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I have two of these cards - one of them a few years old and the other a few months old - and they haven't let me down yet. It has quite a small capacity by today's standards - I needed them for my Nintendo DS flashcart, which only accepts 2GB cards however, so this wasn't a consideration for me, but there are certainly much larger Micro SDs you can get nowadays. Although as a result a 2GB card is VERY cheap now, so if you only need a small amount of storage, this is a perfect choice. The most important thing though is that this card works - I haven't had a single problem with either of the cards I've bought, despite having to transfer data between them and the PC on a frequent basis. The package includes an SD card adapter so you're ready to slot it into a reader immediately, and data transfer has been fast and consistent. Only real worry I've had is, Micro SD really means "micro" - be careful when moving it around, it's easily lost! (This issue applies to all Micro SD cards though, of course).
I've played the majority of the games in the Mario Kart series, and I've enjoyed each and every one of them - especially the predecessor to this game, Mario Kart Wii, which was simply fantastic. Mario Kart 7 is no exception, although the omission of some features from Mario Kart Wii has left me a tad disappointed.
Starting with the positive stuff though - the tried and tested Mario Kart formula is still employed here, and as ever it works great. There are 8 cups, each containing 4 tracks, to play through, on the three difficulty modes - 50cc, 100cc, 150cc (with an extra bonus mode unlocked later). 4 of these cups contain entirely new tracks, whilst the other 4 are "retro" cups consisting of classic tracks from previous Mario Kart games. I have to say that I loved the 16 new tracks - they are all very well designed, look great, and loads of fun to blast around. I didn't enjoy the 16 retro courses as much, but that's probably because I've played most of them before. One thing worth mentioning is that the retro courses have been given a bit of an upgrade, incorporating the two new features of this game (underwater racing and gliding, which I'll get to in a moment), which is nice.
But how does the gameplay stack up? Racing in Mario Kart seems to have become steadily more annoying over the course of the series, with things such as rubber banding, and the dreaded blue shell, often turning a lot of races into a game of luck. I'm happy to report however that the racing is much more balanced in Mario Kart 7, and is a lot of fun. There is still annoying items like the blue shell, or the lightning bolt, and karts behind you still do magically become faster on the last lap to catch up, but these effects are nowhere near as profound as in previous games. To make things even better - two new features have been introduced - underwater racing, where your kart becomes a bit more floaty, and gliders, which allow you to fly through the air after big jumps. There are a few new items as well, such as the Lucky 7, which gives you 7 items at random to hurl around, and the Tanooki tail, which allows you to take out opponents if you get close enough to them. Coins have also made a return (last seen in Mario Kart super circuit, I believe), which you can collect during a race to speed up your kart, and to unlock kart customisations - of which there are a lot of them! In other words, there is actually quite a large amount of depth to Mario Kart 7, and it's pleasing to see that Nintendo realise they cannot copy *exactly* the same formula across from game to game, even if it is a good one.
Graphically, the game is very impressive - bright colours, lush scenery, and a silky smooth framerate put it on a par with Mario Kart Wii. The 3D effect works brilliantly - it's nice and subtle, and after a while you treat the effect as if it was always meant to be there. Overall, Mario Kart 7 showcases the 3DS's power very well.
The most disappointing aspect of this game for me, is the online play. First of all, it seems to be a more unreliable service than in Mario Kart Wii - where, for me, finding people and racing within minutes worked flawlessly, without fail, every time. This is not the case for me in MK7. Perhaps my internet connection doesn't like my 3DS for whatever reason, but either way, it's a little frustrating, because when you are connected, racing with others is great fun. The biggest disappointment for me though is the removal of global/friend leaderboards, and sending time trial ghost data to your friends. Seeing how you stacked up against your mates on a track, trying to beat their ghost times and then sending your ghost to them, was one of my favourite features in Mario Kart Wii, and I'm at a loss to explain why they didn't include this here. What's even more annoying is that you can actually send ghost times to your friends..............but it has to be done via StreetPass - in other words, you have to be right beside your friend to exchange this data, which defeats the point of how quick and easy it was to challenge people in the Wii game.
