Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Bring photos to life with Google's free Nik Collection

Nik Collection

Google’s professional-grade photography tools are now free to download.

The Nik Collection is a pack of pro-grade photography plugins for Photoshop and Lightroom (and, on the Mac, Aperture). It’s published by Google, and although it was originally sold for $500, the full suite is available for free for both Windows and the Mac: download it at google.com/nikcollection.

On these pages, we’ll show you how to get the most out of the Nik tools. We’ll be using Adobe Photoshop CC 2015, but the tools can also be used with earlier versions, and with Photoshop Elements, so even if you’re not using the latest release you can follow along – the tools themselves are exactly the same, regardless of the host application.


Installing the collection

The Nik tools can’t be used as standalone apps. They’re designed to be accessed from within a host application. When you launch the installer, your system will be automatically scanned for a compatible host application, which for Windows users means Photoshop CS4 or later, Photoshop Elements 9 to 13, or Photoshop Lightroom 3 or later. The collection will then be integrated into whichever host it finds. Note that the HDR Efex Pro 2 tool (see over) isn’t compatible with Photoshop Elements – you’ll need either Lightroom or the full-blown Photoshop to use it. If you don’t have a suitable image-editing application, you can download a 30-day trial of Photoshop from http://adobe.ly/28OaQoV, so you can try out the Nik tools and decide whether it’s worth investing in a host application.


Working with Nik tools

The Nik Collection is non-destructive when working in Photoshop: any adjustments you make are applied as a separate layer within the document. This means you can push things as far as you like without the risk of over- processing your originals: if you later decide you want to dial down the Nik effects, you can simply adjust the layer opacity, or apply a mask.

Many of the Nik tools offer one-click adjustments, but you can take these further by manually tweaking. Analog Efex Pro is a prime example: to apply the basic adjustment you simply pick a camera type and effect, but you can then go on to tailor the result by turning on and off features such as frames, dust and scratches. You can often achieve impressive results – or interesting ones, at least – with just a little playing.


The complete Nik Collection


Analog Efex Pro thumbnail

Analog Efex Pro simulates the appearance of classic camera and processing equipment. Generate film-type grain, dust and scratches to give your images a retro vibe, and apply vintage colour and contrast styles at the click of a button.


Color Efex Pro thumbnail

Color Efex Pro provides an extensive set of colour filters and correction tools. Use it to remove unwanted colour casts or distracting lighting conditions – or get creative with control points to produce dazzling synthetic lighting effects.

Color Efex Pro screenshot

Dfine thumbnail

Dfine is a smart noise-reduction tool that can smooth out speckles and JPEG artefacting without compromising on detail. Use Nik’s signature control points for fine corrections, or apply selective cleaning to specified colour ranges for instant results.

Dfine screenshot

HDR Efex Pro thumbnail

HDR Efex Pro uses intelligent tone compression to generate high dynamic range images from a single photo. A library of settings lets you experiment with different looks and apply simulated lens effects – to either the whole image or only selected areas.

HDR Efex Pro screenshot

Sharpener Pro thumbnail

Sharpener Pro, as the name indicates, enhances the sharpness of your photos for a crisper appearance. A special high-ISO mode helps to achieve clean results even with noisy source images – and again, you can select specific colour ranges to sharpen.

Sharpener Pro screenshot

Silver Efex Pro thumbnail

Silver Efex Pro converts your images into striking, iconic black-and-white. Apply sepia tones and decorative borders, and get hands-on with colour filters, contrast adjustments and grain to turn a snapshot into a statement.

Silver Efex Pro screenshot

Viveza thumbnail

Viveza helps you correct and enhance the tonal detail and colour in your images, with localised adjustments to create the perfect balance and composition. It’s amazing that you’re getting all this power for free.

Viveza screenshot


By Nik Rawlinson

Sponsored Products
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Friday, June 3, 2016

Samsung Galaxy S7 : Was ist wirklich neu ? (Deutsch)

Samsung Galaxy S7


Starker Akku, Speicherkarten- Schacht, wasserdichtes Gehäuse: Mit Galaxy S7 und S7 Edge bringt Samsung einige Tugenden früherer Galaxy-Modelle zurück. Denn das S7 soll sowohl mit Top-Design als auch mit hohem Nutzwert punkten. Kann das gelingen?

