly tell whether a home IoT device is secure? Maybe. BITAG suggested the industry create a logo or notation for products that comply with a set of best practices, to save consumers from having to pore over specs to find out what each device has. But it didn’t create the program itself. J

18 www.pcadvisor.co.uk/news February 2017

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News: Analysis

Google and Facebook won’t place ads on sites peddling fake news The move follows the prominent display of a fake story on Google search results, writes John Ribeiro

oogle plans to update its AdSense program policies to prevent placement of its ads on sites distributing fake news. Facebook also recently announced that it had updated the policy for its Audience Network, which places ads on websites and mobile apps, to explicitly clarify that it applies to fake news. “In accordance with the Audience Network Policy, we do not integrate or display ads in apps or sites containing content that is illegal, misleading or deceptive, which includes fake news,” Facebook said in a statement. The company said its team will continue to closely vet all prospective publishers and monitor existing ones to ensure compliance. False news stories have become a sore point after the US presidential elections with critics blaming internet companies like Twitter and Facebook for having had an influence on the outcome of the elections as a result of the fake content.

G

The controversy reflects concerns about the growing power of social networks to influence people, as well as help people to communicate and organise. Facebook promotes democracy by letting candidates communicate with people, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a recent interview. “We’ve been working on an update to our publisher policies and will start prohibiting Google ads from being placed on misrepresentative content, just as we disallow misrepresentation in our ads policies,” Google in a statement. “Moving forward, we will restrict ad serving on pages that misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information about the publisher, the publisher’s content, or the primary purpose of the web property.” Google evidently expects that the threat of a cut in revenue from ads will dissuade sites from publishing fake content. Zuckerberg has described as “crazy” the criticism that fake news on Facebook’s

news feed had influenced the vote in favour of Trump. “Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99 percent of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes,” Zuckerberg said in a post. The hoaxes are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics, he added. Identifying the ‘truth’ is complicated, as while some hoaxes can be clearly identified, a greater amount of content often gets the basic idea right but some details wrong or omitted, or expresses a view that some people will disagree with and flag as incorrect even when it is factual, Zuckerberg wrote. There are concerns that the monitoring of sites for fake news and the penalties could give internet companies more power. “We have to be wary of Facebook and Google being allowed to decide what’s ‘fake’ and what’s ‘true’ news. That only increases their power,” said Pranesh Prakash, policy director at the Centre for Internet and Society in Bangalore. J

February 2017 www.pcadvisor.co.uk/news 19

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DVDRW. J Andrew Williams

REVIEWS AndroId 2-In-1 devIce

£499 inc VAT

Lenovo Yoga Book

Contact n

lenovo.com/uk

Specifications

10.1in (1920x1200) Full-HD IPS touchscreen; Android Marshmallow 6.0; 2.4GHz Intel Atom x5-Z8550 quad-core processor; 4GB RAM; 64GB storage with microSD support up to 128GB; 8Mp autofocus rear camera; 2Mp fixed focus front-facing camera; Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac; Dual Channel (2.4- and 5GHz); Bluetooth 4.0; GPS; 8500mAh non-removable battery; 256x170.8x9.6mm; 690g

Build: Features: Value: Performance:

Hats off, Lenovo. In a time where most smartphone are black slabs that look like iPhones and laptops are silver ones aping MacBooks, the company has created a product like no other. The Yoga Book is a svelte, light, futuristic 2-in-1 laptop/tablet that can do an awful lot while looking like it’s from the set of Minority report. It is this desire to break away from a decade of design stagnation that drives the unique look of the Yoga Book. It’s like nothing we’ve seen before, but with the functionality of several devices including Apple’s iPad Pro and the Microsoft Surface Pro 4. Yet the Yoga Book is more compact and debatably even more useful than that device, though it depends on the use cases. either way, this is an outstanding product from a company that has stagnated in recent years. The Yoga Book is available with Windows 10, with prices starting at £549.99; however, it is the Android version we review here.

Design While this is to our mind one of the most interesting tablet designs ever, it’s still a device that is an acquired taste. once you’ve taken in

its space age looks and the light-on light-off keyboard, you’ll probably think, “what is it for?” Lenovo has decided to leave it open. It’s not for work or play; it can do both. Because the device has a hinge and open like a laptop to display a keyboard in landscape mode, we used it more often this way round than folding it back completely to use as a normal tablet. our Android review unit was Gunmetal Grey, though a champagne Gold version will also be available. If you prefer a Windows 10 setup, you’ll have to get one in carbon Black. The metal Yoga Book folds open at a hinge that wouldn’t look out of place on the arm of the Terminator to reveal a generous 10.1in screen. The bottom panel springs to life with what Lenovo calls a Halo keyboard, a touch-sensitive panel with a QWerTY keyboard lit up underneath. You have to see it to fully appreciate that there are few products on the market to invoke this level of initial disbelief, such is its sci-fi vibe. It’s a bold design choice and one that we have to congratulate Lenovo on before investigating whether it’s actually practical to use. one expects not, but that isn’t always the case with this beguiling machine.

The dimensions when closed are 256x170.8x9.6mm and it weighs just 690g. The Lenovo logo is subtle, and suggests the device be held like a book (as does the name Yoga Book, of course). Yet when you open it, the Lenovo naturally becomes a laptop. For comparison, a 9.7in Apple iPad Pro with the Smart Keyboard attached weighs 662g, so in essence, you won’t notice a difference between the two setups. The design of the Yoga Book stands out also in comparison to a device like the iPad Pro because it is a unibody design, with no need for the extra expense of a fiddly keyboard accessory. Having said that, the keyboard here does take some getting used to. The design is surprisingly featureless when closed, though this is how Lenovo achieved such a remarkably thin design. There’s a Micro-USB port for charging and data transfer, a mini HdMI port to hook up to displays, as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack. Aside from that, our version had a SIM slot for a 4G data SIM, a speaker grill on each top and bottom edge (when held vertically with the hinge on the left). That same top edge also has the power/lock button and a volume rocker. The two cameras are safely hidden when the device is closed

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REVIEWS – you open the unit completely  into tablet mode to use the then  rear‑facing lens. What we like so much about  the Yoga Book is that it not only  includes a full keyboard in a 2‑in‑1  design but that this keyboard area  doubles as a pressure sensitive  canvas for use with the included  ‘Real Pen’. At the touch of a button,  the lit keys dim to give a black slate  that you draw or write onto digitally  (see left), but there’s also a physical  paper pad that has a clever trick  up its sleeve. With the biro refill for  the Pen, you can draw directly onto  the included Book Pad thanks to a  conductive magnetic back, and the  Yoga Book digitally recreates and  stores your work onto the device. This will be preferable for some  people, because although the iPad  Pro lets you draw directly onto the  screen, some will miss the tactility of  using an actual pen. The Yoga Book  lets you write or draw as normal  but effectively creates an automatic  digital library of all your work with  the Note Saver app. Just be aware  that you can only use the included  Real Pen with the ink refills to do  this, so you won’t be getting out the  charcoals unfortunately. We’ll come on to how it works in  practice, but the first time you use  the pen it’s hard not to get excited.  It will bring out the purest love of  tech in you, such is its uniqueness  compared to anything else on the  market. It’s easiest to achieve what  you want from the note taking app  when using the biro and paper, as if  you use the digital pen you are not  drawing directly onto the screen  (like you would on iPad Pro) and the  image is replicated on the screen  opposite. The stylus, however, has  a sensor that relays a white circled  dot onto the screen when you hover  over the Create Pad, as a guide to  where the nib will land. The digitiser inside is supplied by  Wacom, the company famous for its  stylus and tablet technology. We won’t use the tired Marmite  cliché here; whether or not you want  to buy the Yoga Book is dependent  on your potential use for it. With  such a focus on the pen, if you write  or sketch and want a device that will  digitally store it all automatically for  you, bingo. Yet even more than the  iPad Pro, it’s a device that we fell for  simply because you just want to get  your hands on it and play.

The display is a 10.1in full HD IPS  with a resolution of 1920x1200. It is  a capacitive touchscreen, but this is  only for finger input when in tablet  mode or tapping icons in tandem  with keyboard use. The screen  displays the standard Android tablet  setup, with the taskbar housing the  three icons (menu, back and open  apps), as well as the currently open  apps on the bar. The Windows 10  version will obviously differ, but  we have not yet tested it. The screen is as responsive as  you’d expect from a high‑end tablet  in 2016, and it’s a good things, as  you’ll find yourself using it a lot.  Although the keyboard houses  a trackpad when turned on, it’s  a frustrating experience on the  Android platform. We would imagine  it’d be very useful on a full operating  system such as Windows, but on  Android it’s just easier, quicker and  more reliable to tap on screen. This  doesn’t detract from the day‑to‑day  use of the machine, thankfully. Screen brightness needed  to be high, particularly when  viewing darker colours, but editing  documents in Google Docs is  no problem. The display is also  excellent in tablet mode, with  good viewing angles and barely  a trace of pixellation.

Performance With 64GB of on‑board storage  and 4GB RAM, the Android Yoga  Book can take a surprising beating  when it comes to multitasking.  The processor is an Intel Atom  z5‑Z8550, which is quad‑core and  can run up to 2.4GHz. We think  Lenovo opted to include this lower  powered processor rather than 

the increasingly popular Core M  series to keep the price down. While we feel the Atom is  sufficient processing power for an  Android tablet, we suspect that the  Windows 10 version will struggle –  it uses the same one. Android on  tablet is in essence the smartphone  OS with some minor tweaks, but  an Atom processor will likely creak  under the load when running full  Windows 10. So be warned. We used the Yoga Book for two  weeks as a main device, installing  many personal and work‑focussed  apps, using it to write copy, read  the news, read Kindle books and  play about with the Real Pen  (disregarding our amateur drawing  abilities) to write extensive notes. When not trying to draw, our  attentions were on the keyboard.  When the keys light up on the  completely flat surface (see below)  you have a full‑size QWERTY with  function buttons and more besides.  There is, undoubtedly, a learning  curve here. It doesn’t feel like typing  on glass, such is the matt finish of  the surface and the zero feedback  from the material. You can have vibrating haptic  feedback at two levels of intensity  should you wish to emulate  keystrokes, but we found it easier  to get to grips with when it was  switched off. You’ll make mistakes,  and the Android autocorrect and  predictive mode are fiddly, but it is  a much more pleasant experience  to type on than we had expected.  It is no substitute for a laptop and  keyboard, but the Yoga Book isn’t  trying to replace one.  With a press of a virtual button,  the lights of the keyboard disappear 

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DVDRW. J Andrew Williams

Reviews

and the black Create Pad remains. This is the surface onto which you can draw directly with the digital Real Pen. There is no haptic feedback for this, but Lenovo claims the pen can detect 2048 levels of pressure. That’s more than enough for anyone but the most needy of digital illustrators. The stylus itself needs no batteries, and the digital pen nib can be removed to insert a biro for using with the Book Pad. The way the Yoga Book transitions physical notes straight into a digital file is great, and you can either watch them appear on the opposite screen as you write, with the device open like a book, or fold it the whole way round. If the latter, then it still records the notes, you have to press a button when you reach the end of a page to let the device know. It all works seamlessly once you know the score. There’s also a big battery on board. At 8500mAh, Lenovo claims 15 hours of standard usage with Wi-Fi, which we can confirm as accurate, though we feel its estimate of ‘over 70 days’ standby time is an huge over estimate. The Yoga Book easily lasted us two- to three days when using it, though bear in mind it wasn’t our sole device during that time. Unfortunately, we found that the device took forever to recharge even when connected to mains power, so it’s essential to charge overnight from our experience otherwise you’ll be sitting by a plug all day and the included cable is frustratingly short. For a device that you can use as a laptop, we expected the cable to be much longer. Our usual benchmark testing for the Lenovo was tricky as it is hard to compare it to other products. We went with the iPad Pro 9.7in and the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 because of their hybrid nature and the ability to use a stylus, like with the Yoga Book. But – and it is a big but – the specs

Geekbench 4

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GFXBench T-Rex

aren’t directly comparable. Lenovo has massively undercut the price of both of those products and, by running Android (on this version at least), using a lower-spec processor and, above all, not trying to ape those products either. Whether you are a casual illustrator or hardcore note taker with the need for an ultraportable device that won’t break the bank, then this hits the sweet spot.

Software The presence of Android Marshmallow 6.0 is a welcome one. We love that you can ping your way around in and out of apps with relatively little confusion, even on first use. The inclusion of a keyboard in the design opens up the touchscreen to be used

for tasks. The Android version ships with Google Docs, Sheets and Slides preinstalled, and it’s easy to hook up to other Google services from the Play Store. Its limitations are shown in the primitive multi window feature. You can minimise some apps, but only to one uniform size, so while you can have three apps on the screen at once they are very small. Some apps don’t support the feature either, but we didn’t mind hopping between apps in full-screen mode. Lenovo’s own software Note Saver, for use with the Real Pen and Book Pad, is primitive but allows you to easily view, edit and organise your digital note collection via a choice of pen effects and colours. We can see real potential for this to be a great way for writers to archive their notes. Paper refills are expensive but you can supply your own. You must use the bundled pen, though.

Verdict We love the Yoga Book. It isn’t pretending it can replace your laptop, so don’t expect it to. You won’t get all your work done on it, but we are surprised by how much we did managed to do. It’s an excellent addition into the consumer tech world. J Henry Burrell 24 www.pcadvisor.co.uk/reviews February 2017

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Reviews

ChRomebook

£199 inc VAT

Acer Chromebook 14

Contact n

acer.co.uk

Specifications

14in (1366x768) LCD; Google Chrome OS; 1.6GHz Intel Celeron N3060 SoC; Intel HD graphics; 2GB RAM; 16GB eMMC storage, 2GB RAM; 802.11ac, Bluetooth, HD webcam with wide area view; metal aluminium alloy chassis; 2x USB 3.0; HDMI; 3.5mm headphone; 340x236x17mm; 1.6kg

Build: Features: Value: Performance:

Large displays are an uncommon sight on Chromebooks. The majority of models tend to have an 11.6in screen, which makes them a good option for everyday use while keeping them portable. Acer knows this, as its very popular R11 proves (see our best Chromebooks chart on page 122). but those who desire a bit more real estate for their eyes could well be tempted by Acer’s new offering: the Chromebook 14.

Price Acer offers two variants of the Chromebook 14: the one we’re reviewing here costs an affordable £199, while upgrading to a full hD display, and doubling the RAm and storage, will take the price to £279. If you’re looking for a 14in screen in particular, then the only other real alternative is hP’s Chromebook 14, which can be picked up for around £220, or its business suited brethren the hP Chromebook 14 G4, which matches the high-end Acer’s appointments and can be ordered directly from hP for £307. If you don’t mind stepping down a little in size, then there’s a range of good options at the 13in level. one of the best devices around, if you can find one, is the Toshiba Chromebook 2, which usually goes for around £270, hP’s imminent

Chromebook 13 is a pricier option that does look very cool, while the Asus C300m can still be picked for around the £200 mark.

Design If truth be told, Chromebook designs can be a bit on the basic side. Unless you go for the gorgeous but hilariously priced Google Chromebook Pixel (£799), then you’re probably looking at a mainly plastic chassis with a sparse amount of ports and connections. This is fine, as Chromebooks are simple beasts and this is one of the things that makes them so appealing. It was a pleasant surprise then to take the Acer out of its box and find what looks like a brushed aluminium lid. Scanning through the specs reveals that the chassis is listed as all-metal, with Acer describing it as an aluminium alloy. The effect is a premium-looking device with gently rounded edges, and tapered sides that give the illusion of a wedge-shaped construction. Strangely, it doesn’t feel like one. The metal is smooth and smart, but does have an air of plastic about it. The solidity and cool to the touch aspect of our office macbook Air is missing from this device, which is no surprise as it costs about a quarter of the price of Apple’s laptop, so

that’s not really something to hold against it, and for the most part the Acer is a good-looking machine that seems a cut above many of its rivals. With dimensions of 340x236x17mm this Chromebook is reasonably compact and slim, with the 1.6kg weight making it something that wouldn’t kill your shoulders after a day of carrying it around in your backpack. The extra size of the body over its 11.6in rivals means there’s room for a large trackpad. We’re big fans of Chromebook trackpads in general, as their multi-touch support and smooth operation are always excellent, and this example doesn’t blot the copybook in any way. The keyboard is another area of strength across the Chromebook range, and while the Acer layout is the standard, spacious one we’ve grown to expect, the key response feels shallow at times, making it less precise than we’d like. It’s not bad, but it’s not up to the high standards we’ve seen in other systems. of course, the 14in display is this device’s big selling point, so it’s a shame that the panel itself is little underwhelming. Running at a resolution of 1366x768 is the norm on Chromebooks, but the larger display makes this lack of pixel density more telling.

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Text is slightly jagged around the edges, and in this age of HD smartphones and tablets this is less acceptable than it would have been only a year or two ago. That’s not to say it’s a deal-breaker by any means, and the aforementioned MacBook Air suffers from the same issue, but it’s worth mentioning. A far more annoying problem is the viewing angles afforded by the display. Those who have used budget PCs before will know that you often have to tilt the screen several times until you find the optimum setting that doesn’t wash out the colours or make the display too dark. This was a constant fiddle we had with the Chromebook 14, especially when watching video content online. Again, it’s not something that can’t be lived with, and once you do find the right angle for the display it’s bright, has reasonable colours, and the bigger size is definitely a bonus when looking at busy websites, social media or YouTube. Plus, the twin speakers under the chassis offer a decent amount of volume and tonal range. Naturally there’s a headphone socket on the side of the machine if you prefer to keep your audio personal, and this is accompanied by two USB 3.0 ports, a HDMI output, and a security lock. Oddly there’s no SD card reader, which is disappointing as it’s a standard port on many Chromebooks, even smaller models. Still, the 100GB of free Google Drive storage offered with the Acer will soften the blow, and make up for the 16GB of internal storage.

A HD webcam with a wide field of view is a nice touch, allowing groups of friends to get in the shot a bit easier, and on the whole it performs well for video calls using Google’s Hangouts app.

Performance Chromebooks are designed for general activities such as web browsing, social media and email, so if your demands fall into this camp, then this Acer will be a decent servant. The Intel Celeron 1.6GHz N3060 SoC may not be the fastest chip out there, but it handles basic computing well. Including 2GB of RAM, rather than the 4GB found in a number of other Chromebooks, feels like a mistake though, and contributes to periodic slowness on the device. Websites, even image heavy ones, load quickly,and videos stream without any hiccups, but if you start to multitask performance can become choppy. Navigating a website and clicking on links, for example, will produce a stutter in any video or audio running in the background. It’s not tragic, but it’s there and can get irksome if you like to do more than one thing at a time. Gaming is also a challenge for the system, and probably best avoided, although this is often true with Chromebooks. Running the Chromebook 14 through the standard benchmark tests gave us scores of 638.50 in SunSpider, 50.335 in JetStream, 101.09 in Basemark 3.0, 3679.9 in Kraken, and 8576 in Google’s Octane. This confirms our suspicions that the Acer is a decent performer, held back somewhat by the 2GB of RAM. With this in mind we’d strongly recommend moving up to the £279 version that comes with 4GB as standard. One area where the Acer excels is that of battery life. In our standard HD movie loop test, the device notched up an impressive 11 hours and 13 minutes, which is worthy of praise. It certainly means that the Acer would get you through a full working day without needing to hunt out a power socket.

Software Chromebooks run on Google’s Chrome OS, not Windows or Apple’s macOS, so there are a few things that you’ll need to adjust to if you head down this route. First, there are some applications that simply will not run on a Chromebook. iTunes is one, Adobe Photoshop is another, and of course no PC games will be making the journey over to this platform. For all of these though, there are working alternatives, such as Google Play Music, Spotify, a number of simple photo editors, and a wealth of other free apps that make Chromebooks a real, viable option for people who want a simple and reliable computer for general computing duties. Google’s office suite – Docs, Sheets, Slides, and others – offers a usable alternative to Microsoft’s Office, although you can still access the online version of the latter on a Chromebook. The announcement that Android apps will now run on Chrome OS opens up the possibilities even further, and we think the platform is in very good shape right now. In use, it is in essence a browser, just like Chrome on Windows, but with shortcuts and multitouch gestures that make navigating the basic OS a fluid experience. Viruses are not a concern, and if you were looking to buy a computer for a relative or child who isn’t particularly tech-minded, then we’d recommend Chromebooks as a great place to start. The real advantage is that if they move onto a new machine after a while all they have to do is log in with their Google ID and everything on will appear magically and be in exactly the same as it was on their previous device.

Verdict There’s a lot to like about the Acer, including it’s smart design, larger screen size and long battery life. These are offset by a few less than desirable components. The display is adequate at best, the keyboard is also average, and performance feels hampered by the low memory allocation. It’s a solid machine, but the compromises may be too much for some. Stretch to the £279 version if you can and we think you’ll be much happier. J Martyn Casserly

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Reviews

SmaRtphone

£719 inc VAT Contact n

apple.com/uk

Specifications

5.5in (1920x1080, 401ppi) IPS LCD with 3D Touch, 1300:1 contrast ratio (typical); A10 Fusion processor chip with 64bit architecture and M10 co-processor; 2x 12Mp rear-facing cameras, ƒ/1.8, optical image stabilisation and 4K video recording; 7Mp front-facing with, ƒ/2.2, 1080p video recording and burst mode; 32GB/128GB/256GB storage; 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.2; GPS; 4G LTE (up to 450Mb/s); Lightning connector; Touch ID fingerprint scanner; 77.9x158.2x7.3mm; 188g

Build: Features: Value: Performance:

Apple iPhone 7 Plus It might look almost the same as its predecessors, but iphone 7 plus has a range of updates that make it apple’s best handset to date.

Price Storage has doubled this year, although it’s the base storage that most people will benefit from. this is now 32GB, but the bad news is that it’s £100 more than 2015’s cheapest model, which was £619. You can buy the 7 plus for £719. If 32GB is too small for your needs, you’ll have to go for the 128GB model that costs £819. We can see few people paying a further £100 for 256GB, although this luxurious capacity means you can use those new cameras to your heart’s content without worrying about running out of space.

Design You may mourn the fact that the 7 plus still looks the same, but there’s no denying that this is a great-looking phone which is superbly built and feels great in the hand. If you’re used to smaller phones, the 7 plus can feel giant, especially when you put it in a case. It’s not a one-handed phone. You’ll also struggle to comfortably carry it in a trouser pocket. Whereas the iphone 7 fits easily, you’ll find that the 7 plus is better off in the inside pocket of a coat, or in a bag. the iphone 7 (pictured left) is on top to show the scale. We prefer the black models as the others have a white front that highlights the offset camera and light sensor. around the back, the 7 plus loses some of its antenna lines for a cleaner look. on the black models the lines that remain are almost invisible. again, our preference is the black model because it doesn’t show up fingerprints and is much more forgiving when it picks up minor

scratches and scuffs. the Jet Black finish looks amazing, but is hard to keep that way. Camera bump Breaking up this cleanerlooking back is the larger camera bump, which now packs in two lenses: one wide-angle and the other telephoto. this means there are two 12mp sensors and, like the LG G5, you can flip between the two in the camera app almost instantly. apple has also changed the selfie camera at the front from 5- to 7mp. Home button the home button is no longer a physical push button. It looks the same as before, but has no moving parts. Instead, you get haptic feedback from the new, larger taptic engine and it’s possible to set three different levels depending on whether you prefer a weaker or stronger feeling when the button ‘clicks’. It works exactly the same way it always has, though bear in mind that in ioS 10 you now have to press the button to unlock the phone: there’s no more swiping. Water resistance one reason for the change is that it’s one less place for water to get in: the 7 plus is now water-resistant, so you can immerse it up to 1m for up to 30 minutes. It’s worth pointing out that this applies only to fresh water and that you shouldn’t really use it for underwater photos and video in the sea or a swimming pool full of chemicals. It means that accidentally dropping your phone in the bath or spilling a glass of water over it shouldn’t harm it. Headphone jack the other major change is that there’s no headphone jack. Instead, the bundled headphones come with a Lightning connector, though if you prefer to use your existing headphones, there’s a Lightning-tominijack adaptor in the box as well. these are cheap to replace if you lose them, but it’s a shame that they’re white: the adaptor sticks out

like a sore thumb if you have a black phone and your headphones have a black wire and connector. overall, it’s a minor inconvenience that becomes a real annoyance when you want to use wired headphones and charge the phone at the same time. You can buy another adaptor which gives you two Lightning ports, but this makes things even uglier and costs around £40. Stereo speakers as with the iphone 7, the plus also gets stereo speakers. one is in the usual place on the bottom edge and the other is in the earpiece. It means the iphone finally has decent sound. It’s particularly good when watching videos, but it’s also a boon in some games that work in landscape mode (not all do, of course).

Display not a great deal has changed in the screen department. It’s still 5.5in diagonally, and still has a 1920x1080 resolution. It’s also still an IpS LCD panel, although apple has increased colour gamut. the difference isn’t massive, but it does mean that the 7 plus has one of the best full hD

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Reviews

Geekbench 4

day and a morning of the next before thinking about charging it.

Cameras

GFXBench Manhattan

GFXBench T-Rex

screens on any phone. It’s bright, too, at 625cd/m2, and anyone thinking that Apple should have upped the pixel count to 2560x1440 should know that few people can see the difference at normal viewing distances. 401ppi is plenty.

Performance The iPhone 6s Plus was a fast phone, but the 7 Plus is even quicker thanks to the new A10 Fusion processor. This is Apple’s first quad-core chip in an iPhone and works on a similar principle to many Android phones in that it has two power-sipping cores that are used for basic jobs and two high-performance cores (which aren’t as battery friendly) for the more demanding stuff such as certain games and editing 4K video. In general use, it’s hard to notice the extra speed because the 6s Plus never so much as stuttered during our year with it. However, benchmarks clearly show the significant improvement, and this will surely help in years to come as new versions of iOS become more demanding and apps really take advantage of the extra speed. Some games are already using the extra graphical power and, although the screen is small, it’s clear you’re getting almost console-quality lighting effects and detail on the 7 Plus. Apple says the new chip is 40 percent faster, but it depends which benchmark you use. In Geekbench 4 (multicore), the 7 Plus is just shy of the 40 percent, but in the JetStream

browser test, it’s actually closer to 50 percent quicker. And as you can see above, it’s a lot quicker than Google’s Pixel XL.

Battery Can you have better performance and better battery life without making a thicker phone? Well, it turns out that you can, especially if there’s a bit of extra room where the headphone jack used to be. The 7 Plus has a 2900mAh battery, up from 2750mAh in the 6s Plus (but down from 2915mAh in the 6 Plus – for those with longer memories). The iPhone’s own trusty calculator says this is 5.4 percent more capacity than the 6s Plus, so it’s not a great deal of difference. And yet, in our testing the 7 Plus lasted for a mighty 10 hours and eight minutes, showing that it’s relatively meaningless to compare phones and batteries simply on their stated capacity. We never had any complaints with our iPhone 6s Plus, but retesting it now (a year old) it lasted just over seven hours in the same Geekbench 4 battery test. It’s an unfair comparison, of course, but it certainly feels like the 7 Plus has better battery life. If you’re using it normally, you should easily get through a complete

The dual-cameras consist of one wide-angle 28mm equivalent lens (the same as on the iPhone 7) and one telephoto (56mm equivalent lens). When you switch to the latter it’s the same as a 2x optical zoom (28x2 = 56). There’s also digital zoom from 2x up to x10, but this is no different from cropping the image – you’re not getting any extra detail. What’s interesting is that you can drag the slider between 1x and 2x, imitating a real zoom lens and the result is a combination of optical and digital zoom. The new cameras remain at 12Mp, but have new sensors that now support the same wider colour gamut as the screen and new lenses with an f/1.8 aperture. There’s also optical image stabilisation for photos and videos. That’s not all: the True Tone flash now has four LEDs which produce 50 percent more light and have a larger reach. On the front of the 7 Plus is a 7Mp FaceTime HD camera, which includes wide colour capture and image stabilisation. Apple’s custom image processor, the cameras and screen are all calibrated to work with each other, so you see the truest possible colours on screen. Clearly, the telephoto lens is the big news here: you’re not going to notice much difference when comparing photos from the wide-angle one with those from the 6s Plus. That’s not a criticism, though. Both phones take excellent photos, and you definitely notice the benefit of the new f/1.8 lens in low light. Sure, you still need your subject to stay still to avoid blur, but when it does, you can capture some remarkably sharp and detailed images, such as this. The telephoto lens is also usable in low light, although it has a slower f/2.8 aperture. Where it excels is outdoors in good light, delivering sharp pictures. It’s also very handy for macro photos, allowing you to

Apple’s custom image processor, the cameras and screen are all calibrated to work with each other, so you see the truest possible colours on screen

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Reviews

get in even closer than you can with the wide-angle camera. And we thought that was good for close-up photography (see bottom image). Video specs are the same as for the iPhone 6s Plus, which means you’ve got a choice of 1080p at 30- or 60fps, or 4K at 30fps. It’s still a pain to switch modes because instead of having them in the camera app where they should be, they’re in the settings app. The good news is that you can flip between the cameras while recording video. And if you don’t like the jarring change when you tap the zoom button, you can instead press it and drag smoothly to 2x (or beyond if you want to use digital zoom). Video is great quality, as ever, and the optical stabilisation lends footage a more professional look. If you want better stabilisation, consider DJI’s Osmo Mobile. There’s also improvement at the front, with the 7Mp camera offering a little more detail than its 5Mp predecessor. And like before, you have the option of a flash: the screen momentarily overdrives to give a ‘True Tone’ flash and light you up. It’s best avoided if you can, though, just like any flash, but if light is limited, it does a good job of delivering relatively naturallooking skin tones.

Photo taken with the wide-angle lens

Software In this reviewer’s opinion, iOS is still the best mobile OS, and the latest version makes it even better. As well as the app updates that owners of older iPhones also get, the 7 Plus has a couple of extras. One is all the haptic feedback you get when using different controls, such as time and date selectors and even swiping to delete emails. You’ll also get that with an iPhone 7, but exclusive to the 7 Plus is the new Portrait photo mode in iOS 10.1. This will be released shortly (it’s currently in beta), and allow you to get DSLR-style blurred backgrounds when you take photos. It uses the two cameras to understand which objects are closer and which are farther away. It uses this information to create a ‘depth’ map, which it uses to decide what to blur and what to keep in focus. It’s intended for photos of people, and won’t take a picture unless your subject is far enough from the camera. The good thing is you see

Photo taken with the telephoto lens

the effect in real-time, so you’ll know before you press the shutter button if it’s going to look good or not.

Verdict The iPhone 7 Plus is an excellent phone. It’s Apple’s best yet, but it is also its most expensive yet, with a huge starting price. In some respects, the upgrades seem to justify this, but at the same time some features are arguably only catching up with what the competition has been offering for a

while now – water-resistance for one. Taken as a whole, the performance, battery life, camera quality and stereo speakers are all compelling reasons to upgrade. But our advice remains much the same as for the iPhone 7: if you already own the previous generation, there’s not enough here to justify ditching a 6s Plus, especially if you’re halfway through a two-year contract. Those just coming out of contract on the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus would do well to grab a 7 Plus. J Jim Martin February 2017 www.pcadvisor.co.uk/reviews 29

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Reviews

SmaRTphone

£369 inc VAT Contact n

motorola.co.uk

Specifications

5.5in, (1920x1080, 403ppi) super AMOLED display; Android 6.0 Marshmallow; Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor; 3GB RAM; 32GB storage; microSD card slot; fingerprint sensor; 802.11n dual band Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.1; A-GPS; NFC; USB-C; 3.5mm headphone jack; 16Mp rear camera; 5Mp front camera; 3510mAh nonremovable battery; 156.4x76.4x6.99mm; 165g

Build: Features: Value: Performance:

Motorola Moto Z Play The modular phone market is a small one, but Lenovo (motorola’s parent company) has a new and consumer-friendly system with moto mods. These accessories work with the firm’s moto Z phones and let you customise your handset.

Price The Z play is a mid-range phone that will set you back £369. It’s £130 cheaper than the flagship moto Z and the same price as the honor 8 and £40 more than the oneplus 3.

Design Unlike the moto Z, whose 5.2mm width has forced it to ditch the headphone jack, the Z play is 7mm thick, which means it has enough room for a 3.5mm socket next to its USB-C connector. This extra space also allows it to have a larger 3510mah battery – its sibling’s offering is 2600mah – though its also heavier at 165g, compared to the moto Z’s 138g. The phone still feels thin and well built, though its glass rear is a little slippery to hold. It shares some stylings with the cheaper moto G4 phones, such as the small square fingerprint scanner that sits below the screen (more on this later). We are, however, impressed with how luxurious the Z play looks and feels for the price. The circular camera and LeD flash arrangement protrudes a significant 2mm from the rear, but it’s flush once you pop on a moto Style Shell. a black nylon one is included in the box no matter which colour phone you choose. Shells also hide the ugly connector that’s used to communicate with other moto mods accessories. JBL SoundBoost Speaker

Whether a phone is waterproof is an increasingly sought-after feature and Lenovo lists the moto Z play as ‘water resistant’ thanks to a ‘nanocoating’ technology, but it’s not designed to be submerged in water.

Moto mods The range of moto mods on offer is the biggest reason to buy the moto Z play (or moto Z) compared to other android phones. The modular nature means you can easily add different functionality, depending on your needs. Lenovo’s modular system works differently to the LG G5’s and its removable chin. While that method has a certain wow factor, it’s fiddly and a bit awkward. In stark contrast, the moto mods simply snap onto the

back of the Z play with zero hassle using strong magnets to attach. While we’ve seen a distinct lack of new accessories (or ‘Friends’) for the LG G5, Lenovo has said the moto mods system will be supported for at least three years. That should mean new accessories, plus any mods you have will work with future phones when you upgrade. The connector has been opened up to third parties, and anyone can buy a moto mods developer kit and make their own accessories, so there should be plenty of options from well-known accessory brands soon. as it stands there are four different moto mods to choose from: the Incipio offGrid power pack (£59), JBL SoundBoost Speaker (£69), hasselblad True Zoom camera (£199) and the moto Insta-Share projector (£249). our review unit came with a JBL speaker (pictured left), which automatically diverts audio when attached. It adds an extra 118g, so it’s not something you’ll want to keep attached the whole time, but that’s the beauty of the magnetic system, and it’s no more than carrying around a separate Bluetooth speaker. There are no controls since you use the phone’s volume buttons, but it does add a handy kickstand. all in all, it’s a good

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Geekbench 4

next to the screen like the Z, it uses ultrasonics to detect your hand over the phone and will then show the time, date and notifications in monochrome. There’s no option to have the screen always on as with Samsung’s flagship phones. Processor and storage As you’d expect, the Moto Z Play doesn’t get the top-of-the-line Snapdragon 820 processor. Instead, it has the Snapdragon 625, a 2GHz octa-core chip. Graphics power is also a step down, the Adreno 506 instead of the 530 found in the Moto Z. There’s also 3GB of RAM rather than 4GB, and 32GB of storage. This can be expanded via microSD up to 2TB (although you can’t get a card that large yet). Benchmark results for the Play (see left) are respectable and match up to other phones using the Snapdragon 625. During our time with the Z Play, we found it zippy and responsive.

GFXBench Manhattan

GFXBench T-Rex

JetStream

value for money Mod if you want louder speakers.

Hardware Screen In many respects, it’s hard to tell the two Moto phones apart. They both have a 5.5in AMOLED screen, though the Z Play has a Full-HD (1920x1080) resolution rather than the Z’s Quad HD (2560x1440), and the same design on the rear to ensure Moto Mods fit. While the difference in resolution is understandable, the Z Play’s screen will be fine for the vast majority of users. It’s bright and

colourful, though those with a keener eye will notice the difference with those pixels spread across a larger space than most Full HD handsets. If you look closely, for example, you’ll see that the edge of icons appear fuzzy. You do need to look very closely though, so it’s not a big issue and we wouldn’t expect anything higher than Full HD at this price. One benefit of the technology is that it can light up certain pixels to show information without impacting on battery life. The firm has offered this for a while, and although the Z Play doesn’t have infrared sensors

Fingerprint scanner Below the screen is a fingerprint reader, which can be used with Android Pay, for unlocking the phone as well as signing into apps or websites that support it. It’s not a physical home button though, which is a shame as we constantly found ourselves trying to use it as one: the Z Play uses the standard on-screen Android buttons. The fingerprint scanner is a little small and awkward at times, but the rim around the edge helps your finger locate it and on the whole it works first time and quickly. You can also long-press it to lock the screen instead of using the power button on the side. In terms of other specifications you get a distinctly mid-range set, which includes 11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and NFC. Battery The Z Play has a huge 3510mAh battery, which Lenovo says will last you two days so you won’t have to charge it every night. The phone also uses the increasingly popular reversible USB Type-C port. As with other Moto phones, the TurboPower charger can quickly fill your battery – up to nine hours in 15 minutes (although the battery must be ‘substantially depleted’). We charged it for this length of February 2017 www.pcadvisor.co.uk/reviews 31

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Image taken with the 16Mp rear camera time and the battery charged from 12- up to 25 percent. Cameras While the Moto Z has a 13Mp main camera with OIS, the Play comes with a 16Mp snapper with slightly larger pixels (1.3- vs 1.12µm). However, the aperture isn’t as good at f/2.0 compared to f/1.8. Another downside is that it has electronic stabilisation only, though this also works when shooting video, which can be shot at up to 4K at 30fps. 1080p records at 30fps too, but you can increase framerate to 120fps by lowering the resolution to 720p. By default, the camera shoots in 16:9 and 11.9Mp, so you’ll have to switch it to 4:3 to get the full 16Mp. We’re impressed with the Z Play’s camera, which offers good quality images for the price point. Video is also nice and sharp, but we found some odd errors where the roof of St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel was pixellated, which isn’t good. Around the front is a 5Mp camera with a ‘wide-angle’ 85-degree lens that has an f/2.2 aperture. Selfie fans will also appreciate the Z Play’s front-facing flash, so you needn’t stop shooting once it’s dark. With the Moto Mods system, photographers may be tempted

by the Hasselblad True Zoom. This costs £199, but brings a 10x optical zoom to the party. The difference this makes is enormous: we’re all used to a phone’s fixed lens and the inherent limitations of digital zoom. The True Zoom has a 12Mp sensor and optical stabilisation. During testing, it worked seamlessly with the Z Play’s camera app. It has its own power button, which launches the app, and a dual-stage shutter button with a zoom lever in front. Just remember to switch it off before pulling it off the phone otherwise the lens remains sticking out. You can shoot both photos (in RAW and JPEG) and video, and the zoom – plus stabilisation – works in both modes, although it’s electronic rather than optical when shooting video. The main disappointment is that it only records video at 1080p at 30fps, not 4K or 60fps.

