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I played this game at an Nvidia convention in 3D, on three 22 inch full HD monitors... this game looks stunning.
On what controller you use, keyboard and mouse or stick, you will find this game amazing, although you may pick it up quicker using the mouse. Shooting down bad guys is only half the fun, simply flying and exploring is a thrill in itself.
The range of weaponry is vast enough to provide variety, and will keep you entertained for hours as you prune your skills in your new favourite to the point where you can blast a harrier from the sky. But you should not be shooting harriers, they are lovely.
The landscapes are beautiful, I was truly blown away when I saw them, you may notice however that the plane itself is not so stunning; as I was told by one of the experts, the programmers gave all the tessellation (a process where a base model is created, and depending on your distance, more or less polygons are filled in on that object to add greater depth, hence the scenery looks better the closer you get, rather than vice versa like in some older games) from your graphics card goes on the scenery, so the plane feels a bit left out and jaggedy, not that that will dampen your experience in the slightest.
Flight veterans will undoubtedly make shorter work of the missions than novices, however it will take both quite a time to finish the game in its entirety. I never like to speculate game length, as it can vary so much from gamer to gamer, and with a game like this, where free roaming is fun, it is impossible to judge.
Hawx 2 is one of those games you can just pick up and play, it is like Burnout Paradise, sticking it on and cruising around can be entertaining and relaxing, perfect for a lazy sunday. This game will always be useful and in easy reach on your gaming shelf.
Anything to be aware of?
That fighter jet on your six
This is a lovely sized router that will fit neatly and snugly into very small spaces, yet covers your whole house with wireless wonderfulness.
I live in a shared one story flat, it is very wide, with many walls blocking off each room. The wireless router is capable of providing a very strong signal to every single room in the flat, and even to other flats above and below us. There is no issue with signal strength.
The router is constantly on, and during its two months of operation, has only needed to be restarted once, and that was due to an error with the network, not the router itself. I cannot fault the router.
There are four ethernet (RJ45) outputs, and one ethernet (RJ45) input (your connection to the internet), as well as wireless of course. The wired connections are very useful, as at least one of them will be used to initially set up your router.
Initiating your wireless internet connection, assigning a password, and applying encryption couldn't be easier. I think the set up took me around ten minutes, and that includes the physical connection of the cables.
I use a wired connection with my desktop PC, a wired one with my laptop, and the whole flat uses it to connect their games consoles to the internet wirelessly. I have never once had a speed problem or disconnection that has been associated to the router. If something goes wrong, it will most likely be down to your Internet Service Provider, and the most common solution, baffling as it is, is to turn your router off and on again.
Anything to be aware of?
This router comes with a short yellow ethernet cable, it will be useful for some people, however you may need to purchase a longer cable for wired only devices.
Do not get confused by the name. AMD made a rather poor name change move from the 4xxx series of cards to the 5xxx, and an even worse change to the 6xxx.
If you are expecting this thing to blast the 4xxx's and 5xxx's out of the water, and compete with the big boys at Nvidia, think again. I will save you the time of checking all the performance comparison websites, the 5xxx series is a meagre step up from the 4xxx's, and this latest series is in actual fact, a surprise step down.
In order to capture the lower end, casual user's attention, AMD released it's 6xxx series graphics cards. They are all DirectX 11 ready, and have an appealing new name. If you were to name these cards relative to their older counterparts, they would be the 53xx-58xx's.
This specific card does have some power under its belt, it is at the top end of its respective series, and boasts an impressive 2GB of on-board memory, and three monitor outputs (discussed in more detail further down). Unfortunately, having attempted to create a "high-end" card for a low end market, AMD has simply ended up creating an underpowered mid-level card. It can play any game, certainly not on the highest settings, even with that extra memory.
Just in case you have a see through case, or want to dream about the card inside your machine, rest assured, even if you cannot see it, the card is making your case look good. This is a beautiful looking piece of kit, and that is coming from an Nvidia fan boy.
Heat and Power
Cool in comparison to previous AMD series', and only using 20 Watts more than an HD 4850, with the new total system weighing in at 200 Watts, the HD 6950 is really quite impressive. It has a very high performance to energy usage ratio, and also a very good 'bang for buck' ratio, to borrow an American term.
Anything to be aware of?
You must understand your intended usage for the new card you want, and the desired improvement to your current system. For instance, upgrading from a n HD 5850 is pointless for the money spent, you really will not notice a difference. For a minimum two times improvement in games, an upgrade could be considered from a GTS 450, or HD 5750. Whatever excellent performance boosts you can gain from this card, be very wary of what you actually need, in reference to video editors, consider spending that extra £50 to get a higher performing model, which may well reduce to time you have to wait for work to render significantly.
