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So I recently received my Nintendo Switch with Breath of the Wild and I am completely in awe. The Switch itself is a really cool idea, being able to ‘switch’ modes on the fly is really seamless and plugging it in to the TV makes everything bigger and better. Breath of the Wild is a really good looking game and although the graphics aren’t Witcher 3 level, the art style cleverly hides the fact that it is running on a mobile chip. The storyline itself is really engaging, dragging you straight into a really stimulating story and gameplay tests your creativity, with most main parts not being based on what the power of your weapons are and rather whether you can think your way through a situation, using different powers you have to solve a puzzle – often with more than one way to solve it.
The game is massively open world and the user can even go straight to the end of the game if wanted – although most will not survive due to the need for good items. It drags you into the world of Hyrule, engaging you in the main story along with side quests and Shrines. It really does not hold your hand either, with most quests requiring searching for places among the whole of Hyrule, with the only guidance being asking people for help. This develops into a very adventure-based game, with the fact that everything is a discovery adding to the pleasure of the game. Completing a shrine is married to its own satisfaction, many having a quite simple solution but requiring real thought. As a person who can usually only struggle through fighting scenes (mashing buttons isn’t really my forte), Breath of the Wild brings a whole new experience, allowing targeting and slowing down of time to engage in battles, allowing even the most unskilled player (me) to be able to do well, as long as they remember the right buttons to press.
Without spoiling anything, the storyline at first seems very ‘Save the Princess’, akin to Peach in Mario, but players will later realise that this is not the case, bringing a fresh twist on a classic game. Players can choose whether to go straight for the storyline or for shrines, or even just roaming the world. There are many side quests and other areas for the user to explore, with Easter Eggs scattered throughout and I really enjoy the way that the player can do what they want quite a lot more than previous Zelda games. I also found that instead of going for some enemies, players should sometimes just run past them – something that at the start I thought was cheating, but later on discovered was probably the right way to do things as some enemies are just too hard to kill, especially early on with the limited weapons available.
Being first on the game does have its merits, but also its downfalls. Although not detrimental to the game, there are times when the system will drop frame rates when connected to a TV. I find this happens most in lots of grass (probably due to the fact that the game is rendering all the interactions with the grass which is very GPU intensive) but this never makes the game unplayable and fixes itself within a few seconds. I have found no real bugs in the game
In terms of the Switch itself, the console is very well designed and makes nice clicks when the user attaches or detaches the Joy-Cons. Although it looks very badly designed, the Joy-Con grip actually feels very ergonomic and fits into my hand perfectly. The console has nice noises throughout its interface and brings a very simplistic UI design which is quite fresh for a Nintendo console (along with its high-ish resolution screen).
It hasn’t been without its hiccups though. The left Joy-Con will disconnect randomly for me, sometimes resulting in an unexpected input or not being able to do something. This usually happens for me when I’m sitting in front of the TV and the controller dips underneath the table. I am not really sure why it disconnects as it is well within a metre. Also, unlike the Wii U, the control sticks are on opposite ends. I understand why Nintendo did this – so that two people playing each with an individual Joy-Con have the same controls on both sides. Finally, the screen is very prone to scratches because it is made of plastic. I understand why they did this – it means no broken screens, like the 3DS. It however means that the console will show wear and tear a lot more quickly and basically requires a screen protector. Unlike the 3DS, the Switch has no protection for its screen however and therefore users just have to be very careful with the console. I will include more of this in a full review of the console itself.
My life it seems has become dominated by this new console. In some ways I am glad that I can’t see the amount of hours I have played on the game as I am sure it is way too high for the amount of time I have had it. I am about half-way through the game and am very excited to continue. I will report back later.
I used to use eBay for a lot of my purchases. These covered many different fields, mostly being technology – cases, replacement parts for phones, screwdrivers and the odd book or film. It always seemed really cheap on eBay and the shipping was normally free, making Amazon seem like a waste of time. I therefore always stuck to my guns until Amazon released Amazon Prime with video. I was initially drawn to the content available through its video section as Netflix in the UK is a bit sparse (although I still have and pay for it).