Software The Moto Z Play has an almost-stock Android interface with little tweaks and additions here and there. It comes preloaded with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, though an update to 7.0 Nougat is reportedly due before the end of the year. The Moto app is where you can enable the enhancements such as

the ‘chop, chop’ motion to switch the LED flashlight on and off; the double-twist to launch the camera app and the ‘approach’ gesture, which shows the time when you wave your hand over the screen. Others include being able to place the phone face down to put it in silent mode, and to stop ringing when you pick it up (it switches to vibrate rather than declining or accepting a phone call). There’s also a gesture to swipe up from the bottom of the screen to make the image smaller so it’s usable with one hand. You can find details of all the different gestures in the app itself, which is also where you can switch features on such as voice commands and a hands-free mode that reads out text messages.

Verdict The Moto Mods accessories are the main reason to buy the Moto Z Play, but it’s a decent mid-range phone regardless. For an affordable price Lenovo offers premium design, good specs and a well-rounded software experience. You only really need to splash out on the Moto Z for the Quad HD screen, Snapdragon 820 and OIS camera should you feel the need for those features, though it’s missing a headphone jack and has a smaller battery. J Chris Martin

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Reviews

SMARTPHONE

£475 inc VAT Contact 

uk.blackberry.com

Specifications

5.5in (2560x1440, 534ppi) AMOLED touchscreen; Android Marshmallow 6.0; Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad-core processor; Adreno 530 graphics; 4GB RAM; 32GB storage; 21Mp main camera, dual-LED flash, support for 4K videos at 30fps; 8Mp front-facing camera; 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac dual band Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.2; 4G LTE; Nano-SIM; GPS; NFC; 3000mAh non-removable battery; 153.9x75.4x7mm; 165g

Build: Features: Value: Performance:

BlackBerry DTEK60 When BlackBerry released the DTEK50, its second Android smartphone, in August 2016, it called it “the world’s most secure Android smartphone”. What, then, does that make this, the higher-specified DTEK60, the firm’s most premium smartphone to date? Pretty darn secure, as it happens. This handset is that and a surprising amount more, and proof that the company now outsourcing its hardware design isn’t all that bad. This is a flagship smartphone aimed, as ever, at the enterprise and business, but one we can recommend to you as a consumer also.

Design We should all accept this is a smartphone from BlackBerry Mk 2. While it still sells three smartphones with physical keyboards at the time of writing, the company is now moving to become better positioned in the Android market and away from its roots. This move started with the Priv, moved into full touchscreen with the DTEK50 and now arrives at this, the slick, business-like DTEK60. While BlackBerry might struggle with product names these days, the DTEK60 is an attractively designed smartphone. Because the firm has handed over design to its partner TCL, the phone bears an incredibly close resemblance to both the Alcatel Idol 4s and the Vodafone Smart Platinum 7. (The Chinese company also produces these phones.) It’s futile to be annoyed by this; it’s a solid, slim and uniform smartphone design that will appeal to many in its own understated way, with the familiar silver BlackBerry logo sitting beneath the hard see-through plastic back. Plastic it may be, but premium it remains. The phone is an ideal weight for an oft-unwieldy 5.5in screen size of smartphone, at 165g (for comparison, that’s 18g heavier than an iPhone 6s). The screen has thin bezels on the left and right sides,

but the slightly protruding silver edges of the device mean it isn’t hard to hold. The left edge has the power/lock button just above the SIM and microSD card tray, while the right side has the volume rocker and BlackBerry’s convenience key, which we will discuss later. Although not too large a phone to hold at 153.9x75.4x7mm, what makes it slippery is the shiny back. It feels like glass but is actually a hardened plastic, and we dropped the device once thanks to this, scratching it somewhat. You’ll probably want a case. The silver edging on the DTEK60 is attractive, broken only on the top for the headphone jack and the USB-C port and mic on the bottom. Also at the top and bottom are the excellently subtle front-facing speakers that also allow sound out from the back, stopping the chassis rattling at louder volumes. The camera bump on the rear protrudes just above a circular fingerprint sensor. This means the phone is a pleasing step up in build quality

It represents BlackBerry aspiring to produce a product that is as premium as its classic phones of old, while embracing a full touch, Android OS

compared to the plastic and rubber of the DTEK50. It represents BlackBerry aspiring to produce a product that is as premium as its classic phones of old, while embracing a full touch, Android operating system. Where the DTEK50 felt like an Android pretending to be a BlackBerry, the DTEK60’s high-end materials remind us of the glory days of the Bold and the Curve, while simultaneously being unmistakably Android.

Hardware Processor, memory and storage The DTEK60 improves on the DTEK50 in specifications as well as looks. It has Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 quad-core processor, the same one found in the US version of the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge and the OnePlus 3. It pairs that with 4GB RAM and an Adreno 30 GPU. It runs very smoothly, but is a touch slower than those two phones. Frustratingly, despite our best efforts, we could not run our usual Geekbench and GFXBench benchmark tests on the handset, presented as we were with error messages after many attempts. We can, however, confidently say that while this is a flagship phone with excellent performance, it isn’t as zippy in every day use when

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bottom front of the phone is more convenient. You might want to give it a go in store before you buy, but we found it to be accurate, unlocking first time most of the time. It is also important for the secure minded DTEK60 to have added this extra layer of security to the hardware. Like the recent DTEK50, there’s a so-called convenience key on the right edge of the phone that you can assign one specific task to, for example, open a new text message or the camera app. We still think it’s a tad odd to have such a feature given all of the options are a tap away, but you might find a use for it.

Photo taken with the 21Mp rear camera compared to the S7 edge, OnePlus 3 or iPhone 7. Sometimes with many apps open, the transitions slow down slightly between screens and app load times are longer. It’s not a major problem, but it is noticeable. On-board storage is set at 32GB, though the microSD card slot allows up to 256GB. This can be done relatively cheaply with the best microSD cards on the market. With that boost it’ll be more than enough to carry around your entire music collection on the integrated Google Play Music or another service such as Spotify. We welcome an Android BlackBerry with high-end specs; it feels long overdue in this form factor, although the Priv’s Snapdragon 808 processor when it was released in November 2015 was acceptably high end. It’s enough to satisfy the BlackBerry users among us who were resistant to the transition to an all-touch handset (we do love a good physical keyboard). Display The screen is a 5.5in scratch and smudge resistant quad HD AMOLED display. The smudge resistant part is actually accurate too; although this is a slippy phone, we

weren’t too put off by inevitable fingerprints when compared to other glass phones – but you’ll still notice them from time to time. The pixel density of the 2560x1440 resolution display is 534ppi. In real-world terms, it looks really good and only the pickiest of techies will have any complaints. As it is AMOLED, black colours display very nicely and actually use less battery power. Colours don’t stand out as vividly as on handsets such as the OnePlus 3 (which also has an AMOLED display), but the DTEK60 reproduces on-screen colours more accurately in this way. When we first started using the phone we felt like the screen was almost too sensitive. Often we would scroll through the app tray and accidentally select an app. Oddly, this didn’t happen much after the first two days and we had no complaints. Fingerprint scanner This is the first ever BlackBerry handset to feature a fingerprint scanner, which is welcome given it has been three years since the iPhone 5s popularised the feature. It’s on the back of the phone below the camera, where BlackBerry claims (as do other manufacturers) that your finger naturally falls when you pick up the device. This isn’t entirely accurate and it’s down to personal preference, but we still think having the sensor on the

Battery BlackBerry claims you’ll get 24 hours of mixed use from the 3000mAh non-removable battery. We can confidently say that this is an overestimate. What is welcome here is Quick Charge 3.0 fast charging with the included wall charger, a happy side effect of the USB-C port. It can charge the DTEK60 in just over an hour from very low battery and is very convenient. We used the phone constantly one day after taking it off charge at 12pm, using the camera, Google Maps, Trip Advisor and other GPS based apps while on holiday in Poland. The battery was dead by 1am, so it gave us a good 13 hours under heavy use. This will be adequate for most during a full working day, but obviously it is well below the claimed 24 hours. Cameras The rear camera of the DTEK60 boasts a 21Mp autofocus lens with f.2/0 aperture and a dual-LED flash. It can also record video at many different levels including 4K at up to 30fps. We used the camera extensively in Poland with some pleasing results (see above). Images are sharp and the lens copes well in low light, though the images produced from the Samsung Galaxy S7 are still best in class. The front-facing camera is a modest 8Mp, but it’s good to see an LED flash for those selfie-inclined, or if you want to shoot a Blair Witch Project-style monologue.

Software It’s not always the case that we have to concentrate so much on the software section of a review, but

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this is an exception. The DTEK60 ships with Android Marshmallow 6.0, with no clear indication as to if and when the update to Nougat 7.0 will be available. The decision here to provide a basically stock version of Android is welcome to us; unless you prefer the skins of the Samsung Galaxy or Sony Xperia series, we think you’ll enjoy it too. Much like the HTC 10 before it, the DTEK60 eschews its own photo gallery for Google Photos, and Google software is front and centre, from Gmail to the prompt to open Google Play Music when you plug in your headphones (you get in-ear ‘phones included in the box). There are small differences to the Android experience but they are changeable. For example, we found the text displayed to be small compared to other devices, but you can make it bigger (up to ‘Huge’ in fact), and the recent apps by default display in a confusing mosaic, but you can put it to the regular Rolodex mode in Settings. What we also like is the inclusion of BlackBerry Hub, an app carried over to this Android version from BlackBerry’s BB10 OS. It groups all your notifications in one place and is a portal to all those apps. It’s great to help you blast through email or different social posts, but we like the little touches like pinching the exhaustive list of notifications to just display the unread ones. Little tweaks like this help you get stuff done and are echoes of the productivity-minded BlackBerry handsets of the past 15 years. Indeed, there’s even an optional productivity tab, an (if on) everpresent thin grey tab on the right of the screen. Swipe it to the left, and it gives you your calendar, messages, tasks and contacts. It’s really useful, but we kept forgetting it was there. Another issue is that on certain web pages it covers text that reaches the edge of the page – if this happens though, you can change the transparency of the slim bar. It’s little touches like this that show BlackBerry has thought long and hard about both the consumer and the business user, and the balance it manages to strike is spot on. The BlackBerry Intelligent Keyboard is also part of the software, with various intelligent gestures to select predictive text, delete words, and more. However,

The DTEK60 copes well with shots taken in low light this is a port of the touch-sensitive physical keyboard of the BlackBerry Passport, and it simply works better on that phone. We prefer the also preinstalled Google Keyboard. Where the DTEK60 tries to differentiate itself is in the security of the device. Pleasingly, there is little for the user to do to implement these features. The Android software here has access to quicker security patching, with BlackBerry promising the latest security updates to your phone before anyone else, and at increased regularity. We received an update while using the phone, so this claim seems legitimate. It’s aimed more at the enterprise user, but BlackBerry also impressively offers securer options for file sharing (WatchDox), email and collaboration (Good Work) and VPN access on top of its encrypted BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service. BBM is a consumer service and the others are available to download individually, but their full power and use is intended for IT managers who wish to supply their employees with (BlackBerry hopes) a fleet of DTEK60s. But, whether a consumer or a business user, your DTEK60 establishes a hardware root of trust the first time you boot it up. This automatically adds security keys to the processor of your device that then track and verify its use to better encrypt your data.

BlackBerry doesn’t explain exactly how this happens in its marketing materials, but as a consumer this is undoubtedly the most secure Android phone you can get. The DTEK name is present in its own app as well, and is the most accessible way to take a broad view of your device’s security. You get to see a gauge of how secure your phone is, and the app prompts you on how to improve it, from adding a fingerprint unlock to editing the permissions of certain third party apps. It’s a bit fiddly at times and the learning curve could be steep, depending on your existing knowledge, but if security is important to you its one of the best apps out there.

Verdict For the first time in a while, this is a BlackBerry we can recommend to the individual consumer. It is also a business device, but the flexibility of Android means it is versatile enough to be moulded to the needs of both. It marries the Android OS with robust, easy to use security features and slick design, all for under £500. It doesn’t have the brand clout of an iPhone or the curved edges of a Samsung Galaxy, but with its admittedly straight-faced take on the modern smartphone BlackBerry has just – just – turned a corner. This is an excellent device. J Henry Burrell February 2017 www.pcadvisor.co.uk/reviews 35

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Reviews

SmaRTphone

£284 inc VAT Contact n

asus.com/uk

Specifications

5.5in full-HD (1920x1080, 401ppi) Super IPS+ display; Android 6.0 Marshmallow with Asus Zen UI; 2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor; Adreno 506 graphics; 4GB LPDDR3 RAM; 64GB storage with microSD support up to 2TB; dual-SIM dualstandby; 4G FDD-LTE 850/900/1800/1900/ 2100/2600MHz; 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.2; GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS; OTG; 16Mp Sony IMX298 rear camera with tri-LED flash, f/2.0 aperture, OIS (stills), EIS (video), TriTech AF, 4K video; 8Mp front camera; fingerprint scanner; USB-C; 3000mAh non-removable lithium-polymer battery; 152.59x77.38x7.69mm; 155g Build: Features: Value: Performance:

Asus ZenFone 3 The new ZenFone 3 family from asus has a number of members, with this standard version sitting beside the ZenFone 3 max, Laser, Ultra and Deluxe. It’s available with a 5.2- or 5.5in screen, 3- or 4GB of Ram and a 2650- or 3000mah battery. We tested the Ze552KL model with a 5.5in screen, 4GB of Ram, 64GB of storage and a 3000mah battery. It costs £284.05 ($361.69) from GearBest at the time of writing. While that’s quite a bit more than the ZenFone 2, asus now has its eye on a different market. and at this price the ZenFone 3 undercuts its similarly Snapdragon 625-powered rivals, the €429 (£384.50) huawei nova plus and the £369 moto Z play (see page 30). It does so without compromising on spec, making it a great-value alternative to either of those phones. Do keep in mind, though, that if you buy the ZenFone 3 through GearBest you may need to pay import duty upon its arrival to the UK (though it will still be cheaper than the nova plus and moto Z play). You should note that the Chinese version of the asus ZenFone 3 we have reviewed here does not support 80mhz 4G, meaning it won’t offer the faster connectivity on o2’s network and those that piggyback it, such as giffgaff. We understand the phone will be available in the UK in Q4 2016, however, which means a solution may soon be available, though possibly at a higher price.

Design If you’re a ZenFone 2 owner you won’t recognise the ZenFone 3. asus has flattened out and added 2.5D glass panels to the phone’s front and rear, resulting in a design not overly dissimilar to Samsung’s Galaxy line-up and one that feels very smooth in the hand. This mirror finish appears to radiate light from around the camera and fingerprint sensor in an eye-catching way, though it also makes the ZenFone 3 very slippery and a magnet for fingerprints. We found that on several occasions having left it sitting on top of its box the phone would slide off and thud on to our desk (thank heavens for Gorilla Glass 3).

It could have been sitting there days, and with no obvious nudges to the table it surprised us every time. This asus very much has a life of its own, though fortunately it doesn’t appear to consume much battery life in doing whatever it’s doing – standby runtime is very good. a sandblasted metal trim front and back adds to the ZenFone’s appeal, but while we like the coloured edges of the chassis it does look more plastic than metal.

The rear camera is one of the key selling points of the ZenFone 3, up from 13mp in the ZenFone 2 to 16mp here and accompanied by a tri-LeD flash. The front camera has also received an upgrade from 5- to 8mp. We like the 5.5in Super IpS+ display on the front of the ZenFone 3. It’s bright (up to 600 nits) and clear (with a full-hD resolution of 1920x1080, 401ppi), with rich colours and strong viewing angles. a bluelight filter is ideal for use at night,

The ZenFone 3 is comfortable to hold in a single hand, though it’s taller than we’d prefer with capacitive buttons sitting below the screen You’ll notice some obvious changes in the layout of the ZenFone. Where previously there were rear controls is a fast and responsive fingerprint scanner, while the power- and volume buttons now reside on the right edge. The rear speaker has also been moved beside a new USB-C port on the phone’s bottom edge, and though it’s still a mono model the ZenFone 3 now benefits from 192khz/24-bit hi-res audio, a five-magnet speaker construction, metal voice coil and an expansive sound chamber powered by Smart amp.

while it’s reassuring to know as we approach colder weather that the display also supports glove touch. We’ve seen slimmer bezels, but the 77.3 percent screen-to-body ratio could be worse. as it stands, the ZenFone 3 is comfortable to hold in a single hand, though it’s taller than we’d prefer with capacitive buttons sitting below the screen. and though we appreciate how their permanent labelling makes the phone easier to operate while you’re getting used to it, they do detract from the overall design when the display is on standby.

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Moto Mods On the whole, the ZenFone 3 is a good-looking phone, but many of the changes come under the hood. And here’s where it really impresses at this price point. Asus has upgraded the ZenFone 2’s Intel Atom Z3580 processor and PowerVR 6430 graphics to the Snapdragon 625 processor and Adreno 506 graphics used by the more expensive Huawei Nova Plus and Moto Z Play. We haven’t been able to properly benchmark the Moto Z Play, though as you can see in our graphs, the Asus trumped the Huawei in our performance benchmarks. The extra gig of RAM could be a factor here, since the model we reviewed came with 4GB of LPDDR3 RAM. This might be a mid-range phone, but performance is very decent. The ZenFone 3 is sufficiently capable for most daily tasks, and should satisfy all but the most demanding of users. The only thing that slows down use of the Asus is the sheer amount of bloatware you must wade through to find your way around. In order to measure general processing performance we use Geekbench 4 and AnTuTu, and the ZenFone 3 made light work of both benchmarks recording 4055 and 62,061 points respectively. For graphics benchmarking we turn to GFXBench, and the Asus’ 22fps in T-Rex and 10fps in Manhattan denote a phone that’s quite capable of playable framerates in most mobile games. JetStream is our final benchmark, a measure of web browsing JavaScript performance, and the ZenFone’s 30.6-point result is in line with the Nova Plus and other mid-range phones. Storage is a highlight for the ZenFone 3, and our review sample came with 64GB built-in and a microSD slot that can accept cards up to 2TB in capacity. Few users will struggle to manage this amount of storage, though a down side is that the Asus uses a hybrid SIM slot that forces you to choose between microSD support and dual-SIM functionality. The fact you get 100GB free Google Drive storage for two years goes a long way to compensate. In our experience battery life from the 3000mAh cell is good, particularly when the phone is on

standby. Depending on your usage you will get somewhere between a day or two of runtime. We also like the fact the battery supports accelerated charging over USB-C, which allows the Asus to charge from zero- to 100 percent in an hour and a half. It also claims a five-minute charge will net you an additional two hours of talk time.

Geekbench 4

GFXBench Manhattan

Connectivity The ZenFone 3 will appeal to UK users for its aforementioned dualSIM functionality, though we must make it clear that this particular version of the ZenFone 3 (the one sold via GearBest) will not support 4G on O2 or giffgaff because it doesn’t support the 800MHz band. For all other UK users this dualSIM functionality can be extremely useful if you have both personal and business mobile contracts but would rather carry just the one phone, or if you are going abroad and would like to use a local SIM to reduce costs. The ZenFone 3 is a dual-standby model, and we explain exactly what that means in our dual-SIM phone buying advice. Asus covers most connectivity bases, though notably lacking is NFC

GFXBench T-Rex

JetStream

– not a worry for now, though it may be a feature you wish to use in the future. There’s support for the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, GLONASS and OTG.

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continuous) autofocus, four-axis, four-stop optical image stabilisation, Deep Trench Isolation (which prevents light leakage between pixels), real-time HDR and 4K video recording at 30fps. You can also ramp up the resolution to 64Mp with a Super Resolution feature. In our tests, we found the ZenFone 3 was able to produce decent results in daylight settings with good detail and bright, natural colours, but it didn’t fare as well in low-light and edges are a little fuzzy when zoomed in to full size. You can see a couple of our test shots left, both with and without HDR on. The Asus is also fitted with an 8Mp selfie camera, up from 5Mp in the ZenFone 2.

Software The ZenFone 3 runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, but overlaid with its own ZenUI. It’s easy to use but feels very cluttered, with a lot of preinstalled bloatware (less than on the ZenFone 2 admittedly) and not a lot of free space. Even the dropdown notification bar is stuffed full of so many toggles it can be difficult to quickly find the one you need. As well as the normal mode of operation there are easy and kid’s modes, and you’ll find an assortment of extras crowding the Settings menu. ZenMotion offers a variety of customisable touch- and motion gestures, as well as One Hand Mode, which shrinks the display to a more manageable size. There are also Power management, Memory and Asus Customised settings menus, plus Themes, a separate menu for screenshot settings, and even two update offerings – system updates and ZenUI updates. There’s just a lot of stuff going on here.

Auto settings

Verdict HDR on

Cameras The ZenFone 3 is marketed as being built for photography, and Asus certainly seems to have put in a lot of effort on this front. Whereas previously the ZenFone 2 featured a 13Mp five-element Largan lens rear camera and an LED flash there is now a 16Mp six-element Largan lens with sapphire glass lens protection and a dual-LED real-tone flash.

This is what Asus terms a PixelMaster 3.0 camera. It sports an f/2.0 aperture, 1.12µm pixels, TriTech (laser-, phase detection- and

The ZenFone 3 is a good all-round mid-range phone with decent performance and some nice extras under £300, but also a fair amount of bloatware. It’s quite an update on the ZenFone 2, and definitely worth considering as an upgrade. J Marie Brewis

In our tests, we found the ZenFone 3 was able to produce decent results in daylight settings with good detail and bright, natural colours

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MulTI-funcTIon devIce

£129 inc VAT Contact n

ricoh-europe.com

Specifications

A4 mono multi-function laser printer with 600dpi resolution; 600dpi copier and 1200dpi colour scanner; 50-sheet A4 paper tray; 350x275x137mm; 7.5kg

Ricoh SP 150SUw Ricoh tends to focus on the business market these days, producing high performance laser printers for office use. However, its new SP 150 range is a little more modest, and is aimed at home or small business users who simply need a fast, high-quality laser printer for monochrome documents.

Price There are several models in the range, starting at just £74 for a single-function uSB printer, but we reviewed the multifunction SP 150Suw (£129), which also includes scanner and copier features as well as wireless connectivity. Since it’s quite a new model, toner cartridges aren’t all that common yet, which means prices are relatively high – see below for more.

Design

Build: Features: Value: Performance:

The SP 150Suw makes a good first impression, despite Ricoh’s relative lack of experience in the consumer market. It’s very compact, measuring just 350mm wide, 275mm deep and 137mm high, so it’ll fit easily onto a desk or shelf without taking up too much space. The 50-sheet paper input tray is fairly small, but should be fine for home use or a small office. The only minor drawback here is that it doesn’t have an output tray – it simply spits your pages out through a slot in the front of the printer, which means that you’ll still need an extra bit of desk or shelf space to stop the paper landing on the floor. Installation is straightforward, as the single black toner cartridge is already in place inside the printer, and there are drivers supplied on a

disc for Windows, macoS and linux. Ricoh also includes a handy control Panel app that provides quick and easy access to the main settings for printing, copying and scanning, and there are apps for Android and ioS devices available as well.

Performance Print quality is very good – as you’d expect from a laser printer – with its 600dpi resolution producing smooth, finely detailed text. But it’s the speed of the SP 150Suw that gives it an edge over an ordinary inkjet printer. In our tests with a number of Word and Pdf documents, the SP 150Suw quietly and quickly turned out 20 pages per minute (ppm) – only slightly below Ricoh’s quoted speed of 22ppm. That’s well beyond the speed of most inkjet printers in this price range, so the SP 150Suw will earn its keep if you regularly need to print text documents. The printing and copier functions are black-andwhite only, but the 1200dpi scanner can scan in colour, so you do have the option of scanning photos and other colour documents that you can email to other people, or edit on your Pc or Mac.

Running costs The only snag is Ricoh’s crazy pricing for toner. The SP 150Suw comes with a standard-size toner

cartridge that should last for around 700 pages, and the firm points out that its cartridges don’t require a separate drum mechanism that needs to be replaced every few years (as is the case with some laser printers). Replacements are priced at £65.16 for the standard-capacity toner, or £91.39 for a high-yield cartridge that provides 1500 pages. Those prices work out at an exorbitant 9.3p per page for the standard cartridge and 6p for the high-yield cartridge. The good news is that you can find the cartridges at lower prices online if you hunt around – about £35 and £50 respectively – which brings prices down to a more affordable 5p and 3.3p, but it’s only that latter option with the high-yield cartridges that makes the running costs low enough to recommend.

Verdict The SP 150Suw is a neatly designed compact multi-function laser printer that provides very good performance and quality for homes or small offices that require straightforward black and white printing. The initial purchase price is certainly competitive for such a fast printer, but toner is expensive if you pay Ricoh’s recommended prices. fortunately, you can find discounts on the high-yield cartridges if you look around online. J Cliff Joseph

The 1200dpi scanner can scan in colour, so you have the option of scanning photos and other colour documents that you can email to others 40 www.pcadvisor.co.uk/reviews February 2017

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Reviews

MulTI-funcTIon devIce

£150 inc VAT

HP LaserJet Pro MFP M130nw

Contact n

hp.com/uk

Specifications

A4 mono multi-function laser printer with 600dpi resolution; 600dpi colour scanner; 150-sheet A4 paper input tray; 100-sheet output tray; USB; Ethernet; Wi-Fi; 383x260x230mm; 7.6kg

Build: Features: Value: Performance:

HP’s laserJet Pro range has traditionally tended to focus on the corporate market, offering high-speed workgroup printers for larger businesses. However, its new M130 range represents a slight change in direction, being aimed at individuals or small offices with up to five people sharing the printer.

Price There are several models in the line-up, all based around the same 600x600dpi mono laser printer. Prices start at £130 for the entry-level M130a, although that model provides only simple uSB connectivity. We preferred the midrange M130nw instead, which costs a still competitive £150 and adds both Wi-fi and ethernet for wired connections, as well as AirPrint support for Apple’s ioS devices, and Google Print and HP’s own ePrint for non-Apple devices. If you want to cover as many options as possible then there’s the top-of-the-range M130fw, which steps up to £230 and also includes a fax machine, automatic document feeder and 2.7in touch-screen control panel. The only real omission here is that the M130 models all offer manual duplexing for two-sided printing.

Design Installation is very straightforward, as the toner cartridge and separate

drum unit are already inserted into the printer. The installer program provided on disc automatically detects your Wi-fi network and gives you the option of joining an existing network, creating a direct Wi-fi link between the printer and your computer, or simply opting for wired uSB or ethernet connections. It’s not the most elegant printer we’ve come across, but it is relatively compact for a multi-function laser printer, measuring just 398mm wide, 482mm high and 388mm deep. The 150-sheet input tray in the base of the printer projects another 105mm out in front of the printer, as does the 100-sheet output tray just below the flatbed scanner, but the M130nw will still fit comfortably on a desk.

Performance Print quality is extremely good, producing the smooth, detailed text that you’d expect from a laser printer. It’s fast too, turning out 20 pages per minute (ppm) in our printing tests – almost matching HP’s quoted 22ppm – although the paper feed mechanism can be a bit noisy when the printer is going at full tilt. Graphics output is, of course, limited to mono, but the 600dpi colour scanner will allow you to import photos and other colour documents if required, and there’s ocR software provided for scanning text documents, too.

Running costs our only minor complaint is that running costs proved a little higher than we might have liked. The M130nw includes a ‘starter’ cartridge with enough toner for 700 pages, although HP’s replacement cartridges cost £56.40 with a higher yield of 1600 pages. That works out at 3.5p per page, which is at the high end of average, but not too bad. However, the M130 printers are old-school lasers that use a separate drum mechanism to fuse the toner powder onto the paper. This costs another £61.20, although HP says that the drum should last for around 12,000 pages, but that still adds another 0.5p per page to the overall running costs. But, to be fair, the M130nw is so new that the drum and toner cartridges aren’t widely available from third-party retailers as yet, so those prices will hopefully come down a little in the future.

Verdict The M130nw will be a good option for any small office that needs a fast, mono multi-function printer that you can share. Print quality and speed are both superior to comparably-priced inkjet printers, and the only caveat is that you should shop around to see if you can save some money on the replacement toner and drum cartridges. J Cliff Joseph

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Reviews

Dash Cam

£129 inc VAT Contact n

nextbase.co.uk

Specifications

3in display; 140-degree wide-angle lens; GPS Logging; 32GB SD card; 4.3 hours recording time; 109x56x37mm Accessories: car charger; suction mount, adhesive mount; mini-USB cable

Build: Features: Value: Performance:

Nextbase 412GW

For video clips, go to tinyurl.com/h6e8kh9

Nextbase’s 512G is a great dashcam, but the new 412GW has a higher resolution (2560x1400) and a couple of features that make it a better buy.

Design The 412GW looks a lot like the 312GW, and has the same magnetic ‘click-and-go’ mount. It means you can quickly remove the dash cam from its mount without having to unplug any cables. The magnet is quite strong, so you have to hold the mount to prevent the ball joint moving around as you pull the camera backwards. One change is that the buttons are now touch-sensitive. Despite our reservations about this, they work pretty well and LEDs light up when you touch them to help you know where to press. In the box you get two mounts, one suction cup and one adhesive. The latter proved the best as it meant the dash cam could sit higher on the windscreen, and there were no worries of this falling off. You can use the bundled power cable to attach it to your car’s accessory socket, but as our Ford Focus doesn’t cut power to this when you turn off the ignition, we installed the Nextbase hardwire kit. This costs £14.95 and includes adaptors to attach directly to the fuse box in most cars. as with all Nextbase dash cams, all the options are preset to optimal settings, and the time and date are found automatically via GPs. You can choose whether you want video clips to be two-, three- or five minutes long and you can lower the resolution if for some reason you don’t want to record at the highest 2560x1440 pixels. There’s a parking mode (which won’t work if

Daytime image

the camera doesn’t have power with the ignition off), and the expected file-lock feature which write-protects a video recording on the microsD card if there’s a significant impact. No sD card is included, so budget for a decent quality one. Cards up to 32GB are supported, which is enough for four hours of recording at the top quality.

Performance We were impressed with the quality of videos in various conditions. although it doesn’t record video at 60 frames per second (fps) at the full 2560x1440, you can lower the resolution to 1920x1080 where you can select 60fps. Overall the 412GW captures lots of detail and you should have no trouble reading number plates in daylight. The image is very sharp. But one thing it doesn’t benefit from is the 512G’s circular polariser, which cuts down on reflections from the windscreen. The latest firmware update adds the ability to change exposure compensation, so if you find that the image is too dark or bright, you can

manually adjust it with this setting. at night, the hDR mode helps to retain some shadow detail and overall, this is one of the better dash cams for night-time recording. One area yet to be improved is downloading videos via Wi-Fi. as with the 312GW, it’s painfully slow to copy even a single clip from the camera to a smartphone. It’s much more convenient to remove the camera and connect it to your laptop or PC to transfer the files. It is possible to review the footage on the camera itself using the 3in screen, and with its small battery, the 412GW can be removed and used to take photos outside the car if you need to record any extra evidence after a collision.

Verdict The Nextbase 412GW is an excellent dash cam that’s easy to install and will capture great-quality video evidence should you ever need it. It doesn’t have all the frills you’ll find on some dash cams, such as speed camera warnings, but it does its job well. J Jim Martin

Night-time image

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SecuRity cameRa

£129 inc VAT Contact n

humaxdigital.com/uk

Specifications

IP Camera Colour; 100-degree field of view; 1280x720 resolution; H.264 (MPEG4); up to 8m night vision; Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/ n;Bluetooth 4.1; 52x52x28mm (camera only); 52x70x57mm; 96g

Humax Eye the eye is Humax’s first foray into home security, being best known for its Freeview and Freesat set-top boxes. So it seems a wise decision that it has teamed up with y-cam for the eye. y-cam fans will immediately recognise the eye – in essence, it’s a black, rebranded version of the firm’s evo, which is no bad thing.

and note that it doesn’t support 5GHz. that’s not likely to be a problem, though. this is purely a camera for indoor monitoring, and while you can point it out of a window, this will work only during daylight as at night the infrared LeDs will reflect off the glass and prevent you from seeing anything.

Price

Apps

the Humax eye costs the same as the y-cam evo at £129. you can buy cheaper Wi-Fi cameras, but none are as good as this. and, unlike the (more expensive) Nest cam, there are no subscription fees to pay. Once you’ve bought the eye, you get free seven-day rolling cloud storage for clip recordings. clip is the operative word here as unlike the Nest cam, the eye doesn’t record continuously. it only records when motion is detected, so if it misses something, then you won’t see it either.

Rather than design its own app, Humax relies on y-cam’s app, so you’ll need to download that (or go to the y-cam Homemonitor website, y-cam.com) to sign up for a free account before setting up the camera. the interesting part is that you can launch the Humax eye app on Humax’s PVR-4000t Freeview box, or its new H3 media streamer. Logging into your y-cam account with the on-screen keyboard is fiddly, but you can tick the box to stay logged in. the screen (see below) shows a snapshot from each of your cameras, and it isn’t just the Humax eye that’s supported: all of y-cam’s Homemonitor range will show up if you have any. at the bottom you’ll see a timeline and you can select any day from the last week to view a list of recordings. you can filter by camera and watch recordings full screen. Really, there are no advantages or disadvantages of opting for the Humax eye over the y-cam evo, unless you want a black camera.

Design

Build: Features: Value: Performance:

the eye is quick to set up on your iOS or android phone thanks to Bluetooth, and the small dimensions – 52x52x28mm for the camera only – means it won’t be too noticeable wherever you place it. it requires a power supply, so you’ll have to mount it reasonably close to a socket, although the uSB power lead is nice and long. the camera will also needs to be within Wi-Fi range of your router,

Both work with the Humax eye app, as well as the y-cam mobile app. the only criticism of the camera concerns motion detection. First, you can choose only two rectangular areas for motion detection and we’d still like to see this changed to a Nest-style setup where you can draw any shape. Secondly, unlike some other systems, which can detect whether it’s a person, animal or vehicle, the eye will notify you of any movement, and all you can do is to change the sensitivity. this means you’ll need to exclude any areas with leafy bushes or trees which could move around in the wind.

Verdict the Humax eye is an excellent home security camera for indoor monitoring. J Jim Martin

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Reviews

Games console

£349 inc VAT Contact n

sony.co.uk

Specifications

x86-64 AMD Jaguar octa-core processor; 4.2TFlops, AMD Radeon based graphics engine; 8GB RAM GDDR5; 1TB storage; optical drive; 3x USB 3.1 Gen.1; Ethernet; Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac; Bluetooth 4.0; HDMI; digital out; 327x295x55mm; 3.3kg

Build: Features: Value: Performance:

Sony PlayStation 4 Pro after months of rumours and gameplay clips from developers, sony’s high-end Ps4 Pro is finally here. With its enhanced graphics, native 4K gameplay and support for the Playstation VR (read our review on page 46), it’s noticeably better than the standard Ps4.

Design With that improved performance comes a new design. sony has stepped away from the angular shape of the launch model and, as with the new slimline Ps4, opted for curved edges that give the Pro a much more elegant look. It’s 20mm wider than the original version, measuring in at 327x295x55mm, compared to 305x275x53mm, but isn’t much taller, despite featuring the extra ‘slice’ on the Ps4 Pro sandwich. The Pro is heavier too, weighing in at a rather hefty 3.3kg. It’s not all about the big changes, though. as well as overhauling the overall design, sony has made a few smaller tweaks. one such improvement is the use of the Playstation symbols (square, circle, cross and Triangle) as feet on the bottom of the console. The eject button is a physical button too, rather than a touch-sensitive one, negating any accidental disc ejection issues. While these aren’t ground-breaking changes, they are great examples of sony’s attention to detail when it designed this console. Ports The Pro’s complement of connectors is almost identical to that of the standard Ps4, apart from one extra UsB 3.0 port on the rear. This should come in handy for those looking to buy a Playstation VR headset, which requires a UsB port to be used. For audiophiles and home cinema enthusiasts, the Ps4 Pro has an optical audio output. note, this option isn’t available on the new slimline Ps4. The HDmI port has also been upgraded from HDmI 1.4 to version 2.0 to allow for a 4K output. DualShock 4 controller along with the new Ps4 comes a new Dualshock 4 controller. Unlike with the console, however,

its redesign isn’t at all dramatic: in fact, the only difference is the addition of a mini lightbar along the top of the touch-sensitive panel. many Ps4 games use this as a way of indicating what is happening in-game. The lights flash blue and red when a player is chased by police in Grand Theft auto 5, for example, while other games use the red light to signify being wounded or killed. on the original Ps4 controller, the lightbar faces away from the controller, so many gamers missed these prompts. The new mini lightbar is positioned towards players, allowing them to see any change in colour at a glance.

