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I purchased my Elgato Game Capture HD to replace my old Hauppauge HD PVR due to weird problems when recording PS3 footage. To begin with, the installation of the software was brisk and easy (you need to download the software from the Elgato site as it does not have a CD), once the software is installed, plug in the USB cable and once Windows installs the drivers, you're good to go! The Elgato is powered buy the same USB data cable used to connect it to the PC, so there's no need for an external PSU, which does eliminate extra cables. And it only uses a maximum of 3 cables at any given time, so it's very compact and light weight. The box comes complete with the Elgato itself of course, an AV adapter for the PS3, a reasonably long mini-USB cable and an HDMI cable, as we as a composite adapter for older consoles, so everything you need to get up and running is right in the box. Using the software is easy and simple, everything is laid out neatly, and it's easy to find and fine-tune how you want the Elgato to capture. And for gamers, it even includes built-in Live Commentary and online streaming features. For me though, it seems my laptop wasn't QUITE string enough to record the source format of 720p @ 60fps, so I had to drop it to 30fps, but I can't notice a difference. Speaking of my laptop... you do need a rather powerful PC/laptop in order to run the Elgato. You will need a minimum 2.0GHz dual-core CPU and 4Gb of RAM to run it comfortably. I have a 2.4GHz dual-core and 4Gb of RAM, but it seems my laptop did struggle, even though it met and exceeded the requirements. This brings me on to the biggest problem I have with this device. At first, it worked perfectly.. flawless.. I made so many videos with it, it showed no signs of failing.. however, mine seemed to to just that. Me, along with many other people, have started having glitching and corrupting in the video recorded by the Elgato. This would result in very messed up corrupt recordings, stuttery audio and blocky artifacts all over the screen. If using Live Commentary, at the point in which it starts glitching, the live commentary will disappear completely, leaving just the game audio. However, if you're using a separate program to capture your commentary, such as Audacity, when you come to sync your video/commentary up, you'll find the commentary won't sync to the video, because the glitching cause the video to become shorter than it should be. Here is a link to one of my videos, around the 7m20s mark, you can see perfectly how bad the glitching really is and how it completely ruins the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWzWRKY6l94 I have had this happen on SO MANY occasions lately... that most of my videos have had to be deleted because they were unwatchable. When playing a game, I find myself looking at the Elgato capture window every second to make sure I can't see any glitching. Unfortunately, I never notice until it's too late... and most of my recordings can NOT be re-done. Another strange issue I had regarding the corruption. I notice that it does the same glitching, corrupted, blocky artifact bullcrap when it ISN'T recording. Yes.. seriously... before I even push the Capture button, I can see in the preview window that the software is already gliltching. I always thought it may be that during the recording, the CPU spiked to 100% which caused lag on the Elgatos end, but no... it wasn't even recording.. how do you explain that? During recording, my laptop never seems to exceed 50% CPU usage, and that's WITH the Elgato capturing video.. so why does it struggle so hard to record perfectly? Either way... despite the constant emails to and from Elgato Support, no-one seems to be able to tell me why it's doing this or how to fix it. I'm getting an HD PVR 2 (stay away from the Roxio HD) and selling the Elgato as soon as I don't need it, at the moment I'm using for some older console recordings, if it doesn't mess those up to. All in all.. one of the best HD capture devices out there, but you need a killer PC to use it without problems.
I recently bought this TV from Amazon to replace my aging Samsung. I was originally looking at an LG, but that TV was sold out EVERYWHERE.... I needed a TV with 4 HDMI ports and was LED, and this TV was the alternative. I read a few horror stories from people who bought this TV, who said it broke down within a few days of purchase, but I went ahead with it, and so far.. I'm loving it. There have been a few problems encountered, but I'll get to that. On with the review: PICTURE: Out of the box, the default picture quality isn't all that great, but with a few minutes tweaking the picture settings, you can create a sharp, crisp HD image, even on an SD image. Colours look very realistic and movements look very smooth. I've been watching a few films lately, and the image quality looks very natural. It almost looks like you could be there! And of course, using an HD source, such as Component or HDMI, and the picture looks incredibly sharp and clear. SOUND: The sound is far better than I was expecting from a very thin TV, but it does have a slight tinny sound to it. You can adjust the bass and treble a little to suit your taste, which does help add a bit of deepness to the audio. Some people may prefer to hook up a surround sound system or maybe even a sound bar. The TV uses a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you can also use a pair of headphones for discreet listening. This means you can hook up older surround sound systems, but there are no phono audio outputs. CONNECTIVITY: Lots of them. There are 4 HDMI inputs, which should be enough for anyone. Component inputs, which is also the composite input. 1 SCART socket, if you still use those. A PC VGA input so you can connect your PC or laptop. There are also 2x USB inputs and an Ethernet port. More on those in a bit. So you'll have all the inputs you could ever need. BUILT-IN FREEVIEW: This TV has built-in Freeview, much like most TVs nowadays. This can been accessed using either the aerial or a satellite dish. I tried a satellite dish, and although it works... it feels incomplete. Once tuned, you'll notice the channels don't have any sort of order. With Freeview/FreeSat, you'll find the channels in an order such as this... 101 BBC1 102 BBC2 103 ITV1 ... 119 ITV1 HD and so on ...however, with the built-in Freeview... 1 Channel 4 +1 2 Channel 4 +1 3 Channel 4 +1 ... 10 BBC1 and so on Yeah, for some reason there were a lot of duplicated channels, in no reasonable order at all. And spending hours sorting and renaming the channel list is a pain in the ass. Another issue I had was with the TV Guide. The Guide was empty... and displayed NO TV listings at all, unless I visited the channel first. Only then would the listings appear, but only for that channel. So I gave up using the Freeview feature and just went back to using my FreeSat box. Really, I wouldn't use the Freeview here for day-to-day viewing. Just stick to your Sky or Virgin box. MEDIA PLAYER: This was one the selling points for me. A built-in media player. By attaching a Flash drive or external USB hard drive to one of the USB ports, you can play videos, music or photos on the TV without the need for a separate media player. However, much like the Freeview, it seems a little limited. While the media player works wonderfully well, as good as the SumVision Cyclone I have, it also seems very... do not want. It plays pretty much every filetype, such as AVI, MP4, MPG, some WMVs and so on. It also plays obscure ones such MKVs, which is what I use a lot. It plays them, displays subtitles when required, changes audio when required.. it works like a charm. But I really dislike the way it's set out. My SumVision Cyclone lists video in a folder in a neat list. You can see the full title. It looks neat. The Toshiba media player displays the contents of a folder in a grid, with HUGE icons, barely seeing the first 8 characters of the video title. It just doesn't look very clean. So unless Toshiba release a firmware upgrade that improves the user interface of the media player... I'll stick with my SumVision. 3D: Hmm... I can't really comment on this, since I don't have any 3D glasses. It's a shame the TV does not include any, since it requires ACTIVE 3D glasses (battery powered) and I guess it would have ramped the price of the TV up, possibly making it look less of a awesome deal. Active 3D glasses can be quite cheap if you know where to look.. eg, eBay... so my advice would be to look for a pair of glasses rather than buy two separately. Switching between 3D and 2D is very easy. Just push the 3D button on the remote, choose 2D-->3D... and there you go... 3D! If I manage to test the 3D soon, I'll update this review with my thoughts on it. ONLINE VIDEO: I've only tested this briefly, but it worked. You can connect this TV to the internet via Ethernet cable or a special wireless dongle made for Toshiba TVs. I used an Ethernet cable. I quickly tested out the YouTube app on the TV. And although using a remote to enter characters is rather annoying, it works very well. Much like all YouTube apps on devices such as tablets, smartphones etc, its a little slow compared to a PC, but it works in a way you want. You can access your account, with all your uploads and playlists. All your Likes and Favourites are there. It's very nice. There is also Netflix, but I have not used this yet, so I can't really comment on it. MISC: Not really much I can add here. Firstly, I've heard people say that the remote control is very clunky and big, and not easy to hold. I personally find it quite nice. It's actually smaller than my last one, and I got used to that no problem. So the remote isn't that bad, to what people keep saying. Also, firmware. The latest firmware on the TV when I got it was an April release. I had to download the October firmware from the internet and install via a USB Flash drive, as for some reason, searching for firmware updates through Ethernet did not find anything. PROBLEMS: I've currently encountered two problems myself. The first one is something that a few users have mentioned. Sometimes the screen will go off, the power LED will remain green, there is no audio... then a few seconds later it comes back. I'm not sure if this normal or a fault. It feels like every review I've read have mentioned this. I've only had this problem while switching between digital TV channels, though. The other problem was using USB Flash drives. I used one to update the firmware as well as view videos, and it worked perfectly well. However, when trying to use the 'Hotel Clone' feature to transfer the digital channel settings to USB, it never worked. I just kept getting a "Write Error" and would not transfer the data. The same thing happened if I tried to transfer the data from USB to TV, but I'd get a "Read Error". So for some reason, the TV could use the Flash drive as video storage AND install firmware, but NOT for the Hotel Clone... which makes no sense. I tried several Flash drives, and they all failed. In the end, I tried an external 2.5" USB HDD, which DID work. This I cannot understand. So other than the odd screen power-off and intermittent USB troubles.. only for "Hotel Clone"... I haven't really had anything else bad happen. So all-in-all.. I really like this TV, and I'm happy I chose it as my alternative. I was be worried about it since I bought it BEFORE I read ALL the reviews, and had I known about some of the problems this TV seems to have, I MAY have changed my mind, but so far I'm glad I didn't. It's the cheapest 40" LED HD 3D TV... lot's of eee... I've seen, with a good brand name of Toshiba. As long as Toshiba can keep up with firmware for the nest few years to help keep it running well, it should continue to perform well. Definitely recommended.