Der erste Eindruck

Wer nur einen flüchtigen Blick auf die neuen Modelle wirft, wird kaum Unterschiede zu den Vorgängern erkennen. Auch beim S7 sind Front und Rückseite aus Glas, getragen von einem stabilen Metallkorsett. Und die gebogenen Kanten des S7 Edge bleiben ein Hingucker. Beim Anfassen dagegen spürt man den Unterschied: Die neuen Galaxy-Modelle liegen angenehmer, weniger kantig in der Hand. Der Grund: Beide S7-Gehäuse sind hinten abgerundet. Und beim Edge-Modell ist das Frontglas jetzt nicht nur an den Kanten gebogen, sondern auch ein wenig oben und unten.

Auffällig ist das S7 Edge gewachsen: Sein Display misst 5,5 Zoll, der Vorgänger S6 Edge hatte noch ein 5,1-Zoll-Display wie das S6 und S7. Allerdings ist das S7 Edge etwas kleiner als die Maxi-Variante S6 Edge Plus mit 5,7 Zoll. Respekt gebührt Samsung für die schlanke Bauweise: Der Displayrahmen des S7 Edge ist noch schmaler geworden, das iPhone 6S Plus etwa ist trotz identischer Display-Diagonale einen halben Zentimeter breiter.


Wasserdicht auch ohne Klappe

Mit der neuen S-Klasse reagiert Samsung auf einen wichtigen Kritikpunkt vor allem von Fans des älteren Galaxy S5: Die neue S-Klasse ist endlich wieder wasserdicht. Und das ohne die sichtbaren Gehäuseklappen oder fummeligen Dichtungen, die beim Galaxy S5 so nervten. Im Test überstand das Vorab-Modell des S7 ein Tauchbad im Wasserglas.


WASSERDICHT

Galaxy S7 Wasser Test

Das Galaxy S7 ist staub- und wasserdicht nach IP68. Das bedeutet, es soll maximal 30 Minuten Untertauchen in bis zu 1,5 Meter Tiefe überstehen. Den Test im Wasserglas überstand das S7 bereits.


FLACHERE KAMERA-LINSE


Galaxy S7 flachere Kamera-Linse

Ganz verzichtet auch das Galaxy S7 nicht auf die aus dem Gehäuse ragende Kamera-Linse auf der Rückseite. Doch die Erhebung fällt beim S7 (rechts) deutlich flacher aus.


NEUE TRICKS FÜR DIE EDGE-KANTE

Mit der neuen Software erweitert Samsung den Funktionsumfang der Display-Kante des S7 Edge: So können Mini-Apps oder Info-Fenster doppelt so breit sein wie beim S6 Edge. Damit passen mehr App-Icons oder sogar ein Nachrichtenticker zum Beispiel mit Fußballergebnissen auf die Seitenkante. Auch eine Übersicht aller aktuell laufenden Apps lässt sich aufrufen.


SPEICHERKARTE UND NANO-SIM


Samsung Galaxy S7 SPEICHERKARTE UND NANO-SIM

Darüber werden sich alle Nutzer freuen, die schon beim Galaxy S6 die 200 Euro Aufpreis für die 128-Gigabyte-Variante scheuten: S7 und S7 Edge lassen sich preiswert per Speicherkarte erweitern. So kostet eine Aufrüstung um 128 GB nur noch rund 50 Euro, 200-GBKarten kosten rund doppelt so viel. Der Haken: Apps lassen sich trotz Android 6.0 nicht direkt auf der Speicherkarte installieren.

In einem Punkt aber überzeugt das S7-Design die Traditionalisten nicht: Das Gehäuse lässt sich nicht ohne Weiteres öffnen, etwa für Reparaturen, Akkuwechsel. Schade: Mit der Galaxy- S7-Design-Studie hatten wir bereits Ideen geliefert, wie so etwas mit einem intelligenten Schraubkonzept klappen könnte.


Wie viel Speicher darf’s sein?

Das Galaxy S6 gab’s in verschiedenen Varianten mit bis zu 128 Gigabyte internem Speicher. Interner Speicher sei schneller und zuverlässiger als Speicherkarten, argumentierte Samsung. Das stimmt zwar, doch viele Nutzer empfanden den Verzicht auf die günstige Erweiterungsmöglichkeit per Speicherkarte als Rückschritt. Mit dem S7 kehrt Samsung auch hier zurück zu alten Tugenden, Speicherkarten mit bis zu 200 Gigabyte passen ins S7. Clever: Die Karte kommt in denselben Schacht wie die Nano-SIM.