Hardware The Playstation 4 Pro has the same amD Jaguar x86-64 octa-core cPU as the original Ps4, with the Pro seeing a 30 percent boost in clock speed, going from 1.6- to 2.1GHz. However, that’s a minor upgrade when compared to the GPU – the power has been doubled, while the clock speed has also been upped from 800- to 911mHz. overall, the GPU has leapt from 1.84- to 4.2TFlop when compared to the launch console. There’s also an additional 1GB of DDR3 Ram that can only be used by non-gaming apps, allowing the faster GDDR5 Ram to be used exclusively for gaming performance. storage has been increased too, with 1TB now on offer. It’s still, however, a traditional hard disk drive

and not a solid-state drive, though it’s simple to swap it out if you require the extra speed. along with 4K output, the Ps4 Pro offers HDR capabilities, but only for TVs that support it. note, sony has rolled this out to all models via a software update, and isn’t a feature specific to this console. Gameplay Before we go into any more detail about the graphical power of the console, we should point out that not all of the 700+ Ps4 titles will be able to take advantage of its graphical power right away. It’s down to game developers on whether to add high-quality textures, a higher resolution or a better framerate, so until they release an update offering Pro support, the games will look exactly same as if they were running on a standard Ps4. at the time of writing there are 30 supported games available, with the list set to grow to 45 by the end of the year. Purely in the name of testing, we spent some time playing the Pro-supported game call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and it looked stunning. The resolution has been boosted and textures look much crisper, especially when viewed on a 4K TV. The difference between the capabilities of the launch Ps4 and the Pro is immediately obvious. The framerate is a lot smoother on the Pro console, and although this occasionally dropped, it

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wasn’t anywhere near as dramatic  as it is on other consoles. In fact, it’s  not just obvious within the game –  the 4K resolution stretches to the  PlayStation home screen, providing  crisp text and game icons and an  overall cleaner look. Not all the supported games have  been upped to 4K, though. Other  developers have decided to use the  extra power in other ways. Take  InFAMOUS: First Light, for example.  Here, the PS4 Pro ups the rendering  resolution from 1080- to 1800p and  improves the anti-aliasing (which  helps smooth out jagged edges). The  result is a game that looks much  more lifelike, with smoother edges  and improved graphics. Some games even offer you a  choice. Rise of the Tomb Raider is a  good example of this. Yes, you can  play in 4K at 30fps, but you’re also  able to play in 1080p at 30fps with  high detail, or at 1080p at 60fps.    4K media playback Games aren’t the only feature  of the PS4 Pro to get some 4K  attention. Apps such as Netflix and  YouTube also offer 4K playback,  although the former requires a more  expensive subscription to access  its 4K content. Unfortunately if you  have a collection of Blu-ray UHDs  you want to watch you’re out of  luck. Unlike Microsoft’s Xbox One  S, Sony’s high-end console doesn’t  feature a Blu-ray UHD player. The firm claims this is because  it saw a trend in streaming versus  physical disc sales, which we  largely agree with, though it also  means that for those that do have  a Blu-ray UHD collection, the PS4  Pro isn’t the perfect device. PlayStation VR In addition to improving PS4 games,  the Pro also enhances PlayStation  VR titles. While the resolution can’t  be upped as it can with standard  PS4 games, developers can provide  higher textures, better lighting and  more, to make PSVR experiences  more immersive. We’ve tested a PlayStation VR  that’s been powered by a PS4 Pro  and were impressed with the results:  edges looked less jagged, text was  clearer and everything appeared a  little more real. So real in fact, that  at one point during a VR experience  we leant on a virtual table and  almost fell off our chair.

However, much like with the rest  of the 700+ PS4 titles, PSVR games  aren’t automatically enhanced.  Developers must offer Pro support  before the graphics are improved.  At the time of writing that’s only  a handful of games, but you  can definitely tell the difference  between the ones that feature  it, and those that don’t.

Verdict PC gaming has always been  considered the top option for those  looking for the best gameplay  experience possible (see our  round-up of the best  gaming PCs on page 52),  and that remains true.  But for the cost of a  mid-range gaming PC,  you get high-quality textures,  4K output and a generally highend gaming experience. While the 

roster of Pro-supported PS4 games  isn’t huge at the moment, the list  is growing and the potential that  the new console offers developers  is hard to say no to. While the 4K  output is the headline feature of the  console, those with regular HDTVs  also see the benefits in-game, and  it’s a similar story with PlayStation  VR users. For us, the PS4 Pro is a  winner, and is hands-down the best  console you can currently get your  hands on – even without a Blu-ray  UHD player. J Lewis Painter

The above screens are from Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

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Reviews

VR HEADSET

£349 inc VAT

Sony PlayStation 4 VR

Contact 

PlayStation 4 VR headset with a PS4 camera and two Move batons

sony.co.uk

Specifications

5.7in 1080p OLED display; 960x1080 per eye; 100-degree field of view; 18ms response time; 120Hz refresh rate; Tracks movement via PlayStation Camera; DualShock 4 controller; PlayStation Move controller compatible; 277x187x185mm; 610g Sony’s PlayStation VR headset has been a talking point ever since it was first revealed in 2014, offering the ability to provide a great VR experience without the need for a high-end PC. Designed to be compatible with the firm’s PlayStation 4 console, it’s set to add a whole new dimension to gaming.

Design

Build: Features: Value: Performance:

The livery is white with black accents, and there are blue lights that track the headset in conjunction with built-in sensors. It’s bulky, so before trying on the device for the first time, we assumed it would be heavy. We were, however, mistaken. It’s not as sleek and sexy as the £549 Oculus Rift, for example, but it’s light and comfortable to wear. After spending a pleasant afternoon using the device, we didn’t experience any irritation around the edges of the headset where it came into contact with our skin. The PlayStation VR feels solid to wear and lets you adjust the distance between the display and the headband. This means the headset won’t be fastened too tightly to your face, helping to alleviate sweatiness and skin irritation over time – two common issues in VR. It may not seem like a huge point to make, but it shows that Sony has considered every element of use when designing its headset. It also means that those who wear glasses can comfortably use the device. It’s worth pointing out that when we first tried on the headset, it took us around five minutes to properly align the headband and display. However, after a few sessions we

soon got the knack of it and were ready to go in next to no time. Light leakage isn’t an issue either, as the headset has several soft rubber flaps around the edges that mould to the shape of your face when wearing the headset. This ingenious design feature stops light shining into the headset without making it uncomfortable to wear. Like many other VR headsets on the market, the PlayStation VR is wired and must be plugged into a PlayStation 4. We found the cable long enough for us to sit comfortably far away from the console, and as many games have been designed to be played sitting down, it’s not an issue. The cable has headset controls, much like the in-line media controls found on many smartphone headphones, offering a headphone jack for your headphones along with volume controls and a power button.

Hardware The PlayStation VR offers some pretty impressive specs for a £349 headset. It has a 5.7in 1920x1080 full-HD OLED display, equating to 1080x960 per eye. While it’s not as high as the £689 HTC Vive’s 2160x1200 (1080x1200 per eye) resolution, it still provides an immersive VR experience. The display is coupled with a 100-degree field of view and an 18ms response time provides users with an experience indistinguishable from real life. Sony’s virtual reality headset also has a 120Hz refresh rate, which means it has the potential to render games at 120fps. A common problem among VR headsets is what’s called the

screen-door effect. This refers to the gap between individual pixels that appear when looking closely at a display. The gaps cause an effect that looks like the mesh used in screen doors, and can hinder the ability to read text, among other things, in VR. When using the PlayStation VR, the screen-door effect was hardly noticeable – even when trying to focus on the individual pixels on the display, it was hard to pick them out. This is due to Sony using an RGB display that offers three RGB subpixels per pixel, rather than the Vive and Rift, which make do with two subpixels. It may not seem like much, but it enhanced our overall experience of the VR headset. Our PlayStation 4 games console was able to track movement thanks to the headset’s built-in accelerometers and LED side lights. These were detected by a PS4 camera (£39), which Sony claims tracks the headset up to 1,000 times per second, though this is only when it can see you. The design of the headset allows users to turn their heads 360 degrees in-game, allowing gamers to look behind them when inevitably being chased by a weapon-wielding enemy. This is thanks to sensors on the back of the headset, which let the system know when you’re looking behind you. Along with the PlayStation VR headset, gamers can buy Move batons (£60 for a pack of two). These are repurposed versions of those available for the PS3. Their tracking isn’t 1:1 though, which causes the controllers to occasionally jump around in-game

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London Heist when the camera loses tracking. Due to the PlayStation Camera’s relatively narrow field of view, it’s possible that certain elements within the VR experience will be beyond your reach. This happened to us while playing London Heist – we tried to reach for a drawer, but the light at the end of the baton was just outside the camera’s field of view and as such, couldn’t be tracked. This meant that no matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t open the drawer. While the Move batons can sometimes be a little fiddly and awkward to use, we still feel they are an integral part of the PlayStation VR experience. Yes, using a DualShock 4 controller to interact with the virtual world is okay, but it’s not as immersive as reaching out and interacting with the virtual environment, even if the hands do jitter around every now and again.

Performance We’ve spent more time than we care to admit playing a variety of games on PlayStation VR. However, before examining its performance we’ll take a look at the differences between the PS4 and the PS4 Pro. Sony’s standard console provides users with a decent VR experience. During testing, the textures were detailed enough for it to be believable, the framerate didn’t drop beneath 60fps and we didn’t encounter any visible lag or screen tearing. That’s impressive when you consider it’s powered by a console that was first released in 2013. Yes,

the 3D models are occasionally pixellated and when inspecting the environment up-close you may find it isn’t as clearly defined as you thought, but it’s still a decent option. However, when we ran a PS4 Pro-supported VR game such as PlayStation Worlds (of which London Heist is a mini game) on Sony’s supercharged console, the headset comes into its own. As its resolution can’t be increased, developers can put the extra graphical power into higher quality textures, better lighting and other features that make the experience more immersive. The difference between the two consoles is immediately noticeable; models are rarely pixellated, textures look real enough to touch and the experience is much more enjoyable. It’s amazing to see the little details produced by the PS4 Pro’s extra power. Of course, the quality varies from game to game, but the potential for amazing VR experiences is possible. When you consider that the HTC Vive costs the same as the PlayStation VR headset and PlayStation 4 Pro console combined, Sony has achieved something remarkable. While we played a variety of PlayStation VR games, including Farpoint, Robinson: The Journey and Battlezone, here’s our favourite. The London Heist The London Heist is a minigame and part of PlayStation VR Worlds. At one point in the experience, we found ourselves

in the passenger seat of a white transit van next to an East London gangster, complete with a bald head and thick cockney accent. We were being chased by a Russian gang on bikes and in cars, and it was up to this reviewer to stop the pursuit. The gangster slid a gun across the dashboard, which we reached out and grabbed, and opened fire on our pursuers. One area of The London Heist that added to the experience was having to manually reload weapons. As we had full control of both of our virtual hands, it was up to us to reload the gun when it ran out of bullets by reaching out, grabbing an ammo clip from the bag next to us and shoving it into the bottom of the gun. As exploding cars flipped around us and bodies went flying, we completely forgot that we were at home in our living room. As far as we were concerned, we were a gun-toting East London gangster shooting up a rival gang on an empty motorway – and it was great.

Verdict The world that PlayStation VR is going to open for gamers around the world is exciting, and is much more affordable than the high-end VR headsets without trading in on the experience. We’re confident that gamers will enjoy what Sony is offering, and with so many developers actively developing for the platform, it looks to be a solid contender in the VR popularity race. J Lewis Painter February 2017 www.pcadvisor.co.uk/reviews 47

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DVDRW. J Andrew Williams

Reviews

GAMES CONSOLE

£49 inc VAT

Nintendo Classic Mini Edition

Contact 

nintendo.co.uk

Specifications

Nintendo Classic Mini console (with 30 games preinstalled); one NES controller; HDMI lead; USB power cable; 173g

thought cables this length was a good idea was very wrong. There are still a few months until the Nintendo Switch hits the shops, but the firm is filling the gap with this tiny grey box packed full of nostalgia, the NES Classic.

Price Build: Features: Value: Performance:

The low price is one of the best things about it. At just £49, it’s cheaper than any of Nintendo’s handheld DS consoles. The cost includes one controller, though you’ll probably want to spend an additional £7.99 on another.

Design We knew the NES Classic was small, but it was still a shock getting it out of the box. This pint-sized plastic box is so tiny it fits in the palm of your hand (see opposite image), so don’t worry if you thought you didn’t have space for another console in the lounge. The design is simplistic and for the most part stays true to the original console. There’s no cartridge slot for games though,

Performance

and the lid doesn’t lift up. On the front you’ll find two small buttons – power and reset – plus slots for the controllers. On the back there’s a Micro-USB socket and an HDMI port. Although its diminuitive size means it can be located anywhere, its weight of just 173g means that it might not sit properly. During testing we found that the cable attached to the controller occasionally knocked it out of place. The controllers are true to the original design, with their rectangular shape and four buttons. There is, however, a huge problem here and it’s this console’s biggest flaw. The wire that attaches the controller to the NES Classic is just 75cm long, so you’ll need to either sit really close to the TV or position the console on a coffee table, which may require longer power and HDMI leads. Whoever

Setting up the NES Classic Mini is easy. This is one console that won’t ever need to download updates before you can get going. Just plug the HDMI cable into your television, connect the power and you’re good to go. As mentioned earlier, it uses a Micro-USB port and while a cable is supplied in the box, an adaptor isn’t. Most modern TVs will, however, have a USB port that can power the console. Once you’re plugged in, press the power button and select the language. You’ll then be hit with a wave of gaming nostalgia. The menu is laid out in an easyto-use manner, although there are some complications when it comes to saving games, which we’ll come to shortly. The menu lets you adjust settings such as the display format and it’s all very retro with attention to detail. It’s a shame, then, that there isn’t a manual. Instead a QR code is displayed, which you’ll need to scan to find online. In the middle of the screen you’ll see a horizontal list of games. These can be ordered alphabetically or by release date. Before you start gaming, you’ll need to select your display format. There are three to choose from: Pixel Perfect: Gives you square pixels so you see the games as designed. 4:3: Original NES look, but with a horizontal stretch.

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CRT: Adds a filter which looks like an old TV, scan lines and all. Launching a game is almost instantaneous and we didn’t notice any lag while playing or using the console in general. The hardest part is selecting which game to play in the first place. When there are 30 classic titles to choose from, it can get pretty hard. For some, most if not all the games will be familiar, while there will be plenty that others won’t have played or even heard of. Obvious options are the Mario games, of which there are four, Balloon Fight, Pac-Man, Excitebike, Donkey Kong, Kirby’s Adventure, The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy. Whether the selection of games suits your taste, we can’t say but we think it’s a pretty good list. There aren’t many twoplayer offerings and those that are available often require you to take turns rather than play simultaneously. That said, it’s worth the small cost of a second controller for when you do have a friend round, plus it works on the Wii or Wii U for the virtual console by connecting it to a Wii Remote. However, before you rush out and buy one, you’ll be pleased to hear that you can use an old Classic Controller or Classic Controller Pro. The beauty of the NES Classic rests in the reset button on the front. Gone are the days when you had to leave the console switched on and pray no one turned it off so you could complete a game. You can hit the reset button any time you like and you’ll get an instant save point. Some games need it more than others and for some you’ll be using it a lot. You’ll need to spend a bit of time learning how to use the system, though. Whenever you hit the button, the menu will appear and you’ll see a tiny window showing where you are in the game. That doesn’t save the game, though – you’ll need to move it into one of the four slots below. It’s fine once you get used to it (and make sure you lock ones you

really don’t want to lose by pressing down), but it’s pretty long-winded, which can be annoying when you feel the need to save often. It involves hitting Restart, then Down, then either A (to save) or Down again, then A again – like some kind of complicated hack.

• StarTropics • Super C • Super Mario Bros. • Super Mario Bros. 2 • Super Mario Bros. 3 • Tecmo Bowl • The Legend of Zelda • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

Available games

Verdict

• Balloon Fight • Bubble Bobble • Castlevania • Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest • Donkey Kong • Donkey Kong Jr. • Double Dragon II: The Revenge • Dr. Mario • Excitebike • Final Fantasy • Galaga • Ghosts ‘n Goblins • Gradius • Ice Climber • Kid Icarus • Kirby’s Adventure • Mario Bros. • Mega Man 2 • Metroid • Ninja Gaiden • Pac-Man • Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream

Although the NES Classic has some flaws – namely the ridiculously short controller cable – we can’t help but recommend getting one if you can find it in stock. This little bundle of joy is insanely good value for those who want to relive days gone past or play these classic games for the first time with the modern benefit of save points. J Chris Martin

Just some of the games you can play on the Classic Mini

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DVDRW. J Andrew Williams

Reviews

Game

£32 inc VAT

Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon

Contact n

nintendo.co.uk

System requirements

2DS; 3DS; 3DS XL

Build: Features: Value: Performance:

Pokémon is one of very few brands whose fan base spreads across generations. Yes, it’s aimed mainly at children, but it’s also for those who grew up playing the likes of Pokémon Red, Blue or Yellow. This means that developers Game Freak had a huge challenge on their hands, making a game that appeals to fans both young and old. Sun and moon are the latest additions to the franchise: two separate games with different Pokémon to catch.

Island Trials Gone are the days of sluggish, slow gameplay with extended periods wandering around in long grass battling Caterpies. Within the first hour of playing Sun and moon, you’re introduced to a multitude of Pokémon and, depending on your skill, you may have conquered your first Island Trial. The change in pace keeps players engaged, and the constant introduction of activities and side quests means there’s lots to do in alola, even once the main story of travelling around capturing Pokémon has been completed. Island Trials are new to the alolan world of Pokémon Sun and moon, and replace the hugely popular Gym mechanic of past Pokémon games. In alola, you must take on the trial captains dotted across the islands, each with their own trials. These usually involve a myriad of Pokémon battles, but can also involve observation and

recognition skills. Think of the Island Trials as being like the puzzle at the entrance of gyms in older Pokémon games, but much more intricate and well-developed. each one tests a different skill, and may also tie in with the ‘type’ of Pokémon that the trial captain prefers. However, unlike with traditional gyms, it’s not the trial captain that you battle. Once you’ve passed the trial, you must then take on the Totem Pokémon, which are much stronger than average Pokémon and are blanketed in an aura that gives them an edge in battle – they can have heightened defence, attack and more, but the specific characteristics depend on the creature you’re battling. a new feature is the ability for wild Pokémon to call for backup, or an ‘ally’ to help. While this can happen in standard wild battles, you can bet your Rare Candy that it’ll happen in every Totem battle, which poses an extra threat. When an ally appears, the battle becomes two versus one, making the challenge greater, and much more rewarding when you defeat your enemies. Your reward will take the form of Z-Crystals, which help Pokémon of a specific type unleash powerful attacks that bond trainer and Pokémon, although these are limited to one per match and the power/move itself depends on which Pokémon is performing it. as you progress through the game

you’ll find a number of different Z-Crystals, both from Island Trials and by randomly interacting with NPCs, providing your Pokémon with a trick up their sleeves for those extra-tough opponents. It’s not ridiculously overpowered though, so you’ll still have to think strategically about timing and possible effects it can have on the enemy.

Battle dynamics as you may have guessed, the dynamic of battles can change quickly in Pokémon Sun and moon. Yes, the majority of battles will still be in the standard one-on-one style, but the wild Pokémon’s ability to call for backup can change the tide of any battle. While logic dictates that the trainer should then summon a second Pokémon themselves, you’re forced to take on two foes with a single Pokémon. There’s also a two versus two mode, though this is only the case when facing two enemies. This change in the battle dynamic forces the player to think more tactically than in previous games. The introduction of different battle modes is only a part of the overhaul in Pokémon Sun and moon though, as Game Freak has also added a number of smaller, well-needed features. If you’re up against a Pokémon you’ve previously battled, you’ll find notes next to each of your attacks that let you know how effective it will be. This is handy as it means you don’t

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need to memorise the strengths and weaknesses of the vast library of different creatures, and makes battling easier for casual players. Pokémon can also physically change during a match to reflect what’s happening. If you’re up against a Pokémon with a shell, for example, there’s every possibility that the shell will break off once you’ve damaged it enough. You’ll also be able to add a newly caught Pokémon straight to your party, instead of them being automatically sent to a box. These are only small changes, but will be welcomed by fans of the series.

Battle Royale While two versus one battles are an exciting part of Pokémon Sun and Moon, they are child’s play compared to Battle Royale matches. This is a new feature that enables a dynamic never explored in Pokémon games before: four trainers against one another, with no set teams. The rules of the game are simple: each trainer gets to battle with three Pokémon, and the aim is to get the most points. You can earn these by knocking out another Pokémon and keeping your Pokémon alive, with the game carrying on until one trainer has no Pokémon left. At this point, the points are tallied up and the winner is revealed. On the face of it this seems simple, but it’s not. There’s a lot to consider. Will, for example, your attack wipe out your opponent, or will it weaken them only for an opponent to come in and steal the point? All these outcomes need to be considered.

as well as dodging more attacks and landing more critical hits. It does feel a bit laborious at first, but it’s one of our favourite features.

Pokédex The new Pokémon introduced provide seasoned players with a new sense of curiosity and wonder, as there are many new creatures to discover across Alola. It also makes battling them more interesting, as you need to experiment with the roster of different move types available to you to find their strengths and weaknesses. For us, the best part is the Alolan variants of classic Pokémon: Dugtrio has had a haircut, Muk has had a change in colour and Alolan Raticate is more desirable than in previous games. These are only a handful of the variants you’ll come across in the storyline, encouraging users to stray from the main game and explore the incredibly detailed and varied environments to find the rarest Pokémon possible. Despite featuring many side quests and activities, the focus of the game is still on catching them all. Splitting the Pokèdex across the various regions makes it much easier to keep track of which Pokémon you’ve caught, and makes catching them all a little less daunting to say the least.

Other improvements Just as in Pokémon X and Y, there’s a huge focus on player customisation – especially with the enhanced online capabilities of Sun and Moon. Stores are located across the Alola region, with each offering a particular style of clothing and/

or hair. Some items of clothing are rarer than others and can cost more than $100,000 in-game, allowing gamers to stand out from the crowd and be represented in-game more than with previous games. You can tailor your player’s clothes to look just like you, or you can go wild and be a fashionista Pokémon trainer – much like the rest of the game, it’s up to you what you choose to do. There’s also the Festival Plaza, a new place for trainers far to come together to trade, battle and more. In essence, it’s a portal for online gameplay. The Plaza itself can be upgraded by being courteous to your guests and helping them where possible. In return, your Plaza rank will increase and you’ll get a bunch of Festival Coins to spend on the various stalls available. Depending on rank, you’ll be able to dye items of clothing, train your Pokémon and more. It’s a bit of a side thought for us as it’s only accessible via the quick menu in-game, but we’re interested to see how it develops.

Verdict We love Sun and Moon. They fix the various issues we’ve had with the Pokémon series until now, along with improving it in ways we’d not even imagined. The games cross borders and are as entertaining and fun to play for children as they are for adults, especially those that grew up playing the original Pokémon games. It’s fun to see new variants of old classics, and with an environment more interactive and alive than ever before, we could lose hours wandering around the islands of Alola. J Lewis Painter

Pokémon Refresh Refresh tries to increase the bond between you and your Pokémon. This can be accessed via the quick menu, but you’ll find that most of the time, Pokémon will let you know if they want to be praised. As you can imagine, throughout a Pokémon battle your little buddy will become dirty, scratched and maybe even poisoned. Now you can remove all status effects, clean them up and even give them a little stroke to say well done following a battle. Pokémon that are friendly towards their trainer will go above and beyond in battle, sticking it out at 1hp when hit with a move that should’ve knocked them out them, February 2017 www.pcadvisor.co.uk/reviews 51

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GROUP TEST

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BEST PCs FOR

GAMES Equipped with the latest Nvidia and AMD graphics cards, Paul Monckton looked at five of the best-value gaming PCs you can buy right now

W

hen we last tested gaming PCs, AMD and Nvidia had only just announced the first (and top-end) graphics cards from their latest ranges. Now, the full set is available from both companies, and we asked PC builders to put together their best-value gaming rigs using the new cards. Since not everyone has the same amount of money to spend, there’s a range from £650 to £899. Although you do get more (and better performance) if you pay extra, each of these PCs is powerful enough to play modern 3D games in HD. The differences come when you place more demands on the PC, such as increasing resolution to 4K or by hooking up a virtual reality headset. And as you’ll see over the following pages, you’ll have to increase your budget if you want to do either of these things.

Virtual Reality (VR) Virtual reality (VR) is here and you can buy an HTC Vive (£689) or Oculus Rift (£549) and play VR games at home. As you can see they’re not cheap, and it could well be worth waiting for a second-generation headset to launch before spending almost as much money on a headset as the actual PC. What most people don’t realise is that VR games require seven times the

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graphics power of normal 3D games. This is because the graphics card has to deliver two different high-resolution images to both eyes at 90 frames per second (fps). If a PC struggles to play games at 1920x1080 and at 30fps, then it’s not going to cope with running an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, which both have a 2160x1200 screen, especially if you want 90fps (that’s 1200x1080 pixels per eye). This month we’ve used a new VR benchmark and you can see how our gaming PCs performed on page 60.

Processor Different games place different demands on your computer hardware, but choosing a gaming PC will involve a balancing act between CPU and graphics performance. For gaming PC’s we’re happy to allow overclocked processors, which will significantly increase your overall processing power without having to stump up for the most expensive chips. Many gaming PCs use the 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-6600K processor, overclocked to varying degrees, with the fastest running at over 4.5GHz. To keep the overclocked processors cool, it’s necessary to fit a third-party processor cooler, some using the traditional heatsink and fan design, while others opt for a

liquid coolant pumped through a radiator. Overclocked processors place additional demands on the system’s power supply and also require better cooling, so expect to pay more for PCs with more extreme overclocking. You can overclock the processor yourself if you wish, but it can be a good idea to buy a pre-overclocked system such as the ones reviewed here, which are covered by the manufacturer’s warranty when running at the higher speed.

Motherboard There are several points to consider when choosing the right motherboard for your PC, if you’re not into technical details you may be tempted to overlook the motherboard and concentrate on the processor and graphics, but the motherboard is extremely important. We explain in each review what the motherboard offers in terms of overclocking. Not all boards support this, and opting for a lower-cost model without such features can also allow you to spend a little more on your graphics card, which can have a big impact on your final performance figures. If you want the latest ports and connectors including USB 3.1 Gen 2 (which supports transfers at twice the speed of USB 3.0 – also known as USB 3.1 Gen 1), then make sure you check this before ordering.

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Graphics card It’s usually the graphics card that determine the overall quality of your gaming experience. Once your processor is fast enough, it’s down to the graphics card to deliver the game to your screen. This is why we suggest gamers go for a Core i5 processor rather than the more expensive Core i7 as the difference in price will almost certainly be better spent on the graphics card rather than on the CPU. To ensure smooth gameplay, you generally want to achieve a minimum of 60fps in your game. This is the limiting speed of most PC displays, so you won’t really need to go faster than this unless you have a high-speed gaming monitor that allows for faster refresh rates. Any extra performance will then allow you to increase the quality settings in your game, making characters sharper, textures more realistic and graphical effects more immersive. As we’ve already said, it’s a good idea to go for a card from Nvidia or AMD’s latest ranges. AMD’s fastest card – the RX 480 – isn’t as quick as Nvidia’s, but PCs equipped with such high-end cards will set you back over £1,000. It’s also worth bearing in mind that it can be down to which graphics card vendor has done a better job optimising any particular game for performance on its own cards. If you have an idea of which games you want to play, it can be worth investigating how well any given card performs with those particular games before you make your decision.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that it can be down to which graphics card vendor has done a better job optimising any particular game for performance on its own cards benefit to mid-range graphics cards such as the ones found in these PCs. AMD offers a competing technology called ‘FreeSync’, which will soon be available for displays connected to AMD graphics cards.

Peripherals As with the monitor, we’ve rounded up the best gaming mice and keyboards on pages 66 and 68 respectively. If you’re using your PC on a desk with a monitor, you’ll benefit from the improved responsiveness of wired rather than wireless devices. Look for high-resolution mice, and keyboards with programmable keys and backlighting. High-grade mechanical switches in keyboards have a better ‘feel’ and provide longer life than cheap membrane switches. Some draw attention to the W, A, S and D keys with a different colour or texture. A gaming sound card can provide

a more immersive experience by adding multiple sound effects, with improved audio fidelity. Also consider a gaming headset with a built-in mic. If, however, you’re planning on playing from the sofa, you’ll want wireless controllers. For keyboard input, we would recommend a wireless model that comes with an integrated pointing device, such as a trackball or trackpad.

Warranty Warranty terms are crucial when it comes to gaming PCs and a key advantage of buying a pre-built overclocked PC is that all of the overclocking will be tested and covered by the vendor’s warranty. The longer the warranty the better, but also look for a collect-and-return rather than return-to-base option. You should also pay attention to whether parts and labour are both covered and for how long.

Monitor None of the PCs here come with monitors or peripherals. This allows you to choose your own, and you’ll find our picks of the best gaming monitors on page 64. For more immersive gameplay, we recommend you go for the largest display you can find and one with a good contrast ratio. A fast response time will ensure that fast, frenetic gameplay remains free of blur, although not all game players will notice any difference. TN-based monitors cost less and provide most of these features, but IPS-based displays will give you better overall colour reproduction and wider viewing angles, although response times tend to be slower. For a more responsive display, go for a gaming monitor with a high refresh rate of 120- or 144Hz, although you’ll need powerful graphics to supply frames at this speed. For the very smoothest gameplay from an nVidia graphics card, look for a monitor that supports nVidia G-Sync. With G-Sync, the monitor stays in step with the graphics card rather than the other way around. This means less blurring or image tearing even at lower framerates, and will be of great

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CHILLBLAST FUSION TRACER RX 480

£749 inc VAT & delivery • chillblast.com

Build Features Performance Value Overall

Chillblast’s mid-priced Fusion Tracer RX 480 is a strong gaming performance, but also a great all-rounder. Some PCs skimp on the more expensive parts, neglecting overall usability in order to chase a few extra frames per second. The Fusion Tracer, however, offers a carefully-selected list of components, which result in a solid performer without weak points. Key components include a quad-core Intel Core i5-6402P processor, a PowerColor-branded AMD Radeon RX 480 4GB graphics card and 8GB of 2133MHz DDR4 RAM. The processor is an interesting one: running at a maximum speed of 3.5GHz, it has been designed specifically to provide a 100MHz; speed boost over the standard Core i5-6400 without an increase in price. This has been achieved by reducing the performance of the chip’s integrated graphics, but that’s not something we care about as the PC uses a high performance graphics card instead. Also important is the inclusion of both a hard drive and a 250GB solid-state drive (SSD), which gives a significant boost to general performance without sacrificing on the storage capacity. Finished in black and red, the Fusion Tracer is housed in a CiT F3 midi-tower system case. It’s no small form-factor system, but it’s definitely on the compact side of the format. This makes it well-suited to smaller desk spaces, but also means there’s not a lot of room for expansion inside. The case’s signature red strip adds a smart touch to the case, although it does seem a little ‘plasticy’ on closer inspection. Embedded within the strip are the usual power and reset buttons, along with three USB ports and a handy card reader. Inside, the Gigabyte GA-H110M-S2H provides a basic set of features only and it’s here that we come to the only real disadvantage of this system and that is its lack of upgrade options. You may be able to fit a second hard drive in the case, but that’s about it. There are no free memory slots and the only accessible expansion port is a single PCI Express x1 slot. The CPU is topped by a stock Intel cooler, which seems to do an adequate job in this system without creating much noise.

Performance The combination of the quad-core processor and powerful graphics card in the Fusion Tracer RX 480 means the system is able to achieve solid performance around up to 1440p with Ultra quality settings and might even have a stab at 4K with some less-demanding titles, although would wouldn’t recommend buying this PC as a 4K system. You should be able to run many games at 60fps with this system without resorting to lower resolutions or quality. The Chillblast also performs well for virtual reality, achieving a ‘High’ rating in the Steam VR performance test and strong results in the new VRMark benchmark. Although it makes no difference to gaming benchmarks, the SSD in this system makes a huge difference to general system

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responsiveness as well as game load times. The difference between using the Fusion Tracer RX 480 and a similarly-priced PC without an SSD is very noticeable, with the latter causing us to frequently lose patience.

Service and warranty Chillblast’s five-year warranty is one of the best in the business, with a collect-and-return service and full parts and labour cover for the first two years. Lifetime phone support is also included with labour costs covered for the remaining three years.

Verdict As a great all-round gaming PC, the Chillblast Fusion Tracer RX 480 won’t disappoint. It delivers strong gaming performance without cutting corners, although it does lacks upgrade options. It also comes with a five year warranty.

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MESH STORM PCA

£699 inc VAT & delivery • meshcomputers.com The Mesh Storm PCA packs a quad-core processor and a powerful graphics card into a highly-competent gaming system, but not without cutting some corners. Clearly named after your favourite tech advice-based magazine, the Mesh Storm PCA will appeal to those who want the maximum gaming framerates for the minimum financial outlay, and for £699 you do get plenty of gaming bang for your spending buck. Based on an Intel Core i5-6500 running at up to 3.6GHz, paired with an Asus Nvidia Geforce GTX 1060, the PC has plenty of power in reserve for even demanding gaming titles. The system also comes with 8GB of 2400MHz DDR4 memory and a roomy 1TB hard drive. These are all hooked up to an Asus B150M PRO GAMING motherboard, which comes with up-rated LAN and sound capabilities aimed at gamers and Asus’s AI Suite 3 management software. The motherboard leaves some upgrade potential too: only one of the board’s four memory slots is populated making it easier to increase memory if you need it and there are plenty of free SATA ports available as well as an M.2 socket for connecting a PCI Express SSD. Unfortunately, the Storm PCA doesn’t come with an SSD as standard and this is possibly the biggest sacrifice, which has been made in order to keep prices down. Booting up a modern PC without an SSD feels like stepping back in time. It won’t affect your gaming performance, but it will affect loading times and it does make the whole system feel rather sluggish and unresponsive outside of gaming. Thankfully, as noted above, there’s plenty of scope for adding one later when funds allow. The Nvidia GTX 1060 is well known for its excellent gaming performance, but the model used here is the less-powerful 3GB version, which not only has half the memory of the original 6GB model, but also a less powerful graphics processor. This doesn’t amount to a huge difference in practice, but it’s certainly something to be aware of. The system is housed in a CiT Storm black ATX case, fitted with a red LED fan. It’s a traditional-style tower case, with plenty of spare drive bays, cable management and a hinged plastic door at the front, hiding the (unused) optical drive bays. You also get a pair of USB ports at the top. Designwise, it’s clearly a gamer’s case, with its ‘Transformers’ style front facia and transparent side panel, through which the unusual white shrouding of the graphics card can be seen, alongside a Be Quiet Pure Rock Slim compact CPU cooler.

Performance The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 used here delivers solid gaming performance, generally in the same ballpark as the pricier 6GB version, although obviously a little slower. It’s also less suited to running the highest quality settings at the very highest resolutions, such as 4K, due to the lower amount of memory. In general, gaming at 1440p is going to be excellent at very high or Ultra quality. VR performance is also strong, achieving a ‘High’ rating from the Steam

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Build Features Value Performance Overall

VR performance test, and a ‘super’ rating from the VRMark Orange benchmark which places is comfortably above what you’ll need to play current VR titles. The Be Quiet CPU cooler also did a good job, keeping temperatures down to a maximum of 57ºC under full load. Outside of gaming, the lack of an SSD does make the system feel rather slow, but if you can put up with this, you won’t be disappointed by the gameplay from this sub-£700 PC.

Service and warranty The Mesh Storm PCA is supplied with the company’s Gold Warranty, which includes lifetime cover for labour and two years’ cover for parts. The first year also comes with a free collect-and-return service and is one of the better warranty deals available.

Verdict The Mesh Storm PCA performs very well for the money, but the lack of an SSD makes it less than speedy at many non-gaming tasks. A good choice for demanding gamers on a budget.

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OVERCLOCKERS UK KINETIC H1

£660 inc VAT & delivery • overclockers.co.uk The Kinetic H1 from Overclockers UK is one of the lowest-cost gaming PCs you can get that doesn’t make silly compromises in order to grab high framerates. Priced at £650, the PC delivers enjoyable gameplay at mid- to high resolutions and will also serve as a speedy general-purpose PC. Despite the company name, the Kinetic H1 doesn’t feature an overclocked processor, instead the system uses a dual-core Intel Core i3-6100 running at 3.7GHz. Overclockers is exploiting the fact that, more often than not, a high clock speed will deliver a bigger advantage in many games than having multiple cores. So here we get a high-speed dual-core chip rather than the more expensive quad-core alternatives running a couple of hundred megahertz slower. Saving costs on the processor enables the inclusion of an AMD RX 470 graphics card. This particular model is Sapphire’s 8GB Nitro+ OC, which has been factory overclocked to boost gaming performance. It’s not going to get you RX 480 speeds, but it’s a great choice for the limited budget of this system. The Kollink Victory Micro ATX gaming case housing this system isn’t fancy, but its compact proportions will appeal to those with limited space. Unusually for a gaming system, it comes with no transparent side panel, but does feature a cool blue LED at the front, which lends a more expensive look to what is otherwise a low-cost case. Inside, there’s no built-in cable management, although Overclockers has done a sterling job of tying everything back and keeping the internals tidy. Access to components is limited, but there’s little room for upgrades anyway. Both memory sockets are already full and there are no accessible PCI Express slots available on the motherboard. Even the hard drive has had to be mounted vertically on the side of the case. We feel these compromises are reasonable in order to deliver a low-cost PC with decent performance, but you should be aware of the limitations if you’re thinking of upgrading in the near future. The budget doesn’t allow for an SSD, but rather than leave you with a sluggish hard drive, Overclockers has installed a 1TB Seagate Hybrid drive, which incorporates a small amount of built-in flash memory to deliver some of the performance benefits of SSD, while maintaining the capacity of a hard drive. We feel this is an excellent choice for a low-cost system like this as it feels much snappier to use.

Performance The Kinetic H1 is capable of gameplay up to 1440p resolution, thanks to its AMD RX 470 graphics card. Designed to be capable of entrylevel VR gaming, the RX 470 achieves a quality rating of 6.7 in the Steam VR Performance Test which is designated ‘High’ performance. To keep costs lower, Overclockers has selected a dual-core Core i3-6100 processor rather than a more expensive quad-core model often found in pricier systems. Because the chip retains a high 3.7GHz clock speed, it’s still able to play the majority of games without difficulty. This will vary from game to game, as some games make better use of multiple cores than others, but in general we didn’t notice and dips in performance other than in the PCMark

We get a high-speed dual-core chip rather than pricier quad-core alternatives running a couple of hundred megahertz slower TEST CENTRE

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Build Features Value Performance Overall

8 Creative test where multiple cores are stressed in multimedia editing scenarios. When it comes to standard gaming, you can expect good performance at 1440p as long as you keep the quality settings under control and steer clear of 4K. The hybrid drive also turned in respectable performance, achieving a PCMark 8 storage score of 3339 points, which is around 1,000 points faster than a hard drive alone, although still some way behind a decent SSD which will score nearer 5,000 points. Our only performance-based criticism is how well it deals with heavy loads. When running our temperature torture tests the CPU touched 80ºC, which is several degrees hotter than we would have liked. Such extreme loads are very unlikely in general use, though.

Service and warranty Overclockers offers a three-year warranty of which the first two years cover both parts and labour with a free collect-and-return service. The third year is on a return-to-base basis and covers labour costs only.

Verdict As a budget system with a strong emphasis on gaming, the Kinetic H1 sacrifices multi-core processor performance, instead sinking most of the budget into the graphics card. Photo- and video-editing performance may suffer a little, but you’ll be able to enjoy decent gaming framerates up to 1440p. The inclusion of a hybrid hard drive also ensures it’s responsive in general purpose computing scenarios.

