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GADGET REVIEWS INSIDE!

www.stuff.tv February 2017 £4.99

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Channelling forty years of audio engineering and design excellence, we present Mu-so – a range of compact, yet commanding wireless music systems. Simple to connect, Mu-so offers total control via the Naim App, so you can unleash your music wherever it’s stored, in breathtaking quality. With a host of versatile features, you can sync up to five systems to play the same song beat-for-beat in any room of your home.


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HOT STUFF 10 The Hot Four ● Virgin TV V6 & TellyTablet ● BeoPlay H9 ● Superveloce Aviatore Veloce ● MB&F Astrograph 16 Vital stats Fujifilm X-A10 The professional selfie snapper 18 Apps Waste more hours on Solitaire 20 Gigapixel Ortega personal submarine Make like a tuna (without getting tinned) 22 Start menu Take pictures more stable than you are 24 Icon Meters Music OV-1 Let your friends nod along to the needle 26 Games Grab your baseball bat, Clickers are back 28 Choice External hard drives Because even pigeons get lost in the cloud 30 Best of 2017 cars & motorbikes Serious wheels to get you revved up 32 Geek diary The gadget launches to get excited about 34 Your month Missed Doctor Who on Christmas Day? No Tardis required…

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TESTS p64 Spectre calls

p65 An open Book

p66 Stealth fighter

36 First test Nintendo Classic Mini 8-bit Mario and Donkey Kong return 51 Versus VR headsets Can Oculus get the final Touch to beat Vive? 56 First test Google Chromecast Ultra Cast 4K content to your un-smart telly 58 Supertest Laptops Stuff rates the best ’books on the market 70 Tested Panasonic Lumix DMC-G80 This CSC isn’t a beauty, but its 4K video is 71 Tested Amazon Echo Dot The Echo squished in form and price 74 Long-term test Google Daydream View We spend a fortnight in a digital universe 82 Versus Smartwatches Nixon vs Samsung, the fight to ‘watch’ 84 Group test DACs Three ways to pep up your phone’s music 88 First test OnePlus 3T Stuff’s favourite phone gets an upgrade 90 Versus Music streaming services Amazon v Spotify is the name of the game 96 Group test 4K TVs for gaming The best screens for your PlayStation Pro 98 Tested Games Final Fantasy XV and The Last Guardian


02.17

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P54

FEATURES 39 Get fit quick Whether you’re trimming down that PB or running off a turkey overdose, here are the best trackers for your New Year regime 54 Upvoted Lamps Light up your world in geeky style 72 Gadget Doctor Trusty tips to banish the lag from your internet connection 76 Stuff picks Kitchen gadgets Improve your culinary skills with these frying, juicing, slicing, stewing gadgets 86 Instant upgrades Sonos Make the most of your multiroom music 92 Beta yourself Android Nougat Update your smartphone experience 104 Media hoard Films, albums and damn this blasted war

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TOP TENS 107 The Stuff Top Ten of everything Your essential gadget-buying guide: Smartphones, tablets, headphones, TVs, fitness trackers, laptops, hi-fi, consoles, VR headsets, games, home cinema, smart home, system cameras 109 The big question Which life-organising app should you use? 113 Streaming essentials Top treats on Netflix, Amazon and Now TV 115 Playlist Google Daydream The best experiences for your VR headset 117 How to buy... a laptop What to look for in hinged hardware 119 Should I upgrade? PlayStation 4 Pro Is it worth making the jump to Pro? 125 5-minute hacks Slash your PS4 loading times

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Subscriptions Hotline 0344 848 8806 World: +44 (0)1604 251 460 Email help@stuff. themagazineshop.com Web www.themagazineshop.com Advertising 020 8267 5493 Group Head Stephen Windegaard Sales Managers Robert Nevill, Ben Hardy Retail Manager Rob Kerr Display Sales Executive Amy Turner Classified Sales Executive Joshua McGonigle Creative Solutions Project Managers Liam Maguire, Hannah Pettifor Creative Solutions Editor-in-Chief Will Findlater International Advertising Director Chris Marriott Business Development Director Mike Walsh Production 020 8267 5414 Production Manager Anthony Davis Senior Production Controller Paul Skinner Newstrade Marketing Manager Nick Lyon Management Brand Director Alastair Lewis Editorial Director Mark Payton Strategy & Planning Director Bob McDowell Managing Director David Prasher Chief Executive Kevin Costello • Volume 21 issue 2 • ISSN: 1364-963 • On sale 5 January 2017 • Audit Bureau of Circulations: 62,624 (Jan-Dec 2015)

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Welcome Whether its Rocky Balboa or that time your smartphone survived a dip in the drink, everyone loves a comeback story. Especially if it comes with a glossy montage and fist-pumping soundtrack. While we didn’t make this month’s cover with Eye of the Tiger on constant rotation, it’s fair to say that laptops are ‘having a moment’. They used to be a boring essential, like your pension plan or James Milner. Now even Dell have made one we actually want. Rather than taking this as a further sign of the coming apocalypse, we went and chucked a whole load of them together in a great big supertest. Obviously Apple’s new Touch Bar-equipped MacBook Pro was the device that set our hearts aflutter, but could it withstand an onslaught of competition from the likes of Microsoft, HP, Razer and – yes – Dell? You’re going to want to turn to p58 to find out. Speaking of inflated BPM rates, ’tis the season to strap on a fitness band and pretend you’ve always been into running or cycling or weightlifting. Because, hey, those guns aren’t going to train themselves. That’s why we’ve rounded up the best trackers for pretty much any form of exercise you fancy on p39. If you do end up turning into an Olympian after reading this very mag, then don’t forget about your old friends at Stuff. We’ll happily take the credit in any film adaptation of the tale. Rob Leedham, Editor / @robleedham

This product is from sustainably managed forests and controlled sources

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© 2016, Haymarket Media Group Ltd. Printed by William Gibbons, Wolverhampton. Distributed by Frontline Ltd, Midgate House, Midgate, Peterborough, PE1 1TN. Stuff, ISSN 1364-963, is published monthly by Haymarket Media Group, Bridge House, 69 London Road, Twickenham TW1 3SP, UK. The US annual subscription price is $75.50. Airfreight and mailing in the USA by agent named Worldnet Shipping Inc., 156-15, 146th Avenue, 2nd Floor, Jamaica, NY 11434, USA. Periodicals postage paid at Jamaica NY 11431. US Postmaster: Send address changes to Stuff, Worldnet Shipping Inc., 156-15, 146th Avenue, 2nd Floor, Jamaica, NY 11434, USA. Subscription records are maintained at Haymarket Media Group, Bridge House, 69 London Road, Twickenham TW1 3SP, UK. Air Business Ltd is acting as our mailing agent.

TOUCH ME I’M SLICK APPLE MACBOOK PRO #215 FEBRUARY 2017 MAC vs PC

All rights reserved. This publication may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form in whole or in part without the written permission of the publishers. Liability: while every care has been taken in the preparation of this magazine, the publishers can’t be held responsible for the accuracy of the information herein, or any consequence arising from it. In the case of all product reviews, judgements have been made in the context of ware based on UK prices at the time of review, which are subject to fluctuation and only applicable to the UK market.

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Making Stuff up Editor Rob Leedham Deputy Editor Tom Wiggins Production Editor Richard Purvis Consulting Editor Fraser Macdonald Reviews Editor Tom Morgan Features Editor Mark Wilson Deputy Features Editor Esat Dedezade Editor, Stuff.tv Marc McLaren Deputy Editor, Stuff.tv Tom Parsons Staff Writer Ryan Jones

I PLAYED MY FAVOURITE GAME OF 2016 IN VR

If you were unfortunate enough to meet me in 2016, I probably bored on about how brilliant Superhot is. This first-person shooter/ puzzle game, where time only moves when you do, lets you play out impossible gunfights in super-slow-mo. It’s the closest you’ll ever get to being John McClane, or so I thought until I played Superhot VR with the Oculus Rift’s Touch Controllers. So apologies to anyone I bump into this year – I’ll be banging the drum for another 12 months. Rob Leedham, Editor

I BRACED MYSELF FOR VEGAS

CES is the tech industry’s biggest get-together and it takes place every year in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, its 2017 edition kicks off on 3 January, just in time for my New Year’s hangover to meet the sweet tonic of a transatlantic flight. For me? It’s not an ideal scenario. For you? It couldn’t be better. Just head over to Stuff.tv for all the latest TVs, wearables and barmy new gadgets we’ve spotted on the show floor. Fingers crossed for something even more awesome than the eHang human drone we saw last year. Tom Morgan, Reviews Editor

Colouring Stuff in Brand Art Editor Chee-Chiu Lee Deputy Art Editor Ross Presly Senior Designer Will Clarke Senior Video Editor Peter Brown Keeping Stuff in order Global Editor-In-Chief Guy Cocker International Director Alastair Lewis Syndication Enquiries Isla Friend 020 8267 5058 Brand Manager Claire Griffiths Brand Executive Kadie Chanter Office Manager Sarah Weetch Contributors

Mitch Payne, Andrew Williams, Sam Kieldsen, Craig Grannell, Andrew Hayward, Chris Rowlands, Adam Cook, Matt Beedle, Pete Gardner, Alex Fanning, Daniel James, Alexander Jones, RGB Digital Cover photography Matt Beedle

Email us stuff@haymarket.com Call us 020 8267 5036 Haymarket Media Group, Bridge House, 69 London Road, Twickenham TW1 3SP

OUR MONTH

The things we shot, flew and bought in December I CAME UP WITH A PLAN TO RESCUE THE MUSIC BUSINESS

At this point it’s hard to deny that streaming is slowly killing the music industry, particularly smaller bands. At the same time, streaming is chuffing awesome and there’s no way I’m going to stop doing it. That’s why I’ve decided instead to check Last.fm (yeah, it’s still going) each month to find out which artists I’ve listened to most on Spotify and then buy T-shirts from the top two. OK, it’s a drop in the ocean, but if we all did it… Tom Parsons, Deputy Editor, Stuff.tv

I DID BATTLE WITH A STAR WARS DRONE

Well, first I did battle with the instructions – and the fact that I was anywhere near the instructions tells you that this isn’t the most intuitive product. Much trial and error and colleague-annoying beeping later, I deduced that the manual’s pictures were right but the text was wrong. That established, the little X-Wing flew like a buzzy spacebird, while ‘firing’ its IR cannons at the other Battle Drones. Go to Stuff.tv for the full review. Pete Brown, Senior Video Editor

Stuff is a member of the Independent Press Standards Organisation. We abide by the Editors’ Code of Practice and are committed to upholding the highest standards of journalism. If you think we haven’t met those standards and want to make a complaint, contact stuff@haymarket.com. For more information, contact IPSO on 0300 123 2220 or visit www.ipso.co.uk

Haymarket is certified by BSI to environmental standard ISO14001 and energy management standard ISO50001.

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The TellyTablet comes pre-loaded with Virgin’s app, outperforming other tablets for the TV task by having a 14in 1080p screen, four speakers and a hefty 12,060mAh battery.

VIRGIN SQUEEZES 4K INTO ITS TINY NEW BOX VIRGIN TV V6 & TELLYTABLET

We’re about to launch our own Stuff set-top box. It only has three channels – Fiction, Non-Fiction, Fireplace – to combat the angst many families feel when faced with a bazillion programmes, streamed or broadcast. A fourth button on the remote, Fabricate, will activate the StuffBox’s 3D printer to produce an original jigsaw puzzle for the family to enjoy instead of watching TV at all. Horrified? Then turn your anamorphic eyes to Virgin’s tiny new V6 box. It can record six channels at once, while you watch (or stream) a seventh. It supports 4K and HDR, albeit the former only via Netflix and YouTube, and the latter only when HDR broadcasts begin. A newly updated TV Anywhere app for mobile or tablet lets you take your bazillion channels to go, and there’s also a new kids’ app and a Virgin Media Store where you can buy movies and box sets. Meanwhile, Virgin has a launched a 14in Android tablet, with all the apps pre-installed, that acts as a kind of modern-day portable telly. It can be bought outright, or grabbed as part of a Virgin Mobile contract. As hot as… finding six things to record from £50 / stuff.tv/VirginTVV6

Get a room You can pause live, recorded or on-demand TV and resume it on your tablet in bed. Streaming is the app default; you can download content but it’ll expire after a set time.

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VIRGIN V6 VS SKY Q (2TB)

Radio times The basic outline of the remote remains the same, but a big change is that it now uses radio frequency rather than infrared. So you can hide your V6 box in a cupboard, if you like.

WATCHING

STREAMING

BUYING

Virgin’s impressive six-channel recording feature is due to be matched by Sky through a firmware update for its 2TB box, taking it from four channels at once to six. And Sky wins this one because its Silver box has twice as much storage as Virgin’s 1TB – plus it has its own 4K channels for film, sport, docs and drama, to make the most out your Ultra HD telly.

Both Virgin and Sky systems have mobile apps for watching TV away from your living room. Sky will also sell you its Multiscreen package, which costs £12/month and gives you a Mini box to plug into a second TV. More Mini boxes are £99 each, up to a maximum of four. Virgin will simply sell you more V6 boxes, each of which adds 1TB to your storage tally.

We started drawing up a compar-o-table of upfront and monthly costings for both TV options, but quickly went off the side of the paper and up the wall. Headlines: Sky Q is not as expensive as you think, so long as you have a relatively sweet broadband deal. Virgin’s new box is £49 for existing Full House or VIP package subscribers, or £99 for everyone else.

Fill yer boots The V6 is about half the size of the old TiVo box. Inside is a 1TB drive, which seems generous but could easily fill up given the simultaneous sixchannel recording option.

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HOT FOUR #2 OOH, IT’S REALLY NICE IN EAR Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H9

The world is absolutely chock full of beautiful places to be. Standing in the startling briskness of an Alpine glacier in the summer time, drifting through the humidity of a foggy Louisiana swamp. But, due to the basic uneditable algorithm of modern life, the place you mostly get to be is where you are, or thereabouts. Which, as beautiful as it may have started out, is dulled by familiarity, de-lustred by your abrasive eyebeams. The solution, for which you are surely hoping this far down the paragraph, is to forget costly location hops and disappear up your own ears. So, £449 is what you need to pay for perfect soundscapes delivered, in this case, by B&O’s latest lovely ear-places, the H9s. They’re wireless, with active noise-cancelling, and made out of the solidified joy of an engineer – your only barrier to never-ending bliss now is time itself. There are 30 million tracks on Spotify and 200,000 audiobooks on Audible, and your body is degrading even as you read this… As hot as… taking your ears on a Caribbean beach holiday in your mind £449 / stuff.tv/BOH9 12

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Your life as a four-act play B&O reckons most of your life can be covered by the four sound profiles built into its Android and iOS app: Commute, Workout, Podcast and Clear.

Finger nous A touch-panel on the side of one ear-cup controls volume, songs and calls. We’re not going to tell you which, because you have to walk some of this journey alone.

HOT FOUR #3 CLOUD NINE COFFEE MAKING Superveloce Aviatore Veloce

It’s getting too easy to overdo coffee – so people begin finding slower, more complex ways to prepare their caffeine fix. Built in the form of a jet engine using aviation-grade metals, this is the kitchen centrepiece of someone so far down the coffee-scented rabbit-hole that they almost never get round to drinking any. But when they do, silently filling the grounds filter and titanium water tank, it’s with an almost religious fervour. As hot as… it should be, and no hotter otherwise you’ll scald it €14,266 / stuff.tv/Aviatore 13


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HOT FOUR #4 IN SPACE, NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU SCRIBE MB&F ASTROGRAPH

There are two scenarios in which you could be in a meeting and, with sound effects, make your pen take off from the desk like a rocket. One is that you’re some flavour of highly paid creative. Two, you’ve slapped down family hatchback money for a pen that looks like a rocket. At that point, certainly in our book, you can do whatever you like. Which immediately grants MB&F company founder Maximilian Büsser lifetime Stuff Club membership, as it was he who dreamt up the Astrograph and brought in penmasters Caran d’Ache to do the fountain pen and rollerball bits. As hot as… a set of NASA space wings US$19,900 / stuff.tv/Astrograph

Launchpad delivery vehicle Serving as both presentation box and display stand, this is also a handy place to keep the all-important little silver spaceman.

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That’s astronomical! The pricetag comes from the complexity: 99 individual components made from exotic metals come together in 500 steps.


Designed for listening The new CM Series loudspeakers are undoubtedly beautiful, capable of gracing any room with their clean lines and high-quality finishes. But as with all Bowers & Wilkins loudspeakers form must follow function, and thanks to our Decoupled Double Domes and tweeter-on-top technology you won’t believe how beautiful your music can sound. bowers-wilkins.com

Decoupled Double Dome tweeter


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A SELFIE CAM TO BE PROUD OF Fujifilm X-A10

£499 (w/16-50mm lens) / fujifilm.eu

When you flip the screen the X-A10 will automatically activate the eyedetection mode.

Like it or not, selfies are here to stay. So unless you want to be confirmed as the out-of-touch oldie you always swore you’d never be, you’d better get on board… ● Super selfies You know what the best way to stick it to the kids would be? Taking selfies that are so special they’ll be left flabbergasted by your artistic and technical genius. Yeah, that’ll show ’em. The Fujifilm X-A10 is in many ways just a very nice, very compact Fuji compact system camera. And we 16

know all about them – the X-T2 won our System Cam of the Year award this year, and the X-T10 took the same title in 2015. ● Smashing snapper The X-A10 slots in at the bottom of Fuji’s range – it’s just £499 with a 16-50mm kit lens – but don’t call it an also-ran. It has a 16.3MP APS-C sensor, a native ISO range of 2006400 and 49-zone autofocus. It also features six of Fuji’s luscious film simulation modes, including the does-what-it-says-on-the-tin Vivid and our spooky favourite, Classic Chrome. Plus there’s full HD video recording, Wi-Fi for smartphone-connected remote

shots and image downloads, and the really handy electronic shutter – which lets it shoot at speeds of up to 1/32,000s. And of course, being a Fuji cam, it looks the business – sharply retro without being too try-hard, and enviably small and light. ● Swivelly screen Lots of cameras have a swivelly flip-screen, but most can’t then slide out further so the camera body doesn’t get in the way of your view. The grip is designed to be held from either side, and there’s a special command dial round the front which can be used to take the pictures in selfie mode. The X-A10

THE ELECTRONIC SHUTTER LETS IT SHOOT AT SPEEDS OF UP TO 1/32,000s can automatically detect eyes, smiles, couples and groups, shooting away when the criteria are met and smoothing the results with Portrait Enhancer smarts. This promises to be another nice addition to the Fuji range.


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Nothing says ‘edgy’ more than the Alienware 13’s proudly pink trackpad.

More power than a tower?

ALIENWARE 13

Look at that pink trackpad! Bit zingy, huh? And yet, remarkably, it’s sitting on top of a gaming architecture designed so that you won’t be able to see it. Because you’ll have a VR headset on. The Alienware 13, despite being a comparatively diminutive 13in-screened 2.6kg laptop, has an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card powerful enough to run an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. But wait, take it off! Because if you specced your Alienware 13 up correctly – like, maximum everything – you’ll have a wondrous 2K OLED screen that will easily out-gun Rift or Vive for crispiness and vibrance. from £1249 / alienware.co.uk

HAND-TO-HAND CAMBAT The Fujifilm’s £499 might be easy money for cameraphiles, but some of us scrimpers would prefer to supercharge our selfie experience the old-school way. The iKlip Grip Pro is no flimsy selfie stick: it’s a multi-talented AV wand. It has fold-out tripod legs, 62cm of extension and a Bluetooth remote for iPhone. You can also take off the phone holder to screw on a GoPro, small digicam or podcast microphone. €73 / ikmultimedia.com

You’ll like what you’re hearing

DJI PHANTOM 4 PRO

Let’s clear something up: drones are not quiet. The news coverage of drones ‘sneaking’ contraband into prisons neatly overlooks the ear-melting ‘BRAAAAAAAAAHHH’ of the motors and rotors. Behind the noise, though, is brains. This new Pro version of the Phantom 4 has improved obstacle avoidance, scanning up to 30 metres all around itself and finding its way hither and yon whether directly controlled or sent to a point by poking the map on the app. It now has a 1in 20MP camera sensor, capable of up to 60fps 4K recording in the tighter H.265 format. It’s also a bit more expensive, mind you, starting at close to £1600 without any extra batteries or other gubbins. from £1589 / dji.com 17


A P P S

This month’s mobile must-downloads

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APP MATHS Jetpack Joyride is mobile’s most famous casual shooty onethumb survival game… what happens when you slap it with an asteroid?

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JETPACK JOYRIDE

£free / iOS, Android Tap to shoot the floor and keep Barry Steakfries aloft, grabbing coins and avoiding enemies.

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£1.49 / iOS, Android Insanely fast split-second twitch fare, where you blast through asteroid fields and jagged canyons.

1 Korg Kaossilator for Android

£7.99 / Android Five years after iOS, Android finally gets some Korg love. Prod and slide your way to banging choonz, and hope Korg’s efforts give music creation on Android a boost.

£free (IAPs) / Apple Watch Armed with Runkeeper, you could leave your iPhone at home and get stats from your Apple Watch. Plus, with a shiny Series 2’s GPS and the latest Runkeeper update, you’ll now get a map too.

4 Infuse Pro 5

5 Fonty

£6.99/yr / iOS, tvOS Firecore’s elegant video player grabs files from your network, then converts and squirts them to your iOS device or Apple TV. Hate subscriptions? Try the £9.99-for-keeps version.

7 Tomb of the Mask

£free / iOS This superfast and eyeball-searing game feels like it was fired out of a ZX Spectrum. Previously procedural-tastic, the game now features 60 arcade stages to test your thumb’s strategic skills. 18

2 Runkeeper

£free / Android Craft your own Helvetica on an Android device… or, if Stuff’s efforts are anything to go by, an illegible mess. Still, if you want your own font where the letters all wear hats, now’s your chance.

8 Microsoft Solitaire Collection

£free / iOS, Android, Windows Phone It’s tappy Solitaire, Microsoft-style. That is, clean, efficient, but broadly devoid of personality. And they don’t bounce around the screen when you win. Boo.

3 Drivetribe

£free / iOS, Android Can’t get enough of The Grand Tour? Try Drivetribe – essentially Instagram for cars, with Clarkson, May and Hammond involved. Just hope Clarkson doesn’t smack his followers for not giving him steak.

6 PhotoScan by Google Photos

£free / iOS, Android The theory: dump old photos on a table, snap with your smartphone, and PhotoScan makes individual pics. The reality: some clever bits but also low-res results.

9 The Battle of Polytopia £free / iOS, Android If you’ve been smitten with 4X turn-based strategy lawks since the early days of Civilization, this is palm-based bliss beyond anything 2K’s mobile efforts have managed.

RUNGUN JUMPGUN

£2.29 / iOS £3.19 / Android This combines the bouncy essence of Jetpack Joyride with the spacey feel of Alone… Your little spacechap flies by shooting the floor, belting through caverns with all manner of inconvenient spikes, sawmills, rockets and walls. Handily, he can also shoot forwards, but on doing so he rapidly starts to plummet.


YOU KNOW YOU CAN’T BE TRUSTED. ONE IN FOUR PEOPLE BREAK THEIR NEW PHONE WITHIN A MONTH.

IF YOU TRUST ANYONE WITH YOUR IPHONE 7, TRUST TECH21 TM

TECH21.COM


The bigger picture in tech

ORTEGA PERSONAL SUBMARINE Space remains a bummer. Vacuum, radiation, terrible broadband, and the journey times are an absolute bore. But if you’re determined to go off-grid, have you considered the ocean? Sure, there are equally challenging details to do with the availability of oxygen and all of your body temperature leaching out into the water. But if you do manage to establish a foothold, you’ll need transport. This Ortega Mk.1C submersible can run fast on the surface and even faster underwater, although you’ll need your own air supply. But remember: nipping topside to post a ’gram is not really in the ‘off-grid’ spirit.

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NEWS FEED

DEWIRED SCIENCE

A Chinese startup, helped by HTC’s Vive X accelerator programme, has made a wireless adaptor for the Vive VR headset. Its first batch was immediately consumed by freedomhungry Chinese Vivers, but there’s talk of TPCast’s lag-free widget hitting Euro shores in 2017.

FITBIT PICKS UP PEBBLE

The takeover could be a smart move for Fitbit, a wearables company that has not thus far properly smartified its fitness watches. It’s slightly sad for Pebble fans, though, as the genre-breaking Core and Time 2 watch look set to be lost in the transaction.

HEY CORTANA, YOU’RE SO COOL

“Correct, I’m four degrees.” Building Cortana into smart home devices such as fridges and thermostats will be possible from March, on the release of the Windows 10 Creators Update – a big rival for Google and Amazon’s voice assistants. 21


S T A R T M E N U ST KIC AR K TE R

The latest startups, crowdfunded projects and plain crazy ideas

More than it seems but less than it sees

MYSIGHT360 Looking at this, no one could blame you for thinking it’s just another VR camera. After all, that’s what that kind of bulbous wide-angle lens is for. And, crucially, it is a VR camera. But look closer. Notice anything? No, you won’t, for the MySight360’s greatest trick is digital. It can crop into its broad perspective in order to level out whatever wonky angle you position the camera at. This means you can use its built-in clip to attach it to a bag strap, or the peak of your cap, and still generate a horizontal masterpiece. See, not just another VR camera. from US$189 / event.sightour.com BACK IT STACK IT

No balls-up

HENG LAMP The longer you stare at this lamp, the more twisted reality becomes. Is the top half a reflection of the bottom? Or are we all the wrong side of the looking glass, gazing in on a product neverland? No, it’s just a lamp. But to turn it on, you pull the bottom ball up until it’s magnetically attracted to the top one. from €45 / allocacoc.com 22

I GONDI GOE-

I GONDI GOE-

ST KIC AR K TE R

ST KIC AR K TE R

SACK IT

Hyperspork

Hello, hot wrists

Game on

After a good 10 minutes of looking at this, marvelling at the ingenuity of humans, you still don’t really understand how you can use it as a tin opener. Which is a shame, because your fellow campers are beginning to mutter things like “Come on, son – it’s Bestival, not Antarctic Base Camp”. from US$35 / fullwindsor.cc

Thirty minutes of staring at your body-heat-powered smartwatch was enough for you to start thinking you were the potato in one of those vegetable-powered digital clocks. Your friends have to take it off you to prove you can function without it. from US$139 / matrixindustries.com

A glance is enough to think: ‘Where have I seen that before?’ You can’t put your finger on it. But it does make you want to play retro games. Which is fortunate, because that’s what it does: a bevy of classic games will run through its Linux-powered emulator. from US$69 / facebook.com/retrosigma

FULL WINDSOR THE MUNCHER

MATRIX POWERWATCH

RETROENGINE SIGMA


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METERS MUSIC OV-1 £279 / metersmusic.com Just the thing for listening to Level 42? Only eight middle-aged people got that joke, and they didn’t like it either. But no, these aren’t designed for listening to ’80s dad-pop. If you look closely at the sound level meters, you’ll see that Meters Music is a new consumer product spin-off from acclaimed British bass amp manufacturer Ashdown Engineering. Notable noodlers on Ashdown gear include the Foo Fighters, System of a Down and Rage Against the Machine. Wow, and Lenny Kravitz! Oh, and U2. So did any of those iconic rockers ask for VU meters on their headphones? Nope… and neither did U2. (Ha!) But the headphones market is more crowded than the mosh pit at a Foos gig, so everyone needs something to stand out. And everyone loves an analogue meter, right? It invokes daydreams of sound studios and sci-fi movies – admit it, you’re imagining a kind of electrical ‘woooom’ noise even now. I am not. (It’s more like a ‘squeeeee’.) Exactly. And unlike some similar brands [cough, Marshall, cough], these Meters headphones have actually been designed and engineered by the same guys who make the band-pleasing amplifiers. They have active noise cancelling tech built in; that, and the meters, require occasional charging via a microUSB socket next to the cable input. Oh, so no Bluetooth? Not yet. Meters has plans to launch a Bluetooth version soon, along with a VU-metered Bluetooth speaker system and some in-ear headphones. For obvious reasons, the in-ears will have to miss out on the titchy twitchy needles.