Note: I rate relative for the type of user I expect to be considering the product, hence, a high end card, and a mid-level card can both receive 5 stars.
Much more evolved than the original, and improving on the second's experiments, controls, style of play, and realism of them game world environment have all improved drastically. The Assassin's Creed franchise feels as if it is very nearly at its peak perfection, which will be Assassin's Creed 3 (this is unofficially 2.5).
I personally find the control system slightly tweaked, and a lot more functional than in the second game. Customisable controls remain in the form of camera alterations and stick sensitivity functions, something that should be in every game.
Expanding on the ability to buy, manage and profit from buildings, introduces fresh audiences, and rewards classic players for their faithfulness in the series. I rarely play games where you have to use building in such a way, yet I found it enveloped quite nicely into the Assassin's Creed universe, and excellent touch.
Whilst walking, riding and jogging round Rome, I cannot help but notice the changes in visual fidelity since the first game. I was in awe at the first Assassin's Creed, I am in love with this one. The cities look more realistic, the guards are less annoying than before, and the people react and engage with you and each other slightly better. But at the same time, all of the fun flaws throughout the series have remained, clearly to give the gamer a fun experience over a "perfect" one. An excellent decision by Ubisoft.
I think Ubisoft realised in Assassin's Creed 2, that not everyone will love Ezio, so they included Altair's outfit late on in the story (depending on how long it took you), well from the start of game almost you can wear Altair's outfit. I love this.
No spoilers here, the story is excellent, it is by far the best in any game I have ever played to this day. It beats Black Ops hands down, and my dropped when I played that for the first time, which by the way was in 3D on a 100 inch full HD screen.
The game looks as beautiful as ever, yet has been improved. One thing to note is that I am spotting visual lag in some sections, especially when running now. Perhaps I am more used to PC games with higher refresh rates. Hint, stay away from the PC if you love your console!
This game has so many bit and pieces hidden in it, along with the fact that there is a want to explore just as strong as the want to complete the game, that you may just take your time getting there. This game will last till Christmas and back again.
Brotherhood is one of those games you will be able to pick up in a few years time and still want to play it. It will have a very long lifetime.
Anything to be aware of?
There is so much in Brotherhood that it is hard to not what not to be aware of. If there is one piece of advice I can give, it is this, enjoy the game, take your time playing it, do exactly what you want in that world, and love it.
Excellent. For such a small lens, the video quality really is excellent, outputting a widescreen resolution of 1280x720 pixels at 30 progressive frames a second (meaning a full frame of pixels, rather than interlaced, which is a half frame of pixels twice as often), this camera has quality images which are able to easily translate into quality footage.
One annoyance about this camera, is that it is fully automatic, and does not like fluorescent tube lighting. Due to frequency differences in the light and the frame rate of the camera, lines appear to be scrolling down the screen. Admittedly I have gotten used to this, but it still gets on my nerves from time to time. Also the automatic features of the camera means that when it gets slightly confused as to your depth (you may be blending with the background due to lighting or colour), it alters the focus, blurring you until you move about a bit. Annoying features, both of which are brought on by the lighting conditions in my room, if your room has good, clean lighting, then you will not experience these problems.
Webcams have a beautiful cinematography all of their own, you know when you are looking at a webcam picture, and it evokes memories of pixelated conversations with close friends and family. Maybe I am only addressing the youth here, but that feeling is continued on even into the HD age. Do not get me wrong, this webcam produces high quality stills, but they are high quality stills with soul.
I use the microphone on the webcam in preference to a headphone one when on Skype or MSN, because it gives the feeling that I am in the same room as the person due to the distance, positioning, and shape of the microphone. The quality is very high, although you may notice drops in some programs which practically turn the microphone off when there is little sound, this is not the fault of the microphone.
A simple USB connection is all that is required, installing the software is very easy, and even fun to mess about with.
The camera works with all major forms of communication such as Skype and MSN, the included software practically guarantees compatibility.
A rugged rubber grip attached to the bottom of the camera works in a similar way to a Gorilla Pod, being able to clamp onto things instead of clipping, so positioning on monitors is very convenient and worry free. It is also flexible enough to become a stand which can just sit on your desk, a very handy feature.
Positioning of the camera is entirely up to you, but I would recommend placing it above where you will be looking, to achieve the best sound, and give the impression that you are face to face with whoever you talk with.
Anything to be aware of?
You can always tell if it is off or on by looking straight at it; a small blue light below the lens means it is on, and no light means it is off.