February 2017 www.pcadvisor.co.uk/reviews 57

24/11/2016 11:22


Group test: Gaming PCs

WIRED2FIRE DIABLO FURY

£914 inc VAT & delivery • wired2fire.co.uk The Wired2Fire Diablo Fury offers performance and features that are cut above the average mid-priced gaming PC. Costing £899, it features an Intel Core i5-6600K processor, overclocked from 3.5- up to 4.4GHz and a 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060, making it well equipped to turn in a strong performance at a whole range of computing tasks. To take full advantage of the K-series CPU, a high-performance motherboard is required and Wired2Fire has selected the Asus Z170-P, featuring Intel’s enthusiast Z170 Express chipset, which unlocks the overclocked modes of the Core i5 chip. Asus has also added advanced manual and automatic overclocking modes, should wish to push performance even further and to make it easy to overclock and future processor upgrades. It also comes with a built-in USB Type C connector and enhanced audio. The system is built inside a very smart-looking NZXT Source 340 mid-tower system case, finished matt black with red accents. It features a minimalist design with an entirely blank front facia; there are no external drive bays here, so don’t get any ideas about adding an optical drive to the system as it won’t fit. Behind the facia is a small gap where air can be drawn into the case through a removable dust filter which keeps the internal components clean. There’s another dust filter at the bottom of the case, designed to protect the power supply in a similar manner. A transparent side panel on the left provides a clear view of most of the internal components. Alongside the graphics card is a very large ID Cooling SE-214X processor cooler featuring four heat pipes and a 120mm fan for quiet but effective cooling. The Diablo Fury also includes a pair of XPG Dazzle 2400MHz DDR4 memory modules, each of which is fitted with red LED strip, which slowly pulses in an alternating pattern. Two 8GB sticks are provided for a total of 16GB of system RAM. The case also features two dedicated mounting points for 2.5in drives, one of which is populated with a Samsung 850 Evo series SSD, which keeps the PC nimble and responsive, although at only 250GB and with no additional mechanical hard drive to back it up, it’s really not enough storage for a system, which is otherwise so well specified. Excellent cable management keeps unsightly wires tucked away out of sight, as is the 500W FSP Bronze 80Plus certified power supply, which lives in a concealed compartment at the bottom of the case along with any spare wiring. This is also the space where a 3.5in hard drive could be installed in the likely event that 250GB of storage isn’t enough for you.

Performance The Wired2Fire Diablo Fury’s overclocked components enable it to deliver higher performance than you may have seen from less expensive PCs with this combination of CPU and graphics processor. This makes it capable of smooth glitch-free gameplay at ‘high’ or ‘ultra’ quality settings at resolutions up to 1440p with 4K also playable in less-demanding titles. Running Thief at 1440p, it achieved an average framerate of 59.8fps with Ultra settings and 59.7fps when running Alien Isolation at 4K, also with Ultra settings. It’s also well-suited to VR gaming, scoring a ‘Very High’ rating in the Steam VR performance test and a ‘super’ rating of 7063 points in the new VRMark Orange benchmark. For reference, a VRMark score of 6706 is considered a ‘High-end’ PC, with only 5000 points required to be considered ‘VR-ready’.

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Build Features Performance Value Overall

Non-gaming performance is also very good. Its PCMark 8 Home score of 5200 points is very good at this price point, and the SSD ensures that games load up quickly while keeping the system generally responsive. However, at only 250GB there’s really not a lot of room to store big games on this system and you may find that you’ll be needing to supplement or upgrade the storage sooner rather than later. The Intel quad-core processor also delivers excellent performance when running processor-hungry tasks such as photo and video editing, where performance can often suffer on dual-core systems.

Service and warranty Good warranty terms are especially important with overclocked PCs and Wired2Fire provides a three-year return-to-base warranty, of which the first two years covers parts as well as labour. This is a good level of cover, but not as convenient or cost effective as those that offer a free collect-and-return service for the first part of the warranty period.

Verdict The Wired2Fire Diablo Fury is a high-performance gaming system that uses overclocked components to deliver good value for money. However, the lack of a hard drive means the 250GB solid-state drive is likely to fill up quickly.

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24/11/2016 11:22


Group test: Gaming PCs

YOYOTECH WARBIRD RS10 V2

£824 inc VAT & delivery • yoyotech.co.uk The Yoyotech Warbird RS10 V2 is a high-performance, competitively priced gaming system with plenty of upgrade potential, though there are a couple of drawbacks. The system pairs an unlocked 3.5GHz Intel Core i5-6600K, overclocked to 4.6GHz, with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB graphics card and 8GB of 2400MHz DDR4 RAM. This fearsome combination delivers excellent gaming performance combined with great value for money. An MSI Z170-A PRO motherboard holds all the components together, its Intel Z170 Express chipset provides the unlocking feature that allows the quad-core CPU to be overclocked. It also provides automatic overclocking support and enhanced audio as well as support for twin graphics cards and high speed Turbo M.2, Turbo U.2 and SATA Express storage. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to take advantage of the latter two features. First of all, because the GTX 1060 doesn’t support SLI mode for linking up a pair of cards and secondly, because the Warbird RS10 V2 doesn’t ship with any solid-state storage as standard, relying instead on a much slower, although much more capacious, mechanical hard drive. With a motherboard so equipped to handle the latest high-speed storage options, it’s a great shame to see the Warbird RS10 V2 limited in this way, but at least there’s plenty of scope for upgrading the system later, and this system puts all the performance where gamers really need it: the graphics card and CPU. To add a decent SSD would certainly push it well above its £799 budget. Yoyotech has selected the Aerocool Aero 500 as the system case for this PC. It’s a tall, roomy mid-tower chassis, with basic fittings but plenty of internal space. It also comes with tool free bays for easy access and a removable dust filter for the 500W power supply. A second dust filter sits on the top of the case in the form of a flexible mesh, held on rather loosely by magnetic strips. It does the job, but it also feels a little cheap. The top of the case also includes a trio of USB ports, along with the standard audio connectors as well as power and reset buttons which, confusingly, aren’t immediately distinguishable from each other. This could lead to an accidental reset rather than a graceful shutdown if you’re not familiar with which is which. The top panel additionally includes two three-way switches for manual control of the internal fan speeds. The low setting keeps the system pleasantly quiet, while the high setting causes an audible whoosh of air and provides the most cooling.

Performance The Warbird RS10 V2 makes good use of the GTX 1060 6GB graphics card, achieving decent, playable framerates at high resolutions and ultra-high quality settings. Combined with the system’s overclocked Core i5-6600K processor, it performs very well in all of our gaming tests. Factory overclocked versions of the GTX 1060 will be able to eke out a few more frames per second that what we have here, but there’s always room for you to experiment with DIY overclocking if you’re that way inclined. With the cooling fans on full blast, the Warbird kept processor temperatures under control. Even when running our harsh ‘torture tests’, no processor core exceeded 62ºC. The large Coolermaster Hyper 212 EVO will have played a large part in this result. The only key area where performance suffers is in hard drive performance. PCMark 8 reports a storage score of only 2412

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Build Features Performance Value Overall

points – around half the speed of the fastest systems in this price category. This is because Yoyotech has chosen not to include an SSD, presumably as a cost-saving measure. So while you get plenty of room to store all your games, you’ll have to be rather more patient waiting for them to load. Once the games are up and running, there’s no performance penalty, though. You may be happy to put up with this if you are buying this system pretty much exclusively for gaming, but if you also plan on using it for other tasks, especially photo or video editing, then you should really consider a system with an SSD or at least a Hybrid drive.

Service and warranty For a highly overclocked system such as this, we consider Yoyotech’s warranty terms to be a little behind some of the competition. Three years of cover are provided, but the system must be returned to base at the user’s cost and replacement parts are only covered for the first year. Several competitors cover parts for twice as long and some also offer a collect-and-return service.

Verdict The Yoyotech Warbird RS10 V2 delivers high-performance gaming at a reasonable price. The lack of a solid-state drive makes the system feel less responsive in general use, but there’s plenty of storage available for a large game library. Warranty terms could be more competitive at this price.

February 2017 www.pcadvisor.co.uk/reviews 59

24/11/2016 11:22


Group test: Gaming PCs

VRMark Orange

PCMark 8 Home

Thief 4K High

Thief 1080p Ultra

Alien Isolation 4K Ultra

Power Consumption

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24/11/2016 11:27


Group test: Gaming PCs

Conclusion This month we specifically asked manufacturers to build to a budget rather than making them all the same price. All the PCs here are good choices, but as is clear, you get more if you pay more. That may seem an obvious statement, but also shows that – at the currently poor exchange rate between dollars and pounds – you can’t really spend less than £650 on a gaming PC.

And even at that price, compromises have to be made, such as trading off an SSD for a traditional hard drive. For some, such trade-offs are fine because gaming performance is still perfectly good. Others will want to spend the extra, but don’t forget that all of the system builders featured here will be more than happy to tailor the specification of the PC, so it’s to your

liking. You could, for example, ask Mesh or Yoyotech to install an SSD instead of a hard drive and pay the difference in price. As they stand, every PC here is more than capable of playing games at top detail levels if you have a 1920x1080 monitor. But if you’re after a machine that can handle virtual reality games, it’s a good idea to go for a machine equipped with a GTX 1060.

PC can run acceptably. In this group test, the scores are all very close, due to the similar hardware used. Results are given in points and higher numbers are better.

At the same time we run the Geeks3D Furmark benchmark to stress any installed graphics cards. We leave these tests running for 10 minutes, then record the power consumption and the maximum CPU core temperature reached. Power consumption will increase with performance, and overclocking will require significantly more power. Greater power usage also required better cooling, and these test allow us to verify that the installed cooling systems are up to the task of keeping temperatures within safe limits.

How we test To test general PC performance, we’re use Futuremark’s PCMark 8 v2.0 benchmarking suite. Unlike the previous PCMark 7 benchmark, the new version doesn’t produce a single overall figure. Instead, results are divided into Home, Creative, Work and Storage tests. The Home benchmark reflects common tasks for typical home use with lower computing requirements, such as web browsing, photo editing and low-end gaming. The Creative benchmark is aimed more at enthusiasts and professionals working with multimedia and entertainment content. It is more demanding on the processor and includes transcoding tests as well as further gaming workloads. The Work test is geared towards office work tasks such as creating documents, web browsing, spreadsheets and video conferencing. It does not stress the gaming and multimedia capabilities of the PCs.

Gaming performance We’ve used three games to evaluate graphics performance. We run our tests at 1280x720and 1920x1080 pixels at various detail settings. Framerates are recorded using the following games and quality settings. Thief: 720p Low, 1080p High, 1080p Ultra, 1440p High, 1440p Ultra, 4K High and Thief 4K Ultra. Alien Isolation: 720p Ultra, 1080p Ultra, 2K Ultra and 4K Ultra We also run Futuremark’s 3DMark suite of benchmarks to help evaluate gaming performance in eight different usage scenarios. With these results, we can get a good idea of the level of quality and display resolutions a given

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VRMark To supplement the Steam VR Performance test, we now run Futuremark’s new VRMark benchmark which stresses the PCs much further and provides an insight into how they might perform with more demanding titles in the future. VRMark consists of two benchmark tests: the ‘Orange Room’ test, which will verify that your PC meets the minimum performance requirements for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift and a more demanding ‘Blue Room’ test, which evaluates performance at the very highest settings and is much trickier for current PC hardware to pass. To meet the bare minimum spec for Oculus Rift, a PC must score at least 3,716 points in the Orange Room, while a PC Futuremark considers to be VR-ready must score over 5,000. In the Blue Room, corresponding scores are much lower at 719 points and 1082 points respectively.

Power consumption torture testing We measure the power consumption of each PC base unit when idle, and again while running at its performance limit. During the idle test, the PCs hard drives are still spinning and the power-management features are not enabled. For the full-load torture test, we run Prime 95 to force all CPU processing threads to maximum utilisation and stress system memory.

Overclocking Because gamers demand the best performance from their hardware, we allow vendors to overclock PCs in this category. We require that the PC vendor offers a comprehensive warranty covering the overclocked system. Be aware that if you overclock the PC yourself, you may invalidate your warranty.

Subjective assessment We pay close attention to the physical characteristics of each PC, its noise output and its build quality, delving inside the case and taking note of the quality of components used, cabling and airflow.

Support Differences in warranty terms can impact our scoring. Long warranties are sought after, but we also look at the terms and conditions – specifically, whether faulty PCs must be returned to the vendor at your cost, and if both parts and labour are included. J

February 2017 www.pcadvisor.co.uk/reviews 61

24/11/2016 11:23


Group test: Gaming PCs

CHILLBLAST

MeSH

O

Product name

Fusion Tracer RX 480 Gaming PC

Mesh Storm PCA

K

Processor

2.8- to 3.4GHz Intel Core i5-6402P

3.2GHz Intel Core i5-6500 (3.6GHz Turbo)

3

CPU cooler

Intel Stock Cooler

Be Quiet Pure Rock Slim Compact CPU Air Cooler

S

Installed memory

8GB DDR4 (2133MHz)

8GB DDR4 (2400MHz)

T

Storage

250GB SK Hynix SSD, 1TB HDD

1TB SATA III (7200rpm) 64MB cache HDD

S

Power supply

500W PSU

Aerocool Quiet 500W, Bronze Plus

K

Motherboard

Gigabyte GA-H110M-S2H

Asus B150M Pro Gaming

A

Operating system

Windows 10

Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

W

Graphics card

AMD Radeon RX 480 (4GB)

GeForce GTX 1060 3GB Dual Fan

S c

Sound card

Onboard

7.1 High Definition 8-channel onboard audio

O

Networking

Gigabit ethernet

Gigabit ethernet

G

External USB ports

3x USB 3.0, 6x USB 2.0

5x USB 2.0, 5x USB 3.0

3

Other ports

2x PS/2, DP, DVI, HDMI

1 x 10/100/1000 (LAN), 1x HDMI, 1x line in, 1x line out, 1x mic-in, 1x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo, 4x USB 2.0, 4x USB 3.0

V M

Case

CiT F3 Black and Red

CiT Storm Black ATX case red LED fan, keyboard & mouse set

K

Warranty

2-year C&R, 5 years labour only, lifetime phone

Gold warranty (lifetime labour, 2 years parts, 1-year free C&R)

2 p

Dimensions

412x366x208mm

468x432x215mm

M

External 5.25in/3.5in bays

0/0

2/0

0

Internal 5.25in/3.5in/2.5in bays

0/2/4

0/4/2

0

Expansion slots

7

7

4

Front connections (list)

1x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0

1x HD audio, 1x mic in, 1x USB 2.0, 1 x USB 3.0

1

Fan mounts (number, size)

4x 120mm

1x 120/140mm, 2x 80/92/120mm

1 r

Included fans (location, size)

2x 120mm (front/rear)

1x 120mm Red LEDs front, 1x 120mm rear

1 r

Special features (list)

Tool free bays, cable management

Window, cable management, black coated interior

1 r

Form factor

Micro ATX

Micro ATX

M

Chipset

Intel H110

Intel Z77

In

PCIe x16/x4/x1 slots

1

1/0/2

1

Nvidia quad-GPU SLI

AMD quad-GPU CrossFireX

AMD three-way CrossFireX

Micro ATX

SATA 6Gb/s ports

4

6

4

RAID support

Intel SRT

Auto overclocking

Auto fan speed control

Bluetooth

£749 (inc VAT & delivery)

£699 (inc VAT & delivery)

£

CASe FeATUreS

MOTHerBOArd FeATUreS

1

* 1x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 mode, grey) + 1x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (max at x4 mode, black

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TEST CENTRE

24/11/2016 11:23


Group test: Gaming PCs

OVerCLOCkerS Uk

WIred2FIre

YOYOTeCH

Kinetic H1

Diablo Fury

Warbird RS10 V2

3.7GHz Intel Core i3-6100

3.5GHz Intel Core i5-6600K (4.4GHz OC)

3.5GHz Intel Core i5-6600K (4.6GHz OC)

Stock Cooler

ID Cooling SE-214X

Coolermaster Hyper 212 EVO

Team Group Elite 8GB (2x 4GB) DDR4 (2400MHz)

16GB DDR4 (2400MHz) Dual Channel 2x 8GB

8GB DDR4 (2400MHz)

Seagate 1TB SSHD Hybrid (7200rpm) 3.5in drive

Samsung 250GB 850 Evo Series SATA III 6Gb/s SSD

1TB Toshiba DT01ACA100 (7200rpm)

Kolink KL-500 500w 80Plus Bronze

FSP 500W Bronze 80Plus Certified

500W Evga 80Plus power supply: 100-W1-500-KR

Asus H110M-K DDR4 mATX

Asus Z170-P

MSI Z170-A PRO

Windows 10 (64-bit)

Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

Sapphire Nitro+ OC RX470 8192Mb core 1143MHz, boost 1260MHz, memory 8000MHz

Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB GDDR5

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB

Onboard

Onboard

Onboard

Gigabit ethernet

Gigabit ethernet, 802.11n

Realtek RTL8111H Gigabit LAN controller

3x USB 3.0 5x USB 2.0

4x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, 1x USB Type-C

5x USB 3.0, 3x USB 2.0

VGA: 2x HDMI, 2x DisplayPort, 1x DVI Motherboard: 1x DVI-D, 1x VGA

2x DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, eSATA

2x DisplayPort, 2x HDMI, 1x DVI

t

Kolink Victory Micro-ATX Gaming Case

NZXT Source 340

Aerocool Aero-500

)

2 years C&R parts and labour, plus 1-year RTB labour only

3 years RTB (3 years labour, 2 years parts)

3 years RTB (1-year parts and labour, 2 years labour only)

Micro-ATX, 380x370x170mm

445x432x200mm

505x439.5x203mm

0/0

0/0

2/0

0/1/1

0/3/2

0/3/2

4

7

7

1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, headphone, 3.5mm mic

2x USB 3.0, headphone, mic

Tool-free bays, cable management, side window, filters front and bottom

1x 120mm fan (blue LED included), rear 80/90mm fan (optional)

4x 120mm

5x 120mm

1x 120mm fan (Blue LED included), rear 80/90mm fan (optional)

1x 120mm front, 1x 120mm rear

120mm rear

1 x 120mm fan (Blue LED included), rear 80/90mm fan (optional)

Tool-free bays, cable management, side window, filters front and bottom

Tool-free bays, removable PSU dust filter

Micro ATX

ATX

ATX

Intel H110

Intel Z170

Intel Z170

1/0/2

2* / 0 / 2 (+ 2x PCI slots)

02/04/2000

4

4 + 1x M.2 Socket 3 for M Key, type 2242/2260/2280 devices

6

n,

£660 (inc VAT & delivery)

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£914 (inc VAT & delivery)

£824 (inc VAT & delivery)

February 2017 www.pcadvisor.co.uk/reviews 63

24/11/2016 11:23


GROUP TEST

BEST GAMING MONITORS Finding the gaming monitor can be tricky, so we’ve chosen our top five. Christopher Minasians reports

A

fter shelling out on a brand-new gaming PC, you’ll want a monitor that shows off the latest games in all their glory. Design and ergonomics are important. We like seeing displays that have the ability to be adjusted vertically, backwards and forwards. Almost all the monitors nowadays can be tilted by around five degrees forwards and 20 degrees backwards. However, finding one that has height adjustments can be a little trickier. If you are someone who is going to be gaming competitively, we would suggest leaning towards the TN-type (Twisted Nematic) panel. If, however, you’re a casual gamer or would like fantastic colour reproduction you should lean towards an IPS/PLS-panel (In-PlaneSwitching and Plane to Line Switching). A VA (Vertically Aligned) panel sits somewhat in-between a IPS/PLS and TN-type panel. Its colours aren’t as accurate as an IPS/PLS-panel, while its response time isn’t as fast as a TN. This is why there is a shortage of VA panels on the market, as consumers often prefer one of the other, rather than a cross-between the two technologies. A panel’s performance is extremely important You want low response times with minimal ghosting, low input lag, the highest possible refresh rate, whilst having fantastic colour reproduction. Response time is associated with the panel’s ability to change a pixel from black-to-white (B2C) or more often than not grey-to-grey

ACER XF270HU

£399 inc VAT • acer.com The Acer XF270HU is highly respected among gamers, as it has a great 2560x1440 resolution and a fast 144Hz refresh rate. Due to its IPS panel, the monitor offers fantastic colour accuracy, yet also has low input lag and a low response time, a rarity for an IPS monitor. The standout feature of is its ability to combine fantastic colour reproduction and competitive-gamer requirements, such as a fast refresh rate, low input lag and low response time. All of which comes at a relatively low price of £399 for a monitor of its calibre that runs 144Hz natively at 2560x1440. Better still, it also comes with AMD FreeSync makes it even more appealing for those who run an AMD card and want

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064_065 GT Gaming Monitors 259.indd 64

(G2G). G2G is often the quoted figure, as it is closer to what we can see with our human eyes. The lower the response time, the easier the monitor will be able to cope with displayed objects, meaning you will get fewer image artefacts, thus lower motion blur. Naturally, the resolution is important where the higher the resolution, the harder it will be for your graphics card or cards to deal with a higher refresh rate or better known on computer systems as frames per second (fps). There are various resolutions, with the most common being full-HD (1920x1080) and higher-end gaming monitors having QHD (2560x1440) panels. Currently, 4K (3840x2160) panels aren’t really suited to gamers, as their refresh rate stands at around 60Hz and are often faced with bad response times and higher input lag. There are different input modes on monitors, including DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort (DP). The latter two are more commonly used, as they transmit both sound and vision. DVI on the other hand is used on more legacy devices, with it being unable to transmit sound. When moving to higher resolutions, such as 4K (3840x2160) DP 1.2 is the chosen connection, as it can transmit 60Hz at the higher resolution. This comes from the cable and the port having the ability to transmit a higher bandwidth, whereas HDMI 1.4 and DVI can’t cope with this higher data rate.

to benefit from a tear-free experience. It has two 2W speakers and a USB 3.0 Hub around the back. The monitor has full tilt, height and pivot adjustment capabilities. If you’re looking for a monitor fast refresh rate at an impressive resolution, then the Acer XF270HU is a combination of the best of both worlds (competitive gaming and photo editing), and should be your go-to monitor if you’ve got the budget.

AOC AGON AG271QX

£389 inc VAT • aoc-europe.com The Agon AG271QX is a new monitor from Acer. The 27in display has a 2560x1440 resolution, and even though it has with a TN panel, the colour accuracy is fantastic. Gaming performance is very impressive, with its 1ms response time, and low input lag, the monitor offers a great experience for competitive gamers. Even with Overdrive enabled at the highest setting, there is no overshoot (ghosting) – meaning you can get the lowest input lag, while not suffering from unbearable ghosting. Viewing angles aren’t something you should be worried about either, especially given the fantastic build quality. With a slim bezel design, fully adjustable stand and even a dedicated headphone holder on the right-hand side, the AOC is one of the

TEST CENTRE

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GROUP TEST rate of 96Hz as it is four times the 24p cinema standard. The CrossOver has no PWM-flicker. It has a basic stand, which just tilts, though on the plus side you can attach it to the wall thanks to the VESA mount. Unlike other monitors there aren’t any OSD controls and you’ll need a compatible graphics card that has a DVI-D output. This means you can’t use it for your games consoles or have it running on your on-board graphics. Colour accuracy is fantastic, though if you’re overclocking the monitor, you’ll want to add a custom ICC profile to adjust the Gamma shift that occurs when pushing the panel’s refresh rate. For the price to performance ratio, the CrossOver is hard to beat.

viewsOniC XG2700-4k best built panels around. The AG271QX also has a VESA 100x100 wallmount. Like the Acer XF270HU, the Agon offers AMD’s FreeSync technology, meaning a tear-free experience on compatible AMD GPUs. If, however, you use an Nvidia card, you’ll need to shell out a lot more for the AG241QG and AG271QG models, which share the same specifications, but feature G-Sync.

AOC G2460vq6

£109 inc VAT • aoc-europe.com If you’re looking for a budget gaming monitor, the AOC G2460VQ6 is a fantastic starting point. It comes at a very low price, has a maximum refresh rate of 75Hz in full-HD and has a reasonably good colour reproduction for a TN panel. The monitor stands out from the budget-monitor crowd, as it also supports AMD FreeSync, a technology used to reduce tearing in graphically intense games. The panel’s response time and input lag are low, whereby in games your movements are well represented. The monitor has speakers, flicker-free support and anti-blue light technology. Unfortunately, its stand is limited to tilt-only adjustments.

£479 inc VAT • viewsoniceurope.com/uk The XG2700-4K is a 4K (3840x2160) monitor that runs at 60Hz. Admittedly this doesn’t sound like a fantastic gaming display on paper, however, its comparatively low price, impressive response time and low input lag, mean this ViewSonic is one of the most affordable and best 4K screens on the market today. The monitor has a quoted response time of 5ms, which can be boosted down to 2ms through Overdrive, though this creates unwanted ghosting on the extreme setting. The perceived input lag is low, making it fantastic for fast-paced shooters. Unfortunately, it has a refresh rate of just 60Hz, so it’s not recommended for those who want to game competitively. If, however, you’re a casual gamer, you’ll find the XG2700-4K more than adequate for your gaming needs. With its IPS panel, the monitor has good colour reproduction and viewing angles. We do feel the colour accuracy could be slightly improved, with slightly deeper blacks and a more accurate contrast, however, we are still satisfied with the results. The monitor’s build quality isn’t fantastic; despite its stand having the ability to tilt, pivot and provide height adjustments, the base stand looks and feels cheap. This is also emphasised through its big bezels, which are very noticeable and don’t provide an immersive gaming experience. J

CrOssOver 2795qHD

£230 inc VAT • crosslcd.co.kr/eng The CrossOver 2795QHD has amassed a lot of attention online. It’s a PLS panel with a 2560x1440 resolution. However, what makes this such a talking point it its low input lag (due to only having a single DVI input) and huge overclocking potential. All monitors can realistically be overclocked, though most only overclock by around 10Hz, which isn’t worth the risk. This, however, can be overclocked to 120Hz. Most users use a refresh

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BEST GAMING

MICE

For games, a standard office mouse just isn’t up to the job. Lewis Painter rounds up the five best models

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hether you’re blowing chunks out of opponents or ploughing through reports for work, it’s essential that you have the right mouse under your hand. Gaming mice in particular have a seemingly endless variety of options to choose between, all offering different benefits. A lot of it comes down to personal choice: how it feels in your hand and whether you find the positioning of the buttons comfortable. Incidentally, left-handed gamers should take note; these are all exclusively right-handed mice. Aside from sheer ergonomics, there are other factors to consider. Many mice, for example, offer adjustable on-the-fly DPI (dots per inch) settings, allowing you to change your mouse’s sensitivity at the touch of a button. This is for when you need fine control when, for example,

ASUS ROG SPATHA

£134 inc VAT • asus.com/uk The ROG (Republic of Gamers) Spatha is the latest gaming mouse from Asus. It comes with a detailed Mayan-style grip on the left-hand side next to six programmable thumb buttons, making it ideal for use in MMOs and MOBAs. Overall, the mouse has 12 buttons, which can be customised via the ROG Armoury software. That’s only touching the surface with regards to the application, as it also allows you to customise button response, polling rate, acceleration, angle snapping and more, making it perfect for pro gamers. The magnesium alloy-constructed Spatha offers extremely high sensitivity, thanks to the use of an 8200 DPI laser sensor coupled with a DPI switch. As well as this, the mouse offers surface calibration, providing you with the best performance for the surface it’s being used on. This combination lets you switch between high and low sensitivity with a single click, while giving you finer control when aiming with a precise weapon such as a sniper rifle. If that’s not impressive enough for you, then maybe this is: the ROG Spatha is both wired and wireless, depending on your personal preference. You can use the supplied Micro-USB cable to connect the mouse to your PC, or you can connect the receiver/charging station and use it wirelessly until it requires a charge. This gives gamers the freedom to play how they like without having to make any compromises.

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taking a headshot. Most gaming mice come with anywhere from five- to 10 programmable buttons (which you can assign to specific functions such as sprinting, crouching or reloading), while an MMO-style mouse might cram 20 or more onto its chassis. These can give you a leg up on the competition, when used correctly. Many also offer various backlighting options to make them more attractive to look at. Occasionally a mouse comes with removable weights, allowing you to make it heavier or lighter until you’ve found your ‘perfect’ weight. Whether you want a wired or a wireless mouse is another consideration, though our view is that wired is best. You don’t have to faff around with replacement batteries, plus some gamers report that they can notice lag with some wireless mice.

Along with the above features, it comes with standard LED customisation that lets you change not only the colour of the logo on the mouse and scroll wheel, but also the light that leaks out between the thumb buttons along the left-hand side of the mouse.

COOLERMASTER CM STORM ALCOR

£35 inc VAT • coolermaster.co.uk The Cooler Master CM Storm Alcor is the cheapest mouse here. It has on-the-fly DPI switching up to 4000 DPI. The DPI settings come in four levels, with the CM Storm logo on the palm section changing colour to indicate the current state. We could argue that it would be better placed in a more visible location, but this is a quibble at best. Admittedly, we couldn’t find any support software for customising DPI levels or macros, something every other mouse here is able to provide. The quality is also a little disappointing – it’s solid enough, but doesn’t feel particularly different to a bog-standard desktop mouse. The semi-gloss finish also had a tendency to get a little sweaty during extended sessions, which didn’t happen with any of the others. The lack of flashy presentation might turn some more hardcore gamers off from the Alcor and the lack of macro and remapping options could prove too restrictive, but at just £35 it’s the perfect choice for those taking their first steps into PC gaming.

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GROUP TEST Corsair M65 rGB

£69 inc VAT • corsair.com/en-gb The Corsair M65 RGB mouse is, appropriately enough, a sleek, dangerous-looking thing of beauty, a mix of contours and sharp angles. The matt surface is non-slip for fast, precise movements, it has a braided cable and it feels pleasantly solid. It’s also part of Corsair’s RGB range, meaning it has three separate lighting sections that can be customized with 16.8 million colours in a variety of ripple, wave and chase effects. While design and aesthetic appeal are clearly a key focus of this mouse, it by no means skimps on the features. The 8200 DPI sensor is the best we tested, and it comes with on-the-fly switching via two buttons below the scrollwheel, although the colour-changing indicator is less convenient than the Kone’s voiceover system. It also features a ‘sniper switch’, so you can drop your DPI down at a moment’s notice to nail that perfect pin-point headshot. The two side buttons are well-placed in thumbs-reach and the M65 feels reasonably comfortable in the hand, aside from a lack of support for your little finger. For the more particular gamer, the M65 RGB also offers three ‘tuning zones’ to tweak the center of gravity to your individual satisfaction. Corsair’s configuration software covers all their peripherals, so applying customised lighting patterns between devices is a snap. The lighting management software itself can be somewhat confusing, but the options for creating patterns and effects are almost infinite, so it’s a good trade. The software also includes macro functionality, so you can bind specific custom macros to any button you wish, as well as additional commands such as multimedia control. The Corsair M65 RGB is ideal for those gamers who want their battle stations to look as awesome as humanly possible. However, it’s also one of the best-equipped mice we tested, and would be equally at home in the hands of a techspec purist.

LoGiteCh G502 proteus speCtruM rGB

£69 inc VAT • logitech.co.uk The G502 Proteus Spectrum RGB is part of the gaming range from Logitech, who has a substantial pedigree when it comes to PC peripherals in general. While in the past the brand wasn’t well known for producing gaming gear, the level of experience and expertise it now brings to the table, or in this case, desk, is undeniably fearsome, including one of the best PC mice sensors on the market, the PMW3366, which offers 12,000 DPI at 1000Hz. This can be found in the G502, G303, G403 Prodigy (wired and wireless), Logitech G900 and G Pro mice. The G502 is definitely one of the most user-friendly mice we tested – it fits ergonomically into the hand, and we barely had to move our thumb to reach the two side buttons. Counting these, the Proteus has 11 programmable buttons, including a thumb button and on-the-fly DPI switching. The buttons for shifting scrollwheel function isn’t one of these buttons, meaning you have 12 buttons on the mouse – the scroll switching button allows you to change from clicky to free scrolling mode at the press of a button.

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The DPI levels are adjustable, and are indicated by three LEDs, which can be switched off through the software. Along with the DPI LEDs, the ‘G’ logo is the only section that includes RGB backlighting. It’s a shame the G402 doesn’t include more than this somewhat desultory twinkle, but we can forgive it on the strength of its design. The visual design of this mouse is weirdly pretty; matt-black with gloss detailing and smooth, arresting contours, it’s minimalist chic that’s cool without being overly flashy. It’s also very well-constructed, as could be expected from a company such as Logitech. The body feels solid and well put-together, and it’s relatively weighty, but can be customised through its adjustable weights. It also comes with a braided cable. Logitech has come a long way over the years to fine-tune its software, and with the Logitech Gaming Software, you will be able to customise every single aspect of the mouse, including macros, basic functions to mouse mat calibration! Adjustable DPI, high-speed tracking and the inclusion of one of the best sensors on the market make this a great mouse for FPS gamers, but it’s got a solid design and layout that render it a pretty sensible choice for fans of other genres as well. Even better, it’s not overly expensive.

steeLseries rivaL

£52 inc VAT • steelseries.com For a price of around £52, the SteelSeries Rival is a contender for the best gaming mouse on a budget. It features an advanced PMW3310 optical sensor that is said to offer zero hardware acceleration and true 1:1 tracking, enabling precise movement. Even at higher sensitivities, it’s extremely accurate and has enabled us to react quicker than we’ve been able to in the past. Its adjustable CPI is amazing, and offers adjustments from 50 to 6500, enabling gamers to find the perfect cursor sensitivity for their style of gaming. The best part is that you don’t have to settle on one setting – there’s a button directly beneath the scrollwheel that allows you to switch between various CPI profiles for different situations. SteelSeries Engine 3 enables gamers to access various Rival customisation settings, including programmable buttons, polling rate, angle snapping and acceleration and deceleration speed. With this being said, the Rival does skimp on programmable buttons with only six buttons and a scrollwheel. It features a matt finish, but still manages to feel smooth to the touch and the anti-sweat coating helps to maintain contact when the pressure is on. The rubber grips aren’t stuck onto the Rival either – they’re directly injected for better control and grip. If that’s not enough for you, the SteelSeries Stratus offers a customisable LED-lit logo with 16.8 million (according to SteelSeries) colours to choose from. Although this last feature won’t apply to the masses, it’s fun for those that can – the Rival logo can be removed from the mouse and be replaced with a 3D printed personalised nameplate, with the digital model available to download from the SteelSeries website. The SteelSeries Rival is a solid gaming mouse for a decent price, but the lack of programmable buttons may be too much to ignore for some gamers. If you’re in the market for a comfortable, precise and understated mouse, the Rival is a solid option. J

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BEST GAMING KEYBOARDS A keyboard is an important part of a gamer’s armoury. Lewis Painter reveals our top five

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or some PC gamers, having the right keyboard is almost as important as the hardware inside it. For the uninitiated, however, it can be hard to see what all the fuss is about. Is there really any difference between fancy gaming keyboards and a basic £10 keyboard form Microsoft or Logitech? In a word, yes. Different keyboards have different features, of course, but all gaming models come with extra options and features, and can dramatically improve your gaming experience. One of the principal differences is the keys themselves, and whether the keyboard is mechanical or membrane based. The latter use a layer of conductive plastic underneath the keys, which forms an electrical contact when pressed. The former have physical switches underneath each key. Mechanical keyboards are more crisp and responsive, and models using the high-quality Cherry MX mechanical switches are a firm favourite among PC gamers, allowing for faster, more precise keystrokes. Such keyboards are, however, bulky and expensive when compared to membrane-based models.

CORSAIR K70 RGB MECHANICAL

£149 inc VAT • corsair.com/en-gb We’ll say this for the Corsair K70 RGB keyboard: it’s a beautiful piece of kit. Constructed from aircraft-grade brushed aluminium, it’s both reasonably light and impossibly sturdy, on top of looking absolutely fantastic. The design itself is simple and square and a little dull, but we can live with that. It also comes prepackaged with a detachable soft-touch wrist rest, which is a bonus. It looks even better switched on, too. The chief selling point of this model is the backlighting, boasting 16.8 million colours per key and virtually limitless combinations. Corsair’s cross-device software allows you to build an endless variety of pulse, ripple and wave effects in vibrant rainbow colours, as well as colour-coding specific keys, such as movement controls in green, skill keys in blue and combat buttons in red. You can also assign timers to the lighting, such as having your spell keys change colour when they’re ready to use. The lighting interface is a initially confusing, but makes up for it with unbridled flexibility, and looks absolutely breathtaking in action. However, although macros and timers are supported within the software and can be bound to any button, the K70 RGB has no dedicated macro keys, forcing you to reassign any macros you build to an existing key. The key switches themselves are Cherry MX models, and the red versions that we used are nice and responsive. There’s not a huge amount of physical feedback and they’re pretty clacky, but whether that’s a plus or a minus is entirely down to personal taste. For the record, we’re fans.

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How a keyboard feels is only part of its appeal; you want it to look good as well. Many come equipped with backlighting, and allow you to program specific colours or patterns for aesthetic appeal. Layout is also an important aspect. Many games rely on lightningfast reflexes, and a split-second can mean the difference between glorious success and humiliating, abject failure. For this reason, gaming keyboard layouts are optimised for maximum efficiency, with ergonomic layouts, programmable keys and numerous shortcuts meaning that everything you need is always right where you need it. Part of this is macro keys: programmable buttons to which you can assign long, complicated strings of keystrokes. This enables you to execute complex commands and manoeuvres with a single button press, saving time and effort and letting you focus on your gaming strategy. You can even create multiple profiles with separate macros, allowing you to tailor your macro sets to specific games. If you’re only an occasional gamer, you may be happy with the most basic of peripherals. But those that consider gaming a serious hobby, upgrading to a dedicated keyboard is a must.

Rather than assigning music and video controls to the function keys as most other keyboards do, Corsair has opted to give them special little buttons all their own. There’s also a special volume roller, for instant and precise audio control. It’s a small detail, but for some reason, we’re absolutely in love with it. One thing we don’t like though, is the two USB ports required to run the keyboard. In this case we can understand why it’s necessary, given the intensiveness of the backlighting, but it’s still a little awkward. The braided cable is also unexpectedly chunky. While it’s not as densely packed with hardware features as some of the other models here, in terms of purely aesthetic value it’s the clear winner by an absolute mile. If you desperately need macro keys it’s probably not ideal, but it’s just so damn pretty that we can’t help but recommend it.