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WORKING VU METERS ARE BUILT INTO BOTH HEADPHONES


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DECIPHER ALLOW ME TO EXPLAIN…

#18 BLUETOOTH 5.0 Fraser Macdonald

Home robots are here! Well, soon…

UBTECH ALPHA 2

There’s something to be said for procrastination. Having not backed Alpha 2 on its 2015 crowdfunder, instead breezily getting on with your life until Alpha 2 turned up on the High Street – which is about now – you get a robot that’s already been on a journey. The firmware version number will be reassuringly high, and amateur programmers across the globe will have already figured out how to leverage the cameras, the voice, touch and sonar sensors and the motors. Which means it might actually be able to do some of the home-controlling, story-telling, calendar-managing, limbo-dancing things that its Indiegogo campaign promised. Maybe leave it a little longer, just to be sure. £tba (due early 2017) / ubtrobot.com

The last time I wrote one of these pieces about wireless standards, the Stuff production team drew straws to see who didn’t have to proofread it. But rather than nursing my hurt feelings – it was a year ago, after all – I’ll assume that not everyone is as interested as I am. So, to keep it snappy: There’s a new Bluetooth! Bluetooth doesn’t really want anyone to call it anything other than just ‘Bluetooth’ but, between you and me, it’s Bluetooth 5. You don’t have it yet! The specification has been agreed, the chip makers are making the chips and you should see things with Bluetooth 5 appearing a few months from now. They’ll be backwards-compatible, but that won’t get you the tasty new features…

Up to four times the range means a Bluetooth 5 device is more likely to be able to cover your entire home

Boom goes the speaker mite

POLK BOOM BIT

Why would you spend a little bit of money on a Bluetooth speaker that’s going to be only marginally better than the one in your smartphone? For one very big reason: your life. Not having your lugholes plugged with earphones might be the thing that keeps you out from underneath that runaway steamroller some day. Plus, some small reasons: perhaps you like the colours, and perhaps you want your fellow runners or cyclists to hear your Simon & Garfunkel megamix? £30 / polkaudio.com

It’s faster! Double the speed – but this isn’t so important for the smart home applications that the Bluetooth group is particularly excited about. It’s longer! This is more like it: up to four times the range means a Bluetooth 5 device is more likely to be able to cover your entire home. Note the ‘up to’ – developers will be able to tune the range to suit the application, thereby managing power consumption. It’s chattier! A Bluetooth 5 device will have a greater capacity to identify itself. Say, not just “I’m a speaker”, but “I’m an audio and video controller for a multiroom speaker system. I also control smart home settings including temperature and hot water. But my owner has forgotten most of this.”

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G A M E S

FIRST LOOK THE LAST OF US PART II PS4 Some stories are better left alone. It’s why there’s never been a Con Air 2: Now Boarding or ET Returns: Even More Terrestrial. So when the credits rolled on The Last Of Us, deep down many people hoped that was the last they’d hear from Joel and Ellie, even if the ending left questions unanswered. But after secretly teasing a follow-up back in September without anyone realising, developer Naughty Dog has shown off the first trailer for its sequel to Stuff’s favourite PlayStation game of all time. 26

The Last Of Us Part II is set five years after the first game. Ellie is now 19 years old and as she plucks out a tune on an acoustic guitar, with tattoos snaking up her bloodied arm and a dead body lying at her feet, she looks a long way from the vulnerable young girl we met at the start of the first game. This newly militant Ellie will be the main playable character this time around, and her Liam Neeson-esque promise of revenge is very much a sign of things to come. Co-writer Neil Druckmann has says this game

is “about hate” where the first one was about love. Does that mean Joel and Ellie will turn on each other? Who is Ellie so keen on killing? Will the Fireflies militia be involved? With the game probably not due until 2018, Naughty Dog is understandably keeping many details under wraps; but we do know it’ll run on an updated version of the Uncharted 4 engine, no doubt with some extra gloss applied for the PS4 Pro, so you can expect those dastardly Clickers to be even more terrifying than before.


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FIRST LOOK INTERGALACTIC GAMING

ASTRONEER Xbox One, PC If Pixar made No Man’s Sky: The Movie it’d probably look something like Astroneer – a cross between Minecraft and Wall-E set during an interplanetary goldrush in the 25th century. With pound signs in your eyes you’re fired off into space in the hope of hitting the jackpot, with a galaxy full of procedurally generated planets to hop between and plunder. Fortunately you’ll have more than just a shovel and the pockets of your spacesuit at hand to help you gather

your extra-terrestrial booty. You’re armed with powerful tools that let you tunnel down into the surface of each planet, forge bridges out of space rock to help you reach previously inaccessible areas, or flatten out locations in order to build bases on them, which will allow you to store resources and accumulate wealth. While No Man’s Sky is a largely solitary experience, Astroneer promotes drop-in/ drop-out co-op with up to three other

explorers. You’ll be able to climb behind the wheel of a buggy to traverse the ground more quickly and find somewhere to lay down the foundations for your base – or seek out any hidden artefacts that could help your quest to colonise space. How long do you have to wait till you can blast off on your first exploratory mission? No time at all. It’s out on Steam’s Early Access and Xbox One’s Game Preview Program right now, with a proper release to follow later in the year.

REASONS TO REVISIT NO MAN’S SKY (WITH FOUNDATION UPDATE)

1 BUILD A BASE

You know that planet you found that’s covered in big blobs of gold? It’d be nice to stay there harvesting the lot, wouldn’t it? Find an abandoned outpost and you can claim it as your own, shacking up to develop new tech while expanding it to hold your scavenged loot. You can even teleport to it from space stations.

2 TRY THE NEW MODES

Switch to the Minecraft-style Creative mode and it’ll give you free rein to expand your base, while the restrictions on your intergalactic travel will be removed too, allowing you to hop around from planet to planet. Go for Survival mode, however, and the universe will do everything it can to make you an ex-astronaut.

3 PIMP YOUR RIDE

You might think your current vessel is big, but wait until you see the purchasable freighters from the Foundation update. Big enough to hold multiple ships, grow crops and stockpile resources, they’re basically flying bases that can be summoned across the galaxy or flown to wherever trade prices are highest.

INCOMING FEB ● FOR HONOR ● SEA OF THIEVES MARCH ● HORIZON ZERO DAWN ● GHOST RECON WILDLANDS APRIL ● BULLETSTORM: FULL CLIP EDITION AUTUMN ● RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2

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C H O I C E

UNCLOUD STORAGE You like the internet, but that doesn’t mean you lend it all your favourite stuff

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1 Toshiba Canvio Aerocast

Businesslike looks hide a 1TB party box – it’s battery-powered and can wirelessly ‘cast’ music and films to a Google-equipped TV. Rave on! £120 / toshiba.co.uk

2 Transcend StoreJet 25M3

“Military drop tested!” yells the packaging. “Ooh, don’t though,” simpers the blue drive. “You’ll get me all dirty.” And then collapses into a fit of giggles. from £53 / transcend-info.com

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3 Kingston Technology MobileLite Wireless G3 This 64GB drive doubles as a 5400mAh battery, triples as an SD/USB reader and quadruples as a Wi-Fi NAS for your Apple or Android device. It cannot juggle. £92 / kingston.com

4 Seagate Innov8

Well, hello you. Can we feel your fins? Sorry, yes – objectification. Your 8TB of storage and single socket USB-C power should be the talking points. Clever, clever. Now come here, you big hunk. £340 / seagate.com

5 WesternDigital My Passport X

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[ Picture RGB Digital ]

The ‘X’ is for ‘Xbox’, in case the matching design hadn’t already tipped you off. Choose from 2TB or 3TB, which is more screen grabs than anyone should have. from £90 / wdc.com

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6 Buffalo MiniStation SSD

Compromise: it’s solid-state, so small, but it only comes in 120, 240 or 480GB. Well, geek? Do you feel tiny? Or terabytey? from £64 / buffalo-technology.com

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WTF IS BIXI? Not another gesture control widget?

Your TV is now a DJ

ELECTRIC JUKEBOX Here you are, meandering through the magazine, going ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ and pointing out your favourite bits to passers-by. But now we’re going to make you frown. Not with consternation, but with confusion. Electric Jukebox is a music streaming service. But it’s a service that only works through your TV, via a Chromecast-style Wi-Fi dongle and this simple, voice-controlled remote. In Year 1 you pay more than rivals such as Spotify because you’re also buying the hardware, but thenceforth it’s cheaper at £52/yr. And it has about the same number of tracks. But yes, it only works on your telly, not on your phone or PC or anywhere else. Sort of oddly, frownily fascinating, isn’t it? £169 (including 1yr pass) / electricjukebox.com

OK, we’ll admit it: touch-free device control is no new pursuit. Bixi, though, is different. It plays nice with a host of smart home kit, such as Philips Hue bulbs, Sonos speakers, Nest and more, pairing through your phone via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to send instructions bouncing around the house.

Does it work like that Jean-Michel Jarre synth? The one with the lasers? Not quite – it uses optical sensors, not lasers. Bixi takes highly precise light measurements to figure out what your hand is doing so that it can convert your mid-air motions into commands for your kit. From swipes to waves to air-taps, it’ll compute a host of gestures – simply load up the relevant profile and it’ll figure out whether you want to pause a song or dim the lights. And it gets better with age.

But I’ve got an Amazon Echo – who needs to wave when you can speak?

Actually, a lot of people. Can you take your Echo on a bike ride? Thought not. Even if you strapped a Dot to your frame, you’d have to shout pretty loud. Stick a Bixi on your handlebars, though, and you can wave to do all sorts. Pair it with a GoPro, for example, and in one smooth sweep of your palm you can start recording.

Won’t the cables get in the way while I’m whizzing down the road?

It’s battery-powered, obviously. In fact, it’ll last a whole month on a single charge. Like a puppy, it spends a lot of time sleeping – only waking when it detects a stable paw hovering above it.

Can I take it swimming?

Submarine sandwich sack

PATAGONIA STORMFRONT We all live with different levels of personal water risk. Some folk might only grudgingly go out wearing closed-toe shoes, whereas others feel naked without at least a three-layer warmth and waterproofing get-up. This backpack wants you to relax. You could stuff your new MacBook in there and leave the house in full acceptance that, at some point, you might become fully immersed in water. We can’t countenance such a reckless lifestyle, unless you’re a mermaid, but we’re heartened to hear that the Patagonia Stormfront packs a Tizip waterproof zip and welded seams, which make the main compartment entirely sealed against the awful wet stuff. £230 / patagonia.com

We’re not sure why you’d want to, but no, you can’t. Bixi does have some rugged credentials up its smart sleeve, though. It’s splashproof – perfect for waving while washing up – and packs a Gorilla Glass frontage for ham-fisted gesturers.

Hmm, maybe I’ll try one…

You can’t – yet. What you can do is put your dollar down for a Bixi over at Indiegogo and, all being well, you should get it in March. The project has already received more than four times its original funding goal – so things are looking good.

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B E S T O F

NEX NE EXTTGEN G GEN

WHE WH HEEL EELS ELS OUR PICK OF 2017’S HOTTEST RUNNERS AND RIDERS

ON FOUR WHEELS

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio SUVs are in the odd position of being desirable and dowdy. For the marketeers at an Italian company such as Alfa, this poses a problem. The solution? Get some friends in – say, Ferrari – to cast their eyes over the twin-turbo V6 and rearbiased four-wheel-drive system… and the people from your own Quadrifoglio performance department, to put the coveted cloverleaf badge on it. Then you show your buyers this, while selling them the non-fast diesel version.

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Dodge Challenger GT

NextEV Nio EP9

Nissan Micra

Making an American muscle car is incredibly easy. Huge engine at the front, then gearbox, then a driveshaft to the rear wheels. No more than two doors on the sides, brooding face on the front. Done. And that’s the formula to which Dodge stuck when it relaunched the Challenger a few years back. But the new GT has stepped off the well-trodden path by adding all-wheel-drive. It still has a 305bhp V6, with the requisite dismal economy, but now you can drive it all year round.

Thr Chinese-based but international-faced NextEV has made what amounts to a giant paella. It’s not going to make many of them, but come the time when you want a normal paella, you’re going to think, “I’ll go to those guys who made that giant paella!” And as showcase paellas go, the EP9 is a hella paella. Formula E-derived motors for each wheel channel 1360bhp of electric power – a megawatt! – to give it a 0-60 time of 2.7secs and a new Nurburgring record for electric vehicles.

And here we are. From an Italian super-SUV to an American bruiser to a Chinese (Spanish?) electric hypercar, and now we come to the humble Nissan Micra – which has just slapped us in the face for calling it ‘humble’. An Automatic Face Slapper (AFS) is just one of the smorgasbord of tech options the new, sharper Micra will have. It also gets pedestrian-detecting brakes, lane control, 360° cameras and an intriguing Bose sound system with speakers in the front-seat headrests.


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ON TW TWO W WHEELS

KTM Duke

BMW G310 GS

The Duke is KTM’s mischievous urban ferret of a bike, updated for 2017 with fancy LED strip lights, ride-by-wire throttle, suspension tweaks and a colour instrument display. Why should you care? Because it makes a 125cc version that you can, after a one-day CBT course, legally ride. OK, there’s still a decent helmet and armoured clothing to pay for, and insurance will be a bummer, but with PCP finance deals way under £100 a month, a Duke is not necessarily a pipe dream.

You’ve probably still got a DVD of Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s Long Way Round somewhere, the dreams of adventure also gathering dust in the side cabinets of your mind. You may have been put off by all the time they spent struggling with their huge 1200cc BMW bikes. Well, tie a bandana around your forehead and check this out: a new super-lightweight GS with a 300cc engine. You can ride it with one of the DVLA’s medium-difficulty A2 licences.

Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 Aero There are plenty of reasons you shouldn’t be ogling bikes like this. And there are a couple of reasons we shouldn’t be showing you it: Husqvarna is owned by KTM, which already has a bike on this page; and this is a non-production concept by design company Kiska, based on two bikes that won’t be available for months. But if you could have a Vitpilen 401 (or scrambly Svartpilen 401), you’d probably spend a lot of time staring in awe – so you might as well start now.

Honda X-ADV It all starts out as a bit of fun, doesn’t it? You challenge your designers, just for larks, to draw up an off-road scooter. And then you show the pictures to the press, and everyone has a good laugh at the concept and goes back to proper bikes. Except that all happened in 2015. And this is 2017, and it’s in production: a 750cc rugged scooter with automatic transmission and long-travel suspension so it can cope with all your weekend trips… and because it’s a Honda, it’ll probably be really good.

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Look, interest rates are terrible, so stop pushing pennies into that barely-breathing ISA and spend it all on something nice*

Hyundai Ioniq

Apple iPhone 8

Microsoft Xbox ‘Project Scorpio’

Tesla Model 3

Imagine being the Samsung S8 dev team. You hear the Note 7 lot being shouted at next door. The sound of something being smashed, then silence. Sobbing? Then a door slams. Footsteps, getting louder… your door opens gently to reveal the CEO, straightening his tie. He smiles. “Guys,” he says, as a protruding vein slowly throbs on his forehead. “No sweat, but we’re going to have to level up the S8 a little…”

The Microsoft Surface Studio – complete with almost fold-flat display and on-screen Surface Dial accessory – was a sonic boom in the face of Apple’s aging iMac. Come March, then, we’ll be expecting something beyond ‘faster and thinner’ from Cupertino’s industrial designers… and maybe some zippy new iPads, including some of the scribbly ‘Pro’ features.

Definitely one for which to book off the week, or the month. Yes, there are many unanswered questions about the games, the screen and the ergonomics of its transformo-trollers. But lob a monthly £100 aside from now until then, in a savings account called ‘I’m playing the new Mario game in March and I don’t care what anyone says about resolution’, and we’ll see you in the queue.

Ah, you see. We told you not to take your eye off Hyundai and you did and now it’s gone and grown into a big deal. Mid-2017 will see the arrival of the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version of the Ioniq, further emboldening the already Prius-trampling hybrid and all-electric versions. Diverting down a slightly less eco lane, we also reckon it’ll be a big year for Hyundai’s World Rally team. Braaaap!

You read it here first: at some point soon, Apple is going to stop taking things off its devices and start putting things on. Come 2022 iPhones will look like steampunk carbuncles, all rough-cut and gyrating. But for now, the fashion continues for smoothing and removing: rumour has it the ‘home’ button will be axed, making way for an uninterrupted front face of curved glass.

The biggest dilemma facing Xboxers this year will be a delightful one: pirate or cowboy? Fortunately, choosing between Rare’s Sea of Thieves and Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2 will be made easier by their separation – the former is due to launch in the front half of 2017; the latter, the back half. The arrival of a fully 4K Xbox, codename Scorpio, should please cowboys and pirates alike.

Presuming you got your cheque in the slot with the forcefulness of a Bruce Lee one-inch punch, you might be one of the people getting your Model 3 before the end of 2017. Which was a brave move by you, because actual details about Tesla’s affordable unit-shifter are scant. It’ll be electric. It’ll be as clever as a bag of brains. But will it really be desirable enough against a BMW 3?

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JUNE

JULY AUGUST SEPTEMBER OCTOBER NOVEMBER DECEMBER

Nintendo Switch

JANUARY FEBRUARY MARCH APRIL MAY

Apple iMac and/or iPad

*Stuff’s financial advice is not independently regulated.

Samsung Galaxy S8


DROP EVERYTHING & DOWNLOAD

Who Blu?

BLU VIVO 6 Ooh, look at you, shying away from the unknown smartphone. Yes, it looks a bit formulaic, but it is designed in the US and, for £240, you’re getting quite a lot of phone. It has a 5.5in 1080p screen, a MediaTek Helio P10 octa-core processor, 4GB RAM, 64GB storage and a microSD slot. The screen is covered in Gorilla Glass, the back is covered in solid-feeling aluminium broken only by the Sony-sensored, Laser-focused 13MP camera. And don’t forget the snappy 8MP selfie cam, the fast 2A charging of its 3130mAh battery by USB-C… and yes, it comes with a headphone socket. Our one misgiving? It’s only available in gold or rose gold. No subtle ‘space grey’ option for us shy types. £240 / amazon.co.uk

Geek spinner

ELIPSON OMEGA 100 RIAA BT In case you missed the recent hi-fi developments, here’s the headline: record players are cool again. Lots of companies have either started, or re-started, making them. But we’re fussy about details. And so is Elipson, a French hi-fi company best known for its stylish speakers. Its turntable is a sleek blend of shiny acrylic, aluminium and carbon fibre. An Ortofon OM 10 cartridge is a solid choice at the analogue end, but this top-of- the-range Omega 100 RIAA BT also has a built-in preamp with a USB socket for sending high-res vinyl output to your PC or Mac. It even has aptX Bluetooth, which is a terrifically trendy way to make hi-fi traditionalists choke on their kippers. £500 / elipson.com

ITV Hub+

£4/month / iOS Perspective, innit? If we were to tell you that your Netflix sub was going up by £4 a month, you’d be outraged. In that context, it seems like a huge sum. But in practice, you could save the best part of £4 in a single morning by having office coffee instead of going down to the shop. So how do you feel about using that £4 to get rid of all the adverts from your ITV streaming? Not for a morning, but for a whole month. Probably depends on how much ITV you watch on your phone… and on the quality of your office coffee. It’s a trial, so currently only available on the iOS version of the ITV Hub app.


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27th SING

Wait! Before you dismiss this as just another big-budget Hollywood animation, it’s a big-budget Hollywood animation helmed by Garth Jennings, the British director of Son of Rambow and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Also, Taron Egerton voices one of the characters. Swoon.

● NEXT ISSUE March The fanboy face-off: gadget greats go at it On sale 2/2/17

JAN YOUR MONTH

23rd ● MORE WHO? The latest of the Douglas Adams script novelisations, The Pirate Planet, is out in hardback on 5 January.

DOCTOR WHO: THE RETURN OF DOCTOR MYSTERIO DVD, BLU-RAY A strange acquiescence, when the Christmas Day TV was being decided upon, made you give up Doctor Who. “Waste of licence fee money,” said someone. You said nothing, but quietly reached for your phone to pre-order the DVD.

Actor

Ernest Borgnine 1917 is born NOW

Start as you mean to go on

Watch

Airwolf seasons 1-3 on Blu-ray, £47 / amazon.co.uk

6th 8th Professor Stephen Hawking is 75

13th 21st

NOW LEGACY DAVID BOWIE

What a month you’ve had. Almost everyone else bought this on CD back in December but you, stubbornly hip, wanted to wait for the vinyl, hissing at anyone who tried to put it on in the meantime. 34

UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS Watch this:

The Theory of Everything Blu-ray

You know when you’ve eaten four fifths of a gourmet chocolate selection and regretted most of it… but you reach for another one anyway? Well, that, but with Kate Beckinsale and assorted swanky vampires.

● LOOK WHO’S TALKING… @simon_reeve @laurabingham93 @conway_sean @natethepostman

THE ADVENTURE TRAVEL SHOW LONDON OLYMPIA

It’s time. Or, rather, there will be no better time. Whether it’s a boozy backpacker tour in Asia or a no-backup motorbike trip across Alaska, the Adventure Travel Show is full of people who’ll breezily help you to quit your job, sell your gadgets and set off.


W I RRP £849

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RRP £549

WIN KITCHENAID COOKING GADGETS WORTH £1398 Scientists are working on a kitchen device that will select a recipe, go shopping for all the ingredients, cook the whole thing perfectly, serve it to you on a silver platter with a glass of chilled Ribena, and then do the washing up. It should be ready to go on sale within 300 years. Until then, we’re just going to have to do some of the work ourselves – but if you’re lucky enough to win these two clever gadgets, that’s not going to be too much work. The shiny contraption on the left is the KitchenAid Cook Processor (RRP £849), a powerful all-in-one appliance that chops, crushes, slices, mixes, purees, whips, kneads and does the actual cooking too, from simmering stews to frying meat. And on the right is the KitchenAid Magnetic Drive Blender (£549), which can whip up everything from shakes and smoothies to soups and cocktails, all at the press of one smart button. To find out more, and discover the new KitchenAid Experience Store in London, visit kitchenaid.co.uk

HOW TO ENTER

For your chance to be a fabby foodie, go to stuff.tv/win and answer this question:

WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING IS NOT A SUITABLE INGREDIENT FOR A SMOOTHIE? A … Strawberries HURRY! COMPETITION B … The whiskers of a CLOSES sleeping leopard, plucked 9 FEBRUARY by hand and then dipped 2017 in volcanic lava C … More strawberries Terms & conditions 1 Open to UK residents aged 18 or over. 2 Entries close 11.59pm, 9 Feb 2017. 3 Prizes are as stated. 4 Prizes are non-transferable. 5 Only one entry per person. For full Haymarket terms and conditions see stuff.tv/win Promoter: Haymarket, 69 London Road, Twickenham TW1 3SP

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FIRST TEST NINTENDO CLASSIC MINI

Old year’s resolution Nintendo’s miniaturised version of what passed for hi-res gaming in 1986 is a proper cutey – but does it have the playability to back up its retro charm? £50 / stuff.tv/ClassicMini Nintendo’s Classic Mini is a little bundle of joy. If you took a first look at this diddy replica of the 30-year-old NES console and thought twice about sticking it at the top of your ideas list for that post-Christmas spending money, then reconsider. This adorable device works pretty much as well as you could hope, and it comes with 30 brilliant games pre-installed. Whether you’re a wistful pre-millennial looking to revisit Super Mario Bros., Excitebike and the like, or a youthful gamer who fancies playing those retro gems for the first time, you’re in for a treat. Just bear in mind gaming has moved on quite a bit since the age of these 8-bit creations. At less than half the size of the original NES, you can easily tuck the thing underneath your TV or plonk it on top of your modern console. Unlike an Xbox One S or PS4 Pro, the Mini has a certain je ne sais quoi that draws admirers to it like cosplayers to a Comic Con convention.

2 Smalltown boy The Classic looks as though someone left a NES in the wash for too long – in a good way. Time has been kind to its achingly ’80s grey/grey colour scheme, while the controller’s D-pad and A, B, Start and Select buttons seem adorably quaint.

3 Just can’t get enough Wondering why this review doesn’t have a five-star rating? A two-metre controller cable is the reason. Unless you invest in a pair of super-sized microUSB and HDMI cables, there’s no way to play this thing at a healthy distance from your screen.

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1 Together in electric dreams Setting up is a doddle: connect the supplied HDMI lead to your TV and hook up the microUSB cable with an AC adaptor of your own. Not having one in the box is a bit of a pain, but any old plug you’ve picked up as part of a phone-charging kit will do.

[ Words Rob Leedham ]

Good Meh Evil

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27 hours with the Nintendo Classic Mini

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FIRST TEST NINTENDO CLASSIC MINI

Tech specs

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Accessories included One controller (extras available for £11.99), HDMI cable, USB power cable (without adaptor plug) Display options ‘Pixel Perfect’ 1080p, 4:3 aspect ratio, CRT filter Refresh rate 60Hz Dimensions 130x100x42mm

8-bit hits We’ve tested all 30 games that come with the Classic Mini – these are the four you should be loading up first

Metroid

Design touches that were groundbreaking at the time – a non-linear layout with power-ups that give protagonist Samus Aran access to new areas of the map – make Metroid a treat even today.

1

The Legend of Zelda

5 I missed again The Classic Mini’s 30 games are faithful recreations of the originals, but bear in mind a lot of them are hard. Well, all games were super-tough back in the day. If you thought Dark Souls was a challenge, try giving The Legend of Zelda a go.

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4 The look of love You’re guaranteed hours of fun from the moment you turn this thing on. The only tweak you may want to make is whether to select ‘Pixel Perfect’ viewing, an old-school 4:3 aspect ratio, or the ultra-nostalgic wiggly haze of the CRT filter mode.

15hrs

19hrs

23hrs

27hrs

The game that introduced the world to questing elf-boy Link, scary Ganon and the mystical Triforce, this brilliantly involving action-adventure title was a precursor to today’s action RPGs.

Mega Man 2

This is regarded in some quarters as one of the best video games ever made due to its simple, tightly focused gameplay, mixing platform-jumping with puzzle-solving, combat and assorted power-ups.

Super Mario Bros. 3

You’re basically scooting through scrolling levels, grabbing bling and duffing up enemies… but there’s a richness to the controls and design that propel this game far beyond anything else on the system.

The Nintendo Classic Mini captures the imagination like no other console we’ve seen this past year. Big kids, actual kids and people who claim to know better will come flocking in its direction once they’ve seen Donkey Kong playing on a TV screen. It’s this spirit of gleeful enthusiasm that the new NES captures so well. @robleedham

STUFF SAYS £50 is a small price to pay for so much escapism – despite a few foibles, this is an essential purchase 37


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BEST FOR CYCLING P42

WRIST ASSESSMENTS BEST FOR RUNNING P40

Whether you’re on two feet, on two wheels, or just had too many mince pies over Christmas, there’s a fitness tracker out there for everyone [ Words Tom Wiggins Photography Matt Beedle ]

BEST FOR SWIMMING P44

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RUNNING

HITTING THE WALL If you’re using GPS and the heart-rate monitor while playing music, TomTom reckons you’ll get up to five hours on a full charge. In our experience it’s closer to four. This is certainly no stamina champ.

