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GADGET REVIEWS INSIDE
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ON THE COVER
p16 It’s bothie time
HOT STUFF 10 The Hot Four ● Samsung Galaxy Note 8 ● ACW The Terminator T-800 ● Rolls-Royce Phantom ● Nokia 8 18 Vital stats Sky Soundbox Get blockbuster audio for your Sky setup 20 Gigapixel Slooh Netflix for stargazers 22 Apps Invent an emoji to rival the aubergine 26 Games He’s blue, he’s spiky, and he’s in 3D again 28 Choice Drinking accessories Be renowned for your boozing, in a good way 30 Icon B&O BeoLab 50 A flaky all-in-one speaker for the audio elite 32 Start menu An alarm clock that listens to morning yells 34 Your month Deadly finishers: aliens, clowns and Ronaldo
p10 Note perfect?
p57 Show and tell
p82 I’ll have a 99, please
TESTS 57 First test Amazon Echo Show We finally come face to face with Alexa… but should AI assistants be heard and not seen? 66 Tested Moto Z2 Play A moddin’ delight for smartphone tinkering 68 Tested Samsung Galaxy Book 10.6in A bargain Windows flipper for work and play 73 Group test Tough cameras Snappers that can survive the elements 82 Tested Sony A99 II A professional cam with a professional price 84 Supertest All-in-one desktops Because it’s time to topple your tower 94 Tested Mighty In case you’re missing your old iPod Shuffle 98 Tested Nokia Body The weigh to go for fitness fanatics? 100 Long-term test Panasonic TX-55EZ952B 12 days with an OLED 4K contender 102 Tested Games A Sonic comeback and an Uncharted return
FEATURES 38 The hall of game Mario. Master Chief. Solid Snake. Lara Croft. All gaming greats, but who will feature in our list of the greatest games in history? Only a Super Smash Bros brawl can settle this… 62 Mini meme Code-teaching apps Because everyone has to know coding nowadays, innit bruv? 64 Upvoted Wallets Give your cash a quality place to crash 74 Beta Yourself Philips Hue Light up your world with these smart tips 76 Stuff Picks Robots Clever gadgets that play, clean and fly at our command 96 Instant upgrades DJI Spark Help your little drone reach new heights
TOP TENS 109 The Stuff Top Ten of everything Your essential gadget-buying guide: Smartphones, tablets, headphones, TVs, laptops, hi-fi, consoles, VR, games, home cinema, smart home, system cameras 111 The big question How can I be loyal to a healthy diet? 113 How to buy... a tablet Pick the right slate for bedbound browsing 115 Playlist Documentaries to stream Turns out reality is better than fiction after all 117 Should I upgrade? Time to scrub the ‘4’ from your Surface Pro? 123 Your streaming essentials The kids are in school – claim back Netflix 126 5-minute hacks How to block spoilers from social media
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When the cyborg uprising finally happens, I for one will welcome our new overlords. Why? Because robots are straight up better than humans. So, while we’re still some way off from a world where Wall-E is in charge instead of The Donald, there’s no harm in prepping for the inevitable. That’s why this issue we’ve scoured the tech world for its finest robot offerings, from Dyson’s 360 Eye vacuum to Sphero’s BB-8 and Lego’s new Boost Creative Toolkit. And don’t worry – for now at least, they’re all benevolent. Despite what your parents might have told you, one thing that definitely won’t be the end of us all is video games. So we ran a vote in the office to uncover the best games of all time, and rounded up the results into a compendium of 88 classics. One of them is The Sims 2, another is WarioWare Inc: Mega Party Games. Yep, we’re an odd bunch… but we know an awesome gadget when we see one, and it doesn’t take a genius to recognise that Samsung’s Note 8 is a bit special. Marry a huge Galaxy S8 with a stylus and dual cameras, and you’ve got a real Phone of the Year contender. Don’t panic, we’ve been promised this Note isn’t going to start exploding on you like its predecessor. Good news for now, less so if the cyborg uprising comes early – then you’ll have lost out on a useful pocket-sized grenade. Rob Leedham, Editor / @robleedham
Production 020 8267 5414 Production Manager Anthony Davis Production Controller Jennie Bright 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 10 • ISSN: 1364-963 • On sale 7 September 2017 • Audit Bureau of Circulations: 56,183 (Jan-Dec 2016)
WAIT, HOW DO I GET THAT COVER?!? SEE P106
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I STARTED A WATER FIGHT WITH FOXES
Don’t get me wrong, I like foxes. But their daily garden ‘markings’ and 3am screams have forced me to start Operation Watergun. A true nerd would have built his motion-activated water pistol with a Raspberry Pi and PIR sensor, but I lazily bought mine. The Home Defence Scarecrow (£42 / amazon.co.uk) has worked a treat, with my furry friends scurrying from its spray as if it were a garden-based ED-209. All I need to do is remember not to walk in front of it. Mark Wilson, Features Editor
I LOST A CODING CONTEST TO A 7-YEAR-OLD
The wooden block you see below is Cubetto, a cute little robot that can teach your children to code. You position some plastic instruction pieces, press ‘go’, and it moves around the colourful map as per your orders. It’s great. Unfortunately, my attempts to outdo my daughters in their Christmas Coding Challenge (don’t laugh, it’ll be upon us in no time) ended in ignominy when one of them managed to beat me by five seconds. The shame! Marc McLaren, Editor, Stuff.tv
Damp foxes, smart kids, cute ’bots and craters I GOT SPACED OUT WITH A MINIATURE MOON
Neil, Buzz, Pete, Alan, Edgar, another Alan, David, James, John, Charles, Gene and Jack – they’re the US men who’ve had a snoop on the lunar surface. I’d like to make history by becoming the first woman – and the first person with more than two syllables in their name – to land on the Moon, but Nasa aren’t planning another Apollo mission. So AstroReality’s 3D-printed models are as close as I’m going to get. With 0.006mm-per-pixel precision, it really is like something from outer space. Natalya Paul, Social Media Editor
I BUILT A ROBOT WITH MY OWN TWO HANDS
Fine – I’ll confess – it was made out of Lego rather than nuts and bolts, but for someone who struggles to put a flatpack table together, this is an accomplishment worth hanging up beside my university degree. Plus, my new pal Vernie here isn’t like your average Lego creation. As Frankenstein once said, “It’s alive!” He can move about, wave his arms and fire projectiles –and he doesn’t even need a bolt of lightning to come to life. Just six AAA batteries and a compatible tablet. Ryan Jones, Staff Writer STUFF PICKS p76
Making Stuff up Editor Rob Leedham Production Editor Richard Purvis Reviews Editor Tom Morgan Features Editor Mark Wilson Staff Writer Ryan Jones Editor, Stuff.tv Marc McLaren Social Media Editor Natalya Paul Apprentice Hannah Evans Colouring Stuff in Acting Brand Art Editor Ross Presly Designer Kayleigh Pavelin Keeping Stuff in order Global Brand Director Guy Cocker Group Director Alastair Lewis Syndication Enquiries Isla Friend 020 8267 5058 Brand Manager Claire Griffiths Marketing Executive Sarah Hunt Office Manager Sarah Weetch Contributors
Andrew Williams, Craig Grannell, Andrew Hayward, Sam Kieldsen, Verity Burns, Tom Wiggins, Alex Fanning, Ella Parkinson-Mearns, Natalie Parkinson-Mearns, Mitch Payne, RGB Digital, Pete Gardner Cover images Mitch Payne
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HOT FOUR #1 BACK WITH A BANG
SAMSUNG GALAXY NOTE 8 Remember the time Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 was Stuff’s cover star? We do. It was not a fun month, but time forgives all sins and here we are one year later with a new Note to contend with. Having been burnt before by a very similar-looking mega-phone, we weren’t initially sure what to make of this phoenix-like rise from the ashes. Then we picked up the Note 8’s S Pen stylus, conjured up a juvenile stick-man drawing and remembered what it was that we loved about these phones in the first place: they’re built to do absolutely anything. In practice, this means everything the Galaxy S8 is capable of and a little bit more. An added dual-lens camera serves up far superior zoom capabilities and hands you the chance to take fancy portrait shots with artfully blurred backgrounds. Aside from that camera-and-stylus combo, there isn’t all that much to distinguish this new Note from the S8. But do you know what? We loved that phone, and it didn’t explode at random. Here’s hoping Samsung has learnt its oh-so-explosive lesson this time around. As hot as… a phone that literally caught fire (minus the flammable bit) £tba / stuff.tv/Note8 10
● SCREEN 6.3in 2960x1440 QHD+ ● OS Android 7.1.1 with TouchWiz UI ● PROCESSOR Exynos 8895 octa-core ● RAM 6GB ● CAMERA 12MP + 12MP rear, 8MP front ● STORAGE 64GB, expandable via microSD ● BATTERY 3300mAh ● DIMENSIONS 163x75x8.6mm, 195g
Business class With its more angular edges, you can easily tell the Note 8 apart from Samsung’s other current smartphones. The Galaxy S8 is smooth, soft and almost pebble-like, but this one feels as though it really means business.
21 PAGES OF THE BIGGEST STORIES FROM PLANET TECH
No scan do A lot of features have been ported across from the Galaxy S8, including the digital home button – with the 6.3in screen taking up so much space, there’s no room for a fingerprint sensor up front, so you’ll find it on the rear.
Dual in the crown The Note 8’s dual-lens cam feels quick and responsive, but how it compares to the rest of the dual-camera world will boil down to image quality. There’s not much here that’s different from the iPhone 7 Plus.
Room to doodle The Galaxy Note 8’s extra screen space isn’t wasted with cutesy curves. Its sides still bend around the edge of the phone, but at a much sharper angle, leaving you more space to doodle with the S Pen.
Jacked to the max Just like the S8, the Note 8 is water-resistant, has a 3.5mm headphone jack, and offers USB-C charging. There’s also a button for the voice assistant Bixby – only he still hasn’t found his voice here in the UK.
THE RIVALS iPhone 7 Plus Apple’s big phone is due an imminent refresh, but if you can’t wait for the 7s Plus then this remains a fine phablet with a brilliant duallens camera.
Pixel XL No need to hold out for Google’s preChristmas upgrade: as it’s first in line for Android updates, the original remains a great choice.
Galaxy S8+ Sorry to break it to you, but the Note 8 ain’t going to come cheap. If you’ll struggle to cook up around £700, then you could go for the still sizeable S8+.
HANDS-ON WITH THE SAMSUNG GALAXY NOTE 8
Handle with care With a whopping 6.3in AMOLED panel this isn’t a phone you want colliding with a concrete floor. Thankfully, a skinny 18:9 aspect ratio screen means you don’t need the hands of a giant to grip it.
Tom Morgan Reviews Editor
The write stuff All your favourite S Pen apps have returned with the Note 8, but new for 2017 are Live Message, a cute way to draw doodles or annotate images; and live translation of whole sentences, instead of just single words.
If someone sets fire to your trousers once, are you ever really going to trust them with a box of matches again? If you can forgive and forget, the Galaxy Note 8 is shaping up to be every bit the kick-ass flagship phablet you’d expect. Seen a Galaxy S8 or S8+ in the wild? You’ll know exactly what to expect here: the Note 8 has an absolute stunner of a screen. The AMOLED panel has the same super-high 2960x1440 resolution, only here it’s stretched over 6.3in. A far bigger deal is the Note 8’s dual 12MP snappers, since this is the first phone to give ’em both optical image stabilisation for clearer,
THE NOTE 8 HAS AN ABSOLUTE STUNNER OF A SCREEN more detailed shots. This also means you can toggle between 1x and 2x ‘optical zoom’, to get closer to your subjects without moving, only without any digital noise or compression. Combined with an S Pen that’s just as delightful as ever, a slick stripped-back take on Android and all the power you need for zipping between apps, the Galaxy Note 8 feels like a proper superphone. We can’t wait to test one fully and see if those dual lenses deliver.
Phantom tech Rolls-Royce claims the Phantom is home to the highest-res head-up display available. If you’re not that bothered about pixels when it comes to cars, you might like its 360° and night vision cameras instead.
HOT FOUR #2
HOT FOUR #3
“ALEXA, I’LL BE BACK”
LIFE IS A ROLLER COASTER
Smart security cameras are normally anonymous little chunks of plastic designed to blend into your home furnishings, not stand out like a killer robot in a nursing home. But what’s scarier for a burglar to see on a shelf as they crawl through your kitchen window: a small white square with a lens on it, or an 18in metal skull with glowing red eyes? AC Worldwide’s T-800 wireless speaker has full Alexa support, plus a camera built into the left eye, so you can see who’s wandering around your home in real time via the accompanying app, with a year of cloud backup included for recordings. Hasta la vista, uncertainty. As hot as… the fires of Judgment Day from £280 / stuff.tv/TerminatorSpeaker
The name Rolls-Royce conjures images of chauffeurs, toffs and top hats. And while anyone who can afford a new Phantom has probably got enough cash to pay someone to drive it for them, why would they want to? With a 563hp V12 engine that’s almost as silent as an actual phantom, it’s packed with sensors, including a camera that analyses the road ahead to warn the air suspension about any champers-spilling bumps to come. And let’s not forget the satellite-assisted transmission that means the gearbox is always prepared for any steep hills. If you can’t even be bothered to drive a car like that, it’s probably time you got a bicycle. As hot as… a swan vindaloo £400,000 / stuff.tv/RollsRoycePhantom
AC Worldwide The Terminator T-800
Ozo you didn’t! The Nokia 8 comes with something called Ozo Audio, essentially a 3D recording algorithm that uses multiple mics to create surround sound. This should add an extra dimension to videos.
HOT FOUR #4 ZEISS AS NICE Nokia 8
Nokia is finally stepping up to the plate to take on the big boys – and it’s brought long-time collaborator Zeiss on board to help out with the camera tech. The Nokia 8 has all the kit you’d expect, like a Snapdragon 835 CPU, 2K screen and virtually stock version of Android, but it’s the twin 13MP cameras on the back that stand out: use one for colour and the other for black & white photos, or pair ’em up for higher quality. Or combine with the 13MP cam on the front for split-screen front-and-back photos and live videos, aka ‘bothies’. It all comes wrapped up in the best-looking Nokia phone to date. As hot as… a thousand burning 3310s €599 / stuff.tv/Nokia8 16
HANDS-ON WITH THE NOKIA 8 Tom Morgan Reviews Editor If the Nokia 6 was a chunky slab of metal, the 8 is a svelte slice, with smooth curves that fit perfectly in your hand. The copper version is easily the best-looking phone in the line-up, with the stealthy antenna lines leaving the back free from distractions. The 5.3in display is LCD but everything
looks so rich and colourful on it we thought it was OLED at first. Contrast is excellent, with good viewing angles and brightness. Opening apps and swiping through home screens seemed speedy too, probably thanks to the nearpristine version of Android that Nokia’s loaded it with. Of those two cameras, only the colour sensor comes with optical image
stabilisation; but test shots showed some promise, even if we’re not sold on the idea of using both front and back cameras simultaneously to snap ‘bothies’. It might have a similar look, but the 8 feels a world apart from Nokia’s three other smartphones. The leap in build quality, hardware and design is huge… but will that be enough to tempt Nokia fans back from their Samsungs?
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T A L S T A T S
SMART SOUNDBAR SHOOTS FOR THE SKY Sky Soundbox
from £249 / sky.com
Sky has announced Dolby Atmos is coming… pity the Soundbox doesn’t support it.
Devialet has made use of tech from its own Expert Pro amp and Phantom wireless speaker.
Sky’s wall-bouncing TV soundbar/base/thing will tickle your ears with magic ● Telly addicts If you’ve got Sky Q, chances are you’ve already set your TV’s pixels to stun – but Sky’s not convinced that your built-in speakers are doing its pictures justice. Enter the Soundbox: a fancy speaker system that aims to elevate your telly’s sound to suitably ear-pleasing levels. ● Ask the family Sky is in the business of making good TV shows, not soundbars, and you can’t just pick up the 18
audio know-how for a speaker system overnight – which is why it enlisted hi-fi specialist Devialet’s help for this. Behind the grille are six 7.5cm woofers (so no sub is required) and three 5cm full-range drivers that bounce the sound off your walls to trick your ears into thinking they’re surrounded. In total you’re getting 140 Watts of audio power. ● Catch phrase The Soundbox’s neatest trick is real-time volume management, which means it’ll automatically tweak the sound to make sure loud bits aren’t too loud and quiet bits aren’t too quiet. Plug it into a Sky Q
box and you’ll also unlock some special sound modes that are designed specifically for each of the major channels. Plus it can enhance the dialogue if you’re struggling to catch what Don Corleone’s mumbling about in The Godfather, or calm the bass if you don’t want to wake the kids. ● Bargain hunt You don’t actually have to be a Sky subscriber to buy a Soundbox, but in that case it’ll set you back £799. You’ll get it for £299 if you sign up for, or already have, a Sky subscription, while new or existing multiroom customers get another £50 knocked off on top of that.
BEHIND THE GRILLE ARE NINE SPEAKERS THAT BOUNCE THE SOUND OFF YOUR WALLS
The fur Pavilions
HP PAVILION 24 & 27
BOX OF TV TRICKS
Felts and fabrics used to be the preserve of tailors and upholsterers, but if you want anyone to take your tech seriously these days you need to swathe it in some sort of fuzz. The strokable panel under the 4K touchscreen on HP’s latest 24in and 27in all-in-ones covers speakers that have been tuned by B&O. Meanwhile up to 16GB of RAM and Intel’s 7th-gen processors should ensure it purrs like a cat locked in a dairy. Its webcam is retractable, so if you’ve been listening to Edward Snowden and you don’t want any spies seeing you stroking your new PC, make sure it’s tucked away when you’re not using it, eh? £tba / hp.com
With its boxy proportions and relatively small footprint the Soundbox isn’t quite a normal soundbar, nor a soundbase. It isn’t really big enough to sit your telly on, but would look a bit weird sat in front. Best stick it in a rack.
TELL THE ’TOOTH
It also has Bluetooth, so you can hook your phone up to play music through it, or it’ll piggyback on a Sky Q box’s AirPlay connection if you’re using an iPhone or iPad.
Round the back there’s one HDMI input and, if you prefer to do things the old-fashioned way, an optical input. While it might not be able to cope with Dolby Atmos, it does have Dolby Digital Plus multi-channel audio.
FRONTROW We’ve all got that one mate who Snapchats everything – from gourmet burgers to oddly-shaped clouds. Annoying, isn’t it? Buy the offender one of these FrontRow wearable cameras and, while it’s unlikely to stop them recording everything they see, from now on they’ll be doing it all with the 8MP 1080p main camera, so at least you won’t get a smartphone shoved in your face every other minute. Using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, it can piggyback your phone’s 4G connection to stream live video, or you can send photos and clips over afterwards to be set free into the outside world. Are you ready for your close-up? US$399 / frontrow.com
The bigger picture in tech
STARGAZE FROM YOUR SOFA Run out of stuff to watch on Netflix? Do you know what’s infinite and will never have you reaching for the remote? Outer space. Online stargazing site Slooh.com used to charge a fee to watch its live streams of the cosmos, filmed using its six telescopes in Chile and the Canary Islands, but now you can log in for free. Want to pick where to point one? You’ll need to pay for that, but free users get up to 20 hours of streaming a day, which will be enough time to see one quattuornonagintillionth of what the universe has to offer. That’s what we call value for money. 20
SKY SPORTS GOES ATMOS-PHERIC
Got one of those AV receivers that bounces sound off the ceiling? Got a 2TB Sky Q box? Now you can stick the two together and add Dolby Atmos to your 4K Premier League viewing, with other sports expected to join the Atmos party soon afterwards.
ALEXA GOES TO IKEA
Ikea’s bargain-tastic Tradfri smart lightbulbs will finally get Alexa, Google Home and Apple HomeKit support by the end of autumn. Be warned, it might not work too well if you try to issue your voice commands with a mouth full of deliciously cheap meatballs.
LOVEFILM GOES POST-POST
You know that slot halfway down your front door? It’s for post, and Lovefilm used to send you DVDs through it. As of the end of October, Amazon, which owns Lovefilm, won’t be doing that any more, seeing as everyone now prefers to stream their films instead. 21
A P P S
This month’s mobile must-downloads
3 OF THE BEST
ONETHUMB GAMES LEAP ON!
£free / Android, iOS Leap around a star of death that you’re attached to by a strand of elastic. Go high, grab bonuses, and wonder why you didn’t bring scissors.
RUN JUMP DIE
£2.99 / iOS Tap and hold to guide a heroic bunny through platforming hell. It’s Super Mario Run with long ears and a cotton-ball tail, as designed by a sadist.
2 Motion Stills
6 Today Weather
9 Layton’s Mystery Journey
£19.99 / iPad One synth not enough to express your songwriting genius? How about eight – playing at the same time? That’s Kaspar, an iPad noisemaker where hitting one key is enough to make a chart-topper.
£1.99 / iOS This one’s for scratching that Electroplankton itch – using your iPhone. It has three environments in which minimal winged creatures flit about, creating melodies. It’s all very zen.
£free (IAPs) / Android, iOS If your main beef with emoji is that there aren’t enough of them, this app heroically helps you create your own. Backgrounds, eyes, hats and, um, poop are all there for the taking. (Don’t take the poop.) 22
£free / Android On iOS, Motion Stills made Live Photos useful. On Android, there are no Live Photos… so the app requires you shoot using its camera. But it’s fab for turning animated snaps into mini-movies.
£free / Android, iOS Take a selfie and this app will effectively cut out your beautiful face. You can then ‘teleport’ yourself by adding a background or, for some reason, change your hair colour. But not both.
£4.99 / iOS Pictures aren’t any cop these days unless they’re moving. We blame Apple. And Harry Potter. Plotagraph+ brings movement to stills by way of arrows, masking, anchor points and a bit of magic.
£2.99 / Apple Watch Exercise is all very well until you take a wrong turn and end up in a canal. Unlike other Apple Watch fare, WorkOutDoors sensibly displays an auto-rotating map alongside your workout statistics.
£free / Android, iOS Yet another weather app, which despite its name fortunately covers more than ‘today’. In fact, it’s packed full of lovely data and icons. And also huge pointless photos, but they can be turned off.
£17.99 / Android For anyone moaning that phones don’t have ‘real games’, here’s a fab Layton effort seemingly hurled across from a Nintendo DS – with a price tag to match.
free / iOS Swipe to set a chunk of metal spinning, and then have it survive in an abstract industrial world that’s presumably the metal’s own fever dream.
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DECIPHER ALLOW ME TO EXPLAIN…
SAGE SMOKING GUN “Mmm, how do you make food taste like this?” your dinner guests will ask, as you try to hide your new Smoking Gun behind your back, waving away a puff of your secret ingredient with a waft of your hand. “Oh, it’s nothing,” you’ll say, “just something I picked up from Heston.” Which isn’t strictly a lie, as it is part of the baldie superchef’s Sage range, with a removable burning chamber for the applewood or hickory wood chips, and a silicone pipe for making sure the smoke goes where you want it to – rather than giving your dinner guests stinging eyes and spluttering lungs for their appetiser. £80 / sageappliances.co.uk
#26 BLUETOOTH MESH Tom Wiggins
Bluetooth’s come a long way since we ‘Bluejacked’ rude messages to people on trains and pompous businessmen used it to shout things into their Jawbone headsets. But it’s still very much a one-to-one deal: your phone to your Fitbit, your mouse to your laptop, your iPad to your headphones. There’s power in numbers, though, and Bluetooth devices will soon be teaming up to do far more than you ever thought possible. It’s called Bluetooth Mesh and it works by connecting multiple gadgets together, like the way a Sonos system or Sky Q works but over Bluetooth rather than Wi-Fi. That means the data speeds are significantly slower – a relatively snail-like 1Mbps – but the uses of this tech are somewhat different. Imagine every appliance in your home is part of a Bluetooth Mesh network. As soon as you walk in the front door, the light in the hall detects the presence of
DATA SPEEDS ARE MUCH SLOWER THAN A WI-FI NETWORK, BUT THE USES OF THIS TECH ARE SOMEWHAT DIFFERENT Saddle up
WAHOO ELEMNT MINI If you’ve just shelled out a few hundred quid on a new bike, you probably aren’t too keen on doing the same again for a bike computer. So don’t. Just £80 will get you a new Wahoo Elemnt Mini, which comes with Bluetooth, ANT+ and a speed sensor, but will also track cadence and heart rate if you hook it up to the correct sensors. There’s no GPS on board but if you connect your smartphone it will track your rides and let you share your progress in real time, plus it’ll deliver call and text notifications – handy when someone realises you’re heading straight for a ravine. £80 / uk.wahoofitness.com
the phone in your pocket and switches itself on, while 10 metres away the kettle has clocked that you’re home and started to boil. In fact, range is no longer an issue with a mesh network, because each gadget within it acts as a stepping stone to carry the signal over much longer distances. The real benefit of using Bluetooth is that it’s standardised, so once you’ve got a network set up, anything with Bluetooth can take advantage of it, even if it’s in an office or public building.