G.SKILL RIPJAWS KM780 RGB MECHANICAL

£150 inc VAT • gskill.com The G.Skill Ripjaws KM780 RGB is a fully customisable RGB mechanical keyboard that has RGB Cherry MX switches. The reason we chose the KM780 in our round up, is due to its versatility. The keyboard is available in the Cherry MX Brown (tactile), MX Red (soft) and MX Blue (clicky) variants and, if you’re not a fan of the RGB colours, you can save yourself some money and buy the non-RGB variant. This give you plenty of options to choose from and better still, the keyboard is well-priced at £150 given its features. No matter which Cherry MX key switch you opt for, the German brand behind the switches guarantees 50 million keystrokes and

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GROUP TEST alongside the RGB lightning provides 16.8 million colours to choose from. The keyboard also features NKRO and anti-ghosting, meaning you can press and hold as many keys as you like, as they’ll all be registered. The KM780’s package contents is impressive. Inside the box, you’ll find a wrist rest, an additional 10 gaming keycaps, which are red in colour and have a texture on them, and a key puller that comes in very handy when you want to clean your keyboard. The software itself works flawlessly and allows you to fully customise the keyboard with custom macros and keystrokes – this will let you open programs, give you an edge in games and even be used to play/pause your music. If you’re looking to control your music, the KM780 has dedicated media keys on the right-hand side, a live volume LED slider, three programmable profiles and six dedicated macro keys. The keyboard doesn’t stop there, it has an additional USB port and headphone/mic jacks, so you can plug your flash drive or headset directly into the keyboard, rather than at the back of your PC - a nifty feature. From top to bottom the KM780 keyboard is a fantastic all-in-one ultimate keyboard and we would recommend it, as long as your pockets are deep enough.

Logitech g213 prodigy

£59 inc VAT • logitech.co.uk The Logitech G213 Prodigy is a non-mechanical fully membrane keyboard. However, unlike most such keyboards, it feels very much like a mechanical Cherry MX Brown switch keyboard. As a fully membrane keyboard it does come in a little expensive at £59, however, it does offer zonal RGB lightning, which means you can’t individually customise the colour of each key, though you will be able to display a RGB-like wave colour and light up sections of your keyboard (such as the Number Pad). The switches have a 50g actuation force and require 4mm of travel distance in order to be registered - this makes them very good to game on, versus other rubber-dome membrane keyboards. The G213 is also a very thin keyboard, which does play against it when it comes to keyboard flex (if you’re a heavy typist or gamer you might prefer a more sturdy keyboard), but it does look sleek and stylish on a modern desk. At the top-right hand side of the keyboard, there are dedicated media keys allowing you to quickly change or stop media on your PC. There is also a game-button, which disables the Windows key. Better still the F1 to F12 keys can be fully reprogrammed through Logitech’s Gaming Software. You’ll be able to set macros or even open up your favourite programs through the software. This means that you don’t have dedicated macro keys, but have the option to set some in place of the F keys that you might not use often. If you’re not looking to spend too much money, want a mechanical-keyboard feeling with zonal RGB lightning, then the Logitech G213 Prodigy is a great choice.

razer BLackwidow chroma

£164 inc VAT • razerzone.com Razer is well known in the gaming world for its peripherals, and a Razer keyboard is the first choice for many. A key feature of the Chroma is Razer’s own mechanical switches which feel great to both type and game on. They use a 50g actuation force and have a whopping 60 million

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keystroke lifespan, so you’ll be good for a while. You can buy the keyboard in a silent keys option, too. Lighting has been a staple in the gaming world for a long time, so you can be just as cool at your desk as when driving your modded Citroën Saxo down the high street with its underlights. It supports 16.8 million customisable colour options. You can set it to match the colour scheme in the room but also much more advanced things. Lights aside, the Chroma comes with a number of features that will help your gaming. A gaming mode stops you quitting to your desktop by disabling the Windows key and can be expanded to Alt+Tab and Alt+F4 (you can use the Chroma on Mac, too). There is a lot you can do with macro keys. There are five dedicated macro keys on the left side and this keyboard supports on the fly macro recording. The Chroma also has 10 key roll-over anti-ghosting. The keyboard features a braided fibre cable, which requires two USB ports. This is so you can utilise the USB port on the side of the keyboard itself which saves you diving under your desk to plug things in. There’s are also headphone and microphones ports which could come in very handy.

SteeLSerieS apex m800

£139 inc VAT • steelseries.com The SteelSeries Apex M800 is a gaming keyboard, announced back in 2015 and is one of our favourite gaming keyboards. It has a low profile design, based lightly on the design of the original Apex gaming keyboard. It’s been built at an ergonomic low angle for extra comfort, and the linear key layout cuts down on finger travel. This means that you’ll be able to reach the keys you need, when you need them, and thus speed up your reaction times. However, it isn’t the ergonomic design that pleases us most about the M800 – it’s the illumination it offers – a choice of 16.8 million colours. This means that, using SteelSeries software, you can design your own custom lighting schemes for various different games. As well as custom designs, the M800 also comes with a handful of pre-set light effects, including Breathe, Colour Wave, Cooldown Timers and Reactive Keys. These really give the M800 the ‘wow’ factor it deserves, any we can pretty much guarantee that every person that see’s the keyboard lit up will comment on it. Apart from the aesthetics, the M800 packs some serious technology. First, it has dual processors, with one CPU dedicated solely to key presses, which stops any ghosting issues. In fact, it can handle up to 256 keys to be pressed at once with no issue. The M800 also boasts switch technology specifically designed for this keyboard. SteelSeries paired up with experts in switch technology to create the QS1 switch. The improved QS1 provides a smooth linear action, as well as 25 percent faster actuation than standard mechanical switches. The keys only require 45cN (centinewton) of force to register a key press, which allows for lighter key presses and faster reactions. And if that wasn’t enough for you, it even features a USB 2.0 hub and a series of macro keys, which can be programmed via SteelSeries’ software for both PC and Mac. This is the ultimate in gaming keyboards, in our opinion, and is really only for hardcore gamers. It’s a chunky keyboard despite its ergonomic design, but in return you get a powerhouse of a keyboard that can provide lightning fast responses when you need them most. The individually lit keys are also a bonus, as they allow a higher level of customisation than standard gaming keyboards. J

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FEATURE

Page 77 Paint 3d

Microsoft Windows Event We round up everything Microsoft revealed: Surface Book i7, Surface Studio, Windows 10 Creators update, and more t the end of October, Microsoft held a big event in New York to launch plenty of new Surface hardware. However, it’s easy to see why the company called this a Windows event rather than a Surface shindig. Over the next 20 pages, we explain everything you need to know about the new features that will debut with the new Windows 10 Creators Update (page 82), which will be released in the spring of 2017. The name comes from the fact that the updates focus on the creation and manipulation of 3D content, sharing your Xbox Live gaming experiences, and easily communicating with others. The rest of event was dedicated to new Surface hardware, which has been designed to marry this powerful hardware with the best of those new software features. There’s the Surface Studio, Microsoft’s first-ever desktop PC, the Surface Dial – an accessory for that PC – plus the Surface Book i7 (an update to the original). The company didn’t launch an updated Surface or Surface Pro tablet, but we’re expecting an announcement before too much of 2017 passes.

A

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FEATURE

Page 88 Hololens

Page 78 surface stuDio

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Feature: Microsoft Windows Event

Surface Book i7 Price: £1,799 inc VAT, 256GB; £2,249 inc VAT, 256GB; £2,649 inc VAT, 1TB

REVIEW

The Surface Book i7 is hard to define but still pretty damned fast

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t’s always been difficult trying to find the right category for Microsoft’s hybrid tablet/laptop Surface Book. And now with the new i7 in hand, it’s even harder to work out just what square hole to put this round peg into. The Surface Book i7 is the second iteration of Microsoft’s ‘convertible’ laptop. The top half is a beautifully proportioned 13.5in tablet with a ‘PixelSense’ screen that has touch and pen support. The keyboard base (called the Performance Base) is home to a discrete graphics chip, which takes the i7’s performance beyond that of any other laptop in its class. The two sides are held together with a hinge that will be familiar to owner’s of the first generation model. There were rumours Microsoft would give up on its ‘dynamic fulcrum hinge’ and eliminate the gap it

creates, but it’s still there and remains one of the i7’s most prominent features.

Design The Surface Book’s tablet has the same IPS (3000x2000) screen, behind which is an Intel dual-core sixth-generation Skylake Core i7-6600U. This is paired with 8- or 16GB of RAM, and depending on the depth of your pockets an SSD with 256GB, 512GB or 1TB SSD. For hardware addicts, that CPU is a disappointment. With lots of laptops now using Intel’s seventh-generation Kaby Lake CPUs, you’re probably wondering why Microsoft went with an older processor. It appears the firm was more concerned with upgrading the graphics in Performance Base. The original Surface Book featured a discrete Nvidia ‘GeForce’ chip, which was custom

The newer GPU is far faster, but also far hotter. Microsoft said it added a second fan to keep it cool, but the Performance Base is also a little thicker than the original model

but widely believed to be a GeForce GT 940M. The i7 packs an Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M chip with 2GB of GDDR5 RAM. The newer GPU is far faster, but also far hotter. Microsoft said that it added a second fan to keep it cool, but the Performance Base is also a little thicker than the original model, with larger air vents. Under heavy load, the fans get louder, but the acoustics aren’t bad. A bit shrill, maybe, but acceptable. The fans also seem to work well at keeping the GPU cool. We ran a GPU torture test on the device for more than an hour and although it got warmer, it didn’t get uncomfortable

The more powerful GPU in the i7 requires a larger 95W power brick (bottom) versus the 60W brick of the original Surface Book’s (top)

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Feature: Microsoft Windows Event

Love it or hate it, the hinge is unchanged from last year’s model (above)

The Performance Base on the newest Surface Book i7 (below left) is about two millimetres thicker than the original Surface Book’s base (below right)

to touch or use. So good job on the implementation, Microsoft.

Hardware The Surface Book i7’s CPU performance can be summed up pretty much in one sentence:

it’s a dualcore Intel chip. Being a sixthgeneration Skylake CPU, it’s around 10 After running percent slower than a the torture test comparable seventhFurMark for more generation Kaby Lake. than an hour, the Surface Book i7’s Of course, a lot of keyboard was people won’t feel that reasonably cool deficit very often. To illustrate this, the charts on page 74 reveal how the i7 compares to some of the best laptops around. For context, we threw in a larger quad-core Dell XPS 15 and the Microsoft Surface 3, which runs on the anaemic Atom X7 CPU. Our test takes a 30GB MKV file and converts it with Handbrake 0.9.9. On most dual-core laptops (including the Kaby Lake-based Dell XPS 13 and HP Spectre x360), it takes almost two hours to run this test, and as you can see overleaf, as the chips heat up and slow down during the course of the test, there are minimal differences in performance. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any differences, but the sixth-generation Skylake chip keeps up. The charts also illustrate just how little has changed from the first Surface Book. In

Here you can see just how much thicker the new Performance Base (left) is with its GeForce GTX 965M inside of it

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Feature: Microsoft Windows Event

As you can see in our Handbrake benchmark, systems with dualcore CPUs produce similar results another performance test – the CPU-heavy Cinebench R15 – the score for the i7 was identical to one we recorded last year. The performance you really care about is the GPU that Microsoft tucked under the keyboard. Even though we all hoped for some secret new AMD or Nvidia GPU, the GeForce GTX 965M doesn’t disappoint.

Performance Futuremark’s 3DMark Sky Diver This is a synthetic test that measures the graphics performance of a PC. Although it doesn’t use an actual video game engine, it’s still well respected. For comparison we also threw in the Dell XPS 15. It’s a much thicker and larger 15in laptop with a quadcore CPU and GeForce GTX 960M. Since the overall score factors in the CPU cores, the XPS 15 takes the win. Elsewhere in the pack though, you can see how 2015’s Surface Book is head and shoulders above everyone else. But then you get to the Surface Book i7’s GeForce GTX 965M, which is basically three times the performance of most laptops with integrated graphics. 3DMark also gives you a sub score, which focuses solely on the graphics performance and cuts out the CPU performance. Once we take the quad-core out of the equation, the Surface Book i7 moves into first place. Not by as much as we expected, but it’s not bad. The Surface Book i7 is certainly fast. Tomb Raider Not everyone trusts synthetic tests though, so we also ran the three-year-old, but still quite lovely, Tomb Raider game. We don’t have as many comparable laptops, but you can see how two of the XPS 13’s perform when running the game at 1920x1080 on the High setting. The slowest of the bunch

is the seventh-generation Kaby Lake laptop with HD 620 graphics. Moving up to the Dell XPS 13, with an Intel Core i7-6560U and Iris 540, nets a decent boost. The original Surface Book with its GeForce GT 940M is faster still, but at 35.4fps, we wouldn’t play the game. That changes with the Surface Book i7, which achieves a totally

No other 13in Ultrabook can touch the Surface Book i7 satisfying 80.8fps, and even exceeds the Dell XPS 15’s GeForce GTX 960M. Battery With the Surface Book i7’s upgrade you already know Microsoft didn’t touch the tablet portion, which has the same DYNmade 18 watt-hour (Wh) batteries. Where Microsoft did change things was, again, in the Performance Base, whose now-thicker profile accommodates more battery capacity. The original Surface Book with GeForce card packs a 53Wh cell while the new one has nearly a 63Wh battery. All told, that’s a massive 81Wh battery pushing the Surface Book i7 along. To see how well it does, we ran the same rundown test on both it and the 2015 Surface Book. Our test looped a 4K resolution movie using Windows 10 Movies & TV app. That particular app is selected because it’s a super-efficient video player. We set the laptops to flight mode and the brightness

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and the next closest competitor was Dell’s current XPS 13 at about 11 hours.

Modular laptop Since the tablet of the new Surface Book i7 appears to be exactly the same as the original, we naturally wondered if we could simply attach the original to the upgraded Performance Base, since that’s where most of the upgrade happened. Sure enough, the two sides fit, and after a few driver downloads we were all set. In some ways, the Surface Book i7 is the first modular laptop. With the GPU and extra batteries stored in the base, you could, in theory, upgrade by just buying a new base. It’s almost like Google’s cancelled Project Ara, except it’s an actual product. The problem is, of course, that Microsoft doesn’t sell just the base. That’s a shame as we think the firm is missing an opportunity here. Plenty of people who bought a Surface Book last year are probably still pretty happy with the Skylake CPU and tablet portion, but that GeForce GT 940M is getting long in the tooth. If we cared about graphics performance and we had the original, we’d jump at the chance to buy the Performance Base with the GeForce GTX 965M upgrade.

As you can see, the Surface i7 was ahead of the pack

The downsides

The Surface Book i7’s GeForce GTX 965M smashes the competing 13in laptops in gaming performance

The i7’s battery life is also pretty impressive

to a relatively bright 250- to 260 nits to approximate what you’d use in a typical house or office in the daytime. Audio is enabled, but we use a pair of small earbuds.

The result? Stupendous battery life. In fact, it set a new record in a laptop at just over 13 hours of playback. The original Surface Book gave us a respectable 10 hours

The most obvious problems are the prior sins. The original Surface Book amazed everyone at launch but went through many months of teething pains with docking and undocking issues, and multiple firmware fixes issued over the past year, which both corrected and then reintroduced new docking or sleep issues. In the interest of full disclosure, we used an original Surface Book (although not our original review sample) on and off for the better part of the past 10 months. For the most part, problems were few and far between, but they were there and occasionally maddening. But whether those were problems with the Surface Book, per se, or issues induced by Windows 10 Insider Preview program, we don’t know. Despite all that, we still have no problems recommending it. Still, we have a few complaints. The most prominent is the lack of Thunderbolt 3, or at least a faster 10Gb/s port. With this class of performance, ‘pro’ ports should be part of the package. One of the stickiest points with the Surface Book i7 is its price. The unit you see here with Core i7, 16GB of RAM, 1TB SSD, and GeForce GTX 965M is £2,649. You can knock £400 off the Surface Book i7’s price by cutting the SSD capacity in half. Or you can step down to 8GB of RAM and a 256GB drive for £2,249. The problem is those prices aren’t competitive with competing laptops from

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PC makers. Of course, no other PC vendors offers anything quite like the i7 either. The other issue we have is the size and weight of the i7. Our review unit weighed just over 1576g. That’s only 60g heavier than the original Surface Book, but it’s hefty.

Verdict When Microsoft announced details of the Surface Book i7, we were pretty disappointed in its middle-aged hardware. In use, however, it appears there’s plenty of life left in these parts. That it can actually give you better

graphics performance than a larger 15in laptop with discrete graphics is amazing. Combined with its tablet mode, swanky hinge, pen support, beautiful screen, and stellar battery life, it’s easy to remember what made us fall in love with the Surface Book in the first place. J Gordon Mah Ung

Specifications 13.5in (3000x2000, 267ppi) PixelSense display Windows 10 Pro Office 365 30-day trial

256GB, 512GB or 1TB SSD 8GB or 16GB RAM Sixth-generation Intel Core i7 Nvidia GeForce graphics 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless networking 802.11a/b/g/n compatible Bluetooth 4.0 TPM chip for enterprise security 2x USB 3.0 SD card reader Surface Connect Headset jack Mini DisplayPort Cameras, video and audio 5Mp front-facing camera 8Mp rear-facing camera with autofocus Dual Microphones, front- and rear facing Front-facing stereo speakers with Dolby Audio Premium Ambient light sensor Accelerometer Gyroscope Magnetometer Up to 12 hours video playback Laptop: 312.3x232.1x13-22.8mm Clipboard: 312.3x220.2x7.7mm 1576g

Microsoft’s Surface Book i7 (bottom) isn’t the tiniest laptop around compared to the last-generation MacBook Pro 13 (second from bottom), the latest-generation HP Spectre x360 13 (third from bottom), and Dell’s bantam XPS 13 (top)

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Paint 3D Price: £TBC

PREVIEW

ne of Microsoft’s operating system’s most historic applications – and one of Windows 10’s few remaining native desktop programs – is receiving a radical overhaul in the free Windows 10 Creators Update releasing next spring. The venerable Paint’s being transformed into Paint 3D, a Windows Store app brimming with new features designed to bring two-dimensional images to life. Paint 3D’s loaded with tools focused on making 3D image manipulation as simple as possible. The long-known Pencil tool now seamlessly works on any 3D objects, while new Sticker and Doodle tools exist to stamp 2D objects onto 3D images and convert 2D drawings into 3D images, respectively.

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Magic Select

A new Magic Select tool lets you remove the background from an image, leaving you free to work the primary object into 3D images with smart depth-selection and scaling capabilities. But bringing physical objects into the digital world goes even deeper than that; Paint 3D also integrates with a new ‘Windows Capture 3D’ tool being introduced in the OS. In essence, it’s a 3D scanner app; you slowly walk around the physical object with Windows Capture 3D open on a Windows 10 Mobile phone, and the app captures it as a 3D image that can be imported into Paint 3D. Microsoft is also launching a Remix 3D website where people can share 3D images they have created, to build up a stock

image database that anybody can tap into. Windows 10’s newfound infatuation with 3D images extends into the wider Microsoft ecosystem, too. With the Windows 10 Creators Update, you’ll also be able to export your 3D creations from Minecraft into the Remix 3D database, and study your Paint 3D-created images using the company’s HoloLen’s augmented reality headset (see page 88). You’ll also be able to share your Paint 3D creations directly to Facebook. Will Paint 3D replace the traditional Paint app, or will both live on as counterparts focused on 3D and 2D image manipulation, respectively? Microsoft didn’t say, but we’ll know when the Windows 10 Creators Update rolls out next spring. J Brad Chacos

Remix 3D

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Surface Studio Price: $2,499 (£TBC), 1TB; $4,199 (£TBC), 2TB

PREVIEW

The fantastic display immediately grabbed our attention icrosoft’s Surface Studio charges aggressively into territory once held by Apple, combining an elegant design, a massive, lovely display, and an eye-popping price tag. Our colleagues at PCWorld had a chance to try the company’s first-ever desktop after it was announced. Although the specs fall slightly short of state-of-the-art, everything felt extremely fast and responsive. The base offering includes a sixth-generation (Skylake) Core i5, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M 2GB GPU, a 1TB hybrid drive, and 8GB of memory. At the highest end, the model includes a sixthgeneration Core i7, 32GB of memory, and a GTX980M GPU, along with 2TB of storage. What we like most about the Surface Studio is how it pivots, literally, from a single-purpose workstation into an easel for artistic creation or sharing. A pair of hinges gracefully lifts the massive 28in, 4500x3000 PixelSense display from a nearly vertical position to about 20 degrees

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off the horizontal. The display itself offers Adobe sRGB and DCI-P3 colour settings, individually colour-calibrated. If there’s any drawback, it’s that the monitor itself lacks any other positioning feature. There’s no way of raising it higher, save for propping it up with a book or stand. Though it’s designed for creativity, we found one pleasing productivity aspect: when in monitor mode, the display was large enough and detailed enough to allow for four snapped windows in each corner. True, you can do this with any display attached to a Windows 10 machine. But the Studio display’s vast real estate actually makes this practical, with little in the way of visual compromise. The Surface Studio ships with a standard Surface Pen, plus an updated Microsoft Sculpt mouse and keyboard, wrapped in Surface grey. We’re lukewarm on the peripherals (though you could certainly replace them with your own hardware). The mouse felt flattish, versus the smooth

curve we prefer. We were also hoping for a keyboard a bit more like the Surface Book’s, rather than the chiclet feel of the Surface tablet’s detachable keyboard. They both felt like flimsy cup holders on a car.

Surface Studio mouse

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We found the Surface Studio comfortable to sketch upon, at least for the short periods we tried it The Dial, though, is intriguing. A $100 (£TBC) optional peripheral, the Dial augments the mouse and keyboard with quick, easily accessible shortcuts packaged in something that looks remarkably like a hockey puck. (For further details, go to page 80.) While the Studio doesn’t include the modular functionality that was hinted at in a patent filing, it does include a 5Mp front-facing camera and a dual-mic array. Triggering Windows 10’s Cortana assistant

(Hey, Cortana) worked well in the crowded demo room. We didn’t try the camera. We’re not sure we like Microsoft’s decision to package its expansion ports inside the base. In essence, the firm took its Surface Hub and tied it to a standard motherboard, encased it in plastic, and called it a day. The Studio puts four USB 3.0 ports inside the base, but points them toward the back, probably making it a pain to plug in anything. There’s an SD card reader and a headphone

jack – again, facing the rear. Unlike the Surface tablets, there’s no USB port on the side of the monitor. Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi complete the package. The Studio is a lovely piece of hardware, and we can’t wait to spend more time with it. But remember, it isn’t necessarily for you. Microsoft is aiming this at the creative community who normally would buy a Mac. We’ll be interested to see how many actually make the jump. J Mark Hachman

Microsoft says that front-facing ports would have interfered with the zero-gravity hinge

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Surface Dial Price: $100 (£TBC) ove over, mouse and keyboard. Take a seat, Surface Pen. Microsoft has a new input device: the Surface Dial, a silver hockey puck designed to make life simple for digital artists. Mice move, pens draw; the Dial turns. If you tap it a radial menu appears. Turn the Dial, and you can quickly access the corresponding shortcut. It’s as simple as that. The Surface Dial was designed as a peripheral for the Surface Studio. It will work with the Surface Pro 3, Pro 4 and Book as well, but with the Studio, it can control the tablet while resting on the screen – an interaction that isn’t there on the older tablets. In some sense, though, it is a solution in search of a problem. Within the Maps application, the Dial can currently only be used off-screen, as a sort of mouse replacement. Spin it one way, and the map zooms out. Tap it and enable ‘Tilt’, and the Dial controls the map’s orientation. For artists who spend their days using a drawing application, however, you can begin to see the potential. Consider the various gradients and percentages that can be applied to the opacity of a line, or the contrast of a scene. Generally, these controls are governed by slider bars in a control panel. An artist may have to adjust one, then draw, making adjustments back and forth until everything looks right. With Surface Studio you can have one hand on the

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PREVIEW

Dial and the other on the Surface Pen, even leaning on the screen. Adjustments can be made quickly – and even, reportedly, on the fly, though it depends on the app. At the Microsoft event, executives demonstrated a CAD app that required a stepped adjustment: draw, adjust the thickness of the line, then draw again. Other apps, however, will enable

Dial users to draw one continuous stroke, adjusting the properties of the line as it’s being drawn.

A niche audience In 2012, Microsoft flirted with a radial menu for OneNote, and the Dial is that design motif in physical form. We wouldn’t call the The Dial can be used to turn the screen on and off

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A closer look at the Dial’s new radial menu peripheral a necessity – in fact, for basic tasks it simply isn’t as fast or functional as a mouse’s thumbwheel. In PowerPoint, for example, one of Dial’s options is to zoom the window. But the ‘tap’ on the device is a bit more than a tap: the Dial requires you to hold it down for about a second before it triggers the radial menu. In some applications, where the mousewheel is already programmed for the same action, the Dial becomes useless. In a specialised artistic application, however, the Dial becomes far more useful.

As a massive tablet, reclined in a way that gives the artist full access to a digital painting, fumbling with a keyboard shortcut or control panel is a chore. In that sense, the Dial smooths out the workflow and keeps the artist’s attention focused on their creation. That’s a pretty limited niche, however. We think it’s fair to say that most Surface users rarely touch the Surface Pen, and even fewer will use the Dial. But we also expect that Microsoft’s odd little puck will probably attract a cult following. J Mark Hachman

The Dial takes a pair of AA batteries, which are held on by a magnetic cover

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Windows 10 PREVIEW Creators Update Price: Free

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icrosoft sees the HoloLens (see page 88) and what it calls “mixed reality” as a big part of the firm’s future. We’ll get our first major taste of that vision this spring when the Windows 10 Creators Update rolls out. This seems to be targeted at Windows users between the ages of 12 and 24, who, Microsoft says, value creativity more highly than previous generations. That said, everyone else can come along for the ride too, with new 3D creation tools for smartphones, PCs, HoloLens, and virtual reality headsets. Gaming also gets a big nod in the Creators Update, with a builtin game broadcasting feature, custom gaming tournaments, and Dolby Atmos support for the Xbox One S. Here’s a breakdown of what’s coming.

Windows Capture 3D A new feature headed to smartphones and possibly other devices, such as tablets, is Windows Capture 3D. This feature uses the device’s camera to scan a physical object and turn it into a 3D digital one. All you have to do is point your camera at the real object and move around it, similar to how you’d slowly scan an area to create a panoramic photo. Based on what we saw during Microsoft’s demonstration, the images are a little on the cartoonish side. So don’t

Paint 3D

count on creating photo-realistic images of your dog or a sandcastle. Microsoft plans to roll out the new feature (presumably as an app) to Windows 10 Mobile, as well as other platforms such as Android and iOS.

Paint 3D Once you’ve captured a 3D image with the new mobile tool, you’ll need a way to use it. That’s where a new version of Microsoft Paint, called Paint 3D, comes in. If you follow the Windows rumour mill, then you’ve already seen leaked versions of it in action. With this new built-in app, you can grab your 3D image captures and insert them into a regular image in Paint. With Paint 3D you could, for example, mix and match 3D and 2D elements to create an original image. It will also have 3D emojis, the ability to add stickers as textures on 3D objects, or draw directly on 3D images with Paint’s pen and brush tools. (For further details, see page 77.)

Remix 3D If you get tired of scanning your own images, Microsoft is building a new community – a site called

Remix3D.com where you can grab the 3D equivalent of clip art. The community will feature items created using 3D modelling software Sketchup, as well as objects built in Microsoft-owned Minecraft. Starting with the Creators Update, users will be able to export their creations from Minecraft and share them on Remix3D.com. There will also be the ability to seamlessly print your Minecraft creations in 3D to bring them into the real world (see above).

Microsoft Office in 3D Windows 10’s Creators Update will also let you get serious with 3D objects in Microsoft Office. It’s not clear how many programs in the productivity suite will get 3D integration, but Microsoft showed it off in PowerPoint, which is a natural fit for 3D imagery. The presentation software will let you add 3D images, mix them with 2D elements (just like Paint 3D), and create fancy animated transitions from one slide to the next. In Microsoft’s example, you could have a close-up of fruit hanging from a tree branch. For the transition to a new slide the 3D image of the tree spins and zooms out until you see the complete object.

VR accessories It appears Microsoft isn’t going to let Google, Oculus, Samsung, and others run away with the virtual reality craze. The company says the Windows 10 Creators Update will bring “powerful and affordable VR” to everyone. Microsoft manufacturing partners, including

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HoloLens Acer, Asus, Dell, HP and Lenovo, will introduce VR headsets with six degrees-offreedom sensors similar to other headsets. The key issue with these new accessories is that they are supposed to be much cheaper than Oculus or the HTC Vive, with prices

Creators Update. The most interesting is Edge functioning as what Microsoft calls “a portal for interacting with 3D digital content” in HoloLens. Presumably, this will require some heavy lifting for websites that want to support it, but it looks promising.

In the Creators Update, five important contacts will appear as profile images to the far right of your taskbar. You’ll be able to drop files onto these contacts to immediately share items starting at around £250. The Rift and Vive are priced at £549 and £759 respectively, but there’s no telling what the top price will be on the new Windows 10 accessories.

HoloLens HoloLens isn’t ready for consumers yet. Nevertheless, the augmented reality device will get some exciting additions in the My People

Even Microsoft’s rather mundane example was fascinating and ultra-futuristic. Using Edge in the Creators Update with HoloLens, you could visit furniture site Houzz, select an item, and get a life size 3D representation of the object in your home. That way you could see how a bed might look in your children’s room, or how that new sofa will fit in with the den’s football fan motif.

Gaming, gaming and 4K Blu-ray Gaming and the phenomenon of watching gaming (such as e-sports matches and tournaments) is becoming huge. Windows 10 Creators Update will cater to gaming with a new one-click game streaming feature built-in to the Xbox Live Gamebar. The streaming feature will use Beam, a live game streaming service Microsoft acquired in August. The Redmond-based firm didn’t say if the feature will also support Twitch or YouTube. Microsoft will also expand Xbox Live’s Arena mode allowing users to create their own e-sports tournaments to match up against people in their Xbox Live network. Finally, the Xbox One S is getting Dolby Atmos support for improved audio when watching 4K Blu-ray. With 4K and HDR support already built-in to the Xbox One S, the console is shaping up to be a compelling entertainment unit for the living room.

My People Microsoft wants to make people the centre of your Windows experience with ‘My People’, a feature that borrows from Android and iOS. In the Creators Update, five important contacts will appear as profile images to the far right of your taskbar. You’ll be able to drop files onto these contacts to immediately share items, or click on the contact to interact in a specific app like Mail, Skype, SMS or Xbox Live. Click Mail, and you’ll get a customized inbox featuring only your interactions with that person. In addition, Microsoft will add a messaging feature called Shoulder Taps that lets “your people” send emoji and stickers that pop up immediately on the desktop. Windows Store apps will also get My People built-in, allowing you to quickly share files from the Photos app. J Ian Paul

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new Windows 10 features

11 Microsoft just sneakily revealed Microsoft was quiet about several planned features in the Creators Update. Blair Hanley Frank reports icrosoft showed off a handful of marquee features, which we’ve covered over the past few pages, but the company hid 11 more new releases in its sizzle reel preview of the Creators Update. There’s a lot packed in there, including a new app, plus changes to Edge, Maps, Windows Defender, and more. The company declined to comment when asked about these features, and they may change or disappear before the update launches this Spring. Fair warning.

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1. Groove Music Maker app It looks like Microsoft is aiming to compete with Apple’s GarageBand home music creation software with a new Groove Music Maker app. It’s been designed to let people mix instrumental and vocal tracks, plus apply basic effects such as reverb.

2. Revamped Windows Defender Microsoft has focused heavily on improving the security of Windows 10, and it looks like that’s getting a further upgrade with a redesigned Windows Defender coming in the Creators Update. In addition to virus protection, the app also includes firewall and network protection, computer performance and health, and family safety features.

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3. Scrollable rich tab previews for easy switching in Microsoft Edge Microsoft Edge will get a feature designed to make it easier to flip through a bunch of browser tabs. The video shows a user able to scroll through a horizontal carousel of rich tab previews that show the contents of pages before they’re opened.

4. Set aside tabs in Edge In a similar tab management vein, Edge will also get a feature that looks like a way for users to save their browser tabs to access later. It’s reminiscent of features such as Apple’s Reading List in Safari, which also lets users keep a list of articles and sites for later perusal.

5. Collections of places in Maps Microsoft’s Maps app is getting a new section called Collections, which appear to be exactly what they sound like – groupings of places. It also seems like there will be some mechanism in the app for sharing those collections between friends, but it’s not immediately clear how that will work.

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6. New live tiles If you blinked while watching the launch line, you probably missed this information flashing on the screen briefly. The Start menu shows a new Cortana live tile, along with an icon for a Battery Level Live tile. The former seems like a good way for people to get contextual information from Microsoft’s virtual assistant, and the latter seems like a useful tool for people with laptops and tablets.

7. Custom accent colours People who want to further customise the way Windows looks will be able to pick from a full palette of accent colours, rather than the handful of swatches that Microsoft allows today. It also looks like Windows will tell users when the colour they picked might be unreadable.

8. In-app purchases from the Windows Store home screen It looks like the Windows Store will get support for selling in-app purchases directly from its home screen. Microsoft is showing both Minecraft in-app purchases and digital items from League of Legends in this screenshot, which could mean that there’s a partnership afoot between the two firms. That would make sense, considering that Windows and Devices Group chief Terry Myerson namechecked the League of Legends World Championship on stage at the event.

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9. Time limits on gaming This looks like a feature that will be a boon to parents who are looking to keep a handle on the gaming time that their kids have available. A notification pops up over this Minecraft footage telling the player that they have five minutes left, though it’s unclear what happens when their time is up.

10. Redesigned Quick Actions It looks like Microsoft might be taking this opportunity to at least partially redesign Action Centre’s quick actions capabilities to make it easier for people to do things such as adjust internet settings, volume and brightness.

11. Pick up where you left off It looks like the Action Centre, which houses notifications and quick access to settings, will also start giving users the chance to get access to files they have been working with on other devices. It seems like an attempt to better compete with Apple’s Continuity features in macOS and iOS, which also let people pick up where they left off on their iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches and Macs. J

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HoloLens Price: Developer Edition, £2,719 inc VAT; Commercial Suite edition, £4,529 inc VAT

PREVIEW

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his HoloLens is not for you. It’s for the people who will create the apps that you’ll use whenever an upgraded home version is released, a V2 or V3 that will live up to the promise of the concept and likely cost the same as VR kit such as the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive. If you do get to use this HoloLens, it’ll be in a theme park-style setting: just as we got to try the modern generation of VR properly for the first time at a Game of Thrones experience, part of an exhibition dedicated to the TV show at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. You’ll queue to go into room and play a game that’s half-real, half-digital and limited by the constraints of the HoloLens hardware – and how good your experience is will be up to the skills of the game’s designer. But for most people who are interested in combining VR with the real-world, we’re afraid you’re going to have to wait.

Developers, developers Before we get to try the device at Microsoft’s Lift Studios in London – a product demo and recording studio done up like a designer home/office – the company’s director of product marketing Leila Martine is very keen to stress this point. It’s the HoloLens Developer Edition, she says, very much emphasising the word ‘Developer’. It’s clear Microsoft doesn’t want this product judged as a consumer product. Having the media treating a developerfocused, in essence ‘open beta’, product as ready for home use is what put paid to something else that combined the real and the digital – Google Glass. When the HoloLens was placed over this writer’s head, it fitted comfortably. There’s even space at the front if you wear glasses, and you fit the device down the side of your head using a bike helmet-style

wheel on the back. It’s not uncomfortably heavy either, and we could have worn it for an hour without issue. At the top of the front of the HoloLens are four cameras that map out the space around you and turn it into a 3D model that the software can understand. Below this are the two lenses – miniature transparent screens that the HoloLens can add the pixels that make up the objects and characters and floating video screens (or whatever). What’s added to these screens is subtly different to allow for your eyes being next to each other – giving the illusion of 3D. The resulting images are pleasingly solid, if obviously computer-generated.

HoloLens field of view Here we also encounter this HoloLens’ major restriction. The screens take up between a half and two-thirds of the area of your vision. Anything outside this central horizontal rectangle is cut off. In an environment where the experience’s creator has built both real and digital elements – a haunted house or a ‘roomescape’ experience – this restriction could be accommodated into the game. The game’s designer could put a noticeable ring around the edge of the ‘screen’ and make it part of the its universe – a digital Sherlockian ‘double’ monocle or a scanning device from CSI to help you track down clues or retrace events. But where the digital elements are as much a part of the game or experience’s world as you are – whether the RoboRaid aliens-come-through-your-front-room-wall

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both outside and inside, and learned to tell different fracture types apart that would be difficult with a 2D picture. If that sounds gross, it’s not. It’s far too clinical for that. But if this concept was turned into a holographic version of Surgeon Simulator, that would be horrific (and a lot of fun too, we’re guessing). This experience aside, it seem very much that we’re still in the ‘fart app’ stage of the HoloLens – but then computers, phones, tablets and VR all went through that before experimentation and refinement produced the apps you love. And prototyping apps for the HoloLens is simpler than you might think, as developers can use a special (beta) version of the Unity game design app/engine that they know already – as it used to develop many mobile games.

RoboRaid game Microsoft demonstrated last year to the freakish survival horror that currently (thankfully) lives only in Charlie Brooker’s imagination (Episode 2, Playtest from the new series of Black Mirror) – this breaks the immersion, as things just stop mid-air. The small field of view is something that needs to worked on in the development of the hardware itself. It’s a similar issue to the low-resolution screens in the first Oculus Rift Development Kit that could make it feel slightly underwhelming – and can be fixed in a similar way, by developing more powerful hardware. (You also can’t use it outside – or in the dark – as the hardware needs a room to map. So an AR version of the Six Flags Superman VR rollercoaster isn’t going to happen any time soon.)

HoloLens apps and experiences

developers get a handle on designing games. To control the experiences, you use a limited set of gestures (which have to be in the HoloLens cameras’ field of view). A theatrical pinching motion selects things. Hold the pinch and move your hand, it you can drag what you’ve selected. Release the pinch and you’ve let that go. It’s hardly a Kinect. (However, developers from advertising agency Razorfish have created a research project that combines HoloLens and Kinect – and the results sound intriguing). The one experience with depth was aimed at medical students. Created with a US university’s school of medicine, the app puts a full-sized human body in front of you. Pinches remove the skin in layers and then muscle to reveal the skeleton. We watched half a human heart beat from

HoloLens battery life The HoloLens has a two-hour battery life and takes about the same to charge – and you can use it while it’s plugged into the charger (if you were using it at your desk to check out 3D models you’d designed for a feature film, for example). This is probably one of the current specs that won’t really need upgrading for the home version.