OK, that was a terrible headline.. but still. The Orange San Francisco, also known as the ZTE Blade, is an entry level Android smartphone. It's the cheapest Android phone you can currently buy, and is very good value for money. I'll be referring to the phone as the Blade in this review, as it's easier to type the San Francisco. Over here in the UK, it's known as the Orange San Francisco. Starting with the looks, the Blade does look very nice and sleek. It's pretty thin for a smartphone, at 11.8 mm thick, and slides in and out of your pocket with ease. The Blade comes in two colours: black (greyish) and white. I chose the black one. On the outside of the phone, you have the power button on the top, which also locks the screen when pushed, and when held, opens up the Profiles menu and allows you to turn off or reboot the phone, as well as a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. On the left side, you have the Mini USB connector, on the right you have the volume rocker switch, and the bottom, a tiny hole with the microphone. Under the screen you have 3 buttons: Home, Menu and Return. Home will take you straight to the 'desktop', the menu button takes you to the Main Menu where you can view and load all the apps you have, and return takes you back one screen. The back panel is easily removed, as it's held on with small but pretty strong clips. Form here, you can access the battery, the SIM card slot, and the MicroSD card slot. Hardware wise, the Blade uses a 600MHz AMRV6 processor which, compared to more expensive Android phones isn't the best, but it's certainly fast enough to run many applications, and an Adreno 200 GPU, which provides very nice 2D and 3D graphics. It also has 150Mb of on-board storage, 512Mb RAM (memory) and 512Mb ROM (for OS installation). The Blade includes a 2Gb MicroSD, and accepts MicroSD cards up to 32Gb, allowing a substantial memory upgrade, for videos, music etc. The Blade has a very nice 3.5" AMOLED (or LCD) touchscreen with multi-touch capabilities, with 256k colours onscreen and a decent resolution of 480 x 800, which provides plenty of detail. It's very bright and vibrant, and reacts to touches very well. The Blade, as with every other phone, comes with a fairly decent 3.2Mp rear facing camera, but no front facing. The camera has a resolution of 2048x1536 and has an auto-focusing lens. Every smartphone has accelerometers, and the Blade is no exception. I'm sure you all know what the accelerometers do, but if you don't, they detect the orientation that the phone is in, rotating the screen accordingly. They are also used to play accelerometers-enabled games, which on the Blade works very well. I think the ONLY weakness of this phone is the OS... it came installed with Googles' Android 2.1 'Eclair' OS, which was out of date when the Blade was released. I think at the time, Android 2.2 'Froyo' was released. Orange/ZTE had announced that, by the end of June/beginning of July, an updated to 2.2 would be available, but by THAT time, 2.3 'Gingerbread' was released... so the Blade was even further behind. Nevertheless, the 2.2 upgrade never happened, so Blade users were left way behind. However, unofficial Android ROMs were being created by members of the public, designed to work on phones not originally intended to have an upgraded OS, such as the Blade. One of the more popular ones is the CyanogenMod 7 ROM, which comes in Android 2.2 and 2.3 flavours, so you can install a version of Android 2.3 on your Blades, despite them not having the official upgrade. I'm using CyanogenMod 7 Android 2.3 on MY Blade at the moment, and it's awesome. Very smooth, very fast... it's great. CyanogenMod are currently working on getting Android 4.0 'Ice Cream Sandwich' working on various Android phones. Once they have a stable ROM, I'm installing it on my Blade ASAP. Obviously, there are downsides to using a third-party ROM, such as it can void your warranty, and a failed ROM flash can completely brick your phone, rendering it useless. The benefits are, you remain up to date if the phone will never get an official OS upgrade, and if it's branded, like the Orange San Francisco variant, it will come installed with many branded apps, which take up space. By installing a third-party ROM, you will remove EVERYTHING that's branded, freeing up space. Now, other than the Orange logo on the back, there are no apps on my phone that relate to Orange. Thus, I also have more space for ROM storage and the like. If you DO install a third-party ROM, MAKE SURE you know what you're doing and MAKE SURE you install the one designed for your phone. Like the iPhone, there are thousands of apps and games on the Android Market. Some free, some paid.... the best thing about the paid for apps, is that they are very cheap. I bought the full version of Fruit Ninja for about 70p or so. Apps and games can range between 50p to £5.00, which is very cheap. The purchase is tied to your Google account, so you only need to purchase the app/game once. If you need to download it again, you can with no extra cost. There are some apps and games that aren't compatible with all makes and models of phones, which is a shame. I wanted the FireFox browser for my Blade, but it isn't compatible. So I had to do without. File transfer is easy. Just attach the supplied USB cable to your phone and your PC, select 'Turn on Storage' and the Android logo goes from Green (not connected) to Orange (connected) and the MicroSD card will show as a regular drive in My Computer. Just copy and paste your files as you would normally. When connected via USB, the battery will also charge. You can chose NOT to connect to the PC, and just have it charge. I have had a problem with this, though. When I try to mount the phone to my PC, it will go through the motions, say it's connected, the Android will turn orange, but will then instantly turn back to green, un-mounting itself from the PC. I have no idea if the phone is at fault, or if it's my USB ports. I've had this fault for some time now, sometimes it works, most of the time it doesn't. I end up having to unmount the SD Card from the phone, remove it and insert it in a MicroSD card adapter, in order to get files on it. Very tedious and time consuming, but I have no other choice. Connectivity is available via the USB, Bluetooth or wireless (802.11 b/g) connection. I always use wireless at home and connect to my router. Speed is fast and the connection is very reliable, it has never lost connection on me yet. I haven't used the Bluetooth yet, so I'm not sure how good the connection is. You can also use the HSDPA connection, for on-the-move internet. I have used this method, and it works great. Since mobile internet uses credit on your phone, make sure you keep an eye on the duration of your web browsing. While we're on the subject of connectivity, unless you're on a contract, always disable mobile data, so the phone isn't always connecting in the background. I did this by installing an app called APNDroid, which disables the mobile data until you re-enable it. Leaving the mobile internet connected, means you'll use credit without knowing. I think this varies between the phone provider and what apps are running in the background. I found this out the hard way, after going from £20 credit to 90p credit over night, because my Blade kept connecting to the mobile internet while I slept. A WORD OF WARNING!! Customization of the Blade comes in the form of custom wallpapers. You can select any photo from the gallery and display it as a wallpaper. You can also get Live Wallpapers which are basically animated wallpapers. I'm currently using a Slideshow style Live Wallpaper, where you can select a folder of photos to display as a slideshow, a la Windows 7. While the Live Wallpapers look very nice, they do drain your battery life. You can also choose an audio file as your ringtone, SMS alert or alarm. You can also download 100's of themes for Android. I'm sure you're all aware that themes change the overall look of the OS, changing things such as fonts, icons and colours. The Blade comes with a basic media player for audio and video playback, but there are many third-party media players on the Marketplace you can try. The built-in media player is more than adequate for your media needs, though, and does what you need. Videos will need to be converted to an MP4 file before they will play on the Blade. MP3s and WAVs will play on the Blade without a problem. The single speaker (not stereo) is pretty loud and very clear, as long as the original media track is clear. If it's too loud, the audio will sound distorted. Just turn the media volume down on the Blade, and you should be OK. You can also link any MP3 or WAV to a contact, so you know who's calling before you look at the screen. You can NOT link an audio track to a contact for SMS, but this can be done through a third-party SMS app, such as GoSMS. Moving onto messaging. I have no problems typing out messages with the on-screen keyboard. When flipped horizontal, it turns into a full-sized QWERTY keyboard, and it's far easier to type since the keys aren't as small. Using the keyboard while the phone is vertical is OK, but not ideal. For some reason, the character indicator is only visible when vertical, so if you're typing while horizontal, you can't see how many characters you've typed and how many messages you've stretched to, so you either have to keep flipping between vertical and horizontal, or just type in horizontal. As mentioned above, using an app like GoSMS allows you to customize certain aspects of the message, such as adding a signature and choosing a custom ringtone as an SMS alert, which the built-in SMS app can't do. The home-screen has 5 'desktops' on which you can add shortcuts to any app or game. Sliding your finger across the screen left or right will move to the next screen, where you can add more shortcuts. You can add more home-screens if you want, should you run out of space. The camera, as mentioned above, is a 3.2Mp camera. Not the best, but it does