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The Hanns-G HW191D is a silver and black plastic cased 19inch LCD flat-panel monitor, sold for around £90 to £110 from several on-line outlets. On the face of it, it looks like a pretty standard budget monitor with the usual DVI/DSUB-15(VGA) connections and some internal speakers, but it is solidly manufactured and sports a 1440x900 WXGA+ resolution where many of the alternatives in the price-band often only go as high as 1366x768 (WXGA).
As I build PC systems for friends and family, I've purchased several of these over the last few years and never had anything except good reports of them - no reports of 'dead pixels', misalignment etc. - so I've tended to go back to this product when it has been the cost-effective option. A few months ago I spotted a HW191D in my local second-hand electronics shop for £30 - Bargain! - and knowing that my current NEC was on its last legs I bought it. When I got it home, I found that there were no dead pixels and barring some cosmetic scuffs to the case it was as good as new.
So that is all a good testament to it's durabilty and cost-effectiveness, but just how feature-rich is it? Well, the screen itself is reasonably non-reflective and, as discussed, has a good resolution for the price. The viewing angle is more than acceptable at 150degrees in the lateral plane, and the tilt on the stand in the vertical plane is also good with approximately 30degrees of movement. There are also standard wall mountings on the back-plate of the case, and the stand is very easily disassembled.
The internal speakers are suitable for general desktop use, but if you make a habit of media use (films, music etc.) or aurally immersive games then I'd invest in some external ones, as these are typical of in-built speakers and lack a lot of range - particularly bass. The On-Screen Display (OSD) is available in an impressive number of languages and features the expected adjustment options too!
The Hanns-G HW191D is a well manufactured, impressively spec'd unit with great durabilty. It is fully featured and with a 1440x900 WXGA+ resolution, it represents good value-for-money.
SONY PRS-300 E-Reader
I started to look into various E-readers a few months before christmas, as my girlfriend and I had decided
to buy each other one as gifts. After looking through pages of specifications on various manufacturers'
websites I found that the PRS-300 'ticked the boxes' for me, and here I shall explain why and some of the
limitations I have encountered.
The first thing that I required was that the product fit into my budget - at sub-£90 it came in with some
change for a few ebooks. In the end my lovely lady managed to aquire it for less than £80 delivered, after
some shopping around.
Secondly, the PRS-300 covered a multitude of file-formats including .EPUB, .RTF, .PDF and .LRF files that I
already owned for my PC e-reader program. This was a key point for me as I didn't want to be tied to a
proprietory format or provider, such as the Kindle, and have to start my collection over again.
At this point, once I owned the device, I encountered a slight issue: the software bundled with it is
appalling. It appears to only want to deal with .EPUB books, it seems entirely based around loading books
onto the device with very minimal library management functions. I dealt with this by uninstalling the
bundled software and installing the exceptional Calibre, a free Open Source application. It converts
between formats well, has awesome management functions and loads books onto devices easily.
The final point that was important to me was the screen resolution, rather than its size. The PRS-300 only
has a 5inch screen, which leads to the product's small form, but at a comparitively impressive 600x800
resolution (many that I had encountered were at 480x640 with a 6inch screen). I wanted the crisp clarity of
a higher resolution screen which more than makes up for the smaller form.
Compared to it's peers, the PRS-300 does not have copious storage or the expansion capability of flash
cards. It has approx. 500mb of storage, which is fine for me - I have around 300 novels, roleplaying books
and technical manuals on mine, but this is lacking compared to the 2gb of the Kobo Touch for instance.
The PRS-300 lacks some aesthetic features too - the lack of a 'cover browser' would irritate some consumers
- but it's practical navigation keys and functional simple menu system suit me. I'd rather be reading in a
few keypresses than scrolling through a flashy User Interface.
The overall build quality is exactly what you'd expect from a premium brand such as Sony - the brushed
aluminium case is sturdy but not too heavy, and button response is good without being 'clunky'.
The PRS-300 is a very good, no-fancy-frills e-reader. It does the important things very well, with a wide
range of formats excepted and displayed on a sharp, if small, screen. The build quality is good, and
overall represents very good value for money.
FOOTBALL MANAGER 2012
The principle of Football Manager is simple - you are cast into the role of Manager of a football (soccer) team of your choice. You are responsible for transfers, coaching, PR, team selection and convincing the board of your vision in order to set the budget.
This year's iteration (2012) is, incredibly, once again pushing further to represent the vast detail of the football world, with hundreds of thousands of players, tens of thousands of clubs, and leagues from every inhabited continent on earth.
As a manager, you must assemble your team over time; players may be transferred or developed through your youth system, coaching staff are also hired and fired, and the latter's role in the former's training is under your total control too. You can also decide the areas in which you wish your scouts to concentrate their efforts, with the scout reports providing excellent feedback and good estimations as to player ability and attitude. All of your non-playing staff will give you regular feedback and their advice during 'back-room staff' meetings.
The Players themselves are represented by dozens of statistics (broken into Technical, Mental and Physical sections), genuine historical information about the player up to August 2011, and representations of his character and attitude. There are several tools available to compare players - plus many views in the User Interface can be customised anyway - so you can really track down your perfect player each transfer window. As there are many levels of standard in the game you may offer players an array of contracts - appearance-only deals, youth, part- or full-time contracts too.
For those of you who have played previous years' iterations of Football Manager, you will notice the new interpersonal interactions are much more varied to the point where Managers, Players and Press all respond with particular 'tone of voice' inflections (such as Calm, Aggressive, Reluctant, Passionate etc.) as well as a greater range of potential responses - this includes chats with players, team-talks, team meetings and even when dealing with the press. Different people respond to different approaches to the situation, making friends and raising morale becomes a balancing act. Personally, I feel it has added a new vitality to the game.
Another of this years' improved features is the 3D match-day experience - presented in a Sports-TV style with replays and plenty of angles to view from. The player animation is excellent, and this years' new stadium/crowd effects are really good. As the manager, you can easily switch to a full-blown tactics console to adjust about every imaginable aspect of both team and individual tactics, or you can issue quick 'Shouts' from the touchline to influence how your team is playing.
Another of Football Manager's advantages is the customisation of your game - from Non-League patches or Player Facepacks, to custom leagues and UI Skins - which improves the 're-playability' of this game. I do however wish to raise a word of caution - this software requires Steam activation. For those of you unaware of Valve's Steam distribution system, it is perceived as very invasive and restrictive by some computing groups and some even class it as malware.
Overall, this is a very fine Football game, with huge depth and detail just like the real footballing world. With it's vast scope it is engaging as well as challenging, giving weeks of game-play which, if allowed to suck you in, will disappear very quickly! It is not surprising that this is the market leader in the sports-management-sim area as the quality is there for all to see.