Verdict The HoloLens offers a tantalising version of future AR experiences. However, before it’s ready for primetime, it’s going to take concerted effort on the part of Microsoft to upgrade the hardware and developers to explore how best to make games and apps for it. But once we’re there, it’s going to be amazing. J Neil Bennett

We tried four HoloLens experiences, ranging from the educational to the silly. Three were in essence tech demos – quick thrills not experiences you’d invest time in (or necessarily return to). One showed the internal workings of a watch as an in-store experience designed to impress people who might drop a few thousand pounds on a luxury watch. More delightful was a starfield that, when you turned around, revealed a solid-looking animated model of the Solar System with planets gracefully circling the sun. Actiongrams let you put 3D models of characters from zombies to celebrities in your front room. We placed a T-Rex on the floor, who roared at us more menacingly than you’d expect from a dinosaur that looks more like Rex from Toy Story than something out of Jurassic Park – showing that HoloLens has potential for scary experiences once You can control the experience with a limited number of gestures

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22/11/2016 11:07


FEATURE

HOW

A MOTHERBOARD WORKS

THOMAS RYAN RIPS APART A MOTHERBOARD TO REVEAL HOW IT WORKS

For science It could have been just another sad day when a confused power supply recently fried our Biostar Z97WE motherboard (pictured right). But rather than simply chuck it in the bin and move on to a new one, we decided to rip it apart piece by piece to show you some of the key hardware and technologies hiding inside that help motherboards serve as the central nervous system of your PC. Disclaimer: One motherboard was brutally dismembered in the making of this article. Let’s dig in.

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FEATURE

D Ruining RAM The easiest parts to tear off a motherboard are the RAM slots. They’re held on with small metal tabs that can be easily released from the underside of the motherboard. Upon removing the plastic RAM slot, you’ll be able to see the pins that lead up from the motherboard and into the plastic slot to make the electrical connection with the memory. The plastic slot itself is a rather sturdy device that you basically can’t break with your hands. Once you pull one RAM slot off of your motherboard, getting the other three off takes no time at all. Some motherboards have RAM slots of the same colour. The Z97WE Biostar motherboard we’re literally tearing apart here is not one of those. It features alternating slot colours: yellow and black.

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Feature: How a motherboard works

PCI-E Next, we pulled off the PCI-E slots, which are used for connecting graphics cards and storage to your PC. These slots were held on by the same small metal tabs as the RAM slots, but required a bit more force to remove – we had to use a screwdriver as a simple lever. Of course, with the PCI-E slots removed, there are even more unprotected pins protruding from the PCB of the motherboard, so be careful if you try this at home.

Spoiling the Southbridge Next, we used a screwdriver and a bit of wiggling to extract the southbridge heatsink. The southbridge oversees a computer’s input/output signals, like USB, the system BIOS, PCI-E, and audio. Emblazoned with the Biostar logo, this low-profile heatsink cools the logic of Intel Z97WE chipset.

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Feature: How a motherboard works

Bringing up the rear This is the bottom of the southbridge heatsink, leftover thermal paste and all.

The brains of the BIOs Near the southbridge sits the memory chip that stores the BIOS for our Biostar motherboard. This particular chip sits in a small socket, which means it’s technically a replaceable part. This particular chip’s made by Winbond and has 64MB of memory.

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Feature: How a motherboard works

Inveterate VRMs Here’s an important piece of motherboard hardware that we couldn’t yank off: the power delivery hardware, dubbed voltage regulation modules (VRMs). These grey capacitors, dark grey ferrite chokes, and small black MOSFETS all work together to make sure your CPU gets the consistent power it needs to work correctly.

Taking the heat The VRMs often get hot, which is s why high-end motherboards often feature hefty heatsinks like the ones we have here, which were pulled off the VRMs highlighted above. You can still see the impression of the MOSFETS in the squishy thermal pads on top of these heatsinks.

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Feature: How a motherboard works

Bricking the CPU Bracket We return to our trusty screwdriver to unseat the CPU retention bracket. True to the ideals of any good bracket, this one’s a sturdy hunk of metal with a lever that puts pressure on the CPU to hold it firmly in the socket.

Bottom’s up Here we have the underside of the CPU retention bracket. Most aftermarket heatsinks include a bracket that mounts to the underside of the CPU socket. That would attach to this bracket.

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Feature: How a motherboard works

Knocking down pins We didn’t manage to rip the actual CPU socket off our motherboard, but we did crush a few pins inside the socket. On a practical level, the pins connect the CPU to the motherboard, while the retention bracket ensures the CPU maintains a tight connection to the socket pins, and is key to swappable processors. If it weren’t for the pins and the bracket, the processor would have to be soldered to the motherboard.

The end Finally, we have our stripped-down motherboard. With everything removed, this once-mighty board looks rather pedestrian. The only real indication of what it once was are the lonely CMOS battery, the dozens of pins lined up where the slots used to sit, and all the bare chips surrounded by white squares on the surface of the PCB (which you can’t rip off without doing serious damage). J

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18/11/2016 15:08


FEATURE

Best touchscreen Gloves Need gloves that work with your iOS or Android device? These special touchscreen gloves will keep your digits warm and digital devices working. Simon Jary reports

Mujjo Double Layered Touchscreen Gloves

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FEATURE Left: Mujjo Single-Layered Gloves Below: Mujjo Leather Touchscreen Gloves

apacitive touchscreen gloves that let you use your phone while protecting your hands from the cold are sure to be big sellers this winter. But which touchscreen gloves are best for you? None of us like cold hands, but we don’t like not being able to use our touchscreen devices either. And most touchscreens need your actual warm finger skin to operate properly. Wrap those digits in a glove and the digital device won’t register your touch. That usually means removing your glove, sticking it in a pocket or hanging it out of your mouth, while you tap away on your smartphone or tablet in the freezing cold with numb fingers. This means wet or lost gloves, plus a good chance of frostbite. Most smartphones, whether they be iOS, Android or Windows, use a capacitive touchscreen rather than the older resistive technology, which relied on pressure to work. Capacitive displays have an electrical field and so require contact with something that can conduct electricity – typically a finger or a special stylus.

C

When you wear standard gloves you lose that electrical conductivity, so the charge can’t pass from your finger through the glove and register on the screen. Tap as you might the smartphone says no. Unless you wear fingerless gloves or cut out holes for your skin to show through, you need a special pair of touchscreen gloves that will work with capacitive touchscreens. Luckily, there are a few around and we look at the best touchscreen gloves here.

Mujjo Single- and Double-Layered Touchscreen Gloves Dutch design company Mujjo (mujjo.com) was one of the first makers of touchscreen gloves, and has a wide range from standard to double-layered and leather. They also look like something from the James Bond movie Spectre. Many touchscreen gloves are restricted to a couple of fingers for their operation. The Mujjo gloves work on all parts of the hand: fingers, knuckles, palm or heel. The firm’s latest are the recently updated Single- and Double-Layered Touchscreen

Mujjo Touchscreen Gloves in coral pink

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Feature: Touchscreen gloves

Muji Mocha Brown Touchscreen Gloves

The North Face Etip Touchscreen Gloves

Gloves, whose design includes a leather wrist strap with magnetic snap closure and upgraded material for increased durability and grip – a dot pattern on the palms aid anti-slip capabilities – and an integrated soft fleece lining. The Double-Layered Gloves have an extra wool layer that acts as an insulator and doubles as lining for enhanced insulation. These stretchable gloves look great and are different to any others we’ve seen so far. The cuff boards are constructed of matching black leather and the palms also feature the dot pattern for extra grip. The magnetic

The North Face Windstopper Etip Touchscreen Gloves

closure means you’re less likely to lose one of the pair when you take them off. To make its gloves conductive, Mujjo has added silver-coated nylon fibres into the fabric, which make the gloves conductive and therefore touchscreen compatible. In our tests, we found that the Mujjo Refined Touchscreen Gloves kept our hands nice and warm, while giving us unrestricted access on our touchscreens. The Mujjo Single-and Double-Layered Touchscreen Gloves are available in small, medium and large. The Single-Layered Gloves cost €29.95 plus €6.90 shipping

to the UK, so around £33 in total. The warmer Double-Layered Gloves cost €34.95 plus €6.90 shipping to the UK, so around £38 in total. Prices for the Leather Mujjo Gloves, fitted with a stylish fold-over closure, start at £80 with free shipping. These look even meaner than the Layered Gloves – maybe these are more for the arch villain than James Bond himself. No Nordic noir killer should be seen without them. On the softer side Mujjo also sells wool touchscreen gloves (available in natural grey and sandstone) for £29 including shipping.

North Face Etip Gloves The more well-known North Face brand (thenorthface.co.uk) is famous for its cold-weather outerwear, with its logo much-seen in wintery episodes of The X-Files. Think Fox Mulder rather than James Bond. The North Face Etip Gloves in stretch-knit fleece are a little more expensive at £30, but are equally warm and tight fitting. They also feature a silicone gripper palm pattern

Muji Stripped Touchscreen Gloves

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Feature: Touchscreen gloves

Marks & Spencer Metallic Effect Touchscreen Gloves

for non-slip grip. For colder situations there’s the £65 Windstopper Etip Gloves, featuring an extra Gore lining. Previously, the conductivity was limited to just the thumb and index fingers, but the latest versions will work with touchscreens on all fingers. They are available in Black, Vanadis Grey (like lilac) and Black Ink Green (more like grey), and in small, medium, large and extra large sizes.

Muji Touchscreen Gloves Not to be confused with Mujjo, at the cheaper end of the market are Muji’s (muji.eu) touchscreen gloves, priced from £7.95. Available in either plain, striped or patterned versions The firm offers its usual high quality at a reasonable cost. Only the middle and index finger on each glove will work with touchscreens, unlike some of the other gloves featured here that can control a phone using just about any part.

Timberland Touchscreen Gloves Timberland (timberland.co.uk) has a wide range of men’s and women’s touchscreen gloves, starting at £30 in a variety of materials and styles. The Women’s Black Shelburne Bay Leather Touchscreen Glove costs £55, and is available in small, medium and large sizes. The Women’s Maiden Beach Knit Touchscreen Glove (£30) is blended merino wool, and works with touchscreen on each forefinger and

thumb. It’s available in small/medium and medium/large in Mauve Wine and Yolk Yellow. The Men’s Smugglers Beach Knit Touchscreen Glove (£30) comes in small/ medium and large/extra large in Medium Grey Heather and dark Red Dahlia. These too work on each forefinger and thumb. For £60, the firm offers the Men’s Shelburne Bay Leather Touchscreen Glove.

Marks & Spencer Touchscreen Gloves You’d expect M&S (marksandspencer.com) to have a good selection of gloves, and quite a few work with touchscreen devices. Prices start at £8 for two pairs of knitted touchscreen gloves (for children only), rising

through £9.50 for a pair of metallic-effect gloves, and up to £25 for a pair of Leather Touchscreen Gloves with Thinsulate.

Blacks Mountain Equipment Touchscreen Gloves Outdoor specialists Blacks (blacks.co.uk) offer a pair of soft, stretchy touchscreen gloves as what it calls “an everyday winter essential” for £24. They feature Polartec Power Stretch Pro for “snug comfort and exceptional insulation,” and are available in small, medium, large and extra large. Of course they are available only in black. For £37, the Sealskinz Ultra Grip Touchscreen Gloves have greater grip, as well as touchscreen index finger and thumb. J

Timberland Men’s Shelburne Bay Leather Touchscreen Gloves

Blacks Mountain Equipment Touchscreen Gloves

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22/11/2016 17:00


HOW TO

Prevent a failed Windows update installing Windows updates can cause problems if they fail to install. Chris Martin explains how to stop them

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HOW TO If, like most people, your computer runs the Home version of Windows 10, then you have less control over updates. However, Microsoft has realised the error of its ways and in the latest version of the operating system you can prevent restarts during your ‘Active Hours’. To set these, choose Settings from the Start menu, then Update and Security, then Change Active Hours. Of course, simply setting Active Hours isn’t sufficient to prevent Windows updates getting installed. One of the issues with the forced and automatic updates in Windows 10 is that a broken update will be included and fail to install. When this happens, Windows will try to download and install it each time you shut down or start your PC. The good news is that you can download an optional tool for Windows 10 called the Show or Hide Updates Troubleshooter (tinyurl.com/jlr2rut). There are two versions: one for the Anniversary Update and the other for computers running the November (2015) update. You install this like any other program after downloading it, by clicking on the downloaded file in your browser, or heading to your downloads folder and double-clicking it. The troubleshooter should start and show a welcome screen. Click Next to perform a scan and find out which updates can be (temporarily) stopped from installing. Then, you can click on Hide updates (see screenshot) and you’ll see a list of the updates which you can stop. Tick the box next to

each one you want to stop. It’s best to use a search engine to try to find out which is the troublesome update rather than simply checking them all. The updates bring not only bug fixes and new features but important security patches. Without the latest updates your PC may be left vulnerable.

Click Next and the troubleshooter will show this screen, revealing that it has successfully suppressed the update(s).

It’s a good idea to keep tabs on when Microsoft has fixed the broken update. You can use the same tool to unhide the update so it can install. The process is the same. Just use the Show hidden updates option, and select those you want to unhide. J

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How to: Get the Quick Launch bar in Windows 10

Get the Quick Launch bar in Windows 10 The Quick Launch bar was a hit with XP users. Christopher Minasians shows how to bring it back Windows XP’s Quick Launch bar was a much-loved feature that was removed from Windows 7. You can, however, get it back in Windows 10. First, right-click on an empty space on your taskbar and hover over ‘Toolbars’ (screenshot 1) to reveal another menu and click on ‘New toolbar’. Once you’ve opened it, click on the address bar found at the top of Windows Explorer and enter: %appdata%\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch (screenshot 2). Next, click ‘Select Folder’, which will present you with a Quick Launch bar at the right-hand side of your taskbar. Now that you have the Quick Launch bar, you can customise its position and what it contains. To unlock the taskbar, rightclick on an empty space on your taskbar and untick ‘Lock the toolbar’. Next, right-click the dotted separator lines to enter the settings and customise the look of the bar. You can drag the bar by long-pressing it using your mouse’s left-click button on the dotted separator lines – this lets you position it to the left or right side on your taskbar. To lock the taskbar, right-click on an empty space on your taskbar and tick ‘Lock the toolbar’. If you no longer want to see the Quick Launch bar on your taskbar, right-click on an empty space on your taskbar, hover over ‘Toolbars’ and untick Quick Launch. The bar will now disappear. J

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22/11/2016 09:54


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How to: Log into a PC that won’t recognise a password

Log into a PC that won’t recognise a password When your Windows 10 login password fails you’ll need a recovery drive, writes Josh Norem We’ve heard from a number of readers who have been unable to log into their PCs. In every instance they had not touched their computer nor changed anything, yet all of a sudden their password wouldn’t work. Microsoft hasn’t acknowledged this problem in its update log, so it could be a hardware/software malfunction, perhaps some problem with the installation of an update. First, try the on-screen keyboard (accessed via the login screen) to enter your password, as it could be your regular input device isn’t working. Click the Ease of Access icon (it looks like a clock with a dotted circle) in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. Alternatively, you could use Windows System Restore to go back in time to when the previous password worked. Because you can’t log into Windows, you’ll need to access this via a recovery disk. Note, you’ll need to use a PC with the same version (32- or 64-bit) of Windows 10. The easiest way to find this feature is to type create a recovery drive into the search bar. You’ll need to use a USB key with between 8- and 16GB of free space. If you don’t have a recovery drive, you could download the Windows 10 installation files. Once you’ve created a bootable

The Windows 10 installation disk can double as a recovery disk disk, press Next at the first screen you see (after you select your language), then click Repair your computer. On the next screen, press Troubleshoot to access ‘System Restore’ and ‘Go back to previous build’. Click System Restore and select your OS. Follow the prompts to select an earlier time to restore your PC. J

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17/11/2016 15:54


How to: Stop autoplaying audio in Google Chrome

Stop autoplaying audio in Google Chrome Christopher Minasians reveals how to mute audio in Google’s browser using an extension Google Chrome allows you to mute individual tabs, which is handy if you have just a few of open. If, however, you have multiple tabs open, muting each one can be tiresome. Thankfully, the free Silent Site Sound Blocker extension solves this. First, go to the Chrome web store (tinyurl.com/j23xkzt) and add it to Google’s browser. You’ll see a yellow speaker at the top right-hand side of your window. If you right-click on the icon, you’ll be presented with several options (see screenshot 1). Within each of these you’ll be presented with different settings (see screenshot 2). Toggle through these and decide which ones you wish to use. You can also add websites directly to your white- or blacklist. The extension works on all open tabs and windows (as long as you’re logged into the account where you added the extension). It’s also a great way to manage websites that cause you nuisance. If, however, it doesn’t work, type the following into the address bar: chrome://flags/#enable-tab-audio-muting. J

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How to: Ensure Chrome warns you before it closes

Ensure Chrome warns you before it closes Chrome on Windows doesn’t offer a warning dialog before it closes. Ian Paul’s workaround will help Personally, we don’t like browsers that display a warning dialog box whenever you try to close them with multiple tabs open. However, a lot of people do like this functionality, especially when they have dozens of browser tabs loaded. Unfortunately for those users, Chrome doesn’t offer a warning box in Windows. If you want to see a warning before closing Chrome here’s a quick solution. Admittedly, it’s a bit of a hack, but it works. Open the website Prevent Close (tinyurl.com/jeewg8k). This site uses JavaScript to throw up a dialog box that asks you if you’re sure you want to leave that specific website. The idea is to always leave that website tab open in Chrome, then when you click ‘X’ to close the browser, this site throws up a dialog box asking if you’re sure you want to leave that page. If you click Stay the browser window will not close, if you click Leave Chrome shuts down. We recommend pinning this website to your browser, then moving the tab out of the way. To do that open Prevent Close and then right-click the tab with your mouse. From the context menu select Pin tab. The tab will now shrink down to a different size from the rest of the tabs. Next, grab it with your mouse and drag the tab to the far left of your browser’s tab line-up. In that spot, it should be out of your way, but it will appear every time you start up your browser and prevent accidentally closing Chrome when it’s loaded with dozens of tabs. Pro Tip: Chrome’s pinned tabs feature is a little tricky. Pinned tabs only appear in a single Chrome window, not every new window

you open. To keep pinned tabs permanent, you need to close every other open Chrome browser window before closing the one with the pinned tab. In other words, close it last or you’ll lose it. Something to keep in mind the next time you have YouTube or Netflix open in one Chrome window while working in another. If you’re wondering why Chrome doesn’t offer a warning dialog on Windows, the best explanation we found was on a Google Chrome Help forum post. The lack of this ‘feature’ is a philosophical choice. Google is focused on making its browser as fast and simple as possible, which means stripping away some features. A close dialog box is apparently one such feature. The browser does have an option to enable a ‘warn before quitting’ dialog on Mac, owing to the way keyboard shortcuts for closing windows and tabs work on that platform. Windows users, however, will have to make do with this hack. J

Use the Pin tab option to keep Prevent Close available in Chrome

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22/11/2016 10:07


How to: Turn off Facebook Live notifications

Turn off Facebook Live notifications Simon Jary shows how to stop Facebook Live video messages taking over your notifications Facebook Live videos are a new wheeze by the social network giant to take up more of our precious time. However, our Notification list is getting taken over by brands pushing their Facebook Live videos at us when we haven’t asked for them. Luckily, it’s easy to turn them off. Go to your Facebook account’s desktop page on a PC, Mac or laptop. Click on the Notifications Globe icon. Just under the icon you’ll see a ‘Settings’ link. Click this. Near the bottom of the next screen you’ll see a video icon called ‘Live videos’. This gives you the ability to ‘Choose if you want to receive notifications when interesting live videos happen’. To the right you’ll see the option is set as a default to ‘on’ (see right). Click this to turn ‘All off’ or ‘Suggestions off’. You can also turn off individual Facebook Live notifications by clicking on the specific desktop Notification, and then on the option to ‘Turn off notifications about live videos from xxx’. Note, you’ll need to do this from the desktop Facebook page rather than the mobile. J

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17/11/2016 16:00


How to: Create Motion Paths in PowerPoint

Create Motion Paths in PowerPoint Building motion into PowerPoint slideshows helps bring them alive, writes JD Sartain The best thing about PowerPoint is the animation. Building motion into slideshows makes them come alive and it’s going to get even more interesting when PowerPoint gets 3D capabilities with the Windows 10 Creators Update due in early 2017.

In order to make things move in PowerPoint, your objects need a path (called a motion path) to travel from one location to another. Setting up the motion path used to be tedious, but now it’s a simple, straightforward procedure.

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How to: Create Motion Paths in PowerPoint

First, you must either create an object or insert one from the online clip art collection or your hard drive. To do so, open PowerPoint, insert a new slide, and make the background colour dark blue. Select a star from the drop list, then hold down the left mouse button and drag the cursor down and over to draw the star on your screen. Click the object – the star – you want to animate. From the Animations tab click Advanced Animations > Add Animation. Scroll down to the Motion Paths section, then choose a path from the presets, or select More Motion Paths from the list.

Select motion paths from the list

When the Add Motion Path dialog opens, scroll through the dozens of options and choose one. Slide the Add Motion Path dialog to the right and watch the star move around the screen as you select and try out different Motion Paths.

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Once you choose a motion path, the path appears on the screen. If you want the path bigger, longer, smaller, or shorter, just grab the corner with the red arrow and drag the Motion Path in your chosen direction. Next, click Animation Pane (on the Ribbon menu), and it opens on the right side of your screen. Click the highlighted animation (5-Point Star 3) inside the panel, then click the Play From button, which means play the animation from this point on. Hover your cursor over the highlighted animation (5-Point Star 3) inside the panel to see the full description of this animation – in this case, ‘On Click, Stairs Down: 5-Point Star 3’.

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Size the object motion path, then play the animation Motion path options

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How to: Create Motion Paths in PowerPoint

After the animation plays, click the down arrow to the right of the 5-Point Star 3 animation to see the Timing and Effects Options submenu. The motion path submenu opens on the Timing tab. You have several timing options to define on this screen.

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Start options include On Click, With Previous, or After Previous. This means you can set the animation to begin on the click of the mouse, or with a previous animation that’s already running, or after a previously running animation. Delay options are timed in seconds, which just means you can set the animation on a time delay clock for X number of seconds after the option you select above. For instance, if you choose After Previous (as the Start time for the animation), you could then set a Delay time of two seconds. This is very important if you are trying to time or match the audio to each slide. Duration options are the time, length and speed of the animation (in seconds). These options are very useful if something in your animation has to match the audio. For example, we used this once in a slideshow when we had to set the Duration/speed to Fast so the sound of the jingling bells would match the movement of the bells.

For timing set the start delay duration

Repeat is the number of times you want the animation repeated in your slideshow. For example, in the original animation for the jingling bells, they only moved back and forth two times. We needed them to continue moving/jingling until the end of the slide, or else the bells would be stationary while the audio was still jingling. Rewind When Done Playing is a checkbox. Select this if you want the animation to return to the beginning after it plays. This is also a useful tool if you want your animation to return to its original location after it plays – for example, in case you need the object returned to its original location for the next slide. Triggers are options that allow you to choose which action will ‘trigger’ or start the animation. Your choices are Animate as Part of a Sequence (the default), which starts the animation as part of the ongoing, active sequence; Start the Effect On Click Of (the named animation), or Start Effect on Play Of. In this example, it would be started when something else is played, such as an audio or video file.

The next tab on the Motion Path (Stairs Down) submenu is Effect. This submenu also has several options that affect your animation.

5

Path Locked or Unlocked mean that if you click the object and move it, the animation path moves with the object (Unlocked) or remains at its current location (Locked). Smooth Start/Smooth End: you can have a full Smooth Start or a full Smooth End, but not both. For example, if the slider on Smooth Start is pushed to the end (five seconds), the slider on Smooth End moves to 0 seconds. You can push them both halfway or one-third up and two-thirds down, but notice as you push one to the right, the other one adjusts to the left. This means that the beginning (or the end) of the animation will slow down and sort of slide into home plate in slow motion. If both are set to 0, then animation will run evenly at the speed you selected above in the Duration option. Bounce End is a fun little feature that does just that: The object bounces at the end of the animation. For example, imagine that

More timing options

you throw a ball across the room and when it hits the floor, it bounces until it stops. Auto Reverse is a great feature. You can set the animation to go up and then back down the stairs, or inside and then back outside the door. Remember how this camera technique was used in the silent films? Same concept.

Auto Reverse settings

112 www.pcadvisor.co.uk/how-to February 2017

110_114 HT Create Motion Paths 259.indd 112

17/11/2016 16:02


How to: Create Motion Paths in PowerPoint

You’ll also see options under Enhancements: Sound makes the slideshow. If you don’t have a narrator, then sound effects or music are a must, or your audience will snooze. For Sound effects, click the down arrow beside the Sound field box, and then choose a sound from the list. Only .wav files are accepted for sounds attached to animations from this level.

Enhancements for sound To insert a narrator’s comments or music, from the Insert tab, click Audio, then choose Audio on My PC or Record Audio from the list. Navigate to your music or speech folder, select the appropriate file, then click Insert.

Insert audio files

February 2017 www.pcadvisor.co.uk/how-to 113

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17/11/2016 16:02


How to: Create Motion Paths in PowerPoint

After Animation is another cool feature that provides options including Colours (and More Colours), Don’t Dim, Hide After Animation, and Hide on Next Mouse Click. If you choose a colour, the object(s) in your animation will change to that colour at the end. Don’t Dim means don’t fade it out into the background. Hide means hide the animation after it completes or hide the animation when the user clicks the mouse. Animate Text is only available if your animation includes characters, words, or sentences. Use the options, when you want the animation to affect one character or one word at a time. For example; say the animation is Turn Down and you choose By Letter. The word GREAT moves across the screen, then down the screen, one letter at a time. The next field box is for the percentage of delay between the letters, so the letters don’t all move at the same time.

Animate Text The best way to learn how to create, manage, and manipulate animations and motion paths is to just open PowerPoint and play. Insert some basic shapes, add some fancy shape effects, and then add some motion paths and see what happens. PowerPoint is not as powerful as most animation-specific programs such as Flash, Maya, or Adobe Animate, but for beginners it does the job. J

Animations with motion paths

114 www.pcadvisor.co.uk/how-to February 2017

110_114 HT Create Motion Paths 259.indd 114

01/12/2016 11:18


How to: Download and save your Vine videos

Download and save your Vine videos If you want to keep precious Vine memories, you’ll need to download them now. Ian Paul shows how Short-form video creators everywhere were shocked at the end of October when Twitter announced it was killing Vine. There’s still no word on when the service will end, and there are rumours that Twitter may sell Vine to a third party, giving the service new life. Its fate is, however, uncertain and anyone who can’t get enough of their seven-second videos should back up their memories. It’s likely Twitter will provide a way for users to export and save their videos should the end truly come. For now, here are two ways to save your Vine videos to a PC, as long as your Vine account isn’t private.

Giphy The most publicized tool for grabbing your Vines is a new site created by Giphy. It will take your short videos and turn them into animated GIFs hosted publicly on Giphy. The source files for all videos will remain intact, including sound. Log in to the Giphy loves Vine website (tinyurl.com/qzfuaae) and create a Giphy account. Next, drop in the URL for your Vine username. If you don’t know what your username is, log in to your Vine account on Vine.co. In the upper right-hand corner hover over your profile picture and select View Profile. On the next page, copy the web address, drop it into Giphy and click Import. Giphy will notify you via email when the import is complete. Once your Vines are imported you can download them one-by-one.

To download the original source file with sound, click on your GIF of choice to go to its dedicated page on Giphy. Next, click the Advanced tab below the image and look for the ‘Source Download’ entry and click the Download button next to it. Giphy only allows one Vine import per Giphy account, though you can contact them directly if you have multiple accounts. The downside of Giphy is that it only saves Vine videos that were created by you. Any ‘Revines’ (Vine videos of others that you reposted to your account) will not be saved. If you want to save those too, you’ll need this next tool.

RIP Vine Another option is to use RIPVine.co from 9GAG, a social media site that hosts animated GIFs and other images. RIP Vine grabs everything from your Vine account including anything you’ve reshared that wasn’t created by you. The process is simpler than Giphy. First, you don’t need an account, but you will need your Vine account address once again. This time, however, you only need to enter everything after the ‘u’ in the address. For this writer’s account that would be ‘u/960257503373955072’. Once you’ve copied that part of your Vine profile address paste it into RIP Vine after vine.co/. Now click ’Backup your Vines’ and the process will begin. Don’t close the tab, and once it’s done your Vines will be available on the website. Again, they’ll be public. Finally, hit the Download button below each video to grab it. J

February 2017 www.pcadvisor.co.uk/how-to 115

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17/11/2016 16:05


Reader software downloads zone

DOWNLOADS ZONE Download the latest software from the PC Advisor Software Downloads Zone Available in print and digital formats, and featuring latest news, reviews, group tests, features and tutorials, PC Advisor magazine is simply the best technology magazine you can buy. In every issue we bring you software downloads through the PC Advisor Download Zone. All software downloads can be found in a central location. To make things as easy as possible, we have removed the need for individual codes to download or register each program. The only code you’ll need is DOWNLOAD1215, which you can enter at the following page: pcadvisor.co.uk/magazine/download Once logged in, you’ll be able to browse the software on offer or search for something specific using the search box, or click the Downloads link at the top of each page and browse by category. The Downloads Zone has hundreds of great programs and apps that are just a click or two away.

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TOP5CHARTS TEST CENTRE PC Advisor’s charts rank and rate the best products every month. If you’re looking to buy the latest and greatest kit, look no further than our 100-plus reviews

118

120

122

124

125

126

128

130

132

134

135

136

137

138

139

140

141

142

143

144

145

145

TEST CENTRE

117_145 New Top 5 Charts 259.indd 117

Prices listed are those quoted by the distributor or manufacturer and include VAT. They are intended only as a guide. If you’re interested in purchasing one of the products reviewed here then please contact the manufacturer or supplier directly, mentioning both PC Advisor and the issue in which you saw the product. If it won’t supply the product as reviewed, contact us at jim_martin@idg.co.uk. Manufacturers are under no obligation to feature reviewed products on their websites. Our recommendations are for guidance only. Star ratings are awarded at the time of the original review and given in relation to the market competition at that time.

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17/11/2016 16:23


Top 5 charts

1

2

3

4

5

Dell XPS 13 9350

Lenovo Yoga 710 (11in)

Asus ZenBook UX305CA

Dell Latitude 13 7370

HP Envy 13

Price

£1,720 inc VAT

£549 inc VAT

£649 inc VAT

£1,079 inc VAT

£799 inc VAT

Website

Dell.co.uk

Lenovo.com/uk

Asus.com/uk

Dell.co.uk

Hp.com/uk

Processor

2.2GHz Intel Core i5-5200U

Intel Core M3-6Y30

Intel Core i5-6300HQ

Intel Core m5-6Y57

2.5GHz Intel Core i7

RAM

8GB DDR3

8GB LPDDR3

8GB

8GB

8GB DDR3

Storage

128GB SSD

128GB SSD

128GB SSD

256GB SSD

256GB SSD

Screen size

13.3in matt IPS

11.6in TN glossy

13.3in matt

13.3in InfinityEdge

13.3in matt

Screen resolution

1920x1080

1920x1080

3000x2000

1920x1080

1920x1080

Graphics

Intel HD Graphics 5500

Intel HD 515

Intel HD 515

Intel HD 515

Intel HD 520

Video memory

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Wireless

802.11ac

802.11ac

802.11a/b/g/n/ac

802.11ac

802.11a/b/g/n/ac

Ethernet

Gigabit

Gigabit

Gigabit

Gigabit

Gigabit

Bluetooth

USB

2x USB 3.0

1x USB 3.0

3x USB 3.0

1x USB 3.0, 2x USB-C

3x USB 3.0

FireWire

Thunderbolt

DisplayPort

HDMI

DVI

VGA

eSATA

Media card slot

Audio

Headphone jack, mic

Headphone jack, mic

Headphone jack, mic

Headphone jack, mic

Headphone jack, mic

Optical drive

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Extras

720p webcam

HD webcam

HD webcam

HD webcam

HD webcam

Operating system

Windows 10 Home

Windows 10 Home

Windows 10

Windows 10 Professional

Windows 10 Home

Bundled software

None

None

None

None

None

Gaming scores

24.5/17.9fps in Tomb Raider

Not tested

Not tested

Not tested

Not tested

Battery

Not stated

40Wh lithium-ion

44Wh lithium-ion

34Wh

45Wh lithium-ion

Battery life

Not tested

9 hrs 45 mins

8 hrs

8 hrs 23 mins

1 hr 24 mins

PCMark8 score

Not tested

4712

1985

2942

2657

Dimensions

304x200x15mm

281x195x14.9mm

324x226x12.3mm

304.8x210.5x14.mm

326x226x13mm

Weight

1.3kg

1.04kg

1.2kg

1.12kg

1.3kg

Warranty

2-year return-to-base

1 year

1 year

1 year

1-year collect-and-return

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Top 5 charts

6

7

8

9

10

Microsoft Surface Book

Toshiba Chromebook 2

Apple MacBook Air 13in

Apple MacBook (2016)

Lenovo Yoga 900-131SK

Price

£1,299 inc VAT

£269 inc VAT

£849 inc VAT

£1,049 inc VAT

£1,499 inc VAT

Website

Microsoft.com/en-gb

Toshiba.co.uk

Apple.com/uk

Apple.com/uk

Lenovo.com/uk

Processor

Intel Core i5

Intel Celeron

1.6GHz Intel Core i5

1.1GHz Intel Core m3

2.5GHz Intel Core i7

RAM

8GB

4GB DDR3

4GB LPDDR3

8GB LPDDR3

16GB DDR3

Storage

128GB SSD

16GB SSD

128GB SSD

256GB SSD

512GB SSD

Screen size

13.5in PixelSense

13.3in IPS

13.3in glossy

12in IPS

13.3in IPS

Screen resolution

3000x2000

1920x1080

1440x900

2304x1440

1920x1080

Graphics

Intel HD Graphics 520

Intel HD graphics

Intel HD Graphics 6000

Intel HD Graphics 515

Intel HD 520

Video memory

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Wireless

802.11a/b/g/n/ac

802.11a/b/g/n/ac

802.11a/b/g/n/ac

802.11ac

802.11a/b/g/n/ac

Ethernet

Gigabit

Gigabit

Bluetooth

USB

2x USB 3.0

1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0

2x USB 3.0

1x USB-C

2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0

FireWire

Thunderbolt

DisplayPort

HDMI

DVI

VGA

eSATA

Media card slot

Audio

Headphone jack, mic

Headphone minijack

Headphone jack, mic

Headphone jack, mic

Headphone jack, mic

Optical drive

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Extras

Surface Pen

Webcam

720p FaceTime

480p FaceTime

720p webcam

Operating system

Windows 10 Professional

Google Chrome OS

macOS Sierra

macOS Sierra

Windows 10 Home

Bundled software

None

None

None

None

None

Gaming scores

Not tested

Not tested

Not tested

Not tested

Not tested

Battery

Not stated

Not stated

38Wh lithium-ion

41.4Wh lithium-polymer

40Wh lithium-ion

Battery life

12 hours

7 hrs 36 mins

12 hrs 49 mins

8 hrs 23 mins

5 hr 21 mins

PCMark8 score

Not tested

Not tested

Not tested

Not tested

2295

Dimensions

312.3x232.11x3mm

320x214x19.3mm

300x192x17mm

280.5x196.5x35mm

299x209x16mm

Weight

1.52kg

14kg

1.4kg

920g

1.3kg

Warranty

1 year

1 year

1-year return-to-base

1 year

1-year collect-and-return

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Build rating Features rating Value rating Performance rating Overall rating

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Top 5 charts

Best budget laptops

1

2

3

4

5

HP 250 G4

HP 255 G4

Asus X555LA-XX290H

Dell Inspiron 11 3000

HP Stream 11

Price

£299 inc VAT

£269 inc VAT

£300 inc VAT

£179 inc VAT

£179 inc VAT

Website

Hp.com/uk

Hp.com/uk

Asus.com/uk

Dell.co.uk

Hp.com/uk

Processor

2.1GHz Intel Core i5-5005U

2.2GHz AMD A8-7410

1.9GHz Intel Core i3-4030U

1.6-2.1GHz Intel Celeron N3050

2.16GHz Intel Celeron N2830

RAM

8GB

4GB DDR3

4GB DDR3

2GB

2GB DDR3

Storage

1TB HDD

1TB HDD

1TB HDD

32GB SSD

32GB SnaDisk eMMc drive

Screen size

15.6in matt

15.6in matt

15.6in glossy

11.6in matt

11.6in matt

Screen resolution

1366x768

1366x768

1366x768

1366x768

1366x768

Graphics

Intel HD GPU

AMD Radeon 5

Intel HD Graphics 4400

Intel HD

Intel HD Graphics

Video memory

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Wireless

802.11b/g/n

802.11b/g/n

802.11b/g/n

802.11a/b/g/n

802.11b/g/n

Ethernet

Gigabit

Gigabit

Gigabit

Bluetooth

USB

1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0

1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0

1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0

1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0

1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0

FireWire

Thunderbolt

DisplayPort

HDMI

DVI

VGA

eSATA

Media card slot

Audio

Headphone minijack

Headphone minijack

Headphone minijack

Headphone minijack

Headphone minijack

Optical drive

DVDRW

DVDRW

DVDRW

None

None

Webcam

Kensington lock slot, webcam

Kensington lock slot, webcam

Webcam

Kensington lock slot, webcam

Operating system

Windows 10

Windows 8.1 Pro

Windows 8.1

Windows 8

Windows 8.1

Bundled software

None

None

None

None

None

Battery

31Wh Lithium-ion

31Wh Lithium-ion

37Wh Lithium-ion

32Wh Lithium-polymer

37Wh Lithium-polymer

Battery life

5 hrs 5 mins

4 hrs 6 mins

5 hrs 17 mins

8 hrs 15 mins

8 hrs 45 mins

PCMark 8 Home score

2171

1863

1985

Not tested

Not tested

Batman (Low/High)