take really clear and sharp photos. The better the environment and lighting, the clearer the photo will turn out. If it's too dark, the photos appears blurred and pixelated. Unfortunately, there is no flash. The camera has 2x digital zoom and auto-focus. If you hold the camera button down, the camera will auto-focus first. Once you let go, the camera will take the photo. There is no dedicated camera button on the side, and is instead on-screen. This makes it tricky to take photos with the camera facing you, since you have to bend your finger around to the front of the phone. The way I do it, is hold down the camera button, move the phone in front of me, THEN let go. Annoying, yes... but it's the easiest way. The camera also acts as a digital video camera. While it won't replace your 15Mp HD camera anytime soon, the video quality is clean and clear and the audio is great, so the Blade is also enough for general video capturing. The Blade comes with Google Maps, which also means it has GPS capabilities. I'm not 100% sure if you are charged for this, since it uses mobile internet, so best check before you use it for a 3 hour journey, otherwise you could end up with a hefty credit bill. You get a basic web browser with the Blade, so you can obviously browse the web. Again, it does what you need it to do, but there are third-party browsers available, such as Dolphin and Opera. The built-in browser doesn't support Adobe Flash, meaning you can't watch YouTube (or any other) Flash based videos. I believe the same goes for other browsers, but don't hold me to that. However, there is a free YouTube app you can install, which allows you to watch YouTube videos (only YT) without the need for a separate browser. Browsing on the Blade is only as fast the connection you're connected to, but some heavy sites can take longer, as the Blade has to cache the files as they download. But all-in-all, with the nice, big, multi-touch screen, web browsing is a pleasant experience. The most important thing about the phone is using it AS a phone. And I'm pleased to say... as a phone... it's brilliant. The calls are always clear and crisp, I've never had a problem hearing the caller speak and they say they can always hear me clearly. There are no problems with using the on-screen dialer as the keys are nice and large, and impossible to push the wrong key. Or you can always chose via a contact, which is just as easy. Like other phones, you can turn on the internal speaker so you can use it hands free, without having up against your ear. The phone also features a proximity sensor. When you have the phone up against your cheek, to make sure your face doesn't press any keys, the proximity sensor turns off the screen once the phone is next to your face. Sometimes, you may have to recalibrate the sensors, as they may end up keeping the screen off, even after you've moved it away from your face. I've had this problem once, but after the recalibration, never happened again. I guess the last thing to talk about is the battery. While the battery lasts a fair amount of time, it can go dead within a few days. Turning off all connectivity (wireless, bluetooth, data), setting the screen brightness to Auto and haivng a static wallpaper (not Live Wallpaper) will help increase the battery life. At it's optimal performance, you'll get up to 192 hours on stand-by and up to 4 hours talk time. At £100, the Blade/San Francisco is the cheapest Android smartphone you can buy.. and still IS the cheapest Android phone you buy. The Blade is packed full of decent hardware and software, loads of apps to choose from, a good camera, a crisp LCD touch-screen, wireless/bluetooth, and a lot more besides, you can't go wrong. There are better Android phones out there... more EXPENSIVE Android phones... but for the price of the Blade, you really can't go wrong. I personally recommend this phone to anyone wanting to enter the world of smartphones, but doesn't want to enter it too high, or too expensive. BUY IT! :)
In a small nut shell... I really dislike this game. It's not bad, but neither is it good. The main issue I have with the game is the overall difficulty. It is a bit easier with two or more players, but playing the game solo is a suicide mission. It's frustratingly difficult when playing alone, getting constantly bombarded by zombies from every direction. Sooner or later, you start getting killed with like, two or three hits from a zombie. You will just die, and die, and die, and die.. and die. Trying to kill the zombies is just as frustrating. Very often, you can swing your weapon more than early enough to strike a zombie, but it seems like the weapon just passes through them, since you miss, despite the zombie being right in your face. Also, you can swing your weapon and hit the zombie, and instead of the zombie staggering backwards, they actually manage to attack you right back. You strike first, and you hit first, but they just hit you back, without being stunned or anything. Because of this, the zombies can get a good FIVE hits on you, in the time it takes YOU to swing your weapon twice. And then.. you are dead. Another annoyance I have with the game is the almost endless back-tracking. I know many games do this, but this game seems to take a step further. The only saving grace is the Fast Forward maps, where you can instantly move to certain areas of the island without having to walk. But still, back-tracking to places with NO Fast Forward maps, and without being to drive means you having to walk for ages to get to your destination, as well as encountering a horde of zombies in the process, getting killed over and over. And another is the map/GPS. The map almost NEVER shows you where to go, other than with a destination marker, such as a flag. It doesn't lay down a line along the map showing you HOW to get to your destination. What you have to do is go to your map, choose your destination and the destination line will appear, showing you where to go. Other times, I've had tracked quests NEVER give you a destination at all... after about 5 minutes, the destination will all of a sudden appear on the map. I've also had the waypoints take me to many dead ends, where I can't move past, making me backtrack to a route that has no dead ends. When you die, you lose a certain amount of money every time. The more you die, the more out of pocket you'll be. There are upgrades that decrease the amount of money taken, but it's still pretty high. Sooner or later, you'll find yourself without the money to repair your weapons, and then you're totally stuffed. Another piss-f*ck when you die, is you get put back in the level, somewhere random. You may re-spawn right near where you died, other times you'll re-spawn about 200m away from your previous location, making you walk all the way back. I hate the Thugs. It seems they always manage to hit you, even if it looks like you are no where near them. You'll move up to them, swing once and hit them, then back up to make sure you don't get hit.. but you DO.. all the time. It just seems that the zombies were made to be far, FAR more stronger than your characters will ever be, so it doesn't feel like an even challenge most of the time. One of the most frequent problems I've had so far is near-constant crashing. So far, the game has crashed on me FIVE times while playing online. I had to reset my console, load the game again, reload the checkpoint and invite my friends again. Another online problem I've had is trying to connect to friends' games. While it occasionally works fine, I have had moments where I could not connect to any of my friends games, nor could they connect to my games. I'd send an invite, they'd accept... but it just says the game is no longer available or that they're playing alone. Same thing happens if they send ME an invite. Both me and my friends spend more time resetting our PS3's than we do actually playing the game. Online play is VERY buggy and glitchy at the moment. In fact, I can't say I've played a game THIS glitchy... ever. I've also had saving issues, which I think many people have had, where it doesn't save when it's supposed to, or it just doesn't save at all, causing you to lose your progress from the last save. Okay, I know I started with many bad points, but that's because this game has a lot of them. When I first bought the game, I was excited to play it, especially online... now, however, I cringe whenever the game starts. I'm only playing it because I want to complete it.. once I've finished it, it's being sold ASAP. The goods points? If any... well, although it's rock hard when playing solo.. it IS a fun multi player game, as with a second.. or third and fourth player.. it makes the game that much easier. And running over zombies in the jeeps is fun as well. Hmm... in all honesty, I can't see many good things with this game, only plenty of bad things. I have played it a lot, I'm about 85% through... but from what I've seen so far... it just doesn't do anything for me. It doesn't excite me when I play, I don't find it an even challenge (not too easy, not too hard), you die WAY too much for it to be called 'fun', getting gang-banged by 10 zombies at once is annoying as Hell as there's nothing you can do about it other than die, loading times/screens are a lengthy pain, backtracking is too long and often, the map/GPS is a mess, it's full of bugs/glitches... I'm sure you get the idea. Granted, I know this isn't the best review I've written, and it's more of a bashing than a review... but these are my honest opinions about the game and what I've experienced with it so far. Don't get me wrong... it's not an appalling game by any means, I just fail to see how a game this hard and frustrating could be fun. As long as you are able to play with a second player, it's not that bad. But playing solo... it's a goddamn nightmare. This game should only be played if you have a second player to play with, and you have the patience of several saints in order to play it.... if you do, I say.. good luck to you sir.