Through this, I then decided to order something using Prime (as I had been given a voucher) and went on to the shipping screen. Here I was met with the offer of next day delivery. I was skeptical at first but now am totally and utterly drawn in to this amazing shipping. eBay purchases now seem to take forever to arrive (I ordered new 3DS styluses the other week and they still haven’t arrived) and this is defiantly not a knock on eBay as they still provide amazingly cheap technology and used items, but the luxury of thinking of something for someone’s birthday in two days time and being able to order something quick and easily is amazing. The Amazon app also makes this even easier – one click purchasing has probably expended my wallet quite a lot and this ease of spending money is ridiculous, and I fully applaud Amazon for this.
For me, Amazon won’t fully replace other online services. Although they may take longer to arrive, other services can offer products for less or I am happy to support smaller businesses. It’s just nice to know that if I desperately need a Dexam Slicer tomorrow, I can get it tomorrow.
A few months ago I was anxiously awaiting the reveal of the Switch. The NX as it was codenamed was the next revolutionary step from Nintendo, it’s bounce back from the Wii U. It promised handheld and console level performance which it could interchange between very easily. I was not disappointed.
From the initial video, I was hooked. Breath of the Wild looked amazing and the ease of use of the device, the revolution of the Joy-Con controllers and the Nintendo magic sold it to me. I needed one.
After the second reveal; the introduction of initial launch titles, the different coloured Joy-Cons and more specifications on the device, I was excited and prepared my wallet to pay. This was the thing we had been waiting for, and it was coming in March. From initial reviews of the unit, many people seem to be very happy with the product and it looks very polished. Here are my thoughts after the buzz has died down slightly.
The hardware specifications:
Running on a CPU and GPU that are based heavily on the Tegra X1 Chipset (also used in the Nvidia Shield TV box), this console has a lot of power under its hood. It officially would be capable of 4k UHD video playback through its HDMI 1.4 connection however whether this will be used remains to be seen. Of course though, it will be more than capable of running games at 1080p. According to initial reports, the Switch’s GPU will run at 307.2MHz when undocked (in handheld mode) but 768MHz when docked. I personally think this is really clever as this allows the console to change to a more battery saving mode when handheld (using the 720p screen) whilst still being able to output better graphics and higher frame rates when connected to a 1080p TV, not retraining the user in either situation.
Whilst some were annoyed at the fact it only had a 720p screen, I maintain that it was a good decision to go in this direction. Other common complaints already quote the battery and if Nintendo had gone any higher in resolution this would have suffered greatly due to the fact that the processor would have had to output to more pixels and render more. It also would have drained the battery a lot faster due to more pixels needing power.
Going on from my last point, the screen is perfectly fine in terms of PPI. 720p at 6.2 pixels gives around 236ppi which is around what you get on a retina iPad. I’ve never had complaints about my iPad not being sharp at all and I think Nintendo was clever not to chase spec sheets and stick with something which saves on battery life and isn’t really needed at a higher resolution. It will be a massive upgrade to the low resolution 3DS anyway, and that sold very well due to its games, rather than its raw specs. As long as the Switch can run its games well at these resolutions, I’ll be happy.
The Switch boasts a very unique experience – being able to use the same controller when docked and when on the move. This means there is no real change when going from desktop to console, a very stark contrast from the 3DS and the Wii/Wii U. I was also excited to see the different colour Joy-Cons available, however I think I’ll stay with my grey colours as I don’t want it to stand out too much (however this may change). I was also interested to see that you could buy Joy-Cons on their own individually however they were reversed from the original console, allowing you to have a fully red or fully blue console if wanted. They look like the perfect devices to play hardcore games but then also shift to handheld sharing mode to play with friends, and create the core experience for the users.
The amount of buttons on the controllers is also really impressive in my opinion, with left and right bumpers usually hidden in usual play but revealed when using them individually. There are a wealth of buttons on the console too, along with dual analogue sticks and dual buttons. There are also dual bumper buttons when using as a full console or when using both Joy-Cons together. The controllers also have ‘HD Rumble’ which sounds promising, akin to the upgraded Taptic Engine in the iPhone 7 however this remains to be seen as initial reviews just see it as a normal vibration (Nintendo touts that you can ‘feel’ individual ice cubes in a cup through these vibrations).
The rest of the hardware:
The Switch looks like it has dual speakers on the front (hopefully stereo!), power and volume buttons, an audio jack, a microSD card slot, a kickstand and a USB type C connector. I personally am really looking forward to being able to charge the Switch using something that isn’t proprietary. This means if you loose your charger or go somewhere without it, you’ll be able to purchase a cable from anywhere which could in the future also charge your tablets, laptops and phones. This also makes hooking up an external battery pack really easy which will be perfect for on the go gaming.