Einen Stimmungskiller gibt’s dennoch: Samsung hat die teure 128-GB-Variante gestrichen und verkauft selbst die 64-GB-Variante nicht in Deutschland. Kunden müssen sich mit der 32-GB-Variante begnügen. Hier waren im Vorseriengerät 24,3 GB frei für eigene Daten verfügbar. Das reicht wohl in den meisten Fällen, doch für Power-Nutzer mit vielen großen Apps kann’s knapp werden. Denn die Speicherkarten lassen sich nicht als App- Speicher nutzen – obwohl das mit Android 6.0 möglich wäre.


Kamera: Sind weniger Pixel mehr?

Überraschung: Das S7 schraubt die Auflösung der Hauptkamera von 16 auf 12 Megapixel herunter. Zudem ragt die Linse nur knapp einen halben Millimeter aus dem Gehäuse heraus – bislang waren’s 1,7 mm.

Macht das Galaxy S7 am Ende schlechtere Fotos als das S6? Dem ersten Anschein nach nicht. Offenbar kann das S7 gerade in den für Handykameras schwierigen Situationen mit wenig Licht punkten. Dafür sprechen jedenfalls die ersten Testvergleiche zwischen S6 und S7 – und das lichtstärkere Objektiv im S7 mit einer Blende von f/1,7 (Galaxy S6: f/1,9). Und die Reduzierung der Megapixel*-Zahl hat ja generell den Vorteil, dass jedes Pixel auf dem Sensor mehr Licht einfangen kann.

Eine komplette Neu-Konstruktion ist der Autofokus mit Dual-Pixel- Techik, hier kommen pro Bildpunkt zwei Fotozellen zum Einsatz. Indem sie die Signale dieser beiden Zellen vergleicht, kann die Elektronik im „Phase-Change“-Verfahren die genaue Entfernung des Fotomotivs schneller bestimmen. Mit einer ähnlichen Technik arbeiten auch schon Spiegelreflexkameras wie die Canon EOS 70D.

Im ersten Praxis-Test wirkte die Fotoqualität des S7 tatsächlich besser als beim Vorgänger. Ob die Kamera tatsächlich den Vorgänger in den Schatten stellen kann, wird aber erst der Labor-Test zeigen.


Das S7 läuft wassergekühlt

Das Galaxy S6 war schon schnell, das S7 ist schneller. Samsungs neuer Achtkern-Prozessor* Exynos 8890 sowie 4 Gigabyte* Arbeitsspeicher* bringen viel Tempo. Im ersten Praxis-Test starteten Apps* sehr flott, allerdings war auch das S6 nicht gerade langsam. Iin unserem Test übertraf das S7- Vorseriengerät das S6 in Benchmark- Programmen jedoch deutlich.

Mehr Leistung ist oft auch mit Abwärme verbunden: Je heißer der Prozessor, desto stärker drosselt er sein Tempo. Damit das nicht passiert, hat Samsung dem S7 eine Flüssigkühlung verpasst. Das gab’s bislang nur beim Lumia 950 XL.


Endlich ein starker Akku

Wer von der Akkulaufzeit des Galaxy S6 enttäuscht war, darf jetzt hoffen. Dank höherer Kapazität (S7: 3000 mAh, S7 Edge: 3600 mAh) könnte die S7-Klasse länger durchhalten. Zum Vergleich: Das S6 kam nur auf 2550 mAh. Noch aber ist unklar, wie sich der stärkere Prozessor auf die Akkulaufzeit bei intensiver Nutzung auswirkt.


Einige Innovationen fehlen

Bislang schöpfte Samsung für jedes neue Galaxy S technologisch aus dem Vollen. Doch diesmal fehlt einiges, etwa USB* Typ-C für schnelleren Datenaustausch und neues Zubehör. Auch die vom iPhone 6S bekannte 3D-Touch-Technik, die

Iris-Erkennung des Lumia 950 und ein 4K-Display hat sich Samsung verkniffen. Warum? Samsungs Argument gegen USB Typ-C: Der Anschluss sei nicht verbreitet – und die Gear-VR-Brille nutze weiterhin das alte Micro-USB. Das stimmt zwar, doch gerade Samsung hätte hier einen neuen Standard etablieren können. Und mit 4K-Display hätte VR per Brille mehr Bildschärfe bekommen. 3D Touch dagegen ist schon beim iPhone 6S verzichtbar, und per Fingerabdruck funktioniert die biometrische Erkennung auch ohne Iris-Scanner.