The Dreamcast is Sega's last entry in the home console market, before turning in to a software only developer/publisher for it's rival systems. Who would have thought... Sonic the Hedgehog on a PS2? I have always been an avid Sega fan, since receiving my first Mega Drive back in 1992, and since then have been buying Sega consoles left, right and center, and of course, the Dreamcast also had to be mine to. INSTANT HIT: The Dreamcast was an instant hit during it's release in Japan, America and Europe, with many shops selling out within the first 24hours of the Dreamcast going on sale. Even more so in Japan. The Dreamcast was big... but many also say, it was a little premature. For a year later, it's main rival at the time, the Sony PS2, was released, and almost immediately, Dreamcast sales were falling dramatically. Owing to the success of the PS1, people knew that the PS2 would be an awesome machine compared to the Dreamcast, and after the failures that were the Mega-CD, Mega 32x and the semi-successful Saturn, consumers were slightly weary about Sega's next, and indeed last, effort at a video game console, and many had lost trust in Sega. In my opinion, the Dreamcast was... and still is... Sega's best console to date. I love the Dreamcast... so much so, I've had 8 of them. I'll explain in a bit. The fact that we'll never see a Dreamcast 2 is surely upsetting for many a loyal Sega fan, as was hearing that Sega would be pulling out of the console industry, only to turn into a software company. PROBLEMS: During the Dreamcast's initial run, it was discovered that it had a few technical problems. The main problem here, was excessive overheating, and this caused the Dreamcast to either randomly crash, or, as most would have experienced, the random restarting problem. I for one have had many a Dreamcast with this problem, hence why I have had 8 of them. If one breaks, I have it replaced... this is one console I never want to be without. Eventually, the Dreamcast had these problems ironed out, and many years later, my 8th Dreamcast is still working well... thankfully. POWERRRRRR (as Clarkson): At the time of it's release, the Dreamcast was the first 128-bit console, making it the most powerful home console money could buy, and it wasn't even a lot of money. A Dreamcast would set you back only £199.99. Back then, for a brand-new console, that was very cheap. It was also able to out perform many of the PCs back then to. When the PS2 was released, it set you back £299.99, so it was a lot more expensive. Now, the Dreamcast was slightly criticized due to the fact it did not include DVD capabilities, like the PS2 did. As with the Xbox 360 and HD-DVD, this was canned from the console, since the DVD drive would add more cost to the production of the console, and would cost more to purchase. INNOVATIVE: The Dreamcast also had many new innovations for it's time. It had 4 controller ports, which although not 'new', the only other console to have 4 ports was the N64. Other consoles required you to purchase a separate 'multi-tap' to support 4 players... like the PS1 and PS2. It was also the console to introduce the Giga Disc, or GD-ROM. This was a CD that could fit 1Gb of data, as opposed to 700Mb of normal CDs. This meant bigger and better games could be produced. It was also the first console to include online capabilities and online gaming straight out of the box. All you needed to do was attach the Dreamcast to the phone socket, pop in the DreamKey CD (Segas web browser) sign up to DreamAreana (Segas online portal) and away you go. It couldn't be simpler. OK, it's on dial-up connection, as was everything back then, but since broadband wasn't out yet, you were used to the speeds. Now, there were no online-multiplayer games at the time of launch, so all you had was a web browser and online scoreboards. Later, we had the first online-multiplayer game called ChuChu Rocket - in insanely addictive puzzle game, which bought online gaming into our homes, outside of the PC. Eventually, a broadband adapter was released, to replace the slow 33.6 kbit/s modem (56 kbit/s in Japan). The PS2 had to wait several years before any online connectivity became available. The other innovation was it's memory card, called a VMU - Visual Memory Unit. I know a memory card isn't much to write home about, but this one was a little different. The VMU was also it's own little game system. It had it's own LCD display, power button, D-pad and action buttons. You downloaded games onto it either via the internet or by certain games, which had it's own downloadable mini games. The most memorable of these are the Sonic Adventure mini-games - Chao Adventure, which was very much like the Tamagotchis. You could only fit one mini-game at once, due to the VMUs 128 blocks dedicated to mini-games. The VMU had 200 blocks for data storage, equal to about 1Mb. The LCD display also had another purpose. While playing games that supported it, it would display personal details and data about the game you're playing. Such as your health, number of kills, number of goals, your score, a mini-map.... all sorts of things. This way, you can see certain data without your opponent seeing, if you're playing a 2 player game. For games that didn't support it, it just displayed the games logo. Another neat little feature is it's ability to be connected to another VMU. This allowed you to exchange save files between 2 VMUs, and share game data. ACCESSORIZE: The Dreamcast also had it's fair share of accessories. It's controllers were some of the most comfortable I had ever used. All the front buttons were neatly spaced out, never too far apart, the thumb stick was easy to use, grippy and responsive, the triggers were awesome for racing games, and the VMU screen could be seen very easily. The controller design more or less helped pave the way for the Xbox controllers; the shape, the triggers, the coloured buttons. Although, technically, the Saturn's 3D controller was the first of it's kind. Aside from extra controllers and VMUs (both of which were available in different colours), other accessories included a microphone for the slightly surreal Seaman game; a fishing rod for the surprise hit Sega Bass Fishing; the obligatory Arcade Control Stick for fighting games; a steering wheel for racing games (duh); a VGA adapter for hooking up your Dreamcast to a PC monitor for crisp, clear graphics (IF the game supported the VGA adapter); a rumble pack; a mouse and keyboard for FPS games such as Quake III Arena; the 'Twin-Stick' controller for Virtual On, which mimicked the dual sticks of the original arcade cabinet; the Samba de Amigo controller, which consisted of two motion sensitive Maracas connected to a sensor bar connected to a mat; and two Japan-only releases, the DreamEye digital camera and the DreamKaraoke, an add-on unit which added a microphone to the Dreamcast, and you then download songs that you wanted to play. There WAS a DVD Player add-on in the works, as well as a high-capacity VMU/MP3 Player and a Zip Drive, but none of these ever went past the concept stage. GAMES: The Dreamcast had many games released for it over it's 2-3 year run. A lot of arcade ports, racing games, beat-'em-ups, platformers, RPGs... the lot. My most memorable games, and the ones I had a LOT of fun playing, are Sonic Adventure, Sonic Adventure 2, Crazy Taxi, Crazy Taxi 2, Tokyo Highway Challenge 2, Metropolis Street Racer, Quake III Arena, San Francisco Rush 2049, ChuChu Rocket, Resident Evil Code Veronica, Soul Calibur and my most favourite, and most EPIC RPG ever... Skies of Arcadia. It also had many arcade ports released for it. Because the Dreamcast shared much in the way of hardware with the Naomi arcade machines of the time, porting arcade games to the Dreamcast was a very simple process. Crazy Taxi and Sega Rally 2 are two of the most successful arcade-to-Dreamcast ports. And let's not forget the Dreamcasts best, hardest and most expensive shoot-'em-up, Ikaruga. I believe Ikaruga was also one of the Dreamcasts last official game to be released, but i could be wrong. Many of the Dreamcast games were eventually ported over to the PS2, such as Ferrari F355 Challenge, Resident Evil CV and Crazy Taxi. Although the PS2 had the most games, the Dreamcast had games that you WANTED to play. They were fun, original, playable and entertaining from start to finish. In total, the Dreamcast had about 720+ games released during it's life-time. VERSATILITY: Another brilliant thing about the Dreamcast, was it's ability to play downloaded games burned to a regular 700Mb CD, without having to mod the Dreamcast in any way. You were also able to change the BIOS to any region, in order to play games from around the world. I don't think Sega meant for the Dreamcast to be able to this, but people eventually discovered it. The Dreamcast can also be used as an emulator to play ROMS from other consoles. Mega Drive, SNES, NES, Master System... all these systems' games, and more, can be played on the Dreamcast, again, without any modifications required to the Dreamcast. And did you know, it was backwards compatible with PS1 games? Yeah... you read that correctly. A small company called Bleem! released a series of CDs entitled Bleemcast! which allowed certain PS1 games to be played on the Dreamcast. PS1 games such Metal Gear Solid and Gran Turismo 2 had special Bleemcast discs that enabled the Dreamcast to read and play the original PS1 game disc. I think only a very small handful of PS1 games had the Bleem! treatment. When playing them on the Dreamcast, the games graphics would be improved, thanks to the extra power, and a whole VMU had to be sacrificed to act as a Sony memory card. I had good fun playing Gran Turismo 2 on the Dreamcast. Unfortunately, Sony didn't quite like having their games being played on their rivals' systems, so they promptly started a court case with Bleem! to get them to cease their activities. However, Bleem! succeeded and won the court case, but the legal fees Bleem! had to pay allegedly forced the company out of business. AFTER DEATH: Even after the Dreamcasts death, gaming fans the world over still love the system, never wanting to let it go, always choosing to play on it over their PS3, 360 or Wii... I know I still do. The Dreamcast still has a huge cult following, even to this day. Even more, that third-party companies have still been releasing at least one game a month in Japan for the Dreamcast years after it's demise, and how many consoles can say that? I still remember, back in college, out of my class of about 20 people, it was only me and my mate that had Dreamcasts, when everyone else had a PS2. We got the mickey taken out of us a lot, no one seemed to like the Dreamcast, but that's because no one had ever PLAYED it, because they were all total Sony fan-boys. I was constantly trying to defend the Dreamcast, but it just kept falling on deaf ears. I didn't care though, because they were ignorant of what it was truly capable of. With it's HUGE library of arcade games, racing games, beat-'em-ups, shoot-'em-ups, platform games, adventure games, puzzle games, and the odd weird game (Seaman?) the Dreamcast WAS, and in my eyes still IS, one of the most successful video game consoles in history. I recommend the Dreamcast to any video gamer, anywhere. Look on eBay... it's dead cheap to buy, and the games are even cheaper. Buy a Dreamcast and experience the the best that home gaming had to offer.