When docked, the switch will have 2 USB 2.0 ports on the side and one on the back along with an AC Adapter port and an HDMI 1.4 port. The function of each of these USB ports remains to be seen, hopefully providing extra functionalities in some degree.
The software experience:
As revealed by this recent post from IGN, we can see a very clean user interface which looks very easy to navigate. Capturing screenshots, adding annotations and sharing all seem really easy to do and the addition of memory cards allowing up to 2TB will help hold all those games. Games can be played through a cartridge that looks a lot like an SD card but eShop titles will be available. I personally have ordered Breath of the Wild, the new Zelda game and I am really looking forward to it. The onboard 32GB will also help to fulfil woes of people with large libraries already.
The whole package:
I am very impressed with Nintendo including most of the things the user will need within the pack. I was very annoyed when I opened up my New 3DS to find it without a charger but Nintendo has included everything you’d need (apart from the Pro controller). It even has a HDMI cable! The Joy-Con straps will also be very useful for kids (especially since they cost £79.99 as a pair to replace) and the grip will allow for everything to work right out the box. Games seem to be reasonably priced too and I am looking forward to seeing what else is on there. I will update this article with more news on the Nintendo online subscription service which I was disappointed to find out that you can only play the game for the month (hopefully Nintendo changes this soon) but I wait in anticipation and will update with thoughts on the console, especially when I receive it!
During my studies, we were recently given tablets to design websites for, standardising the viewing platform of each person. This was initially met with large approval but later on turned sour due to the fact that the tablets were (and there is no better way to put this) shit. A tablet that had been made in 2016 and is still advertised on the company’s website must have certain standards. For a sub £100 tablet, you have to go in with certain expectations, which I did:
1280×800 – ~198ppi
Not bad viewing angles and contrast. Not the worst I have seen and does the job perfectly well
2MP Front, 5MP Back
First of all, the back camera shouldn’t ever really be used on a tablet, don’t do that to yourself. Second, you could probably get better quality shooting from your MacBook’s webcam (the 480p potato one), but expected from this price range and not a deal breaker in any way
DTS HD Premium Sound speaker with DTS headphone:X, Supports aptX®
Nothing about these acronyms actually makes the speaker good, it’s pretty good for the price but apart from casual Youtube videos, I wouldn’t even use it to listen to music if you’re further than a metre away, but it’s good enough.
The battery (life):
It’ll last you, it’s not massive but you’ll see why in a sec. Takes an absolute age to charge (almost 8 hours first time)
Somehow this baby thing has GPS built in (shocker!). For comparison, to get an iPad with that, you have to bump it up to a cellular model.
Weight and build quality:
Not the worst I’ve seen but not the best. Unfortunately I was given a white version, I think it’d look a lot better in black personally and the fake chrome edging is not the worst I’ve seen. The back is quite tasteful but the cover on mine really wants to fall off. But not bad given the price.
Finally, the bit we’ve been waiting for
This is absolutely ridiculous. The Nexus 7 from 2012 packs similar performance benchmarks from Geekbench and cost around the same as this does now. The 2013 version absolutely blows it out of the water, even with other specs as well. In day to day use, this tablet is really slow. With the default launcher and the bloatware loaded on, it takes around a second to launch an app – not load it, just move from tapping it to it opening, and this is the same with closing apps.
The tablet also struggles to play 720p videos on Youtube. Youtube is so optimised yet this stutters and outputs around 15fps – and this is with everything else closed behind it. Chrome is not suited for this machine at all, taking a long time to start, load its tabs and even scrolling a heavy webpage such as the New York Times is met with stutters and lag – if you get there that is. For some reason, even on pretty speedy wifi, this thing will take an age to do anything requiring the network.
I can kinda understand why it is like this. I’m pretty sure there hasn’t been a lot of optimisation for this tablet, passed off as a cheap thing that doesn’t need a second look. Therefore, users are given third party apps built in (which they can’t remove without rooting) to try and solve this. Now I don’t agree with bloatware usually, but requiring users to stop apps starting and ‘boosting memory’ is really abysmal. I personally feel like I’d never buy another Asus tablet myself – probably doing more damage than good. If a company cannot produce a quality product, why make it at all? It just tarnishes the reputation of the brand and deters them from ever buying again. It also degrades my views on Intel’s processors as well (though they have stepped out of the mobile market at the moment).