Not tested

28fps/Not tested

30fps/Not tested

Not tested

Not tested

Dimensions

384x254x24mm

385x255x24.6mm

381x257x26.3mm

292x196x19.9mm

300x205x20mm

Weight

2.1kg

2.1kg

2.1kg

1.39kg

1.25kg

Warranty

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

FULL REVIEW

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Top 5 charts

Best budget laptops

6

7

8

9

10

Asus X553SA

Toshiba Satellite C55-C-175

Dell Vostro 15 3000

Chuwi HiBook Pro

Lenovo Yoga 300

Price

£279 inc VAT

£395 inc VAT

£442 inc VAT

£172 inc VAT

£299 inc VAT

Website

Asus.com/uk

Toshiba.co.uk

Dell.co.uk

En.chuwi.com

Lenovo.com/uk

Processor

2.1GHz Intel Core Celeron

2.2GHz Intel Core i5

2.2GHz Intel Core i5-5200U

1.84GHz Intel Atom X5

2.16GHz Intel Pentium N3700

RAM

8GB DDR3

4GB DDR3

4GB DDR3

4GB DDR3

4GB DDR

Storage

500GB

500GB

500GB SSD

64GB

500GB

Screen size

15.6in glossy

14in matt

15.3in matt

10.1in matt IPS

11.6in IPS

Screen resolution

1366x768

19366x768

1366x768

2560x1600

1366x768

Graphics

Intel HD

Intel HD Graphics 5500

Intel HD Graphics 5000

Intel HD Graphics

Intel HD

Video memory

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Wireless

802.11a/b/g/n/ac

802.11ac

802.11b/g/n/ac

802.11b/g/n

802.11ac

Ethernet

Gigabit

Gigabit

Gigabit

Gigabit

Gigabit

Bluetooth

USB

1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0

1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 3.0

1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0

1x USB-C

1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0

FireWire

Thunderbolt

DisplayPort

HDMI

DVI

VGA

eSATA

Media card slot

Audio

Headphone jack, mic

Headphone jack, mic

Headphone minijack

Headphone jack, mic

Headphone jack, mic

Optical drive

Super-Multi DVD

N/A

None

N/A

N/A

VGA webcam

0.9Mp webcam

Kensington lock slot, webcam

720p webcam

None

Operating system

Windows 10 Home

Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1

Windows 10 Home

Windows 10 Home

Bundled software

None

None

None

None

None

Battery

48Wh lithium-ion

44Wh lithium-ion

40Wh Lithium-polymer

8000mAh

48Wh lithium-ion

Battery life

4 hrs 35 mins

5 hrs 4 mins

5 hrs 17 mins

Not tested

6 hrs 34 mins

PCMark 8 Home score

Not tested

Not tested

2296

940

1457

Batman (Low/High)

Not tested

27/30fps

29fps/Not tested

Not tested

Not tested

Dimensions

380x258x25.3mm

380x257x23.8mm

1378x259x24.5mm

262x167.5x8.5mm

299x209x22mm

Weight

2.2kg

2.2kg

2.4kg

550g

1.39kg

Warranty

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

FULL REVIEW

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Extras

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17/11/2016 16:24


Top 5 charts

Best Chromebooks

1

2

3

4

5

Dell Chromebook 11 (3120)

Toshiba Chromebook 2

Asus Chromebook Flip C100PA

Dell Chromebook 13 (7310)

Chromebook Pixel (2015)

Price

£202 inc VAT

£269 inc VAT

£249 inc VAT

£1,078 inc VAT

£799 inc VAT

Website

Dell.co.uk

Toshiba.co.uk

UK.asus.com

Dell.co.uk

Google.co.uk

Build rating Features rating Value rating Performance rating Overall rating Processor

2.16GHz Intel Celeron N2840 Intel Celeron

1.86GHz Rockchip RK3288C 2.9GHz Intel i5-5300U

Intel Core i7

RAM

4GB DDR3

4GB DDR3

4GB DDR3

8GB

8GB DDR3

Storage

16GB SSD

16GB SSD

16GB SSD

32GB SSD

32GB SSD

Screen size

11.6in HD

13.3in IPS

10.1in

13.3in

12.85in IPS

Screen resolution

1366x768

1920x1080

1280x800

1920x1066

2560x1700

Graphics

Intel HD graphics

Intel HD graphics

Rockchip Mali T764

Intel HD graphics

Intel HD 5500

Video memory

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Wireless

802.11a/b/g/n

802.11a/b/g/n/ac

802.11a/b/g/n/ac

802.11a/b/g/n/ac

802.11a/b/g/n/ac

Ethernet

Gigabit

Gigabit

Gigabit

None

Gigabit

Bluetooth

USB

1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0

1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0

2x USB 2.0

1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0

2x USB 3.0

FireWire

Thunderbolt

DisplayPort

HDMI

DVI

VGA

eSATA

Media card slot

Audio

Headphone minijack

Headphone minijack

Headphone minijack

Headphone minijack

Headphone minijack

Optical drive

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Webcam

Webcam

Webcam

Webcam

Webcam

Operating system

Google Chrome OS

Google Chrome OS

Google Chrome OS

Google Chrome OS

Google Chrome OS

Bundled software

None

None

None

None

None

Battery life

9 hrs 46 mins

7 hrs 36 mins

9 hrs 33 mins

10 hrs 46 mins

9 hrs

SunSpider score

697ms

Not tested

803ms

219ms

Not tested

Dimensions

297x217.7x120.1mm

320x214x19.3mm

262.8x182.4x15.6mm

381.9x252.5x19.9mm

297.7x224.55x5.3mm

Weight

1.25kg

1.4kg

890g

1.72kg

1.5kg

Warranty

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

FULL REVIEW

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Top 5 charts

Best Chromebooks

6

7

8

9

10

Acer Chromebook 14

Acer Chromebook R11

Acer Chromebook 13

HP Chromebook 11

Asus C300M

Price

£199 inc VAT

£229 inc VAT

£219 inc VAT

£229 inc VAT

£250 inc VAT

Website

Acer.co.uk

Acer.co.uk

Acer.co.uk

Hp.com/uk

UK.asus.com

Processor

1.6GHz Intel Celeron N3060

1.6GHz Intel Celeron N3050

2.1GHz nVidia Tegra K1

1.7GHz Exynos 5250

Intel Celeron N2830

RAM

2GB

2GB DDR3

4GB DDR3

2GB DDR3

2GB DDR3

Storage

16GB eMMC

16GB SSD

32GB SSD

16GB

16GB SSD

Screen size

14in LCD

11in IPS

13.3in

11.6in IPS

13.3in

Screen resolution

1366x768

1366x768

1920x1080

1366x768

1366x768

Graphics

Intel HD graphics

Intel HD graphics

nVidia Kepler

Intel HD graphics

Intel HD graphics

Video memory

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Wireless

802.11a/b/g/n/ac

802.11a/b/g/n/ac

802.11a/b/g/n/ac

802.11a/b/g/n

802.11a/b/g/n

Ethernet

Gigabit

Gigabit

Gigabit

None

Gigabit

Bluetooth

USB

2x USB 3.0

4x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0

2x USB 3.0

2x USB 2.0

1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0

FireWire

Thunderbolt

DisplayPort

HDMI

DVI

VGA

eSATA

Media card slot

Audio

Headphone minijack

Headphone minijack

Headphone minijack

Headphone minijack

Headphone minijack

Optical drive

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

HD webcam

Webcam

Webcam

Webcam

720p webcam

Operating system

Google Chrome OS

Google Chrome OS

Google Chrome OS

Google Chrome OS

Google Chrome OS

Bundled software

None

None

None

None

None

Battery life

11 hrs 13mins

9 hrs 30 mins

9 hrs 20 mins

5 hrs

9 hrs 28 mins

SunSpider score

638ms

Not tested

660ms

Not tested

Not tested

Dimensions

340x236x17mm

19.2x294x204mm

18x327x227.5mm

297x195x17.4mm

339x230x20.3mm

Weight

1.6kg

1.25kg

1.5kg

1.03kg

1.4kg

Warranty

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

FULL REVIEW

TINYURL.COM/HH8OOT4

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Build rating Features rating Value rating Performance rating Overall rating

Extras

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117_145 New Top 5 Charts 259.indd 123

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17/11/2016 16:38


Top 5 charts

Best gaming laptops

1

2

3

4

5

Asus RoG G752

Alienware 17

Schenker XMG U506

Asus RoG GL552VW-DM201T

MSI GL62-6QC 065UK

Price

£1,299 inc VAT

£1,350 inc VAT

£1,585 inc VAT

£899 inc VAT

£599 inc VAT

Website

Asus.com/uk

Alienware.co.uk

Mysn.co.uk

Asus.com/uk

Uk.msi.com

Processor

2.7GHz Intel Core i7-6820HK

4.1GHz Intel Core i7-6820

3.5GHz Intel Core i5-6600K 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ

2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6300HQ

RAM

32GB DDR4

8GB DDR5, 16GB DDR4

8GB (2x 4GB) DDR3

8GB DDR3

8GB DDR3L

Storage

1TB HDD

512GB SSD, 1TB HDD

256GB SSD, 1TB HDD

1TB HDD

1TB HDD

Screen size

17.3in IPS

17.3in IPS

15.6in matt

15.6in IPS

15.6in IPS

Screen resolution

1920x1080

1920x1080

1920x1080

1920x1080

1920x1080

Graphics

Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M

Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M

Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M

Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M

Nvidia GeForce GTX 940MX

Video memory

Not specified

Not specified

Not specified

Not specified

Not specified

Wireless

802.11ac

802.11ac

802.11ac

802.11ac

802.11ac

Ethernet

Gigabit

Gigabit

Gigabit

Gigabit

Gigabit

Bluetooth

USB

3x USB 3.0

3x USB 3.0, 1x USB-C

3x USB 3.0, 1x eSATA/USB 3.0

2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 3.0

3x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, 1x USB-C

FireWire

Thunderbolt

DisplayPort

HDMI

DVI

VGA

eSATA

Media card slot

Audio

Headphone jack, mic

Headphone jack, mic

Headphone jack, mic

Headphone jack, mic

Headphone jack, mic

Optical drive

None

None

None

Extras

1.2Mp webcam

2Mp webcam

2Mp webcam

HD webcam

HD webcam

Operating system

Windows 10

Windows 10 Home

Windows 8.1 Pro

Windows 10

Windows 10

Bundled software

None

None

None

None

None

Gaming scores

Not tested

Not tested

113/58fps in Tomb Raider

Not tested

35.6/14.9fps in Thief

Battery

66Wh lithium-ion

31Wh lithium-polymer

82Wh lithium-polymer

48Wh lithium-polymer

48Wh lithium-ion

Battery life

4 hrs 37 mins

3 hrs 59 mins

2 hrs 23 mins

4 hrs 50 mins

3 hrs 55 mins

PCMark 7 score

4184 (PCMark 8)

3400 (PCMark 8)

4000 (PCMark 8)

3102 (PCMark 8)

2681 (PCMark 8)

Dimensions

428x334x43mm

430x292x34.4mm

387x266x37.5mm

384x257x34.5mm

383x260x27mm

Weight

4.4kg

3.8kg

3.4kg

2.6kg

2.3kg

Warranty

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

FULL REVIEW

TINYURL.COM/J8AFNHP

TINYURL.COM/JYK953S

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117_145 New Top 5 Charts 259.indd 124

TEST CENTRE

17/11/2016 16:25


Top 5 charts

Best gaming PCs

1

2

3

4

Chillblast Fusion Catapult

Wired2Fire Diablo Predator VR

Yoyotech Warbird RS14

Overclockers Kinetic VR Gaming Palicomp i5 Matrix

Price

£999 inc VAT

£1,150 inc VAT

£999 inc VAT

£739 inc VAT

£1,199 inc VAT

Website

Chillblast.com

Wired2fire.co.uk

Yoyotech.co.uk

Overclockers.co.uk

Palicomp.co.uk

Processor

3.5GHz Intel Core i5 6600K (4.4GHz OC)

3.5GHz Intel i5-6600K (OC 4.4GHz)

3.3GHz Intel Core i5-6600 (3.9GHz Intel Boost)

3.2GHz Intel Core i5-6500 (3.6GHz Turbo)

3.5GHz Intel Core i5-6600K (OC 4.7GHz)

CPU cooler

Corsair Hydro H55

ID Cooling SE-214

Silentium Spartan PRO

Intel CPU

BeQuiet Pure Rock

Memory

16GB DDR4

16GB DDR4

8GB DDR

8GB DDR4

16GB DDR4

Storage

1TB HDD

1TB HDD, 250GB SSD

21TB HDD, 128GB SSD

1TB SSHD

2TB HD, 256GB SSD

Power supply

750W FSP

750W FSP

600W Aerocool Integrator

Kolink 600W

750W FSP

Motherboard

Asus Z170-K

Asus Z170-E

MSI B150M Mortar

Asus H110M-A micro ATC

Asus Z170-Pro Gaming

Operating system

Windows 10 Home

Windows 10 (64-bit)

Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

Windows 10 Home

Windows 10 (64-bit)

Screen

None supplied

None supplied

None supplied

None supplied

None supplied

Graphics

XFX AMD Radeon R9 390X

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070

MSI GeForce GTX 980Ti Armor X2

Asus GeForce GTX 970 Turbo KFA2 nVIDIA GTX 980

Sound

Onboard

Onboard

Onboard

Onboard

Onboard

Connectivity

Gigabit ethernet

Gigabit ethernet

Gigabit ethernet

Gigabit ethernet

Gigabit ethernet

Ports

2x USB 3.1 Type-A, 6x USB 3.0, 4x USB 2.0, 1x USB 5Gb/s (Type C), 2x DVI, 1x DP, 1x HDMI

4x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0 On Motheboard I/O, 1x DVI, 1x HDMI, 3x DP

2x USB 3.1 Gen2, 6x USB 3.1 Gen1, 6x USB 2.0

2x USB 3.0, 4x USB 2.0, 2x dual-link DVI, 1x DP, 1x HDM

1x USB 3.1 (Type-A) 1xUSB 3.1 (Type-C) 4xUSB 3, 2x USB 2.0, 1xPS/2, 1x DVI, 1x D-Sub, 1x DP, 1x HDMI

Optical drive

None

None

None

None

None

Case

Zalman Z11 Neo

Aerocool QS240 M-ATX

Phanteks Enthoo Pro Mid

Kolink Satellite Cube

Sharkoon VG5-W

Keyboard & mouse

None supplied

Cooler Master Devastator Keyboard and Mouse

None supplied

None supplied

Nemesis Kane Gaming Keyboard and Mouse

PCMark 8 2.0 Home score

4832

5670

4818

4669

5911

Alien Isolation score (4K)

17.02/49.28fps

12.99/63.23fps

16.48/59.94fps

20.24/40.43fps

116.55/50.37fps

Thief (4K Ultra)

21.5/32.9fps

36.2/42.1fps

35.4/42.5fps

Benchmark failed to run

27.6/32.8fps

3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited

212,222

227,383

183,814

145,866

230,982

3DMark Fire Strike

10,629

14,235

13,482

7,005

11,917

Power Consumption

Not tested

56/385W

48/369W

36/235W

73/436W

Warranty

5 years labour, 2-year C&R

2 years return to labour, 3 years labour

3 years RTB. first year parts and labour, 2 years labour only

2-year parts and labour C&R warranty

3 years C&R

FULL REVIEW

TINYURL.COM/J6X5HFD

TINYURL.COM/JJCP6N3

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TINYURL.COM/ZZMN9HW

5

Build rating Features rating Value rating Performance rating Overall rating

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117_145 New Top 5 Charts 259.indd 125

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17/11/2016 16:25


Top 5 charts

Best smartphones

1

2

3

4

5

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

Samsung Galaxy S7

LG G5

Google Nexus 6P

Apple iPhone 7

Price

£639 inc VAT

£569 inc VAT

£529 inc VAT

£449 inc VAT

£599 inc VAT

Website

Samsung.com/uk

Samsung.com/uk

LG.com/uk

Google.co.uk

Apple.com/uk

OS (out of box)

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

iOS 10

Processor

Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 Qualcomm Snapdragon 810

A10 Fusion

RAM

4GB

4GB

4GB

3GB

2GB

Storage

32GB

32GB

32GB

32/64/128GB

32/128/256GB

MicroSD support

Graphics

Adreno 530

Adreno 530

Adreno 530

Adreno 430

Not stated

Screen size

5.5in

5.1in

5.3in

5.7in

4.7in

Screen resolution

2560x1440

2560x1440

2560x1440

2560x1440

1334x720

Pixel density

534ppi

577ppi

554ppi

518ppi

326ppi

Screen technology

IPS

IPS

IPS

AMOLED

IPS

Front camera

5Mp

5Mp

8Mp

8Mp

7Mp

Rear camera

16Mp, LED flash

12Mp, LED flash

8/16Mp, LED flash

12.3Mp, LED flash

12Mp, LED flash

Video recording

4K

4K

4K

4K

4K

Cellular connectivity

4G

4G

4G

4G

4G

SIM type

Nano-SIM

Nano-SIM

Nano-SIM

Nano-SIM

Nano-SIM

Dual-SIM as standard

Wi-Fi

802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band

802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band

802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band

802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band

802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band

Bluetooth

Bluetooth 4.2

Bluetooth 4.2

Bluetooth 4.2

Bluetooth 4.2

Bluetooth 4.2

GPS

GPS, Glonass

A-GPS, Glonass

A-GPS

A-GPS, Glonass

A-GPS, Glonass

NFC

USB OTG

Extra features

Fingerprint scanner

Fingerprint scanner

Fingerprint scanner

Fingerprint scanner

Fingerprint scanner

Geekbench 3.0 (multi)

6469

6466

5404

3939

6088

SunSpider

Not tested

Not tested

Not tested

636ms

Not tested

GFXBench: T-Rex

53fps

53fps

53fps

34fps

60fps

GFXBench: Manhattan

27fps

27fps

29fps

14fps

60fps

Battery

3600mAh, non-removable

3000mAh, non-removable

2800mAh, removable

3450mAh, non-removable

Lithium-ion

Dimensions

151x73x7.8mm

142x70x7.9mm

149x74x7.7mm

159.3x77.8x7.3mm

138.3x67.1x7.1mm

Weight

157g

152g

159g

178g

138g

Warranty

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

FULL REVIEW

TINYURL.COM/ZDKDRE4

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117_145 New Top 5 Charts 259.indd 126

TEST CENTRE

17/11/2016 16:26


Top 5 charts

Best smartphones

6

7

8

9

10

OnePlus 3

HTC 10

Huawei P9

Apple iPhone 6s Plus

Samsung Galaxy Note5

Price

£309 inc VAT

£569 inc VAT

£449 inc VAT

£619 inc VAT

£499 inc VAT

Website

Oneplus.net

Htc.com/uk

Consumer.huawei.com/uk

Apple.com/uk

Samsung.com/uk

OS (out of box)

Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

iOS 9

Android 5.1.1 Lollipop

Processor

Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 HiSilicon Kirin 955

A9

2.1GHz Exynos 7420

RAM

6GB

4GB

3GB

2GB

4GB

Storage

64GB

32GB

32GB

16/64/128GB

32/64GB

MicroSD support

Graphics

Adreno 530

Adreno 530

Mali-T880 MP4

M9

Mali-T760MP8

Screen size

5.5in

5.2in

5.2in

5.5in

5.7in

Screen resolution

1920x1080

2560x1440

1920x1080

1920x1080

1280x720

Pixel density

401ppi

565ppi

423ppi

401ppi

518ppi

Screen technology

AMOLED

Super LCD

IPS

IPS

Super AMOLED

Front camera

8Mp

5Mp

8Mp

5Mp

5Mp

Rear camera

16Mp, LED flash

12Mp, LED flash

12Mp, LED flash

12Mp, LED flash

16Mp, LED flash

Video recording

4K

4K

4K

4K

Cellular connectivity

4G

4G

4G

4G

4G

SIM type

Nano-SIM

Nano-SIM

Nano-SIM

Nano-SIM

Nano-SIM

Dual-SIM as standard

Wi-Fi

802.11a/b/g/n/ac

802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band

802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band

802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band

802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band

Bluetooth

Bluetooth 4.2

Bluetooth 4.2

Bluetooth 4.2

Bluetooth 4.2

Bluetooth 4.2

GPS

A-GPS, Glonass

A-GPS, Glonass

A-GPS

A-GPS, Glonass

A-GPS, Glonass

NFC

USB OTG

Extra features

Fingerprint scanner

Fingerprint scanner

Fingerprint scanner

Fingerprint scanner

Heart-rate sensor, fingerprint scanner

Geekbench 3.0 (multi)

5546

5132

6505

4407

Not tested

SunSpider

Not tested

Not tested

Not tested

210ms

718ms

GFXBench: T-Rex

59fps

52fps

19fps

59fps

37fps

GFXBench: Manhattan

46fps

27fps

36fps

38fps

15fps

Battery

3000mAh, non-removable

3000mAh, non-removable

3000mAh, removable

Lithium-ion

2300mAh, non-removable

Dimensions

152.7x74.7x7.4mm

145.9x71.9x9mm

145x70.9x7 mm

158.2x77.9x7.3mm

153.2x76.1x7.6mm

Weight

158g

161g

144g

192g

171g

Warranty

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

FULL REVIEW

TINYURL.COM/Z3HQ6BZ

TINYURL.COM/HPEW53R

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117_145 New Top 5 Charts 259.indd 127

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17/11/2016 16:26


Top 5 charts

Best budget smartphones

1

2

3

4

5

Motorola Moto G (3rd gen)

Vodafone Smart Ultra 6

Vodafone Smart Prime 7

Vodafone Smart Prime 6

Xiaomi Redmi 3S

Price

£149 inc VAT

£125 inc VAT

£75 inc VAT

£79 inc VAT

£121 inc VAT

Website

Motorola.co.uk

Vodafone.co.uk

Vodafone.co.uk

Vodafone.co.uk

Xiaomi-mi.co.uk

OS (out of box)

Android 5.1.1 Lollipop

Android 5.0.2 Lollipop

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Android 5.0.2 Lollipop

MIUI 7.5

Processor

1.4GHz Snapdragon 410

2.5GHz Snapdragon 615

1.2GHz Snapdragon 210

1.2GHz Snapdragon 410

1.4GHz Snapdragon 4130

RAM

2GB

2GB

1GB

1GB

2GB

Storage

16GB

16GB

8GB

8GB

16GB

MicroSD support

Up to 32GB

Up to 128GB

Up to 128GB

Up to 64GB

Up to 128GB

Graphics

Adreno 406

Adreno 405

Adreno 304

Adreno 306

Adreno 505

Screen size

5in

5.5in

5in

5in

5in

Screen resolution

1280x720

1920x1080

1280x720

1280x720

1280x720

Pixel density

294ppi

401ppi

294ppi

294ppi

294ppi

Screen technology

IPS

IPS

IPS

IPS

IPS

Front camera

5Mp

5Mp

5Mp

2Mp

5Mp

Rear camera

13Mp

13Mp

8Mp

8Mp

13Mp

Video recording

720p

1080p

720p

1080p

1080p

Cellular connectivity

4G

4G*

4G*

4G*

4G

SIM type

Micro-SIM

Nano-SIM

Micro-SIM

Micro-SIM

1x Micro-SIM, 1x Nano-SIM

Dual-SIM as standard

Wi-Fi

802.11b/g/n

802.11b/g/n

802.11b/g/n

802.11b/g/n

802.11b/g/n

Bluetooth

Bluetooth 4.0

Bluetooth 4.0

Bluetooth 4.1

Bluetooth 4.0

Bluetooth 4.1

GPS

GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS

GPS, A-GPS

A-GPS

A-GPS

GPS, A-GPS

NFC

USB OTG

Extra features

FM radio, accelerometer

FM radio

FM radio

FM radio

Rear-mounted fingerprint scanner

Geekbench 3.0 (single)

Not tested

649

Not tested

464

Not tested

Geekbench 3.0 (multi)

1628

2469

1098

1401

2848

SunSpider

1344ms

1545ms

Not tested

1301ms

Not tested

GFXBench: T-Rex

10fps

14fps

10fps

9.4fps

24fps

GFXBench: Manhattan

4fps

5.7fps

4fps

3.8fps

13fps

Battery

2470mAh, non-removable

3000mAh, non-removable

2540mAh, non-removable

Not specified

4100mAh, non-removable

Dimensions

142.1x72.4x11.6mm

154x77x9mm

144x72x8mm

141.65x71.89x9mm

139.3x69.6x8.5mm

Weight

155g

159g

128g

155g

144g

Warranty

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

FULL REVIEW

TINYURL.COM/HTEFW7H

TINYURL.COM/Q7Q9NXR

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Build rating Features rating Value rating Performance rating Overall rating

* Locked to Vodafone. All other models here are unlocked

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117_145 New Top 5 Charts 259.indd 128

TEST CENTRE

17/11/2016 16:27


Top 5 charts

Best budget smartphones

6

7

8

9

10

Vodafone Smart Ultra 7

Motorola Moto E 4G 2015

Cubot P12

Wileyfox Swift

Xiaomi Redmi Note 3

Price

£135 inc VAT

£109 inc VAT

£74 inc VAT

£129 inc VAT

£118 inc VAT

Website

Vodafone.co.uk

Motorola.co.uk

Cubot.net

Wileyfox.com

Xiaomi-mi.com

OS (out of box)

Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow

Android 5.0 Lollipop

Android 5.1 Lollipop

Cyanogen OS

Android 5.0 Lollipop

Processor

1.8GHz Mediatek MT6755M

1.2GHz Snapdragon 410

1.3GHz MediaTek MT6580

1.2GHz Snapdragon 410

2GHz MediaTek MT6795

RAM

2GB

1GB

1GB

2GB

2GB

Storage

16GB

8GB

16GB

16GB

16GB

MicroSD support

Up to 256GB

Up to 32GB

Up to 32GB

Up to 32GB

No

Graphics

Mali-T860MP2

Adreno 306

Mali 400mp

Adreno 306

Not specified

Screen size

5.5in

4.5in

5in

5in

5.5in

Screen resolution

1920x1080

960x540

1280x720

1280x720

1920x1080

Pixel density

401ppi

245ppi

294ppi

294ppi

403ppi

Screen technology

IPS

IPS

IPS

IPS

Full HD

Front camera

5Mp

0.3Mp

5Mp

5Mp

5Mp

Rear camera

13Mp

5Mp

8Mp, LED flash

13Mp, LED flash

13Mp, LED flash

Video recording

1080p

720p

1080p

1080p

Not specified

Cellular connectivity

4G*

4G

3G

4G

4G

SIM type

Micro-SIM

Micro-SIM

Micro-SIM

Micro-SIM

Micro-SIM

Dual-SIM as standard

Wi-Fi

802.11b/g/n

802.11b/g/n

802.11b/g/n

802.11b/g/n

802.11ac

Bluetooth

Bluetooth 4.1

Bluetooth 4.0

Bluetooth 4.0

Bluetooth 4.0

GPS

GPS, A-GPS

GPS, A-GPS, Glonass

GPS, A-GPS

A-GPS

GPS, A-GPS, Glonass

NFC

USB OTG

Extra features

FM radio, accelerometer

Double-twist launches camera, lockscreen alerts

Gesture controls

3D G-Sensor

Fingerprint scanner

Geekbench 3.0 (single)

Not tested

464

Not tested

Not tested

Not tested

Geekbench 3.0 (multi)

3002

1463

1401

1456

4597

SunSpider

Not tested

1301ms

1726ms

1760ms

907ms

GFXBench: T-Rex

13fps

13fps

13fps

10fps

122fps

GFXBench: Manhattan

5.3fps

6fps

6fps

4fps

8fps

Battery

2960mAh, non-removable

2390mAh, non-removable

2200mmAh, removable

2500mAh, removable

4000mAh, non-removable

Dimensions

152.2x78.1x8.7mm

66.8x5.2-12.3x129.9mm

141x71x9.4mm

141x71x9.4mm

150x76x8.65mm

Weight

150g

145g

71.5x8.1x143.9mm

135g

164g

Warranty

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

FULL REVIEW

TINYURL.COM/ZL3X7QG

TINYURL.COM/Q7Q9NXR

TINYURL.COM/JVEOZSF

TINYURL.COM/PO9KG38

TINYURL.COM/JQNP2RB

Build rating Features rating Value rating Performance rating Overall rating

* Locked to Vodafone. All other models here are unlocked

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117_145 New Top 5 Charts 259.indd 129

February 2017 www.pcadvisor.co.uk/reviews 129

17/11/2016 16:27


Top 5 charts

Best phablets

1

2

3

4

5

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

Google Nexus 6P

OnePlus 3

Samsung Galaxy Note5

Apple iPhone 6s Plus

Price

£639 inc VAT

£449 inc VAT

£309 inc VAT

£499 inc VAT

£619 inc VAT

Website

Samsung.com/uk

Google.co.uk

Oneplus.net

Samsung.com/uk

Apple.com/uk

OS (out of box)

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow

Android 5.1.1 Lollipop

iOS 9

Processor

Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 Qualcomm Snapdragon 810

Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 2.1GHz Exynos 7420

A9

RAM

4GB

3GB

6GB

4GB

2GB

Storage

32GB

32/64/128GB

64GB

32/64GB

16/64/128GB

MicroSD support

Graphics

Adreno 530

Adreno 430

Adreno 530

Mali-T760MP8

M9

Screen size

5.5in

5.7in

5.5in

5.7in

5.5in

Screen resolution

2560x1440

2560x1440

1920x1080

1280x720

1920x1080

Pixel density

534ppi

518ppi

401ppi

518ppi

401ppi

Screen technology

IPS

Quad HD capacitive

AMOLED

Super AMOLED

IPS

Front camera

5Mp

8Mp

8Mp

5Mp

5Mp

Rear camera

16Mp, LED flash

12.3Mp, LED flash

16Mp, LED flash

16Mp, LED flash

12Mp, LED flash

Video recording

4K

4K

Auto HDR

4K

4K

Cellular connectivity

4G

4G

4G

4G

4G

SIM type

Nano-SIM

Nano-SIM

Nano-SIM

Nano-SIM

Nano-SIM

Dual-SIM as standard

Wi-Fi

802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band

802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band

802.11a/b/g/n/ac

802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band

802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band

Bluetooth

Bluetooth 4.2

Bluetooth 4.2

Bluetooth 4.2

Bluetooth 4.2

Bluetooth 4.2

GPS

GPS, Glonass

A-GPS, Glonass

A-GPS, Glonass

A-GPS, Glonass

A-GPS, Glonass

NFC

USB OTG

 Fingerprint scanner

Build rating Features rating Value rating Performance rating Overall rating

Extra features

Fingerprint scanner

Fingerprint scanner

Fingerprint scanner

Heart-rate sensor, fingerprint scanner

Geekbench 3.0 (single)

6469

Not tested

Not tested

1497

2527

Geekbench 3.0 (multi)

Not tested

3939

5546

Not tested

4407

SunSpider

53fps

636ms

Not tested

718ms

210ms

GFXBench: T-Rex

27fps

34fps

59fps

37fps

59fps

GFXBench: Manhattan

27fps

14fps

46fps

15fps

38fps

Battery

3600mAh, non-removable

3450mAh, non-removable

3000mAh, non-removable

2300mAh, non-removable

Lithium-ion

Dimensions

151x73x7.8mm

159.3x77.8x7.3mm

152.7x74.7x7.4mm

153.2x76.1x7.6mm

158.2x77.9x7.3mm

Weight

157g

178g

158g

171g

192g

Warranty

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

FULL REVIEW

TINYURL.COM/ZDKDRE4

TINYURL.COM/NABSV4E

TINYURL.COM/Z3HQ6BZ

TINYURL.COM/OCQAJPL

TINYURL.COM/OYRA5MX

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117_145 New Top 5 Charts 259.indd 130

TEST CENTRE

17/11/2016 16:28


Top 5 charts

Best phablets

6

7

8

9

10

Google Pixel XL

Huawei P9 Plus

Xiaomi Mi Max

LG G4

Xiaomi Redmi Pro

Price

£719 inc VAT

£629 inc VAT

£212 inc VAT

£500 inc VAT

£256 inc VAT

Website

Google.co.uk

Consumer.huawei.com/uk

Xiaomi-mi.co.uk

Lg.com/uk

Xiaomi-mi.co.uk

OS (out of box)

Android 7.1 Nougat

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Android 5.1 Lollipop

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Processor

Qualcomm Snapdragon 821

HiSilicon Kirin 955

Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 1.82GHz Snapdragon 808

1.55GHz Helio X25

RAM

4GB

4GB

6GB

3GB

3GB

Storage

32/128GB

64GB

32/64GB

32GB

64GB

MicroSD support

Up to 256GB

Up to 256GB

Up to 128GB

Up to 128GB

Graphics

Adreno 530

Mali-T880 MP4

Adreno 510

Adreno 418

Mali T880

Screen size

5.5in

5.5in

6.4in

5.5in

5.5in

Screen resolution

2560x1440

1920x1080

1920x1080

1440x2560

1920x1080

Pixel density

534ppi

401ppi

342ppi

538ppi

401ppi

Screen technology

IPS

AMOLED

IPS

IPS

IPS

Front camera

8Mp

8Mp

5Mp

8Mp

5Mp

Rear camera

12.3Mp, LED flash

12Mp, LED flash

16Mp, LED flash

16Mp, LED flash

13Mp, LED flash

Video recording

2160p

1080p

2160p

4K

1080p

Cellular connectivity

4G

4G

4G

4G

4G

SIM type

Nano-SIM

Nano-SIM

Nano-SIM

Micro-SIM

Nano-SIM

Dual-SIM as standard

Wi-Fi

802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band

802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band

802.11a/b/g/n/ac

802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band

802.11a/b/g/n

Bluetooth

Bluetooth 4.2

Bluetooth 4.2

Bluetooth 4.2

Bluetooth 4.0

Bluetooth 4.2

GPS

GPS, Glonass

A-GPS, Glonass

A-GPS, Glonass

A-GPS, Glonass

A-GPS, Glonass

NFC

USB OTG

 Fingerprint scanner

Build rating Features rating Valuee rating Performance rating Overall rating

Extra features

Fingerprint scanner

Fingerprint scanner

Fingerprint scanner

24bit/192kHz audio, rear key, IR blaster

Geekbench 3.0 (single)

Not tested

Not tested

Not tested

Not tested

Not tested

Geekbench 3.0 (multi)

Not tested

6682

3825

3513

Not tested

SunSpider

Not tested

Not tested

Not tested

715ms

Not tested

GFXBench: T-Rex

55fps

44fps

34fps

25fps

15fps

GFXBench: Manhattan

30fps

20fps

15fps

9fps

25fps

Battery

3450mAh, non-removable

3400mAh, non-removable

4850mAh, non-removable

3000mAh, removable, Qi

4050mAh, non-removable

Dimensions

154.7x75.7x8.5mm

152.3x75.3x7mm

173.1x88.3x7.5mm

76x149x6.3-9.8mm

151.5x76.2x8.2mm

Weight

168g

162g

203g

155g

174g

Warranty

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

FULL REVIEW

TINYURL.COM/HBXFGXX

TINYURL.COM/ZABGKKC

TINYURL.COM/HPFLJ4M

TINYURL.COM/QDGU48T

TINYURL.COM/JV6ZMED

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117_145 New Top 5 Charts 259.indd 131

February 2017 www.pcadvisor.co.uk/reviews 131

17/11/2016 16:28


Top 5 charts

Best tablets

1

2

3

4

5

Apple iPad Air 2

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8

9.7in Apple iPad Pro

Apple iPad mini 4

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4

Price

£399 inc VAT

£319 inc VAT

£499 inc VAT

£319 inc VAT

£319 inc VAT

Website

Apple.com/uk

Samsung.com/uk

Apple.com/uk

Apple.com/uk

Samsung.com/uk

OS (out of box)

iOS 10

Android 5.0 Lollipop

iOS 10

iOS 10

Android 4.4 KitKat

Processor

Apple A8X, Apple M8

1.9GHz Exynos 5433

Apple A9X, Apple M9

Apple A8, Apple M8

Exynos 5420, octa-core

RAM

2GB

3GB

3GB

2GB

3GB

Storage

16/64/128GB

32GB/64GB

32GB/128GB/256GB

16GB/64/128GB

16GB/32GB

MicroSD support

Up to 128GB

Up to 128GB

Graphics

Apple A8X

Not specified

Apple A9X

Apple A8

ARM Mali-T628 MP6

Screen size

9.7in

8in

9.7in

7.9in

8.4in

Screen resolution

2048x1536

2048x1536

2048x1536

2048x1536

2560x1440

Pixel density

264ppi

320ppi

264ppi

326ppi

359ppi

Screen technology

IPS

Super AMOLED

IPS

IPS

Super AMOLED

Front camera

1.2Mp

2.1Mp

8Mp

1.2Mp

2.1Mp

Rear camera

8Mp

8Mp

12Mp, LED flash

8Mp

8Mp, LED flash

Video recording

1080p

QHD

1080p

1080p

1080p

Cellular connectivity

4G version available

4G version available

4G version available

4G version available

4G version available

Wi-Fi

802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band

802.11a/b/g/n/ac

802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band

802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band

802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band

Bluetooth

Bluetooth 4.0

Bluetooth 4.1

Bluetooth 4.2

Bluetooth 4.2

Bluetooth 4.0

GPS

A-GPS, Glonass

A-GPS, Glonass

GPS in cellular model only

A-GPS, Glonass

GPS, Glonass

NFC

USB OTG

Fingerprint scanner

Waterproof

Extra features

None

None

Stereo speakers

None

Stereo speakers

Geekbench 3.0 (single)

1816

Not tested

Not tested

1719

Not tested

Geekbench 3.0 (multi)

4523

4305

5257

3101

2765

JetStream

Not tested

Not tested

142

Not tested

1089ms (SunSpider)

GFXBench: T-Rex

48fps

26fps

60fps

52fps

14fps

GFXBench: Manhattan

Not tested

11fps

34fps

25fps

3fps

Battery

7340mAh, non-removable

4000mAh, non-removable, Qi 7306mAh, non-removable

5124mAh, non-removable

4900mAh, non-removable

Dimensions

240x169.5x6.1mm

198.6x134.8x5.6mm

170x240x6.1mm

203.2x134.8x6.1mm

126x213x6.6mm

Weight

437g

265g

437g

304g

294g

Warranty

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

FULL REVIEW

TINYURL.COM/PLQXWSZ

TINYURL.COM/P37QFDW

TINYURL.COM/HFY7T4Z

TINYURL.COM/PBMONMA

TINYURL.COM/OUEM64Z

Build rating Features rating Performance rating Value rating Overall rating

HEAD TO TINYURL.COM/QXC8GDB FOR OUR BUYING ADVICE 132 www.pcadvisor.co.uk/reviews February 2017