G A M E S
FIRST PLAY SONIC FORCES PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
[ Words Rob Leedham ]
Sonic die-hards are a lot like Liverpool fans: always harking back to the old days, praying that a new year will bring a return to those glory days. “This time it’ll be different,” they say. “This time Sega will get it right.” So guess what happened with the new Sonic Mania? The rodent actually did it – the 2D platformer is a riotous revival of his Mega Drive triumphs. We love it to bits, even if it is basically those same old games with a fresh lick of paint and a couple of new levels (see review, p104). But something else is needed to 26
cement Sonic’s grand comeback: an added dimension. Enter Sonic Forces, Sega’s umpteenth attempt to drag its mascot into 3D. Forces flits between vintage side-scrolling and bombastic action at a rate of knots. One level saw us zoom through a fire-filled city in the midst of a robot invasion; another boss battle pitted us against Dr Eggman (yep, him again) in a Green Hill Zone throwback. You needn’t take on these stages as Sonic himself, though. For the first time ever, Forces
gives you the chance to create your own avatar to speed through the game with… and this we’re not so sure about. If the diabolical Shadow the Hedgehog taught us anything, it’s that there’s only one star of this franchise. Sorry, Tails. Right now, we’re tentatively excited about Sonic Forces. After decades of trial and error, it looks as though Sega might just have figured out how to get the best out of the spiky blue fella. And let’s face it, he’s got more chance of doing the double this year than Liverpool.
FIRST LOOK BE YOUR OWN WORST ENEMY
ECHO PS4, PC
Echo is one of those games you have to play to truly understand. That’s going to be difficult here, so we’ll have a go at explaining it. Ready? You play as En, who finds herself in a sentient environment called the Palace, populated with enemy clones of her called Echoes. At first they’re blank canvases, but as you progress through the Palace they’ll learn from your behaviour and start to mimic your approach. Go in all guns blazing and you’ll be met with equal force; go in all stealthy and they’ll try to catch you off guard. Change your approach and after a while the Palace will reset everything in order to deploy its newly learned behaviour. Each reset causes a blackout, during which you can act without the Palace seeing, so that’s your chance to do anything you don’t want the Echoes picking up on. It’s this mind-bending premise that makes Echo such an intriguing game, plus its ornate mansion setting is a welcome change from the usual grimy dystopias of sci-fi games. It also means that the only person you need to outsmart is yourself. And that can’t be too hard, can it?
OUT 19 SEP
COMING SOON TO SWITCH INDIE HITS
THE FLAME IN THE FLOOD
Most survival games make you stick to one place. Build a base. Fortify it. See how long you can last. The Flame In the Flood, though, is a trip down a procedurally generated river that you’ll need to plunder to have any hope of surviving. The PC version was a bit buggy, but perhaps the Switch will iron those niggles out.
Jonesing for more Zelda? Rime’s story of a boy shipwrecked on an island certainly has its similarities to Link’s Awakening, but with only your voice as a weapon it’s also reminiscent of Ico and Journey. If nothing else, it’s an absolutely beautiful world to wander around with a bloody lovely soundtrack to match.
It might be over two years old now but the popularity of Rocket League shows no sign of waning. The Switch’s voice chat is a bit of a mess, so you’ll struggle to taunt your mates after they score a horrendous own goal, but we’re still excited to be able to play Rocket League on the go. Nothing can stop our road rage now.
INCOMING OCTOBER ● THE EVIL WITHIN 2 ● GRAN TURISMO SPORT ● WOLFENSTEIN II: THE NEW COLOSSUS ● SOUTH PARK: THE FRACTURED BUT WHOLE ● ASSASSIN’S CREED: ORIGINS NOVEMBER ● STAR WARS: BATTLEFRONT 2 ● CALL OF DUTY: WWII ● NEED FOR SPEED: PAYBACK
C H O I C E
Make yourself a tasty cocktail, be stirred but not shaken
1 On The Rocks Whisky Blocks
Real drinkers don’t need mixers, and that includes water. These granite cubes keep your whisky chilled without melty dilution. £14.99 / firebox.com
2 BarWise Magnetic Bottle Opener
This sleek gadget will free your drink of choice from its bottle while magnetically holding onto the metal cap. Tidy. £8 / josephjoseph.com
3 Urban Bar 360 Muddler (245mm)
This cocktail stirrer will leave your juicy bits more blitzed than Don Draper after five whiskies, ensuring maximum flavour. £7.85 / urbanbar.com
4 Gun Metal Black Cocktail Shaker
Shaking cocktails in a glass can be quite the splashy challenge. This 500ml metal container, on the other hand, makes it a cinch. £16.99 / drinkstuff.com
5 Otis Champagne/ Cocktail Glass (x4)
[ Picture RGB Digital ]
Save the plastic beakers for your homebrew and treat your drinking buddies to these handmade glasses. £40 / lsa-international.com
6 Neon Bar Sign
Stick a few stools at the breakfast bar and you’ve a nice kitchen. Stick this neon shiner to the wall and you have the start of a watering-hole empire. £89 / grahamandgreen.co.uk
NINETY7 VAUX Once you get used to having Alexa in your life, it’s easy to get into the habit of asking her everything – even when you’re nowhere near your Echo. Alexa, would I like fries with that? Do I need a bag? Would you please call me an ambulance? The problem: Echos need plugging in. Instead of hauling a generator around, Ninety7’s Vaux is a battery-powered vessel for your Echo Dot. Just pop the little puck in the top and connect the wires – you’ve got a portable Alexa speaker with six hours of use, plus a boost to the Dot’s tinny audio. £50 / ninety7life.com
KITSOUND VOICE ONE
Amazon’s full-size Echo sounds OK as a music speaker, but it’s not exactly tech’s answer to Beyonce – so British brand KitSound has stepped in to give Alexa an upgrade in the sound quality department. With a pair of 2.5in 10-Watt drivers, the Voice One claims to be a more audiophile-friendly smart speaker. It has a pair of mics that listen out for your commands, plus the ability to wirelessly link up to eight units together. It’s only £129, which is £21 cheaper than the Echo, so we’ll wait to hear it with our own ears before passing judgement. £129 / kitsound.co.uk
DROP EVERYTHING AND DOWNLOAD...
Firefox 8.0 £free / iOS
Many people these days fall asleep every night holding on tight to the one they love: their iPhone. But for everything that made you fall for it in the first place, iOS isn’t always the best at knowing when to tone things down before bed. Turn on Firefox’s Night Mode and it’ll dim the brightness of the screen to a level that’s much easier on your eyes – just be careful you don’t blind
yourself when you switch to another, less thoughtfully designed app. Firefox’s late-noughties heyday seems like a long time ago now but, in an apparent nod to the times when it was the desktop browser of choice, there’s even a QR code reader built into this new mobile version. And for day-to-day browsing, Firefox 8.0 is as slick as Safari and as clean as Chrome. 29
I C O N
B&0 BEOLAB 50 £22,930 / bang-olufsen.com I hope that doesn’t sound as flaky as it looks. Very good. But those brown fins are actually called lamellas, from the Latin for flake. So what you mean is, “I hope that doesn’t sound as lamella-y as it looks.” Which doesn’t quite work. Anyway, do you know what else is Latin? The word ‘audio’, which means ‘I hear’. And once you’ve audio’d a pair of BeoLab 50s, you won’t doubt the sturdiness of their sound. A pair? Where’s the other one? These are active speakers, which means they don’t need external amplification to make any noise – all the tech is packed inside one speaker, while the other completes the stereo picture. All you need to do is add power (and music). They call it a ‘master and slave’ setup in the hi-fi world, but we’d rather think of it as a dynamic duo, like Ant & Dec. Do Ant & Dec have a Latin name? Er, maybe… Antus et Deccus? What they definitely don’t have are ‘acoustic lenses’ that pop up out of their heads. These allow you to change how the speakers disperse the 2100 Watts of sound created by the seven built-in amplifiers. However, you can only choose between two settings: a full 180º panorama or a narrower sweet spot for sitting and stroking your beard in. Just remember, barba non facit philosophum. What does that mean? A beard doesn’t make you a philosopher. A pair of these won’t make you an audiophile either, although USB and coaxial inputs that support files up to 24-bit/ 192kHz are a step in the right direction. There’s WiSA wireless too, but that’s for connecting your BeoVision TV, not streaming Spotify from your phone.
THE POP-UP ‘ACOUSTIC LENSES’ ALLOW YOU TO CHANGE THE SOUND DISPERSION
7.5 SECONDS TOP SPEED:
MAX POWER (BHP/RPM):
145 @ 6,000 RPM
Great British Engineering
WITH ‘A’ GRADE WET GRIP
HIGH PERFORMANCE TYRE
MORGAN PLUS 4
1.9 LITRE FORD GDI
S T A R T M E N U ST KIC AR K TE R
The latest startups, crowdfunded projects and plain crazy ideas
SANDMAN DOPPLER We’ve all woken up bleary-eyed, messy-haired and entirely unsure where we are or what we’re supposed to be doing. “What day is it?” you mumble to nobody in particular, and your stupid old alarm clock blinks back at you silently. Not so with Sandman’s Alexa-infused Doppler slumberbuster. As well as asking it the time, you can use pretty much all the usual Alexa skills, including turning off the lights as soon as you’re tucked up in bed so you don’t have to risk a bump in the night. And with six USB ports built in, it’ll also charge your phone, your smartwatch and anything else you’ve got laying about. US$119 / paloaltoinnovation.com BACK IT STACK IT
I GONDI GOE-
ST KIC AR K TE R
Bean ’n’ gone
Tooth fast, tooth furious
Forget that cardboard coffee cup with somebody else’s name scrawled on it – Huskee’s chic vessels are made from recycled coffee husks, with fins along the outside that keep your drink hotter for longer without searing your hand. Interior contours also help the milk to blend, and they come in three sizes. from $39 for four / huskee.co
Take a tumble while wearing an Orii smart ring and you can use its built-in microphone to take calls or talk to Siri just by touching your ear. It uses bone conduction tech to channel the sound directly to your brain, so eavesdroppers won’t hear a thing – and you’ll look a bit like a secret agent while you do it. Expensive suit not included. from $129 / orii.io
No, Jony Ive hasn’t started designing BDSM gear; this is the Amabrush – a toothbrush that uses a combination of specially made toothpaste foam and bristles that vibrate at an amplitude of 9.5G to clean all your gnashers in just 10 seconds. Just think of all the extra bites of toast you’ll be able to have in the time saved. €79 / amabrush.com
With clicky keys reminiscent of an old-timey shop till, three different finishes and a choice of either USB or Bluetooth connection, every time you use one of Azio’s mechanical QWERTYs you’ll feel like Hemingway typing up his memoirs, not Gareth writing a complaint to Tesco. from $120 / aziocorp.com
ST KIC AR K TE R
I GONDI GOE-
AZIO RETRO CLASSIC
FUTURE STUFF POWER TO YOUR PAD Tom Wiggins has been shopping in Ikea to find the best method of saving a tonne on your energy bills
OPTOMA ML330 Like getting married, having kids or buying those really big packets of toilet roll, owning a projector is quite a commitment. Where do you put it? What do you plug into it? And what do you project onto? Optoma’s Android-powered ML330 is the four-pack of the projector world: portable, versatile and with built-in Wi-Fi so you can just download the Netflix app and pick up watching Glow where you left off, with automatic image correction to make sure the picture’s not on the wonk. The integrated speaker’s only 2W but with Bluetooth on board you can easily pair a separate one to give the audio a boost. Now that’s the kind of commitment we can get behind. £400 / optomaeurope.com
Ikea used to be all about meatballs, insanely long queues and infuriating flatpack furniture with funny names. But since launching its own wireless charging kit and inviting itself into your smart home with its Tradfri lighting, things have taken a turn for the techy at everyone’s favourite Swedish bookcase-flogger. The latest product heading towards its catalogue might look like an astronaut’s fridge-freezer… but this is Ikea’s home battery, which you can have installed in your house to store the surplus energy generated by that bank of solar panels you had fitted to the roof. Right now that energy gets sold back to your supplier at a loss, so storing it for future use, or to charge up your new Tesla, makes much more financial sense. Ikea won’t make the batteries – a UK company called Solarcentury will supply
STORING SOLAR ENERGY FOR FUTURE USE MAKES MORE SENSE THAN SELLING IT AT A LOSS
ADIDAS ULTRABOOST LACELESS
them (and you won’t have to put them together yourself) – but with savings estimated at up to £560 a year, the £3000 installation cost will be paid back before too long. Just remember this is the UK, so until they invent a solar panel that runs on clouds it’s always going to be slower going than California. With Brexit seemingly an unstoppable force that could leave us desperately trying to sell sponge cakes to the EU in exchange for old passports, those with solar panels on their roofs – and a means to store the electricity they generate – could be the ones who inherit the earth.
There’s an old Peter Kay routine about how running in slippers always make you feel really fast. It turns out there must be some truth in it, because Adidas’s new laceless running shoes look just like the kind of thing you’d slip on for a night in front of the telly, not a 100m sprint. But these Laceless UltraBoosts have been designed with world-class runners in mind – and, unlike your old slippers, their Primeknit construction means they won’t come flying off into the long jump pit when you reach terminal velocity. Fortunately, you can still flop onto the sofa in them afterwards and be just as comfy. Pass the biscuits, would you? £150 / adidas.co.uk
24th What does the new iPhone hold in store?
BALTIMORE RAVENS vs JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (NFL) ● NEXT ISSUE November The iPhone edition On sale 05/10/17
If you like your mustard radioactive yellow, your beer flavourless and your sports interrupted by adverts, the NFL is for you. The first of this year’s four London games sees the Jaguars host the Ravens at Wembley.
NOW 10 years ago Apple launches first iPhone
18th ALIEN COVENANT (BLU-RAY)
Last of the summer, whine
Some people didn’t like Prometheus because it didn’t have many xenomorphs in it, so in Covenant Ridley Scott toned down the chinscratching philosophical bits and ramped up the aliens-turning-poorunsuspecting-humanbeings-inside-out stuff.
THEN 27 years ago
MAIL RAIL AT THE POSTAL MUSEUM
Closed, abandoned and forgotten nearly 100 years ago, the Post Office’s underground railway runs deep below the streets of London. And now you can take a 20-minute ride through the tunnels and largely untouched platforms on its miniature trains. 34
6th 727 The number of days a player named ‘Policemam’ has spent playing the first Destiny.
Stephen King’s It miniseries
With a greater focus on story and less on eradicating wave after wave of endless bullet fodder, Destiny 2 will also open up more of the galaxy for exploration. That should be enough to distract you from the fact that none of your progress from the first game will carry over.
Watch the terrifying cinema reboot
● ALSO INCOMING Play these: Cuphead Project Cars 2 Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite
Pro Evo is first out onto the pitch this season, promising players with better control and dribbling, smarter-looking stadiums, and a chaotic 3-v-3 online co-op mode. Unfortunately, the silly made-up team names are back too. The CR7–approved FIFA 18 follows on the 29th.
W I N
WIN 1 OF 6 KODAK PIXPRO CAMERAS WITH A TOTAL VALUE OF £1049 Remember that time you went over Niagara Falls on an old ironing board then surfed it all the way to Lake Ontario? Or when you wingsuited off the top of K2 and almost landed on a snow leopard? Or when you overtook Chris Froome on your Raleigh Chopper? No, of course you don’t, because you weren’t wearing an action cam and now it might as well never have happened. Maybe next time you’re feeling gnarly, you’ll be better prepared. Worth £230, the Kodak Pixpro SP1 is a wireless-equipped compact action cam that’s waterproof, shockproof, dustproof and freezeproof, and can shoot 1080p Full HD video. That’s the first prize in this month’s competition, and there are five more Kodak Pixpro cameras for runners-up: an SP360 palm-sized 360° action cam, an Astro Zoom AZ527, an Astro Zoom AZ422, an Astro Zoom AZ252 and a Friendly Zoom FZ201. See kodakpixpro.com to find out more about the Kodak Pixpro range.
HOW TO ENTER
For your chance to snap up one of these snappy snappers, just go to stuff.tv/win and answer this question:
WHICH OF THESE ACTIVITIES WOULD MAKE FOR GNARLY ACTION CAM FOOTAGE? HURRY! A … Mountain biking COMPETITION B … Watching telly CLOSES 12 OCTOBER C … Taking afternoon tea 2017 with the lead singer of Echo & The Bunnymen Terms & conditions 1 Open to UK residents aged 18 or over. 2 Entries close 11.59pm, 12 Oct 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
1st Kodak Pixpro SP1 RRP £230 2nd Kodak Pixpro SP360 £200 3rd Kodak Pixpro AZ527 £240 4th Kodak Pixpro AZ422 £160 5th Kodak Pixpro AZ252 £119 6th Kodak Pixpro FZ201 £100
y Pete Gardner es Photograph edham, Ryan Jon [ Words Rob Le
L L HA E M GA THE
SEGA VS NINTENDO
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BEST GAMES EVER
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BEST GAMES EVER
Boulder Dash Atari’s greatest unsung classic, Boulder Dash has been ported to 24 platforms. If you’re struggling to get your head around this underground puzzler’s longevity, then remember that humans never tire of hunting for gems and remind yourself the protagonist is called Rockford. That is god-level punning. 1984 / Atari
Prince of Persia Nowadays we’ve seen so many pixelated headshots we’re pretty much desensitized to most forms of bodily mutilation… unless we just happen to see the Prince of Persia falling into a giant spiked pit again. Then, just as 30 years ago, our stomach tightens up and our small bits shrivel into dust. 1989 / Apple II
I love this too much
Rob Leedham, Editor
Donkey Kong Forget about Mario – DK easily ranks as Nintendo’s most important creation. Why? His arcade debut was enough of a success to shift the company away from its roots as a maker of handmade playing cards to a gaming titan. Donkey Kong also inadvertently gave us the greatest gaming-related movie of all-time: The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. Watch it and be astounded by how much you’ll care about one nerd’s quest for a high score. 1981 / Arcade
en Nintendo has be for making games longer than I’ve its been alive, yet ly output has bare changed since Donkey Kong. It’s all very simple. Just keep running til and jumping un you free the o princess. But wh can argue with such brilliance? s Not me. I alway s. er eld y m t ec resp
As the game that popularised twin-stick shooters, you have Robotron: 2084 to thank for Call of Duty. Set in the year 2084, robots control the world and the human race is at the brink of extinction. Whether that’s down to Alexa or Siri going rogue is currently unknown, but we can speculate. 1982 / Arcade
Designed to draw young couples into arcades, Bubble Bobble really shows its teeth once you’ve whizzed past its first few levels. A good chunk of this co-op affair is spent dodging empty beer bottles that are thrown at you, while the game reserves its ‘good’ ending for those who complete it with a friend. 1986 / Arcade
Stunt Car Racer
Stunt Car Racer eschewed pretty trackside scenery and delivered high-octane thrills in monumental fashion. Every so often you’d catch so much air in this Amiga classic that the track below you would be visualised as a microscopic fishbowl. Did we still land the jump? Hell yeah, we did. 1989 / Amiga
Without Space Invaders, where would we be? Perhaps we’d be fishing, or singing around campfires. We may never know. Space Invaders made obsessively playing games socially tolerable and we’re still grateful for that. Even if it probably did deprive us of the glory of collecting every Scouts badge. 1978 / Arcade
Pac-Man Championship Edition DX
The only way you can have avoided hearing about Pac-Man until now is if you’re an 87-year-old judge who’s immune to popular culture, or some sort of rare Arctic moose. If you’re either of those things, welcome to a bewildering reality: people will spend billions on playing as a small yellow cheese-person who eats ghosts in the dark. The game is every bit as brilliant today as it was almost 40 years ago. Unlike Pong, which has aged about as well as a pint of milk in a heatwave. 1980 / Arcade
TS THE HIGHLIGH Proving the cliché about men and multitasking to be true, Ms. Pac-Man had more maps, smarter ghosts and moving fruit over the male version. 1982 / Arcade
Dragging your favourite puck into the 21st century, this is an arcade classic reborn in mobile form. 2010 / iOS, Android
Vs. gives three of your mates the chance to play as ghosts and you the opportunity to scarper away from them like it’s your round again. 2003 / GameCube
BEST GAMES EVER
I love this too much
Marc McLaren, Editor, Stuff.tv
Doom Such is Doom’s greatness that there’s a website dedicated to all the myriad platforms it’ll run on. Apple’s new Touch Bar? Yup. A hospital’s ultrasound machine? Not the best use of NHS money, but sure. A toy chainsaw with a Raspberry Pi shoved in? Nothing could be more appropriate. Doom pushed tech to the max with its 3D worlds and super-fast play, also introducing network code for link-up shooting. It was amazing. It still is. 1993 / PC
I was already an adult when Doom came out, but playing it still felt impossibly naughty. So muc h blood! And violence! And blasphemy! Do om was obviously going to bring down civilisation . OK, it didn’t, bu t it did usher in an era of amazing first person shooters.
Known to the unenlightened as ‘that blockbuilding game’, Minecraft has captured the hearts of kids and grownups alike by proving every bit as big as their imaginations. It’s Lego writ as large as you want, and how it took humanity so long to come up with that simple idea remains a total mystery. 2011 / PC
Historically speaking, storytelling in games has come a distant second to blood splatter, menu systems and everything else. Gone Home bucks that trend like a Texan bronco by serving up story and that’s it. No guns. No other people. Just a big old house that’s crammed full of intrigue and mystery. 2013 / PC
THE HIGHLIGH TS
Halo: Combat Evolved It’s no hyperbole to say Microsoft’s entire console business was built off the back of one chap in a green helmet, and has stumbled since his recent mid-life crisis. Picking up the sci-fi shooter baton from Half-Life and refining it for the mainstream, Halo set the template for console shooters. 2001 / Xbox
Portal Do you remember Tetris 2? Course you don’t. And while Portal 2 was a fine game in its own right, nothing can top the impact of first leaping through a giant hole only to instantly appear somewhere else. When Valve eventually figures out how to do this game in VR without making us vomit, that will be peak Portal. 2007 / PC
Ocarina of Time You play a small boy dressed up as Robin Hood and you warp your way through time and space using a puzzlesolving musical toy. So far, so normal, but the gigantic game world and wellexecuted visual feast of Link’s first 3D outing meant that, if you started it as a boy, you finished it a man. 1998 / N64
Elite While other games offered 2D aliens to shoot and asteroids to avoid, Elite somehow stuck a huge galaxy into the tiny memory of an ’80s computer. It was an MMO, built when it shouldn’t have been possible – an engineering feat akin to packing your wardrobe into a Ryanair overhead bin. 1984 / BBC Micro
We all suspected it: being the bad guy is a lot more fun than sticking to the 10 commandments. But until GTA came along, we never knew for sure. 1997 / PC
GTA: Vice City
Featuring the holy trinity of Judas Priest, Toto and Hall & Oates, Vice City nails the hidden star of any GTA game: its soundtrack. 2002 / PS2
Before GTA III, the series was known for its vehicular assault on the senses. But never before had we loaded up a game just to… hang out. 2001 / PS2
GTA V The best-selling game of 2017 so far is four years old. That’s how popular GTA V has proven to be since we first saw Trevor curb-stomp a man to death. From UFO-spotting to bank heists, there’s so much to do in Los Santos that its map takes a full six hours to walk across. Or you could just stay at home, gambling your ill-gotten funds on the local property market. Add to this an epic online multiplayer mode that Rockstar still supports to this day, and you’ve got yourself a modern classic. 2013 / Xbox 360, PS3
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5 XBOX 360 FACTS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ● Th
Microsoft Xbox 360 2005 Wha
t is it about ge Yep, it’s imposs nius consoles with fatal char ible to chat abou ac mentioning th t the Xbox 360 ter flaws? ew w easy to forget hole ‘red ring of death’ palav ithout er. Still, it’s that the first HD games console trailblazer – no t le was a total and the way Xb ast for its revolutionary onlin ox Live Arcade e brought indie ga multiplayer masses like ne ver mes to the a colossal hard before. And of course, after making such ware balls-up, we make the sam e mistake again knew Microsoft wouldn’t with the Xbox One. Oh, wait…
e 360 was first codenamed Trini ty, in a reference to The Matrix ● It’s been estim . ated that the 360’s de fect rate was 33%. ● Microsoft sp over a billion do ent llars in shipping and re pairing broken console s over the 360’s lifespa n. ● Its processor was partly based on a Sony-funded ch ip for the PlayStation ● The Kinect m 3. otion camera sold 8 m illion units in its first 60 days on sale. RI P.