FAZIT

Samsungs Plan geht auf: Die neue Galaxy-S7-Klasse bringt alte Tugenden und neues Design auf überzeugende Art und Weise zusammen. Die wichtigsten Kritikpunkte am Vorgänger – schwacher Akku, keine Speicherkarten, nicht wasserdicht – hat Samsung beseitigt. Selbst das Wagnis, die Kamera- Auflösung zu reduzieren, scheint sich auszuzahlen – Samsung könnte hier Apple einholen. Damit ist das Galaxy S7 Edge klarer Kandidat für Platz 1 der Bestenliste. Schade nur, dass Samsung hier und da der Mut verlassen hat: Ein S7 Edge mit 64 GB und USB Typ-C wäre toll gewesen.



Technische Daten

Samsung Galaxy S7

Das Galaxy S7 ist technisch top, verzichtet aber aufs spektakuläre Edge-Display.


Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

Das S7 Edge ist der Star der S7-Serie: Das Display ist größer und seitlich gebogen.


By Robert Berg

Sponsored Products

Friday, May 6, 2016

How to choose a High-End printer

How to choose a High-End printer


Investing in a printer that runs out accurate test proofs ensures there are no nasty surprises when jobs come off the press. We explain how to choose a model that suits your needs

Everyone working in the creative industries – from artists and illustrators to graphic designers and photographers – has something to gain from buying a high-end printer. in theory, anyway. in practice, it comes down to whether you’re going to see a return on your investment – not just in terms of money spent, but time saved and clients satisfied. This applies to the one-person studio, the larger creative agency, and everyone in between.

Print technology, with its countless options and confusing jargon, is a taxing field to master, but it’s an important one. Having a printer that runs out accurate test proofs is by far the best way to ensure there are no nasty surprises when a job comes off the press. A good proof also helps win over those clients who struggle to visualize what the completed project will look like. Never again will you have to explain: “It’ll look much better once it’s back from the printers.”


Choosing a printer

Simple office and photo printing, proofing, and generating art prints all have different requirements. While color laser printing is a popular option for general office work, inkjet printers still dominate the graphics market, with the big three manufacturers – HP, Canon and Epson – all offering large-format models.

For inkjet printing on paper, the main choice is between dye-based and pigment-based inks. Although this has been changing over time, dye-based inks are traditionally brighter and offer a wider range of colors, while pigment-based inks are more fade-resistant. If you need to print on fabric or metal, you will also need to explore other alternatives, such as solvent-based and latex inks, although we won’t be discussing them in detail here.

Whichever technology you choose, the larger and higher-quality the printer, the better. The larger the printer, the wider the range of work you will be able to reproduce. Larger printers also give you the option to produce art prints on canvas to order, and selling these is a good way to make the printer pay for itself.

The higher the print quality, the more accurately you will be able to reproduce fine details – and, crucially, colors. Color reproduction is the single most important aspect of print management. Proofs must be as accurate as possible, and contain the widest possible range of colors. This is particularly important for projects using Pantone or similar standardized color-matching systems. It isn’t always possible to achieve perfection, as anyone who has had a run-in with a commercial print shop knows, but some of the newer Epson printers achieve 98 per cent Pantone color coverage, certified by Pantone itself.

In practice, for really accurate proofing, you will probably need a 12-ink system capable of generating at least A3 prints: ideally, A2, A1 or larger. High-end printers start around US$700 – less if you’re willing to try a second-hand or refurbished model – but models above the US$1,400 mark usually provide the best value.

While this represents a significant initial outlay, the more you use a printer, the better value it becomes. Paper and ink typically become cheaper when bought in volume, so if you use your printer heavily every day, it may be cheaper in the long run to buy a larger unit – even if you never use its maximum print size. Some printers now track the cost of each job using builtin cost-management software so you can calculate your ROI, but realistically, you won’t get a good estimate of running costs until you’ve been using the printer for a while. Ask around. If studios or designers similar to you have a printer they like, find out which model it is and how much it costs them to run.

Finally, remember to check whether you have space for the printer you’re thinking of buying: models capable of generating A2 or larger output take up a fair amount of room. Check the printer’s dimensions with all the extras fitted, including roll feeders and trays. Remember that a big printer makes a bit of racket too, and weighs around 50kg.


Choosing ink and paper

Setting up full end-to-end color profiling – matching what you see on your screen to your printer, paper and ink – means you know exactly what to expect back from the print shop. This will save you time and money – and hopefully, your sanity.

Once you have chosen a printer, the next thing to consider is the paper stock. Paper plays an even more important role than you might think in determining print quality. With the right kind of premium papers, even a basic printer can produce good results. Pair them correctly with a high-end printer and you’re flying.

Manufacturers tailor their paper stock to their printers, so using own-brand paper is a simple way to guarantee good results. However, using printer profiles allows you to achieve equally good results with paper from different manufacturers – useful for more creative projects for which you need a special stock.