117_145 New Top 5 Charts 259.indd 132

TEST CENTRE

17/11/2016 16:28


Top 5 charts

Best tablets

8

9

10

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact Google Pixel C

6

7

Amazon Fire

Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet

Xiaomi Mi Pad 2

Price

£299 inc VAT

£399 inc VAT

£49 inc VAT

£499 inc VAT

£144 inc VAT

Website

Sony.co.uk

Google.co.uk

Amazon.co.uk

Sony.co.uk

Mi.com/en

OS (out of box)

Android 4.4 KitKat

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

FireOS 5

Android 5.0 Lollipop

Android 5.1 Lollipop

Processor

2.5GHz Snapdragon 801

Nvidia Tegra X1

1.3GHz quad-core

Snapdragon 810

Intel Atom X5-Z8500

RAM

3GB

3GB

1GB

3GB

2GB

Storage

16GB/32GB

32GB/64GB

8GB

32GB

16GB/64GB

MicroSD support

Up to 128GB

Up to 128GB

Up to 128GB

Graphics

Adreno 330

Nvidia Tegra X1

Mali 450

Adreno 430

Intel HD Graphics

Screen size

8in

10.2in

7in

10.1in

7.9in

Screen resolution

1920x1200

2560x1800

1024x600

2560x1600

2048x1536

Pixel density

283ppi

308ppi

171ppi

299ppi

326ppi

Screen technology

IPS

IPS

IPS

IPS

IPS

Front camera

2.2Mp

2Mp

VGA

5.1Mp

5Mp

Rear camera

8.1Mp

8Mp

2Mp

8.1Mp

8Mp

Video recording

1080p

1080p

Not specified

1080p

Not specified

Cellular connectivity

4G version available

4G version available

Wi-Fi

802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band

802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band

802.11a/b/g/n

802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band

802.11a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band

Bluetooth

Bluetooth 4.0

Bluetooth 4.1

Bluetooth 4.0

Bluetooth 4.1

Bluetooth 4.1

GPS

A-GPS, Glonass

A-GPS, Glonass

NFC

USB OTG

Fingerprint scanner

Waterproof

Extra features

PS4 Remote Play, stereo speakers

None

None

None

None

Geekbench 3.0 (single)

Not tested

Not tested

Not tested

Not tested

Not tested

Geekbench 3.0 (multi)

2708

4048

Not tested

4573

3280

JetStream

1017ms

Not tested

Not tested

580ms (SunSpider)

454

GFXBench: T-Rex

28fps

48fps

Not tested

37fps

30fps

GFXBench: Manhattan

11fps

28fps

Not tested

16fps

13fps

Battery

4500mAh, non-removable

9000mAh, non-removable

Not specified

6000mAh, non-removable

6190mAh, non-removable

Dimensions

213x124x6.4mm

242x179x7mm

191x115x10.6mm

254x167x6.1mm

200x133x7mm

Weight

270g

517g

313g

393g

322g

Warranty

1 year

1 year

1-year return-to-base

1 year

1 year

FULL REVIEW

TINYURL.COM/NJ6VHEO

TINYURL.COM/ZA79M7Z

TINYURL.COM/J3LJP7T

TINYURL.COM/JG34GZP

TINYURL.COM/H7DYTTL

Build rating Features rating Performance rating Value rating Overall rating

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117_145 New Top 5 Charts 259.indd 133

February 2017 www.pcadvisor.co.uk/reviews 133

17/11/2016 16:29


Top 5 charts

Best smartwatches

1

2

3

4

5

Huawei Watch

Apple Watch Series 2

Motorola Moto 360 2

Samsung Gear S2

Fossil Q Founder

Price

£289 inc VAT

£369 inc VAT

£229 inc VAT

£199 inc VAT

£259 inc VAT

Website

Consumer.huawei.com/en

Apple.com/uk

Motorola.co.uk

Samsung.com/uk

Fossil.com/uk

Operating system

Android Wear

iOS 10

Android Wear

Tizen-based OS

Android Wear

Compatibility

Android

iOS

Android, iOS

Android, iOS

Android, iOS

Display

1.4in 400x400 AMOLED

38mm, 340x272; 42mm, 390x312, AMOLED

1.37in 360x325 LCD

1.2in 360x360 AMOLED

1.5in, 360x326 LCD

Processor

Snapdragon 400

S2

Snapdragon 400

1GHz Exynos 3250

Intel Atom Z34XX

RAM

512MB

Not stated

512MB

512MB

1GB

Storage

4GB

4GB

4GB

4GB

4GB

Waterproof

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Battery

300mAh

273mAh

300mAh

250mAh

400mAh

Dimensions

42x11.3mm

38.6/42.5x33.3/36.4mm

42x11.4mm

42.3x49.8x11.4mm

47x13mm

Weight

40g

28.2g/34.2g

53.6g

47g

156g

Warranty

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

FULL REVIEW

TINYURL.COM/PXV9PVX

TINYURL.COM/HAT545L

TINYURL.COM/GUJR9XX

TINYURL.COM/P4UKB74

TINYURL.COM/Z3X6D6F

Overall rating

Best smartwatches

6

7

8

9

10

LG G Watch R

Asus ZenWatch 2

Motorola Moto 360

LG Watch Urbane

Sony SmartWatch 3

Price

£195 inc VAT

£149 inc VAT

£199 inc VAT

£259 inc VAT

£189 inc VAT

Website

Lg.com/uk

Uk.sasus.com

Motorola.co.uk

Lg.com/uk

Sony.co.uk

Operating system

Android Wear

Android Wear

Android Wear

Android Wear

Android Wear

Compatibility

Android

Android, iOS

Android

Android

Android

Display

1.3in 320x320 P-OLED

1.63in 320x320 LCD

1.56in 290x320 LCD

1.3in 320x320 P-OLED

1.6in 320x320 LCD

Processor

1.2GHz Snapdrgon 400

1.2GHz Snapdragon 400

TI OMAP 3

1.2GHz Snapdragon 400

1.2GHz ARM V7

RAM

512MB

512MB

512MB

512MB

512MB

Storage

4GB

4GB

4GB

4GB

4GB

Waterproof

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Battery

410mAh

300mAh

320mAh

410mAh

420mAh

Dimensions

46.4x53.6x9.7mm

40.7x49.6x10.9mm

46x11.5mm

46x52x10.9mm

36x51x10mm

Weight

62g

50g

49g (leather band model)

67g

45g

Warranty

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

FULL REVIEW

TINYURL.COM/QATY8FT

TINYURL.COM/ZVRZLNJ

TINYURL.COM/O9C69K6

TINYURL.COM/Q3VK7ES

TINYURL.COM/OQVZ3PN

Overall rating

HEAD TO TINYURL.COM/QCXEDLX FOR OUR BUYING ADVICE 134 www.pcadvisor.co.uk/reviews February 2017

117_145 New Top 5 Charts 259.indd 134

TEST CENTRE

17/11/2016 16:32


Top 5 charts

Best activity trackers

1

2

3

4

5

Fitbit Charge 2

Fitbit Charge HR

Apple Watch Series 2

Fitbit Alta

Xiaomi Mi Band 2

Price

£129 inc VAT

£119 inc VAT

£369 inc VAT

£99 inc VAT

£33 inc VAT

Website

Fitbit.com/uk

Fitbit.com/uk

Apple.com/uk

Fitbit.com/uk

Mi.com/en

Compatibility

iOS, Android, Windows

iOS, Android, Windows

iOS

iOS, Android, Windows

iOS, Android

Display

OLED

OLED

AMOLED

OLED

OLED

Pedometer

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Heart-rate monitor

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Sleep tracking

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Alarm

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Third-party app synching Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Call notifications

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Waterproof

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Battery life

5 days

5+ days

18 hours

5 days

20-day

Weight

35g

26g

28.2g/34.2g

32g

7g (tracker only)

FULL REVIEW

TINYURL.COM/Z3NN8RL

TINYURL.COM/PCKV4SU

TINYURL.COM/HAT545L

TINYURL.COM/ZO8TN2L

TINYURL.COM/ZAF6OAW

Overall rating

Best activity trackers

6

7

8

9

10

Fitbit Surge

Misfit Ray

MyZone MZ-3

Microsoft Band 2

Fitbit One

Price

£199 inc VAT

£79 inc VAT

£129 inc VAT

£199 inc VAT

£79 inc VAT

Website

Fitbit.com/uk

Misfit.com

Myzone.org

Microsoft.com/en-gb

Fitbit.com/uk

Compatibility

iOS, Android, Windows

iOS, Android

iOS, Android, Windows

iOS, Android, Windows

iOS, Android

Display

Touchscreen

No

No

AMOLED

OLED

Pedometer

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Heart-rate monitor

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

No

Sleep tracking

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Alarm

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Third-party app synching Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Call notifications

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No

Waterproof

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Battery life

5 days

6 months

7 months

2 days

10-14 days

Weight

51g

8g

Not stated

159g

8g

FULL REVIEW

TINYURL.COM/O83DR47

TINYURL.COM/JG3XVT9

TINYURL.COM/HK5JOXX

TINYURL.COM/HHP4LMR

TINYURL.COM/PT2TC6F

Overall rating

HEAD TO TINYURL.COM/PGMS2PW FOR OUR BUYING ADVICE TEST CENTRE

117_145 New Top 5 Charts 259.indd 135

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17/11/2016 16:32


Top 5 charts

1

2

3

4

5

Canon Pixma MG7550

Samsung Xpress M2835DW

Brother HL-L9200CDWT

HP LaserJet Pro M277dw

HP OfficeJet 7510

Price

£130 inc VAT

£143 inc VAT

£548 inc VAT

£258 inc VAT

£129 inc VAT

Website

Canon.co.uk

Samsung.com/uk

Brother.co.uk

Hp.com/uk

Hp.com/uk

Technology

Colour inkjet

Mono laser

Colour laser

Colour laser

Colour inkjet

Max print resolution

9600x2400dpi

4800x600dpi

2400x600dpi

300dpi

1200x600dpi

Actual print speed

B=14.3ppm

B=22.7ppm

B=30ppm C=30ppm

B=15ppm C=13ppm

B=12.5ppm C=7.5ppm

Scan/fax facilities

2400x4800dpi scanner

None

None

1200x1200dpi scanner, 300x300dpi fax

1200x1200dpi scanner, 300x300dpi fax

Supported interfaces

USB 2.0, ethernet, 802.11b/g/n USB 2.0, ethernet, 802.11b/g/n USB 2.0, ethernet, 802.11b/g/n USB 2.0, ethernet, 802.11b/g/n USB 2.0, ethernet, 802.11b/g/n

Cost per page

B=2.4p C=8.1p

B=1.5p

B=1p C=5.9p

B=2.2p C=9p

B=1.7p C=3.3p

Media card/auto duplex











Input capacity

125 sheets

250 sheets

750 sheets + 50 sheet

150 sheets + 50 sheet

250 sheets + 75 sheet

Dimensions

435x370x148mm

368x335x202mm

410x495x445mm

420x417x322mm

613x725x287mm

Weight

7.9kg

7.4kg

28.3kg

16.3kg

13kg

Warranty

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

FULL REVIEW

TINYURL.COM/PZ3SVH7

TINYURL.COM/QECOF7V

TINYURL.COM/PT52MH6

TINYURL.COM/GPXACL7

TINYURL.COM/HDXF85Y

Best printers

Overall rating

6

7

8

9

10

Epson EcoTank ET-2500

HP OfficeJet 3830

Lexmark CS410dn

HP Envy 5640 e-All-in-One

Epson Expression XP-530

Price

£229 inc VAT

£60 inc VAT

£268 inc VAT

£69 inc VAT

£92 inc VAT

Website

Epson.co.uk

Hp.com/uk

Lexmark.co.uk

Hp.com/uk

Epson.co.uk

Technology

Colour inkjet

Colour inkjet

Colour laser

Colour inkjet

Colour inkjet

Max print resolution

5760x1440dpi

1200x1200dpi

2400x600dpi

4800x1200dpi

5760x1440dpi

Actual print speed

B=7.5ppm C=4ppm

B=11ppm C=4ppm

B=30ppm C=30ppm

B=12.5ppm C=8.5ppm

B=9.5ppm C=9ppm

Scan/fax facilities

2400x4800dpi scanner

None

None

1200x1200dpi scanner

2400x1200dpi scanner

Supported interfaces

USB 2.0, ethernet, 802.11b/g/n USB 2.0, 802.11b/g/n, AirPrint

USB 2.0, ethernet, 802.11b/g/n USB 2.0, 802.11b/g/n

USB 2.0, ethernet, 802.11b/g/n

Cost per page

B=0.2p C=0.4p

B=6p C=7p

B=1.8p C=9.5p

B=2.2p C=9p

B=3.8p C=5.2p

Media card/auto duplex











Input capacity

100 sheets

60 sheets

250 sheets

125 sheets + 15 sheet

100 sheets

Dimensions

169x489x300mm

222x454x362mm

291x442x407mm

454x410x161mm

390x341x138mm

Weight

4.6kg

5.8kg

20.5kg

6.8kg

6.2kg

Warranty

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

FULL REVIEW

TINYURL.COM/ZWCECPA

TINYURL.COM/HBTE9BX

TINYURL.COM/PT52MH6

TINYURL.COM/JGZPOZ3

TINYURL.COM/HRFB62D

Best printers

Overall rating

HEAD TO TINYURL.COM/NMMP4ER FOR OUR PRINTERS BUYING ADVICE 136 www.pcadvisor.co.uk/reviews February 2017

117_145 New Top 5 Charts 259.indd 136

TEST CENTRE

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Top 5 charts

Best wireless routers

1

2

3

4

5

Apple AirPort Extreme

TP-Link Archer VR900

BT Smart Hub

Netgear Nighthawk R7000

TP-Link VR2600

Price

£169 inc VAT

£139 inc VAT

£129 inc VAT

£150 inc VAT

£174 inc VAT

Website

Apple.com/uk

Tp-link.com

Bt.com

Netgear.co.uk

Tp-link.com

Standards supported

802.11a/b/g/n/ac

802.11a/b/g/n/ac

802.11a/b/g/n/ac

802.11a/b/g/n/ac

802.11a/b/g/n/ac

Frequency modes

2.4GHz/5GHz (concurrent)

2.4GHz/5GHz (concurrent)

2.4GHz/5GHz (concurrent)

2.4GHz/5GHz (concurrent)

2.4GHz/5GHz (concurrent)

Antennas

6x internal

3x external

7x internal

3x external

4x external

Built-in modem

Manufacturer’s rating

1300/450Mb/s

1300/600Mb/s

Not specified

1300/600Mb/s

1733/800Mb/s

WPS

Ports

Gigabit WAN, 3x gigabit LAN, USB

Gigabit WAN, 1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0

Gigabit LAN, 1x USB 3.0

Gigabit WAN, 1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0

2x USB 3.0, 4 x RJ11

Average power use

8W

N/S

N/S

9W

N/S

Max speed (11n/11ac)

171/572Mb/s

146/622Mb/s

85/239.5Mb/s

171/592Mb/s

Not tested

Dimensions, weight

98x168x98mm, 945g

245x181x90mm, 720g

240x155x65mm

285x186x45mm, 750g

263.8x197.8x37.3mm

Warranty

1 year

Not specified

Not specified

Not specified

Not specified

FULL REVIEW

TINYURL.COM/MFDLLSC

TINYURL.COM/OF8KYPC

TINYURL.COM/ZL9TV96

TINYURL.COM/Q2NRQ8Q

TINYURL.COM/Z6E2DMG

Overall rating

Best powerline adaptors

1

2

3

4

5

TP-Link AV2000

TrendNet Powerline 500 AV2

TP-Link AV1200

Solwise SmartLink 1200AV2

Devolo dLan 1200+

Price

£99 inc VAT

£41 inc VAT

£88 inc VAT

£43 inc VAT

£119 inc VAT

Website

Uk.tp-link.com

Trendnet.com

Uk.tp-link.com

Solwise.com

Devolo.com/uk

No of adaptors in kit

2

2

2

1 (2 required)

2

Max throughput

2000Mb/s

600Mb/s

1200Mb/s

1200Mb/s

1200Mb/s

Near test result

432Mb/s

146Mb/s

500Mb/s

410Mb/s

357Mb/s

Far test result

117Mb/s

71Mb/s

200Mb/s

107Mb/s

126Mb/s

Ethernet ports

2x gigabit

1x gigabit

1x gigabit

2x gigabit

1x gigabit

Passthrough socket

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Wireless hotspot

No

No

No

No

No

Encryption

128-bit

128-bit

128-bit

128-bit

128-bit

Dimensions

131x72x42 mm

55x87x58mm

230x190x100mm

62x122x41mm

130x66x42mm

Weight

Not specified

90g

898g

Not specified

Not specified

Warranty

1 year

3 years

1 year

2 years

3 years

FULL REVIEW

TINYURL.COM/H9W89QM

TINYURL.COM/QYEPJQ7

TINYURL.COM/NVONCWT

TINYURL.COM/NZ4EJW8

TINYURL.COM/Q4EOO4M

Overall rating

HEAD TO TINYURL.COM/PNUDFBK FOR OUR PERIPHERALS BUYING ADVICE TEST CENTRE

117_145 New Top 5 Charts 259.indd 137

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17/11/2016 16:32


Top 5 charts

Best NAS drives

1

2

3

4

5

Synology DS115j

Qnap HS-210

WD My Cloud EX2100

Synology DS216play

Synology DS414j

Price

£83 inc VAT (diskless)

£190 inc VAT (diskless)

£205 inc VAT (diskless)

£190 inc VAT (diskless)

£270 inc VAT (diskless)

Website

Synology.com

Qnap.com

Wd.com

Synology.com

Synology.com

Drive bays

1

2

2

2

4

Processor

800MHz Marvell Armada 370

1.6GHz Marvell single-core

1.3GHz Marvel Armada 385

1.5GHz STM STiH412

1.2GHz Mindspeed Concerto

Memory

256MB DDR3

512MB DDR3

1GB DDR3

1GB DDR3

512MB DDR3

Remote access

eSATA

1x

USB port

2x USB 2.0

2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0

2x USB 3.0

2x USB 3.0

1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0

Raid options

None

0/1/JBOD

00/1/JBOD

00/1/JBOD

0/1/5/6/10/JBOD

Software

DSM 5.1

HD Station

My Cloud

DSM 5.2

DSM 5.0

Dimensions

71x161x224mm

302x220x41mm

216x109x148mm

165x100x226mm

184x168x230mm

Weight

700g

1.5kg

3.5kg

1.8kg

2.2kg

Warranty

1 year

2 years

3 years

2 years

3 years

FULL REVIEW

TINYURL.COM/MNEYVNK

TINYURL.COM/OEXRYNY

TINYURL.COM/M643BSG

TINYURL.COM/JTQF67V

TINYURL.COM/M643BSG

Overall rating

Best portable hard drives

1

2

3

4

5

Adata SE730

Samsung Portable SSD T3

Transcend ESD400

SanDisk Extreme 500 Portable SSD

Western Digital My Passport

Price

£106 inc VAT

£606 inc VAT

£420 inc VAT

£70 inc VAT

£159 inc VAT

Website

Adata.com

Samsung.com/uk

Transcend-info.com

Sandisk.co.uk

Wdc.com

Price per GB (at capacity tested)

46p

32p

39p

31p

4p

Capacity tested

250GB

2TB

256GB

240GB

4TB

Capacity range

250GB

250GB, 500GB, 1TB, 2TB

128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB

120GB, 240GB, 480GB

1TB, 2TB, 3TB, 4TB

Storage

MLC NAND Flash

NAND Flash

NAND Flash

NAND Flash SSD

HDD

406.9/211.2MB/s

410.8/163.8MB/s

398.3/203.4MB/s

119.3/112.8/s

Overall rating

Sequential performance 380.8/278.5MB/s 4K performance

19.8/38.9MB/s

21.9/2.3MB/s

16.1/2.7MB/s

19.8/3.7MB/s

0.5/1.6MB/s

Other interfaces

USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C

USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C

USB 3.0

USB 3.0

USB 3.0

Encryption

None

256-bit AES

None

128-bit AES

256-bit AES

SanDisk SecureAccess

WD Backup, WD Utilities

Software

None

T3 Security Enabler

Transcend Elite Data Management

Dimensions

44x73x12mm

58x74x10mm

92x62x10.5mm

75.7x75.7x10.7mm

81.5x110x16.3mm

Weight

33g

51g

56g

79g

245g

Warranty

3 years

3 years

3 years

3 years

2 years

FULL REVIEW

TINYURL.COM/OABWL4B

TINYURL.COM/M72D3EP

TINYURL.COM/J43SQM5

TINYURL.COM/HNKNV3M

TINYURL.COM/GP6JNCM

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117_145 New Top 5 Charts 259.indd 138

TEST CENTRE

17/11/2016 16:33


Top 5 charts

Best SSDs

1

2

3

4

5

Samsung 850 Evo (500GB)

Toshiba Q300 (480GB)

Samsung 850 Pro (1TB)

SanDisk Extreme Pro (480GB)

Kingston KC400 SSDNow (512GB)

Price

£109 inc VAT

£79 inc VAT

£365 inc VAT

£172 inc VAT

£132 inc VAT

Website

Samsung.com/uk

Toshiba.co.uk

Samsung.com/uk

Sandisk.co.uk

Kingston.com/en

Price per GB

23p

18p

36.5p

35.8p

28p

4K performance

36.3/106.2MB/s

29.8/65.1MB/s

36/89MB/s

32/88MB/s

29.4/98.2MB/s

529.3/511.5MB/s

508/482MB/s

513/490MB/s

533.7/521.6MB/s

Overall rating

Sequential performance 525.4/512.1MB/s Memory cache

512MB DDR3 SDRAM

Unknown

1GB LPDDR2

1GB

Unknown

Controller

Samsung MGX Controller

Toshiba TC58NC1000

Samsung MCX

Marvell 88SS9187

Phison 3110

Encryption

AES 256-bit

None

AES 256-bit

AES 256-bit

None

Flash

Samsung 3D V-NAND

TLC NAND

Samsung 40nm V-NAND MLC

SanDisk 19nm MLC

Kingston NAND

Connection

SATA III 6GB/s

SATA III 6GB/s

SATA III 6GB/

SATA III 6GB/s

SATA III 6GB/s

Power consumption

4.7W active/0.5W idle

3.6W active/0.3W idle

5.8W active/0.6W idle

3.5W active/0.15W idle

3.74W active/0.255W idle

Warranty

5 years

3 years

10 years

10 years

5 years

Dimensions

69.85x100x6.8mm

69.85x100x7mm

69.85x100x6.8mm

69.85x100.5x7mm

69.9x100.1x7mm

FULL REVIEW

TINYURL.COM/JB2VWLF

TINYURL.COM/ZZBWFJZ

TINYURL.COM/OVHDALD

TINYURL.COM/NMSJU25

TINYURL.COM/JF4E3NL

Smart thermostats

1

2

3

4

5

Honeywell EvoHome

Heat Genius

Nest Learning Thermostat

Hive Active Heating

Tado

Price (from)

£249 inc VAT

£249 inc VAT

£179 inc VAT

£179 inc VAT

£199 inc VAT

Website

Honeywelluk.com

Heatgenius.co.uk

Nest.com

Hivehome.com

Tado.com/gb

Zones controlled

12

6

1

1

1

Hot water control

Underfloor heating

Warranty

18 months

2 years

2 years

1 year

1 year

Verdict

EvoHome is the best smart heating system we’ve tested. It isn’t perfect though, and it’s also very expensive, or can be. But if you value convenience and comfort above saving money, it’s the one to buy.

Heat Genius is very good at a very useful thing. It is easy to use and efficient. How long it takes to pay for itself will depend on your circumstances, and it may be that a full system is too much of a long-term investment for you. If you are looking to install in your a zoned smart heating system, we are happy to recommend Heat Genius.

If you need only a single thermostat and don’t need control over hot water, the Nest is a good choice. The Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide alarm also works with the thermostat, but it’s not cheap. There’s also the Nest Cam, but the tie-in with the thermostat is minimal.

The Hive Active Heating system is a great upgrade for anyone that wants or needs the ability to be able to control their heating remotely. It’s by no means the most advanced smart thermostat, but it will do the job at a good price for a lot of people.

Tado is the best smart thermostat if you like the idea of presence detection as it simply follows you and your smartphone via GPS, and turns the heating up or down as you get further away or nearer home. There’s also hot water control, but the thermostat itself isn’t the best looking.

FULL REVIEW

TINYURL.COM/Q3CXA4Z

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Overall rating

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117_145 New Top 5 Charts 259.indd 139

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17/11/2016 16:33


Top 5 charts

Best graphics cards

1

2

3

4

5

Asus ROG Strix GTX 1080

Nvidia GTX 1080 Founders Ed

MSI GTX 1070

Nvidia GTX 1060 Founders Ed

XFX Radeon RX 480

Price

£659 inc VAT

£619 inc VAT

£419 inc VAT

£275 inc VAT

£249 inc VAT

Website

Asus.com/uk

Nvidia.co.uk

Uk.msi.com

Nvidia.co.uk

Novatech.co.uk

Graphics processor

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060

AMD Radeon RX480

Installed RAM

8GB

8GB

8GB

6GB

8GB

Memory interface

256-bit

256-bit

256-bit

192-bit

256-bit

Core clock/boost

1759/1898MHz

1607/1733MHz

1607/1797MHz

1506/1708MHz

1120/1288MHz

Memory clock

10,010MHz

10,000MHz

4006MHz

4006MHz

7000MHz

Stream processors

2560

2560

1920

1280

2304

Texture units

160

160

120

80

144

Power connectors

1x 8-pin, 1x 6-pin

1x 8-pin

1x 8-pin, 1x 6-pin

2x 6-pin

1x 6-pin

DirectX

12

12

12

12

12

Digital interface

DVI, 2x HDMI, 2x DisplayPort

DVI, HDMI, 3x DisplayPort

DVI, HDMI, 3x DisplayPort

DVI, HDMI 2.0, 3x DisplayPort 1.4

3x DP 1.4, HDMI

Warranty

3 years

3 years

3 years

3 years

2 years

FULL REVIEW

TINYURL.COM/HL4SOJ2

TINYURL.COM/ZEQXYQU

TINYURL.COM/J6HWN55

TINYURL.COM/HH6TYT8

TINYURL.COM/HSVQWBQ

Overall rating

Best graphics cards

6

7

8

9

10

Sapphire Radeon R7 250X

Asus GeForce GTX 980 Ti

Zotac GeForce GTX 980 Ti

MSI GTX 980 Gaming 4G

Club3D Radeon R9 390

Price

£65 inc VAT

£639 inc VAT

£532 inc VAT

£404 inc VAT

£288 inc VAT

Website

Sapphiretech.com

Asus.com/uk

Zotac.com

Uk.msi.com

Club-3d.com

Graphics processor

AMD Radeon R7 250X

nVidia GeForce GTX 980 Ti

nVidia GeForce GTX 980 Ti

nVidia GeForce GTX 980

AMD Radeon R9 390

Installed RAM

1GB GDDR5

12GB

12GB

4GB

8GB

Memory interface

128-bit

384-bit

512-bit

256-bit

512-bit

Core clock/boost

950MHz

1216/1317MHz

1105/1140MHz

1216/1317MHz

1010MHz

Memory clock

1125/4500MHz

7200MHz

7010MHz

7010MHz

6000MHz

Stream processors

640

2816

2816

2048

2560

Texture units

40

172

172

128

160

Power connectors

1x 6-pin

2x 8-pin

1x 8-pin, 1x 6-pin

2x 8-pin

1x 8-pin, 1x 6-pin

DirectX

12

12

12

12

12

Digital interface

1x DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort

DVI, HDMI 2.0, 3x DisplayPort 1.2

DVI, HDMI, 3x Mini-DisplayPort DVI, HDMI, 3x DisplayPort

2x DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort 1.2

Warranty

2 years

3 years

5 years

3 years

2 years

FULL REVIEW

TINYURL.COM/OLJ83SQ

TINYURL.COM/NDZZQKJ

TINYURL.COM/POYHNUH

TINYURL.COM/Q5OPK9S

TINYURL.COM/PC5PGWM

Overall rating

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117_145 New Top 5 Charts 259.indd 140

TEST CENTRE

17/11/2016 16:34


Top 5 charts

Best 4K flat-panel TVs

1

2

3

4

5

Panasonic TX-50CX802B

Samsung UE48JU7000

Sony KD-55X8505C

Philips 40PUT6400

Finlux 55UX3EC320S

Price

£1,299 inc VAT

£1,200 inc VAT

£1,200 inc VAT

£449 inc VAT

£799 inc VAT

Website

Panasonic.co.uk

Samsung.com/uk

Sony.co.uk

Philips.co.uk

Finlux.co.uk

Screen size

50in

48in

55in

40in

55in

Panel type

LCD (LED)

LCD (LED)

LCD (LED)

LCD (LED)

LCD (LED)

Native resolution

3840x2160

3840x2160

3840x2160

3840x2160

3840x2160

3D enabled

Apps

BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4, Demand 5, Netflix, YouTube, Amazon

BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4, Netflix, Amazon, YouTube and apps store

YouView with BBC iPlayer, ITV BBC iPlayer, Netflix, YouTube, BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Player, All 4 and Demand 5; Spotify Connect, Daily Motion, YouTube, Twitter, Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Philips App Store, Google Play Facebook, Viewster, Flickr

Networking

Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct

Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct

Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct

Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct

Ethernet, Wi-Fi

Inputs

3x HDMI, 3x USB

4x HDMI, 3x USB

4x HDMI, 3x USB

4x HDMI, 3x USB

4x HDMI, 3x USB

Dimensions

112.1x4.6x65.2cm

108.7x6.7x63cm

123.6x6x72.2cm

90.4x8.3x52.6m

123.3x10.6x71.3cm

Weight

18kg

11.1kg

19.9kg

7.8kg

17.2kg

Warranty

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

FULL REVIEW

TINYURL.COM/ZLFQ3JV

TINYURL.COM/Q2W3VZY

TINYURL.COM/ZGSP9FM

TINYURL.COM/JQVWCFU

TINYURL.COM/P934VXT

Overall rating

Best 4K flat-panel displays

1

2

3

4

5

BenQ BL3201PT

Philips BDM4065UC

Samsung UD970

Acer S277HK

ViewSonic VP2780-4K

Price

£699 inc VAT

£600 inc VAT

£1,400 inc VAT

£499 inc VAT

£699 inc VAT

Website

Benq.co.uk

Philips.co.uk

Samsung.com/uk

Acer.co.uk

Viewsoniceurope.com/uk

Screen size

32in

40in

31.5in

27in

27in

Panel type

IPS

VA

PLS

IPS

IPS

Native resolution

3840x2160

3840x2160

3840x2160

3840x2160

3840x2160

Pixel density

157ppi

110ppi

140ppi

163ppi

163ppi

Brightness

350cd/m2

120cd/m2

350cd/m2

300cd/m2

350cd/m2

Static contrast ratio

1000:1

5000:1

1000:1

530:1

1000:1

Response time

4ms

8.5ms

8ms

4ms

5ms

Ports

DVI-DL, HDMI, DP, mDP

HDMI, DP, mDP, VGA

HDMI, DVI, 4x USB 3.0

DVI, HDMI, DP, mDP, 4x USB 3.0 HDMI, DP, 4x USB 3.0

Dimensions

490.2x740.3x213.4mm

904x512x88mm

728x427x62mm

614x406x113mm

642.7x469.7x347.8mm

Weight

12.5kg

8.5kg

10.3kg

4.9kg

11.7kg

Warranty

3 years

2 years

Not specified

Not specified

3 years

FULL REVIEW

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TINYURL.COM/NTV4EVD

TINYURL.COM/O69CMTB

Overall rating

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Top 5 charts

Best e-book readers

1

2

3

4

5

Amazon Kindle Voyage

Amazon Kindle Oasis

Amazon Kindle (8th gen)

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

Amazon Kindle (7th gen)

Price

£169 inc VAT

£269 inc VAT

£59 inc VAT

£109 inc VAT

£59 inc VAT

Website

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.co.uk

Screen size

6in touchscreen

6in touchscreen

6in touchscreen

6in touchscreen

6in touchscreen

Screen technology

E Ink

E Ink

E Ink

E Ink

E Ink

Screen resolution

1440x1080

1440x1080

600x800

768x1024

600x800

Built-in light

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No

Storage

4GB

4GB

4GB

2GB

4GB

Book store

Amazon Kindle

Amazon Kindle

Amazon Kindle

Amazon Kindle

Amazon Kindle

Cellular connectivity

Optional extra

Optional extra

No

Optional extra

No

Battery life

Six weeks

Eight weeks

Four weeks

Eight weeks

Four weeks

Dimensions

162x115x7.6mm

143x122x8.5mm

160x115x9.1mm

117x169x9.1mm

169x119x10.2mm

Weight

180g

131g

161g

206g

191g

Warranty

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

FULL REVIEW

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Overall rating

Best media streamers

1

2

3

4

5

Roku Streaming Stick

Roku 3

Google Chromecast 2

Amazon Fire TV Stick

Google Chromecast

Price

£49 inc VAT

£99 inc VAT

£30 inc VAT

£35 inc VAT

£30 inc VAT

Website

Roku.com

Roku.com

Play.google.com

Apple.com/uk

Play.google.com

Type

Dongle

Set-top box

Dongle

Dongle

Dongle

Ports

HDMI, Micro-USB

HDMI, USB, ethernet

HDMI, Micro-USB

HDMI, Micro-USB

HDMI, Micro-USB

Processor

600MHz single-core

900MHz single-core

13.GHz dual-core

Dual-core

Single-core

RAM

512MB

512MB

512MB

1GB

512MB

Graphics

Not specified

Not specified

Not specified

Not specified

Not specified

Storage

None

512MB, plus microSD slot

None

8GB (not user-accessible)

None

Voice search

No

Yes

No

No

No

Remote control

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No

Dimensions

78.7x27.9x12.7mm

89x89x25mm

52x52x13.5mm

84.9x25x11.5mm

72x35x12mm

Weight

18g

170g

39g

25g

34g

Warranty

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

FULL REVIEW

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TINYURL.COM/QBGTCS2

Overall rating

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TEST CENTRE

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Top 5 charts

Best games consoles

1

2

3

4

5

Sony PlayStation 4 Pro

Microsoft Xbox One S

Sony PlayStation 4 Slim

Sony PlayStation 4

Microsoft Xbox One

Price

£349 inc VAT

£349 inc VAT

£259 inc VAT

£259 inc VAT

£349 inc VAT

Website

Playstation.com

Xbox.com

Playstation.com

Playstation.com

Xbox.com

Processor

Octa-core AMD x86-64

1.75GHz octa-core AMD x86

Octa-core AMD x86

Octa-core AMD x86

1.75GHz octa-core AMD x86

Graphics

4.2TFlops AMD Radeon GPU

AMD Radeon GPU at 914MHz

1.84TFlops AMD Radeon GPU

1.84TFlops AMD Radeon GPU

1.31TFlops AMD Radeon GPU

RAM

8GB GDDR5

8GB DDR3

8GB GDDR5

8GB GDDR5

8GB DDR3

Storage

1TB

500GB, 1TB or 2TB

500GB

500GB

500GB

Optical drive

Blu-ray, DVD, game discs

4K Blu-ray, DVD, game discs

Blu-ray, DVD, game discs

Blu-ray, DVD, game discs

Blu-ray, DVD, game discs

Ports

3x USB 3.1, AUX, HDMI

3x USB 3.0, HDMI 2.0, Kinect port

2x USB 3.0, AUX, HDMI

2x USB 3.0, AUX, HDMI

USB 3.0, HDMI

Connectivity

Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth

Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n/ac

Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n

Other

1 controller

1 controller, 4K, Kinect option

1 controller

1 controller

1 controller, 4K, Kinect option

Dimensions

327x295x55mm

3294x226x64mm

275x53x305mm

275x53x305mm

333x274x79mm

Weight

3.3kg

2.9kg

2.8kg

2.8kg

3.2kg

Warranty

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

1 year

FULL REVIEW

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Overall rating

Best budget portable speakers

1

2

3

4

5

Denon Envaya Mini

Sumvision Psyc Monic

UE Roll

Marsboy 5W Orb

Lumsing B9

Price

£99 inc VAT

£37 inc VAT

£99 inc VAT

£38 inc VAT

£23 inc VAT

Website

Denon.com

Sumvision.com

Ultimateears.com

Amazon.co.uk

Lumsing.com

Speaker(s)

Not specified

Not specified

Not specified

Not specified

Not specified

Bluetooth

Bluetooth 4.0

Bluetooth 4.0

Bluetooth

Bluetooth 4.1 + EDR

Bluetooth 3.0 + EDR

Handsfree calls

Yes

No

No

No

Yes

NFC

Yes

No

Yes

No

Yes

Frequency response

Not specified

90Hz to 20KHz

108Hz to 20kHz

80Hz to 18kHz

20Hz to 20kHz

Impedence

Not specified

Not specified

Not specified

4 ohms

4 ohms

Extra features

IPX4 splashproof

None

IPX7 splashproof

MicroSD slot

MicroSD slot, lanyard

Claimed battery life

10 hours

7 hours

9 hours

12 hours

25 hours

Dimensions

209x54x51mm

200x60x60mm

134x39x40mm

150x148x138mm

177x50x70mm

Weight

558g

Not stated

330g

454g

300g

Warranty

1 year

1 year

2 years

1 year

1 year

FULL REVIEW

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Overall rating

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17/11/2016 16:46


Top 5 charts

Best headphones

1

2

3

4

5

Bose QuietComfort 35

Denon AH-D600

Sharkk Bravo

Denon AH-MM400

Final Audio Design Sonorous III

Price

£289 inc VAT

£229 inc VAT

£249 inc VAT

£196 inc VAT

£299 inc VAT

Website

Bose.co.uk

Denon.co.uk

Sharkk.com

Denon.co.uk

Final-audio-design.com

Type

Circumaural over-ear

Circumaural over-ear

Circumaural over-ear

Circumaural over-ear

Circumaural over-ear

Frequency response

Not stated

5Hz to 45kHz

6Hz to 45kHz

10Hz to 40kHz

Not stated

Nominal impedance

Not stated

25 ohms

32 ohms

32 ohms

25 ohms

Sensitivity

Not stated

108dB

118dB

96dB

105dB

In-line remote

No

Yes

No

Yes

No

Mic

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No

Extra tips

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Carry case

Yes