On the bright side, they have brought in some other improvements to online play - your 3DS will download ghost times from random people via SpotPass, and you can face off against many of them in a single "race" of sorts. Another new feature is Communities, which allows you to create a group, with or without specific options such as item restrictions, where people can join and race each other. Each group has its own leaderboard to boot. For me, these features don't make up for the lost ones, but they are nice to have regardless.
Well, I've said quite a bit here, but the bottom line is Mario Kart 7 is a must buy for any 3DS owner. Whilst there is still a few persisting flaws, as well as some odd feature removals, this doesn't take away the pure fun and enjoyment this game offers. Hopefully the next Mario Kart will get that little bit closer to perfection, but for now, buy Mario Kart 7 right now - you won't regret it!
I'm not an audiophile by any stretch of the imagination, but I found the speakers in my TV to be far too tinny..........so I went on the lookout for something cheap that could give a little bit of a boost, and decided to go for these. And overall, whilst they have a few flaws, it was a worthy purchase.
Setting up the speakers was not too difficult, although I have to say that the manual was of no help whatsoever in this regard, so anyone who doesn't have much experience with all the types of audio cabling may find themselves a little stuck. On the bright side, the end of the speaker cables and the connections on the subwoofer are colour coded, so that shouldn't pose too much of a worry. And once they are set up, operating them is simple - you have an on/off switch on the back of the subwoofer, a volume control on the front of it, and a remote that has adjustment controls for bass, treble, and volume for individual speakers. My only complaint here is, if you adjust the sound to your liking, but then turn the speakers off, it forgets the adjustments - meaning you have to adjust the settings again when you next turn them on. The sound quality is good, however - not cinema-like, but for me, it is a big improvement over the "stock" sound from the TV; a more bassy sound, whilst still retaining enough clarity.
In conclusion then, it was a worthy purchase, and I would recommend to anyone who wants a simple set of speakers, with no frills. If you want more control and sophistication over the sound you want, look at the more pricer sets out there.
The second Need For Speed title made by Slightly Mad Studios, Shift 2 seeks to improve upon the already impressive foundation introduced in Shift 1 - and it duly delivers. As an overall package, Shift 2 works beautifully - everything comes together so well, and it's a lot of fun as a result.
Shift 2's content is easily its strongest point - there is about 150 cars, which, in comparison to Forza and Gran Turismo is low, but then again, only the most desirable cars are in this game, all of them speed machines that you'll really want to drive. The track list is very, very impressive - over 35 tracks, most of which have multiple layouts, with real world classics such as Road America, Bathurst, the Nordschliefe, Spa Franco-champs.............the list goes on and on. This is all put into a lengthy career mode, where you rise from racing small hatchbacks to becoming a GT1 champion. There is a lot of freedom in the career - earning XP allows you to increase your driver level, which allows you to enter higher league races - and you earn XP very quickly in this game, so you're able to very quickly rise up through the ranks, and choose the events you want to compete in.
Visually and aurally, the game is fantastic. This game captures the sense of speed in motorsport better than any other racing game I've played. At times it can be absolutely terrifying - take the (somewhat exaggerated) motion blur, the bone-shattering sound, the new helmet cam (which constantly shakes and moves about, looking to apexes like a real racing driver), and night racing, put them all together, and you have an experience like no other.
There is only two real complaints I have with Shift 2 - first, the handling of the cars takes some getting used to. It's quite floaty, but nervous at the same time - it's not bad by any means, but it is very tricky at first. Once you do get used to it though, it doesn't detract from the fun at all. The second complaint is the collision detection, which is far too sensitive. The AI are quite aggressive in this game, which means banging wheels with them can be common - but even slight contact can send your car flying off into the nearest barrier. This can be very frustrating after a while.
Apart from those two issues though, I have to say I love this game, and if you're a sucker for speed, I fully recommend it.