It may have lost the HD DVD format wars, but to be honest, I really can't see what Blu-Ray ever had over HD-DVD. It's more or less the Betamax of the digital world. No, not THAT digital world. Beta (HD-DVD) vs VHS (Blu-Ray)... and Beta lost, but was never really forgotten... or totally gone. OK, before I carry on, I've never watched a Blu-Ray movie, so I can't really comment on the picture quality between Blu-Ray and HD-DVD, so my opinions are somewhat invalid on the subject. But I can only ASSUME that the quality difference is minimal. I've only owned the HD-DVD player for about at year, at the time I write this, and I was lucky enough to find this in my local GameStation, for only £20 plus two HD-DVDs. For the price, I HAD to have it. I know HD-DVDs were no longer being produced, but I though "Hey, why not" I've always wanted the HD-DVD player, but it was WAY too much. But since HD-DVDs 'death', it's prices have dropped dramatically. Also, the HD-DVDs can be found at some second-hand game shops, such as GameStation, but they are getting harder to come by. You'll have better luck on eBay. Over the past week, I have purchased two HD-DVDs - Transformers (2007) and Tremors. Both awesome movies, and even MORE awesome in HD! The best thing though, was the cost. Much like the player, HD-DVD prices are dirt cheap. The Transformers HD-DVD only set me back about £4.00, and the Tremors HD-DVD cost about £4.25... if that isn't a bargain, I don't know what is. Now, for the player itself. In terms of HD picture quality, the image is crisp and clear and the audio is brilliant. Obviously, the quality of the video and audio will depend on your hardware setup. In order to appreciate HD properly, it's best to have an HD Ready TV, most of which are nowadays, and use an HDMI cable. Now, this cable is a MUST if you want to play games and DVD/HD-DVDs in High Definition. Using HDMI, you will get the best possible video and audio quality your TV and Xbox 360 can produce, up to the maximum of 1080i. So, I do not recommend a SCART or composite cables. Component cables will be suitable, but HDMI is damn near perfect. Even better, is if you have a surround sound system connected to your TV or 360. A downside, is that many of the original Xbox 360s did not have an HDMI output, so you were stuck the lesser quality SCART, or the awful composite connectors. However, the component cables far surpassed these two cables in terms of picture quality. Connecting the player to your 360 is very easy. The player has two cables: USB to 360 cable and the power cable. Simply attach the power cable to the player, then one end of the USB cable to the player and the other end to the 360. If you own the new Xbox 360 S, it has built-in HD-DVD software. So it's just plug and play. If you own the older Xbox 360, you will need to insert the CD provided to install the HD-DVD player support software. Once that's done, open the player disc tray, pop the disc in, close it and away you go. As a small bonus, the HD-DVD came packaged with the Xbox 360 universal remote control, with which you can control the Xbox and the HD-DVD player. The only problem, is that the remote only opens the 360s disc tray, NOT the HD-DVD tray, so you may end up opening the wrong tray when you didn't mean to. Also, for a limited time, the player also came with a free copy of King Kong. Mine didn't, so I've never watched the film... in HD or otherwise. An extra bonus, is that the player upgrades the picture quality of your regular DVDs to. Which is a nice feature. Region coding... I believe the player itself is Region Free, as are the HD-DVDs, so you can happily watch an HD-DVD from America, Japan or anywhere else. If playing a regular DVD though, region coding remains the same, for where ever you bought the player from. So, if you bought the player in the UK, it will be locked to Region 2 when watching regular DVDs. Another good feature about HD-DVD, is that they have, well... extra features you don't get with regular DVDs. On the HD-DVDs I own, they include such things as Picture-in-Picture, where you can see behind-the-scenes footage while still playing the main movie, production photos and storyboard images, Heads-Up-Displays that give information about particular scenes as the main movie plays, and many other cool features, unique to each HD-DVD. Most criticized the Xbox 360 for not having HD-DVD (or even Blu-Ray) capabilities out-of-the-box, but this was done because it would have added extra cost to the 360 console. It also allowed people to upgrade to HD-DVD an their own pace, without forcing a format on the customer that they may not want to use. After all, Blu-Ray DVDs ARE more expensive than DVDs. And as most of us know, the PS3 sold well largely due to the fact that it's the cheapest Blu-Ray player on the market... NOT because of it's games. It was the same deal with the PS2 being the cheapest DVD player at the time. In all honesty, I cannot see the reasons as to why HD-DVD lost out to Blu-Ray. In the long run, HD-DVDs were far cheaper to produce than the Blu-Ray discs. The only difference I see is that HD-DVD could hold up to 25Gb of data, where as Blu-Ray can hold 30Gb of data... not that much difference, really. It's just a sad shame that such a new concept died out before it really had a chance to make an impact. If it HAD been given the chance, I'm sure it would have given Blu-Ray a run for it's money, and HD-DVD releases would carry on into the distant future. Alas, it did not happen. Unsure as to why Toshiba ceased production of HD-DVD, my theory is that Sony either paid them to stop production, so they could win the market with Blu-Ray, or Toshiba realized they just couldn't compete with Sony's Blu-Ray market. Hmm... don't get me wrong, I'm NOT bashing on Sony here... I'm just making a funny. All-in-all... anyone who comes across the HD-DVD player, sees it for £20 and ignores it is oblivious to it's true potential. I say... pick it up, buy it and ENJOY it. Because you will. Own this and you own a little piece of history, something that never was, something that never came to be... a true heroic failure, as I call it. The player is cheap... the HD-DVDs are cheap... overall, it's a great purchase, even if you have a Blu-Ray player as well, it will never have the subtle charm that HD-DVD has. Actually... an heroic failure? More like a total winner.