The USB cable is also very long, and so it is easy to move the camera around freely without breaking things. Virtually showing people around your room is very easy, a handy little extra for all those students away from home, to stop mum worrying, show her the inside of your fridge, stock it up first though.
Two clear powerful speakers for left and right ear are excellent for normal everyday use, and a life saver for those of us with poor hearing. The clarity when volume is increased beyond usually bearable levels is very high, and when the volume is set to maximum, I can have the headphones on my desk, and be sitting back, still able to hear everything. Impressive considering my poor hearing.
I prefer speakers for games, however these headphones are perfect for late night sessions where I have to be quiet, even when the volume is turned down, I can still hear people sneaking up behind me. They still shoot me, but I am glad I heard them coming.
I use these headphones for video editing, due to the volume and clarity they offer, which allows me to pick out sounds I would not be able to through some other speakers. These headphones are very useful for precise sound editing.
Using the microphone in a quiet environment is fine, but introduce moderate background sound, and you can expect some of that noise to seep in to your recording or game. A slight annoyance if you really listen out for it, but nothing too major. This isn't, after all, proper recording equipment.
A simplistic dial for volume, and a switch for turning the microphone on or off, are housed on a nicely sized pad between the headphones and jacks. It is simple and easy to use, exactly what you need. Any little twiddling can be performed on your computer if necessary.
Comprising of two standard connections, one 3.5 mm audio output jack (green), and one 3.5 mm microphone in jack (orange), the Plantronics is easy to connect to any system. I prefer 3.5 mm jacks to USB any day, this way you do not need to mess about with software when hot swapping audio devices.
The earpieces are large, also it and the headband are very well padded. I find these headphones very comfortable to use, even for a long duration. Of course comfort and preference will ultimately be defined by the user. The headband is extendable to accommodate larger heads and different wearing styles. The extender easily locks and holds, so poses no problem if they do not fit you straight out of the box.
Anything to be aware of?
The microphone is hidden snugly within the headband, it folds out nicely and is very swish.
Also when hot swapping audio devices, you may need to tell your audio device manager that speakers have been plugged in, this takes two seconds as it should automatically pop up and alert you of a new device. A refresh of your webpage may be required, so switch devices before opening slow to load files.
The Kodak ESP 3250 can print high quality photographs and text onto all manner of printer paper. The quality is excellent for home and some semi-professional usage, but this printer is by no means designed for professional photography, so do not expect flawlessly high quality results.
Your source image is as important as the printer when it comes to quality, for a full A4 print, 10 Mega Pixels and above is probably necessary to avoid pixelation. However 7 Mega Pixel photographs can look stunning on a standard 10x15 centimetre print.
Text files print very fast, and as expected graphics and photos print much slower, but not slowly. I was impressed by the speed and quality of this printer.
Scanning documents couldn't be easier, however I do not use the printer's own interface and software for this, I simply open Microsoft Paint, access the File tab, and select "From Scanner or Camera", it really is that simple.
The image quality can be racked up to 1200 Dots per Square Inch, which is staggering, and for ninety nine per cent of instances, unnecessary.
With an option to send to the computer as a file, or print multiple copies, the copy feature is excellent. However, unless you are in a rush, I would always advise scanning to your computer, assigning your preferred scan settings, and printing from there. This is purely because of the rather awkward interface.
Consisting of a whole host of buttons and some annoyingly hidden menus, the interface can be a tricky little beast, which lets this printer down. It is much more preferable to use your computer's own interface.
There are two pieces of software included on the disk, the drivers, and Kodak's own little printing station. I would strongly advise not installing the printing station. Drivers are necessary, the station is not, and it is far more trouble than it is worth.
The 3250 has ink on its side, the ink can last a long time, if managed properly. Simply print text files on standard setting rather than high, the printer's quality assures you of a good presentable print.
The ink is cheap, and doesn't often have to be replaced if an average one user usage occurs. This is not so much of a family printer, it is certainly a student printer. Despite the somewhat expensive base, the ink is cheap, and overtime will save money.
Anything to be aware of?
Look out for very low quality first prints, the interface actually sets everything on draft, even when you select high on your computer. To prevent wasting ink, go through the printer's little menu system before you print anything, and switch it to high. From then on, your word will be law.
This is a fantastic printer for students, make sure the printer you buy matches the uses you need.
The Xperia X10 Mini Pro boasts a full QWERTY keypad over its Mini counterpart. Every button is responsive and feels right beneath my thumbs. Having rather wide digits, I checked my ability to type with the keypad in store first, I would advise you do the same. The keypad really does make everything so much faster, from texting to web browsing; mistakes and slow typing speeds from touch screens can often kill a smart phone dead in the water.