This all hinges on good calibration. Once you know what you’re doing, calibrating a printer should be no more challenging than calibrating a monitor. You can profile output with a hand colorimeter, or, better still, buy a model with built-in colorimeter. As well as simplifying set-up, a printer with built-in calibration will improve color accuracy.

Where you keep your printer and your paper is also important – temperature, pressure and humidity all play a part in the quality of the end result. Paper should be kept somewhere dry, dark and cool: ideally somewhere on-site, to save you having to run out to buy more halfway through a project.

Finally, you will also need to choose inks. Here, sticking with your printer manufacturer’s own brand almost always gives the best results.


Not just practical, but fun

Once you have the equipment to generate your own large-format prints, you’ll wonder how you managed without it. Upgrading the way in which you print and proof is not only a sound financial investment but also a lot of fun. The creative industries are full of long hours spent working on things that exist only on screens and in computers. Printing and proofing rewards your hard graft with a quality product that you can hold in your hands immediately


Three printers for serious work


HP Designjet T520

Hp has always been a leader in large-format printing. the 24-inch Hp DesignJet T520 can output a1 prints at resolutions of up to 2,400 dpi using four CMYK inks. it comes with a stack of connectivity options, and its space-saving design is a big plus point for smaller studios. other models in the DesignJet range support more ink colors or larger-format output, with recommended retail prices ranging from US$1,200 to well over US$14,000.

Canon ImagePROGRAF IPF6400

Canon has a strong track record in graphics work, and puts a good chunk of its profits back into R&D. The ImagePROGRAF series boldly promises “perfect proofs”, with sizes ranging from 17 to 44 inches and street prices ranging from US$1,100 to around US$14,000. The IPF6450 sits in the middle, with a 24-inch print bed and 12-color Lucia EX pigment ink. the next model up, the IPF6450, also comes equipped with a 250Gb hard drive.

Epson stylus pro 4900

Epson’s stylus pro 4900 is a leader when it comes to colour consistency and accurate color matching, with its 11-color UltraChrome HDR inks achieving 98 per cent Pantone coverage. With its 17-inch print bed, it isn’t as large as the other printers covered here, but the SureColor product range to which it belongs includes models up to 64 inches with recommended retail prices ranging from US$1,100 to over US$26,000.


By Gary Evans

Sponsored Products

Paragon - review ( Deutsch )



Wir haben die Alpha-Version von Paragon gespielt. Ob das neue MOBA besser wird als League of Legends und Dota 2, verraten wir euch in dieser Vorschau.

Anfang Februar lud die Spieleschmiede Epic Games zum Alpha-Test von Paragon. Das ließen wir uns nicht zwei Mal sagen und düsten nach London, um dort das brandneue MOBA anzuspielen. Epic Games kennt man bisher vor allem für die Shooter-Serien Gears of War und Unreal. Hier sind also Profis am Werk und machen ihr erstes MOBA, das im Sommer 2016 in die Betaphase auf PC und Playstation 4 gehen soll. Wir: „Moment mal, ist das nicht so etwas wie League of Legends, Dota und Smite? Da braucht es doch nicht wirklich noch eines von.“ Doch, braucht es!


Altbekanntes und vertrautes Spielprinzip
Paragon - Screenshot

Paragon spielt zwar in der Third-Person-Perspektive, bleibt aber zunächst den MOBA-Wurzeln treu: Ihr spielt mit vier anderen Mitspielern gegen ein feindliches Fünfer-Team. Vor der Partie wählt ihr euren Helden aus. Dieser hat eine passive, drei normale und eine besonders starke ultimative Fähigkeit. Nun kommt jedoch die für ein MOBA ungewohnte Perspektive ins Spiel: Euren Helden steuert ihr auf dem PC per WASD-Tasten. Per SPACETaste kann er sogar springen, was zwar Laune macht, aber noch nicht wirklich viel bringt. Kommt es zum Kampf, greift euer Held Feinde nicht automatisch an. Jede Attacke muss gezielt per Fadenkreuz gelandet werden. Eine fünfte Fähigkeit ist bei jedem Helden deshalb der Standardangriff auf der linken Maustaste. Ob der als Schuss oder Nahkampfschwung ausgeführt wird, unterscheidet sich von Held zu Held. „Das klingt irgendwie nach Smite!“ Richtig, Paragon spielt sich recht ähnlich wie der beliebte Götterprügler von den Hi-Rez-Studios. Um zu gewinnen, muss euer Team auch hier Minions auf drei Bahnen erledigen und erst Türme, dann Inhibitoren (stärkere Türme) und zuletzt einen Core in der Mitte der feindlichen Basis zerstören. Habt ihr einen Inhibitor bezwungen, entstehen mächtige Superminions auf der Bahn und helfen euch beim Kampf. Ein zerstörter Inhibitor kehrt jedoch nach einer Weile zurück und erlaubt solch unglaublich spektakuläre Comebacks im Spiel.