S C I S S A CULT CL BEST GAMES EVER
e are the gamoeos s e th – s d e rt a h r FIFAs and wUitnhc a complimentary ‘nerd’ tatt u o y t u o b a t e rg Fo have come that may as well
5 DREAMCAST FACTS YOU DIDN’T KNOW
OM ● Sega’s GD-R rietary, discs were prop rning wa a t ge u’d yo d an ck stu u yo if ge messa yer. one in a CD pla an e ● Microsoft mad r m fo ste sy ing at er op es. Dreamcast gam ● The combined y capacity of ever is 1TB. ld so st ca m Drea Sega’s a en op k ● Crac rd ca y or VMU mem tato’ and the word ‘po chip. is written on its mcast ● The last Drea ver, Fe game, Puyo Pop ree was released th nsole years after the co . ed inu nt was disco
st 1998 Sega Dreamca
us failure, ition of a glorio The very defin hand at its d ie tr e ol ns Sega’s final co ing… and online gam home, portable hard as the North as and still tanked real kicker? Nintendo’s e Korean army. Th es the same stuff y do all sic ba h itc Sw Yep, the huge success. as this and is a real crime was that ly Dreamcast’s on fore its time that r be it arrived so fa up to med Sega was everyone assu enanigans. Still, if y sh its usual barm to lay eyes lucky enough you were ever ms as Shenmue, Skies ge n on such hidde em is z then this syst of Arcadia or Re ing. ish well worth cher
THE RIVAL PlayStation 2 ed to No one contribut e mor Sega’s demise , but than Sega itself 2 ion at St ay Pl ’s ny So help. certainly didn’t
BEST GAMES EVER
Burnout 3: Takedown
I love this too much
Guy Cocker, Global Brand Director I’m a sucker for d a good story, an is Life is Strange’s r. lte be te lu so ab an I’m ce But sin responsible for every decision Max makes, I el can’t help but fe en responsible wh g. her life goes wron r he h nis pu Don’t to for my inability make decisions ! under pressure
Life is Strange A five-part high-school soap opera with BioShock-like moral choices – ranging in severity from deciding whether to grass up a bully to firing a gun in self-defence – Life Is Strange may have served up melodrama in industrial quantities, but it was its characters that really struck a chord with so many people. Well, who hasn’t spent their painfully insecure teenage years struggling to cope with some newfound time-rewinding powers? Just us, then. 2015 / PS4, Xbox One, PC
The Burnout series slowly evolved from a racer with a hint of aggression to an all-out smash-’em-up. Combining speed boosts with epic smashes and labyrinthine courses, it just pipped Burnout 2 to earn its spot on this list. We really want to shunt someone off the road in slow-mo now. 2004 / PS2, Xbox
A sports game where hyper-fast fun slam-dunks all realism into another dimension, NBA Jam is one frantic race back and forth across a court to see who can rack up the most points. Sure, you can block and tackle, but why bother with such trivialities when that could be time spent shooting hoops? 1993 / Arcade
Rez is one of those rare games that people talk about in hushed adoration – as if they still can’t believe this musical rail shooter actually got made. Having first seen the light of day when the Dreamcast was in its death throes, it’s since been reborn in several more guises – most recently on PSVR. 2001 / Dreamcast, PS2
Super Street Fighter IV
Street Fighter II Not so long ago you couldn’t set foot in an arcade without spotting one of Capcom’s cabinets – usually with a line of players waiting for their turn at the joystick. The series has morphed and evolved over the years with countless updates, spin-offs and sequels, but it was Street Fighter II that first sent it stratospheric – not least for the Super SNES-based port that half of Stuff HQ had at the top of their Christmas lists in 1992. 1991 / Arcade
WarioWare, Inc: Mega Party Games! We’re not saying that inebriation was essential to get the most out of Mega Party Games, but you’d surely struggle to get a room full of people yelling “cucumber” at a television otherwise. Imagine the chaos a Switch-based instalment in the series might inspire now… 2004 / GameCube
TS THE HIGHLIGH Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike The frame-perfect parry mechanic in Third Strike made Street Fighter the undisputed king of competitive punch-up games. 1999 / Arcade
Rock Band 3 Let’s be real here, Smash Mouth had it all wrong. Grabbing some instruments and three of your most talentless chums isn’t an instant ticket to all-star status… unless that just happens to be a set of plastic peripherals you’ve passed around to your motley crew of wannabe rock gods. 2010 / PS3, Wii, Xbox 360
Arcades had died by the mid-2000s, but SSFIV brought the fighting game genre back from the brink. 2010 / PS3, Xbox 360
Street Fighter Alpha 3
The Alpha games stripped back the series’ serious side and added the ISM system, throwing open the doors to custom combos. 1998 / Arcade
Super Meat Boy More than a throwback to when games were harder than Arnie with an AK-47, Super Meat Boy led the way for a wave of indie console games. What made it so adored was the sheer rush of achievement you felt after whirling through the cogs, blades and lasers without being pulverised. 2010 / Xbox 360 45
BEST GAMES EVER XXXXXXXXX
Streets of Rage 2
Super Smash Bros Melee
Stuff’s most idyllic day out? It’s probably not spent punching dudes in the face while eating roast chicken, but that’s only because of the inevitable consequences. Thankfully, doing the very same thing in Streets of Rage 2 came with no risk of injury (or obesity), so we indulged ourselves with gleeful abandon. 1992 / Mega Drive
The GameCube’s best-seller wasn’t a Zelda, Super Mario or Mario Kart, but a game where you could hammer Kirby’s little pink mug to your heart’s content. Actually, when we put it like that it’s no wonder Super Smash Bros Melee is still played in fighting game competitions. 2001 / GameCube
I love this too much
Tom Morgan, Reviews Editor
Sonic The Hedgehog 2 His transition from 2D to 3D may have gone about as well as that time we tried unicycling to work, but Sega’s mascot still had his moments. Not least this sequel, which really stuck a rocket up the jacksie of the iconic rodent. Not only were the levels here designed to be whizzed through before you’d had the chance to catch breath, but Sonic also had a new spin dash. Such was the pace, he still hasn’t caught up with his personal best 25 years later. 1992 / Mega Drive
THE HIGHLIGH TS
The six most dreaded words of my childhood ? “Let your sister have a turn.” Or at least they we re, until Sonic 2 wa s slammed into m y Mega Drive. No w she could bumbl e along as Tails, while I focused on destroying th e Death Egg and collecting those Chaos Emerald s.
Mario Kart 8
Jet Set Radio
One day an idiot will claim the Wii U was Nintendo’s greatest console. They’ll be so wrong it’s barely comprehensible, but that doesn’t mean Mario Kart 8 wasn’t the best entry in this franchise. Finally, you could wreak blue-shell-based destruction in HD, and that meant the birth of Luigi’s infamous death stare meme. 2014 / Wii U
If you thought the police in GTA were a little heavy-handed, you’re forgetting about Jet Set Radio’s blue troopers. Having spotted you tagging the streets of Tokyo-to with your graffiti, they’d stop at nothing to see you locked up. Even if that meant hailing an army of tanks and helicopters. 2000 / Dreamcast
Super Mario 64
Crazy Taxi Ask any Uber driver and they’ll tell you ferrying young inebriates around town isn’t much fun. Well, Crazy Taxi had us well and truly fooled, because it gave you the chance to raise absolute hell and get paid for it. In reality, the terror we inflicted on our many fares would have been enough to turn them off booze for life. 2000 / Dreamcast
A near-on perfect 3D platformer made at the first time of asking by Miyamoto and co. Better yet, it’s still a blast to play to this very day. 1996 / N64
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Neil Armstrong. Buzz Aldrin. Super Mario. Three titans of space travel, but only one of them did so with a princess in tow. 2010 / Wii
Super Mario Run
Mario on iPhone: it was a thought akin to the Queen gifting the French her crown jewels. Then this endless runner came along and all bets were off. 2016 / iOS, Android
Super Mario World Super Mario World is so good that it took Nintendo almost two decades to stick its moustachioed icon into another 2D outing for home consoles. And let’s not pretend New Super Mario Bros Wii stands up to that comparison in the slightest. More importantly, without Super Mario World there would be no Yoshi. Imagine a world where the best dinosaur of all time hadn’t been invented. Doesn’t bear thinking about, does it? 1990 / SNES
Samus Aran has always been an odd fit in Nintendo’s roster of heroes: she’s a woman who doesn’t need rescuing with a laser gun to get the job done. Well, Princess Peach never went off on interplanetary explorations on her own, did she? Which all serves to make Super Metroid that little bit more special. 1994 / SNES
SEGA VS NINTE NDO
BEST GAMES EVER
Look, Nintendo w to be a certain aSs best and there’s no debati ng it. Unless you tuff staffer who needs it spellin g out to himhaagpapen in...
Nintendo SNES 1990
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THE RIVAL Sega Mega Drive It may have lost the battle, and the war afterwards, but the Mega Drive had a number of class ics.
S R E Y A L PORTA-P
BEST GAMES EVER
re outdoors… tu n e v u o y n e h w simply hit pauosuetside our bedroom walls to t n a rt o p im o Gaming is tole pros gave us an extra life these portab
THE RIVAL Apple iPhone the Apple changed humble mobile ple phone from a sim e fid texter to a bona e. gaming machin
5 GAME BOY FACTS YOU DIDN’T KNOW was
y ● The Game Bo m ste the first game sy e. spac in d ye pla be to t, ● Believe it or no display that little green ran at 60fps. once ● A Game Boy ar W lf Gu a d survive ll explosion and sti y. da functions to this on illi m 118 ith W ● wide, units sold world e th the Game Boy is ing third-highest-sell er. ev m ste sy e m ga y is ● The Game Bo than more powerful used any of the tech strong m Ar il Ne t ge to on the Moon.
9 Game Boy 198
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BEST GAMES EVER
Persona 4 Golden
Strategy games are synonymous with PC nerdery, given their epic proportions and complexity. Yet Advance Wars managed to balance simplicity and depth so adeptly that it was able to cram a tactical blast into the GBA – so there was no need to set up a whopping battle station to play. 2001 / Game Boy Advance
The Japanese are crazy – Takeshi’s Castle is all the evidence you need of that. But look past their obsession with talking cats and tentacle-covered monsters, and you’ll realise that they’re chuffing good at making games. Persona is perhaps the best example of this fine balance of the crazy and the sublime. 2012 / PS Vita
I love this too much
Natalya Paul, itor Social Media Ed
Her Story Everyone has fancied themselves the next Sherlock Holmes after correctly guessing the identity of the killer on one of those ITV detective dramas. Why not inflate your crime-solving ego even more by playing Her Story? And since you’re required to watch live-action clips of a police interview, you can fool yourself into believing this is all completely authentic. It’s better brain fodder than Candy Crush while you’re doing business on the loo. 2015 / iOS, Android
of Within minutes y, starting Her Stor I could think of is nothing else. Th g utterly intriguin interactive es detective tale se ft-o ou h tc wa u yo sequence video clips in order to ry. unpick a myste h uc m so d I ha fun that I’m even considering a career change. So long, Stuff.
Generalising is a bad idea. Assume all cartoons are child-friendly and you’ll scar your kids for life with Sausage Party. So while The Room Three may look like another naff Flash puzzler, it’s actually a great second sequel to a BAFTA-winner. Well, don’t you look silly for doubting it now. 2015 / iOS, Android
Picking your way through mazes of optical illusions and searching for hidden passages sounds an awful lot like the Friday night journey back from the pub. Actually, we’re talking about the mindboggling puzzle game Monument Valley – although your head will still be spinning all the same by the end. 2014 / iOS, Android
Who thought maths could sneak into our smartphones and actually be fun? Sudoku fans might not be surprised, but your average gamer was likely shocked by how many hours they spent sliding numbered tiles in Threes. If only algebra and statistics had been this much fun at school. 2014 / iOS, Android
Video gaming’s equivalent of snap or draughts, Tetris is now omnipresent on pretty much every hardware format known to man – seriously, there are probably kettles that can play it. The Game Boy version remains the best, but if you don’t own it on your current smartphone you’re a fool. 1989 / Game Boy
It’s been over 20 years since Pikachu and the rest of those goofy-looking monsters first arrived in our pockets, yet their popularity is showing no signs of dying down. The concept was simple: collect all 151 monsters and become the Pokemon champion, and yet this shock-proof formula has retained the attention of children and adults alike to this day. And best of all, you could challenge your friends to a battle to sort out a disagreement without any risk of ending up in A&E. 1996 / Game Boy
TS THE HIGHLIGH
Catching all 151 Pokemon was a tough task, but an achievable one. But 802? Ain’t nobody got time for that! 2016 / 3DS
The Room Three
Rolling around in a little cart taking photos of Pokemon sounds rather dull, but this cult favourite smash was actually a fine puzzler. 1999 / N64
After years of mothers trying to get their 40-yearold sons to go outside, this AR game managed to do it in one day. 2016 / iOS, Android
BEST GAMES EVER
I love this too much
Mark Wilson, Features Editor
Half-Life 2 An astonishing game on every level, from the combat to the puzzles, the writing to the sound, to the original and convincing design of its game world. But perhaps best of all was the fact that you could pick up a circular saw blade with the Gravity Gun, shoot it at a zombie’s neck and watch its head pop off like an over-ripe, brain-filled coconut. As first-person shooters go, this could remain the greatest for another 10 years. It’s a proper masterpiece. 2004 / PC
Before I played the first Half-Lif e, I didn’t know an FPS could have a story – so when the sequel lande d, doing things wi th physics that blew my tiny mind, th e last thing I was expecting was movie-quality scale and emot ion. FPS games wo uld never be the sa me after this.
The Sims 2
We’ve no doubt that Drake was playing Civilization II shortly before thinking up the lyrics “Started from the bottom now we’re here”. Beginning the game in the Bronze Age, your goal is to keep your civilisation alive, obliterate your enemies and be the last empire standing when you arrive at the Space Age. 1996 / PC
Most priggish game-bashers claim that GTA is the most sadistic game out there. Not so. That privilege belongs to The Sims, as it’s one of the few games that put no restraints on your twisted imagination. Want to trap your Sim in a burning house? Go for it, but you will get a visit from the Grim Reaper shortly after. 2004 / PC
THE HIGHLIGH TS
League of Legends The three most addictive things known to man are alcohol, heroin and, worst of all, League of Legends. We thought World of Warcraft was dangerous to a gamer’s social life, but League of Legends isn’t just enslaving to those who play this MOBA, but also to anyone who watches it live on Twitch. 2009 / PC
Deus Ex Not just a great shooter, but also a great stealth game, a great RPG, and a great piece of writing. Deus Ex was all about evolution, letting you build towards your own style of play: tool up like a tank and smash through, or crawl through some vents, turn off the security cameras and treat the enemy to a surprise knockout. 2000 / PC
System Shock 2 While we love the Big Daddies of BioShock and the morphing aliens of Prey, neither of those games would have come to be without System Shock. An amalgamation of various game genres, System Shock 2 allowed you to deal with those alien invaders any way you liked. Wrench to the face, perhaps? 1999 / PC
Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge This was the PC’s answer to Choose Your Own Adventure books, and boy was it a gem. It may be a point-and-click adventure, but with puzzles that can make your brain burst and a Hollywoodrivalling story, this is one title that will never suffer the erosion of time. 1991 / PC
A turn-based alternative to the main series that required strategic thinking rather than charging into combat with a lead pipe. 2001 / PC
Who’d want to be face to face with a smelly mutant? Not us. That’s why we love this topdown perspective entry to the postapocalyptic series. 1998 / PC
Fallout: New Vegas
Vegas is full of deformed creeps and murderous crooks. Thankfully, the nuclear bomb saw them off. 2010 / PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Fallout 3 An immense, action-packed reinvention of the RPG genre, Fallout 3 gave you a real sense of time as you shaped your character from birth in the safety of the Vault, and then of enormous space as you sent her/him out into the vast, post-apocalyptic wastes as an adult. More than that, there was just so much to do – you’d spend a while clearing some buildings of fire ants, take out a super mutant stronghold, and then look out of the window and it’d be September. 2008 / PC, PS3, Xbox 360
THE PC MASTE R RACE BEST GAMES EVER
Many consoles processors, bheattve come and gone, but PCs er graphics and h limitless moadvse, endured. With faster why look elsewh ere?
THE RIVAL Alienware Steam Machine It’s no real thre at to a proper gaming PC, but it does offe r access to Steam .
5 PC GAMING FACTS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ● Th
e famous TI-8 calculator (1996 3 ) was more powerful than the Commodor e 64 PC (1982). ● There are no w as many Steam us ers the world as ther in e are people in Japa ● Dota 2 was th n. e first game to have a milli simultaneous pla on ye ● Steam was lau rs. nc by Valve in 2002 hed after Microsoft rejecte d the ide ● One of the fir a. st PC mods replaced all th Nazis with Smur e fs in Castle Wolfenste in.
StormForce Ge o 2017
PC gaming is all about having th optimum vide e There’s no sett o-game experience. ling for shoddy graphics, snail-slow proc essors and tin gamepads. Th y at’s especially true the StormForc e Geo, showca with sing the power of Intel’s seventh-gene ration chips as well as th e second mos powerful graphi t cs Nvidia GTX 1080 card available, the Ti. Think we’re gobbledygook talking ? No or two these sp matter, as in a year ecs will all be ob solete anyway and w e’ll be heart-throbbing ogling even more tech – ruthless nature such is the of PC gaming.
THE GAMING PC
T S E T A E R THE G
BEST GAMES EVER
here’s why, r… e v e le o s n o c icially the besstdescendants have spawned ff o is n o ti ta S y al Pla machine and it is Yep, the origin th t a th s e m a g plus the finest
5 PLAYSTATION FACTS YOU DIDN’T KNOW
ion ● The PlayStat ade to m lly na igi or s wa d-on ad OM -R be a CD ES. for Nintendo’s SN were ● 2418 games d for officially release 1. the PS PS1 ● The standard uld memory card co only hold 1MB. 6 ● You’d need 23 ion original PlayStat ed consoles combin r ila sim ve hie to ac r processing powe to the PS Vita. p ● Sony didn’t sto 1 PS of n tio uc prod 06. games until 20
n 1994 Sony PlayStatio
ime ttle on the all-t Stuff staff to se 360 and were e th r fo ng lo the Xbox It didn’t take . We flirted with that emerged king of consoles ES, but in the end it was Sony pt. The m SN tempted by the ith its very first console atte dw oving it’s not victorious – an hed the taboo of gaming, pr as . Being the first PlayStation sm t for everyone w razy geeks bu ent to this – fe l-c am xe st pi te r is fo st its ju ll 100 million un ey box peeking out from se to ole ns co home ylish gr n’t have that st households did int. po e m so at lly under the te
THE RIVAL Nintendo 64 ario Turns out 3D M ntures and Zelda adve gh ou weren’t quite en le topp for the N64 to ation. the debut PlaySt
BEST GAMES EVER
I love this too much ting Ross Presly, Ac r Brand Art Edito
As much as this game is about and skateboarding er chaining togeth s bo m co us lo icu rid to ing try while spell S-K-A-T-E, e to me it was mor ic. us m e th t ou ab d Discovering Ba x Religion, Anthra has and Millencolin st led to a life of fa us music and dubio ks hairstyles. Than a lot, Mr Hawk.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 A sport game ranked as one of the best games ever? Surely that can’t be… but this is Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 we’re talking about. Almost every gamer lost endless hours on this one. With extensive skills to master, levels to unlock and secrets to find, it had more depth than most RPGs. And let’s not forget the multiplayer mode, which determined who was the best Tony Hawk wannabe out of your friends. 2000 / PS1, PC, Game Boy, Dreamcast
The Last of Us
Sure, the zombie apocalypse will be awful when it eventually comes for us all. We’ll have to watch our friends die, eat a lot of dubiously sourced meat and sleep with one eye on our shotguns. But if The Last of Us taught us anything, it’s that there’s one clear upside to the whole scenario: unlimited giraffe petting. 2013 / PS3
A calming, mysterious and abstract experience, Journey has players wandering through a desert world towards a mountain, in a game that’s half magic carpet ride and half platformer. It’s short and simple, but so captivating you’ll go back to it. Often. It’s like a happy holiday. 2012 / PS3
For years, the only story a video game managed was that one about some woman being kidnapped and us having to rescue her. Then Final Fantasy VII came along, with months’ worth of emotional storytelling and the power to make adults cry. Not us, obviously, but, you know. Other people. 1997 / PS1, PC
Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles
Resident Evil Zombies may pervade modern games as if our consoles were human meat factories, but this wasn’t always the case. The very first Resident Evil entry gave us the taste for zombie-slaying, and we’ve never quite been the same since. But Resident Evil isn’t just renowned for unleashing loads of zombies on us. It defined survival-horror, with a tense atmosphere, a limited supply of resources and a horrific story that congeals it all together. 1996 / PS1, PC, Sega Saturn
Tomb Raider The original Tomb Raider might be remembered mostly for Lara Croft’s polygonal breasts, but its influence on 3D action-adventure games was the biggest treasure to be uncovered here. It set a path that would later be journeyed by other action heroes such as Nathan Drake and the Prince of Persia. 1996 / PS1, Sega Saturn
TS THE HIGHLIGH Resident Evil 4
Widely seen as one of the very best Resident Evil tites, the fourth entry upped the action while maintaining the horror. 2005 / Gamecube, PS2
Wipeout You want to know the worst thing about racers? Wheels. They’re always in the way of you beating your time record, whether they’re slipping in rain puddles or on banana skins. Thankfully, Wipeout saw their flaws and did away with them altogether, replacing them with high-speed hovercars. 1995 / PS1, PC, Sega Saturn
Final Fantasy VII
If fun-fair horror houses scare you, then this Wii-mote-controlled game will have you screaming. 2007 / Wii
Resident Evil 7
If you thought Resident Evil games were scary on the TV, wait until you play this one with a VR headset strapped to your face. 2017 / PSVR
Metal Gear Solid Solid Snake showed us the greatest way to creep downstairs for a midnight snack without being caught: just carry around a cardboard box for impromptu hiding. Plus, with hours of practice saving hostages and sneaking into nuclear weapons facilities, you’ll never get caught eating biscuits on your diet again. 1998 / PS1 53
BEST GAMES EVER XXXXXXXXX
Despite Inside’s brilliance, it’s best avoided if you’re squeamish – well, unless your thumbs have been taught the ways of the platformer. If not, you’re going to cause this young hero to be chewed up by dogs and obliterated by explosions on a frequent basis. Can you really live with such guilt? 2016 / PS4, PC, Xbox One
Online multiplayer has taken a dominant stand in modern gaming, but it’s all too much runnin’ and gunnin’ with little else on offer. Overwatch shakes up the formula, adding zany characters and stupendous power-ups. Few games have people saying “Just one more round” so frequently. 2016 / PC, PS4 Xbox One
I love this too much
Ryan Jones, Staff Writer
Rocket League Combining the sport of football and the mayhem of monster trucks should have been a car crash of a concept. But it turned out to be a frantically fun classic and the best multiplayer game of the last few years. It also helped that developer Psyonix is such a great sport, and dished out pop culture updates such as the Batmobile and the DeLorean. Let’s see if Doc Brown’s time-travelling car can score a better bicycle kick than Wayne Rooney. 2015 / PS4, Xbox One, PC
THE HIGHLIGH TS
I love football an d monster trucks, so clearly Rock et League is my kin d of jam. What wo n me over most, though, is that I can customise my truck with a Wels h flag to flaunt m y patriotism ever y time I score. That’ll teach th ose annoying English for beating us in the Six Nations .