I was recently discussing this with a course mate and he brought up the idea that for many on the course, this may be their first experience with Android. Therefore, they will not ever give Android a fair chance because of what they have seen on this device. Half of this I blame on the course itself for buying the tablets (which aren’t worth the money in my opinion) but half I blame on Asus. I think they should have not brought out the product, or slapped in a better processor and spent a bit more time on optimisation. Take out the GPS – it’s unbearably slow to use anyway and maybe charge a bit more, but end up with a better optimised product.
I didn’t mention exact product names but if you are interested, I’m talking about the Asus ZenPad 8 (not the S model) Z380M.
The new iPhone is not a massive change from the 6 and 6S. It features the same rounded edges and 4.7” and 5.5” screen sizes as before, and is the 3rd in a line of an iterative design started by the 6. The most notable differences are the new Black and Jet Black finishes and the larger camera bump which is now built into the enclosure. I personally love my Jet Black finish as it looks like a mirrored surface and the front and back meet seamlessly – almost like a slab of aluminium. It also feels great in the hand with a more grippy surface than its matte siblings. I have got micro-abrasions on mine but these are only really able to be seen in bright light and in normal light are not noticeable. I have however kept my phone in a case since I received it and have seen pictures on the internet with very bad scratches on the iPhone. If you take care of it, it’ll be fine.
One major difference and the cause of a lot of controversy with the new iPhone has to be the headphone jack – it’s gone. I thought I’d miss this a lot more than I did. The included adapter really helps the transition and just stays plugged into my earphones from now on which doesn’t really affect me. I also own a few bluetooth headphones and these work perfectly with the new iPhone. My only gripe has been when I have wanted to use my phone for Discord or any other App that needs headphones and charge. Usually I don’t need to do this but I prefer to plug in when I am gaming to stop the phone from dropping in battery too fast. My workaround was to use bluetooth headphones for this but the other solution would be to get a splitter, something that isn’t too expensive.
The main reason for removing the headphone jack in the iPhone was to increase waterproofing. The new iPhone finally gets my most desired feature. I no longer have to baby my phone in the rain or be wary when changing songs in the shower. From tests seen on the internet, the waterproofing is very good on this phone and usually better than the IP68 rating it has. Apple is usually very conservative with its rating systems and although I wouldn’t suggest going swimming with the phone, it’ll easily handle the odd splash or drop in the toilet. Using the phone with wet fingers or with droplets on the screen has also improved and I am very impressed with this. Before, a nearly dry hand was needed to operate the phone due to accidental inputs with the water droplets on the screen. On the new iPhone however, the rejection of these inputs has been sublime. Apple also claims a higher colour gamut screen on the iPhone which I didn’t really notice but I really noticed the 25% extra brightness which helps outdoors. I would love to see an OLED display on a phone but until VR comes to the iPhone, I really think that a 1080p panel boasts the best battery life/performance/DPI ratio on a 5.5” phone.
The new stereo speakers on the phone are another welcome addition I have wanted for a while. Apple claims a 50% increase in volume and I fully believe them. At max volume there is (almost) no distortion and they sound really loud – so loud I can leave my bluetooth speaker when I go to the shower. For casual listening, they are a god send. The automatic change when rotated is also great and the phone seems to output the same volume in both orientations, something I tested to see if it was the case. One thing to note with the added waterproofing is that when the speakers get wet, their volume reduces drastically and distortion is heard. This is solved when the phone dries after about 5-10 minutes but is just something to bear in mind.
Performance and Camera:
The performance on the iPhone 7 is just as good as the 6S. Although Apple claims a 40% increase in performance since the 6S, the UI is so smooth that you can’t notice it. It will be great for future proofing however and I welcome the change. Apple has swayed from its usual dual core chip however; the A10 is now quad-core although it doesn’t use all four cores at the same time. Two are low powered cores which use 1/5 of the power of the A9 with the same performance whilst the other two are the high performance cores with the 40% increase in compute. This really ingenuous solution along with the slightly larger battery has made sure that the iPhone lasts all but the most demanding days. I regularly ended the day with 20% left which is a lot better than the basically 0% my 6S Plus used to rock up on.