THE PRO CHOICE

TOMTOM SPARK 3 CARDIO + MUSIC £220 / tomtom.com Sometimes the only way to get yourself out of bed for your morning run is to turn it into a Rocky montage. Enter TomTom’s Spark 3, which is particularly suited to music-loving pavement pounders. Getting Eye of the Tiger onto its 3GB memory is hardly the slickest procedure (although it’s definitely worth it), but once the tunes are there and you’ve got a pair of Bluetooth headphones hooked up – it comes with some for an extra £30 – you can start tracking your runs with the built-in GPS and heart-rate monitor. You can set specific objectives for each part of your run, such as fat burning, how many calories you want to crush, or what distance you want to cover.

It’s certainly no Apple Watch in terms of design (the greyscale screen could be brighter and has just 144x168 pixels) or functionality (it doesn’t do phone notifications), but that simplicity equals better battery life. There’s no touchscreen, so a 4-way button underneath the screen controls all the functions, with vibration feedback to confirm selections – handy when you need to skip an accidentally loaded ballad in mid-run. Once back home you can sync up your activities to the TomTom MySports app, which keeps track of all your workout data including duration, calories burned, heart rate and a map of where you actually ran.

STUFF SAYS Tough but tuneful, perfect for routine jogs 40

JBL REFLECT MINI BT Bluetooth earphones used to be unwieldy lumps of plastic that would weigh down anyone trying to run while wearing them. JBL’s Reflect Mini BTs have all the wireless smarts in a lightweight pair of buds with a reflective cable, so even if you can’t hear the passing cars or incoming joggers, they should be able to see you. £80 / uk.jbl.com

2XU HYOPTIK COMPRESSION TIGHTS Some people might be put off wearing tights to go running, but consider one thing: Superman wears them all the time. And quite aside from any comic book associations, compression tights help your circulation, which helps fight fatigue and can prevent injury. £75 / 2xu.com


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BEEFED UP This Fitbit’s monochrome OLED screen is four times bigger than the ridiculously simple screen found on the original Charge, which makes it a whole lot easier to read at arm’s length.

CLEVER COUNTER There’s no need to pre-warn the Vivosmart when you’re about to embark on a severe calorie cleanser. It automatically detects what kind of activity you’re doing to ensure it records the right movements.

ALL-ROUNDER

TWO IN ONE

THE APP

GARMIN FITBIT VIVOSMART CHARGE 2 £120 / fitbit.com HR+ £170 / garmin.com The Vivosmart HR+ isn’t the best-looking fitness band, even in the natty purple colour seen here. It’s packed with sensors, though – like an optical heart-rate monitor for getting you up off the sofa, and GPS to track your routes. That simple screen can show off a huge amount of data, its battery is good for all-day tracking, and it sticks smartphone notifications on your wrist. Stuff says

Fitbit’s Charge 2 isn’t just a glorified pedometer. This 24/7 tracker has a built-in optical heart-rate monitor, making it more accurate than most, and it can also work out your VO2 Max score. You’ll have to bring your phone with you if you want to use GPS to record your route, and it’s not waterproof; but if you don’t want to switch between a day-to-day fitness band and a dedicated running watch, the Charge 2 is worth a space on your wrist. Stuff says

UNDER ARMOUR SPEEDFORM GEMINI 2 RECORD EQUIPPED If it’s your feet that are doing the running, doesn’t it make sense for them to do the tracking too? These smart trainers have a Bluetooth pod sealed inside the right shoe that records distance, speed and pace, with GPS mapping data included if you take your phone. £130 / underarmour.co.uk

DHB REFLECTIVE RUN JACKET When you’re bounding along in the dark, if you’re not wearing the right kit you can be harder to spot than an agoraphobic Womble. A jacket that reflects car and bike headlights is the answer – and DHB’s not only has rear vents to keep you from overheating; it’s also water-resistant. £45 / wiggle.co.uk

SAUCONY STRIDE LAB Follow this app’s evaluation exercises and it’ll churn out a custom programme to make sure you’re running properly. Because apparently it’s not just about putting one foot in front of the other. £free / iOS 41


GET FIT QUICK THE PRO CHOICE

SUUNTO SPARTAN SPORT £439 / suunto.com The Spartan shares its name with an ancient group of Greek warriors for a reason. It’s a no-nonsense sports watch built for serious athletes – even if it does come with a funky blue strap. With real-time lap tables plus power and speed, as well as heart rate (as long as you wear the bundled chest strap – there’s no on-board HRM), it’s packing more information here than any Sunday cyclist could need. It’ll play nicely with Suunto bike sensors and BLE power meters as well, in case you need even more precise tracking. Basically, if you’re not doing time trials, this is probably overkill. It’s built to last too, with a super-tough steel bezel and mineral crystal glass

protecting the touchscreen. Don’t expect Apple Watch-rivalling clarity and colour, though: it’s a decidedly low-res affair with only a few muted colours. You won’t need to find a pocket to stash your smartphone, as it has GPS on board. Even for long-distance rides, it should survive the duration without running out of juice – in training mode, it’ll keep ticking for 16 hours with GPS enabled. And it will drop digital breadcrumbs as you cycle – so you can see where you’ve come and make it home without getting lost. Having to wear a chest strap to track your heart rate can be a pain, but for sheer flexibility and accuracy, the Spartan Sport is certainly tough enough.

STUFF SAYS Serious tracking that’ll outlast your longest cycle route

OAKLEY RADAR PACE

GARMIN EDGE 820

Oakley’s attempts to cater for your ears as well as your eyes haven’t always gone well, but unlike 2004’s Thump MP3 specs, these offer real-time voice-activated coaching feedback, not just tunes. As well as having sensors built in, they’ll connect to power meters, heart-rate monitors and such like for more accurate monitoring. £400 / uk.oakley.com

Garmin’s latest cycling computer doesn’t just record your ride on its 2.3in screen; its new GroupTrack feature means you can use it to check up on other riders using Garmin Connect – up to 50 at once. It’ll hook up to speed, cadence and heart-rate sensors, so you can tell if you’re more Chief Wiggum than Bradley Wiggins. £330 / garmin.com

CYCLING

ALL FAIR GAME Bored of cycling? The Spartan Sport has presets for 80 different sports. They’re more variations on a fitness theme than parkour to kabadi, but with hiking and ski touring among them, it’s got you covered.

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GET FIT QUICK ROAD COACH

MOOV NOW £60 / welcome.move.cc The Moov Now’s not just a tracker, it’s a trainer. Strap it to your ankle and it can work out how fast you’re pedalling, how much effort you’re putting in and, if you’ve paired it with a heart-rate monitor, what it’s all doing to your ticker. Combined with route info, it’ll use the data to feed coaching tips into your ears or to your phone screen if it’s lashed to your handlebars, adjusting in real time based on how hard you’re working. Stuff says

DATA KING

THE APP

GARMIN VIVOACTIVE HR £210 / garmin.com Part fitness tracker, part smartwatch, Garmin’s Vivoactive HR is an excellent all-rounder. Using a combination of built-in GPS and an optical heart-rate sensor, it will measure time, distance, speed and calories. But it’s when you add separate speed and cadence sensors that its cycling skills start to show. Even so, without those it’s still a very capable gym buddy. Stuff says

BEELINE

ZACKEES

Turn-by-turn directions can be more annoying than a back-seat driver. If just knowing you’re heading vaguely in the right direction is enough for you, BeeLine’s smartphone-powered compass shows which way to point your front wheel and how far you’ve got to go till you get there, with an e-paper display. £99 / beeline.co

When cycling in the dark, the closer you can get to resembling a jumbo jet coming in to land, the better. These cycling gloves have pads between the index finger and thumb which, when touched together, activate a bright flashing light. The summer pair is fingerless, while the winter ones are touchscreen-compatible. US$75 / zackees.com

STRAVA It’s all very well racing against yourself but there’s only so much bragging you can do in the mirror without things getting a bit Travis Bickle. Strava’s community is the No1 place for comparing your stats. £free / iOS, Android

GOING UP The Vivoactive HR has a barometric altimeter, which you won’t find on some of Garmin’s more expensive trackers, so it can tell you exactly how many flights of stairs you’ve climbed.

KEEP ON MOOVIN’ Wear it all the time and the Now will track your steps and monitor how well you sleep; but those are probably its weakest features, with that data relatively difficult to track down within the app. 43


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SWIMMING

GP-YES There are few things more enthusiasm-sapping than hanging outside your house in your running gear waiting for your watch to talk to a satellite… the Series 2 locks on in a matter of seconds.

THE PRO CHOICE

APPLE WATCH SERIES 2 NIKE+ £369 / apple.com Not making the original Watch waterproof was a bizarre move but the Series 2 suffers from no such aquaphobia, with both pool and open-water swims available to select from the Workout app. The accelerometer does a brilliant job of counting strokes and lengths when pool swimming, and the speedy built-in GPS sensor produces almost exactly the expected distances outdoors. Water will interfere with the signal, though, so you’ll need to let it have regular air – you might want to stick to front crawl. The only part of the Watch Series 2 that isn’t sealed off from the H2O is the speaker – because physics – so the port will fill up when submerged. But, thanks to

a neat trick we’ll call ‘spurt mode’, you can digitally wring out your Apple Watch by twisting the digital crown. Your Watch will spit out any liquid that’s inside the speaker, leaving the sound unmuffled. Open the Activity app and you’ll find calories burned, distance travelled, average speed, average heart rate and even a map, colour-coded to immediately show you the parts of your session where you were over or under your average by 10%. You don’t need this snazzy Nike+ edition of the Watch to do any of this, but it will get you some exclusive faces and a special strap with air holes that make it more flexible and more comfortable to wear when you’re giving it 110%.

STUFF SAYS The best smartwatch is now amphibious 44

BRAGI THE DASH These earphones are both waterproof and totally wireless, so you won’t risk getting tangled up in cables while you’re focusing on your strokes. They’ll track your lengths and breaths but, more importantly, there’s a music player built in, so you don’t need to take your phone in for a dunking. €299 / bragi.com

SPEEDO FASTSKIN LZR RACER X RACING SUITS The drag caused by swimming in those baggy boardies might make you feel like you’re working harder but it only slows you down. To achieve quicker times you’ll want Speedo’s compression cossies, which help you slip through the water like a greased-up penguin. from £255 / speedo.co.uk


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MOOV ON UP Using the data the HR collects, Moov’s app can give you an indication of your fitness level and estimate your VO2 Max. A six-hour battery life means it should last about a week before it needs recharging.

WRISTER MOTIVATOR The Flex 2 does a great job of motivating you to reach your 10k steps a day, or letting you snooze for eight hours a night without coming across like a nag. Oh, and it’ll do phone notifications.

HANDS-ON DIVE BUDDY

FITBIT FLEX 2 £70 / fitbit.com Whether you wear Fitbit’s Flex 2 on a wristband or stowed in a pendant hanging around your neck, it’ll take note of pretty much everything you do, from sleeping to calories burned – but it’s the submersible skills that we’re interested in here. It’s the first waterproof Fitbit, tested down to 50m, so you can jump straight in the pool (or sea) and it’ll automatically get to work monitoring your strokes and wirelessly sending your stats to the app. Stuff says

BUDGET BUY

THE APP

MOOV HR

£75 / welcome.move.cc Moov thinks your best heart is in your head. That might sound stupid but your temple, with its thin skin and lack of moving parts, is ideal for taking your pulse. The Moov HR slips inside a special swimming cap (or sweat band if you’re on dry land) to hold it in place while it records BPM changes. If you want to monitor distance or strokes you’ll need to pair it with a compatible fitness band or smartwatch, but for amphibious ticker tracking it looks like a keeper. Due February

ARENA COBRA ULTRA What are you scared of? It’s just a bit of water. It won’t hurt you. Unless it’s full of chemicals, of course. Which it most probably is. Arena’s race-friendly goggles will keep your eyes from stinging, and they’ll also minimise drag and give you as wide a field of underwater vision as possible. £27 / arenawaterinstinct.com

WITHINGS BODY CARDIO There’s only so much tech you can take into the pool without weighing yourself down, but Withings’ latest smart scales are worth stepping onto once you’ve dried off. They track your weight, BMI and more, but it’s their ability to work out the ‘pulse wave velocity’ of your arteries that makes them stand out. £150 / withings.com

MYSWIMPRO Packed with swimming workouts tailored for different strokes, distances, speeds and more, MySwimPro has guidance for all levels. Just don’t forget to put your phone down before you dive in… £free (IAPs) / iOS, Android 45


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MORE SPORTS THE FOOTBALLER

PLAYERTEK

THE GYM BUNNY NOW ADD THIS

from €199 + €9.99/month / playertek.com Most GPS trackers for football are only available to actual teams. You know, ones that don’t just put the fattest bloke in goal and stop every 15 minutes for a vape break. But any old carthorse can sign up for PlayerTek, although you might not get the most out of its Sky Sports-style stats if you’re the kind of player who puts the ‘mess’ in Messi. Wear the GPS pod while you play and after the final whistle it’ll give you an Opta-esque heat map of your game (that you can compare with actual Premier League players), plus stats on the distance you covered, your top speed and intensity, with 5-minute breakdowns to see exactly how badly you flagged after the hour mark.

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BEAST SENSOR

NOW ADD THIS

from €249 / thisisbeast.com

ADIDAS COPA MUNDIAL Brightly coloured boots will only attract unwanted attention from hairy centre-halves, but if you want something less conspicuous that doesn’t mean you have to raid lost property. Copa Mundials are classics and you’ll remain under the radar to all except the most cultured boot connoisseurs. £120 / adidas.co.uk

You think that flimsy little fitness band is going to be able to keep up when you hit the gym and start pumping iron? No, if you’re lifting serious weights, you need a serious tracker to spot you. For each lift the Beast Sensor will collect stats on things such as power, speed, explosiveness and how many Schwarzeneggers you could eat for breakfast. It’ll send live feedback to your phone’s screen and guide you towards reaching your goals, so you can keep an eye on how you’re doing without having to get a personal trainer to spit all over your face. Plus the sensor’s magnetic so you can slap it on the weight machine.

MATADOR DROPLET WET BAG Putting your stinking gym kit in your bag with your laptop is a surefire way to get a table to yourself in Starbucks, but it’s not a good way to make friends. Pack a Droplet bag, however, and you can keep it separately stinky without having to carry an additional bag. $14.99 / matadorup.com


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THE EXTREME DUDE

NIXON MISSION

THE GOLFER NOW ADD THIS

NOW ADD THIS

£139 / zepp.com

£349 / nixon.com There’s not a lot of point in counting steps when you’re surfing six-foot waves or carving through powder at 3000m above sea level. So while Nixon’s Mission isn’t like most fitness watches, if your sport of choice is gnarlier than a quick jog around the block it might be a better match. There’s no heart-rate monitor, so you can’t find out exactly how much you scared yourself, but the Trace Snow and Trace Surf apps use GPS to track your on-piste or in-the-water activities, plus there’s a thermometer, altimeter, barometer and compass on top of the usual gyroscope and accelerometer. Read the full review on p82.

ZEPP GOLF 2

GOPRO HERO 5 SESSION The only thing better than riding giants is having the footage to prove it. GoPro is still the go-to name for filming in gnarl-o-vision and the Hero 5 Session is the most mobile of the range. Despite being barely bigger than an Oxo cube it’s tough and waterproof, and still shoots in 4K. £250 / gopro.com

Golf’s hardly the kind of sport to get your pulse zipping but it’s a good way to accidentally walk a few miles every weekend. While you’re doing that you might as well try to get good at it, and a Zepp 2 sensor riding on the back of your glove should help. It tracks your swing in 3D, measuring club speed, club plane, tempo and backswing length, while your phone in your pocket monitors hip movement. Course Mode tracks hole by hole and allows you to build consistency from round to round, with the app offering tips on where you can improve, so when you hit the driving range you’ll know exactly what to work on. You’ll become Tiger Woods in no time, although womanising finesse isn’t included.

BUSHNELL NEO ION Who needs a human caddy when a watch can do the same job? Bushnell’s GPS watch includes yardage info for over 35,000 courses around the world, plus it’ll detect which one you’re teeing off from and automatically advance for each hole, calculating shot distances as you go. £130 / bushnellgolf.com

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TEST APPS

App:roved FOR SYNTHY SLICKERS

FOR TENACIOUS TUBERS

FOR FLAWLESS FACES

● ARP ODYSSEi

● Go Rally

● Mini Metro

● Photoshop Fix

Stuff says £23 / iOS

Stuff says £3.99 / iOS, tvOS

Stuff says £4.29 / Android

Stuff says £free / Android, iOS

Regular readers know the drill: Korg releases a new iOS synth, we’re smitten. This time it’s the 2015 recreation of 1972’s ARP Odyssey duophonic synth that’s been turned into an app, with sliders aplenty and an arpeggiator to die for. Some presets are tremendous to the point that you can hold down a few keys and consider yourself a master composer. Plus, the cheekily named Popkorn 2017 preset plays a take on the riff from Hot Butter’s cult hit.

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FOR RAGGED RACERS

Although this one has ‘Rally’ in the title and you’re bombing around rally tracks in a rally car, Go Rally feels more like a trials game. Bite-sized races and windy courses demand that you learn and memorise every section of track to drift and turn at just the right moment. It’s fast and fun, if a touch soulless (and the postrace comments from opponents are moronic). Still, we love the track designer, where you can scribble out a tortuous route and inflict it on the world.

Dealing with the real London Underground might make you want to hack off your own arm with an Oyster card, but Mini Metro is a delight. You draw lines between stations, ushering geometric passengers to their destinations. Their movements generate an ambient soundtrack, and it’s all rather blissful… until the passenger numbers ramp up. Then it becomes a tense, fraught game of quick thinking. At that point, you’ll be wishing for delays for once.

£7.99 / iOS

Having been around for a year on iOS, another of Photoshop’s Mini-Mes makes it to Android at last. There’s a lot of ‘seen it, done it’ about the app, until you venture into the often excellent healing tools for removing blemishes, and Liquify. With the latter, you can select various features to muck around with. Want your eyes to pop? Done. Fancy a new jawline? Easy. Virtual nose job? Sure. And unlike such changes in the real world, these ones are free and and easily reversible.


TEST APPS

Mini meme

● Bejeweled Classic No, we haven’t lost our minds. This frenetic match game has a Zen mode lurking within, which makes it impossible to lose and adds chill-out options. The mantras are toe-curling, but the ambient soundtrack and breathing regulator prove surprisingly effective, at least if you nuke the ads. Stuff says £free (IAPs) /Android, iOS £2.29 / Windows Phone

APPS TO HELP YOU RELAX Social media. Notifications. Emails. News. Games. AARRRGH! For once, have your smartphone help you chill out a bit rather than adding to your stress levels

● Pause

Stick some headphones on and Pause will immerse you in a world of crashing waves and birdsong as you slowly follow a pulsating blob around your phone’s display. The idea is to make you slow down a bit, focus on something simple, ignore whatever else is going on, and then drift into a meditative state for 10 minutes of relaxation. Stuff says £1.49 / Android, iOS

● Sleep Cycle

● Pigment

● TaoMix 2

● Zen Studio

Stuff says 99p / Android £free (IAPs) / iOS

Stuff says £free (IAPs) / iOS

Stuff says £free (IAPs) / iOS

Stuff says £free (IAPs) / Android, iOS

Relaxation long-term can be improved by getting a good night’s sleep. Sleep Cycle analyses your snoozing patterns by monitoring movement, and figures out the optimal time to wake you. The result is feeling less groggy and distinctly more relaxed on waking. Pity it can’t help with the rest of your day.

Colouring books fill newsagent shelves as adults rediscover the joy of ‘keeping inside the lines’. Pigment is the only digital take to really get things right. The art is pin-sharp – even when zoomed – while the toolset is varied and surprisingly tactile, with a rainbow of colours. And keeping inside the lines? The app can even help with that.

Despite being all about noodly generative audio, TaoMix 2 has a veneer of cool. You plonk noises onto a jet-black canvas, each of them represented as a neon disc. A circle is then placed on screen to mix the soundscape, or nudged to make the audio subtly shift over time. Not a fan of the sounds? Just buy more, or record some of your own.

Zen Studio is supposedly for kids, but we’d argue it’s a great relaxation aid for people of any age. You select a canvas divided into triangles, choose a colour, and tap away. Each splash of colour generates notes, a melody of sorts being composed as you fashion an angular masterpiece. Your imagination on the blink? Try the template tutorials.

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THE CYBER-SECURITY SOURCE FOR JOBS & CAREERS

www.scmagazineuk.com/jobs/cybersecurity


VERSUS VR HEADSETS

The Touch controllers fit into your hands perfectly, and are so lightweight that you’ll quickly forget you’re holding anything at all.

£549

£189

Oculus upgraded: Can Touch topple HTC’s Vive? The Rift’s new motion controllers finally make it the complete VR package… but our 2016 Gadget of the Year won’t cede its crown without a right royal rumble et’s be honest, 2016 was meant to be the year that virtual reality exploded into the mainstream. Like when everyone suddenly bought a Wii or got really into avocados. But, as amazing as these headsets can be, it’s not as though your parents have ditched teatime in front of The One Show for exploring space in Eve: Valkyrie. A large part of that has to do with the best setups costing well over a grand. Then there’s

L

also the fact that the Oculus Rift was missing its Touch controllers when it first arrived last year. Even PlayStation VR worked with its Move motion sticks, but for nine months or so Rift owners had to move around new and exciting realms with an old Xbox One pad.

Touch in the void

Finally, those Touch controllers have arrived and we can rate the Rift as it was originally conceived. And boy, do they make a difference. Within

seconds of jumping into Superhot VR, we were pulling Matrix-style power poses with two imaginary Uzis and a huge grin. Likewise, crawling up a giant cliff face in The Climb is immeasurably more immersive when you can actually move your hands around. Job done for Oculus, then? Well, not quite. The Rift still can’t do room-scale VR anywhere near as well as the Vive, the other thing that held it back in our original testing. Time for a new head-to-head…

VERSUS… The Vive hasn’t changed since its launch, but that’s a good thing. It arrived as a full package and can now play Rift ‘exclusive’ titles as well. It’s a worthy reigning VR champ. 51


VERSUS VR HEADSETS

OCULUS RIFT & TOUCH Price £549 & £189 /stuff.tv/OculusTouch ith the launch of Oculus Touch, the Rift is finally playing on almost the same pitch as the Vive. It’s got the headset/controller combo; all it’s lacking now is full-scale support for room-scale movement. That’s still quite a big miss… but this is a significantly more awe-inspiring platform than it was last year.

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While the Rift will do room-scale, it’s an experimental feature that requires a third sensor (£79) and doesn’t work as well as on the Vive.

2

1 Touch of magic

The Touch controllers are even better than the Vive’s Wiimote-like sticks. Aside from their thirst for AA batteries we can’t fault them. They tuck perfectly into your hands and still have buttons all over the place, but they generally translate really nicely into finger movements. In short, the Touch controllers are effective, ergonomic and all-round excellent.

2 Gold soundz

The Rift headset isn’t half bad either. It’s comfortable to wear for more than an hour and, better still, comes with its own pair of built-in headphones. These are ar a huge g boon – not only do they save you having g to deal with yet another wire in the th Rift’s setup; they also sound great, full ull of detail deta l and precision to match the visuals that t are no doubt dazzling your peepers.

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3

3 Virtually instant

Considering how complex it is to get VR right, the Rift is remarkably easy to have up and running. There’s no need to get creative with Blu-Tack as you might with the Vive. Just plug cables into your PC and you’re good to go. And if you’re adding in Touch controllers to an existing setup? Simply plug a second sensor into a spare USB 3.0 socket.

4 The ‘exclusives’ conundrum

[ Words Rob Leedham ]

Exclusives on VR are a confusing business. Basically you can play pretty much all Vive games on your Oculus but not vice-versa. However, Superhot VR is a Touch exclusive yet it’s expected to be available on Vive in the future. If that sounds like a bit of a mess, that’s because it is; but in short, if you want to play the most new VR games and experiences, it’s the Rift you’re after.

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Display 2x OLED Resolution 2160x1200 Refresh rate 90Hz Field of view 110° Tracking area 5x11ft Controllers 2x wireless VR Connectivity HDMI, USB

Stuff says The Touch controllers are a great addition to Rift, but as an overall package Vive is still a hair ahead

BEST EXPERIENCES ON RIFT FIRST CONTACT £free / oculus.com This is designed to familiarise you with Touch by hanging out with a Wall-E-like robot in the back of a Winnebago. It’s not quite up there with Valve’s Aperture Robot Repair, but it’s still a fantastic entry-level VR experience. SUPERHOT VR £18.99 / oculus.com One of last year’s best console games is even better in virtual reality. It’s been completely redesigned for use with Touch. Dodging your way past a cavalcade of gunfire to clock a faceless red foe in the noggin is an absolute joy.


VERSUS VR HEADSETS

HTC VIVE 3

TES WIN T NER

Price £759 / stuff.tv/HTCVive espite the Rift’s new-found talents, HTC’s Vive is still our favourite headset for virtual reality experiences. Why? It’s the only one that properly lets you walk around a sunken pirate ship. Or the deck of a giant spacecraft. Or the floor of a lifelike office. Well, OK, we can do that one already…

D

1 Walking on a dream

It might seem a bit reductive to say the Vive is better because it was made for room-scale VR, but it’s the truth. The whole point of being surrounded by 360° wizardry is that you get to explore it, and with the Vive you can do so to the fullest extent possible. Yeah, you might bump into your TV at one point or another, but getting carried away is all part of the fun.

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2 Cables… so many cables

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Setting up the Vive is most certainly not fun, though. Getting room-scale VR to work involves clearing out a space of up to 15x15ft, stringing together a sprawl of cabling and plonking two sensor boxes high up enough for accurate tracking. It’s a bit of a nightmare to get done even when you follow HTC’s instructions, but the payoff is more than worth it.

3 Heads up

Although the Rift has built-in headphones and is a little lighter to wear, we actually reckon the Vive is more comfortable. Just by a smidge, mind. Its padding sits that bit better on your face, which makes a big difference if you’re looking to escape this awful world for more than an hour. Strapping on any screen is bound to create a mini sweatbox after a while.

With two 1080x1200 OLED screens pumping out frames at 90Hz, the Vive’s display is pretty much identical to that of the Rift.

4 What a wander-full world

BEST EXPERIENCES ON VIVE ARIZONA SUNSHINE £30 / arizona-sunshine.com Zombies and VR – it’s a match made in gaming heaven. Who wouldn’t want a flesh-eater bearing down on them? Wait, you wouldn’t? Steer clear of this shooter, then. Otherwise you’ll end up with an impromptu trip to the laundrette. THE LAB £free / store.steampowered.com From the folks who brought you Half-Life and Portal comes a collection of awesome mini-games. None are more than a few minutes long, but in their simplicity they show that Valve has grasped what VR is all about.

The Vive’s wand-like controllers are slightly more bulky than the Oculus Touch, and nowhere near as ergonomically pleasing. Still, they do a fine job of aiding your sojourns round zombie-filled wastelands and puzzle-packed arenas. Each one has a trigger at the front, a set of buttons on either side of the pistol grip, and a clicky trackpad for extra buttons.