Forza Horizon 3
Best described as the creepy uncle of the Dark Souls series, Bloodborne is just as brutal and jarring as any other game by FromSoftware. The combat is perfectly crafted with every swing, slash and stab deadly enough to end your life – and trust us, you will die over and over and over again. Best of luck to you. 2015 / PS4
You could accuse a lot of racing games of being monotonous, but not Forza Horizon 3. Speed around the openworld Australian setting and you’ll soak up vistas to die for. Or you could, you know, slam your foot onto the pedal and take part in some breakneck races across the bush to get your pulse pounding. 2016 / PC, Xbox One
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End We’ve all wanted a full-throttle Indiana Jones game since Raiders, and the Uncharted series is the closest we’ll ever come to it. Luckily, it’s better than we could ever have hoped for. The fourth entry sees eye-popping action, lifelike visuals and a story that makes even the hardest grunts well up. 2016 / PS4
Even Link isn’t immune to storms, as he gets washed ashore on a strange island. Sadly, there appears to be no sign of Wilson. 1993 / Game Boy
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
This one is a ghoulish alternative to other Zeldas, with an intimidating clock ticking down to your demise. Thank God for time travel, eh? 2000 / N64
Turn Link into a cell-shaded child and swap horses for sailboats, and you have Wind Waker. Easily one the best Zelda games out there. 2002 / GameCube
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Is there a more consistent video-game series than The Legend of Zelda? We’d argue nay, and Breath of the Wild would be the first slice of evidence. True, Zelda’s iconic dungeons had to be carved up, but when you can explore every snow-covered nook and swamp-bogged cranny of the huge Hyrule map, you’re not exactly getting a raw deal. This is one of Nintendo’s greatest. 2017 / Wii U, Switch
Video-games and fantasy is a natural mix – we’ve been swinging swords and slaying monsters ever since we first picked up a gamepad. But The Witcher’s wonderfully imagined world has an intriguing darkness about it, helped by its twisted look at fairytales. 2015 / PS4, PC Xbox One
MODERN GEN BEST GAMES EVER
We could the present dsapyend all day reminiscing about that offers the u the past, but it’s ltimate gamin g experiences
THE RIVALS Xbox One S Home to the M aster Chief and a 4K Blu-ray player, the Xbox One S is a worthy competit or.
THE RIVALS Nintendo Switc h With its portabl e magic and Nint endo gems, the Switc h provides oodles of fun for any gam er.
Sony PlayStatio n4
Think of all the features that ep ito the PS4 Pro ha s them. 4K visu mise modern gaming, and als? Check. VR Yup. Fantastic compatibility? exclusives and a so Absolutely. No t only is it curre lid online infrastructure? ntly the most in stores – until powerful cons the Xbox One ole X offers a sneak peek into the fu arrives at least – but it also ture of gaming PS4 claiming th . And with the e UK’s title of fa stest-selling co launch, it’s frigh ns te 4K tellies beco ning to think of the Pro’s pote ole at me truly afford ntial once able.
FIRST TEST AMAZON ECHO SHOW
Alexa continues her evolution towards full humanoid interactivity, as the Echo AI assistant gains a touchscreen. If only we knew what to actually do with it…
[ Words Andrew Hayward ]
US$230 / stuff.tv/EchoShow
oice assistants were invented to free us from screens, right? Well, kind of. Leaving aside Amazon’s obvious commercial motive for making Alexa your AI bestie, the real benefit is freeing you from your smartphone’s screen (and dozens of fiddly apps). That’s why, after creating a
gadget that many of us didn’t know we needed with the Echo, Amazon has now given Alexa the power of contextual info with her very own display. The new Amazon Echo Show gives you another way to bring Alexa into your home, this time with the benefit of a 7in screen inside a more boxy form. The Echo Show is still primarily a
voice-controlled device, but the touchscreen unlocks added abilities, especially when it comes to controlling Hue bulbs and streaming Spotify. But while we get the theory behind the Echo Show, does Alexa really benefit from a screen? That was our question when Amazon announced the device in May – and honestly,
after a week of using the US version of the Echo Show (it hasn’t come to the UK yet), we don’t have a clear answer. It’s a forward-thinking device with potential, but for now its unique functionality is limited. In the future, though, when Alexa has more screen-based apps to play with, might this be an essential upgrade?
FIRST TEST AMAZON ECHO SHOW
You won’t find any buttons on the front of Amazon’s Echo Show – just a trio on the top to mute the microphone or adjust the volume.
1 Slab assistant
2 Easy reading
The Echo Show is a chunky slab, with a boxy black or white frame holding up the 7in touchscreen display and stereo speakers below. It just doesn’t have the same kind of clever shape or polish as the regular Echo.
3 The skills gap
At 1024x600, the Echo Show’s 7in screen isn’t particularly impressive. In fact it’s probably lower-resolution than the phone in your pocket, but at a glance from a few feet away it does prove bright and readable.
What value does a screen have for a voice assistant? Guess what, it’s pretty minimal. Some ‘skills’ have a visual flourish to them, but the added benefit varies. More screen-friendly skills should be added in time.
Good Meh Evil
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24 hours with the Echo Show
FIRST TEST AMAZON ECHO SHOW
4 Show your face
5 Flat notes
You can use that 5MP camera to snap selfies – but its real purpose is video calling. You’ll be able to log some face time with anyone else who has an Echo Show, plus anyone using the Alexa mobile app. Not many people, then…
The Show can play tunes from the likes of Spotify and Amazon Music, but audio sounds overly confined, like from a small, cheap, portable speaker. And it doesn’t have that 360° design like the original Echo.
Tech specs Screen 7in 1024x600 touchscreen Camera 5MP Audio Dual 2in stereo speakers Features Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 8 microphones Dimensions 187x187x90mm, 1.17kg
Display for today While the Show’s use of its screen is so far limited, there are a few cool features already available…
Arguably the most useful feature of the Echo Show is video calling with other Show devices. This does have a strange feature, though: allowing trusted contacts to initiate a video call without your consent.
Feed the baby
If you have a compatible connected camera on the premises, you can ask Alexa to put the feed on Show. It’s great whether you want to see who’s at the front door or need a view of your baby’s crib.
All you need is lyrics
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One of the better uses of the Show’s screen is displaying lyrics when you listen to tunes on Amazon Music. It’s not a groundbreaking feature, but it’s pretty useful if you want to up your karaoke game.
The Show can play videos from YouTube, trailers from IMDb, video briefings from news channels and films from Amazon Instant Video. But a static 7in screen isn’t an ideal viewing platform.
The Echo Show’s screen should become more useful in time as third-party skill makers harness its added abilities; but for now, Amazon hasn’t yet proven that a home voice assistant really needs a display. If you already have enough smart screens in your home, there’s little need to add another. Stick to the Echo or Echo Dot for now. @ahaywa
STUFF SAYS There’s little doubt that the Echo Show has potential, but for the moment it’s mostly unrealised 59
FIRST TEST AMAZON ECHO SHOW
The alternatives: 3 affordable AI assistants These screen-free smart speakers can all bring Alexa into your life
BEST FOR VALUE
BEST FOR AUDIO
Amazon Echo Dot
US$50 / thefabriq.com
£50 / amazon.co.uk
£50 / jamaudio.com
What’s the story? Rather than staying faithful to Amazon’s hardware, Alexa has decided to play the field, popping up in all manner of devices. The Fabriq is one of them – a Bluetooth speaker, in fact – and it’s really rather good. At $50 it costs the same as the Echo Dot but is portable, more stylish and far better connected, with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Apple AirPlay all on board.
What’s the story? Amazon’s Echo Dot is a typical younger sibling, doomed to get less attention than its bigger brother, the Echo. However, despite having smaller vocal cords, the Dot is actually just as capable as its bro. It can pull all the same Alexa stunts, but for a third of the price. And while you may be able to find Alexa in many devices now, it’s still tough to beat the original.
What’s the story? Ever looked at your Amazon Echo and wished you could bring it along to the picnic? Wait – you haven’t? Well, don’t tell Jam that, as its new AI assistant is all about making Alexa portable. Of course, its portability becomes most useful when used as a Bluetooth speaker; so whether you’ll want to pack this in your hamper will depend on how good it sounds…
Is it any good? It’s clear to see how this cutey – a US import only for now – turned Alexa’s head. It’s clad in seductively fluffy fabric, offers much better audio quality than the Echo Dot, and opens up your connectivity options. But despite all that, the Fabriq just can’t compete with the Dot, mainly because it requires you to press a button to turn Alexa on – and because it can’t play music from non-Amazon sources without a phone as a go-between.
Is it any good? This little puck has almost everything you could need in an AI assistant. You can summon Alexa by simply calling her name, play your tunes through the likes of Spotify and Amazon Music, and connect to a huge range of devices from Hue lightbulbs to Hive heating. Sure, it doesn’t sound as good as the Fabriq, and is tied to mains power; but when it comes to AI assistants it’s all about the personality, and Alexa is at her best here.
Is it any good? The Jam Voice’s soundscape is all rather flat, with a real lack of contrast between the bass and treble. If you really want an Alexa-powered music machine, you’re better off importing the Fabriq. But what about AI tricks? It’s got the exact same flaws as the Fabriq: you need to press a button to get Alexa talking, and can’t play music from third-party music services. Barring the compact build, the Jam Voice doesn’t really excel at anything.
TECH SPECS Audio 2in driver and 2in passive radiator Connectivity Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Alexa, AirPlay Power Battery (up to 5hrs) Dimensions 80x80x80mm, 300g
TECH SPECS Audio Mono speaker, 3.5mm stereo out Connectivity Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Alexa Power Mains only Dimensions 84x84x32mm, 163g
TECH SPECS Audio Mono speaker Connectivity Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Alexa Power Battery (up to 4hrs) Dimensions 76x76x76mm, 282g
This is the best Alexa-packing Bluetooth speaker yet
Poor audio quality aside, this is the best-value AI assistant you can buy
A decent portable Alexa machine, but others sound much better
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There’s more than a whiff of Duolingo about this cartoonish programming app. Pick a course and friendly exercises lead you through the basics, which involves creating all manner of tiny pseudo-apps. Py has a tendency to blaze through, rather than correcting errors, but exercises can be reviewed and replayed. And it’s fun. Stuff says £free (IAPs) / Android, iOS 62
DON’T BE LEFT OUT IN THE CODE
French? Spanish? Cantonese? Get with it, Gramps – the languages you need to learn now are the ones for talking to computers
● Swift Playgrounds
We’re some way yet from an iPad version of Xcode, but Swift Playgrounds is a step towards being able to make iPad apps on an actual iPad. The lessons guide you through the basics of Swift, and – being that this is an Apple app – it’s not all dry numbers. Instead, you run your code and get an interactive 3D world to fiddle about with. Stuff says £free / iPad
Textastic is very much of the opinion that a coding app should get out of the way and let you code. It offers a streamlined experience, with great syntax highlighting, cloud drive support, and a custom keyboard for quickly entering characters even on an iPhone. Ever wanted to make a website while sitting on a train? Now’s your chance. Stuff says £9.99 / iOS
● DroidEdit Pro
DroidEdit enables you to code pretty much anywhere. There’s Git and cloud drive support, custom keys, Emmet for rapidly expanding expressions into html, and the ability to open and mod anything on a rooted Android device. If you’re serious about coding, avoid the limited free version and spend a couple of quid on Pro instead. Stuff says £1.99 / Android
● Human Resource
A game about programming? Madness! And yet, because this is by the World of Goo folks, it’s brilliant. You use logic and loops to ‘programme’ an office drone’s workplace tedium. It’s both meta and poignant, and you’ll learn a thing or two as well, not least when a surly manager demands you “optimise”. Stuff says £4.89 / Android
£4.99 / iOS
The pocket monster
Valentino Garavani Rockstud Just like any upper-class rocker, this Valentino Garavani bi-fold decided to state its individualism by getting a pair of studs. But there’s no hiding its pedigree with pure leather construction and spacious room for wads of banknotes. Still, we’re sure it’d fit in fine at Download Festival. £220 / harrods.com
The geeky marvel
Is your money-hub getting tatty? Ryan Jones has gone hunting for fresh folders so you can flash your cash in serious style
Marvel Comic Outside Print Face it, you’re a nerd. No point hiding it with classy leather bi-folds – just embrace your true self with a wallet that looks as if it’s been wrapped in classic Marvel comics. And since it’s made from synthetic materials rather than leather, buying one will make you an instant hero to cows. £14.99 / red5.co.uk
Walli Wearables Smart Your wallet and smartphone have a shared hobby: going missing. This Walli smart wallet has a solution. If you leave the wallet behind, it can send a notification to your phone via Bluetooth; and in return, if you lose the phone, the Walli can activate its alarm for easy finding. US$89 / mywalli.com
HOW TO DECIDE 64
The posh punk
Fendi Horizontal Plain leather wallets may be as stylish as sharp-suited business analysts, but they both get rather tiresome after a while. This Fendi, on the other hand, has a pair of leering monster eyes stitched into the calfskin, as well as a red leather interior lining for a more eccentric style. £290 / fendi.com
Volterman If your everyday wallet gets nabbed from your back pocket without you noticing, there’s not much you can do. Get your Volterman pinched, though, and its GPS will help you keep track of its progress – while the built-in camera will snap the thief who’s counting your notes. US$145 / volterman.com
1 Open up, it’s the coppers Even if you spend a fortune on a wallet, you can’t guarantee it’ll have a zipped pocket for your change. Unless you only ever use cards, you’d best check.
The trouser snake
Aspinal of London Snakeskin There’s something sinister about this wallet. Perhaps it’s the red and black colour combo, or maybe it’s that snakeskin interior. It may make ordinary citizens shiver, but for wannabe super-villains it’s perfect – especially with the £15 optional extra of golden etched initials. £135 / aspinaloflondon.com
The secret gamer
Zelda: Golden Hylian Crest The best nerd merch is always subtle. Why? Because you need to trick your average life-goer into thinking your wallet just has an innocent zany pattern, so they don’t pelt you with Rubik’s Cubes, while still drawing approving nods from fellow geeks. Then you can smile knowing you’re not alone. £19.99 / merchoid.com
The secret smarty
Woolet Classic 2.0 Three smart wallets in, and you’re probably no longer wowed by trackable cash-holders. But the Woolet Classic 2.0 caught our eye because it doesn’t look like the others with their oh-so-modern styling. Crafted from Italian leather, it looks like it walked straight out of a Wild West saloon. £98 / woolet.co
2 Don’t have a cow, man Many premium wallets are made of leather. If you’d rather not have your money bundled in cattle hide, you can find options made from synthetic materials such as Tyvek.
[ Photography Pete Gardner ]
FOR NERDY CASH-INS
FOR FASHION ICONS
Bellroy Travel Wallet – Designers Edition Bellroy scoffs at wallets that only carry cash and cards. Amateurs! This premium wallet is designed to hold all of your travel essentials, with space for your passport, SIM card and the included mini travel pen. Despite all this baggage, it’ll still fit snugly in your pocket. Just don’t think that means you can cram in your socks and underwear too. Trust us, we tried. £200 / bellroy.com
3 Scram, scanner scammers High-tech thieves have found ways to steal details from our contactless cards using scanners. Fortunately, RFID-blocking wallets can give your cards added security.
4 Tile be back Can’t decide between a traditional wallet’s good looks and a smart wallet’s tracking capabilities? By placing a Tile Mate (£19.99) in you wallet, you’ll be able to track it with your phone.
T E S T E D M O T O Z 2 P L AY Y
Mod almighty With all-round performance to match its clip-on cleverness, has the modular smartphone come of age with Moto’s latest affordable powerhouse? £379 / stuff.tv/MotoZ2Play
Most mid-price phones are pretty interchangeable – anyone can cram some decent hardware behind a spangy screen and slap a logo on it. If you’re after something properly exciting and unique, though? Look no further than the Moto Z2 Play. Motorola’s modular mobiles made us sit up and take notice when they first showed up last year, even if they were beaten on value by the OnePlus 3. This year the price is right, and the hardware might be even better. The Z2 Play doesn’t look all that different from last year’s Moto Z Play – well, if they’d tweaked the design too much it wouldn’t fit the existing range of Moto Mods. But the fingerprint-happy glass back has been ditched for an all-metal design, and it’s been slimmed down by a millimetre. It does look a bit ‘naked’ without a Moto Mod attached, because of that bulging camera module at the top and the exposed contact points near the bottom. Slap on the included wooden cover plate and things look a lot more tidy.
1 Trigger finger The bezels around that 5.5in screen are a little chunky, but otherwise this feels every bit the high-end phone. That’s partly down to the new fingerprint sensor. The ugly square of old is dead, replaced with a much slicker – and quicker – round one.
2 Sticking around Moto’s take on modular phones has outlasted both Google’s Project Ara and the LG G5’s Friends. The 16 pins on the back let you pop different Moto Mods on and off without having to shut the phone down first, and tough magnets hold them in place.
3 Play in the sunshine The Z2 Play sticks to Full HD resolution, stretched over 5.5in – sharp enough to make your photos and videos look great. It’s an AMOLED panel, which means impeccable contrast as well as superb viewing angles, and it’s plenty bright.
[ Words Tom Morgan ]
Good Meh Evil
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24 hours with the Moto Z2 Play
10mins 20mins 30mins 32mins 45mins
T E S T E D M O T O Z 2 P L AY
Tech specs Screen 5.5in 1920x1080 AMOLED Processor Snapdragon 626 octa-core @ 2.2GHz OS Android 7.1.1 Cameras 12MP rear, 5MP front Storage 64GB, expandable via microSD RAM 4GB Battery 3000mAh Dimensions 156x76x6mm, 145g
Moddin’ love 2
5 This dragon’s not draggin’ The Snapdragon 626 CPU can run Android 7.1 smoothly, and 4GB of RAM is enough to keep a handful of apps simmering while you multitask without having to reload them. There’s a healthy 64GB of storage for your apps and games, plus a microSD slot.
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4 Lens in high places It’s impossible to miss, seeing how far it sticks out without a Mod attached, so it’s a good job the camera is up to snuff. Essentially the same 12MP f/1.7 setup seen in the Moto G5 Plus, with the same dual-pixel autofocus, it offers similarly solid image quality.
Turn your phone into a portable Android console by adding some real buttons for you to mash. The Gamepad has dual control sticks, a D-pad and four action buttons, plus a 1035mAh battery.
The range of Mods to attach to your Moto Z handset is expanding – here are four of the latest options
You can get the Incipio clip-on battery pack for 2200mAh of extra juice… or go for this new model, with a hefty 3490mAh. The pack itself, says Moto, can be recharged to 50% capacity in 20 minutes.
You guessed it – this new Mod is a 360° camera. It shoots in 4K and lets you livestream videos via your phone – or, if you value quality over speed, polish them up first with Moto’s own editing app.
JBL SoundBoost 2
The speakers in the new JBL module are the same as last year’s – a pair of 27mm drivers pushing out a modest 6W of power – but now it’s splashproof. The handy kickstand remains.
Now that OnePlus has bumped itself out of the sub-£400 price bracket, Moto’s new mid-ranger looks mighty appealing. There’s something undeniably cool about those Moto Mods… and even if you ignore them, you’re still left with a keenly priced handset that feels quick, looks great and takes a decent picture. @TomMorgan3
STUFF SAYS A superb mid-price phone that might not wow on pure specs but still impresses with modular magic 67
T E S T E D S A M S U N G G A L A X Y B O O K 1 0. 6 I N
Hybrid cheery Could Samsung’s affordable new 2-in-1 laptop/tablet be your perfect one-box solution for work and play? £649 / stuff.tv/GalaxyBook You can see what Samsung’s doing here: the Galaxy Book is a 2-in-1 Windows 10 machine that improves on the old TabPro S and, unlike that flawed predecessor, is cheap enough to undercut the Microsoft Surface Pro.
The S Pen is a dream for pro designers and graphics-twiddlers. For the rest of us, it’s also a handy tool for taking notes.
The new Book comes in two flavours: this bite-size 10.6in tab, and a full-fat 12in version that costs a whopping £450 more. Both are metal-bodied, glass-fronted slates with keyboard covers that turn them into work-ready laptops. It’s hard not to feel a little sorry when you stick the 10.6in Galaxy Book side by side with the more premium 12in version. That model has a 2160x1440 AMOLED display, which even plays nicely with HDR video, but here you’re stuck with a 1920x1280 TFT panel. This entry-level hybrid makes do with Intel’s entry-level silicon: a low-power Core m3 that ticks along at up to 2.6GHz. Paired with 4GB of RAM, it’s fine for most desktop jobs, like web browsing and Word documents, but for more heavy lifting, such as Photoshop editing, it soon runs out of puff. Intel’s Kaby Lake processors are fairly frugal when it comes to battery life. Best case scenario, you’ll eke nine hours out of a single charge, but six seems more likely when you add media-heavy web browsing into the mix. It’s average stamina at best.
Tech specs Screen 10.6in 1920x1280 TFT Processor 2.6GHz dual-core Intel Core m3 RAM 4GB OS Windows 10 Camera 5MP Battery 4000mAh Storage 64GB, expandable via microSD Dimensions 261x179x8.9mm, 640g
The keys have plenty of travel, and there are no superfluous function buttons. The 10.6in version doesn’t have backlit keys for night-time working, though. That luxury is reserved for the 12in model.
The new S Pen makes all the difference with the Galaxy Book. The larger barrel makes it much easier and more natural to grip than the old version, and the redesigned rubber nib brings a huge improvement in feel.
STUFF SAYS A fine hybrid that shouldn’t be overshadowed by its 12in big brother This could be all the laptop you need – and all the tablet too
It doesn’t have the same HDR-ready screen as its bigger brother, it’s down on power, and that keyboard cover isn’t as sturdy as we’d like… but for the price, the 10.6in version of the Galaxy Book still makes sense, especially as the S Pen is included in the box. You could happily use it all day for work, then detach the keyboard and binge on streaming into the early hours.
S TUFF PROMOTION OLED + AMBILIGHT
The Ultimate Immersive Experience
Only Philips combines the two most immersive TV technologies of 2017. Here’s why
LED is the stuﬀ of televisual legend. Why? Because it works in a fundamentally diﬀerent way to every other TV technology out there. And because of that, it’s better. LCD and LED TVs require a backlight in order to create an image bright enough to watch across the room. With OLED, the pixels that make up the TV image create their own light, so no backlight is required – which means when one of them is oﬀ, it’s black. Not greyish, not ‘hey, that’s pretty dark’ – completely black. Better blacks means better picture performance. Colours pop as contrast ratios spiral up towards inﬁnity. No backlight also means less bulk, so OLED screens can be incredibly slim – often just millimetres thick. Philips has taken the latest OLED technology and elevated it even further. Its two razor-thin OLED models, the 901F and 9002, both support HDR (High Dynamic Range) video, which means with the right content their brightness and colour performance is more realistic and lifelike than ever. Both feature the latest picture-processing
technologies, and both oﬀer Google’s Android TV OS, all wrapped up in a premium European steel and glass design. But the jewel in their crown is undoubtedly Ambilight.
THE BIGGER PICTURE
Philips’ Ambilight technology adds another dimension to your viewing by shining light from LEDs along the back edges of the TV on to the wall behind it. These lights replicate what you’re seeing on-screen in real time, creating a wash of colour that expands far beyond the TV’s bezel. It’s designed to add atmosphere to the on-screen action, inviting you into the viewing experience and making the screen appear larger than it really is. Only Philips TVs oﬀer Ambilight, and in the 901F and 9002, the technology is combined with OLED to create a TV experience like no other. Vivid colour, both on the screen and beyond it: it’s a whole new deﬁnition of immersion. To ﬁnd out what OLED and Ambilight can do, we invited two Stuﬀ readers to have the ultimate immersive experience in real life – and then experience it on a Philips TV. Read on for more…
The all-new 9002 has Philips’ latest P5 Perfect Picture Engine processing and UltraHD Premium certiﬁcation for a truly bleeding-edge televisual experience. Rear-ﬁring triple-ring speakers with DTS HD Premium ensure it sounds as good as it looks.