I will have to be honest - I am not a big fan of Apple. I have never owned any of their products, nor do I have any interest in purchasing any of them. This extended to a lack of interest in the man himself, Steve Jobs - I knew that he was successful, that people went crazy over him, although I didn't really know why. To me, Apple and Jobs were just selling overpriced, not-that-great products, but with an "i" slapped in the product title.
But after reading this very well written, insightful, intimate, and mesmerising biography on Steve Jobs, I have completely come round to truly appreciate the cultural impact this man had on society with Apple, and the sheer passion, determination and intensity he used to achieve it. Walter Isaacson - at the request of Jobs himself - leaves no stone unturned, and is not afraid to point out Steve's negative attributes, as well as the darker moments of his history. At some points Walter is critical, and at other points he has heaps of praise for the man, and as a whole, this book has a "no holds barred" feel to it, that is revealing, even shocking - but incredibly fascinating, perhaps even inspiring, throughout. A must read.
The 8400GS may be showing its age now, but that perhaps works in its favour - it is very cheap to buy now, and for a beginner looking for a quick and effective upgrade to their system, this is a great choice.
As with any graphics card, physical installation is fairly simple - just open up your desktop, plug it in, and providing the correct drivers have been installed beforehand, it should start working immediately - I had no problems when installing mine.
Depending on the PC you have, you will probably see different jumps in performance - personally, installing this card into a HP Pavillion PC, there was a very noticeable improvement in performance - not only was it now able to play some of my favourite games at a respectable frame rate, all processes in general started running more smoothly - such as minimising/maximising windows, switching between screens, and other graphical functions. If you are running Windows Vista or Windows 7 with Aero enabled, you will probably notice this as well. Another good thing about the 8400GS is that the minimum wattage for the PSU (Power Supply Unit) of your PC is only 300W, which is relatively low - meaning you should be able to use this card in your pre-built PC (from Dell, or HP, etc) without needing any further upgrades.
Bought this camera over 5 years ago, and I haven't used any other camera since! Another cheap alternative from Tesco's technology brand, it was £85 when purchased, which for a 12 Mega Pixel camera, was significantly cheaper than its competitors. And it turned out to be a wise purchase.
What impresses the most about this camera is its ease of use - even tech novices will be snapping away in no time; all the buttons are laid out clearly, along with a simple to understand interface shown on the LCD screen. The next best thing is the picture quality - 12 Mega Pixels is a high resolution, and this really shows in the detail you get in your photos. Apart from Anti-Shake, this camera doesn't have fancy features such as facial recognition, or automatic colour correction - so if the conditions are not perfect then this can occasionally show, but only occasionally. As a bonus, you are able to take short video clips as well - although, understandably, these are not very good quality, and it is no substitute for a proper video camera. The camera is incredibly robust, too - as I said above, I've had it for over 5 years now, and it works just as perfectly as it did when I bought it - there isn't even a visible scratch on it!
I bought this TV about a year ago for £220, and it hasn't let me down yet. It certainly isn't packed with the sort of technology Sony, Panasonic, LG and others offer, but for the price it's hardly expected. The most important thing is that it functions exactly like it's supposed to. The TV is very simple to set up and use - this is mostly due to the well designed remote, which isn't overloaded with a wealth of buttons. There are also touch controls on the side of the TV, although I didn't like these, because they were very sensitive, and brushing them accidentally could suddenly turn it off, or change channel, which is annoying.
In terms of picture quality, again, it is very respectable for the price of the machine. One of the biggest shortfalls of this TV is the lack of picture customisation, however - only simple colour adjustments, and a few picture modes are offered - although the picture by default looks perfectly fine, so for most people this shouldn't be an issue. Plus, HD pictures look brilliant, as you would except The sound quality is decent as well, a bit tinny in my opinion - but, again, still very respectable.
Overall, if you're looking for an HD TV on a budget, this is a perfect choice, with good all round picture and sound quality, reliability, and ease of use.