I've owned this TV for little over a year, and I am loving it. I had an LG before this one, and I thought that was awesome, but this is miles better. While I think that LG is still a brilliant manufacturer, I have to say that Samsung do it better. LOOKS: Black, sleek and stunning. Samsung products have always looked the part. I did tell myself not to buy another gloss black product, because of finger prints, and dust shows up easily, but this TV looked so nice, I decided to ignore me. Nice and thin for it's size, it has a stand that rotates and a red bar across the bottom, that doesn't seem to have any purpose other than to add a bit of colour. SOUND: I have read that some people have found the sound to be a bit underpowered. With me, this isn't the case. I often have to have it around the 5 mark, just to keep it quiet (if anyone is in bed, say). Around the 10 mark is loud enough to hear it just fine. No issues here. CONNECTIVITY: You get 3 HDMI ports which is good, as I have 3 HDMI devices. You also get component input, composite input, optical audio out, stereo audio out, and a PC input using a standard VGA connector. You also get a PCMCIA type slot, though I haven't researched what this is for yet, and a USB port for firmware flashing via a flash drive. The next model up, the LE-40B550, also featured video playback through USB drives. This TV does not support this. The only bad point is it only has a single SCART port. Again, I only one SCART device, but it would have been nice to have at least 2. PICTURE: I love the picture quality on this TV. I've no complaints whatsoever. It's very crisp and sharp. I haven't seen any blurring or bleeding of any sort. People have also slammed the TV because of it's awful gaming picture quality. Well, again, I have no complaints. I've been using an Xbox 360 through HDMI since I got it, and I just love the quality. No problems anywhere. The Wii via SCART is also very good. It's not as sharp as HDMI, and the lines and edges appear soft, but still easily better than what people are making out. I'm also using a Freesat HD box via HDMI. Although the regular channels look nice, the HD channels looks excellent. Obviously, if you're using anything other than HDMI, you may not notice a difference. FEATURES/SETTINGS: The TV does have a range of settings. These include the standard Brightness, Contrast and Colour controls, as well as being able to alter various other settings, such as the backlight brightness, colour tint, colour tone, screen size (16:9/4:3 etc). Audio options include Mode (Standard, Movie, Music), an Equalizer and SRS TruSound HD. So, overall, this a brilliant TV. It looks nice, great picture and sound quality, loads of connections, decent amount of features. And can be bought quite cheap compared to most 40" TVs. I was able to pick mine for £480, where it usually costs about £520. So that was good. It's good for both bedrooms and living rooms. It's not too big and it's not too small. And it's wall mountable, so you can save even more space!
Yes. Yes it is. Back in 1989, the NES was in steady competition with the SEGA Master System. The NES was leading the way, but only just. Then, in 1990 (in Europe, 1988 in Japan) along came the SEGA Mega Drive, known as the SEGA Genesis in America, and completely destroyed the NES. Not literally, of course. Simply put, the NES was 8-bit and the Mega Drive was 16-bit and the NES could not compete. Until then, I had never played a games console before, apart from a few games on an Amiga 500. This was my first taste of proper home video gaming. Thanks to the Mega Drive, I love SEGA and anything SEGA related. It kick started my love of gaming. I dread to think what would have happened if I got a SNES instead. I got my Mega Drive in Christmas of 1992. I can still remember that because one of my presents was Sonic 2. I remember saying 'We don't have a Sega. We have an Amiga'. Then I opened a nice, big present. To my surprise it was the SEGA Mega Drive. Since then, I've been playing games for 18 years. Playing Sonic the Hedgehog on this thing was amazing. The Mega Drive could produce such lush graphics and super fast scrolling, as well as this Blast Processing thing as well. Sega Does What Nintendon't. I stick by that. Anyway, the Mega Drive. In my honest opinion, I believe that this was the best of the 16-bit machines, better than the SNES and TurboGrafix16. Although I haven't played a TurboGrafix16, I have played a SNES so I do know what they're like. The Mega Drive looked better for a start, with it's sleek, gloss black body. The SNES was white-ish grey, which yellowed over time. The Mega Drive doesn't have this problem, so it'll as good as it did back in 1990. I also thought the controllers were a lot more comfortable. They may have had less buttons, but I don't believe anyone has every wanted more. Plus, the Mega Drive did have a 6-button controller released. The other good thing about the Mega Drive was it's 'upgrade' capabilities. This included the Power Base Converter, which allowed Master System games to be played on the Mega Drive. Then came the underrated Mega-CD, one of the first CD based consoles. I liked the Mega-CD. Then there was the Mega-32x, which sort of increased the Mega Drive's power to 32-bit. As we all know, the Mega-CD and 32x didn't exactly set the world alight, and were huge flops. I never owned a 32x. It also had a stereo headphone jack, so you could listen through headphones or hook it up to a stereo system. I also believe it was the first console to include 'High Definition Graphics'. The later models of the Mega Drive would include this text emblazoned near the back of the console. To be honest, I'm not sure what gave the Mega Drive the high-def graphics, but it was the first. The Mega Drive will always have a place in my heart, as it was the first gaming console I ever played on. Even today, I still get the Mega Drive down from the loft and have a play on it. Another good thing about the Mega Drive: Sonic the Hedgehog, Rocket Knight Adventures, World of Illusion, Alex Kidd, Altered Beast, Castlevania, Columns, Comix Zone, Cool Spot, Earthworm Jim and many more. I know some of these were also on the SNES, but the Mega Drive versions, I believe, were always superior. In all honesty, I thought I would have more to say about the Mega Drive, but my mind is a blank. It has been a while since I've played it properly. Ah well. Overall, the Mega Drive was, and always will be one of the best consoles ever to be released. Forget the SNES, the Mega Drive still has the edge. Since you can pick these up cheap as chips nowadays, I urge anyone who has never owned a Mega Drive to pop to a second hand shop or look on eBay and pick one up. You will not be disappointed.
You are the controller. So says Microsoft. And it's true. I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised when I tried this for the time. It can follow your movements very well, it knows when your waving, it can tell the difference between your hands and feet and it knows who is in front of other people. It can even detect up to 6 people while tracking up to 2. I was amazed and I couldn't stop grinning while playing it. The face recognition works well to. It will have difficulty identifying you if there are more than 2 people detected. But on your own, and it will ID your face and sign you in under the correct Gamertag. The voice recognition is brilliant. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean it will recognize your voice and your voice alone, but it will understand vocal commands. While at the Dashboard, saying XBOX will let the 360 know you are talking to it. The say KINECT. You will then start up the Kinect Hub. from here, you can use the voice commands. Say XBOX and a group of vocal options appear on screen. Say any one of them to carry out the command. So say XBOX OPEN TRAY. The disc tray will open. Saying XBOX CLOSE TRAY will close the tray, obviously. The say XBOX PLAY DISC and you'll play the disc. And it works really well. The only problem is, because it doesn't recognize individual voices, anyone can come in and say XBOX and interrupt your session, even if they didn't mean to. You will also need a fair amount of space around you to play this. Calm games such as Kinectimals don't require too much space to move around, as you're usually only kicking your legs or waving your hands. Other games such as Kinect Sports will need a bit more. Kinect Adventures will probably need more space than most. You'll be doing a lot of moving, kicking, and so forth. I nearly smashed my TV after I hit something hanging from my ceiling, right next to where I was. I smacked it with my hand fairly hard. Fortunately, it didn't come loose, and my TV remained intact. Because of this, the Kinect may not be bedroom friendly to most people, and you'll possibly need the space of a living room. The sensor is capable of seeing you perfectly well, even in the worst light imaginable. But I'd recommend playing in good light, just in case. For those of you have an old Xbox 360, you will have to use the included USB/AC adapter, as the old 360s cannot power the Kinect through USB. So this adds more cabling and you'll need an extra wall socket. For those of you who have the new Xbox 360 S, there is a special AUX port on the back, specifically made for the Kinect, which provides the data as well as the power. The Kinect comes with the game Kinect Adventures. It's a very good 'action' game and very active. Playing on the Kinect is like exercising, and after only a few minutes you start to feel tired and exhausted and sweaty. I've also played Kinectimals. This game is very laid back compared to most Kinect games. You're usually petting or brushing your cub, as well as playing games such as frisbee, volleyball and football. So much the Wii Fit, you'll get a lot a lot of fun out of it while keeping healthy. Bonus! A few little features as well. You could say this is the sequel to the Live Vision Camera. You can use the Kinect to video chat to your friends, as well as using the microphone for voice chat during gameplay, like the headset. There are a few niggles to it to. Don't forget, this is new technology. As mentioned above, the voice recognition can be an issue, as it responds to anyone in who says XBOX, therefore interrupting whatever you're doing. Also, the Kinect can get confused sometimes. Often, I've seen two hands on-screen, despite only having one visible to the Kinect, The second hand doesn't do anything other just fidgets around. And the facial ID is picky when the Kinect sees two people at once. Despite the small problems, I would recommend the Kinect to anyone of any age. It's so much fun to play, and exercising has never been more exciting. Two thumbs up. Four thumbs if I had four hands.