Display 2x OLED Resolution 2160x1200 Refresh rate 90Hz Field of view 110° Tracking area 15x15ft Controllers 2x wireless VR Connectivity HDMI, USB

Stuff says It might be ridiculously expensive and a faff to get working, but the Vive remains our favourite VR platform

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THE TWISTER

Habitat Ribbon For fans of bendy design, this shapely Habitat exclusive – inspired by the movement of a ribbon – would be a fine addition to any curvaceous collection. Standing at 36cm tall, it’ll do nicely for either desk or bedside table, and is also available in black, white or gunmetal grey. from £32 / habitat.co.uk

THE CHARGER

Balloon Lamp If you’ve decided to start celebrating every day like it’s your 10th birthday, this USB-powered lamp is for you. Push the balloon’s knot to turn it on and it’ll glow through a happy spectrum of colours, bathing your wistful face in a soft light while you tackle your stupid adult chores. £20 / firebox.com

Ikea Riggad Got a smartphone with Qi wireless charging? Then say hello to your next desk lamp. The Riggad has a charger built into its base, so you can just plonk your phone there while you adjust the lamp’s arm to your liking. It’ll also work with iPhones housed in Ikea’s Vitahult case (from £10). £49 / ikea.com

Lumir Mood Lamp There’s nowt better for meditation than a mood lamp – until you remember the carbon footprint of its power consumption. Maintain your calm with this candlepowered light. A heat exchange captures the flame’s thermal energy and converts it into electricity to power four LEDs. £80 / thefowndry.com

Whether you’re after an illuminating work light or a glowing ornament, Chris Rowlands has picked the tabletop star for you

Satechi Smart LED Lamp Light is light, right? Not so. Colour temperature can make a big difference to your mood – just ask someone who has to work under fluorescent tubes. This LED shiner has several colour settings including study, reading and relaxation modes – a light for every occasion. US$100 / satechi.net

THE EYE-BENDER

THE PAGE-TURNER

THE ECO-BURNER

Kartell Mini Taj Lamp Is it a stylish lamp, or a work of art with LEDs? Or even a cat’s scratching post from the future? That’s a question you can ponder at your leisure as you bathe in the brightness of this energy-saving light. It is also available in larger form as a living-room floor lamp. £159 / amara.com

WHICH TO GET? 54

THE LEVITATOR

Mini Lumio+ Brighten up your library visit with this stealthy portable light. The Mini Lumio+ can light up a tent or bedside table for ten hours between charges, with the built-in magnets helping it stick to any nearby metal. Its bookish form can be opened up to 360° for a full arc of illumination. US$125 / hellolumio.com

1 Desk or decoration? Not all lamps are born equal. Most will light your desk better than a box of matches, but if it’s for work rather than sitting pretty, a lamp with an adjustable arm is your best bet.

THE MULTITASKER

THE SCREEN-SAVER

BenQ Wit E-Reading LED Desk Lamp Screens might put a strain on your peepers during the day, but this reading lamp will put an end to sore eyes at bedtime. Its curved shape distributes light evenly across your screen, while an ambient light sensor can adjust its output to reduce glare and reflection. €199 / shop.benq.eu

2 Bulb or diodes? If you’re sitting on a stockpile of bulbs, be sure to check whether your new glower can take them: many modern lamps use LEDs for efficiency and longevity, but these can be harder to replace.

[ Photography Pete Gardner ]

UP TO £200

UP TO £100

UP TO £50

UPVOTED


UPVOTED

THE ACRYLIC ILLUSION

Studio Cheha Ziggi When is a lampshade not a lampshade? When it’s a mind-bending piece of acrylic glass. It might look three-dimensional, but this self-standing lamp is actually as good as flat – making it an ideal addition to any desk or mantelpiece that’s short on space. £138 / bulbing-light.com

3 Smart choice If you’re itching to add a new lamp to your growing smart home setup, check if it’s compatible first. Philips’ Hue bulbs, for example, will need a traditional bayonet or screw-in fitting.

4 Watt’s what Wattage is the unit used by clever people to measure power – and while it’s not a direct indicator of brightness, it’s mighty useful for comparing new bulbs with old.

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F I R S T T E S T G O O G L E C H R O M E C A S T U LT R A

A cast from the past Everyone wants 4K, and Google’s Chromecast Ultra lets you stream it to your TV… but in the age of smart tellies, who actually needs it? £69 / stuff.tv/ChromecastUltra An MP3 player. A satnav. The first B*Witched album. All things that haven’t aged so well in 2016. Okay, so C’est la Vie is still a bona fide tune, but you’re probably going to be streaming it on your phone instead of scrolling through a clickwheel to find it. Likewise, TomTom was onto a downer as soon as Google Maps went mobile. Looking at the Chromecast Ultra, you get the same feeling. It still does a very good job of streaming stuff to your TV – and now in 4K – but it’s tough to tell exactly who it’s for. When TVs weren’t smart as standard, having a streaming stick made sense. Now? Not so much. The Chromecast Ultra is basically an upgraded version of last year’s Chromecast, only it can also stream UHD content from Netflix, YouTube and… that’s about it. On the outside, it looks exactly the same as the original adorable black puck… oh, but it costs twice the price at £69. Beginning to see the issue here?

1 Plug and yay Setting up hasn’t changed: just plug the Chromecast’s HDMI lead into a spare port on your TV and then hook up the power lead into a spare socket. Then you just need to connect it to the internet, via Wi-FI or Ethernet.

1

2 Passed its Prime Buy any 4K TV today and it’ll come pre-installed with the same suite of apps as the Ultra, but most come with one key extra: Amazon Instant Video, a standard fixture on most smart TVs, is not supported here.

3 Up to speed? Make sure your broadband is fast enough to handle UHD content. Netflix recommends 25 megabits per second, and you’ll need to be on its £8.99/month plan to watch the likes of Daredevil and Stranger Things in 4K.

[ Words Rob Leedham ]

Good Meh Evil

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T Ch his ro is d m o ec ub as le t – th 4K e pr S re ice ca etu all o bl p es is y ft is he e an a ex o s d I y. pe rig ’m I j ns ina us r ea t ive l M dy plu m y in . an t g to in e ag rn s a ta fe es et rt w to co . de nn al ec …b w tio us ut ith n e a th 4K jus w eE st t a ire th re bo d c er am ut on ne ing ne t a … No ct da io pt no A n o .N rl Gr ma an zo o ets m m dT n or e ou Ins el r f tan ag or t . Ev V m id th er e, e ou y o th o? en L gh th . oo . T er ks im ap ef p lik e or I n a N ee d et is fli he xb r ing e, It’ e. th s n at ot m re y al sm ly ar off t T er V ing do m Ca es e th st e T in n’ an g t d yt V m o a hi is y pr Go lre ng et o ad ty gl y. co e P ol ixe , m l’s U in s I d sin d. cr on g m ee ’t y nt ha p o ve ho to ne se to ar na ch vi fo ga r t te he m re ean m s ot e.

24 hours with the Chromecast Ultra

1min

7mins 15mins 16mins

18mins 20mins

4hrs

5hrs

6hrs


F I R S T T E S T G O O G L E C H R O M E C A S T U LT R A

4 App to the sky Chromecast’s lack of a central interface – you cast from inside your apps – means streaming is a little bit more fiddly than doing so natively on your TV, but 1080p quality is great and streams load quickly.

3

5 Game show If you’re a proud member of team Android, you can cast your phone’s screen onto your TV, which means playing the likes of Angry Birds on a huge display. Plus, in future you should be able to cast homemade 4K video.

Tech specs Resolution Up to 4K with HDR Connectivity HDMI, Wi-Fi, Ethernet, microUSB for power Dimensions 58x14x58mm, 47g

Cast of thousands So you’ve got the TV, broadband package and service subscriptions. But is 4K casting worth your cash?

Moving target

UHD movie services are still in short supply – even Google’s own Play Store only offers 4K in the US and Canada. Not that many Brits will shed tears about missing Batman v Superman in 4K...

Maybe Notflix

G 4K am ?I eo nf fT ac h t, ron no e tm si …s an sn’t pl o y av an I’m sh a ow ila is n w ot s a ble or s u re in th re … It it, th at e pl ’s h ac a p l e e – nd as ric y t f ier he ta or N ha kin no et sn g t w flix . hi ’ t T go s t o a r he t as m ea Ult m yf lly ra ar rie go is e t T nd od as V. ’s y jo t ba o t s use …b tre a re ut gu I am nd lar can ing doe Ch ’t h ... s ro el m pt ec hi as nk t w ing ou th ld at su m ffi y ce .

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11hrs

13hrs 21hrs

23hrs

24hrs

Netflix’s library of 4K TV shows and movies is reserved almost exclusively for its own content… and Breaking Bad. That means there are only around 30 titles to choose from.

Take the Tube

When it comes to 4K and HDR, you can really see the difference in landscape shots and close-ups of impossibly colourful reptiles. Thankfully, YouTube has both of these in spades.

Changing glooms

Darker palettes are hit and miss – if you’re an admirer of moody stuff like House of Cards and Daredevil, you might miss the visual punch that comes from shows with a broader colour palette.

The Chromecast Ultra streams well, is simple to use, and is supported by most streaming services (other than Amazon Instant Video). But, if you own a 4K TV with the full selection of on-demand apps, you simply don’t need an Ultra. Even if you want to cast Chrome tabs to a TV, you’re just as well off with the cheaper HD version. @robleedham

STUFF SAYS The Ultra is basically redundant in the era of smart TVs, especially with limited 4K content 57


SUPERTEST LAPTOPS

Top of the ’tops

[ Photography Matthew Beedle ]

What matters more in a laptop: style, stamina or being able to play Skyrim with all the effects? Read this before you buy one…

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Laptops are changing. They’re getting smaller, lighter and smarter. And this isn’t just the inevitable march of tech in action: they’re fighting to survive, as more of us use phones and iPads for tasks we’d have been relying on a laptop for a couple of years ago. Judging by these five contenders, however, we won’t be hearing any death rattles just yet. Each of the laptop giants has adopted a different survival tactic. Apple is starting to merge iPhone and MacBook, weaving Siri into the laptop’s hardware, adding a Touch ID scanner and a cleverly dynamic OLED touch-panel. Microsoft has tried to make its Surface Book the only device you need, bar a phone anyway. Its screen pops off for tablet fun, there’s a pressure-sensitive stylus, and a special Nvidia GPU boosts its gaming chops. Then there’s the blinged-out HP Spectre, gaming-minded Razer Blade Stealth and slinky-screened Dell XPS 13. All great, but which is right for you? @wwwdotandrew

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SUPERTEST LAPTOPS 1 HP Spectre 13

One of the slimmest, lightest laptops in the world, the Spectre is the most eye-catching computer HP has made to date.

2 Microsoft Surface Book

An ambitious hybrid with pressure-sensitive stylus and a custom gaming processor by Nvidia.

3 Dell XPS 13

Dell’s ‘virtually borderless’ InfinityEdge screen makes the XPS 13 significantly smaller than the average 13in laptop.

4 Razer Blade Stealth

The Blade Stealth is a slim ultraportable. Hook it up to the Core desktop module with a good GPU and it turns into a gaming rig.

5 Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

Pricier editions of the MacBook Pro have a fancy OLED touch-panel where the function keys used to be.

2

4

5

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SUPERTEST LAPTOPS

Apple reinvents the laptop with… a strip of emojis? The MacBook Pro has been a favourite of designers and, well, pros for years, but Apple’s latest laptop has caused a bit of a stir. This new version chucks away ‘old’ features like normal USB ports and a memory card reader in favour of an OLED touch-panel replacing the F keys. It’s the only touchscreen you’ll find on this laptop, but its virtual

buttons automatically change to suit the app running – you’re not stuck with emojis. Play a video and you get a progress bar; in Safari you get teeny, tappable versions of your open tabs; and in Pages you get word suggestions popping up as you type, just like an iPhone keyboard. So the MacBook Pro is getting more iPhone-y, and not quite in

the way we imagined. A few people might recoil in horror, particularly as the Touch Bar reduces the battery life by a considerable amount – and Apple has added the same love/hate wafer-thin keyboard you get on other new MacBooks. But it really is something we don’t see often in laptops: a new and exciting feature.

● APPLE MACBOOK PRO WITH TOUCH BAR FROM £1749

PERFORMANCE

Battery blaster

This MacBook is powered by last-generation Intel Skylake CPUs rather than the latest Kaby Lake type. They’re a smidgeon less fast. Battery life isn’t the best either, with a 90min film draining away 21% of its life. ●●●●●●●●●●

DESIGN

Nice pad

The new MacBook Pro looks like the older version if you squint, but it’s totally different. Skinnier screen surrounds in every direction make it a lot smaller, and somehow Apple has managed to cram in a ridiculously large touchpad. As on the 12in MacBook, Force Touch lets you hard-press the pad for a deeper look into apps and bits of data without having to touch the keyboard. MacBook veterans might find it hard to get on with the new ultra-shallow keyboard and USB-C connectors, though. Get those adaptors ready.

Phone you up

The MacBook Pro’s screen is beautiful. There’s slightly deeper colour than before, but the tone remains natural. It’s not the peppiest-looking screen here, but might be the best if you’re not after Candy Crush-grade colour saturation.

It finally happened: Apple is starting to squish iPhone and MacBook together, in preparation for the single iDevice endgame. To the far right of the new touch-panel is a Touch ID finger scanner just like the iPhone’s – and right next to it is a Siri button. The MacBook easily has the loudest, beefiest speakers of this entire test, a whopping 13dB louder than the Microsoft Surface Book’s. The high-spec Thunderbolt (USB-C) ports should future-proof its connectivity, even if they can be a pain right now.

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SCREEN

Apple of my eye

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FEATURES

OLED screen tech makes the new Touch Bar look great, and just as black as the keys it sits above. It’s not Retina-grade, but you won’t notice unless you’re up close.

Crafty devs can use this bar as they like. In the coming months it could morph from a fun, if horribly expensive, gimmick into a crucial feature that makes Windows PCs look like they’re stuck in the 1990s. And even if it doesn’t, this is still a brilliant portable buddy for those who prefer their laptops to speak macOS.


SUPERTEST LAPTOPS

USE IT WITH…

Pixelmator

£23 / pixelmator.com Photoshop costs a fortune and doesn’t support the Touch Bar at launch. Pixelmator is a fraction of the price, does nearly everything Adobe’s image editor can, and allows you to customise that clever OLED panel. Stuff says Apple continues to squeeze our hardware connectivity rations: this MacBook Pro has four USB-C ports; the version without Touch Bar (from £1449) has just two

And also…

Airmail 3 £7.99 / airmailapp.com Airmail lets you create Touch Bar shortcuts for zipping around your inbox.

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SUPERTEST LAPTOPS

Dell calls this an InfinityEdge display. It’s the secret to making a 13in laptop close in size to an 11in one. Dell is the only laptop maker pushing this technology so far.

USE IT WITH…

VLC Media Player

£free / vieolan.org You probably watch most of your videos on YouTube and Netflix, but what are you going to do when your Wi-Fi connection goes down? VLC will play anything you throw at it, including 360° videos. Stuff says

And also…

Notepad++ £free / notepadplus-plus.org Kiss the standard Windows notepad goodbye with this free replacement.

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SUPERTEST LAPTOPS

The impossible screen with a cutting-edge design Want a laptop you can take anywhere and always rely on? With features that look as though they’ve been nicked from a sci-fi film, maybe this Dell isn’t for you. But if you care more about how sleek the thing is to use than how ‘safe’ it looks, step right up. The Dell XPS 13 is the perfect storm of portability, stunning screen quality and battery life

that makes the fanciest MacBook Pro seem like it’s powered by AAs from a pound shop. It’s the screen that should get jaws dropping first, though. Just look at it: there’s so little surround, this would have seemed like a teenager’s impossible Photoshop concept design a few years ago. This makes the XPS 13’s footprint tiny even though it has a 13.3in

screen and full-size keyboard. The result is that it’ll fit in a bag with no trouble, which is important considering a laptop’s signature skill is portability. Sure, it’s not as light or slim as the HP Spectre, but when you get almost double the battery life into the bargain, we don’t mind. It lasts for up to 12.5 hours of movie playback, which is bloomin’

brilliant considering it has an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor. This will get you through a day’s work and let you play a bit of The Sims 4 on the way home. And you get a touchscreen too, which is still not a given. The Surface Book beats it for gaming, but when the XPS costs up to £300 less, you’ve almost got enough cash left for a PS4 Pro.

● DELL XPS 13 FROM £999

SCREEN

Take the edge off

Aluminium next to a keyboard looks great, but the soft-touch paint is positively strokable. And it’s super-rigid carbon fibre, not naff old plastic.

The screen stretches out to the edges of the laptop, leaving a few millimetres of surround. It’s a super-sharp 3200x1800 LCD with great contrast. The MacBook Pro and Razer Blade Stealth have deeper colour, but it’s still a stunner. ●●●●●●●●●●

DESIGN

Go go gadget

FEATURES

The people pleaser

Apple has gone ‘our way or the highway’ with its latest laptops, but Dell tries to please as many people as possible. You get old-style USB connectors as well as the new USB-C and, thank the heavens, an SD card slot. There’s a touchscreen for a modern feel, but also a proper keyboard you can tap away on all day without your fingers complaining. It’s low on feature fluff but top-quality all round. There is one neat extra: a little LED indicator that’ll tell you the battery level even while the laptop is asleep and closed. ●●●●●●●●●●

This ain’t no flouncy laptop made just to look good on a magazine page. The Dell XPS feels as if it’s built to withstand a beating, and uses a softtouch interior to give your hands somewhere comfy to rest. The killer USP is that, while it’s not the lightest, this is the smallest 13in laptop going – and that kind of portability is a real a bonus if you’d rather carry a smaller bag. So it’s super-practical… but you do get a choice of gold or silver aluminium, used on the lid and underside of this tiny tearaway. ●●●●●●●●●●

PERFORMANCE

A life saver

You get a choice of the new Intel Kaby Lake Core i5 and i7 CPUs here: no special gaming skills, but enough power to do just about anything else. Battery life sets it apart, a 90min film using up just 12% of charge. ●●●●●●●●●●

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SUPERTEST LAPTOPS

The slinky Spectre makes light work of most rivals Most HP laptops are solid, reliable machines that focus on getting you bang for your buck. When the Spectre showed up and became the most instantly recognisable laptop of the year, it was a bit of a surprise. Gone is the familiar silver and black of your everyday laptop. The Spectre 13 has a bling-tastic chromed gold hinge that looks like

the computer equivalent of fancy jewellery. It makes all the others here look plain. This machine’s real claim to fame is its thickness. The Spectre 13 is a mere 10.4mm thick and weighs only 1.1kg. It’s essentially a laptop-shaped prescription for curing cricked necks and sore backs across the world. And even if you need the slimmest, lightest

laptop going, there’s more to like here than just a fancy hinge. This is an uncompromising vision of a laptop primed for the future. All of its connectors are USB-C type, and even with the included adaptor you may have trouble using some of your accessories. These USB-Cs are not designed to power things like external drives. It really doesn’t

get on well with other hardware. Plus those connectors all sit on the back, which isn’t handy. But all of that will fade into the background if you just want something to work and play on. Its keyboard has a deeper, more responsive feel than some rivals, and while the trackpad is absolutely tiny compared to a MacBook’s, it feels great.

● HP SPECTRE 13 £1149 The HP’s secret sauce is its build. This laptop is made of a combination of carbon fibre and metal, allowing for an ultra-rigid frame that barely weighs anything.

The speakers are made in association with Bang & Olufsen, but they’re nothing on those of the MacBook Pro or Razer Blade Stealth. At least they’re stereo.

USE IT WITH…

FL Studio Groove

£6.99/ image-line.com This miniature sequencer has an entire studio’s worth of built-in synths, sounds, melodies and loops. Mix ’em together on the piano roll or drumkit, then record and export them. Stuff says

DESIGN

FEATURES

SCREEN

PERFORMANCE

Slim. Light. Stylish. That sums up the aluminium and carbon fibre HP Spectre. As a result, the ports live on the back, the screen hinge doesn’t fold back that much, and HP totally redesigned its cooling system to fit.

No silly gimmicks, no stylus, no touchscreen. It’s a laptop, and that’s it. We’re down with that, although day-to-day the lack of a memory card slot and those picky USB-C slots on the back may get on your nerves.

The Spectre has a good screen, but it doesn’t come close to the other contenders. It’s a 13.3in 1080p display – not as sharp as its rivals. Plus, colour tones just aren’t as deep and punchy as the best here.

It’s as slim as you like, but the HP Spectre still has a proper CPU, an Intel Core i7-6500U. That’s not as up-to-date as the Razer Blade Stealth’s, but this older CPU isn’t insta-KO’d. It’ll have a crack at anything.

Beauty over brains

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Nowt special

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Off-colour

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Small wonder

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SUPERTEST LAPTOPS

The Swiss army knife of laptops is up for anything Say what you like about Microsoft – it certainly is trying. The Surface Book is one of the most versatile, feature-packed laptops in the world. Strap in. You can pull off the screen to use this as a giant 13.5in tablet, and it has clever ‘muscle wire’ switches that lock the display firmly in place when it’s rolling as a laptop. You get a stylus with

pressure-sensitivity too, so you can use the Surface Book as a scarily expensive sketchpad. This is also easily the best roving gaming machine in our test, thanks to a special graphics chipset cooked up by Nvidia. While it’s not a patch on a proper gaming PC, you’ll still get far better results than with anything else here. Playing Thief at 720p you

get 41fps – a whopping 17fps more than the HP Spectre, turning compromise into pleasure. Sure, 720p is not optimum resolution, but this was never meant to be a true gaming PC. So why isn’t this the best laptop in the universe? Well, it’s a lot thicker and heavier than anything else here – weighing 50% more than the HP Spectre

that it beats so easily in a gaming drag race. The Surface Book also just isn’t very cool, despite that sci-fi-grade hinge. It’s very angular, it feels like it’s going to tip over on your knees, and the 3:2 aspect is just a bit weird. Still, its multitasking skills are mighty impressive and it’s really useful for those creative types. This is a true nerd-pleaser.

● MICROSOFT SURFACE BOOK FROM £1299

To release the screen for tablet conversion you press a button in the Windows 10 software, rather than just releasing a catch. It’s smarter than the average hybrid.

USE IT WITH… The Surface Book may be a bit plain in this crowd but its hinge is mesmerising, folding up like the plates of an arthropod. That earns it a few more geek points.

Sketchable

£free / siliconbenders.com Put the Surface Pen to good use with this digital sketchbook. It’s got all the brushes and tools you’ll need, plus layers for more complex designs, and it’ll work with Microsoft’s Surface Dial when it arrives. Stuff says

DESIGN

FEATURES

SCREEN

PERFORMANCE

This is the one laptop in our mega-test made of magnesium rather than aluminium. It’s not cool to the touch and it isn’t shiny, but this helps keep the weight sensible and makes the Surface Book super-rigid.

A pressure-sensitive stylus, a decent GPU, a detachable tablet screen and a keyboard deep enough to write a novel on: what more could you want? It is a bit chunky, though – nothing like the super-slim HP Spectre.

The Surface Book’s 13.5in screen has more of a tablet vibe than most thanks to its squarer 3:2 aspect ratio. As long as you don’t mind this it’s great, with 3000x2000 resolution, good contrast and solid colour.

This Surface Book uses last-gen Intel CPUs rather than new Kaby Lake ones, yet only the Razer with the Core add-on beats it for gaming. It also outlasts all but the Dell, a 90min movie slicing just 12% off the battery.

Read the mag

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Tablet in disguise

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Fair and square

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Book of power

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SUPERTEST LAPTOPS

Stealth is a game changer, and it’s black to the Core Forget silver, forget rose gold. This is the Stealth bomber of ultraportable laptops. It’s black, it’s slim, it’s made of aluminium. It is not initially what you might expect to see from gaming maestro Razer, though. On its own, the Blade Stealth is a pretty regular slim and light computer. You could whip it out in Starbucks without looking like

a one-person LAN party – as long you toned down the Technicolor rave that is the LED-backlit keyboard first. Gotta keep the gamers happy, right? There’s no great big graphics card inside to weigh it down, but if you can afford the £399 upgrade for the Core module you can turn the Blade Stealth into a gaming powerhouse. This box plugs into

the Thunderbolt port on the side and is a bit like a tiny PC case that only holds a graphics processor. Warn your wallet, though, because the Core doesn’t come with such a card. A top-end Nvidia GTX 1080 costs an extra £600 or so, on top of that £399. Yee-ouch! It’s still a smart way to get a high-end gaming rig without burdening your house with one

● RAZER BLADE STEALTH FROM £1000

SCREEN

Perfect Dark

The Blade Stealth has a 4K or QHD screen, both 12.5in, and the 4K one is one of the highest-spec screens seen on a laptop. Contrast is fab and it’s easily the most colourful display here. One look is enough to raise your blood sugar level. ●●●●●●●●●●

DESIGN

StarCraft

This is what you get when you take gaming PC DNA and insert it into an Ultrabook embryo. The Blade Stealth is slim, light and all-aluminium but has touches you don’t see in style laptops. There’s a green lightup Razer logo on the back (yes, you can turn this off) but the best bit is the backlighting of the keyboard. You can set it to any colour of the rainbow to take the brutish edge off all that black, or make it fire off a light show using one of the many inbuilt profiles. It’ll even mimic the colours of a roaring fire. How cosy. ●●●●●●●●●●

PERFORMANCE

Half-Life

Without an external GPU, the Blade Stealth lacks top-class gaming power. Still, the latest Intel Kaby Lake CPUs and Core i7 specs make it a solid enough performer and battery life matches the MacBook Pro, a 90min film eating 21%. ●●●●●●●●●●

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FEATURES

A Link Between Worlds

Razer hasn’t thrown out the old in favour of the new like Apple has. You still get two trusty old USB ports here as well as a full-size HDMI, making it a doddle to hook up your TV or a monitor. There’s just the one USB-C Thunderbolt socket, used to connect the Core gaming module, and thankfully this add-on will power the laptop while connected. At home you’ll probably want to use proper speakers, but the Blade Stealth is only second to the MacBook Pro with its loud and meaty inbuilt drivers. ●●●●●●●●●●

This Razer has the most customisable keyboard backlight you can get in an ultraportable, with control over its brightness and colours.

of those giant PC towers, though. In the trade-off you also get a laptop only slightly larger than a MacBook Pro that’s significantly cheaper and looks a bit different to just about everything else that’s out there. Just make sure you like black, because that’s the only colour on offer. It could be the MacBook’s evil twin, and we like it.


SUPERTEST LAPTOPS

USE IT WITH…

Steam

£free / store. steampowered.com Quite simply the best game storefront you can get. Steam has thousands of games plus built-in chat to keep in touch with your mates, and you can hook it up to your telly with Big Picture mode to turn your laptop into a console. Stuff says The Blade Stealth uses speaker drivers to each side of the keyboard. No laptop speakers sound amazing, but you could happily watch a film using these.

And also…

Razer Comms £free / razerzone.com Razer’s VOIP chat app is perfect for trash-talking your online enemies.

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SUPERTEST LAPTOPS

The winner is…

Dell XPS 13 In a year or two we might look back and wonder how we ever got by without a MacBook Pro TouchBar. But for now we’ll put a few hundred quid back in our pockets and shack up with the Dell, thanks. It’s tiny for a 13.3in laptop thanks to the amazing InfinityEdge display panel, which is handy for lugging it about, and there are no compromises inside. You get all-day battery life, enough power for video editing rather than just the time-wasting most of us do with our laptops, and Dell hasn’t tried to drop-kick us into the future with ports that none of us use yet. There’s not much to dislike, and if you’re happy with 1080p resolution it’s also among the cheapest.