The only thing I would note is that occasionally I do not feel the space bar click when I press it, and end up clicking multiple times. The key does work, it just takes some time to get used to.
A beautiful, glare free touch screen, I find myself quite often covering it out of habit when the screen is perfectly visible even in bright light conditions. The screen has a high pixel density and can display YouTube videos in the mobile friendly High Quality mode (HQ), which for the screen size is effectively high definition.
As for the menu navigation and text functions, the touch screen is a very welcome addition, it speeds practically every procedure up. The touch screen is very responsive, it knows exactly what you are doing, and combined with the keypad, this phone boasts an almighty operating system navigation.
Android has really impressed me, the operating system is easy to use, functional, and contains just about everything you would ever want and need. There are a multitude of free useful apps to add to the experience of your phone and keep you entertained or even working.
The phone always receives good signal, even in areas where my previous (on the same network) did not. This phone has a whole host of different ways of connecting to people, and sharing/recording data. I chose not to use mobile internet through the network provider, instead I use the phone's incredible Wi-Fi connection. Of course this can only be used in certain areas, but the level of free to use Cloud networks around may surprise you. Other benefits to having Wi-Fi on phone is that the connection is considerably faster than mobile internet, and you cannot accidentally get charged a fortune, as there is no download limit (depending on your connection).
I can only really fault the phone in one area, which is where it tries to be a little bit too clever for its own good. When making a call, the screen switches off, the idea being that a sensor in the phone works out how close it is to your head and decides that as you cannot see the screen, you do not need to. All fine and good, however when you bring the phone away to see the screen, there is an awfully long time delay which encourages me to start pressing buttons, when I eventually get light, I have to trawl through a few menu options just to end the call. This can be very frustrating, so I have resorted to telling my phone to keep the screen on unless I tell it to turn off.
A minor problem is the lack of a keypad available on screen during a call, so when I get through to an automated helpdesk, I have to slide out the keyboard and keep moving the phone away from ear , awkward and annoying.
The phone does have a plastic feel to it, on the back cover only. The rest of the phone is solid and sexy, I do not often say that about a phone. As the keyboard slides out, and you press buttons on the screen, there is the odd feeling that you am going to break it, but fear not, the phone is perfectly stable, secure, and trust me, can survive several significant impacts to the floor. Overall, the phone is very well built, and there are reasons it has won awards.
I have not once had a problem with the battery, and after only a month or two's usage, that should be expected. Never the less, battery life is very long, charge times are short, and I am surprised at the battery's longevity when using Wi-Fi. An excellent battery.
Anything to be aware of?
The background is a nifty little thing, as you slide across and down the menus, the picture slides along with you, revealing more of the whole thing. A note to guys out there, do not ever let your girlfriend use your phone if your background is a picture of Rihanna, turns out girls really do not like that.
Image quality is not found in the megapixels, but the lens, sensor, and processor. And this Sony camera exceeds in all areas, thus, picture quality is excellent in both photo and video mode. However in Panoramic mode, the camera is not taking multiple full size pictures, but multiple small sized ones, resulting in a very wide picture with a high horizontal, and low vertical resolution. The pictures are fine for what they are, but do not expect too much.
When in video mode, the DSC-H55 records in 1280x720 pixels progressive mode (meaning a full frame of pixels, rather than interlaced, which is a half frame of pixels twice as often) at 30 frames per second. The progressive shooting allows users to film static and moving images, without the annoying lines produced by interlaced footage. This feature really helps the DSC-H55 stand out from the crowd.
A high quality Sony G lens with a ten times zoom, accessible even whilst in video mode, is used. The lens has access to a wide 76 degree viewing angle, impressive for a 25mm consumer aimed camera. The zoom function is steady and reliable, and slows itself down for video, which is not always desired.
Consisting of all the buttons you would need to just shoot, and quickly access the easy to navigate menu, the DSC-H55 makes itself a consciously concise camera, with the perfect mix of buttons and menus.
The menus offer more than is to be expected from a camera of this price range and type, a white balance setting is included for both video and photo, an invaluable feature.
Accessing your footage is easy too, using a direct button on the camera, and then the standard arrow keys and zoom, making navigating through what may be thousands of pictures simple and fast.
Lightweight and slim, yet with enough bulk to feel secure in your hands, the DSC-H55 is ultra portable. It will fit nicely into your pocket, you will know it is there, but I rate that as a good thing.