I bought this laptop many years ago. It was my second laptop, before I bought the Dell XPS M1730. In the time that I had this Acer, I was quite pleased with it. It was pretty quick, had a nice screen and had built-in webcam (but crap resolution). Not too bad. It had an actual graphics card installed and not an integrated one, so you could play proper games on it. The Nvidia 7300 GPU had a bit of grunt behind it, and play several games well, but it was a low-cost, low-powered GPU so many newer games just wouldn't play. I tried to play OutRun 2006, and while it ran, it did feel quite jittery, and not very smooth. OutRun wasn't even that hardware intensive either. There were a few configurations available for this model. I had the 160Gb, 2Gb RAM and Nvidia 7300 256Mb config. Back then, I though this was the dogs' knackers. It is also a cheap laptop, for the hardware you get. This was one of the good things with Acer. Their laptops were very good while always being a little cheaper then the opposition. The Aspire makes a brilliant desktop replacement, as it can do many of the same jobs relatively easy, but again, don't expect high-end, graphically intensive games to run. If you don't need it for gaming, then you can't go wrong. Unlike many other laptops, which were small, this one was quite big. As such, it has a full size keyboard, which included the keypad to the left. Only the larger laptops could have this, and it's always nice feature to have. Connectivity wise, you get 4 USB ports, an older PCMCIA port and a Card Reader. You also get the usual Audio In/Out and the ethernet port. Unfortunately, mine developed a serious hardware fault (well after warranty ran out) where the Card Reader AND PCMCIA slot stopped working. Windows didn't even detect them in the Device Manager. On the odd occasion, they would just suddenly reappear the next time the laptop was booted up. Has anyone else had this problem? As is the way with laptops, the audio quality from the speakers is OK, but extremely quiet. I almost immediately bought a set of speakers with a sub-woofer, just so I could hear something. That was sorted OK. There was also several shortcut keys above the keyboard, allowing you to access the internet and email with a single button press. There were also some media buttons down the right side of the keyboard to control the Play/Pause/Stop etc. Some bad points to this machine? Ease of access. Many laptops, including Acers, are fairly easy to get into. There is often a panel on the underside, that when taken off, exposes most of the internal hardware, such as the hard drive, RAM, CPU, graphics card and the fans/heatsink. With this laptop, there is no such panel. Not even under the keyboard. It's a complete strip down just to get inside. Because of this, cleaning the air intake and exhaust fans are very difficult to do. This laptop gets really hot, so cleaning is a good thing to do. The only way to clean the inside without taking it apart is to use a compressor and blast the dust out. Although I haven't had anything go wrong with the GFX card or RAM, the hard drive died after about 1 year and had to be replaced. This only occurred once. The DVD-RW drive also died - about 4 times. It was replaced under warranty twice, but then I had to pay for the new drives after the warranty. Pain in the butt. Battery life also sucks. 1 hour maximum when at full whack. You may get about 2 hours out of it while watching a film, if you dim the display a bit and turn off the wireless. And the webcam is pretty poor, but it does the job it's supposed to. When you buy this machine, it would come pre-loaded with Windows Vista (bleurgh) so I quickly removed it and installed Windows XP ASAP. I located all the XP drivers first, otherwise I would have been buggered. Windows XP went on without a hitch and everything worked as it did with Vista. Better in fact. This is something I would advise to many people who don't use Windows 7 - remove Vista from your laptop and use Windows XP instead. Overall, a cheap and sturdy laptop. A good desktop replacement, but nothing special. If you don't intend to play the games of the future or do anything graphically demanding, and want to stick with Windows XP (it may struggle with 7) this is a good laptop to have and to keep. Probably only needs to be replaced should the graphics card die.
Nicknamed The Beast by DELL, this 'laptop' certainly lives up to it's name. First off, I have yet to encounter any of the issues that many people are experiencing. Although I have only had the laptop for little over a year, it's continuously been rock solid and has never failed me. The M1730 is clearly aimed at the gaming world. This is good for me because I am a gamer. The model I purchased had dual Nvidia 8700m GTs. Unfortunately, by the time I was able to buy this laptop, Dell no longer had the 8800m GTS as an option. But never mind, 512Mb in SLi is still pretty awesome. So awesome in fact, that the last game I played, the newest NFS: Hot Pursuit (barely 2 months old) played without a problem, and seemed to run at a smooth 30-60fps. No glitching, no slowdown, nothing. The only problem with this is the heat. Sure, the XPS has 3 big fans to help keep it cool, but start playing a game and the fans will kick in, sounding like a tornado outside your window. Maybe a good idea to buy a cooling stand. The Beast looks pretty to. It has a sort of carbon fiber look to it. It's not everyone's taste, but I for one like the LEDs on the lid, the illuminate DELL logo, the touchpad and the LEDs within the speakers. I also like how the dance to the music while using Windows Media Player. You can also change the colour of the LEDs to. The keyboard also lights up, helping you to type in darker rooms. DELL had a choice of lid colours; white, grey, blue and red. i wanted red, but again, this option was gone by the time I bought one, so I went with blue. Still looks nice though. You also get an LCD display, the same as the one on the Logitech G15 keyboard, giving you stats while playing certain games, media information, system information and so on. Kinda like the VMU did on a Dreamcast. Hmm. At the front, you have a row of media controls for Play, Pause, Vol Up, Vol Down, Skip Back, Skip Forward and Mute. These also illuminate a bright blue, but go off in a few seconds. A cool extra feature is the inclusion of a small remote control that fits in the Express Card slot. This has basic media functions to it to control Windows Media Player. There is also a built-in web camera, although it's a fixed camera, and can not be rotated. You get a generous amount to connectivity to. You get the standard 4 USBs ports, a Firewire 1934 port, DVI out, S-Video out, Audio In/Out, an Express Card slot and a multi-function Card Reader allowing you to read SD/MMC/MS/MSPro/xD cards, so there's something for everyone. In terms of sheer power, this machine can dance with the best of them. Every game I've thrown at, new and old, has played flawlessly. The laptop doesn't even look like it's struggling to play them. It's like it's saying 'Pfft, is that all you got?', like it's taunting you. The machine I chose has a dual 2.40GHz CPU, so it's no slouch, and with 4Gb of RAM you can push it even further than most machines. Add to it a 64-bit version of Windows 7 and you've got yourselves the ultimate combination. The 17" screen is nice and vibrant, very colourful and looks really nice when watching videos or DVDs. And the audio is excellent. Nice and crisp and very clear. Oh, and very LOUD. Seriously, playing music on this thing at full volume will blow your ears off... OK, not quite, but for a laptop, I was honestly amazed at the loudness of the sound. I haven't turned it all the way up for ages, and have to keep it at half volume. You can also choose your hard drive configuration. I opted for a single 500Gb 7,200rpm drive. But you can also get 2x 200Gb in a RAID config. The laptop also has space for 2 drives. So as well as your main one, you can also install a second one to act as either a back up or to install software on and safe space on your main drive. There is also the choice of a standard DVD-RW drive or a Blu-Ray drive. I went for a DVD-RW, as the Blu-Ray was pretty expensive at the time. Plus, I'm happy with normal DVDs at the moment. Like every other laptop, the XPS has built-in WiFi for connection to wireless networks, and an option for a separate Bluetooth module. Now, because of this power, the battery does suffer greatly. The battery life is really only going to get you a couple of hours use. When running on battery, the laptop will switch to it's lowest power settings to save battery. The screen will go darker, the CPU and GPUs will be throttled down and so forth. I would recommend running this on mains power at all times, unless you really have to run it on battery. Oh, and it weighs a ton. It's not the easiest laptop to carry around with you under your arm, and you wouldn't want to carry it for more than a few minutes. It's not so bad in a carry case. The M1730s started at £999, just for the base model. Bare in mind that even the base model is pretty powerful, although I believe it has a slower CPU and a single GPU. I say 'started', as I believe DELL is no longer making the M1730s. Alienware is now manufacturing the most powerful laptops on Earth to replace the XPS series. They are similar in spec, even the model names are similar - Alienware's laptops are called M11x, M13x and M17x, identical designations to the XPS range. So yeah. If you can afford it, you should pick one of these up. You may only be able to find them on eBay on or online shops, as DELLs website has discontinued the M1730. So you'll have to go for an Alienware if you want a similar spec machine. But get the DELL if you can. They look nicer, they are more reliable, I think they were/are cheaper than the Alienware equivalent. So go get one.