TEST WINNER

+ Now add these Lavievert laptop bag Lavievert’s laptop case is a smart-looking felt bag with PU leather touchess to give it a tighter shape. It’s cheaper than it looks – handy when you’ve just spent more than a grand. £10.49 / lavievert.com Dell Power Companion If the XPS 13’s terrific battery life isn’t good enough for you, grab a Power Companion. This is a 12,000mAh external battery that almost doubles the laptop’s stamina. A holiday lifesaver. £80 / dell.co.uk Dell UltraSharp 27in monitor You can get one of Dell’s UltraSharp monitors with the same slim-bezel InfinityEdge style as the laptop, and a 1440p IPS screen. £490 / dell.co.uk

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How to buy a laptop p117


SUPERTEST LAPTOPS

THE SUMMARY

● Apple ● Dell ● HP ● Microsoft ● Razer

WHAT’S NEXT? Is everyone going to start copying Apple by putting display touch-panels into their laptops? Some critics aren’t loving the new Touch Bar, but as long as the new Pro isn’t a sales disaster you can expect to see plenty of copycats popping up. But there’s no systemlevel support yet for such hardware in Windows 10. Manufacturers will have to put extra work in to make such bars useful. A revolution that’s already happening, though, is USB-C. Good old USBs are slowly disappearing from top-end laptops, and we’ll soon see cheaper models start to follow. USB-C can use Thunderbolt 3, a standard so powerful it can fling 5000MB of data a second. Just one port can hook up several peripherals. Efficiency is the order of the day, and that’s what we’ll get from Intel’s next major CPU generation: Cannonlake. It’s due in late 2017. More power, better battery life.

FEATURES

DESIGN 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

TECH RATER

PERFORMANCE

SCREEN 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

follow Andrew: @wwwdotandrew

email Stuff:

stuff@haymarket.com

Screen

CPU

RAM

GPU

Battery

Dimensions

Dell XPS 13 The clever InfinityEdge screen is the standout feature, but the Dell XPS 13 nails every other element too. from £999 / stuff.tv/XPS13

13.3in 3200x1200 LCD

Intel Core i5/ i7 Kaby Lake generation

8GB

Intel HD 620

60Wh

304x200x 15mm, 1.2kg

2nd

Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar As ever, Apple has aced the desirability factor with a fancy touch-panel and fingerprint scanner. from £1749 / stuff.tv/MacBookPro

13.3in 2560x1600 LCD

Intel Core i5/ i7 Skylake generation

8GB

Intel Iris 550

49.2Wh

304x212x 15mm, 1.4kg

3rd

Microsoft Surface Book The only hybrid on test, the only stylus-enabled laptop, and the best at gaming on the go. from £1299 / stuff.tv/MicrosoftSurfaceBook

13.5in 3000x2000 PixelSense

Intel Core i5/ i7 Skylake generation

8GB/16GB

Nvidia custom GPU

70Wh

312x232x 23mm, 1.5kg

4th

Razer Blade Stealth A gaming laptop at home, a simple ultraportable when you’re not – the Stealth is a two-faced beast. from £1000 / stuff.tv/BladeStealth

12.5in 3840x2160 IGZO LCD

Intel Core i7-7500U

8GB/16GB

Intel HD 620

53.6Wh

321x206x 13.1mm, 1.3kg

5th

HP Spectre 13 The slimmest and lightest laptop in the group also makes the boldest style choices. from £1149 / stuff.tv/HPSpectre

13.3in 1920x1080 LCD

Intel Core i7-6500U

8GB

Intel HD 520

38Wh

325x229x 10mm, 1.1kg

1st

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T E S T PA N A S O N I C L U M I X D M C - G 8 0

Hip on the inside It might not look particularly sexy, but Panasonic’s latest mirrorless camera is a classy beast… not least for its 4K video skills from £699 / stuff.tv/LumixG80 It feels like everyone in the world is pumping out charmingly retro cameras at the moment. Everyone except Panasonic. On appearance alone, the Lumix G80 is doggedly pedestrian. Get beyond the plain Jane styling, though, and you’ll realise this is a mirrorless marvel. Features? A weather-resistant body, 4K video recording, clever focus-stacking tech, and 5-axis image stabilisation to keep your shots looking sharp. Panasonic calls the G80 a ‘classic style’ camera – which basically means it’s a compact system camera that looks like a diddy DSLR. It has the same chunky handgrip, top-mounted viewfinder and manual controls as a Canon, only you can comfortably hold this svelte snapper in one hand. Plus it’s splashproof and dustproof. The G80’s Micro Four Thirds sensor might be smaller than you’ll find in an APS-C camera from Sony or Fujifilm, but it’s still capable of some brilliant shots in all kinds of conditions. Pairing contrast-detection AF with a 240fps sensor does a great job at locking focus, even if the fancier phase-detection AF isn’t present. It’ll struggle with anything moving in or out of the frame, but the G80 is pretty snappy for static subjects.

Tech specs Sensor 16MP Micro Four Thirds MOS AF points 49 ISO range 100-25,600 Image stabilisation 5-axis Built-in flash Yes Wi-Fi Yes Display 3in 1.04m-dot fully articulating LCD touchscreen, 2.36m-dot OLED viewfinder Video 4K @ 30fps, 1080p @ 60fps Dimensions 128x89x74mm, 453g

Enjoy the view

Panasonic has ditched LCD for a faster, brighter and more colourful OLED EVF, and it’s an absolute beauty. A pin-sharp affair thanks to its 2.36m-dot resolution, it’s perfect for bright daylight shooting.

Flippin’ marvellous

You still get a touchscreen on the back. It’s a 3in LCD vari-angle monitor that flips out for easier composition. Handily, the G80’s battery economy mode puts it to sleep as soon as you take the camera away from your eye.

STUFF SAYS No fancy features – it just ticks a whole load of boxes for the cash It’s no looker, but image quality is impressive for such a low price Tom Morgan

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The G80 doesn’t have killer looks to rival other CSCs – but once you start using it, that just doesn’t matter. It’s got all the features you’d want from a mid-ranger, including 4K video, plenty of manual controls, and clever post-focus effects to make sure you never miss a shot. If you need video skills, fast autofocus and weatherproofing, this Panasonic should be near the top of your list.


TEST AMAZON ECHO DOT

Get pucky

Shrink rapt

The Dot is a third of the price of the Echo. It’s insane, but that’s Amazon’s problem – don’t ask questions, just buy one.

The diddy version of Amazon’s smart assistant is an unmissable bargain £50 / stuff.tv/EchoDot The Echo Dot is like a full-size Echo that’s been stepped on by an elephant. Alright, not quite, but you get the idea – it looks identical from the top but is barely an inch high. All that’s gone is the full-size speaker, replaced by a little one and a 3.5mm audio output. It’s a pleasingly unobtrusive puck, staying unnoticed until it’s answering a query, at which point its blue ring will glow and rotate in a futuristic manner. To set it up you just plug it in, fire up the Alexa app then hook it up to your wireless network. Just as with the standard Echo, you can add preferences for things such as your favourite football team, connect it to your Spotify account, give it access to your calendar and so on. Be careful with voice purchasing, which is enabled by default – meaning small children can tell it to buy Furbies and Hatchimals. This is easily turned off. Where this device really comes into its own is as the hub of your smart home. Link it to the likes of Hive, Hue, Nest and Netatmo and you’ll be able to control it all with voice commands. It really is as wonderful as it sounds.

Bing out of order

Alexa copes well with simple information requests and smart home commands but isn’t so hot at anything that requires search – possibly because she’s powered by Bing rather than Google.

Computer says “Eh?”

The Dot has the same seven mics as the big Echo, but is just as easily confused – you have to speak in clear, formal sentences. Anything Alexa can’t make sense of gets a curt “I don’t understand what you’re asking me”.

For many people, the Dot might actually be a better bet than the bigger Echo. Its internal speaker may be feeble, but that 3.5mm audio output means easy connection to your existing hi-fi setup – and the full-size unit doesn’t have one.

Tech specs Microphones 7 (far-field) Connectivity Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3.5mm stereo audio output Dimensions 84x84x32mm, 163g

STUFF SAYS A crazily cheap first step into a wonderful future of AI assistants I’ve been living the dream, and it’s all thanks to the Echo Dot Marc McLaren

Nobody listens to me in my house. My kids are far too busy watching Netflix, I’d never dream of ordering my girlfriend around and the cat is, well, a cat. But the Echo Dot – or rather Alexa – does my bidding whenever I ask… mostly. If you’re thinking of buying one then be aware that it’s not quite perfect yet. But whatever flaws it may have are easily ignored given the difference it will make to your life. 71


GADGET DOCTOR

Help! My broadband is toooo sloooow

1

Boost your signal

READER IN NEED Dan Thompson Feels the need… the need for speed ● Move your router

Stuff, I’m fed up of having my internet connection guffaw every time I want to download a new PS4 game. My broadband is so slow that I now see Netflix’s buffer ring of doom more than I see my parents. I can’t be dealing with this any more. Surely I can get faster internet without breaking the bank?

By far the easiest way to get your broadband speed on the up is to reposition your router – the box that plugs into your wall and then beams the internet to the rest of your home. Try to position it as high up as possible. If it’s hidden away in a living-room corner then its signal strength will likely be as flimsy as a yurt made out of Play-Doh.

● Try a different frequency

Most routers nowadays can broadcast their signal across two frequencies: 2.4GHz and 5GHz. If you live in a block of flats and your neighbours are mainly using the 2.4GHz frequency, that could well be the cause of your problems. Instead of sabotaging all of your neigbours’ internet connections, you can simply make the switch to 5GHz and watch your speeds skyrocket again.

● Pick up a powerline adaptor THE EXPERT Rob Leedham Editor

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Sometimes, no matter how much you fiddle around with your router, the signal strength on the other side of your home will drive you to tears of rage. Before you reach for a hanky again, pick up a powerline adaptor and plug it into a spare power socket. The TP-Link TL-PA4010KIT starter kit pictured above will do the job nicely for £27.


GADGET DOCTOR WE’RE ALWAYS ON CALL

2

Get a new router

3

Sign up to fibre

@stuffTV

facebook.com/ joinstuff

google com/ +stufftv

stuff@ haymarket.com

NOW ADD THIS

What about 4G?

● BT Smart Hub

● Sky Fibre Unlimited

● Netgear Orbi

● BT Unlimited Infinity 1

● TP Link Archer AC3200

● VIVID 200 Gamer

Routers are the most boring gadget in existence. With a range of 500m, dual-band options for 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies, and support for the next-gen 802.11ac wireless standard, the BT Smart Hub takes great pride in being as dull as your Uncle Rupert. from £free / bt.com

Why get one new router when several will do? The Netgear Orbi setup works by introducing a mesh Wi-Fi network into your home, so that each router or satellite unit covers 2000sq ft with super-fast broadband. This is only really necessary if you live in a sizeable house, but you’ll certainly notice the difference. £400 / netgear.co.uk

Yes, it looks like a spider crossbred with an industrial cheese-grater, but this router will take your home broadband up a notch. As well as featuring all the latest wireless home tech it’s also got six (six!) antennae to dish out that lovely Wi-Fi for all the devices on your network. £115 / uk.tp-link.com

There are two basic types of broadband: ADSL and fibre. If you love speed, you want fibre. If you want to stream and download to your heart’s content, you want an unlimited package. Combine Sky’s Fibre Unlimited with a TV bundle and you’ve got the perfect entertainment setup. £37/month / sky.com

A more expensive alternative to Sky’s fibre package, but this deal gives you potentially faster download speeds of up to 52Mbps (megabits per second). Plus, you can get Premier League, FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League football for as little as £4 extra per month via BT Sport. This is a decent offer even if you’re not a sports nut. £40/month / bt.com

Virgin’s fastest broadband package gives you more speed than you’ll know what to do with. So long as you live in the right location, you’ll achieve download speeds of up to 200Mbps and upload speeds of up to 20Mbps. Excessive? For most people, yes. But not if gaming is your religion. £45/month / virginmedia.com

If fibre broadband isn’t available where you live, there’s still hope. Both EE and the Londonbased Relish offer 4G broadband. A router takes the same 4G you use on your smartphone and funnels it towards your Wi-Fi devices. It works really well and you don’t have to pay line rental. The catch? Prices are still quite high and data limits can be sneakily low.

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TWO WEEKS WITH GOOGLE DAYDREAM VIEW

The wonder of View It’s better than Cardboard but way cheaper than the big boys of VR… Tom Morgan spends a fortnight finding out if Google’s new headset is virtually perfect £69 / stuff.tv/DaydreamView

DAY 01 Daydream View is the funky headset that Google hopes will spread VR to the masses. It’s hundreds of pounds cheaper than an Oculus Rift, HTC Vive or PlayStation VR setup, and even undercuts Samsung’s Gear VR. But it needs to get more than the price right to impress us… Strapping Daydream to my face, the first thing I notice is how delightfully snug it feels. Compared to Gear VR’s harsh plastics and Cardboard’s… well,

cardboard, Daydream View is like having your face hugged by a cloud. The headset is covered in soft fabric, with plush innards. If you wear glasses, you won’t even need to take them off – there’s plenty of room in there. This is one of the most comfortable VR headsets I’ve tried. Setup is as simple as slipping a compatible phone into the headset then closing it up. The elasticated clasp keeps things locked in place, so I’m not worried

Compared to Gear VR’s harsh plastics and Cardboard’s… well, cardboard, this is like having your face hugged by a cloud

74 4

about sending my expensive Pixel XL flying to the floor. Once I’ve downloaded the app from the Play Store, NFC tech inside the headset instantly activates it – no digging around the app drawer required – and then the remote automatically pairs to the phone. It’s reassuring to know that, if I get disorientated or the remote doesn’t point where I expect, I just have to hold down the home button and it will automatically recentre everything, so I’m always facing the right direction. Daydream’s cutesy tutorial does a great job of helping you get to grips with how the remote

works and how to interact with different VR experiences. I could play fetch with that polygonal fox all day.

DAY 02 After spending most of the day playing golf in the Wonderglade theme park, I start to get Wii Sports flashbacks and quickly realise that the bundled remote control is Daydream’s secret weapon. This is what elevates it over Cardboard and Gear VR, and makes each experience that bit more immersive. Think of it like a miniature Wii Remote: it’s packed with sensors


LO N G -T E R M T E S T

01

Donut of Truth™

05

04

02 03

01 Fits like a dream and is incredibly comfy 02 Clever controller opens up more possibilities 03 Provides VR experiences at a real-world price

04 Limited app choice and, for the moment, it’s only compatible with Google Pixel and Moto Z phones 05 Headset lets in quite a bit of light

Tech specs Headset dimensions 167x106x 99mm, 220g Remote controller dimensions 105x35x 17mm, 40g Connectivity Bluetooth LE, USB-C for charging Battery life Up to 12 hours

so you can use it like a motion controller, and has a clickable touchpad for directional control and interaction. Two menu buttons and volume controls complete the set. You’ll want to attach the wrist strap included in the box, so you don’t accidentally embed it in any furniture or family members’ faces while you’re in VR, but it’s sturdy enough to survive a floor drop.

DAY 07 You can buy and download new apps without leaving VR, which is great, but within a week I’ve already played through most of the apps and games available at launch. At least Google’s own apps are packed with content. You’ve got YouTube for watching 360° videos, Google Photos for bringing your own 360° panoramas to life, Google Arts & Culture (a digital art gallery filled with historical masterpieces from around the world), and Street View. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to visit the real Machu Picchu, but Google’s VR version is a pretty good (and cheap) alternative.

DAY 13 It all seems just a tad sharper than anything I’ve seen on the Gear VR. The Pixel XL’s QHD resolution helps

here, but I wish the headset was a bit better at blocking light. There are too many gaps around the bridge of your nose and cheeks, so you’re never completely isolated from the non-virtual world. I’ve had to wait for the sun to set to get the best experience. Can you use it for hours without feeling as though an Aliens-style facehugger has assaulted your mug? Not quite. It’s light enough, but that soft material stops air from getting to your face. That can leave you a bit hot and bothered after a long session, and you’ll probably be glad to return to the open spaces of reality after an hour or so.

DAY 14 Daydream View isn’t supposed to challenge the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive or PSVR. It’s an inexpensive headset that works with your phone to deliver VR experiences – compromised ones, sure, but then it’s running off something that slips into your pocket, not a £1000+ gaming PC. With that in mind, Google has mostly managed to get this one right. The headset has a few minor issues, but if the Daydream content store can expand to match Samsung’s, Google will have a clear winner on its hands.

STUFF SAYS Despite limited app and phone support just now, Google’s second stab at VR has serious potential ★★★★✩

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S STUFF PICKS C S

Comfort o o food ood This h handle h dl unfolds ld to allow ll you to dish d h up,, or just hand h d your chips h around d for sampling. l The h whole h l bowl b l can be b washed h d pretty easily, l, although g the stirringg spindle p in the h middle ddl can clog l up.

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STUFF PICKS

Stuff Picks

Kitchen gadgets Step away from the fishfingers! Tech can help you get creative at feeding time, whether you’re after the perfect steak or just a glass of fresh OJ [ Photography Mitch Payne ]

Tefal ActiFry Smart XL Tom Wiggins, Deputy Editor In a world where food cooked by a proper chef is just a Deliveroo away, it’s pretty easy to get lazy in the kitchen. Fortunately, Tefal’s Actifry thrives on my laziness and doesn’t punish me with food jam-packed with fat. All it asks is that I fill its pot with ingredients, chuck in a dash of oil and close the lid. It’ll take care of the stirring, temperature control and all that stuff I can’t normally be bothered to do, plus the Bluetooth connection means it’ll ping my phone when it’s ready. A bit like Deliveroo. £237 / tefal.co.uk

NOW APP THIS

My ActiFry The ActiFry app functions as a recipe book. Pick what you want, chuck in the ingredients and it’ll know how long it needs to cook for. You’ll just need to hit ‘go’ on your phone. £free / iOS, Android

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STUFF PICKS

Kenwood Spiralizer Esat Dedezade, Deputy Features Editor The past few weeks have been mighty frustrating for me. My smartphone typing efficiency has dropped by an alarming 76.4% because I’ve had to wear a plaster over my left thumb tip. The reason for this word-per-minute crippling? I sliced my digit rather badly on a hellish apparatus known as a julienne peeler. To save myself from future bloodshed, I’ve invested in this electric Spiralizer, which serves up healthy ribbons of veggie pasta alternatives – with zero risk of finger mutilation. £50 / kenwoodworld.com

Make the cut The Spiralizer comes with a variety of cutting cones, each of which produces a different thickness of vegetable peel – letting you simulate the varying thickness of actual pasta strands. Clever, eh?

Inspiralized NOW APP THIS

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Surely there’s no such thing as the perfect app for an electric Spiralizer, we hear you cry. But there is. It’s called Inspiralized, and it’s packed with recipes to help you get started on your #cleaneating #ripcarbs lifestyle. £1.49 / iOS


STUFF PICKS

Morphy Richards Sear AND Stew Compact Mark Wilson, Features Editor My appetite for a slow cooker has sadly not been matched by adequate kitchen worktop space, until now. The Sear And Stew’s small footprint means it sits permanently next to my hob, ready to be filled with ingredients in the morning so I can return home from work to a steaming stew. The hob-friendly pot means you can brown meat first without using another pan, and it’s big enough for three portions (or two hungover ones). £50 / morphyrichards.co.uk

Warm to it The three settings (low, medium, high) refer to how long the cooker takes to reach its maximum temperature rather than different heat levels, so some dishes take a little trial and error.

Yummly NOW APP THIS

The best cooking apps don’t always have the best recipes – a more useful purpose is tricking you into trying something new. Few do this better than Yummly, which personalises recipes to your tastes. £free / iOS, Android

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STUFF PICKS

Anova Precision Cooker Marc McLaren, Editor, Stuff.tv I like my steaks rare. Really rare. Areyou-sure-that’s-not-still-alive rare. But the trouble with really rare steaks? The blood gets all over my chips. Enter the Anova Precision Cooker, a device with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth that turns any old pot into a sous vide maker. For the uninitiated, sous vide is the culinary art of sealing your food in a plastic bag, immersing it in water, then cooking it at a set temperature for hours. And it really works, producing wonderfully tender meat that’s cooked exactly to your liking. And no blood. £99 / uk.anovaculinary.com

Phone home Hook up the Anova to your Wi-Fi and you can control it remotely from anywhere. Why? So you can start your 3hr pork belly recipe from work and tuck in as soon as you get home.

Anova Culinary NOW APP THIS

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Anova’s app is excellent, with dedicated sous vide recipes and timings for all manner of dishes, courtesy of the Serious Eats site and “pro chefs all over the globe”. Clementine and fennel chicken breast, anyone? £free / iOS, Android


STUFF PICKS

Smeg Citrus Juicer Tom Parsons, Deputy Editor, Stuff.tv Truth be told, by Stuff standards this Smeg juicer is pretty low-tech. But with a Nutribullet and a Philips centrifugal juicer getting dusty in a corner, I realised that what I was really after was simple, fresh orange juice – and that’s the Smeg’s raison d’être. Slice your orange in half with a good old-fashioned knife, gently push each half onto the conical reamer – which automatically turns as you apply pressure – and out of the little spout trickles delicious juice. And it’s superbly simple to clean – more so than even a Nutribullet. £110 / smeguk.com

Best bits The sieve-like tray under the reamer catches the thickest pulp and leaves you with a juice that this drinker reckons is the perfect smoothto-bits ratio. Fresh, tasty and healthy – the dream combination.

Cocktail Flow NOW APP THIS

Think juice is just for breakfast? Think again! It’s also a prime ingredient in a whole host of cocktails, from the Tequila Sunrise to the Alabama Slammer. Cocktail Flow has the lot, complete with full instructions. £free / iOS, Android

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V E R S U S S M A R T WAT C H E S

Smarter than the average wear They’re both serious wearables for discerning geeks, but which of these feature-packed smartwatches can take on the Apple Watch?

Nixon Mission What’s the story?

There’s making a statement, and then there’s sticking a bright orange smartwatch on your wrist. Nixon’s Mission is big, bright and bulky – there’s really no missing it, but then it’s hardly your average watch. The Mission is built for extremes. Everything is made from stainless steel, so it’ll withstand a beating – or a wipeout, if you’re surgically attached to your surfboard – and the rugged rubber strap is just as tough. It’s completely watertight, with a clip protecting the microphone so you can stay hands-free even after you’ve given it a dunking.

Is it any good?

[ Words Tom Morgan ]

The 1.39in circular OLED screen is one of the best you’ll find on an Android Wear watch. There’s no ‘flat tyre’ gap like you get on a Moto 360, and it’s easy enough to read outdoors, even through sunglasses. You shouldn’t have any problems seeing your ski stats while you’re on the mountain, even if you keep your goggles on. Battery life isn’t the best, though. You could probably squeeze two days of light use between charges, but realistically you’ll be plugging in every night. And expect a full charge to drain in three hours when you use GPS – hardly ideal for an all-day outing.

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Samsung Gear S3 What’s the story?

Forget square screens and clever crowns; the Gear S3 feels like the real deal. It’s got a fully round display, funky rotating bezel and circular-centric OS that actually makes sense on your wrist. Tizen might just be the best watch software out there. And yes, that includes Apple’s watchOS. The S3 is bigger than the old S2, but the leather strap and stainless steel finish on this Classic version give it a real touch of class. There’s more room inside for a bigger battery, which easily lasts two days on a full charge, along with neat tech like Samsung Pay… once that actually shows up the UK.

Is it any good?

It might not look it, but the Gear S3 Classic is pretty tough. You can’t take it swimming, admittedly, but it’ll shrug off a rain shower. More importantly, the whole thing feels super-snappy and responsive thanks to a speedy new CPU. The OLED screen is gorgeous, and really shows off the skills of the Tizen OS – it’s really slick, even if the built-in watch faces don’t give you loads of information at a glance. This is easily the best smartwatch out there for Android fans, and narrowly slots in behind the Apple Watch when it comes to feature-packed hardware.

Price £349 / stuff.tv/NixonMission Tech 1.39in 400x400 OLED ● Accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, GPS, thermometer, altimeter, e-compass ● Wi-Fi, Bluetooth ● 400mAh battery ● 48x48x16mm, 101g

Price £349 / stuff.tv/GearS3 Tech 1.3in 360x360 OLED ● Accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, GPS, heart-rate ● Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth ● 380mAh battery ● 46x49x12.9mm, 59g

Stuff says

Stuff says

This is the base-jumping, ski-slaloming, wave-riding Android Wear watch of choice

Beats Android Wear at its own game – a few more apps and Samsung has a winner here

THAT’S GOT TO SMART: WAR OF THE SENSORS ● Tricksy Nixy There’s no shortage of sensors inside the Nixon – you get an altimeter, thermometer, barometer and compass. There’s GPS on board too, but annoyingly no heart-rate sensor. This feels like an oversight – you just won’t be getting the full story if you take it running, let alone go skiing with it. ● Super Sammy With built-in GPS and a heart-rate monitor, there’s no excuse not to get fit with a Gear S3 on your wrist. It’ll recognise anything more than a gentle walk and record it in Samsung’s S Health fitness diary, so you can track your progress over time. It’ll also count star jumps, crunches and sit-ups – no button presses required.


V E R S U S S M A R T WAT C H E S

1 Surf’s app

The Mission app tracks surfing and skiing locations for conditions, so you’ll know when it’s the perfect time to get out there.

2 Just like all the wrist

Outside of its snow and surf apps, the Mission works pretty much like any other watch running the Android Wear OS.

3 Low on apps

Samsung still doesn’t have much in the way of watch apps. It’s the one key area where Tizen lags behind Android Wear… for now.

4 High on straps

The Gear S3 Classic rocks a mean leather strap, but the sportier Frontier version has a workout-friendly rubber one instead.

T W EST IN NE R

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WHY DO I NEED A DAC?

TESTED DACs

3 OF THE BEST

DACs

BEST FOR GREAT VALUE

Want to boost your smartphone’s sound? These plug-in gadgets will make it sing

You don’t, but try any of these out and you’ll want one. All phones have built-in DACs to convert digital data to analogue audio; devices like these just do it much better. You’ll notice if you have good headphones.

BEST FOR SOUND QUALITY BEST FOR POCKET POWER

TEAC HA-P50 What’s the story?

No, the HA-P50 isn’t Batman’s hip flask reproduced for the masses, but it’s still pretty smart. A cheaper alternative to the Oppo on the right, it comes with a stack of inputs and a portable battery pack to power itself. At 210g it’s a bit heavier than some, but not enough to be a strain. You’ll still have no trouble carrying this on your daily commute.

DAC’s more like it?

What’s the story?

A USB-sized treat, the DragonFly costs under £200 and will make your Spotify playlists sound near-on unrecognisable. In a good way, of course. And because it’s so tiny there’s nothing stopping you from wedging it in next to your wallet. Be careful with loose change, though – this thing chips quite easily.

Oppo HA-2 SE What’s the story?

Not content with making surprisingly good smartphones, Chinese manufacturer Oppo has dipped its fingers into the grubby world of hi-fi with the leatherbound HA-2 SE. As a headphone amp and DAC, not only will it finesse your digital music collection – it’ll also bring back a 3.5mm jack to your iPhone.

DAC’s more like it?

While it can’t quite match the Oppo for detail and texture, this DAC is still nothing to sneer at. It’s got that quality of really letting you hear the instruments interact. Close your eyes and it’s as though you’re headbanging next to Angus and the rest of AC/DC – and who doesn’t fancy that? On more laid-back tunes the TEAC’s timing shines, with room given for each sound to occupy its own space.

DAC’s more like it?

Even though there’s a cheaper DragonFly Black kicking about for £90, this Red is the DAC you deserve. A huge improvement on simply plugging your headphones straight into your phone, it delivers a significantly more sophisticated listen. In particular, you’re going to notice just how much better bass is with the Red fired up.

Even though it’s bigger than the DragonFly, this Oppo is still only 12mm thick and 175g. Plus it’s about as well connected as Vito Corleone, with ports for USB and miniUSB as well as that headphone jack. And it won’t let you down when it comes to sound either. The detail on offer here is such that you can really hear hands plucking at guitar strings, bows scratching across violins and individual voices within a lush harmony.