Both the front and rear cameras have been upgraded on the new model too. With a larger aperture, both can now take better low light photos. The front camera now takes 7MP photos and its low light performance has gotten really good – almost too good as now all my pores can be seen! The real star of the show is the back camera however. Low light performance is really good, on par with the S7, the current leader in this respect. Optical Image Stabilisation is also standard on all iPhone 7 models now which really helps with reducing the shake on videos and reducing blur in photos, especially in low light. The real step up for the 7 is the extra camera on the back (making 3 total). This camera is dubbed the ‘telephoto’ lens and is a 2x zoom from the normal. This allows great zooming without loss of quality. Another thing it enables is ‘Portrait mode’, a DSLR like option which allows the background to be blurred out. This, although still in beta, seems to be really good and has produced some amazing shots, better than any compact camera I have used and rivalling (not replacing) DSLR quality at first look.
The new iPhone 7s all ship with iOS 10, Apple’s latest iteration of its mobile software. It does away with some things, namely ‘Slide to Unlock’, a legacy Apple creation and has now been replaced with ‘Press Home to Unlock’. This new method of unlock is really great for phones with Touch ID (not so great for non-Touch ID but that’s a different story) and along with raise to wake, makes your phone just seem more alive and useful. The widgets when swiping left are really useful for quick glances. I will look up my next lecture or check what reminders I have with a quick swipe and that will be it, a lot more convenient than before.
3D touch has been getting better and better and the new lock screen combined with 3D Touch has just become a really great experience. 3D Touching on a Notification will bring up quick actions and even sometimes an actual window with previews of messages. This is an ingenious feature which has really helped with quick replies and is just something that is fun to do. Before, 3D Touch was limited to previewing and shortcuts and now it is so much more. So many apps take advantage of it for extra content, quick settings and its convenience and tight integration is something you don’t find on any other smartphone. I have got used to shortcuts from my 6S and now use a few, not as many as Apple may hope but enough to justify it as a feature.
One of my favourite features about the new iPhone 7 has to be the Taptic Engine. It has been improved since the 6S to now vibrate on some other things happening in the system. For example pulling down the notification shade causes a small bump when it hits the bottom, when scrolling through the different minutes in the clock app, it will give a small bump at each one it scrolls past. Although these may seem like small things, this really gives the iPhone a mechanical feel which is really nice. I actively seek out ways to use these things as they just feel so futuristic whilst retro at the same time, a throwback to the mechanical days.
This Taptic Engine is also used to power the home button. No longer a physical switch, the home button is now a solid state button that activates when it senses a force on it. At first I was not so sure about the button. It feels different to anything I have used before and sometimes can feel like the whole bottom of the phone is moving. However, I quickly became used to it and now prefer it to anything else. It never fails and feels quite realistic and I welcome a change that will reduce the fragileness of a button whilst also improving its waterproofing capabilities.
Over my month and a bit with the phone, I have (as mentioned) picked up a few micro abrasions on the phone. It goes everywhere with me; the gym, rock climbing, lectures, excursions and so on and looks almost new. I do use a screen protector however and over one of the parts where it is not covered, I have picked up a small scratch. I don’t baby my phone however. As it is all solid state I will chuck the phone on a desk and take it to places other people wouldn’t take it like rock climbing where chalk and the constant fear of people falling on your phone is rife. I really like the waterproofing of the phone as it means I can run it under a tap when done to wash off anything. I have had back protectors (like screen protectors but for the back of the phone) on however to reduce the risk of scratches however my first application didn’t go too well. When removing the film, I did notice that some of the markings were coming off the phone. These have just got fainter and are hard to see in normal light. I actually prefer this however as I never really liked the markings on the back of the phone however might be annoying when trying to read the serial number or any important information.
The iPhone 7 is a great phone. After all the negativity of the removal of the headphone jack, it seems that many people actually can go without it, especially with the inclusion of an adapter in the box. The iPhone 7 has quite a few more features that do warrant its 7 name and its camera has been significantly upgraded in the low light department, taking really good pictures in the dark. Before with the 6S, I could see more in the dark than it, but the 7 seems to be able to pick up more than I can. I truly believe that this phone can sit with other flagship phones of 2016.
Photos coming soon!
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So I recently entered to win a day with Chris Pratt on the Guardians of the Galaxy 2 set. I am a massive fan of Chris as he’s a genuinely nice person and I’m so glad that he’s helping people with his fame. Anyway, I loved the playlist that Omaze put along with his campaign. As an Apple music user, I meticulously copied the whole playlist into my own and have made a custom cover based on the movie soundtrack. I have posted it below, along with the embed of the playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here: The Omazing Guardians Fan Mix. At the bottom, I have also included a t-shirt design which I posted somewhere before but only just found.