The original Philips OLED combines an ultra-slim metal frame with PerfectPixel UltraHD image processing, Android TV and hi-ﬁ quality sound from front-ﬁring speakers.
S TUFF PROMOTION
OLED + AMBILIGHT
We took a team to Norway for the most immersive trip of a lifetime. Here’s what happened his planet is really rather magnificent. For all the cutting-edge gadgets you read about on the pages of Stuff, none (or, at least, very few) can elicit the same sense of wonder that a towering waterfall, cobalt blue lake or epic, water-sculpted canyon has the ability to. In celebration of the launch of its OLED TVs – the only OLEDs with the uniquely immersive Ambilight technology – Philips teamed up with Stuff to document nature’s ultimate immersive experience: the Northern Lights. The Northern Lights is a natural wonder. Gusts of solar wind excite oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere over the Arctic Circle, causing it to fluoresce, creating washes of fabulous colour in the sky. Our mission was to capture cinema-quality footage of the Lights and other Arctic adventures that could do justice to Philips’ OLED TVs. That meant heading into the wilds with camera equipment capable of shooting the latest high-bitrate 4K HDR, and framing shots specifically with Ambilight’s wall-filling glow in mind. We enlisted a crack team with decades of experience in capturing the Lights and, following a web competition, recruited a pair of Stuff readers to take along for the ride.
London Gatwick, circa 5am on a chilly Thursday in February. Our cast and crew get acquainted, admire the absurdly tall pile of luggage, and check out conditions at the destination. It’s not looking good: there’s heavy snow and thick cloud forecast for Tromsø, north Norway, and weather is a
problem if your entire trip is predicated on getting a good view of the sky. Following a mostly uneventful flight to Tromsø, we’re picked up by tour guide Kjetil Skogli, aka The Aurora Chaser. He’s far more positive about the conditions, even as the snow falls enthusiastically outside the airport, and director of photography Alister Chapman nervously checks the shape of the auroral oval on his phone. Things could be looking better. Later that evening we’re on the road, driving into the wilds out of Tromsø. Half an hour into the trip, we come to an abrupt halt in a siding. Kjetil springs from his seat and exits the bus, ploughing into six-foot-deep snow and -10ºC temperatures. He’s visibly excited as he returns: there’s a break in the cloud. It’s time to get out. Looking up, we see a greenish-grey ether in the sky, arcing overhead to the shadowy snow-capped mountains behind us. As we set up the camera equipment, our eyes gradually adjust.
THE TRIP IN NUMBERS
of 4K HDR shot
TRIPPING THE LIGHTS FANTASTIC
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G E T I EMATOG A HE Anni a ers n
DI E TO O HOTOG A H Alister hap an
The green intensifies and reveals yellows, oranges, pinks and purples. It moves, waves, dancing and rippling at its curtain-like periphery. It’s majestic. Our crew captures the view as our cast soak it all in. This is a really great show, says Alister, a veteran of a decade’s worth of Aurora-watching. Photographer Dave Stevenson concurs. “This is by far the most active Aurora that I’ve ever been under. It’s spellbinding. Our cast are near-dumbstruck. It’s so spectacular. I never expected to see this on the first night,” says Annika Summerson, our guest cinematographer. Stuff reader ana Damanhuri is even more effusive: “It’s the most incredible thing I’ve seen in my life. I think it got brighter, like it knew we were looking at it. It’s like it was showing off.” And that’s before a firework-like shooting star lights up the sky. The following three days of the trip are filled with Norwegian activities. We journey
south to go dog-sledding under a ure skies, camp out on reindeer skins in traditional wood-fired lavvu tents, and travel into the mountains on 1400cc snowmobiles – where we experience total white-out. The snow falls so thickly that it threatens to down the drones we’re using to capture aerial footage. I literally couldn’t see 0 metres ahead of me, remembers ana. It’s touchand-go whether we can grab the shots we need The drone does not like snow says pilot Eirik Nicolai Heim , but we push it to the last possible moment and our bright red bikes make a stunning contrast with the pure white of our high-altitude environment. The final two days are spent on boats, sailing north out of Tromsø on the Norwegian Sea. It’s mostly plain sailing, but for a rocky period in the open water. I didn’t think I get seasick – but turns out I do , says Stuff reader Chai Cameronberry. It’s not just our cast who are affected. “The film crew were cracking on, which was unbelievable to watch because I couldn’t shoot anything. I felt really quite unwell, remembers Dave. The sky is white with thick cloud above, dashing any further hopes of capturing the Northern Lights during our night on the water, but the monochrome environment has its own stark beauty. The boat’s Norwegian flags and cast and crew’s bright coats provide splashes of vibrant colour amidst the grey: perfect for showing off what an HDRequipped OLED TV can do. ack on land, we take stock of the adventure. As Annika says, “It’s been a once in a lifetime experience and I’m so pleased to have been invited”. Chai concurs. “Who the hell does this uite.
One month later, we reunite the cast and crew in London to show the footage we captured on a Philips 901F TV. This model, with its 4K HDR OLED panel and its Ambilight technology, is exactly what we have been shooting the footage for. Our aim was to recreate the experience of being on the trip as closely as possible: to take our guests back to the stark beauty of Norway, and the overwhelming majesty of the Northern Lights. How did we do “It’s the colours. When the Northern Lights came on screen, it just looked beautiful,” says Chai. For Annika, seeing the Lights on the 901F “… was literally the part where I thought wow, this works so well’. It was very much like I was there again. The Northern Lights wasn’t the only highlight of the trip, however. After watching the dog-sledding footage, Jana says, “It definitely made me feel how I felt while I was there. The atmosphere of being somewhere so secluded and natural. For Alister, it’s the technology that really shines. “It’s one of the best HDR TVs I’ve seen to date,” he says. “That extra spread of colours and textures on to the wall behind really added to the whole feeling that you got from watching the pictures. I’m considering getting one just to show off the Northern Lights footage. And Dave? “It looks absolutely bang-on.” Mission accomplished. ● Wat h the Northern m ili hts lm at st t pr te n rthern a ili hts ● Find out more about Philips TVs with Ambilight at philips a ili ht
e nee t start i e e sh l e rea in ith ne t n the r n For Rod White, that’s the right way to begin conceptualising the look and feel of any new Philips TV. He heads up the team responsible for the complete industrial design process, distilling the trends they sniﬀ out at home design and fashion shows into tropes that they can then apply to the traditional TV template – or use to change that template completely. Industrial design is of critical importance to Philips: a calling card 1 5 years in the making. orn in Eindhoven, the brand now draws on the best TV technology from across the world, but its European Design philosophy is stronger than ever. ut what exactly does it mean for a design to be European’ As far as Rod White and his team are concerned, it boils down to four key elements
ou should inherently understand the purpose of the product, and how to use it, says White. With a TV, this may seem obvious, but for peripherals – remote controls, for example – that’s not always the case. ou have to get which way is up and which is down, when to ﬂip it over to access additional buttons, which buttons to use to navigate the interface. Easier said than done.
A pan-European design heritage demands a certain level of elegance, but as White puts it, There shouldn’t be unnecessary decoration. It should be doing a job well, expressing value, but there shouldn’t be details on that design which are unnecessary. In other words: keep it understated maintain a level of elegance.
We never stop exploring materials, says White. The stuﬀ you make a product out of isn’t just about looks. In the 01F we use a polished aluminium perch stand to give the illusion of ﬂoating, deliberately in order that the lightness is communicating high-end performance.
OLED + AMBILIGHT
Designed in Europe
hief esi ner od White takes s thro h the ornerstones of hilips’ ropean esi n philosophy
Finesse the little things. When you look at the corner detail of a product, you see many parts or materials coming together, says White. We focus on getting that combination correct, but to a level that can delight users and have them asking: how did they do that ’
ROD WHITE ON OLED AND AMBILIGHT
B th the hilips an are ase n the sa e s thi ness isplay Be a se the e el re ti n it s a tr ly i ersi e e perien e a sea less sprea li ht r the set n t the all ehin The pi t re ality r the OLED panel r s in per e t har ny
In short, Philips’ design team goes to great lengths to ensure its products look and feel just so. That’s because they know a Philips TV is more than just a technology box: it’s a cherished interior object. People want to show oﬀ their car, and they want to show oﬀ their television, says White. They want to have friends round to give them a spin. We want a product to deliver that sense of pride.
3 OF THE BEST
GROUP TEST TOUGH CAMERAS
Tough cameras If you’re going on a proper adventure, you’ll need a rugged camera that can handle heights and doesn’t faint at the first sight of water. One of these three, perhaps?
BEST FOR VALUE
WIN TEST NER
BEST FOR MACRO
BEST FOR STILLS
Olympus Tough TG-5
What’s the story?
What’s the story?
What’s the story?
Is it any good?
Is it any good?
Is it any good?
Price £249 / stuff.tv/RicohWG50
Price £150 / stuff.tv/FujifilmXP120
Price £400 / stuff.tv/OlympusTG5
At £249, the Ricoh WG-50 is neither as affordable as the Fujifilm XP120 nor as premium as the Olympus Tough TG-5. With a similar lens and sensor setup to the Fuji, Ricoh is relying on the WG-50’s range of accessories and unusual features to justify the extra £100. The WG-50 is as tough as its Power Ranger looks suggest: waterproof to 14m, shockproof against 1.6m drops, crushproof to 100kg of force and able to survive -10°C temperatures. Its 16MP images are fine at a glance, but lack the punchy combo of detail, contrast and clean colour we were hoping for. And while it does have advantages over such rivals as the XP120 (a higher video frame rate, and a macro light), the results are not noticeably better.
A solid compact in more ways than one, but better rugged options are available
It’s by no means the most expensive tough camera you can buy, but this Fuji is about as rugged as they come: it’s waterproof to 20m, freeze-proof to -10°C, dust-proof and sand-proof, and shockproof against drops of up to 1.75m. This is a camera that’s almost impossible to destroy. While the XP120 can’t match the big aperture, 4K video or slow-mo skills of the Olympus on the right, it offers capable performance for its low price. Its 16.4MP jpg files are sharp and impactful in good lighting, with visible detail only dropping once you zoom in tight on the images. But its true appeal lies in its nigh-on indestructible build quality, small size and affordable price. If you want a cheap, rugged compact, look no further than this one.
The perfect cheap but rugged stunt double for your smartphone camera
The £400 price might seem a bit steep for a point-and-shoot, even one as hardy as this, but there’s no doubt the TG-5 comes with a lot more stuff than the other cameras here: built-in GPS and compass, 4K and slow-mo video recording, and RAW still photography You’re getting your money’s worth. This Tough lives up to its name. Waterproof to 15m, freeze-proof to -10°C, crush-proof to 100kg and able to shrug off drops of up to 2.1m, it’s a hard snapper to break. This is no ‘brawn over lens’ camera either, with an aperture of f/2.0 at its widest zoom, while its 12MP shots are detailed and punchy in both good and poor lighting conditions. Yes, it’s the priciest camera here, but the TG-5 has the premium performance and build to back it up.
Pricey, but outdoorsy types will appreciate the TG-5’s versatile skill set 73
You’ve got smart bulbs but all you do is turn them on and off from your bed? Stuff’s resident bright spark Mark Wilson is here to light up your life with these illuminating Hue tips THE BASICS
Talk to your lights
To connect your Hue lights to an Amazon Echo, enable the Hue skill in the Alexa app, then go to ‘Discover devices’. The app will then import your scenes, letting you sing out phrases like “Alexa, turn on ‘relax’ in the bedroom”. For Google Home, go to the main menu in the top left corner in the Home app, followed by ‘Home control’, then press ‘+’ to add devices.
Make a scene
Philips Hue ‘scenes’ are presets for its colour bulbs. The app has some built-in options but you can create your own. Tap on one of your rooms, press ‘Scenes’, then tap the ‘+’ icon in the bottom right corner. Choose ‘Picture scene’ and you’ll get the option of choosing a photo from your camera roll to recreate a mood from a cherished memory.
Scrap the schedules
To get your lights in tune with your movements, go to ‘Routines’, then ‘Home & Away’, then press the ‘Location aware’ switch. Now you can decide which lights go on when you’re coming home or leaving, and if they should only come on after sunset.
Rise and shine
You can time your bedroom Hue lights to slowly wake you up in the morning, and also gently lull you to sleep at night. Head to ‘Routines’ and either ‘Wake up’ or ‘Go to sleep’. Press the ‘+’ button to create a schedule for them to slowly ‘fade in’ or ‘fade out’ (making sure to leave out the weekend, if it’s your work plan) and press save.
Make it rain
Download Thunderstorm (from £2.79 / iOS, Android) for Hue and gain god-like control over your smart light storm, as your Hue bulbs flicker and flash in time with convincing sound effects. You can choose which bulbs to include, set a sleep timer for the storm to conveniently pass, and even add background sounds like chirping cicadas.
BRIGHT IDEAS Get the party started
To the Windows, Hue the wall
HueDynamic (£5.39) brings most of the tricks from third-party Hue apps to Windows, as well as Cortana voice control of your lights.
Hue Disco (from £2.99 / iOS, Android) picks up the music in the room through your phone’s microphone and turns it into some colourful, customisable strobe effects.
Make a real entrance
The location-aware IFTTT applet at bit.ly/HueEntrance lets you pinpoint your home’s location on a map, and then every time you enter that zone your Hue lights will cycle through an array of colours. It’s like you’re coming home to a surprise party, even if you only plan to crash on the couch and watch TV.
NOW ADD THESE
Stick these teeny Bluetooth buttons wherever you like, then use the app to assign different functions for a tap, double tap and long press. These can be simple controls like a ‘reading’ mode for your bedroom lights or a kid’s favourite Hue scene. from £30 / flic.io
PHILIPS HUE MOTION SENSOR IFTTT YOUR SPIRITS Your Uber has landed
SCREEN SCENES Get super-Ambilight
Got a Philips Ambilight TV? Get your Hue lights to change in sync with its colourful tune. Download the Ambilight+Hue app (£free / iOS, Android) and enter your TV’s IP address from its network settings menu. Then choose which lights you want to link, and enjoy your personal Odeon.
Monitor the colours
If your computer’s feeling left out of the Ambilight party, the free download ScreenBloom (screenbloom.com) can pair it with your Hue bulbs and lightstrips to recreate a similar effect to Philips’ glowing TVs.
The applet at bit.ly/HueUber will blink your Hue lights when the Uber driver has arrived. That visual notification might catch your eye in time to stop your driver waking the street with a blaring horn-honk.
Ready for kick-off
Another IFTTT applet at bit.ly/HueESPN can make your bulbs flash a certain colour any time your team begins a match, giving you the signal to turn on the TV before you miss a goal.
Hue knows when you are sleeping
If you have a Fitbit that you wear to bed, you can link your Fitbit account to your Hue bulbs via the IFTTT applet at bit.ly/HueFitbit – and the bulbs will turn on as soon as the band detects that you’ve woken up.
This sensor can detect movement from up to five metres away, and will automatically turn your lights off after a set period. You can also set it to only work at certain times, such as evenings, so the cat doesn’t keep setting it off in daylight. £35 / philips.co.uk
Baffle the burglars
HueLabs’ ‘presence mimicking’ recipe engages lights so that it appears you’re at home when you’re not. You can custom-set which lights come on when, and they’ll still turn on at your usual times for coming home, getting ready for bed and so on.
Don’t get overcooked
Banish those clanging timer alarms from your life and set a visual trigger instead using the HueLabs cooking timer recipe. It lets you set quick alarms within the Hue app and then get a flashing light when your meal is ready.
LOGITECH HARMONY HUB
Logitech’s Hub makes all your smart kit work in unison. You could set up a ‘gaming’ activity that turns on your TV, boots up your console and dims the lights. With Alexa and IFTTT support too, the possibilities are endless. £100 / logitech.com
home Robots They will take over our planet one day. It’s inevitable. So why not just get it over with and invite one of these friendly ’bots into your life? [ Photography Mitch Payne ]
Lego Boost Creative Toolbox Ryan Jones, Staff Writer
Whose bright idea was it to teach kids how to code? It won’t be long until they leave us over-12s on the scrapheap with their robot manipulation skills. Still, at least they can’t put them together without an engineering degree. Hang on, they can build one out of Lego now? And they
only need a tablet to get it moving and firing projectiles at us? Yep… and worst of all, Vernie the Robot can be rebuilt into four other, very different forms. There’s only one way we can hold off these code-crazy kids: beat them at their own game. One Lego ’bot, please! £150 / stuff.tv/LegoBoost
ROBOTS IN DISGUISE CREATIVE TOOLBOX OPTIONS 1 FRANKIE THE CAT Frankie is just like any real feline, only made from Lego. He likes milk and fish, and also plays the harmonica… what, your cat doesn’t? That’s weird. 76
2 GUITAR4000 Your musical muse can strike at any moment, so why not carry a mini guitar with you? This Lego creation comes complete with sound effects and a whammy bar.
3 AUTOBUILDER There’s no need to bother building Lego when you can get the Lego to build itself. That’s right – the AutoBuilder can be programmed to make its own mini Lego robots.
4 THE M.T.R.4 Not only can this half-track rover speed across your carpet, but it will also hurl little plastic bricks at anything you want it to: spiders, other robots, siblings etc.
TABBY CAT You’ll need a tablet with at least iOS 10.3 or Android 5.0 to run the app for programming these Lego ’bots. Your phone’s not invited.
SKILL SETS Each of the five Lego creations has its own unique app-triggered actions – so Vernie the Robot won’t start making guitar noises.
WATCH THE BIRDIE The Mambo has a small down-facing stills camera that you can control via the app. It’s great for snapping bald spots.
ALL EYES ON ME Mambo’s friendly green eyes light up when in use and flash a sinister red when coming to the end of its nine-minute battery life.
Parrot Mambo Minidrone Hannah Evans, Apprentice
There’s not much I’m scared of, but after seeing Hitchcock’s The Birds the mere sight of pigeons will see me drop to the floor faster than Madonna at the 2015 Brit Awards. That’s why I’ve gone for Parrot’s Mambo minidrone, the perfect airborne robo-companion
to help me confront my fears. After mastering the controls via the app, you’ll soon be flipping, reversing and spinning this minion through the skies. And if you’re worried about a spontaneous avian attack, you can always clip on the peashooter cannon for peace of mind. £80 / stuff.tv/Mambo
Dyson 360 Eye Mark Wilson, Features Editor
I’m not ready to hand my job over to the robots yet, but they can certainly have my chores. That’s why I’ve promoted this robo-Dyson to the position of dust editor. I’m sure he’ll do a fine job, thanks to some grippy tank tracks and suction that’s so powerful it
BONUS TRACK The 360 Eye’s app creates a floorplan for every clean, showing you where it’s been… and all the detours it’s taken around your old socks.
makes rivals look asthmatic. I’ll still need my normal vacuum to reach under my bed and sofa, because the 360 Eye’s panoramic camera makes it taller than the Roombas of this world. But as long as it looks after the rest of the flat, and doesn’t take a journalism course, we’ll get on fine. £800 / stuff.tv/Dyson360Eye
CLEAN BREAK The tub needs emptying every three cleans or so, but that’s only because the camera makes this more thorough than most other robo-vacs.
anki Cozmo Natalya Paul, Social Media Editor
When Cozmo first rolled out from his charging dock, roused from his robotic slumbers, I couldn’t help but squeak “Awww!” With bright blue LED eyes capable of over 1000 expressions, Cozmo’s always eager to play games and get to know his surroundings. Tending to him can
BRICKS FIX There are correct ways to position Power Cubes, don’tcha know? Any offending bricks will be quickly flipped up the ‘right’ way by Cozmo.
be like looking after a toddler, though, what with the constant need for attention and the little tantrums when he loses at one of his Power Cube contests. But before you start trawling Mumsnet for tips, remember, you can just pop him on charge to put him to sleep. This parenting lark is easy. £200 / stuff.tv/Cozmo
SAVING FACE Cozmo can learn up to 10 faces, cats and dogs included. Whenever he recognises someone, he’ll say their name in a Wall-E kind of way.
USE THE FORCE As well as controlling the robot, the Force Band counts your steps: walk around and unlock prizes, including a lightsaber sound effect.
A NEARLY-NEW HOPE This version of BB-8 has been through the (star) wars, but it’s still beautifully presented in a chunky metal collector’s case.
sphero battle-worn bb-8 with Force Band Guy Cocker, Global Brand Director While I relate more to Rogue One’s sassy K-2SO droid, it’s BB-8 that won my heart. Ever since I first laid eyes on that adorable rollerball droid I’ve wanted one for my own, so imagine my delight when Sphero released a remote-controlled model. And as if
Sphero hadn’t already fulfilled by ’bot-based fantasy, they went and included a Force Band with this Battle-Worn edition – a magical wearable device that lets you control BB-8 with Jedi powers. You think it’s just boring old motion-control tech? I find your lack of faith disturbing. £180 / stuff.tv/BB8Battle
TESTED SONY A99 II
Alpha snapper Small form, big feature set, even bigger price: Sony takes a shot at photographic perfection with version two of its A-mount flagship, the A99 £3000 (body) / stuff.tv/SonyA99II A giant sensor, turbocharged autofocus, 4K video… cameras don’t come much better-equipped than the A99 II. While it’s not quite the most expensive snapper made by Sony (that honour falls to the new £4500 E-mount A9), this is the flagship model in the A-mount range – the company’s DSLR equivalents. With a translucent mirror and a viewfinder that’s electronic rather than optical, the newer A-mount cameras can’t strictly be called DSLRs, but to all intents and purposes this is Sony’s answer to the top full-frame models from Canon, Nikon and Pentax. Hence its £3000 asking price. The good news is, the lack of a traditional mirror-and-pentaprism setup makes the A99 II more compact than an equivalent DSLR. For an interchangeable-lens camera with a full-frame sensor, it’s impressively bijou – and even 8% smaller than the old A99. More importantly, it offers both great all-round performance and some features you won’t find on any rival model.
1 Unbreakable Like most high-end DSLRs, the body is built on a magnesium alloy frame for toughness, and the controls, dials and ports are weather-sealed. A large grip on the right and a rubbery material wrapped around most of the body will keep it locked in your hands.
2 Untouchable There’s a 3in LCD on the back that tilts out and twists, allowing you to view it from almost any angle. It’s a good-quality screen in terms of detail and brightness, but it’s not a touchscreen, which means the A99 II misses out on touch-to-focus capabilities.
3 Unfathomable We miss having a quick way to toggle between auto and manual focus. For this, and a lot of other settings, you must venture into the vast, labyrinthine menu system. Thankfully, you can assign custom controls to certain buttons from within those menus.
[ Words Sam Kieldsen]
Good Meh Evil
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24 hours with the Sony A99 II
5mins 10mins 30mins 35mins 50mins
TESTED SONY A99 II
4 Un-uncontrollable You might not really miss the touchscreen given the number of controls Sony’s placed at your fingertips. The A99 II is bristling with buttons and dials so you shouldn’t have any trouble swiftly adjusting your settings.
5 Unshakeable The 5-axis image stabilisation works in-body rather than requiring lenses to have it built in, while the hybrid autofocus combines the speed of phase detection with the accuracy of contrast detection.
Tech specs Sensor 42.4MP full-frame Exmor R CMOS ISO range 50-102,400 (inc. expanded) Autofocus 79-point hybrid Max shooting speed 12fps Video 4K @ 30fps, 1080p @ 120fps Displays 3in LCD screen, XGA OLED viewfinder Battery life 390 shots Dimensions 143x104x76.1mm, 849g
Sony delight We might have A99 problems, but a picture ain’t one. Here’s how the Sony’s images shape up…
Still got it
The 42.4MP sensor offers superb image quality for both stills and video. There’s no low-pass filter, which increases the sheer amount of detail the A99 II can resolve, and the hybrid autofocus works brilliantly.
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As you’d expect from a full-frame camera with a maximum ISO of 102,400, low-light work is top-class. With a fast lens attached, you can snap away in a dimly lit pub and go home with some ace images.
The XL files
You’re welcome to shoot in uncompressed 14-bit RAW and manually process the resulting images later. Prepare to wrangle some huge file sizes, though: this camera’s RAWs are about 85MB each.