Price £231 / stuff.tv/HAP50

Price £169 / stuff.tv/DragonFlyRed

Price £289 / stuff.tv/HA2SE

Stuff says

Stuff says

Stuff says

This is a good DAC for its price tag… trouble is, the Oppo is just that little bit better 84

AudioQuest DragonFly Red

Small but elegant, hitting a near-on perfect balance between sound and portability

Whether you’re into hip-hop or metal, this has the dynamics, timing and detail to deliver


HEARING IS BELIEVING

The M3 Soundbar. We know hearing is believing when it comes to sound quality. We can tell you it will fill your living room with superbly detailed and dynamic sound from both music and movies, but you’d be taking our word for it. To hear for yourself how the M3 brings life to sound, visit one of the approved Q Acoustics retailers below. Bringing Life to Sound.

Built-In Subwoofer

aptX® Bluetooth

Search Q Acoustics M3

Ultra Wide Sound Dispersion

MoviEQ™ Enhanced Listening

#hearingisbelieving

Visit qacoustics.co.uk/hear to find out more.


S BO ON ON IC S 86

ONE FLEXSON VINYLPLAY

TWO SONOS BOOST

THREE FLIC

Wireless streaming, meet your grandpa. The Flexson VinylPlay is a classic turntable with a modern twist: digital output. And yes, you can hook it up to a Sonos system. It’ll plug right into the Sonos Play:5’s aux input or you can get hold of a Sonos Connect (£279), which adds analogue phono inputs.

As first-world problems go, having temperamental Wi-Fi is right up there. But health studies show that a stuttering Sonos system can be a real migraine inducer. That’s why you need a Sonos Boost, which bypasses faulty Wi-Fi by plugging into your router to create a network just for your Sonos speakers.

This smart button is designed to work with everything from your phone to Philips Hue lights, but its app also works with Sonos. You can choose what quick clicks, double clicks and long presses do, including changing tracks and volume. You can stick Flic anywhere or, for full nerd points, clip it to your belt.

£200 / amazon.co.uk

£79 / sonos.com

US$34 / flic.io


NO TH W D IS O

NO TH W T ES RY E

INSTANT UPGRADES

PLEX

1 DITCH THE SONOS APP

2 TALK NERDY

3 FIND YOUR SWEET SPOT

Until recently, to control your speakers you had to use the Sonos app and its slightly labyrinthine menus. But now you can use Spotify Connect to bypass the official app. Launch Spotify on your home network and you’ll see your Sonos speakers in the ‘devices available’ section. Come home and switch from headphones to your Sonos rig in roughly 3.4 seconds.

Sonos has announced that a 2017 software update will soon allow owners of Alexa-enabled devices to voice-control their Sonos speakers. Yes, even models like the Play:1 that don’t have a line-in, because the voice control will cleverly work via your Wi-Fi. Until then, Sonos Play:5 owners can get a taste of the future by plugging an Echo Dot into the speaker’s aux input and yelling Spotify commands.

For years, Sonos gear wasn’t much use for home cinema duties. But the Sonos Playbar launched it into the big leagues, and you can now tune the system to suit your room’s acoustics using Trueplay. Go into the Sonos app’s ‘room settings’, and you can turn your iPhone or iPad’s mic into a mini sound engineer. It’ll listen to the room’s acoustics and sort out any nasty resonances.

One of the most recent additions to Sonos, Plex is an app that lets you stream content stored on other devices. The aim is to make it feel as if all your media is part of one library. £free / plex.tv

COLORYOURSOUND WRAPS

ColorYourSound makes highquality Sonos fabric wraps that fit in properly with your lounge’s tasteful decor. from €21 / color yoursound.com

[ Words Andrew Williams ]

4 GIVE IT A WRIST If you don’t fancy barking at your Alexa-connected Sonos speakers, a subtle alternative is tapping your smartwatch. Sonos doesn’t officially support watch control yet, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some nice options. The ZonePlay app (£2.99) lets you control Sonos speakers from your Apple Watch, and canny Android Wear developers have also made the Sonos Wear app (£1.73).

5 GET BETTER COMMENTARY Around our way, naff football commentators can end up getting more stick than the players. Luckily, you can use Sonos to paste over their bad jokes and sloppy schtick. Use the TuneIn Radio app to fire up your favourite sports station, turn the TV volume down and relax as the game is accompanied by commentary you actually want to listen to.

6 SURROUND YOURSELF You may know the basics of Sonos surround sound. There’s the awesome Playbar, and you can add a Sonos Sub, plus some Play:1s as rears if you like. If your TV has an optical audio output and can put out Dolby Digital 5.1, you’re good to go. But it’s not game over if it doesn’t: you just need to get an optical splitter so you can hook up your consoles, Sky box and so on, missing out the TV middle man.

DEEZER ELITE

A couple of services let you stream CD-quality lossless audio, wiping out those last little specs of wireless compromise. Deezer Elite is just for Sonos users. £14.99/month / deezer.com

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FIRST TEST ONEPLUS 3T

OP3: Brexit edition Our favourite smartphone of 2016 has had a modest upgrade – is that enough to keep it ahead of the slavering pack?

5 from £399 / stuff.tv/OnePlus3T When the OnePlus 3 came out, the world was a very different place. The UK wasn’t leaving the EU, Toblerones were still proper triangles, and Donald Trump wasn’t filling the US government with Marvel villains. A new era demands a new phone, but thankfully OnePlus hasn’t gone all scary on us with the 3T. This is just a OnePlus 3 with a few extras – even if that does mean the price has gone up from £329 to £399. At first glance you won’t notice any differences at all, apart from the new ‘gunmetal’ colour. It’s still slim, all aluminium and a real looker. The CPU has been upgraded to a Snapdragon 821, the RAM is faster, the battery is bigger, the selfie camera has twice as many megapixels, and there’s a 128GB option. Are these extra upgrades worth the extra cash? In all honesty, no. But considering how the pound’s bellyflop must have dissolved the profit margin on the OnePlus 3 in this country, we can’t really complain.

1 Amped up The 3T has a 3400mAh battery, which is a fair chunk bigger than the OnePlus 3’s 3000mAh cell. It actually fared slightly worse in our stamina tests, however, and with normal use its longevity is similar to the old phone’s.

3

1

2 Snapped up OnePlus has upgraded the front camera’s sensor from 8MP to 16MP. The new handset’s selfies are smoother and in certain conditions less noisy, but if you’re hoping for loads more detail you simply won’t get it.

4

88

Good Meh Evil

T ol his d O is ne sig Pl nif us ica 3 nt ye ly … t l pr it but oo ic st o ks ier ill n ve th is sp ab e ry an ar cs a sim th ga lo ila e i n. ne Th r… ,y su e ou pe fin ha r- ge qu rp ve ick rin to sa tim t sc y Ah e. ann st , g er ab o re ilis od ac at ne ts io w in n n s, ow the w so O or ft re ver ks wa all al w re y lc ith v an am y e 4K ide be ra . o tte pe r t rfo Th h an rm w at el li be an l w tt fo ce ith le s re isn , t ’t ot pe ho he ak ug r h er h. c ig o h- m en pa d p res ho fa ne irly Tw s. ba o tte ho u ry rs – of 2% v m ideo or lo et p T ha s 1 of hat n O 7% ho m w ay ne of it be Pl f th re d us e po o 3. w rt n sb t at o a te tig … ry h us and st ten ing it at in ’ s us g th e e s as … up up ily er pu -q m uic pe kD db as ack h c to ha 10 rg 0% er .

[ Words Andrew Williams ]

24 hours with the OnePlus 3T

1min

2mins

4mins 10mins

15mins 20mins

4hrs

4.5hrs

6hrs


FIRST TEST ONEPLUS 3T

shop

2

Download the app and scan this page to get the best OnePlus 3T deals.

Tech specs Screen 5.5in 1920x1080 AMOLED Processor Octa-core Snapdragon 821 @ 2.35GHz OS Android 6.0.1 Cameras 16MP rear, 16MP front Storage 64GB/128GB, non-expandable RAM 6GB Battery 3400mAh Dimensions 153x75x7.4mm, 158g

Cam back for more? The front camera may have had the headline upgrade, but it’s the rear unit that matters to serious snappers

Silky skills

As before, the 3T’s camera is a joy to use, but it’s not stripped back to the bone. Features include slo-mo video, panorama, an excellent auto HDR mode, and a few extras that willl please photo nuts…

3 Softened up As ever, this OnePlus has great stripped-back software. While there is a custom interface pasted on top of Android, the aim is to make it look a lot like the normal OS, just with more customisation on tap. 5 Def warmed up There’s nothing dramatically new in the screen, which has typically ripe colours, good sharpness and great contrast. Without any tweaks the 3T seems to have a slightly warmer tone than before, but you can customise this.

T an he d t off he ici y al O do n n’ eP t c lu os s It’ t o ca bu s a ve ses t t pi r t lo he ty he ok t up he od go da 3 ds o T t T ew d . d, oe fo her i ll c sn un e om ’t d i are f y lo e s run ou ad oo No m so n. ug in f l at e i t Th th tle , em t us is w e a th en ea s t ing us ks he fe . to On els be e eP v lu ery s3 b …b it ut … it a m if sf ay y as o no u ti t b alr n e w ea d or y o th w up n o gr ne ad o ing f t . hos e,

4 Hardened up All the hardware finishing touches that help to define a OnePlus phone are present. The speaker sits on the bottom, the finger scanner is unchanged, and you get the same clever silencer switch found on the old phone.

14hrs

15hrs 18hrs

22hrs

24hrs

RAW talent

You can shoot nerd-style RAW files for expert editing later, and if you want to take on more control there’s a good manual mode that lets you set shutter speed, white balance etc.

Lethal finish

HQ mode maxes out the camera’s detail-capturing abilities for amazing night shots – the amount of fine detail you can get from this £400 phone is fantastic. The stabilisation tech also helps with this.

Holding role

So, this is an excellent all-round camera, but it doesn’t have any of the next-gen tech you’ll see in phones that cost more – the dual-cam antics of the Huawei Mate 9 and iPhone 7 Plus, for example.

We get the sense that this phone is only here because they couldn’t really afford to sell us the OnePlus 3 any more. That’s understandable, given the economic upheavals we’ve seen. If the original OnePlus 3 were still on sale, we’d advise you to save your £70… but when the 3T’s real rivals are over £500, this is still the best choice. @wwwdotandrew

STUFF SAYS It’s not quite as bargain-tastic any more, but the 3T still packs performance where it counts 89


VERSUS MUSIC STREAMING SERVICES

USE IT WITH... MARSHALL LONDON From the rock amp kings, this is claimed to be ‘the loudest phone on Earth’… but it comes with a set of earphones anyway. £399 / marshallheadphones.com

T TES R E NN I W

USE IT WITH... LG HI-FI PLUS This LG G5 is wearing the Hi-Fi Plus module, a 32-bit DAC and amp co-designed by B&O Play for audiophile sound in a smartphone. £120 / lg.com

Thank who for the music? Spotify Premium With over 30 million songs, there’s plenty to listen to. But how easily can you find the ones you’ll love? Thanks to Spotify’s curated Discover Weekly and Release Radar playlists, this couldn’t be simpler. Whether you’re listening on desktop or phone, Spotify’s suite of apps is smart and uncluttered. There’s always a new playlist in sight, while the search function reliably delivers the songs and albums you’re looking for. If you’re stepping up from a free account, Spotify Premium costs £9.99/month for unlimited ad-less streaming and more downloads than you could possibly need. A family package for up to six accounts is £14.99/month.

Songs 30 million+ Desktop macOS, Windows 10 Mobile iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry Streaming bitrate 320kbps Offline sync Yes

VS

1. CONTENT

At over 40 million songs, Amazon’s new streaming service has a much bigger catalogue than Spotify. That said, most people will struggle to tell the difference. And Music Unlimited can’t compete with Spotify’s recommendation tools.

2. SOFTWARE

Music Unlimited’s apps were hit and miss in our testing. We couldn’t install its Mac incarnation, and had to suffer with a web app built in Flash. On mobile, everything worked without a hitch. And on Echo? It’s superb.

3. VALUE

1 2 3

TECH RATER

[ Words Rob Leedham ]

● Price £9.99/month / spotify.com

90

Amazon Music Unlimited

If you’re a Prime Subscriber, adding Music Unlimited costs £7.99/month or £79 for the year; if not, it’s £9.99/month. You can also get a £3.99 monthly sub for your Echo… and family plans are £14.99/month. Confusing? Right.

Songs 40 million+ Desktop macOS, Windows 10 Mobile iOS, Android, FireOS Streaming bitrate 256kbps Offline sync Yes

● Price £9.99/month / amazon.co.uk

STUFF SAYS

Amazon might have more music, but Spotify still offers the best streaming service


Developing the next generation of Sport Scientists and Coaches.

Sam Lawson, UCS Sport Science Graduate. Now Director of Performance Analysis in the US. Be bold. Be brave. Go far.

www.ucs.ac.uk/football

#UCSgofar


BETA YOURSELF

Mmm, chewy, gooey Nougat… Andrew Williams reveals how to extract maximum sweetness from Android 7.1, Google’s latest and most satisfying mobile operating system THE BASICS Catch a cat. Every version of Android features an Easter Egg game, and 7.1’s is a feline version of Pokémon Go. Open the ‘About Phone’ part of Settings then tap repeatedly on the Android Version entry. A few taps then a long tap on the Android N logo will magic-up a virtual plate for leaving treats on. Embrace folders.

Almost no-one customises their Android handset as much as they should. Take full advantage of Nougat’s flexibility by tweaking the five app icons at the bottom of its homescreen. Make a folder for the games you’re currently playing by dragging game icons onto each other, then long-press and drag it onto this bar.

as it arrives and you can make them silent, or block them altogether.

Conjure an instant playlist. Nougat laughs

Quick-draw your camera. At least twice a

week we miss a picture of a squirrel posing on a bench because we’re fumbling around with our phones. Luckily, Android 7.1 lets you quickly double-tap the power button to launch the camera. You can switch this gesture on and off in Settings > Moves.

Banish annoying app messages. Notifications are

the lifeblood of a phone, but no-one wants to read that Captain Flibble’s Gem Farm misses them. Android 7.1 makes it easier than ever to block nuisance apps. Just long-press on any notification

in the face of the iPhone’s 3D Touch gestures, adding the same features without any special hardware. Long-press the Play Music icon, for example, and you can start a random ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ playlist with a single tap.

Get help, stat. Until now, if you had problems with your Android phone you had to pester a geeky friend or wade through forums. But there’s now help built into Android 7.1. ‘Support’ is one of the main tabs in Settings, and it lets you live-chat or call one of Google’s geniuses. There’s no charge either.

BATTERY BOOSTERS Avoid a blackout. Get an emergency battery lifeline at the end of the day by setting Battery Saver mode to click on when your charge hits 5%. Keep Facebook on a leash. The Facebook app

siphons off juice like it’s stockpiling for the apocalypse. Stop it using mobile data when inactive by going to Settings > Apps > Facebook > Data Usage.

Get a ‘time of death’ report. Tap the battery icon

in the notification drop-down bar to get a graph of how long your phone is going to last.

92


LEVEL UP WITH...

GOOGLE DAYDREAM

One of the most exciting bits of Nougat is that it waves in the next generation of mobile VR. Sadly, the Daydream View is only compatible with a few phones, but Google promises more will soon follow. £69 / madebygoogle.com/vr

LENS LAUNCHER GOOGLE ASSISTANT

MULTITASKING Master notifications. You can now fire back WhatsApp bants without opening the app. Tap ‘Reply’ in the message notification. Double up on apps.

Fire up the first app you want to open, then long-press the square soft key and select a second app to fill the other half of the screen.

Browse two sites at once. Open an article, then long-press the square soft key. Now tap the three-pip button in the top right of Chrome and select ‘Move to Other Window’.

What’s in a name? To get Google to call you Magisterium Archibald (or whatever name you feel you deserve), hold down the middle soft key to bring up the Assistant, then tap the three-pip button at the top-right. Now go to Settings, tap your account entry at the top and then Nickname, where you type in your Boaty McBoatface nom de plume. Play a game. Ask the Assistant to ‘play a game’ and you’ll get options including a cricket quiz, chess, and a few mobile browser games. Get MTV via Android.

If you’re bored, you can get the Google Assistant to play a randomly picked music video on YouTube just by saying “Play a music video”. ‘Choose your genre’ can be a little hit and miss, mind.

FINE TUNING

If your first reaction to the new Nougat interface is “Good Lord, this is rubbish”, swap it out for something else. Our favourite launchers include Evie and Microsoft’s Arrow Launcher, but we’re also partial to the bizarre Lens Launcher. £free / play.google.com

Scan for notifications.

Swipe the fingerprint scanner to bring down notifications. It’s genius, and you can switch it on in Settings > Moves.

Free up space instantly.

Long-press the Photos icon then tap Free Up Space to delete photos that have already been uploaded to Google’s cloud.

Change the mood. Go to Settings > About Phone, then keep tapping the Build Number until the phone says developer options have been unlocked. You’ll now find some Animation Scale controls.

CHROMECAST ULTRA

This phone-streaming mini monster can now handle 4K and HDR video. With it you can fling content from your phone to TV, and play your mobile games on the big screen. Who needs a PS4 Pro? £69 / store.google.com

93


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G R O U P T E ST 4 K GA M I N G T Vs

Pixel blast: The best 4K TVs for gaming Got a fancy new console for Christmas? You’re gonna want to upgrade to one of these tellies… BE S VA T LU E

Samsung UE55KS7000 £1099 / stuff.tv/UE55KS7000 If you’ve thought about getting a 4K telly, then you’ve no doubt had a look at Samsung’s KS7000 series. These TVs are the cheapest you can buy that come with the all-important UHD Premium seal of approval for HDR, 10-bit colour depth and loads more good stuff. Better still, their picture quality is stuffed full of

96

clarity and detail. Playing The Last of Us on one of these things is absolutely sensational. More expensive TVs will give you an even better viewing experience but, for the price, it’s hard to knock Samsung’s entry-level 4K set. STUFF SAYS Pound for pound, this is an unbeatable 4K TV deal

JARGON BUSTER HDR

While 4K is your TV’s resolution, High Dynamic Range is the contrast it’s capable of. Think deep blacks and dazzling whites.

INPUT LAG

The time a TV takes to respond to your console’s instructions. The more powerful a set is, the quicker it can update its pixels.

NITS

A measurement of light output, not those pesky hair-crawlers. Most UHD Premium TVs are at least 1000 nits bright.

PANEL BIT DEPTH You want a 10-bit depth, which means your TV can reproduce 1024 shades for every primary colour.


G R O U P T E ST 4 K GA M I N G T Vs

4K CONSOLES RATED

Panasonic TX-40DX600B PlayStation 4 Pro Sony’s latest machine is the best you can get for 4K gaming. Even though most titles are upscaled, they look fantastic.

£429 / stuff.tv/TX40DX600B Even though 4K TV prices have dropped considerably in the last year, these screens still don’t come cheap… unless you settle for this Panasonic. At just 40 inches in size, the TX-40DX600B won’t give you the full impact of UHD, and it doesn’t support HDR either. But if those shortcomings aren’t

£1898 / stuff.tv/OLED55B6V

deal-breakers or you’re actively looking for a smaller set, then this is the one to get. Whether you’re playing the vibrant Ratchet & Clank or enthralled in the murky world of Shadow of Mordor, colours are pretty much spot-on. STUFF SAYS An ideal purchase if you’ve limited space for a new TV

Xbox One S Project Scorpio will upstage it later this year, but the One S is still pretty ace, especially for the HDRenabled Gears of War 4. Plus it has a 4K Blu-ray player.

We love LG’s OLED TVs, but they’re expensive. Really, really expensive. While this B6 model won’t crop up in your local Poundland any time soon, it is LG’s only UHD Premium TV available for under two grand. So sell a kidney and you’ll have yourself a sensational gaming setup. What makes OLED so special? Contrast. There’s

no muddiness when dark and bright colours interact. The thought of playing Resident Evil 7 in 4K and HDR on this thing is enough to give us heart palpitations. Anything lurking in the shadows is guaranteed to have us leaping out of our skin. STUFF SAYS If you can afford to go OLED, this TV is a treat

TES WI T NN ER

LG OLED65E6V £3999 / stuff.tv/OLED65E6V

Nvidia Shield TV Got a powerful PC but prefer playing games on your TV? The Shield will stream Fallout 4, Overwatch and the like to your set. But it won’t do HDR.

LG OLED55B6V

Money no object? This is the TV your lifetime’s worth of skulduggery deserves. A 65in OLED with the UHD Premium seal of approval, it’s an absolute stunner. The glass panel itself is only millimetres thick, while picture quality is mesmerising. There’s a precision on offer here that’s rare, even for a 4K HDR TV. Hooking

up a standard PS4 or Xbox One would be doing a disservice – it demands 4K. Turn on Game Mode for a 33ms response time. It’s slower than the Samsung on the left, but OLED means minimal motion blur and deep blacks. STUFF SAYS The TV of your dreams and ours – shame it’s so pricey

Panasonic TX-65DX750 £1599 / stuff.tv/TX65DX750 From pizza to The Witcher 3, sometimes bigger really is best. While that’s not quite the case with this Panasonic, it still offers plenty of TV for your cash. At a whopping great 65in screen size, you’d expect nothing less. Alas, what you get in terms of scale isn’t quite matched in subtlety. So while blacks are almost as good as what you’d

get from an OLED set, the TX-65DX750 gets a bit carried away when dealing with shadows and juggling them with bright light. Still, you’ll likely be too immersed in the epic landscapes of Battlefield 1 to notice these shortcomings. STUFF SAYS For sheer scale, we can’t sniff at this Panasonic

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TEST GAMES

Final Fantasy XV Ten years in the making, this open-world RPG is one of the strangest games we’ve played for a long while – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing

PS4, Xbox One / stuff.tv/FinalFantasyXV

our first response to Final Fantasy XV might be one of relief that it finally exists. Your second might well be one of confusion – even though this feels like the most ‘western’ game in the series yet, in some ways it’s quite baffling, especially if you haven’t seen the prequel movie, Kingsglaive. You play as Prince Noctis, heir to the Lucis throne, with magical abilities to phase in and out of space to warp across the battlefield. Noctis and his three

Y

friends are on a road trip to meet his bride to be, Lunafreya. She happens to be connected to the enemy nation Niflheim, and this is key to peace between the two warring countries. Such a middling story is elevated by the characters. Even though they look like a J-pop boy band, the friendship of the four young men is a joy to watch, giving the game plenty of heart. Useful tweaks to gameplay have also been incorporated. Levelling up has changed, as

you now bank XP after a fight, and it all levels up later when you rest at a camp. You only control Noctis in a fight, but can have your buddies help out by telling them to use special moves. While it never goes all the way to being a full Bayonetta-style combat system, you can certainly surprise enemies with a backstab or a combo from your team-mates. It’s rewarding, and looks amazing on screen. In fact, on a PS4 Pro with HDR turned on and settings on High,

this is a gorgeous game. It may have taken a decade to make but, visually, it can compete with anything on the console. With so many changes, XV feels like Final Fantasy in name only – it’s a mix of ideas that feel sandwiched together. But the combat remains fun, and the world is so compelling that it begs you to take your time to explore. It might not have seemed possible, but Square Enix has delivered a game that really works for fans and newcomers alike. Adam Cook

STUFF SAYS Not the best Final Fantasy experience, but an incredible ride all the same 98


TEST GAMES

World of their own

With ‘wait mode’ you can pause combat and study the battlefield.

Travelling across the vast open-world map feels like a genuine road trip.

The story is a little shorter than expected from a Final Fantasy game, but XV’s brilliance is in its wonderful open world. It feels vast and, especially in the early stages, allows for exploratory rewards. People will offer you mundane side quests, sure, but there are also the hunts – basically a mini version of Capcom’s Monster Hunter series. Each party member has his own skills which play into the open world: Noctis is a keen angler, while Prompto is an amateur photographer who actually takes selfies and snaps pictures at random points as you play, allowing you to pick and share the best ones at camp. Ignis is a chef, and you can find new recipes for him to cook for you at the end of the day. These also give you a stat boost, adding another layer to the game. And then there’s Gladiolus, the big burly dude who’s an expert survivalist and can find you useful supplies. They’re a nice bunch, and genuinely come across as friends.

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TEST GAMES

PS4, Xbox One, PC / stuff.tv/Dishonored2

Dishonored 2

Itching to slay your way to the top, or just want to right some big old wrongs? This superior stealth game will help you fill that Assassin’s Creed void – just as bloodily, or as cunningly, as you like

fter a year of political turmoil, Dishonored 2 takes you away from reality and immerses you in, um, political turmoil. But rather than just moaning on Twitter, Arkane Studios’ latest lets you change the landscape. You take the role of an assassin bent on reclaiming the throne and gaining revenge. So if you have any pent-up frustrations with corrupt politicians, this is the perfect game for you to unleash your rage in a vicious rampage. Or perhaps you’re

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a pacifist and prefer to defeat your enemies without killing anyone? That’s the beauty of this game – you can choose to play it however you please, and each path gives you a different experience. Right off the bat, you’re given a choice that will affect the rest of the game: Emily or Corvo. They’re very different characters, with their own motivations and personalities, so the choice affects more than just the size of your breastplate. Emily’s abilities include ‘Domino’, which links enemies together so they all suffer

the same fate. Don’t have enough sleep darts to take out four guards? Just take out one and they’ll all stagger to their knees. Corvo’s standout ability is ‘Possession’, allowing you to jump inside another person’s skin – ideal for discreetly scoping out an area. All the powers feel useful and it’s a whole lot of fun to experiment with them. This adds a bounty of replay value – no two playthroughs will be identical. You can play the whole game without taking a single life, or you can fight your enemies

head on, challenging them to fights or burning them alive by igniting barrels of whale oil. Admittedly, the swordfighting isn’t great – while there are plenty of ways to satisfy your bloodlust, this is a game that has been built for stealth. Aside from visual upgrades and a few new powers, the gameplay is essentially the same as in the first Dishonored – but there’s plenty of new content, with more imaginative level designs and environments that are a joy to explore. Ryan Jones

STUFF SAYS Whether you want to sneak or slaughter, this is as good as campaigns get 100


TEST GAMES

See it from my angle

The clockwork soldiers are tough – taking them out silently isn’t an option.

Grisly sights like this are common, whale oil being a primary energy source.

Name the best stealth game series of recent years: Metal Gear Solid, Assassin’s Creed, Hitman. What do they all have in common? They’re in third-person perspective. This makes sense, as it’s easier to know whether your feet are securely perched on a ledge, or whether there’s an enemy to your rear. Dishonored 2 spits at this tradition by taking a first-person approach… and against all the odds, it succeeds quite spectacularly. In fact, this adds a new level of suspense as you need to constantly check your back for sneaky patrolling guards. It also makes the free-running more exhilarating, which – along with the responsive controls – turns darting across rooftops into an absolute delight. Each level design also has a unique setting and quirk to keep things fresh. The most noteworthy include a mansion occupied by a mad genius, of which the rooms can be switched around like a complex puzzle, and Dust Town, where sandstorms intermittently assault your senses. The best of them all is Episode 7, which has one of the most memorable levels you’re likely to experience in gaming. We won’t give away the surprise, but you’ll surely recognise it when it comes.