The high resolution screen lets me view live and recorded images. It is a large size and of equalling image quality. Unlike many other cameras of this size, it does not suffer from glare, which is useful as the DSC-H55 has no optical viewfinder.
You may notice when aiming the camera quite high up, and quite low down in relation to your eyes, that the screen becomes very bright and you are unable to make out objects. This is a limitation of LCD technology for the time, and absolutely no fault of the camera.
Anything to be aware of?
The DSC-H55 uses Sony's SD and SDHC memory cards, many people moving to digital for the first time, or upgrading an older camera may need to check which cards their computer can read, as many older ones can only read SD. Memory card readers are inexpensive and easily available, do not let it put you off the camera.
The box also contains a USB cable, an AV cable to allow for standard definition television viewing, and a 2GB memory card (depending on the point of purchase), and a long life battery with charger. This is an excellent camera which is accompanied by an excellent starter kit.
The GTX 580 is a beast, aside from its older brother the 590, it is the most powerful consumer graphics card on the planet.
I use it for video editing and playing games. Using an open-GL enabled editing software, this card can handle multiple streams of AVCHD, applying many complex colour grading and other effects all faster than realtime. The editing potential of this card is stunning, it is more cost effective than buying a Quadro.
The GTX 580 can run any game. Yes it can play Crysis. The card is capable of full settings on any game, as long as your CPU and other PC specifications are up to it. For instance, overclocking my i7 920 from base to 3.8GHz causes insane boosts in performance. If your game is not running, it is not the fault of the card.
I run two monitors, one full HD, and the other 1680x1050, both run smoothly. I have seen this card output to a 22" full HD monitor in 3D playing various top titles, and never dropping below 60 frames per second. This card truly is a beast.
For those enthusiasts with see through cases, rest assured this card looks awesome.
Heat and Power
I have never measured the temperature accurately, however it is useful to note that having used the machine for hours on end, playing games, editing films, and for casual use, I can open the chassis and remove the card with my bare hands and not get burnt.
I attended the release of this card hosted by Scan and Nvdia in Bolton in 2010, where three GTX 580's were linked in SLi mode in a chassis with one side removed in order to demonstrate the new Vapor-X cooling method. The cards, packed tightly together in a small space, were cool. Heat is not a problem with this card.
Moving from an HD 4850 to a GTX 580 in the same system, I notice a power increase of approximately 50 Watts at idle, and up to 120 Watts at maximum capacity; 330 Watts maximum for the entire system. For me this is acceptable due to the increased productivity of the card, however it may not be viable for all users.
Anything to be aware of?
The GTX 580 requires two power cables, an eight pin and a six pin to molar connection; the eight pin can be a hassle as the oddly shaped ones can be hard to find online. Cables should be supplied with the card. If not, check your motherboard box for these cables, they should be there.
I have been using this monitor with a PS3 and a high-end gaming/video editing computer, for both devices the picture quality is absolutely superb. The full HD resolution of the LCD, combined with LED backlighting really pushes this monitor ahead of all others in the same price range and size.
An excellent user-friendly menu system allows for complex image alterations to be made, and those settings stored in two user defined presets; useful when using multiple inputs.
As a Freeview receiver this monitor delivers high quality SD footage from a few hundred radio and television stations, the quality of which can only be hindered by the signal available in your area, and the broadcast quality of the station itself, the monitor receiver itself is perfect for the screen size.
The touch panel buttons are responsive and work well. Do not let the in store display models fool you, I tried one in a local electronics shop before purchase which had incredibly unresponsive buttons. A fault like that is due to major wear and tear, the type that no one in a home environment would ever experience.
The speakers perform well, they are not professional grade, but for internal (hidden) speakers on a notably thin monitor, they are perfect. I have had no sound issues with the speakers, and I use them all the time for television.
The stand is sturdy, and the locking mechanism is much easier to use than on previous LG models, preferring a screw rather than snap-in lock, a definite improvement. This monitor cannot be wall mounted, so look elsewhere if that is a necessity.
The monitor is stylish, and the screen itself is accentuated nicely by the glossy black frame.
I cannot fault performance, LG have really outdone themselves with this monitor. An excellent buy.
Anything to be aware of?
I had to return the first monitor I bought due a manufacturing defect found on only a very small number of monitors. The green 3.5mm jack at the back, for headphone and speaker output became constantly on, meaning the internal speakers were constantly switched off. LG assured me that the store I bought it from would offer a hassle free swap or refund, which they did, even though I was in a branch hundreds of miles away from my purchase. In conclusion, you can certainly by this monitor with confidence.