Lift the vid
Video footage exhibits natural-looking colours with strong dynamic range and crisp, clean detail. The 5-axis IS helps a lot with handheld video, negating some of the effects of the wielder’s unsteady mitts.
The A99 II isn’t for everyone – but for those willing to invest in a new system or already using A-mount glass, this is a hugely powerful flagship that can tackle any photography or video task with aplomb. In fact, it’s probably the only camera you’ll ever need – which it might well have to be considering that price tag. @samkieldsen
STUFF SAYS It’s too expensive for mass appeal, but the A99 II is packed with ability and clever features 83
S U P E R T E S T A L L- I N - O N E D E S K T O P S
Fight the tower It’s about time you toppled that hulking standalone PC and decluttered your desk with an all-in-one – and we’ve got three of the best right here for you to ogle
[ Words Tom Morgan Photography Mitch Payne]
Do you really need a whopping great tower PC taking up all your desk space? A laptop doesn’t make much sense either if you spend most of your work time chained to a desk. So stop squinting at a tiny screen and make the leap to an all-in-one. Apple’s iMac has long been the front runner here, but the Windows-based competition has been stepping up when it comes to design, and now even Microsoft is joining the hardware arms race by upscaling the Surface from laptop to desktop. It’s time to find out if Apple can still come out on (desk)top, or if one of these new challengers has what it takes to scoop the prize. @TomMorgan3
S U P E R T E S T A L L- I N - O N E D E S K T O P S
1 Apple iMac 4K 21.5in
It’s seen upgrades in almost every area, but it’s the screen that’s the dream for the latest iteration of Apple’s iconic all-in-one.
2 HP Envy 34 Curved All-In-One
HP’s desktop has curves in all the right places, with styling that wouldn’t look out of place in a design studio.
3 Microsoft Surface Studio
The mother of all Surfaces is one of the most desirable desktops we’ve seen in some years.
S U P E R T E S T A L L- I N - O N E D E S K T O P S
Apple’s new model has zippy brains to match its 4K beauty It’s an iMac… only better. That’s about all you need to know. Oh, you want specifics? Fair enough. Underneath the familiar ultra-minimal silver shell, Apple has given its dinkiest desktop a major makeover. We’re not talking about a few tweaks, but rather a complete overhaul. The new iMac has a faster CPU, speedier storage, and dedicated
graphics to push all those pixels. And lets not forget a bright 4K display that uses the same wide colour gamut as the digital 4K projectors in your local multiplex. Only this time it’s even brighter and more colourful. Out of all the improvements, it’s the screen that really makes this 21.5in iMac stand out – and if you’re going to spend all day
staring at one, you want it to be the absolute best. Around the back, a pair of UCB-C / Thunderbolt 3 ports join the four USBs. They’re still awkward to plug things into without swivelling the machine around, but this model weighs so little that it’s hardly a chore. With a few small but welcome improvements, our favourite
all-in-one computer from last year is looking like a good bet to be this year’s darling too. This 21.5in version makes the most sense for day-to-day work, and there’s more than enough power for image and video editing. After something with even more grunt? There’s always the 27in 5K version. Apple has you covered for whatever you need.
● APPLE iMAC 4K 21.5IN from £1249
FEATURES, SOFTWARE & OS
The iMac’s current macOS, 10.12 Sierra, is fantastic… but it’s on track to get even better, with macOS High Sierra due later in the year. It’ll give Safari a privacy-minded shake-up and add better support for 4K video playback. ●●●●●●●●●●
The screen got more than a colour boost for 2017: brightness has been cranked up too. At 500 nits, this new iMac is 43% brighter than the old model, which means you’ll never be bothered by light reflections. Maybe turn it down when you’re working in the dark, though, unless you’ve got some sunglasses handy.
The all-new screen has been squeezed into the same aluminium unibody chassis Apple has been using for a few years now – which is no bad thing. We still reckon it’s the best-looking all-in-one computer around, with the exemplary build quality you’d expect – even if you still can’t adjust the screen beyond a simple tilt. It’s an exercise in minimalism, with curves in all the right places and no visible lines or seams. Actually, It feels like it should belong in a Zen garden, not on a desk.
Power me up
The display uses 10-bit dithering on an 8-bit panel. Huh? By rapidly alternating the colours of each pixel, it can give the impression of colours the panel can’t actually create. The result, stretched over a 4K 21.5in panel, speaks for itself. ●●●●●●●●●●
A come-dither look
It’s underneath that gorgeous glass front that you’ll find all the real action, including one of Intel’s 7th-generation Kaby Lake CPUs. Combined with 8GB of RAM, there’s enough power here for just about any desktop task – and that includes editing huge hi-res images and cutting together multiple 4K streams. Graphics have been given a boost with an AMD Radeon Pro 555 GPU; 4K gaming is still asking a lot, but stay realistic with resolutions and you’ll find that most games are surprisingly playable.
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The bundled Magic Keyboard uses the same funky switches as the latest MacBook Pro, only with extra travel for a comfier typing experience. A Lightning cable comes in the box now, so you can top up the keyboard and mouse simultaneously â€“ although you still canâ€™t use and charge the mouse at the same time.
S U P E R T E S T A L L- I N - O N E D E S K T O P S The screen can run double duty as a monitor for your PS4 or Xbox with an HDMI input – which is something the iMac hasn’t been able to do for a few years now.
The only downside to that rip-roaring performance is noise. The fan whirrs away at a fair volume to keep the CPU cool – it’s not maddening, but you’ll notice it.
S U P E R T E S T A L L- I N - O N E D E S K T O P S
Decent specs, and a curve that all your friends will Envy All-in-one PCs used to be as exciting as a three-day seminar on paint-drying techniques, but now there are stunning systems popping up all over. Case in point: the gorgeous Envy 34. HP’s latest creation has got uber-minimal styling that could give Swedish design houses a real case of the köttbullars, but if that’s not quite enough for you,
HP has taken its giant screen and added in some curves. That giant 34in display sits on top of a base unit that looks simple but is actually pretty smart. It holds all the internal hardware plus a beefy set of speakers, and has a touch-sensitive volume dial built right into it. There’s even a wireless charging pad for topping up a compatible phone. It also
hosts plenty of power and storage, and there’s ample connectivity around the back – maybe not what you’d expect, given the compact dimensions. HP bundles in a fairly basic wireless keyboard and mouse, and neither are great, which lets the side down a bit. The thing is, almost all PCs come bundled with rubbish keyboards and mice. It’s
annoying, but something you have to accept – just like paying taxes, or eating broccoli. Curvy screen aside, the Envy 34 doesn’t do anything drastic, but it still makes a great impression. For sheer hardware specs, it falls somewhere in the middle of the pack… but if you’re after a system that makes a statement? Then this absolutely fits the bill.
● HP ENVY 34 CURVED ALL-IN-ONE from £1999
A test of curve
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The 34in curved screen has a cinema-style 21:9 aspect ratio, which takes up a significant chunk of your field of view. The 3440x1440 resolution isn’t as pixel-packed as a 4K panel, but it means you can comfortably use two windows at once. ●●●●●●●●●●
The base hides quad 8W speakers and dual passive bass radiators, tuned by audio experts Bang & Olufsen. It’s almost like having a TV soundbase, only shrunken down to fit on your computer desk. They can pump out a respectably loud sound for a desktop setup, with decent stereo separation and an impressive amount of bass.
Wide-eyed with wonder
With the skinny screen not leaving much room for hardware, HP has shifted all the main components into the base unit. Inside, you get one of Intel’s latest Kaby Lake Core i7 CPUs and 8GB of RAM, which are more than enough for day-to-day desktop duties. There’s an M.2 SSD helping keep file transfers and loading times snappy. Meanwhile, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 950M is a capable graphics card, as long as you dial down the resolution to 1080p and stay reasonable with the detail settings.
That eye-grabbing curvy screen seems to float above the equally minimal base unit, with a tiny silver stand holding it in place. The display has ultra-thin bezels that don’t distract from the pixels, and is even gorgeous from the back with its all-black finish. It’s all made from sturdy metals and plastics – so while not quite on the same level as Apple’s unibody iMac, it still certainly feels premium. The one drawback of this design, though? The huge amount of space the base unit takes up on your desk.
HP sticks a few annoying bits of bloat in the Windows 10 Start Menu, but nothing too heinous. The most useful extra is the screen calibrator. All the colour modes are a bit fierce, mind, so you’re best off sticking with the default mode.
FEATURES, SOFTWARE & OS
Calibrate good times
S U P E R T E S T A L L- I N - O N E D E S K T O P S
Flippin’ tech! Microsoft’s built a desirable designer desktop Don’t think of the Surface Studio as just another all-in-one PC. Think of it as a Surface Book that’s been through some kind of comic-book radiation beam and emerged Bigger! Stronger! Better! This is technically a desktop PC, but its wondrous 28in touchscreen can flip down on a clever hinge so you can use it flat like an illustrator’s tablet. Sit in front
of one and you’ll be staring at a big screen that’s crazy-sharp. Text looks as though it’s been intricately etched into the glass with a surgeon’s scalpel. It’s fantastic, and the novelty will never wear off. Promise. You’re not buying the world’s most powerful desktop here, however – it’s using last year’s CPU – and it has an eye-watering
price. Customise a 27in iMac to have similar specs to the top-end Surface Studio, complete with Magic Mouse 2 and Trackpad, and it weighs in at £3098… compared to the Studio’s £4249. No, the iMac doesn’t have a touchscreen, but think of what you could do with the extra £1151… If you’re a serious illustrator, though, this should be near the
top of your shopping list. The Studio comes with everything you’ll need and has the modern styling to fit perfectly in your chic workspace. We love it, but not because it’s perfect. No, we’re fans because it’s outlandish, beautiful, tactile and quietly unique. If Werner Herzog went into the PC business, he’d make something like this.
● MICROSOFT SURFACE STUDIO from £2999
FEATURES, SOFTWARE & OS
Microsoft hasn’t done anything fancy here: you get Windows 10, and you’ll like it. With no bloatware clogging up the hard disk, it’s as quick as you like – and everything scales well and looks razor-sharp on that ultra-high-resolution screen. ●●●●●●●●●●
Chances are you’ll be switching between upright ‘viewing’ mode and laid-flat ‘sketch’ mode a few times a day. It’s reassuring that the Studio’s hinges are sturdy, then. The overall design is well balanced enough to take out much of the physical effort from switching modes – no small task, seeing as the Studio weighs 9.56kg.
The Studio isn’t the kind of industrial design that will fade into the background in time. It’s a beast of a machine that’s happy in its own skin. The chrome support struts are chunky, and the aluminium base is plain but solid. It’s the subtle features that you’ll appreciate most: the chrome screen hinges move their load smoothly; the screen’s fit and finish is perfect; the accompanying Surface Studio keyboard has perfectly weighted keys; the Surface Mouse looks good and feels well engineered.
Skylake’s the limit
To describe this display as glorious isn’t hyperbole – it is stunning. Log in for the first time and we defy you not to feel a rush of glee at the 28in screen’s colour depth and sharpness, stretched over 4500x3000 pixels. ●●●●●●●●●●
Display a blinder
The processor is the blazingly fast Intel i7, albeit a 6th-gen Skylake, not the latest 7th-gen Kaby Lake. You also get a meaty 32GB of DDR4 RAM and 2TB of Rapid Hybrid Drive storage. However, the job of pushing the pixels around that huge screen has been left to an Nvidia GTX 980M. That’s a mobile chip, so you’ll need to halve the native resolution of newer juggernaut titles. Industrial-strength gaming aside, the Studio is snappy, and is happy to flick between intensive applications.
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The Studio is generously equipped – you’ll find four USB 3.0 ports, a mini display port, a 3.5mm headphone socket and a Gigabit Ethernet port.
Microsoft’s novel Dial controller sits on your desk or the Studio’s screen, and unlocks a ton of situational shortcuts. Shame it’s £90 extra, though.
S U P E R T E S T A L L- I N - O N E D E S K T O P S
The winner is…
Apple iMac 4K 21.5in Apple’s design team might have put their feet up this year, but when the iMac was already one of the best-looking all-in-ones out there, can you blame them? The superior screen and faster CPU only cement its place at the top. Make no mistake, though: all three machines are superb, and all earn their high scores. Microsoft pulled an absolute blinder with the Surface Studio – although it’s hugely expensive and feels like overkill if you’re not a design pro. Glorious, beautifully made overkill. For most people determined to stick with Windows, the HP Envy is the better buy – that curved screen is just fantastic to work on, and it’s got real multimedia muscle.
+ Now add these Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless Some headphones just fit – and we’re not just talking about how they feel on your noggin. The looks are right, and more importantly, the sound is spot-on. £260 / argos.co.uk Samsung T3 Portable SSD 500GB Don’t sit there twiddling your thumbs when copying files between computers. This portable SSD is about as quick as it gets, and slips in a pocket when you’re done. £158 / scan.co.uk D-Link AC3200 Ultra Wireless Router Pushing your wireless speeds into the stratosphere is great, but doing it while looking like a miniature Stealth fighter takes things to a new level. £160 / amazon.co.uk
ST TE ER NN WI
S U P E R T E S T A L L- I N - O N E D E S K T O P S
● Apple ● HP ● Microsoft
WHAT’S NEXT? The mighty new iMac Pro will raise the bar for everyone in December – but these three all-in-ones are the cream of the compact computing crop right now, and they’re all in line for OS updates that will add even more features. Microsoft is working on its Autumn Creators Update to overhaul the Windows 10 desktop, Start Menu and Edge browser; and Apple is gearing up to unleash macOS High Sierra, which boosts video performance and adds a speedier file system. On the hardware side, this summer has already seen the launch of Intel’s 8th-gen Coffee Lake processors, and there’ll be a new generation of PC components trickling through from early 2018. That includes new silicon from AMD, even faster PCI-based SSD storage, and graphics cards from Nvidia and AMD with enough grunt to handle 4K gaming and virtual reality at silky-smooth frame rates.
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follow Tom: @TomMorgan3 email Stuff: firstname.lastname@example.org
Apple iMac 4K 21.5in Still the best all-in-one around, only now with more power, better accessories and an absolute blinder of a screen. from £1249 / apple.com
21.5in 4096x2304 LCD with DCI-P3 wide colour gamut
3GHz Intel Core i5 (Kaby Lake)
1TB hard disk
AMD Radeon Pro 555 with 2GB VRAM
4x USB 3, 2x USB-C/ Thunderbolt 3, Ethernet, 3.5mm headphone, SDXC card reader, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2
450x528 x175mm, 5.66kg
HP Envy 34 Curved All-In-One It’s not as flexible as the Surface Studio, but gorgeous looks and plenty of power make this the everyman all-in-one. from £1999 / hp.com
34in 3440x1440 LCD
2.9GHz Intel Core i7 7700T
256GB SSD, 1TB hard disk
Nvidia GeForce GTX 950M
4x USB 3, USB-C, 3.5mm headphone, SDXC card reader, HDMI input, HDMI output
200x815 x458mm, 11.5kg
Microsoft Surface Studio A stunning design and sheer audacity help the Studio stand out… but it loses out to the HP because of its huge price. from £2999 / microsoft.com
28in 4500x3000 PixelSense LCD
2.7GHz Intel Core i7 6820HQ
128GB SSD, 2TB hard disk
Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M
4x USB 3, SDXC card reader, mini DisplayPort, 3.5mm headphone port, Ethernet, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
637x439 x32mm, 9.56kg
Get off of your cloud This next-gen offline Spotify player offers phone-free music on the go, but it has some old-school issues
The Mighty isn’t graceful or stylish, but its blue symbol buttons give it a deliberate look – and it’s radically smaller than a phone.
US$86 / bemighty.com The iPod Shuffle was the perfect runner’s music player. The trouble is, it’s no longer 2006 and most of us don’t download music – we use streaming services like Spotify. So here’s the Mighty: an mp3 player that plays Spotify Premium tracks without a phone. Install the Mighty app on your mobile and it teaches the player your home Wi-Fi network login and gives it access to your Spotify account. Then choose the playlists you want to have beamed over via the little guy’s own Wi-Fi link. Plug in your headphones (or pair up your Bluetooth cans), press the little three-pip button, and a robot lady reads out the name of your playlist before starting to play. Press this button again and it cycles to the next playlist. It’s just like an old mp3 player… except it can’t shuffle. We’re told this feature is coming. You can’t even fast-forward or rewind, only skip to the next or previous tune, and there’s no way to get that robot to tell you what you’re listening to mid-song. More importantly, you’re stuck with Spotify – no other streaming services, no podcasts. Compared directly to a few recent Android phones, the Mighty’s audio doesn’t come off well. There’s a drop in dynamic range, the bass loses power and the mids are less smooth – all the signs of a cheap DAC. At least you can choose between Spotify’s usual Normal, High and Extreme standards.
Tech specs Storage 4GB File format mp3 (requires Premium Spotify account) Connectivity Bluetooth, Wi-Fi Dimensions 38x38x18mm, 17g
Wi can’t this be love?
The Mighty’s Wi-Fi connection is flakier than a fresh croissant. The first time we used it to transfer tunes with the app, it worked perfectly; after that, we spent hours trying to get the thing to connect.
Battery life is claimed at up to five hours, but after no more than 90 minutes of music our Mighty only had 57% charge left. If you use wireless headphones, the player’s battery lasts 90 minutes max.
STUFF SAYS An iPod for the streaming age, but performance is far from mighty This snack-sized music machine is slightly undercooked Andrew Williams
Mighty Audio is a plucky company doing something new, but this feels like a beta product – it’s buggy, restrictive and low on features. Much as we like the idea of listening to Spotify without a phone, it’s hard to get enthused about the Mighty, particularly with the risk of extra customs charges when shipping from the US. You might as well at least wait until it comes to Amazon’s European stores in the winter.
FI TH RST ES GE E… T 96
ONE SKYREAT TABLET MOUNT
TWO XILLIE SHORT USB 2.0 TO USB CABLE
The Spark’s controller can hold a smartphone in its built-in jaws, but if you ever find yourself squinting at the screen when flying and wishing for a bigger display, consider investing in a mount. Now you can clamp in a full-size tablet, letting you view your Spark’s video feed at maximum detail.
By default, your phone and the Spark controller connect to each other via Wi-Fi. But you can create a more reliable connection with a Lightning/ microUSB/USB-C to male USB cable. You’ll also need a microUSB to USB OTG adaptor, and don’t forget to tell your phone to ‘forget’ the controller’s Wi-Fi network.
£16.99 / amazon.co.uk
£4.99 / amazon.co.uk
THREE GPC FLY MORE CASE The Spark’s polystyrene foam case is sturdy and small, but not perfect: it’s not built for truly rough treatment, and it doesn’t have space for the controller, charger, extra batteries or prop guards. The dust-proof, watertight and floating hard cases from Go Professional take things to another level. US$69 / goprofessionalcases.com
NO TH W IS DO …
DO N O TH WN W ES LO E… AD
1 LET’S DO LAUNCH
2 EARN MAD PROPS
3 BE A GESTURE GENIUS
The Spark’s stubby landing gear means taking off from tricky surfaces like sand or grass isn’t recommended. To avoid getting stuff all over the rotor blades, use the drone’s carry case as a take-off and landing pad. Or, if you’re feeling fancy, launch it right out of your hand using the Gesture piloting mode: power it up, hold it out pointing towards you, then double-tap the power button. It’ll land in your hand too.
Until you’re a Spark maestro, use your prop guards. That bears repeating: unless you’re really, really comfortable flying the Spark, snap on these plastic guards and make sure your rotors don’t chop anything they’re not supposed to (your mum’s roses, your collection of antique Ming vases, your eyes). They’ll also protect the props from being sheared off if they hit a hard surface while flying.
Don’t rush straight into Gesture mode. Learn how the Spark flies using the physical controller or your phone first – and when you’re comfy with that, use the DJI Go app to learn the gestures and what the light signals mean. For example, with Palm Control, if the front LEDs are red then the drone won’t follow you; if they’re yellow, the camera is trying to locate your palm; if they’re green, it’s locked on.
If you want to delve deeper into autopilot, consider Litchi. The Spark doesn’t support all of its auto modes, but it’s great for panoramas. £19.99 / Android £21.99 / iOS
NATS DRONE ASSIST
[ Words Sam Kieldsen Photo Matthew Beedle ]
The UK’s air traffic control provider made this essential app, which warns you of ground hazards and areas where airspace is restricted. £free / Android, iOS
4 SNATCH AND GRAB
5 PLAY IT SMOOTH
6 GET SPORTY
Got into a spot of trouble? Say, your Spark’s not responding to gestures and you don’t have a controller connected? You can perform an emergency motor stop by grabbing the drone from underneath and flipping it over (make sure to grab it on the dark grey section, to keep the rotors away from your fingers). This can be useful when flying indoors, where GPS isn’t available and the Spark is prone to drifting.
The responsiveness of regular flight mode is handy when positioning the Spark for stills shooting or getting it places quickly, but it can be jerky when shooting aerial videos. Want smoother pans and tracking shots? Tap the control icon on the left of the screen then select Tripod mode. This makes the drone less nippy but helps deliver footage that looks like it’s been shot for HBO rather than MTV.
Flick the controller’s ‘Sport’ slider to the right to engage the Spark’s fastest and most exhilarating flying mode. It boosts turning time and climbing rate, and increases top speed to 31mph – perfect if you want to burn off some manic energy and buzz around like a gigantic meth-addled bee. But be warned: collision detection doesn’t work in Sport mode. Enjoy responsibly…
SUN SURVEYOR LITE
Want to capture beautiful sunrises and sunsets for an avalanche of Facebook and Instagram likes? This app will help you find them. £free / Android, iOS
TESTED NOKIA BODY
Scale down your hopes Looking for app-connected smart scales on a skinny budget? You might want to weight a little longer… £60 / stuff.tv/NokiaBody Up until now, Nokia has only rebranded existing Withings scales since it gobbled up the French company – but these Body scales are completely new. They’re cheap too, sitting £30 below the Body+ and £90 below the heart-tracking Body Cardio.
There are two things the Health Mate app is good at: showing the trends of your weight and BMI over time, and pulling in data from other apps.
The Body scales have an attractive glass-fronted design. Step on them and they’ll flash up your weight, a graph of your recent entries, your BMI, and finally the day’s weather forecast. These scales only measure one thing: your weight, in kilos, pounds or old-school stones. Unlike pricier options, they can’t measure things like fat or muscle mass; but they can fling your data to the Health Mate app over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, which is useful for tracking your long-term progress. Once you’ve got the app and scales talking, the experience is sleek. But the setup process is way more fiddly than it should be – our scales initially wouldn’t connect to the app, and then they failed to recognise a new user. Early bugs have been fixed, but Health Mate is still crash-prone. These issues will no doubt be smoothed over in time; the bigger issue with the app is that, basic graphs aside, it doesn’t offer enough insight to complement the Body as well as it should.
Tech specs Sensors Four weight sensors (5-180kg), body position sensor Units kg, lb, st Max users 8 Connectivity Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Display 128x64 LCD Power 4x AAA batteries Dimensions 327x327x23mm, 2.6kg
The Health Mate app has five new multi-week fitness guides called ‘Wellness Programs’ – but three of the five require either Nokia’s more expensive scales, or another device such as the Activité Steel fitness tracker.
Health Mate can serve as a fitness hub in tandem with third-party apps such as MyFitnessPal and Runkeeper. And thanks to Apple Health, you can also pull in continuous heart-rate data from your Apple Watch.
STUFF SAYS Like our physiques, these budget scales aren’t ready for prime time The Body and its app try to do too much without nailing the basics Mark Wilson
Yes, it’s great that the Body’s companion app can pull in data from other apps and gadgets, but a streamlined setup process would be more useful – not to mention some insight into how you can actually reach your target weight. And since a lot of Health Mate’s more interesting features are only compatible with the Body’s more expensive siblings, you might as well pay the extra £30 for the Body+ model.