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TEST GAMES

PS4 / stuff.tv/LastGuardian

The Last Guardian This emotional adventure game can be seriously infuriating at times… but who cares when you get to hang out with the adorable Trico? rico is a cat. Or maybe he’s a dog. And maybe he’s a she. Whatever it is genetically, for the purposes of The Last Guardian’s story this is your giant, feathery, winged companion – and it doesn’t take long to establish a bond. We’d love to say that the alliance between the two main characters is uneasy, hard-fought and fragile, but actually Trico is your best friend almost instantly. If your heart doesn’t break a little as you see him become more and more battered and bruised over the course of your journey together, you have no heart at all. The presentation is beautiful throughout, particularly if you’re playing on a screen that supports HDR. It’s a watercolour-inspired aesthetic, and as you watch Trico’s feathers shimmer in a bright light or take in one of the many vertiginous vistas, there’s nothing to do but marvel. But that’s not to say that this is a flawless technical achievement. There’s a stodginess to the controls

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that sometimes stampedes through the fourth wall. And that annoyance is nothing compared with trying to get Trico to do what you want. There is nothing at all fun about finally figuring out the solution to a problem, then having to spend a further 10 minutes screaming at your telly because a stupid cat/dog/eagle won’t take the blasted jump. You encounter these issues a fair bit over the course of the game’s journey… but at least they’re invariably followed by something brilliant, or beautiful, or both. And, in the end, that’s where The Last Guardian succeeds. It’s absolutely riddled with flaws and frustrations, but while they annoy the hell out of you in the moment, they’re surprisingly forgettable in the face of an emotional, dramatic and beautiful overall experience. For all of its issues, this is a lovely, lovely game that will stay with you a long time after its 12-ish hours are done. And there are very few games that have that sort of impact. Tom Parsons

STUFF SAYS It has its flaws, but The Last Guardian is irresistible all the same 102

Missing a jump because the game reacted 14 years too late is very, very frustrating.

The boy is beautifully animated, and will hop on the spot when nervous.


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REVIEWS

Media hoard Three new films that all begin T with ‘H’, three new albums that don’t, and four ways to learn via streaming that war is bad

WATCH

Hacksaw Ridge_cinema ndrew Garfield plays Desmond Doss – a man so patriotic he wants to go to war without a gun (or, to use his own term, as a ‘conscientious co-operator’). Garfield gives Doss almost Forrest Gump levels of naivety, and the first act is so wholesome you almost expect them to break into song at any moment – with only an abusive, alcoholic father even hinting at any darkness. Even Desmond’s time in boot camp is like a pre-watershed version of Full Metal Jacket, with Vince Vaughn’s drill sergeant more funny than frightening. Once Garfield and his comrades are shipped out to war, though, things get gory very quickly – the initial assault on Okinawa almost makes the opening of Saving

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Private Ryan look like Total Wipeout. But where Spielberg’s battle scenes were imbued with a level of humanity, Mel Gibson’s centrepiece is almost purely visceral. This brutality makes Doss’s lifesaving mission seem all the more heroic, though it’s hard to shake the feeling that Gibson is using the medic’s pacifism as a free pass to portray the Japanese soldiers as a subhuman swarm. But this is Hollywood, so that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, and no doubt America will lap it up. At least, they will until someone points out that the hero of this true story is anti-guns… Tom Wiggins

Westerns aren’t about horses, hats and pistols any more – although brothers Toby and Tanner still use the latter to rob banks. But a soon-to-retire Texas Ranger is onto them… So far, so obvious, but Hell or High Water’s simple tug of war between good and bad-but-for-good-reason had added layers of murk. Tom Wiggins

This Antipodean adventure sees grumpy old bugger Hec (Sam Neill) and his wannabe-gangster foster son Ricky attempt to outrun and outwit the police in the wild New Zealand bush. It’s an irresistible combination of sweetness and hilarity that should go down well with the whole family. Tom Parsons

STUFF SAYS

STUFF SAYS

STUFF SAYS

Hell or High Water

_Blu-ray, DVD, VOD

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

_Blu-ray, DVD, VOD

WANT MORE LIKE THIS?


REVIEWS

STREAM

The White Helmets_Netflix Not all war films are about sharp-shooting soldiers or daredevil pilots. In Syria, a team of volunteers called the White Helmets wait for the sound of bombs before jumping in their makeshift emergency response van and speeding to the scene to put out fires and comb the rubble for survivors. This Netflix exclusive can only show so much in 40 minutes, but footage of a week-old baby being pulled alive from the ruins

GRITTY MUSIC WAR MOVIES FILMS

of a building will stay with you long after it’s over – and the way the group talk about barrel bombs like we discuss train delays tells you all you need to know about the danger of their day-to-day existence.

LISTEN

I See You_The xx You know how Nirvana’s thing was going very, very quiet and then really, really loud in the same song? Well, that’s kind of The xx’s deal as well… only at their barnstorming peak this trio notch things up to ‘ever so slightly less quiet’. But while headbangers won’t find much joy in I See You, the rest of you should know it’s their best record yet. Infusing the upbeat lustre of Jamie xx’s solo stuff with his

bandmates’ unerring thirst for melancholy, it rarely strays into the ‘lift music’ territory that occasionally let down their first two albums. Lips is the closest they have ever come to a full-on pop banger – handclaps and all – while Brave For You plucks at the heartstrings in virtuoso fashion. A true winter warmer. Rob Leedham STUFF SAYS

The Hurt Locker_Amazon Almost unbearably tense (at least until there’s a big boom), Kathryn Bigelow’s tale of a bomb disposal unit in Baghdad superbly captures the essence of modern warfare.

Only the Dead_Netflix Aussie journo Michael Ware’s camcorder footage of his time in Iraq is a tough watch… and gets tougher when an Al Qaeda leader chooses Ware as his mouthpiece to the West.

Full Metal Jacket_Now TV You can’t put a drill sergeant on screen these days without comparisons to R Lee Ermey’s fearsome Hartman from Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 classic.

Near to the Wild Heart of Life _Japandroids

Life Without Sound _Cloud Nothings

Japandroids’ last album was full of drinking music: tunes perfectly engineered for punching the air to while flinging beer all over your friends. This one isn’t as relentlessly full-on, so it doesn’t have quite the same singalong potential; but if you can’t spill beer to North East South West, you’re doing fun wrong. Tom Wiggins

The first thing that’ll come to mind when you hear this is probably early-’00s emo. So Cloud Nothings have mellowed? Not exactly. As the record goes on, more abrasive elements start to show… until, on Strange Year, Dylan Baldi’s scream of anguish returns at full force. Given the way 2016 went, can you blame him? Tom Wiggins

STUFF SAYS

STUFF SAYS

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Everywhere you are Read it, like it, share it

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TOP TEN

This gadget has leapt straight outta testing and into our rankings.

NEW

OF EVERYTHING Time changes everything, including Stuff Top Ten placings.

HOT BUY

BARGAIN BUY UPDATE Searing with techy genius, a product that’s set our hearts aflame.

A solid gold bargain. Worth owning, regardless of cashflow.

Smartphones The big question: Which life organiser? Tablets & headphones TVs Streaming essentials Fitness trackers Playlist: Daydream Laptops How to buy a laptop

108 109 110 112 113 114 115 116 117

Hi-fi Should I upgrade? PlayStation 4 Pro Consoles & VR Games Home cinema & smart home Cameras Budget buys 5-minute hacks

118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125

HOW TO USE THEM


TOP OP TE T TENS ENS SMARTPHONES ENS S ON S

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TIPS & TRICKS Above the Ab h volume l b button is an alert l slider. l d Flick l k it up to escape from f w k messages.. work

OT N W HOT NEW BUY UY

BARGAIN BUY

O OnePlus s 3T This h phone h is just like the OnePlus 3, aside from its higher h h price and nd a few little extras that don’t really ll change h h how w it is to use – or, crucially, where it sits relative ive to its pricier rivals. In other words, d it remains a bargain. If you could still get the h originall OnePlus nePlus 3, we’d advise you to save your £70 – but when the only genuine alternatives l to the he 3T cost over £500, this continues to be the he best smartphone choice f shrewd for h db buyers. s.

Try out the h gesture c controls by drawing d an ‘O’ on its turned-off screen to fire f up the h camera app.. Turn on the h camera’s manuall shooting h mode d to tinker k with h I ISO, shutter h speed d and d white h balance. b l .

Stuff says y It’s not quite as bargain-tastic any more, but the 3T still packs great performance ● NOW OW ADD THIS Rosewood case The O OnePlus ePlus 3T may be great ffor skinflints, k nflints, but keep your frugal sensibilities b lities to yourself with this lluxe-looking -l oking wood and Kevlar case. £20 / oneplus.net neplus.net

2

3

4 5 6 7

Samsung Galaxy S7

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

The Galaxy S7 looks a lot like the old S6 but has been improved all round, not least with an excellent camera. The Edge edition offers enhanced battery life, but pound for pound this model is actually the better buy. It sets a high bar for Samsung’s competitors.

The 7 and 7 Plus look almost identical to last year’s models, except for the glossy jet black option and Lightning headphone output. But they’re waterproof, processing power and battery life have been improved, and the Plus gets a tasty dual-lens camera.

Stuff says An imperious update of our favourite phone from 2015

Stuff says The best iPhone camera, screen and battery: there’s no better iOS choice

£550 / samsung.com

BARGAIN BUY

from £719 / apple.com

BARGAIN BUY

8 9

10

Samsung Galaxy l xy S7 Edge

£630 / samsung.com Basically the same phone as the standard S7, but with a nifty curved screen and superior battery life.

HTC 10

from £570 / htc.com This handset barely puts a foot wrong and has the battery life to survive the most impromptu pub trips.

Apple iPhone 7

from £599 / apple.com Forget the headphone furore; the iPhone 7 is a slick update packed with worthwhile new features.

LG G5

£530 / lg.com The first smartphone to do modular design in a big way – the scale of the G5’s ambition is breathtaking.

Lenovo Moto G4

from £149 / motorola.co.uk Showing every other big phone maker what can be done for less than £200. The No1 budget phone.

Vodafone Smart Prime 7

£75 / vodafone.co.uk On specs alone, the Smart Prime 7 easily holds its own against rivals that cost twice the price.

Apple iPhone SE

from £379 / apple.com The cheapest iPhone packs all the power of the iPhone 6s into the 4in shell of the iPhone 5s.

FOR UP-TO-DATE NEWS AND REVIEWS OF ALL THE BEST NEW PHONES, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10/SMARTPHONES

● Prices quoted are for handset only unless otherwise stated

£399 / oneplus.net l t


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THE BIG QUESTION TOP TENS

THE BIG WHICH APP SHOULD I QUESTION USE TO RUN MY LIFE? THE SIMPLE ONE

Bullet Journal Prefer writing in an actual paper notebook? This one has been designed for tracking the past, organising the present and planning the future, using a system of symbols. $24.95 / bulletjournal.com

1

WUNDERLIST from £free / Android, iOS wunderlist.com Given that the simplest to-do option is to ignore your phone and scribble on a scrap of paper (see the sidebar for great ways to do that), apps often try too hard to impress. Also, quite a lot of them are fine for one person wedded to a single device, but less useful when you want to get at your lists from various locations or bring other people along for the ride. Wunderlist is the antithesis of such products, being available in app form for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Windows Phone, and online for people lumbered with a BlackBerry. The base app is smart, simple and approachable. You can use

it to create straightforward to-do lists, or complex task management structures involving dates, sub-tasks and multiple people. Unrestricted versions of the office-like features require a £3.99/month pro upgrade, but the free version should do absolutely fine for most people.

NOW DO THIS… ADD FILES Wunderlist gives you the means to add more than just dates, reminders and notes – each task can also have a file attached. These can be grabbed from local storage on your smartphone or from Dropbox.

THE FRIENDLY ONE

PROUD

SPECIAL SKILL POMODORO TIMER Tap the clock icon to access an interval timer, then set ‘focus’ and ‘relax’ durations. You then work when ‘focus’ is shown and do whatever you want when ‘relax’ appears. And you know what? It actually works.

PEN TO PAPER

£3.99 / iOS ● £7.99 / macOS useproud.com Proud is split into three tabs: lists, reminders and history. In lists, you define your tasks, breaking them down into manageable chunks; anything assigned a time abruptly dashes over to the reminders tab; and completed tasks permanently snooze in history. What sets Proud apart from its contemporaries is its human points of reference – it talks about ‘this afternoon’ and ‘next week’ rather than cold, clinical hours and minutes. Fancy taking a break to watch a film? Go for it – Proud won’t complain, it’ll just bump your deadlines accordingly.

HABITICA

Self Journal This one’s all about balancing day-to-day tasks and larger life goals. You plan goals for the following three months, breaking them down into manageable chunks, and then create a daily action plan. £26 / bestself.co

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THE GAMEY ONE

£free (IAPs) / Android, iOS habitica.com Habitica turns life into a game, transforming task management chores into an RPG. Although the app includes the usual lists, everything is imagined as a game world populated by little NES-like heroes and horrors. Habits and tasks are monsters you duff up… and if you slip up in the real world, your pixelated mini-you gets a kicking.

Wrights Notes These notebooks let you customise the pages within. Facing pages can have different designs, including lines, dots, device wireframes, calendars and to-do lists. £17.49 / wrightsnotes.com

3

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TOP TENS TABLETS, HEADPHONES

1

110

HOT OT BUY UY

1

HOT BUY

BARGAIN BUY

Apple iPad Pro 9.7

SoundMagic E10C

The iPad Pro 9.7 takes everything we loved about Apple’s original 12.9in Pro tablet, makes it a lot more portable, and then even adds in a few cool extras of its own. The True Tone display, for example – which changes intensity and colour balance automatically based on ambient conditions – is an absolute marvel, while the 12MP shooter is frankly overkill for those brave enough to use it out and about. It’s expensive, yes, but quality comes at a price.

With the SoundMagic E10Cs you get fantastic sound for the money, a quality cable and plenty of ear tips – and unlike the E10Ss, you don’t need to tell these buds whether you’re plugging into an (old) iPhone or an Android phone. In truth, there’s still nothing out there that can topple SoundMagic as the king of cheap headphones, but the E10Cs prove that it is still possible to improve on something good without hammering up the price at the same time.

Stuff says Incredible power, superb features and flawless design: the iPad Pro 9.7 is pure tablet perfection

Stuff says A phenomenally good pair of headphones for the price, plus the remote now works with every phone

from £549 / apple.com

2

Apple iPad Mini 4

3

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8.0

4

Google Pixel C

5

Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 9.7

£39 / soundmagicheadphones.com

2

AKG K451

3

AKG Y50BT

4

Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless

5

Bose QuietComfort 35

BARGAIN BUY

from £379 / apple.com Just the right size for a great portable entertainment hub, while subtle display tweaks do great justice to games and graphic novels alike. Plus it will easily last three days on a charge. Stuff says The best small tablet you can buy right now

from £299 / samsung.com A top 8in Android tablet that packs loads of fab features into a small, lightweight design. It’s ace for reading magazines, playing games and watching films, while still being easy to hold in one hand. Stuff says Small but mighty, this is a seriously good tab

from £399 / store.google.com Turns out the future of laptops looks a lot like Google’s Android hybrid tablet.

£350 / samsung.com With a brilliant screen and serious stamina, this is our favourite full-size Android tablet.

HOT BUY

£40 / uk.akg.com These on-ears offer agile and punchy sound in a stylish foldable design. Add standard and three-button control cables for maximising compatibility, and there’s no excuse for not getting brilliant sound from your phone. Stuff says Fantastic sound for minimal cash

£115 / uk.akg.com Proof that good wireless sound doesn’t have to cost the Earth, these serve up truckloads of detail, with a full charge promising 20 hours… and with none of the hiss or popping that’s often a glitch of Bluetooth headphones. Stuff says Just the ticket for your iPhone 7

£229 / bowers-wilkins.co.uk The brand’s first foray into wireless brings luxury for your ears inside and out.

£280 / bose.co.uk These wireless QCs are high on clarity and spaciousness: perfect for a long-haul journey.

FOR THE FULL TOP TENS AND REVIEWS, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10/TABLETS & STUFF.TV/TOP-10/HEADPHONES


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TOP TENS TVs TIPS & TRICKS

112

Torn between MOTD and Mr Robot? LG’s WebOS 3.0 lets you split your screen across two channels.

1

Want to watch Netflix in 4K? You’ll need to opt for its £8.99/month Ultra HD package.

HOT BUY

LG OLED55C6V £2199 / lg.com

A truly stunning television. LG’s OLED panel can go blacker than most TVs and will dazzle your senses with its brightness; it offers sharply etched detail, excellent viewing angles and solid HD upscaling. It also boasts support for both HDR standards – HDR10 and Dolby Vision – so you’ll be able to watch compatible content from Amazon, Netflix and UHD Blu-rays regardless of which format wins out in the future. If you’ve got the money, this is the 4K TV to own.

Stuff says Packed full of tech, with jaw-dropping performance to send you into TV reverie ● NOW ADD THIS Microsoft Xbox One S A fine games console and a 4K Blu-ray player all in one. Grab yourself a copy of Forza Horizon 3 and you’ll see how much difference HDR makes to gaming. from £249 / xbox.com

2

BARGAIN BUY

3

4 5 HOT BUY

Samsung UE55KS7000

Sony 55XD9305

This set sprinkles extra stardust on top of its 4K and HDR brilliance in the form of ‘Quantum Dot’ tech, which claims to offer over a billion colours. The result? An impressively refined performance, and most of the benefits of a top-of-the-range TV at a fraction of the price.

This Sony ticks every box for a thoroughly modern TV. You get the full 4K and HDR package in a set that’s large but not ridiculous for the average living room. Indeed, for a 55in TV, it’s as svelte as we can imagine. It looks great and performs, if anything, even better.

Stuff says A real winner, and significantly cheaper than some of its rivals

Stuff says A whole lot of superbly performing 4K HDR TV for your money

£1099 / samsung.com

£1499 / sony.co.uk

6

LG OLED65E6V

£4099 / lg.com A regal TV that excels across the board. There are few better you can buy at any price.

Samsung UE55KS9000

£1699 / samsung.com Stunning performance for the money, proving there’s plenty of life in LCD yet.

LG OLED65G6V

£4599 / lg.com A superb specimen of technology and design, with one of the best pictures we’ve ever seen.

7

Panasonic TX-58DX802

8

Panasonic TX-65DX750B

9

Sony KD-65ZD9BU

10

Philips 65PUS8901

£1449 / panasonic.com One of most stylish tellies we’ve seen in ages, with a great 4K HDR picture and punchy sound.

£1699 / panasonic.com This 65in Panasonic is tempting, but falls slightly short on brightness and colour bit depth.

£3999 / sony.co.uk Stylish and slick with a stunning picture, but there are rivals that perform even better.

£3999 / philips.co.uk (Harrods exclusive) Expensive 4K TV with an AmbiLux twist: nine projectors extend the screen onto the wall.

FOR UP-TO-DATE NEWS AND FULL REVIEWS OF ALL THE BEST NEW TELEVISIONS, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10/TVs


113

YOUR STREAMING ESSENTIALS NETFLIX

NEW TO STREAMING TOP TENS

Don’t waste your free time on TV that’ll send you to sleep quicker than a mug of hot chloroform – here’s the best on-demand entertainment AMAZON VIDEO

NOW TV

Archer

The Man in the High Castle

Fortitude

James Bond might be the more famous secret agent, but Archer Sterling is by far our favourite. From accidentally shooting his co-workers to his daft catchphrases, Archer will have you laughing non-stop.

Imagine if Hitler won the war. We’d all be saying schmetterling instead of butterfly. Horrific, right? This dystopian series explores some of the even worse things about a world where the Nazis are in charge.

If you’re starting to despise the winter chill, just be glad you don’t live in the Arctic Norwegian town of Fortitude. Season 2 comes to Sky Atlantic this month, so expect more polar bears and crazy cops.

Community

Looper

Manchester United vs Liverpool

A community college classroom with a racist old man, an egomaniac lawyer, an Aspergic film obsesser, a devout Christian and a former drug addict is a recipe for disaster… and also for a highly entertaining US sitcom.

Most time-travel films says it’s a bad idea to visit yourself in the past. This is especially true for Joseph Gordon Levitt, who’s contracted to kill his older self, portrayed by Bruce Willis. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot.

The Devils vs The Reds. Mourinho vs Klopp. Shrek vs The Magician. This is the biggest fixture in English football, if not the world. Be sure to mark 15 January on the calendar regardless of who you support.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Nightcrawler

Bones

The most unfortunate events in life include the milk going lumpy and being caught by a family member returning their Christmas gifts. Watching Neil Patrick Harris play a crazy evil uncle isn’t really unfortunate at all.

This thriller stars Jake Gyllenhaal and focuses on the dark side of journalism. He blackmails colleagues, tampers video footage and puts people in life-threatening danger. And no, he doesn’t work for Stuff.

There are plenty of crime dramas on your TV, but few that focus on the remains of murder victims. This will be the last season of Bones and, rather than rotting to death, it will be aiming for an epic send-off.

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TOP TENS FITNESS TRACKERS

114

1

HOT BUY

Garmin Vivoactive HR £180 / garmin.com

Garmin offers a bewildering array of fitness trackers and outdoorsy GPS watches, but the Vivoactive HR is the one you want. It’s packed to the gills with long-lasting, easy-to-use and rewarding fitness cleverness. That means it contains the daily step and sleep tracking that you can get in other bands costing under a ton, but also the optical heart-rate monitor, touchscreen display and smartphone notifications that you’d normally pay more for.

TIPS & TRICKS You can configure the Garmin’s swipeable data screens for the stats you want to see.

Stuff says Not super-stylish, perhaps, but crammed with sensors, sports and stamina

A click on the right button brings up a list of sports, from golf to stand-up paddleboarding.

● NOW ADD THIS Wahoo RPM Speed Sensor Prefer using wheels to legs? You can attach a Wahoo sensor to your bike’s front wheel hub to capture speed data.

The Vivoactive HR will last for around five days before clamouring for the clip-on USB charger.

2

BARGAIN BUY

3

NEW

4

Apple Watch Nike+

A real gem of a fitness tracker. Since it’s cheaper than the Fitbit Flex 2 and basically does the same stuff, the Moov Now earns a higher place on this list. Thanks to its guided workouts with voice coaching, it also does a better job of getting you in tip-top shape.

In terms of specification this is identical to the standard Apple Watch Series 2, but it does get a couple of Nike-flavoured exclusive faces. And the sporty strap alone makes this Watch the one to buy if you’re the energetic type.

Stuff says A cheap fitness band that does more than just track your steps

Stuff says Small, Nike-exclusive tweaks make the Series 2 even sportier

£54 / moov.cc

£369 / apple.com

£75 / fitbit.com Fitbit’s cheapest tracker is also its only water-resistant model.

5

Misfit Shine

6

Fitbit Blaze

7

MyZone MZ-3

BARGAIN BUY

Moov Now

Fitbit Flex 2

£35 / misfit.com The Shine is a bargain tracker that feels anything but cheap. Its app isn’t great, however.

£160 / fitbit.com A sports-first watch with a subtle dash of smarts – the Blaze is a joy to use.

£130 / myzone.org A clever take on tracking with social motivation, tainted only by a lack of training smarts.

8

Fitbit Charge 2

9

Pebble 2

10

£114 / fitbit.com The Charge 2 is a nice compromise between casual step counter and hardcore fitness tracker.

£95 / pebble.com It’s not a premium smartwatch or a pro fitness tracker, but the Pebble 2 nails the middle ground.

Garmin Forerunner 620

£270 / garmin.com Garmin’s lightweight GPS running watch may be small but it logs an elite amount of data.

FOR THE FULL REVIEWS, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10/SMARTWATCHES & STUFF.TV/TOP-10/FITNESS-TRACKERS


115

PLAYLIST GOOGLE DAYDREAM

PLAYLIST TOP TENS

The Daydream View goggles (see review, p74) are like a pair of cosy slippers for your face, only much more entertaining. Here’s what to do with them…

BEST BUY FOR CUTESY PUZZLES Mekorama VR

Take a dash of Monument Valley, add a cute little robot, season with VR magic, and you’ve got yourself this adorable little brain puzzler. It sees you rotate levels and manipulate obstacles to lead a little mechanical fellow along a journey of exploration. £3.79

Twilight Pioneers

Magic. Swords. Dragon souls. Nope, this isn’t Skyrim, but it’s as close as you’ll get in mobile VR, for now at least. Twilight Pioneers uses a combination of the trackpad and your head movements to create a freedom that’s lacking in other Daydream games. £free

NOW WATCH THESE

The Arcslinger

Blasting bad guys with a magical six-shooter is a great way to relieve stress while living out your childhood cowboy dreams. You can’t move around, so don’t expect any CoD-like frantic action, but the controller is surprisingly accurate. £4.79

Fantastic Beasts

You might not know the difference between a hippogriff and a thestral, but that doesn’t mean you won’t appreciate waving around a magic wand in this Harry Potter outing. You’ll see everything before 20 minutes is up, but the visuals are superb. £free

INVASION!

This Pixar-esque adventure is full of adorable bunnies (of which you are one) and a pair of rather mean and hapless aliens.

Hunters Gate

We spent more time marvelling at the beautiful level design in Hunters Gate than playing the actual game, thanks to a third-person view that makes it feel like you’re towering over a huge Warhammer tabletop game. That alone makes it well worth a play. £4.99

ROSE

This short story about a little humanoid on a tiny planet is beautiful, and lets you rotate the world to enjoy events from different perspectives.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

This aptly-named party game offers multiplayer gaming through one headset. How? The headset wearer is presented with a randomly generated explosive device, while everyone else has the instructions for defusing it. £9.99

YOUTUBE VR

This app does pretty much what you’d expect it to do: namely, it serves up all of YouTube’s growing 360° content in one place.

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TOP TENS LAPTOPS TIPS & TRICKS

Siri on MacOS Sierra allows you to search for photos on the web and your laptop, then drag them into apps.

116

1

Save on space by getting your Mac to optimise its storage. This will reduce the clutter from big files.

HOT BUY

Apple MacBook Pro from £1449 / apple.com

It can be easy to focus on what this entry-level version of the 2016 MacBook Pro doesn’t have: it’s missing the new Touch Bar for a start, and is down on ports and power compared to the next model up. But it’s also £300 cheaper, and has the same diminutive form and truly gorgeous screen. It also has the brilliant second-gen butterfly keyboard. In fact, you’re better off sparing your wallet and forgetting about the Touch Bar. It’s just not worth the extra cash.

Stuff says The standard Pro is beautiful, compact and a pleasure to work on ● NOW ADD THIS Satechi Type-C USB 3 Hub Two ports not enough? This hub adds loads more and sits snugly against the new MacBook Pro. £31 / satechi.net

2

HOT BUY

3

4

N W NEW

Dell Chromebook 13

The original XPS 13 was already a great lightweight laptop, but now Dell has given it a Windows 10 refresh. If the last one was the thinking person’s Ultrabook, this is that and a whole lot more. With improved battery life and performance, it’s hard to beat.

This Dell brings quality construction together with horsepower that outclasses almost every other Chromebook on the market. The price is roughly double that of similar devices, but the Dell 13 offers a true ‘laptop experience’ for the extra cash.

Stuff says An excellent Windows 10 Ultrabook, small in size and great in stature

Stuff says Not the flashiest laptop, but the top-notch screen is a stunner

from £999 / dell.co.uk

from £1249 / apple.com Aside from an extra hour’s battery life, the 2016 MacBook isn’t that different to the previous one.

5

HP Spectre 13

6

Razer Blade Stealth

from £1149 / hp.com Until recently the world’s thinnest laptop – but this machine still has serious power to spare.

from £1000 / razerzone.com This jet black slab of laptop loveliness is purpose-built for on-the-go gamers.