It may be a little bulky, and won't fit into your pocket, but considering the features this thing packs, it's no wonder. It has a nice, vibrant 4.3in touchscreen which is brilliant for watching videos on. It does all the normal things you'd expect from an MP3 player: it plays audio (MP3/WMA), plays videos (AVI/WMV), view images. The usual. This model of the 605, though, has built-in WiFi, so you can connect to any wireless network (as long as you have the p/w) and do some internet browsing. But not right away. The Archos 605 WiFi requires that you purchase 'plugins'. These consist of the Opera web browser, MPEG-2 and H.264 codecs and various games. Once you've purchased the Opera plugin, you can browse the internet. The good thing about the Archos is that it uses a standard laptop hard drive, so it's pretty big. In this case, 30Gb is plenty for music and videos. The bad thing about the Archos is that it uses a standard laptop hard drive. It Does tend to sap battery power quite rapidly, and hard drives are very sensitive to knocks and bumps, so don't expect it to last as long as flash memory. You can use the touchscreen for every action you perform, from selecting what mode you want, playing/stopping, volume, skip back, skip forward, the lot. There are also a few buttons down the right side of the Archos which will also perform similar functions. The touchscreen is also finger-print resistant, which is nice. The unit comes with a pair of styluses, but there's nowhere on the player to slot them in. The touchscreen works well with your fingers anyway, so the stylus isn't essential. There is also a little kick-stand at the back to help it stay up-right while watching videos. Copying files onto the Archos couldn't be simpler. Attach it via USB and it acts like an external hard drive. Just drag and drop music, video or images files to their respective folders. Some videos may not copy because they are in an incompatible file format. It will ask if you want to convert them before copying them. But I prefer to use a video converter instead. MP3s and WMVs should play without a problem. AAC and AC3 formats will also require a separate plugin. JPEG, PNG and BMPs all work well, and look really nice on the high resolution screen. You can also view Adobe PDF files to. The quality of the video is also stunning. Playing DVD quality videos on the Archos, and you could be forgiven for thinking you were still watching the DVD itself. You can change the aspect ratio of the video as well. Either wide screen, full screen, stretch and so forth, much like a normal DVD player can. Internet browsing is a little hit-and-miss on this one. Although you can be connect to a high-speed WiFi point, some pages will load fairly slowly, but for the most part, site will load perfectly fine. You can zoom in on any page, and moving around a zoomed page is easy. When typing in a search box, Google for example, an on-screen keyboard will pop up, much like that of the Apple iPhone. You can even watch full screen videos on video sites such as YouTube. Because of these features, the battery life does suffer somewhat. You'll get around 5.5 hours while watching videos, 17 hours while listening to music. Compared to something like the iPods 6.5hrs and 20rs, it falls a little short. But don't forget, the screen is a lot larger and a higher resolution than that of the iPod. Overall, the Archos 605 WiFi is an impressive piece of kit and chock full of features, high resolution screen, good sound quality and high storage capacity. I'd recommenced this player to anybody. The only annoyance I have is that you have to shell out an extra £50 or so to get the optional plugins. But other than that, and great big thumbs up. And better than an iPod any day!
Little joke in the title there. This was one of the first 'proper' racers I'd ever played, featuring real locations, real cars even real music stations and DJs. It was also the BEST racer I'd ever played. And the same can be said even now. Although, at the time, Gran Turismo 3 on the PS2 was leading the way as a 'Real Driving Simulator', MSR was definitely the 'Real Fun Simulator'. Yeah. OK, so GT3 had realistic looking graphics (for the time) thousands of cars to choose from and so much more to, MSR was far and away so much more fun to play. Graphics maketh not a game. Playablilty does. The cars feature in MSR were those that you really wanted to drive, whereas GT3 just included as many as it can. Besides, during a game of MSR, you're very likely to have driven each car at least once. With GT3, with so many cars, you'll never drive them all, making them a waste. In the end, the game was year late. Bizarre Creations wanted to make sure this game was as perfect as it could be... but it wasn't. Early copies of the game had numerous bugs still present in the final game. Some of these bugs included Tokyo races always being at night, VMUs becoming corrupt and the Quick Race screen being blank. The major bugs were soon fixed with new copies, but small bugs still existed. The bugs also lead to the exclusion of the replay feature. My biggest annoyance is when a racing game doesn't include a replay feature (ahem EA, ahem). Who doesn't want to see their car belt down a straight or drift around a corner at 150mph? Because of problems with the AI, the replays were removed. I was unhappy. For Dreamcast standards, the graphics in MSR are second-to-none. Although they don't quite measure up to GT3, for a console with less power, it sure put up a fight. But again, I don't care about graphics, I want to play a game that's FUN, and MSR had it in bucket loads. It's Not How Fast You Drive... It's How You Drive fast. This was MSRs slogan. And it's true. In the game, you don't just have to race for first, you race to first with style. Kudos is the name of the game. You earn Kudos by driving stylishly. A clean overtake, a clean section, a clean lap, drifting... almost anything you do can earn you Kudos... except for crashing. hit another racer and you'll get some Kudos taken away. This is were the game gets a bit picky. Even the slightest touch on another racer will net you a penalty. Even when another racer collides with you, YOU still get penalized. That is a little unfair. The cars and cities? Hm. MSR had licensed cars from 13 manufactures with 43 cars, It's the usual line-up: Ford, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Toyota, MG and the like. You also got 7 secret 'cars', but I won't spoil it for you. You can customize each car slightly, as well. However, before you can own the car, you must earn it. Choose a car you want, alter it's colour and window tint. Then take on a time challenge. Beat the time, win the car. From there, you can then personalize your cars number plate and, if it's a convertible, choose when you want the hood up or down. Each car also had it's own unique handling, so not two cars ever felt alike. MSR had you racing in 3 real cities; London, Tokyo and San Fransisco, each perfectly rendered. Take a trip to London, and you'll be able to point to place and say 'I've raced a Skyline down there'. Each city also has it's own radio stations and DJs. You can't understand what the Japanese DJ is saying unless you understand Japanese. Speaking of music, you can also create a custom playlist. No, not using your own MP3s, but using the CD Player. Yep. A Kenwood head unit in fact. Sega's reputation for cheesy but ultimately catchy music is all too present here. Most of the songs were sung by T.J. Davis, with the music composed by, (I think) Richard Jacques, both of who worked on the music to Sonic R. The number of races/stages in this game was also pretty impressive. With a total of 250 stages across 25 chapters, each containing 10 races, the game was massive and would take you many a month to complete fully. By using the Dreamcasts clock, the races in each city would either be day or night, depending when you enter the race and your Time Zone. In the London timezone, race in London at 12:00 midday, and it would be daytime. Race in Tokyo at 12:00 midday and it would be nighttime. Race types vary throughout the game. You have either straight-up races called Street Race, One-on-One races, Timed Run, Hot Laps, Challenge or a Championship. Complete a Challenge on a certain city at a particular time and you'll often unlock a new reward, such as an extra garage slot, a Joker to double your Kudos, a cheat or a new car. In a Street Race, just come 1st, but try to win as much Kudos as possible. A One-on-One is essentially the same, but you only race against one opponent. Hot Laps have you trying to complete a lap under the limit, a Timed Run sees you trying to complete 3 laps within the time limit, and a Championship has you completing across 2-5 races. Despite it's original bugs, and despite the presence of GT3, Metropolis Street Racer is a unique racing game, not like any other racer before or since. Well, except the Project Gotham Racing series', which is more-or-less the child of MSR. This game is not one to be missed. If you're the lucky owner of a Dreamcast, and you don't own this game, I highly recommend you get it ASAP. Pick it up from eBay dirt cheap and you'll be glad you did. Forget your Need for Speeds and Gran Turismos of this generation, Metropolis Street Racer is where the real racing is. Kind of.