12 DAYS WITH THE PANASONIC TX-55EZ952B
La la bland
With such plain looks, Panasonic’s least pricey OLED 4K TV really needs to put in an Oscar-worthy performance… Verity Burns keeps her eyes on the screen £2799 / panasonic.com
Tech specs Screen 55in 3840x2160 OLED with HDR OS Firefox Connectivity HDMI (x4), optical out, Ethernet, Wi-Fi Dimensions 1230x766x 275mm, 24.5 kg
DAY 01 You can stuff your excessive designs when it comes to tellies. After all, when you’re lost in the midst of a blockbuster, you’re not ogling the bezels or the stand. That’s why I’ve been looking forward to seeing this Panasonic in action – it’s a TV aimed at people who can look past an ordinary design and focus solely on picture quality. The EZ952 is Panasonic’s cheapest OLED set this year, but it’s not exactly what we’d call a bargain: at £2799, it’s pricier
those LG and Sony rivals. Colours aren’t as punchy either, and that’s where this set struggles most: it’s not great at HDR. The EZ952 supports both HDR10 and broadcast-ready HLG flavours of HDR, but it doesn’t show off the benefits of the tech quite as clearly as the B7 or A1. Watching Daredevil in 4K HDR, colours are significantly flatter, and both contrast and brightness are lacking the chops to give the picture the punch we’re used to with HDR. LG’s B7 drubs the Panasonic in this respect – its images are more
Both contrast and brightness are lacking the chops to give this picture the punch we’re used to with HDR than LG’s brilliant B7 (£2299) and only slightly cheaper than Sony’s breathtaking A1. At this price, and with no design flair to distract us, we’re surely entitled to expect near-perfect image quality. Lining up some 4K HDR footage for it to get stuck into, my first impressions are positive: its natural and realistic handling of colours is immediately obvious and skin tones are keenly judged, with plenty of subtlety. Bright scenes arguably do better in this respect, though, and it’s soon clear that the EZ952 isn’t quite as insightful in darker scenes as
engaging and exciting to look at, the balance of light and dark far more dynamic. Where light should sear through dark scenes with added vibrancy in HDR, with the EZ952 it’s not a huge improvement on SDR. We expect more from a TV costing close to £3000. The picture’s a touch softer too. Lines aren’t as well defined, which means landscape shots, where there’s a lot of fine detail to take in, aren’t quite as clean and believable. For a TV that claims performance over looks, it’s not wowing me so far.
LO N G -T E R M T E S T PA N A S O N I C T X- 5 5 E Z 9 5 2 B
Donut of Truth™
DAY 04 OK, so the HDR left a sour taste, but after spending a few days with this TV I’ve realised that it fares much better once you drop down to Full HD content. The differences between this and the LG suddenly become far harder to notice. Both are sharp, detailed and realistic; you might spot a touch more white detail in the B7, but it’s astonishing how close these sets get when HDR isn’t involved. Standard-definition content is also surprisingly watchable, hanging on to a natural colour balance with commandingly clean, controlled lines. The B7 comes back to pip it for outright picture quality here, but again it’s a pretty close call.
DAY 06 As a TV geek, I’ve found the range of tweaking options a delight… but casual buyers may disagree. There’s a load of technical options that carry very little explanation, but a few small adjustments to sharpness, colour, contrast and brightness are all you need.
DAY 07 I haven’t HAD a single hiccup from the Firefox OS. It’s a bright, clean
01 Natural picture with realistic colours 02 Strong performance in both HD and SD 03 Firefox OS is easy to use and powerful
04 HDR content doesn’t have the punch and contrast we were expecting 05 It’s tricky to set up for the average once-a-decade TV buyer
and simple system that’s bolted on top of Panasonic’s normal menus.
DAY 09 I managed to cope with this Panasonic’s audio for nine days, but now I’ve had enough and I’m digging out my soundbar. The TV’s sound isn’t terrible, but I’ve found it a touch too harsh on the ears in busy scenes.
DAY 10 I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: If you haven’t done so already, you’re going to want to play Horizon Zero Dawn on an Ultra HD TV. And this Panasonic isn’t a bad shout for that role, as video games benefit from its low input lag – which measures at 25.7ms. There’s faster out there, but anything under 40ms is more than fit for purpose. Enough to keep you going until the Xbox One X hits stores?
DAY 12 The Panasonic TX-55EZ952B is the strait-laced friend at a wild party. But while we can look past its dull design and fiddly menus, for a TV aimed at enthusiasts its weaknesses in picture quality are a bit of a head-scratcher.
STUFF SAYS HDR niggles and a tricky setup process keep the EZ952 just behind the best ★★★★✩
PS4 / stuff.tv/LostLegacy
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy Nathan Drake is nowhere to be seen, but PlayStation’s most bombastic franchise remains a blast in this blockbuster follow-up to Uncharted 4
ou should know how the Uncharted games work by now. Take a whip-smart lead with more one-liners than the entire Edinburgh Fringe, add a lot of crumbling scenery and an ill-defined baddie, and you’ve got yourself a whole lotta fun. In these terms, and many others, The Lost Legacy doesn’t disappoint. After Nathan Drake’s awesome last hurrah in Uncharted 4, this may be the series’ first instalment not to star the eternally boyish hero, but little has changed in
almost every other respect. Crucially, that includes a central pairing that you’ll root for until the end credits. Replacing Nate and Sully are Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross: an odd coupling where one member rattles out wisecracks to mask her vulnerabilities and the other relies on experience. They share some hairy moments and find a common bond through them. All this might make The Lost Legacy out to be a cookie-cutter spin-off, but it’s in the low-key
moments that this adventure really endears itself. While the tricksy Chloe will happily lockpick her way through a door, Nadine prefers to take a shortcut and smash its glass window. In other words, they’re proper characters rather than a couple of B-list archetypes who’ve been shoved centre stage – even if they do still need a little more time to establish themselves in their own right. Once you’re done running and gunning your way through a thrilling cavalcade of gorgeous set pieces,
it’s this stuff that’ll have you yearning for more Uncharted – not The Lost Legacy’s flirtation with open-world exploration, or an overly insistent photo mode that similarly detracts from the game’s rat-a-tat charm. Still, these dalliances never go so far as to derail what is an otherwise joyously gurn-inducing affair. It’s one that can’t match the climactic drama of its predecessor, but promises more of that in the not-too-distant future. Rob Leedham
STUFF SAYS A gorgeous adventure that lacks the emotional punch of its predecessor 102
3 of 2017’s best PS4 exclusives
Already played Horizon Zero Dawn? You need to get your hands on Sony’s other epic post-apocalyptic title. Stuffed with more existential guff than a Terrence Malick flick, this open-world action-RPG is as barmy as it is beguiling. And it’s got robots, so that’s a boon.
The new photo mode has Chloe Frazer taking all manner of beautiful snaps.
Nadine Ross is a great protagonist – more than just a paramilitary badass.
This game is so huge you can spend five hours on it without even finishing the tutorial. As much as Persona 5 isn’t an RPG for commitment-phobes, anyone who sticks with its high-school melodrama and turn-based thrills will be richly rewarded.
WipEout Omega Collection
If Crash’s recent revival taught us anything, it’s that the bandicoot hasn’t aged all that well over the last 21 years. WipEout, meanwhile, is still a riot – especially now the futuristic racing series has been remade in 1080p.
PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC / stuff.tv/SonicMania
Sonic’s looking to recapture the old magic with a dash from his Mega Drive past, but is Mania more a ’90s nostalgia trip than a whole new adventure? onic the Hedgehog was a superstar in the ’90s, even giving Mario a run for his money. But once that decade was over? The blue hedgehog crashed harder than Macaulay Culkin. That’s not down to any lack of effort on Sega’s part, though. We’ve seen Sonic undergo more reboots than Batman and James Bond combined. But now it seems Sega (with the help of developers Handcannon and PadogaWest Games) has finally figured out the best way to get its mascot running at full speed again: return him to his Mega Drive origins. After years of being plagued with painful gimmicks, Mania strips Sonic down to basics. The controls are identical to the games of old: move with the analogue stick and press almost any button to jump or dash. Even the 16-bit graphics have been retained, although they gain a 60fps shine. As successful as Sonic Mania is at inducing nostalgia, its dedication to the past is also its biggest downfall, simply because it rarely adds anything new to the old
formula. For instance, most of the 12 zones have already appeared in previous Sonic games. Levels like Green Hill Zone have been ‘remixed’ with new map layouts, but they still feel overly familiar. Later levels do at least offer more innovation. The underwater sections of Hydrocity are tense, while the plane ride of Mirage Saloon offers a welcome change of pace. These aren’t new ideas, but there are enough tweaks to keep them feeling fresh. All in all it’s hard to view Mania as an entirely new entry, but rather an accumulation of the greatest moments of past 2D Sonic titles. Think of it as a ‘best of’ album. And while it’s tough to spot any real improvements over a series made two decades ago, this could yet be the best 2D side-scroller of the year– which only proves the quality of those original games. What’s important is that Sonic is finally heading in the right direction, even if he’s moving at a gentle pace rather than his famous genre-defining speed of old. Ryan Jones
STUFF SAYS The best Sonic in yonks, but it still lags behind modern platformers 104
We all know Sonic’s a berk, so thankfully you can play as Tails or Knuckles instead.
Multiplayer, co-op and Time Attack give you plenty to do once the credits roll.
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This gadget has leapt straight outta testing and into our rankings.
OF EVERYTHING Time changes everything, including Stuff Top Ten placings.
BARGAIN BUY UPDATE Searing with techy genius, a product that’s set our hearts aflame.
A solid gold bargain. Worth owning, regardless of cashflow.
Smartphones The big question: How can I be loyal to a healthy diet? Tablets & headphones How to buy a… tablet TVs Playlist: Documentaries Laptops
110 111 112 113 114 115 116
Should I upgrade? Hi-fi Consoles & VR Games Home cinema & smart home Streaming guide System cameras Budget buys 5-minute hacks
117 118 120 121 122 123 124 125 126
HOW TO USE THEM
TOP TENS SMARTPHONES
TIPS & TRICKS Holler “Hey Bixby!” at your S8 and its voice assistant can dictate texts, suggest pubs and much more.
Samsung Galaxy S8 You don’t need us to tell you that the Galaxy S8 is a bezel-less thing of wonder. Just look at it: glorious! And beneath that gorgeous facade lies an equally sumptuous blend of power and performance. With enough oomph to run any app you please, and a point-and-shoot camera to rival both the iPhone 7 Plus and the Google Pixel, this really is an astoundingly good comeback after Samsung’s Note 7 woes. We’d have accepted nothing less.
You can customise the S8’s screenedge feeds for the weather, news and other notifications. Hold down the S8’s ‘recents’ key and tap the multi-window button to open two apps at once.
Stuff says It’s beautiful… and it’s hands-down the best phone you can buy right now ● NOW ADD THIS DeX Station Hook up a monitor, keyboard and mouse to this puck-sized device for an almost complete computer experience via your Galaxy S8. £130 / samsung.com
4 5 6 7
Apple iPhone 7 Plus
It isn’t quite as budget-friendly as its predecessors… but with an AMOLED screen, dual-lens camera and super-speedy processor, OnePlus is now offering proper flagship features for at least £100 less than any of its rivals. A different kind of bargain.
The camera upgrade makes the 7 Plus a no-brainer for iOS-loving photographers. Waterproofing is a welcome touch, and it’s a performance powerhouse when it comes to gaming. Add the bigger battery and you’ve got a clear winner over the basic iPhone 7.
Stuff says A more refined phone from OnePlus at a price that’s still pretty amazing
Stuff says The ultimate iPhone when it comes to camera, screen and battery
from £449 / oneplus.net
£699 / apple.com
£379 / hihonor.com The new Honor serves up quality flagship features for half the price of its wallet-depleting rivals.
£630 / htc.com This glass-backed beauty aims to please with a squeeze – and it takes a mean photo too.
£650 / lg.com One of the most visually unique phones out there, and it holds its own against strong competition.
Huawei P10 Plus
£600 / huawei.com A true flagship phone that gives you plenty of power, a great screen and one of the best cameras going.
Apple iPhone 7
from £599 / apple.com Forget the headphone furore; the iPhone 7 is a slick update packed with worthwhile new features.
Motorola Moto Z2 Play
£379 / motorola.co.uk A great-value smartphone that can be converted into a gamepad, a speaker or even a 360° camera.
Wileyfox Swift 2 X
£219 / wileyfox.com A 1080p display, a bigger battery and a still-appealing price make this the Wileyfox to go for.
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
£689 / samsung.com
THE BIG QUESTION TOP TENS
THE BIG HOW CAN I BE LOYAL QUESTION TO A HEALTHY DIET? FOR PERFECT PLANS
Gousto You may be motivated to get creative in the kitchen, but going all the way to Tesco is another matter. Gousto is a quick solution, delivering you a box of ingredients for your cherrypicked meals. from £25 / gousto.co.uk
MEALIME £free / Android, iOS You’ve been thinking about this all week – you’re finally going to cook a healthy meal. But now you’re staring at the rows and rows of supermarket goods, you’re overwhelmed by too much choice. And so you say to yourself, “You know what? It’d be easier just to get a frozen pizza.” The Mealime app has been designed to obliterate any obstacles in the way of healthy eating. By letting you list your dietary requirements and allergies, as well as any dislikes you may have, you can immediately rule out any meals that won’t get your stomach rumbling. Mealime will then provide you with a meal plan each week, listing all the ingredients and cookware
needed to cook up all your mouthwatering masterpieces. Finally, you just need to follow the cooking instructions. You can even avoid getting your phone grubby by hovering your hand over the camera to flick to the next page. Honestly, the only thing this app can’t do is shovel the food into your mouth. Maybe the next update will fix that?
SPECIAL SKILL CALORIE FILTER Want to squeeze those calories down to the bare minimum? By upgrading to pro membership (£6.49/month) you can filter down the recipes available by how many calories they contain. Exclusive recipes are also available for pro members.
FOR TASTY TREATS
SPECIAL SKILL HOW-TO VIDEOS Embarrassed that you don’t know how to cut up a specific vegetable? SideChef has loads of videos available to help you slice your beets and dice your bell peppers like a pro – no YouTube trawling required.
BOX OF GRUB
£free / Android, iOS It’s tough to keep up with the latest ideas of your favourite chefs, especially when Gordon Ramsay keeps swearing at you from the TV. SideChef simplifies the process, giving you picturesque lists of recipes from expert food bloggers and handy filters to find the perfect meal, whether it’s for a date night or Halloween. Visual and audio instructions guide you through the cooking, with integrated timers present to ensure you don’t make your marinated chicken thighs a little bit too, er, ‘crispy’.
Hello Fresh It’s a wee bit expensive, but this company prides itself on having fresh produce that tastes sublime. You can pick between the Classic, Veggie and Family boxes, and follow a whole host of recipes to get the most out of your cash. from £35 / hellofresh.co.uk
FOR STRICT STATS
MYFITNESSPAL CALORIE COUNTER
£free / Android, iOS MyFitnessPal doesn’t suggest any recipes – that’s up to you – but it might just be the most helpful app here for squeezing you into your jeans. You can log every meal and exercise from your day and keep abreast of how close you are to meeting (or surpassing) your calorie goal. Well, it’s got to be easier than reading the small print on packets and adding it all up.
Simply Cook This service is slightly different to the two above as it doesn’t ship fresh food. Instead, it supplies you with pastes, oils, herbs and garnishes, as well as some tasty recipes, so your meals have maximum flavour. from £9.99 / simplycook.com
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TOP TENS TABLETS
HEADPHONES TOP TENS
Apple iPad Pro 10.5in
Urbanista Seattle Wireless
The 9.7in iPad Pro was already sitting comfortably as our favourite tablet, but that wasn’t good enough for Apple. Rather than giving its flagship tablet a few minor tweaks, Apple has introduced a bigger screen and an immensely potent processor. In fact, this device is so powerful and flashy that it’s even blurring the lines between tablet and laptop. If you only want to browse social media and watch Netflix, the 10.5in iPad Pro is overkill; this is for those more interested in creation than consumption.
Urbanista makes affordable headphones that sell in the kind of high-street shops where you won’t usually find hardcore hi-fi nerds – so it’s a real surprise that the Seattles are some of the best-sounding affordable wireless cans around. They have a far more expansive and involving soundstage than most sub-£100 pairs – they’re full and rich-sounding, with the sort of tasteful bass drive that will please the masses without turning off the chin-stroking crowd.
Stuff says The iPad Pro puts all other tablets to shame – it’s unbeatable as a multimedia machine or creative tool
Stuff says Bags of style and fantastic sound quality at the right price – these Urbanistas are an absolute steal
from £619 / apple.com
Samsung Galaxy Tab S3
Apple iPad (2017)
£600 / samsung.com The Tab S3 is powerful and has a gorgeous screen, while the bundled stylus is a welcome extra that you don’t have to be an artist to appreciate. It doesn’t do half-measures, which is rare in an Android tablet. Stuff says The first genuine rival to Apple’s iPad Pro
from £339 / apple.com The glare-prone screen feels like a backward step for Apple, but on the whole it’s hard to grumble at the new iPad’s marriage of form factor, power and app ecosystem. You simply won’t find a better tablet for the price. Stuff says An affordable iPad with plenty of power
Samsung Galaxy Book 10.6in
Amazon Fire 7 (2017)
from £649 / samsung.com A clear improvement on Samsung’s first attempt at a Windows tablet.
£50 / amazon.co.uk Flawed, yes, but this is the best ultra-cheap tablet you can get – and now it has Alexa.
£89 / urbanista.com
Jabra Elite Sport
BARGAIN BARGA N BUY
£44 / europe.beyerdynamic.com These earphones have a sound we defy you not to like, with great mid-range detail that outdoes our long-term favourite SoundMagic E10Cs. They’re the kind of in-ears you can happily wear all day. Stuff says Seriously classy in-ear headphones
£300 / sony.co.uk These cans are superb on both sound quality and noise-killing efficacy. Factor in the elegant, thoughtful design and you’ve got a serious contender for the best wireless noise-cancellers on the market. Stuff says A stunning set of noise-cancelling headphones
£61 / soundmagicheadphones.com A Bluetooth version of some of the best affordable in-ears available.
£190 / jabra.co.uk Superb-sounding wireless in-ears with fitness-boosting features.
FOR THE FULL TOP TENS AND REVIEWS, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10/TABLETS & STUFF.TV/TOP-10/HEADPHONES
HOW TO BUY TOP TENS
HOW TO BUY A TABLET
Smartphone too small for streaming and laptop too bulky to carry around? A tablet will fill that role just right – but which one should you get? E Ink
A paper-like display that’s usually found on e-readers. It’s good for contrast – and for not draining a device’s battery.
A term used to describe a superpowerful tablet with laptop-like processing speeds and a keyboard option.
Apple’s marketing term to describe a display that has a pixel density so high that you no longer see individual dots.
KEEP TABS ON SPECS 1
Systems of mercy
The Android vs iOS war rages on even in the tablet world. Which OS you side with really comes down to taste, but it’s nice to have all your gadgets get along, so if you have an iPhone it might be best to stick with Apple. Don’t forget about Microsoft, though – the Surface Pro runs full Windows 10 to make your tablet feel like a proper PC. ● Get this: Microsoft Surface Pro from £799 / microsoft.com
NOW ADD THESE
2 The bigger picture
Whether you’re streaming TV, putting your arty cap on or just ogling Instagram, you’re going to want a sexy, bright screen. The iPad Pro 12.9in has a 2732x2048 display, which is one of the best you can hope for on a tablet. You’ll also want to make sure your tablet’s screen has an anti-reflective coating if you plan on using it outside. ● Get this: Apple iPad Pro 12.9in from £769 / apple.com
DEALS AT THEIR PRIME 3 Hybrid theory
The line between tablets and laptops is getting more and more blurred… and that means, instead of buying both, you can now invest in one device to do it all. A hybrid typically has a beefier processor than a normal tab, so you’ll need to be working it hard to get your money’s worth. It’s a good option to get Photoshop running smoothly. ● Get this: Dell XPS 13 2in1 from £1299 / dell.com
4 Settle your tab
You only want to use your tablet for social media and reading the news? Well, there’s little point buying a £500-plus powerhouse, then. The Amazon Fire 7 is fiercely ‘budget’, with a screen that even a mother could barely love. But it gets the job done for a fraction of the price of other tablets, and it’s so small that you’ll have few issues lugging it about on holiday. ● Get this: Amazon Fire 7 £50 / amazon.co.uk
● A KEYBOARD
Rather than spending extra on a 2-in-1 laptop, you could just buy an official keyboard or type cover for your chosen tablet. They’re ideal for students and writers, but sometimes absurdly expensive.
5 Book in advance
Maybe you don’t even need to access the web? If you just want to read books then we suggest an e-reader. They’re easier to read due to their natural-toned E Ink displays. ● Get this: Kindle E-Reader 6in £60 / amazon.co.uk
● A STYLUS
Some tablets have their own optional stylus so you can get painting without your nubby fingers turning everything splodgy. Apple’s and Microsoft’s pencils both retail at around £100.
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TOP TENS TVs
TIPS & TRICKS Don’t like the kickstand? Use a standard VESA mount to get it on your wall instead.
SONY KD-55A1 £2999 / sony.co.uk
LG has been sitting pretty on top of our TV chart for yonks now – its decision to go OLED has proved a mighty successful one. But LG’s dominance is finally over, as Sony blasts away the competition with its very first attempt at an OLED telly. With an outstanding picture and design, packaged with a clever speaker system that vibrates the whole screen, the A1 comes out on top in almost every single category. This is the TV to beat in 2017.
There are a few modes worth tinkering with; use the THX app to tweak your settings. We suggest turning off the Light Sensor, as it can adversely affect the contrast performance.
Stuff says Sony’s first crack at OLED turns out to be the greatest TV we’ve ever seen ● NOW ADD THIS Sky Q Once you’ve got a 4K TV, you’ll want access to the best 4K content. Sky Q is a good bet for watching and recording all your favourite shows and films. from £15 + £22/month / sky.com
4 5 6
This C7 is our pick of the current LG range. Why? Because it offers the exact same picture quality as its bigger siblings – including the outrageously priced Wallpaper TV – but for a fraction of the price. Sure, the E7 has significantly better audio, but we’d recommend you use a soundbar regardless of your TV pick, so there’s no real reason to snub the C7.
This Sony might lack the trendy OLED powers found in most of 2017’s top-end tellies, but it still offers one of the best pictures around. That’s thanks to 4K HDR skills that make big movies even more astounding. Plus, the 20W speakers built into the XE9005 add plenty of gravitas to your home cinema experience. For the money, you won’t find a better TV.
Stuff says LG’s best-value 2017 OLED came close to topping our list
Stuff says One of the best TVs available in the not-so-astronomical price bracket
£2499 / lg.com
£1499 / samsung.com The Q7F proves that QLED is more than just a marketing ploy. The 55in model is great too.
£7999 / lg.com The new benchmark in TV design and picture quality, but ridiculously pricey.
£1599 / lg.com Packed full of tech, with jaw-dropping performance to send you into TV reverie.
£1349 / samsung.com Stunning performance for the money, proving there’s plenty of life in LCD yet.
£1249 / sony.co.uk
£2799 / panasonic.com HDR niggles and a tricky setup process keep the EZ952 just behind the best.
£600 / panasonic.com A good option if you’re looking for a more compact 4K telly, but the HDR isn’t great.
£499 / philips.co.uk A decent performer that’s elevated by that sweet, sweet Ambilight technology.