7

Asus X555LA

8

Apple MacBook Air 13in

9

Microsoft Surface Book

10

Acer Chromebook R 11

BARGAIN BUY

Dell XPS 13

Apple MacBook

from £513 / dell.co.uk

BARGAIN BUY

from £330 / asus.com This bargain crams in a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a responsive trackpad. Impressive.

from £949 / apple.com If a portable road warrior is what you’re after, this slinky MacBook remains a great choice.

from £1299 / microsoftstore.com Shorn of its initial bugs, the Surface Book is a lustrous Windows hybrid with luxe appeal.

£200 / acer.com This Chrome-tab hybrid is tiny enough to carry everywhere, and super-flexible.

FOR UP-TO-DATE NEWS AND FULL REVIEWS OF ALL THE BEST NEW LAPTOPS, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10/LAPTOPS


117

HOW TO BUY A LAPTOP

HOW TO BUY TOP TENS

A laptop is your portable companion, so it’s important you make the right buying decision. Allow Stuff to take you through the process… USB-C

JARGON BUSTER

A new connection for plugging a mouse, hard drive or phone into your laptop.

RAM

If a processor is your laptop’s engine, then RAM is the grease that keeps it in motion.

SSD

Solid State Drives are faster than traditional hard drives for storing and accessing data.

BASIC REQUIREMENTS 1

Size matters

Want a laptop for touring your hometown’s coffee shops? A hefty 15-incher ain’t much good to you. Want to get some video editing done on the fly? Then an 11in display isn’t going to cut it. For most people, a 13in device will hit the sweet spot. This screen size should offer enough power to get stuff done without weighing your rucksack down. ● Get this: Dell XPS 13 £999 / dell.co.uk

NOW ADD THESE

2 Win win

Planning on spending less than £1000 on your new laptop? That rules out any of Apple’s latest MacBooks. Don’t panic, though: Windows 10 is a huge improvement on Windows 8… although, if all you’re going to demand from your laptop is the odd email and extended Netflix binging, then it’s worth checking out Chromebooks with Google’s Chrome OS. ● Get this: Asus ZenBook UX305 £650 / asus.com

A WIRELESS MOUSE

No matter how big your laptop’s trackpad is, it’s never going to match a proper clicker for ease of use.

POWER-UPS 3 Major keys

The easiest way to spot a rubbish laptop? Start typing away on its keyboard. You can live with an underpowered processor, but a keyboard that makes your fingers sting with cramp? No thanks. Big keys with plenty of travel are what you’re after, so you’ll get that satisfying clicketyclack noise. Apple’s MacBook Pro has the best keyboard – but try before you buy. ● Get this: Apple MacBook Pro £1449 / apple.com

4 Spec it up

If you’ve just about settled on your budget, it’s time to talk about processors. Sorry. Most laptops run on an Intel Core i or Core M chip. The former are built for stamina and portability; the latter give you considerably more power for video and photo editing. You’ll also want 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage for files. More is more when it comes to memory, but these are the minimum specs we’d settle for.

5 Double down

With tablet hybrids now having reached the point where they’ll happily chow through your iPlayer and Microsoft Office needs, they’ve become a genuine alternative to having to carry a giant slab of plastic around. That said, the best ones are expensive.

A PORTABLE HARD DRIVE

Stashing stuff in the cloud is all well and good, but only a portable drive will do for large editing jobs on the move.

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TOP TENS HI-FI TIPS & TRICKS

118

Head into the Sonos app’s settings menu and you can set an alarm using your favourite music.

1

Don’t mind a few bugs? Get Sonos updates early by signing up to its beta testing programme.

HOT BUY

Sonos multiroom system from £149 / sonos.com If you want to pretend your favourite band are playing in your living room, there’s no better option than a Sonos wireless speaker. They look great, work with your smartphone and, most importantly, boom out your tunes with dazzling finesse – from the compact Play:1 (£149) to the flagship Play:5 (£389), a speaker redesigned from the ground up in 2016.

Stuff says Infinite music in every room without the need for custom installers? Sign us up! ● NOW ADD THIS Spotify Premium Sick of playing your iTunes library on repeat? Sign up to Spotify for more new music than you could ever possibly listen to. £9.99/month / spotify.com

2

3

4 HOT BUY

BARGAIN BUY

5

6 7 Naim Mu-so

KEF Muo

How much for a wireless speaker?! Well, yes, but what a wireless speaker it is. Naim has ploughed all of its high-end hi-fi experience into delivering a beautifully made, great-sounding device with AirPlay, Spotify Connect and aptX Bluetooth all on board.

The KEF Muo sounds as good as it looks, which is very nice indeed. It may be the size of a beer can but it creates a room-filling sound, brilliantly balanced and packed with vim and vigour. The Muo has the audio solidity of the B&W T7, but with even greater detail.

Stuff says A wireless speaker that can make a valid claim to be genuine hi-fi

Stuff says Portable Bluetooth at its best, with premium sound and design

£895 / naimaudio.com

£250 / uk.kef.com

8 9 BARGAIN BUY

10

Naim Mu-so Qb

£595 / naimaudio.com Complements its big brother’s more refined character with a confident presentation.

Google Chromecast Audio

£30 / google.com/chromecast Stream Spotify to your old hi-fi with this smart and highly affordable dongle.

Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless

£499 / bowers-wilkins.co.uk This is the ultimate wireless speaker for the streaming-savvy audiophile.

Bowers & Wilkins T7

£300 / bowers-wilkins.co.uk There are a million portable Bluetooth speakers in the world, but few better than the B&W T7.

Cambridge Audio Go

£100 / cambridgeaudio.com It sounds awesome, it’s really well built and its battery lasts a massive 18 hours.

Bluesound multiroom system

from £299 / bluesound.com A Sonos-style multiroom system but with better-than-CD-quality hi-res audio.

UE Boom 2

£90 / ultimateears.com It may look like a sporty water bottle but this speaker sounds great and is mighty tough.

FOR UP-TO-DATE NEWS AND REVIEWS OF ALL THE BEST NEW HI-FI, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10/HI-FI-STREAMING


119

SHOULD I UPGRADE? TOP TENS

Picked up cheap

SONY KD-43X8305C Rob Leedham Editor

Are you behind the times? While your friends binge-watch Stranger Things in 4K, you’re watching Laurel & Hardy in boring 1080p. Well, thanks to this affordable 43in TV, you can finally make the leap. Your PS4 Pro will thank you. £499 / sony.co.uk

Should I upgrade?

PLAYSTATION 4 PRO Ryan Jones Staff Writer

There’s a reason why you were seduced by the PS4 rather than a gaming PC. For one it’s cheaper, yet still provides high-end graphical power and speed. More importantly, it has an impressive first-party line-up including Uncharted 4 and Bloodborne. But what sets the console apart from the PC is that you don’t need to dig into your wallet every year to tweak your hardware. After all, you’re not obsessed with always having the highest resolution. You’re happy to wait five years before shelling out on an upgrade… aren’t you? 4K conversion But then the PS4 Pro came along and threw the console cycle into disarray. You promised you wouldn’t behave like one of those savage PC gamers and dump your savings on a current-gen upgrade… then again, have you seen Horizon Zero Dawn in 4K? Games optimised for the Pro look absolutely stunning on a 4K HDR TV. If you need another incentive to upgrade, you’ll be glad to hear that 1TB of storage is mighty useful for holding dozens of games. So while the thought of becoming more like those PC nerds might fill you with terror, if you’ve got an expensive telly you might as well make use of it and go Pro.

Feelin’ 4K?

This Sony has a sharp picture with smooth motion and crisp edges.

DO IT!

4K gaming

1TB storage

HOLD OFF!

Everywhere you are Read it, like it, share it

No exclusive games No 4K Blu-ray drive

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TOP TENS

CONSOLES, VR HEADSETS

1

HOT BUY

HTC Vive

As a gaming platform, PlayStation 4 is the best around – which makes the PS4 Pro the best of the best. Games optimised for the new console look stunning on a 4K HDR TV, and are substantially improved by the extra grunt inside this slightly bigger machine. If you’ve already splashed out for a 4K HDR screen and you enjoy video games at all, it’s well worth the upgrade. The missing 4K Blu-ray drive means it isn’t a perfect entertainment system, but streaming converts won’t care.

The HTC Vive offers the most complete package of the current virtual reality headsets. While it will whet the appetite of gamers (see left), it offers much more than blasting zombies. From interactive documentaries to helping you design your kitchen, this headset is a multi-talented piece of tech. The Vive will set you back a lot – not only for the price of the headset, but also for the required supercomputer – its room-tracking capabilities make this the most immersive VR experience so far.

Stuff says The system for console gamers who have a 4K TV and want the best gaming experience possible

Stuff says It might be expensive, but the Vive provides the most engaging VR experience with its room-tracking magic

2

Xbox One S

3

PlayStation 4 Slim

4

HTC Vive

5

Oculus Rift

UPDATE

1

HOT BUY

PlayStation 4 Pro £350 / playstation.com

HOT BUY

120

from £230 / xbox.com Microsoft dumps Kinect, the £400+ asking price and the fugly power brick to create a supremely enticing console that also has a 4K Blu-ray player. It remains a serious alternative to the PS4 Pro. Stuff says A fine console with some big exclusive titles

£225 / playstation.com This is the old PS4 squeezed into a 20% smaller package, and it still delivers an awesome console gaming experience. But if you see a 4K TV in your future, you’re better off saving for the PS4 Pro. Stuff says Better than the old PS4 in almost every way

£759 / vive.com Our VR headset of choice offers a completely new way to experience gaming.

£549 / oculus.com Even with the Touch controllers, the Rift can’t beat the Vive for losing yourself in a game.

£759 / vive.com

Oculus Rift

2

UPDATE

NEW

3

£549 / oculus.com The Oculus Rift offers a fun VR experience, but thanks to its lack of room tracking it can’t compete with the Vive when it comes to immersion. The Touch Controllers are a step in the right direction, though. Stuff says The Touch Controllers give new life to the Rift HOT BUY

BARGAIN BUY

Google Daydream View

£69 / vr.google.com This budget-friendly option might not offer the most immersive of experiences, but it has the best chance of bringing VR to the masses. Its clever controller gives it the edge over similar-priced headsets. Stuff says The best way to experience VR on mobile

4

Samsung Gear VR

5

PlayStation VR

BARGAIN BUY

£59 / samsung.co.uk Another cheap option for VR, but only for owners of Samsung phones.

£350 / playstation.com It can deliver incredible experiences, but the PS VR is held back by teething issues.

FOR REVIEWS OF ALL THE BEST NEW GAMES CONSOLES, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10/GAMES-MACHINES


1

121

GAMES TOP TENS

HOT BUY

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

from £29 / unchartedthegame.com

TIPS & TRICKS

The flagship series of the PlayStation 3 swings its way onto the PS4, and boy was it a successful landing. Full of adrenaline-fuelled action sequences and funny one-liners, Uncharted 4 keeps you hooked all the way. As Nathan Drake’s story finally comes to a close you’ll be sad to say goodbye to this seminal gaming series, but also satisfied with its conclusion.

The new open-level design means you can outflank your enemies rather than going bullet-crazy.

Stuff says A fittingly epic send-off for one of gaming’s most thrilling series

Areas of long grass can be used to hide yourself before pouncing on an unsuspecting enemy.

● NOW PLAY THIS Spelunky Can’t satisfy that treasure-hunting itch? Not to worry, as Spelunky has an endless number of randomly generated caves to explore. £11.99 / spelunkyworld.com

Use the grappling hook to swing in on your enemies and take them down in style.

2

3

4

XCOM 2

5

Battlefield 1

6

The Division

7

Titanfall 2

8

The Last Guardian

9

Ratchet & Clank

HOT BUY

BARGAIN BUY

Overwatch

Forza Horizon 3

Forget Call of Duty and Battlefield – this is the best multiplayer shooter. Full of crazy characters with a range of powers, Overwatch is one long party that you’d be mad to miss… so grab your controller, pick up a hero and dive in – you won’t regret it.

Forza Horizon 3 accelerates to the top of our list of open-world racers, providing thrilling fun in incredible amounts and looking absolutely gorgeous in HDR. It nails that sweet spot of being fun but not silly or obnoxious, and serious but crucially not too serious.

Stuff says Blizzard’s chaotic shooter is as good as multiplayer mayhem gets

Stuff says Nothing but blue skies – this is the best open-world racer around

£25 / playoverwatch.com

£24 / xbox.com

NEW

BARGAIN BUY

BARGAIN BUY

10

£25 / xcom.com It’s your job to save humanity from aliens in this thrilling turn-based strategy game.

£43 / battlefield.com A bombastic shooter that really makes the most of its bloody World War I setting.

£15 / ubi.com The Division wraps up the best bits of multiple genres into one action-heavy package.

£42 / titanfall.com Loads of giant mech carnage and a gripping, planet-hopping campaign to boot.

£44 / playstation.com Seriously flawed in some ways, but The Last Guardian is a feathery masterpiece.

£23 / insomniacgames.com More revolution than remake, this updated classic is one of the best reasons to own a PS4.

Doom

£15 / doom.com It’s bloody. It’s brutal. It’s brilliant. Doom is back, and it’s packing a super shotgun.

FOR UP-TO-DATE NEWS AND REVIEWS OF ALL THE BEST NEW GAMES, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10/GAMES


TOP TENS HOME CINEMA, SMART HOME

1

HOT OT BUY UY

BARGAIN BUY

HOT BUY

Nest 3.0

Amazon’s latest Fire TV is faster and more powerful than the old model, but more importantly, it supports ultra-detailed 4K video: TV and movies in four times the resolution of Full HD. Of course, you’ll need a 4K set to enjoy all those extra pixels, but if you’re thinking of making the upgrade soon, this streamer is a tele-futurist’s delight. With the added attractions of neat voice controls and great gaming functionality, it’s the most complete streaming box available.

The Nest 3.0 is not a dramatic reinvention, but it didn’t need to be: this is still the best-looking and most rewarding smart thermostat on the market. Impressively, and slightly scarily, Nest learns your habits – when you’re in the house, when you’re likely to need a lot of hot water and so on – so it can control the boiler to save energy and keep that shower nice and toasty. That, paired with a nicely designed app, is enough to put the third-gen Nest ahead of its competition.

Stuff says Netflix, iPlayer, Amazon Video and Android games in one 4K-capable streaming box

Stuff says Our favourite thermostat cranks up the heat up on its smart home rivals with a solid upgrade

2

Sky Q

3

Q Acoustics Media 4

4

Canton DM55

5

Google Chromecast

BARGAIN BUY

1

HOT BUY

Amazon Fire TV 4K £75 / amazon.co.uk

HOT BUY

122

£249 with installation / nest.com

from £15 +£20/month / sky.com A Sky subscription is already an expensive option, but Sky Q works flawlessly and could change the way you watch TV – especially now 4K’s arrived. Undoubtedly the best TV experience you can get. Stuff says The slickest TV box you can currently buy

£260 / qacoustics.co.uk This soundbar has won awards two years in a row from our friends at What Hi-Fi? The Media 4 combines subtle detail with precise surround effects to be the best-sounding and best-value soundbar you can buy. Stuff says A whole lot of under-telly hi-fi for the money

£329 / weybridge-audio.co.uk This soundbase is as practical as they come for those with modest-sized living rooms.

£20 / google.com Chromecast lets you search multiple streaming services from one app.

2

Netatmo Welcome

3

Hive Active Heating 2

4

Philips Hue Starter Kit

5

Amazon Echo

BARGAIN BUY

HOT BUY

£160 / neatmo.com Netatmo’s smartcam has face recognition capability, which works well once it’s got to know you, and the usual motion and noise detection is easy to control. We like the way individual profiles can be adjusted. Stuff says Slick and hugely informative

£249 with installation / hivehome.com Hive is simple enough for anyone to use and powerful enough to be truly useful, with features such as geolocation and holiday mode. For a family-friendly introduction to the smart home, it’s a solid choice. Stuff says This smart thermostat is hot, hot, hot

from £60 / meethue.com Become an indoor god with the smartest way of lighting up your home remotely.

£150 / amazon.co.uk The AI revolution starts here – Alexa can control your house, and makes a great DJ.

FOR FULL REVIEWS, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10/HOME-CINEMA & STUFF.TV/TOP-10/SMART-HOME-DEVICES


SYSTEM CAMERAS TOP TENS

123

1

HOT BUY

Fuji Film X-T2 £1373 / fujifilm.eu

The X-T2 is an excellent lesson in how to upgrade an already great gadget. The X-T1 was itself a brilliant camera, so Fuji gave it superb video and autofocus skills to go with the already top weatherproof build. Sure, it’s pricey, but it’s also worth every penny. What you’re getting here is a camera that approaches the most desirable DSLRs for speed, and rivals pretty much any camera for image quality – so it’s a truly superb all-rounder.

TIPS & TRICKS For aperture-priority shots, set shutter speed to auto and turn that lens ring to the desired f-number.

Stuff says A dream of a camera that barely strays from perfection from start to finish

The ISO and shutter dials can now be locked with a simple press of the middle button.

● NOW ADD THIS Manfrotto 190 Go! Carbon Fibre Tripod You no longer have an excuse for wobbly photos with this carbon-fibre tripod. It weighs just 1.65kg. £235 / manfrotto.co.uk

The X-T2’s film simulation modes give your shots massive amounts of character.

2

HOT BUY

3

Sony A7R II

Canon EOS 80D

Sony has made a no-compromise camera that combines impeccable build quality with a class-leading full-frame sensor, 5-axis image stabilisation, huge ISO range, fast autofocus, an excellent viewfinder and 4K video recording. And it’s far more compact than a DSLR.

It’s the photographic equivalent of playing FIFA 17 as Barcelona, on full auto mode, against Burnley: you’ll be convinced that you’re a genius, but really you’ve not got much to do with the results. Put the 80D in the hands of a child and they’d get some great shots.

Stuff says A no-compromise compact system camera for well-heeled enthusiasts

Stuff says The step-up DSLR for anyone looking to learn manual shooting

£2449 / sony.co.uk

£1049 / canon.co.uk

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Fujifilm X-T10

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Canon EOS 5DS

6

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II

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Nikon D5

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Olympus PEN-F

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Sony A6300

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Nikon D750

BARGAIN BUY

HOT BUY

£549 / fujifilm.eu The Fujifilm X-T10 would be a great camera at any price, but at this one it’s unbeatable.

£2799 / canon.co.uk A fantastic piece of kit that any pixel-peeping SLR fan will get heaps of enjoyment out of.

£749 / olympus.co.uk The second coming of the E-M5 smashes it on both design and performance fronts.

£5199 / europe-nikon.com The pro-level camera to go for if you spend a lot of time on the sports field.

£999 / olympus.co.uk An immensely desirable piece of design and an immensely capable all-round camera.

£899 / sony.co.uk A camera that delivers on all fronts: compact size, great photos and excellent video.

£1599 / europe-nikon.com It’s big and bulky, but this is one of the most comfortable, intuitive SLRs money can buy.

FOR FULL REVIEWS OF ALL THE BEST NEW CAMERAS, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10/SYSTEM-CAMERAS


TOP TENS BUDGET BUYS

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HOT BUY

BARGAIN BUY

Raspberry Pi 3 £30 / raspberrypi.org

You don’t have to be big on coding to enjoy the Raspberry Pi. With some basic tweaking, you can turn this £30 tiny-puter into a very respectable desktop PC, retro gaming machine or media centre – and that’s just the start. The Pi 3 is also the perfect update to its predecessor: you get loads more power (about the same as a mid-range smartphone), integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and it still costs less than a PS4 game.

TIPS & TRICKS Plonk that Pi camera you bought on a birdfeeder and you’ll be able edit your own Springwatch.

Stuff says Opens up a world of tech possibilities for what is a positively diddy asking price

The free, open-source Kodi will turn a Pi into a media centre for watching your locally stored films and telly.

● NOW ADD THIS Raspberry Pi Camera Module V2 Not every Pi 3 project has to be a homage to your childhood console. This adds smartphone photo-pizazz. £18 / raspberrypi.org

Planning on turning your Pi into a SNES emulator? Legally, you must own the games to play them.

2

BARGAIN BUY

3

HOT BUY

NEW

HOT OT BUY UY

4 5

6 7 Google Chromecast Audio

Moov Now

This disc doesn’t just transform the streaming capabilities of your speakers – its lossless hi-res audio option can also boost their sound quality. This is an infinitely superior alternative to streaming via Bluetooth, with less battery drain and no interruption from calls.

You know you’re onto a winner when your fitness gadget isn’t just a tracker but a personal trainer. The Moov is a honeycomb-covered workout guide with voice coaching and rep-counting. And yes, it still tracks your daily steps and auto-detects your sleep.

Stuff says If you’ve not got a Sonos setup, this’ll do roughly the same job

Stuff says The best budget tracker – gives most Fitbits a run for their money

£30 / google.com/chromecast

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£54 / moov.cc

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NEW

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Amazon Echo Dot

£50 / amazon.co.uk This smart home assistant is a lot smaller than the full-size Echo, but it’s a much bigger bargain.

SoundMagic E10C

£39 / soundmagicheadphones.com SoundMagic is royalty when it comes to budget buds. For the cash, these are stupendous.

Amazon Fire TV 4K

£75 / amazon.co.uk If you’ve bought a 4K TV, fill it with lovely content from Amazon’s Ultra HD media streamer.

Philips Hue Starter Kit

from £60 / meethue.com Start your smart home with two bulbs and a bridge before turning it into a palace with more.

Amazon Kindle

£57 / amazon.co.uk Top of our holiday packing list, the basic Kindle is thinner and lighter than its predecessor.

Google Daydream View

£69 / google.com An inexpensive headset that works with your Google phone to deliver VR experiences.

Xiaomi Yeelight

£48 / xiaomi-mi.com If you like being woken up gently, get this smart Bluetooth bedside lamp.

FOR FULL REVIEWS OF ALL THESE GADGETS, AND TO EXPLORE MORE TOP TEN LISTS, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10


125

5-MINUTE HACKS TOP TENS

IN THE NEXT ISSUE OF SLASH YOUR PS4 PRO LOAD TIMES Stop twiddling your thumbs waiting for games to load and start using them to shoot aliens by swapping in an SSD drive... ● Buy an SSD. Swapping the PS4 Pro’s hard drive for an SSD that supports SATA 3 speeds can cut its load times in half. We went for the HyperX Fury 240GB drive (£69, amazon.co.uk), but if you need to install more than a few games go for something like the SanDisk Ultra II SSD 960 GB (£230, amazon.co.uk).

● Get busy installin’. First up, save your games to the cloud and a USB drive. Now shut the PS4 Pro down, pull off its panel and unscrew the drive mount. Swap in the SSD and screw everything back together again. ● Reboot your gaming life. Go to bit.ly/ps4prossd and click on ‘Perform a new installation of the system software’. A download will commence. All done? Re-download your games and enjoy your speedy load times.

GOOGLE HOME vs AMAZON ECHO

MICROSOFT SURFACE STUDIO

THE BEST BOARD GAMES

ON SALE 2 FEBRUARY SUBSCRIBE ONLINE NOW… GET IT DELIVERED FOR FREE AND SAVE UP TO 53% ON THE COVER PRICE! www.themagazineshop.com/stu/feb17 Subscribe now and get a free Leatherman Style CS multi-tool! Full details on p94.

TURN YOUTUBE INTO SPOTIFY Being able to have YouTube playing music in the background on both iOS and Android phones makes it a decent alternative to Spotify. Here’s how…

to your saved playlists, then pick a video. Press Home, slide up Control Centre from the bottom of the screen, hit Play and you’re golden.

On Android: Download and install Firefox (£free, play.google.com). Once that’s done, it’s simply a case of going to youtube.com and minimising the app. If you want to DJ outside of YouTube with access to pause and play controls, you’ll need to use an app such as MX Player (£free, Android). On iOS: Open Safari and go to the YouTube site. Sign in if you want access

FIND MORE HANDY 5-MINUTE HACKS AT STUFF.TV


Join the Stuff Tech Panel! Rant. Rave. Opine. Help us make Stuff better. We want to know what you think. What you like (or hate) about our magazine, our website, and the tech we write about. Tell us and you’ll help make your favourite gadget magazine and website even favouriter. All you have to do is register and answer a few simple questions. There’s a quick poll every month, as well as discussion threads where you can go into more detail. And we aren’t the only ones listening. So are the big tech companies. This is your chance to let them know your thoughts too.

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S TU F F P R O M OT I O N

NEW YEAR, NEW GEAR

FOXWOOD CEMENT CASE FOR IPHONE 7 £24.99

Start 2017 the right way by treating yourself to the latest new gadgets. Go on, you may even have earned it…

SUUNTO SPARTAN £519

KITSOUND BOOM DAB RADIO £99. 99

The KitSound Boom DAB is designed for multi-connectivity. You can enjoy digital and FM radio, and stream music from your device through Bluetooth. And it’s all parcelled in a system engineered to look beautiful and deliver top sound. Available online and in stores.

Alleviate your ur post-glutton post-gluttony guilt. The Suunto Spartan Ultra is an advanced multisport GPS watch. It has a full-colour touchscreen, 80 preset sports modes, 100m of water resistance and up to 26 hours of battery life.

Inspired by materials found around us, the Foxwood cement case indulges your understated side. Crafted to offer durability during day-to-day use, the strong exterior is designed to keep your phone scratch-free and without scuffs. Feel the quality in every grip as you slip it into your pocket. Available to buy at Carphone Warehouse online and in stores.

www.kitsound.co.uk

www.suunto.com

www.foxwood.co.uk

ALBANY & CO. FLAGSHIP 40MM

GWC MESH CHRONO

£69

£49

IMPRINT GRIPS FR OM £ 2 4 . 9 9

The strikingly minimal Mesh Chrono from Megir boasts a steel mesh band, precision stopwatch and calendar wheel at four o’clock. Three variations. Quote NYSTUFF to receive 10 per cent off (expires 31/12/2017). www.gwcwatches.com

The world’s only custom-mouldable lock-on bike grips – made in the UK using their own material, aircraft-grade aluminium and an option of titanium bolts. Available in various colour combinations. Use discount code STUFF 20 to receive 20 per cent off.

The Flagship 40mm from Oxford-based Albany & Co. has a seamlessly machined stainless-steel case, Swiss movement and 100m water resistance. Limited numbers are available for discount pre-order.

www.imprintgrips.com

www.albanyandco.com


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NEXT BIG THING?

ersonal Hovering Streetlamps? That’ll make a good band name. Debut album: Floatilluminati. Or something. We’re not great musicians, but we know our tech, and this fleet of hovering guardian angels is as techy as things come. We’ve all seen drones before, including ones that automatically follow you around – they’re handy for capturing gnarly 1780° snowflips – but these Fleetlights aren’t designed to capture death-defying stunts. Quite the opposite – they’re there to keep you safe by lighting up your path along dark

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and dangerous routes, whether you’re driving, cycling, or trudging along a gloomy winter path.

twisted ankles, broken noses and scraped knees are only ever one or two stumbles away.

Sooo, they make you an easy target? Granted, walking across a dodgy inner-city park with a personal spotlight lighting you up like a Christmas tree for muggers isn’t the most sensible of ideas. But realistically, you’re more likely to have a close encounter with a UFO-chaser. There’s no doubt that you’ll be (and feel) far safer with your own personal luminary bodyguard. Sticks, potholes, stray dogs – the world is a perilous place, and

Jeez Mum, relax. I can look after myself. Though I could still do with a few of these‌ Sadly, the Fleetlights are just a proof of concept for now, whipped up by Direct Line to show off how future accidents could be prevented. The tech is real, though, and it works. A smartphone app dispatches drones to a user’s exact location. They’ll constantly stay ahead of that user along his or her route, until they’re dismissed at the tap of a button.

DON’T MISS THE NEXT ISSUE! ON SALE 2 FEB

[ Words Esat Dedezade ]

Person hovering Ses


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Stuff UK - February 2017