Sammelkarten statt Ausrüstung

Bisher könnte man meinen, Epic Games würden für Paragon nur auf vertraute Features setzen. Doch gerade das Ausrüstungssystem bringt neue Ideen: Teleportiert ihr euch während einer Partie in die eigene Basis zurück, könnt ihr für erhaltene Aufwertpunkte Ausrüstung kaufen, die euren Helden stärker macht. Die Auswahl ist jedoch nicht für alle Spieler gleich: Ihr könnt in der Par tie nur ausrüsten, was ihr vor der Partie in einem 40-Karten-Deck zusammengestellt habt.

Paragon - Screenshot

Diese Karten kommen in unterschiedlichen Seltenheitsstufen, was an Sammelkartenspiele erinnert. „Moment mal, das klingt nach Pay-to- Win!“ Nein, denn die Kartenpacks mit zufälligem Inhalt erspielt ihr nur in Paragon selbst. Eine Kaufoption für Echtgeld wird es laut den Entwicklern nicht geben. Die Karten haben noch eine zusätzliche Funktion: Statt fertiger Ausrüstung kauft ihr Gegenstände mit Aufwert-Slots, in die ihr dann während des Spiels Aufwertkarten einsetzt, etwa mit Boni auf Zauberschaden, Angriff, Lebenspunkte oder Mana. So bastelt ihr genau den Gegenstand, den ihr gerade für eure Spielsituation braucht. Vorausgesetzt, ihr habt die richtigen Karten eingepackt. Sind alle drei Aufwert-Slots besetzt, schalten viele Gegenstände zusätzlich besondere Effekte frei. Die Idee dahinter: Anfänger werden durch die eingeschränkte Kartenwahl nicht überfordert, Profis haben eine riesige Auswahl zum Basteln des perfekten Decks.


Megasound und Edelgrafik

Aktuell ist in Paragon nur eine Karte mit 12 Helden bespielbar. Im Vergleich mit anderen MOBAS ist das recht wenig. Doch in Bewegung macht das Spiel trotzdem richtig Laune: Der eigentliche Pluspunkt von Paragon ist nämlich die Präsentation. Da rumst und blitzt es wie im Kino, wenn Helden ihre Fähigkeiten abfeuern: Der Held Gideon etwa beschwört ein Portal über seinen Feinden, aus dem ein riesiger Meteor fällt und am Boden zerbricht. Der Artilleriehase Howizer springt selbst in die Luft und bombardiert mehrere Sekunden lang Feinde unter sich mit Explosionen, nur um mit einem Krachen wieder aufzukommen. Ein solches Zusammenspiel von starkem Sound und neuester Unreal-Grafik gibt es im MOBA-Bereich bisher so noch nicht. Dazu sind alle Charaktermodelle sehr detailliert und gut animiert. Um bei Paragon auf eure Kosten zu kommen, müsst ihr natürlich auch einen leistungsfähigen Rechner daheim haben. Eine Minimalkonfiguration wollten uns die Entwickler aber noch nicht verraten. Die Unreal-Grafik läuft zwar auch auf schwächeren PCs, dann aber mit starken Grafikeinbußen. Bereits die Playstation 4-Version sah optisch schwächer aus als Paragon auf den Test-Rechnern.

Paragon - Announce Trailer | PS4


Das macht Paragon anders

Das Spiel unterscheidet sich in einigen Details von der MOBA-Konkurrenz. Vor allem die Karte unterscheidet sich deutlich. So warten im Dschungel zwischen den Bahnen gleich vier mächtige Monster mit Stärkungseffekten. Das sorgt in der Praxis für mehr Anspruch beim Teamspiel und bei der Überwachung mit Wächteraugen. Dafür gibt es keine Verstecke am Rand einer Bahn, wie man sie etwa aus League of Legends kennt. Ihr könnt eure Feinde also jederzeit sehen.