FOR UP-TO-DATE NEWS AND FULL REVIEWS OF ALL THE BEST NEW TELEVISIONS, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10/TVs
PLAYLIST BEST DOCS TO STREAM
PLAYLIST TOP TENS
It’s true – the real world offers better stories than any writer could dream up. So forget those dumb blockbusters and settle in for a gripping documentary…
BEST FOR REAL-LIFE FIERY THRILLS Into the Inferno
Documentaries about biscuits, pot plants and careers in the civil service can be rather dull. But there’s nothing boring about volcanoes, especially when legendary director Werner Herzog is travelling around the world to peer into as many lava-spitting hell holes as possible. Netflix
Your love for orcas probably started when you welled up watching Free Willy. But if you thought snapping up Sea World tickets would be a good way to get closer to the real thing, this astonishing exposé will see you stuffing them straight into the shredder. Netflix
BEST DOCS TO WATCH ON BLU-RAY
Saying the last few years have been a bit mad is like saying the end of the world is ‘a bit unfortunate’. Bafta winner Alan Curtis attempts to unpick the mess we currently find ourselves in with this fantastic, ambitious documentary. iPlayer
The Thin Blue Line
If you thought Making a Murderer was the first time the police arrested an innocent man, let’s take a trip back to 1988 – The Thin Blue Line helped save Randall Dale Adams from death row. Definitely not to be confused with the dire Ben Elton sitcom of the same name. Netflix
PLANET EARTH II
Because there’s no more potent combination than Attenborough’s silky voice and the amazing wildlife of our globe. £15 / amazon.co.uk
I am Not Your Negro
OJ: MADE IN AMERICA
Anyone who says America is the land of the free clearly hasn’t seen this Oscar-nominated 2016 documentary about racism in the US. Narrated by Samuel L Jackson, it proves that some Americans are freer than others. Amazon Prime
From sport star to film star to jailbird – this doc takes a closer look at the infamous OJ story. £10.99 / amazon.co.uk
The music industry really is all about sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, but maybe that’s the problem. Amy follows Ms Winehouse’s rise to fame and her struggle with drugs and alcohol… before they claimed her life. Watch this, then go out and order a cranberry juice. Amazon Prime
Bears may look like your teddy, but they’re not as friendly. Another from Herzog, this is about a man who got too close. £14.19 / amazon.co.uk
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TOP TENS LAPTOPS TIPS & TRICKS
Who needs a Touch Bar? You can log into your Mac with your iPhone’s Touch ID using the MacID app.
The universal clipboard lets you copy text on your iPhone and paste it directly to your Mac.
Apple MacBook Pro from £1249 (13in) / apple.com
The MacBook Pro didn’t really need a big update, but we’re not moaning that Apple decided to give it one, especially since it comes at no extra charge. With the new Kaby Lake processor giving the Pro a big boost in power, this is a monster of a laptop – even without the Touch Bar. When you factor in the gorgeous display, fantastic keyboard/touchpad combination and slick design, putting the MacBook Pro at No1 was the easiest decision we’ve ever made.
Stuff says Performance, portability and a sensible price make this the king of laptops ● NOW ADD THIS Satechi Type-C USB 3 Hub Two ports not enough? This hub adds loads more and sits snugly against the MacBook Pro’s side. £31 / satechi.net
Microsoft Surface Laptop
Asus ZenBook UX310UA
Putting carpet on a laptop and restricting it to Windows 10 S sounds like a disaster on paper. Yet the Surface Laptop is a fantastic portable machine with everything you’d possibly need to meet that deadline in a hurry or watch a film or two.
Asus has hit that price sweet spot, undercutting the competition and making potential MacBook Air buyers think twice before hitching their wagon to Apple and macOS. There’s little else out there that’s better without spending a whole lot more money.
Stuff says Microsoft’s carpet-covered laptop is an ultra-portable stunner
Stuff says MacBook styling, but not for MacBook money
from £979 / microsoftstore.com
from £600 / asus.com
Dell XPS 13 (2016)
from £1099 /dell.co.uk An excellent Windows 10 Ultrabook, small in size and great in stature.
from £1249 / apple.com A new Kaby Lake processor keeps the standard MacBook competitively brilliant.
HP Spectre 13
Razer Blade Stealth
Microsoft Surface Book
Apple MacBook Pro 15in with Touch Bar
from £1229 / hp.com One of the world’s thinnest laptops – but this machine still has serious power to spare.
from £1350 / razerzone.com This jet black slab of laptop loveliness is purpose-built for on-the-go gamers.
from £1299 / microsoftstore.com Shorn of its initial bugs, the Surface Book is a lustrous Windows hybrid with luxe appeal.
from £2349 / apple.com A flawed masterpiece, but one that’s packed with power and is fantastic to use.
Lenovo Yoga Book (Android)
from £450 / lenovo.com A gorgeous hybrid packed with ideas, including a keyboard that doubles as a drawing pad.
FOR UP-TO-DATE NEWS AND FULL REVIEWS OF ALL THE BEST NEW LAPTOPS, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10/LAPTOPS
SHOULD I UPGRADE? TOP TENS
Pick it up cheap
MICROSOFT BLUETOOTH MOBILE MOUSE 3600 Some folk need more accuracy than you can get from a trackpad. Perhaps you’re a perfectionist, or just terrified by the prospect of accidentally liking one of your grandad’s racist Facebook posts. This tidy little mouse does the job, and best of all it doesn’t take up one of your precious, endangered USB ports since it’s completely wireless. £19.19 / amazon.co.uk
Should I upgrade?
SURFACE PRO Rob Leedham Editor
I’m starting to think that Microsoft has the counting skills of a pre-schooler. It called its third gaming console the Xbox One, then skipped the number nine altogether when announcing Windows 10. And when it came to naming its successor to the Surface Pro 4, it clearly did a wobbly and went all the way back to zero. But despite the Surface Pro’s lack of a number, this is most definitely a sequel to the Pro 4, what with its new Kaby Lake processor, improved battery life and revamped Surface Pen. Look below the Surface… One mystery remains, then: how does such a huge company struggle to count up to five? Perhaps there’s another reason why the Surface Pro is numberless: Microsoft doesn’t want you to compare this hybrid laptop with its predecessor, since there haven’t been any substantial improvements besides that processor. With the same old display and operating system, and an almost identical design to the Pro 4, the new Pro is more of a tweak than a whole new model. Enough to make you upgrade? Maybe not when you consider that £799 price. Turns out Microsoft can count pretty high after all…
Make sure your laptop has Bluetooth 4.0 – otherwise you’ll need a dongle.
Kaby Lake processor
Everywhere you are Read it, like it, share it
Unmerited price hike
Pen not included
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TOP TENS HI-FI TIPS & TRICKS
With iPhones and Android devices, you can control your Sonos speakers from your lock screen.
Sonos speakers use a feature called Trueplay that tunes the sound to your room’s acoustics.
Sonos multiroom system from £199 / 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 (£199) to the flagship Play:5 (£499) and the TV-friendly Playbase (£699).
Stuff says Infinite music in every room without the need for custom installers? Sign us up! ● NOW ADD THIS Spotify Premium Sick of playing your iTunes library on repeat? Sign up to Spotify for more new music than you could ever possibly listen to. £9.99/month / spotify.com
4 BARGAIN BUY
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.
With six drivers pumping out music with a tonal fidelity unrivalled by similarly priced speakers, this Riva is a must-have for sound nerds. Take into consideration the 13-hour battery life and a USB port on the back to charge other devices, and it’s also a great travel companion.
Stuff says A wireless speaker that can make a valid claim to be genuine hi-fi
Stuff says The top small wireless speaker for real sound-hounds
£995 / naimaudio.com
£199 / rivaaudio.co.uk
Naim Mu-so Qb
£649 / 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.
Jam Heavy Metal
£75 / jamaudio.com Classy sound and design at a bargain price – this is the best affordable Bluetooth speaker.
£250 / uk.kef.com The Muo sounds as good as it looks… which is very nice indeed.
Rega Planar 1
£248 / rega.co.uk If you’re after an excellent, affordable turntable, the Planar 1 is the one to get.
£89 / ultimateears.com This little speaker might look cute, but it’s a sonic grenade – one you can deploy anywhere.
Bowers & Wilkins T7
£300 / bowers-wilkins.co.uk There are a million portable Bluetooth speakers in the world, but few classier than the B&W T7.
FOR UP-TO-DATE NEWS AND REVIEWS OF ALL THE BEST NEW HI-FI, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10/HI-FI-STREAMING
• S T O R E S N AT I O N W I D E • D E M O N S T R AT I O N R O O M S • E X P E R T I M PA R T I A L A D V I C E • U N R I VA L L E D P R O D U C T R A N G E
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New Bowers & Wilkins 700 Series 2 range available
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BOWERS & WILKINS 705 S2
With state of the art features such as the tweeter-on-top design borrowed from the 800 Series Diamond, this high performance two-way speaker reveals subtle nuances in music others miss. Even challenging instruments are conveyed with uncanny realism, presence and transparency.
The remarkable Q Series bookshelf speakers excel when space is limited. Featuring the signature KEF Uni-Q driver array with Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) port design, the Q350s deliver detailed natural sound with high clarity and tight bass.
This ultra-compact speaker introduces a new version of Monitor Audio’s 5¼-inch C-CAM bass/mid-range drive unit, creating the most diminutive bookshelf model ever to appear in the line-up. Silver 50 may be compact, but it delivers a big sound with impressive scale and dynamics.
★★★★★ Q350 • JULY 2017
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MONITOR AUDIO SILVER 50
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25 STORES NATIONWIDE
TOP TENS CONSOLES
VR HEADSETS TOP TENS
PlayStation 4 Pro
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 just 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 – for the headset itself, and also for the required supercomputer – but 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
£340 / playstation.com
Xbox One S
PlayStation 4 Slim
£759 / vive.com
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
£237 / 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
£280 / nintendo.co.uk Nintendo’s genius console can also be used as a handheld device.
£759 / vive.com Our VR headset of choice offers a completely new way to experience gaming.
Google Daydream View
Samsung Gear VR
£477 / 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
£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
£40 / samsung.co.uk Another cheap option for VR, but only for owners of Samsung phones.
£325 / playstation.com It can deliver incredible experiences, but the PSVR is held back by teething issues.
FOR FULL REVIEWS OF ALL THE BEST NEW CONSOLES, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10/GAMES-MACHINES
GAMES TOP TENS
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild £47 / Switch, Wii U
TIPS & TRICKS
Not only is this the best video game available right now, but it’s also probably the best Zelda game ever, which is no small feat. This is the first time Link has had an open world to explore, and it’s full of hidden treasures, delightful puzzles and stunning landscapes. You’ll get lost in the hills of Hyrule for hours upon hours – long enough to justify your Switch purchase.
Mark your map when you find a recognisable landmark. It’s easy to get lost.
Stuff says The Legend of Zelda goes open-world in sublime fashion
Hoard your preferred type of weapon, as they will end up breaking at the worst possible time.
● OR PLAY THIS Bastion Don’t own a Nintendo console but want some Zelda-esque action? The charming fantasy adventure Bastion probably comes closest. £10.99 / PS4, Xbox One, PC
It’s worth toying with concoctions to find new recipes for health potions and power-ups.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
BARGAIN B G N BUY
There might not be a lot that’s mechanically new here, but Horizon’s mechanical fauna, stunning scenery, superb sci-fi story and thrilling bow-and-arrow combat allow it to stand above the vast majority of open-world games ever made.
Stuck on a spaceship with bloodthirsty aliens? Yeah, we’ve seen it all before, but Prey features galactic beasts that can morph into chairs, while giving you zany powers and a GLOO gun to take them down. Beware: Prey will give you a fear of furniture.
Stuff says Robot dinosaurs in a dystopian future – need we say more?
Stuff says An atmospheric sci-fi masterclass of tension and terror
£36 / PS4
£20 / PS4, Xbox One, PC
£32 / PS4, Xbox One The DC brawler sequel we deserve, and the fighter you need right now.
£35 / PS4, Xbox One, PC Forget Call of Duty. Blizzard’s chaotic online shooter is as good as multiplayer mayhem gets.
The Last Guardian
Horizon Zero Dawn
£42 / Switch Mario powerslides onto Switch for the definitive version of his definitive racer.
£22 / PS4 Seriously flawed in some ways, but The Last Guardian is a feathery masterpiece.
£15.99 / PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC After years of falling behind the platforming competition, Sonic’s finally back on form.
£45 / Switch The sequel to Nintendo’s attempt at an online shooter is an incredibly fun splat-fest.
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
£25 / PS4 Not as hard-hitting as a Nathan Drake adventure, but a riveting treasure hunt all the same.
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 TOP TENS
Sky Q works flawlessly and could change the way you watch TV – especially now 4K’s arrived. With Sky Movies’ huge range of films and Sky Sports’ frequent doses of football and F1 now all in stunning Ultra HD, there’s something for everyone to treat their eyes with. And 2TB of storage means you can record 350 hours’ worth of entertainment, so you’re unlikely to be sweating over which show needs deleting. Factor in its multiroom skills, and Sky Q is undoubtedly the best TV experience you can get.
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 You’ll have to cough up for a subscription, but this is the best box for watching both live and recorded shows
Stuff says Our favourite thermostat cranks up the heat up on its smart home rivals with a solid upgrade
from £20 + £22/month / sky.com
£279 with installation / nest.com
Q Acoustics Media 4
Amazon Fire TV 4K
Amazon Fire TV Stick
£299 / 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
£80 / amazon.co.uk It’s slipped down our rankings for the simple reason that many modern televisions can now stream their own 4K, but this is still the best option for Ultra HD Netflix if your TV lacks the smarts. Stuff says The most complete streaming box available
£329 / weybridge-audio.co.uk This soundbase is as practical as they come for those with modest-sized living rooms.
£40 / amazon.co.uk Alexa makes watching television even easier now she’s living inside your remote.
Hive Active Heating 2
£154 / netatmo.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
Philips Hue Starter Kit
Amazon Echo Dot
from £60 (white) / meethue.com Become an indoor god with the smartest way of lighting up your home remotely.
£50 / amazon.co.uk Shame about the poor-quality speaker, but the Dot is a better buy than the full-size Echo.
FOR FULL REVIEWS, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10/HOME-CINEMA & STUFF.TV/TOP-10/SMART-HOME-DEVICES
YOUR STREAMING ESSENTIALS NETFLIX
NEW TO STREAMING TOP TENS
You could always go and reclaim your local park now the kids are back in school, but have you seen what’s on TV this month? AMAZON VIDEO
Star Trek: Discovery (S1)
The Girl on the Train
A League of Their Own (S12)
Just as space is endless, so are the possibilities for milking the Star Trek franchise – not that sci-fi nerds will be upset about that. This new series is set a decade before the original adventures of Kirk and co.
Every train is home to at least one booze-stinking waster, but where we come from they don’t usually look like Emily Blunt… and they’re not usually the prime suspect in a missing person investigation.
The Premier League is well and truly under way, but to get the most out of the season we’re going to need James Corden and pals to ridicule Wayne Rooney’s hair and Paul Pogba’s dabbing. Oh, and the actual football.
BoJack Horseman (S4)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
You’d think a show featuring brightly animated animals that act like humans would be a silly old hoot. But BoJack Horseman is as soul-squashing as it is funny. Who’d have thought we’d be so invested in a trouser-wearing horse?
Most romantic dramas are complicated by gossip, affairs and pregnancies, but Outlander opts for even more confusing heartache by adding a dash of time travel. If only we could go back in time to sort our own love lives out.
The Italian Job seemed like a pretty daring heist back in 1969. Compare it to Rogue One’s mission to steal the Death Star plans, however, and Michael Caine’s plot seems as trifling as stealing a Twix from Asda.
Tin Star (S1)
You’ll never look at a pork chop the same way again after watching Okja, the tale of an adorable superpig that yanks at your heartstrings with the power of a sausage grinder. If anything will make you a vegetarian, it’s this.
We’ve all been there. You’re stuck in traffic on a hot day and the air-con cuts out, so all you want to do is go a bit mad and smash things up… which is exactly what Michael Douglas does in this 1993 classic.
Everyone has an angry alter-ego we like to blame things on. You got angry and smashed a plate? That wasn’t you, it was ‘the other guy’. And that’s essentially Tim Roth’s excuse in this revenge-fuelled rampage.
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TOP TENS SYSTEM CAMERAS
Fujifilm X-T20 £799 / fujifilm.eu
Coming with the same 24.3MP APS-C sensor and processor as the X-T2, plus a touchscreen (which its sibling lacks), the X-T20 will leave you with a lot more spare cash in your account. And for most people, the model will deliver results that are just as good as its pricier big brother’s. With well laid-out controls, a huge viewfinder, excellent autofocus and access to superb lenses, the X-T20 is just one more fantastic mirrorless camera from Fujifilm.
TIPS & TRICKS For aperture-priority shots, set shutter speed to auto and turn the lens ring to the desired f-number.
Stuff says The X-T20 nails the sweet spot between price and performance
Pressing the Q button will open a custom menu, giving you quick access to loads of settings.
● 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
Tapping an area on the 3in touchscreen will let you set the focus point or take an instant shot.
Sony A7R II
Sony has made a compromise-free 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.
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.
Stuff says A no-compromise compact system camera for well-heeled enthusiasts
Stuff says A dream of a camera that barely strays from perfection
£2049 / sony.co.uk
£1387 / fujifilm.eu
Panasonic Lumix GH5
Fujifilm GFX 50S
Canon EOS 80D
£1699 / panasonic.com A compact system camera that can shoot 4K video at 60fps as well as taking great stills.
£1132 / sony.co.uk A cracking system cam for action photography, but stick with the A6300 if your budget is tight.
£5999 / fujifilm.eu It’s not cheap, but no camera we’ve tested takes better photos than this.
£1001 / canon.co.uk The 80D is so easy to use that even a toddler would get some great shots with it.
£1729 / europe-nikon.com The best APS-C camera you can buy, and well worth its slightly painful price tag.
£4500 / sony.co.uk A pro camera capable of insanely speedy still shooting, but at a rather hefty price.
£949 / olympus.co.uk An immensely desirable piece of design and an immensely capable all-round camera.
FOR FULL REVIEWS OF ALL THE BEST NEW CAMERAS, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10/SYSTEM-CAMERAS
BUDGET BUYS TOP TENS
Raspberry Pi Zero W from £9.60 / raspberrypi.org
It might be nearly twice the price of the original Pi Zero, but when you’re still getting change from a tenner, the wireless Pi is fantastic value. Simplicity is the key word, with no need to mess about with dongles, adaptors and USB hubs. This also means that your Pi projects can be squeezed into much smaller places. If you’re looking for more advanced stuff, you’re better off with the Pi 3; but for value and simplicity, the Pi Zero W tops our chart.
TIPS & TRICKS Plonk that Pi camera you bought on a birdfeeder and you’ll be able edit your own Springwatch.
Stuff says The Pi Zero was already fantastic; wireless add-ons make it even better
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 project has to be a homage to your childhood console. This adds smartphone photo pizazz. £18 / raspberrypi.org
Planning on turning your Pi into a SNES emulator? Legally, you must own the games to play them.
HOT BUY HOT T BUY
5 6 7
Gogle Chromecast Audio
This disc doesn’t just transform the streaming capabilities of your speakers – its lossless hi-res audio option can also boost their sound quality. This is an infinitely superior alternative to streaming via Bluetooth, with less battery drain and no interruption from calls.
You know you’re onto a winner when your fitness gadget isn’t just a tracker but a personal trainer. The Moov is a honeycomb-covered workout guide with voice coaching and rep-counting. And yes, it still tracks your daily steps and auto-detects your sleep.
Stuff says If you’ve not got a Sonos setup, this’ll do roughly the same job
Stuff says The best budget tracker – gives most Fitbits a run for their money
£30 / google.com/chromecast
£50 / moov.cc
8 9 10
Amazon Echo Dot
£50 / amazon.co.uk This smart home assistant is a lot smaller than the full-size Echo, but it’s a much bigger bargain.
£45 / soundmagicheadphones.com SoundMagic is royalty when it comes to budget buds. For the cash, these are stupendous.
Amazon Fire TV 4K
£80 / amazon.co.uk If you’ve bought a 4K TV, fill it with lovely content from Amazon’s Ultra HD media streamer.
Vodafone Smart Prime 7
£75 / vodafone.co.uk Despite decent specs, this smartphone is dirt-cheap compared to the competition.
Philips Hue Starter Kit
from £60 (white) / meethue.com Start your smart home with two bulbs and a bridge before turning it into a palace with more.
£60 / amazon.co.uk Top of our holiday packing list, the basic Kindle is thinner and lighter than its predecessor.
Google Daydream View
£69 / madeby.google.com An inexpensive headset that works with your Google phone to deliver VR experiences.
FOR FULL REVIEWS OF ALL THESE GADGETS, AND TO EXPLORE MORE TOP TEN LISTS, VISIT STUFF.TV/TOP-10
TOP TENS 5-MINUTE HACKS
IN THE NEXT ISSUE OF BLOCK SPOILERS FROM SOCIAL MEDIA It’s a pain when you have to go cold turkey on social media to avoid spoilers from your favourite shows. Fortunately, we have some solutions that don’t involve locking yourself in a room without Wi-Fi: ● Get Unspoiler We begin with the nuclear option. Unspoiler (unspoiler.tv) is a Chrome extension that will censor all headlines and social media posts that mention any of the key terms or words that you’ve chosen to blacklist.
● Filter Facebook Since Unspoiler works on any site you access via your Chrome browser, those red sensor boxes can feel obtrusive. But the FB Purity extension (fbpurity.com) only targets Facebook, and lets you hide any post that mentions your chosen show. ● Silence Twitter Twitter is the easiest site to censor. Simply dig into the settings, click ‘mute’ and you can filter out any word or phrase you desire.
THE NEW iPHONE RATED TURN YOUR OLD PHONE INTO A SECURITY CAM It’s likely that you still have an old smartphone lying about your house. Why not do some upcycling by turning it into a security camera for free?
GREATEST GADGET BARGAINS
ON SALE 5 OCTOBER
Download Snoop Install the free Snoop app (iOS and Android) on both phones – the spare one you want to use as a cam, and the one you want to watch the footage on. Pick your spot Now it’s time to position your DIY security camera where you’d like it to film. Perhaps you want it as a baby monitor, or to face your front door? Then enter the app and simply hit the ‘cast’ button.
HYBRID CARS GROUP TEST
Sit back and watch Finally, open the Snoop app on your other phone and click ‘watch’. You’ll be prompted to enter the PIN that can be seen on your casting device. Now you’re all set to spy on the dog.
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WIRELESS SWEATPROOF IN-EARS Built for working out, this lightweight sweatproof Bluetooth in-ear headphones with 11-hour battery life will get you through any workout. Loud, durable and comfortable earbuds ﬁt snugly in your ear to keep outside noise at bay while pumping non-stop soundtracks to workout to.
“Comfortable and User friendly designed for work out. The audio experience is characterized by a nice audio picture with rich bass.” - AktivTrening
“Very comfortable during use, provides resistance against rain and sweat. Very lightweight at only 15g and lasts up to 11hours an a single charge.” - PC Format
Midnight Midnig Blue
Neon Ne Green
Megir Mesh Chrono £59 Gilchrist Watch Co. is home to an unrivalled collection of unique aﬀordable timepieces. The strikingly minimal Mesh Chrono from Megir boasts a steel mesh band, precision stopwatch and calendar at 4 oʼclock. 3 variations.
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NEXT BIG THING?
ere’s some fuel for thought… Imagine a world where you never have to stop for petrol. Or electricity. You could just keep driving, only ever stopping to refuel yourself with coffee and pasties. Until someone invents a vehicle that’ll feed off your macchiato dregs, Sono Motors’ Sion is our best hope of such a utopia coming into existence. It uses the sun to transport you wherever you please, like some kind of super-villainous scheme for world domination… only the Sion is great for the planet and could save you a fortune on fuel.
And no one’s thought of this before? Not on this scale, nope. Ford cooked up a solar C-Max concept a couple of years ago, but Sono Motors is the first manufacturer to bring the same idea to mass production. So from 2019 onwards you’ll be able to purchase this city slicker for an entirely reasonable €16,000 and whizz around your local vicinity via the power of renewable energy alone. Of course, it doesn’t just generate this stuff out of thin air. The Sion has been plastered with 330 solar cells on its roof, bonnet and doors so that it can generate enough juice to cover 30km per day.
Sounds nice. But I live in Blighty, remember? Ah yes, the land of rain and glory. But fear not, the Sion isn’t about to leave you stranded just outside of Bakewell with only the mini golf course for entertainment. It can also be charged by a traditional plug-in, just as you might a Tesla or Toyota Prius. And in truth, you’ll have to do this on the regular to enjoy its full 250km range. The greater issue for us Brits is that we’ve got to travel to the continent for a test drive: for now, the Sion can only be taken for a free spin in locations across France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands.
DON’T MISS THE NEXT ISSUE! ON SALE 5 OCT
[ Words Rob Leedham ]
M2 SOUNDBASE with Bluetoothâ„˘ and built-in subwoofer
Hearing is Believing The M2 will open up a new world of TV sound allowing you to discover previously unheard, subtle layers to your movie and music soundtracks. Wide dispersion BMR drivers provide 180-degree room-filling sound and clarity. The built-in subwoofer gives a depth of soundscape that will truly transform your listening experience.
Discover more: www.qacoustics.co.uk/m2