Paragon - Screenshot

Euer Fadenkreuz verändert sich sogar, wenn ihr sie treffen könntet. Das Gelände um die Bahnen existiert dabei auf mehreren Höhenebenen. So können Fernkämpfer etwa Nahkämpfer von oben beharken. Diese müssen dann einen Umweg machen, um zu euch zu gelangen. Das sorgt für neue taktische Möglichkeiten bei Hinterhalten und Überfällen. Im Dschungel finden sich dazu größere Unsichtbarkeitszonen, in denen sich Helden verstecken oder Verfolger abschütteln können. Optisch schön: Da die eigene Basis deutlich höher als die Mitte der Karte liegt, könnt ihr bereits vom Startpunkt aus viele Gefechte in der Ferne erkennen. Um schneller zurück ins Spiel zu gelangen, haben die Helden übrigens einen speziellen Rennen-Modus, solange sie keinen Schaden erleiden. Ob diese Details bei den Spielern ankommen und wie sie Paragon prägen, muss aber erst die Beta zeigen. Dabei kommunizieren die Entwickler sehr offen und hören genau auf Feedback: Was neu programmiert wird, erhalten die Testspieler bereits wenige Tage später als neues Build.


Fazit

Aktuell ist Paragon sehr gut spielbar und machte uns beim Anspielen mächtig Spaß. Das liegt vor allem an der edlen Grafik und bombastischen Soundkulisse. So etwas haben wir in diesem Genre noch nicht erlebt. Dabei spielt sich Paragon zwar vertraut wie ein klassisches MOBA, samt Last Hitting und Turmverteidigung, wirkt aber wie ein Shooter mit Bombast-Grafik. Wenig Infos gab es leider über die Spielwelt „Agora“ und warum hier Magie auf Science-Fiction trifft – aber das warum ist den meisten MOBA-Fans eh egal. Epic Games erfindet mit Paragon das Genre nicht neu, doch wir trauen den Entwicklern zu, mit 20 Jahren Erfahrung und einer der besten Grafikengines auf dem Markt Paragon zum Erfolg zu führen und einige Spieler von League of Legends oder Dota 2 zu gewinnen. Bereits jetzt gibt es eine fleißige Fanbasis mit Wikis. So muss das!



By Dirk Walbrühl

Sponsored Products Related To This Article


Friday, March 25, 2016

Inside the Samsung Galaxy S7

Samsung Galaxy S7


Samsung’s new fl agships debuted at MWC 2016. We take a look at what’s under the hood

After weeks of leaks, teasers and speculation, Samsung finally revealed the hotly anticipated Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The two new flagships add some new features and, intriguingly, bring back some that were missing from the S6, notably microSD expansion. While the announcement of the S7 and S7 Edge may have been slightly overshadowed by the surprise presence of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg at Samsung’s Gear VR presentation, there’s still plenty to get excited about with Samsung’s new phones.

Design-wise they’ve taken a slight departure from the standard Samsung model. There’s no white colorway this time round; instead there’s a choice of black, silver or gold (a color that really seems to be having a moment in mobile design), although overall there’s a strong resemblance to the S6. The streamlined, curvy design is an interesting nod towards the look and feel of Sony’s Xperia Z line, and this is borne out by the advanced water resistance that Samsung has introduced in this iteration. The company was initially quick to deny that this would be a feature when a press shot of the S7 being used during a rainstorm leaked onto the web, but sure enough it’s been included. The S7 and S7 Edge are water-resistant to a depth of 1.5 meters for up to half an hour. You won’t be taking them for a swim any time soon, but equally an accidental dunk in the pool or being caught out in a downpour won’t do them any harm either. Happily there’s no need to cover up jacks and ports either, suggesting that their IP68 rating has accidents more in mind than deliberate or lengthy immersion.

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The cameras have been given a once-over as well. Samsung has always produced excellent smartphone cameras and these latest are no exception. The 12-megapixel main camera has a professional-grade Dual Pixel Sensor, which basically means that it can pick up more light than ever before, allowing you to capture fast-moving action and shoot in the dark. Samsung has also introduced motion panoramas and motion photos to add more interest to your snaps, as well as the new Spotlight feature in Beauty Mode, which is designed to play up your best features in selfies. Results here are hit-and-miss though, with vaguely fish-eyed shots that seem to magically contour your face Kardashian-style. You have been warned.

Mobile gamers are in for a treat though, as the S7 and S7 Edge are the first smartphones to support Vulkan API. This is designed to allow games to get more from the phone’s graphics processor while reducing the load on the CPU itself, which should translate to better graphics, better performance and less overheating. In fact, the phones have a tiny tube of water called a thermal spreader built in to help with cooling. Performance-wise, the CPU is 30% faster than that in the S6, while the GPU cranks it up to a whopping 64% faster than its predecessor. Meanwhile, a new Game Launcher keeps games organised and accessible, while built-in game recording will make life easier for Twitch streamers.

The Always On Display offers the opportunity to view the time and incoming notifications without waking the phone or leaving the lockscreen, which is handy for those who’ve chosen the S7 over the S7 Edge. With the optional LED View Cover, LED lights animate to show these right through the phone case, which is a nice touch, and the phone is clever enough to realise when it’s face down or shut away in a bag, so that it doesn’t activate this unnecessarily and waste power. Backing all this up is a significantly improved battery – 3000mAh for the S7, 3600mAh for the S7 Edge, which Samsung claims will charge in 90 and 100 minutes respectively – plus the capability for wireless charging. There are also optional extras including a battery pack and a ‘backpack’, which functions like a camera grip to enhance the phone’s battery life, though it does significantly increase the unit’s width and weight. There’s even a BlackBerry-esque snap-on keyboard cover, which adds a diminutive QWERTY keyboard onto the bottom of the phone. The modular approach is interesting, but doesn’t go nearly as far as the LG G5 and its ‘Friends’, which Samsung’s smartphone rival announced at the same event, although Samsung is certainly aiming to play in the same ballpark, as the S7’s pre-order program offered consumers the opportunity to get a free Gear VR with purchase.

Despite its outward similarity to its predecessor, the S7 and S7 Edge do offer some noticeable improvements, especially now that Samsung has included microSD memory expansion once more. Is this enough for one of 2016’s most hotly anticipated flagships? We’ll be doing a full hands-on review later to find out [PCmatter].


By Android Mag

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Steam Link - Review

Steam Link


Linking your PC to the outside world

Measuring slightly larger than a pack of cards, the Steam Link is one of the most anticipated PC gaming gadgets of 2016. Promising to unshackle your gaming PC from the study or gaming den, this tiny box of streaming wizardry allows you to utilise your rig anywhere in the house. Some games simply demand to be played in the living room on your 60-inch LCD with surround sound – be it the new Tomb Raider, GTAV or even a spot of Rocket League. And when it works well, the Steam Link is the ideal way to bring those kinds of experiences to your living room. Unfortunately, it’s still very much a work-in-progress, with varying performance that doesn’t seem to be at all predictable.

Valve hasn’t publically announced what hardware powers the Link, but we did find a post from one of the developers stating that it uses a, “…smartphone-like ARMv7 processor with dedicated h.264 video decoding circuitry, running a custom Linux kernel and a Valve-developed software stack”. Three USB 2.0 ports allow the user to plug in a range of USB devices including mice, keyboards and control pads, while Bluetooth 4.0 supports wireless controllers and some headsets. We had no issues detecting and using both Xbox and Steam controllers, while our wireless Logitech mouse and keyboard also worked without a hitch. A single 100Mbps Ethernet port supplements the interior 802.11ac 2x2 (MIMO) Wi-Fi support; we would have liked to see Gigabit Ethernet, but Valve claims 100Mbps is more than enough to handle 1080p game streaming at 60fps. A single HDMI output handles both video and audio, and Valve is nice enough to also include a HDMI 2.0 cable in the box.

Setting up the Link couldn’t be simpler. Plug it into your TV, navigate the super-quick wizard to patch it into your network, and within a minute or so it will automatically download the latest firmware. Provided your gaming PC is on the same network, you’ll then need to log into Steam on your gaming machine. The Link then detects your PC on the network, and spits out a PIN code that has to be entered on the host PC to allow access.

Steam Link Setup

Steam Link Setup

STEP 1: Make sure your home PC is turned on and you're logged into Steam.
STEP 2: Connect your Steam Link to your TV and to your home network
STEP 3: Connect a controller to your steam Link and follow on-screen instructions to stream your games to your TV!

Provided your host copy of Steam is running in Big-Screen Mode, navigating and starting games from your Steam Library is a breeze. So far, so very good, but the actual game play experience varies greatly depending on the game being played. We had two gaming rigs set up on our network; the first is an i5 6600K overclocked to 4.5GHz with twin GTX 980 Ti GPUs, while the second is an i7-2700K at default speed with a GeForce GTX 970. Both gaming PCs were connected via Ethernet to the brilliant ASRock G10 802.11ac ac2600 4x4 MUMIMO router, and the Link was initially connected to the 5GHz band. Running a Wi-Fi speed test via Smartphone in the same location as the Link showed we were getting 80/30Mbps speeds, which should be more than enough to handle 1080p at 60fps.

While the image quality on our Panasonic 60” Plasma was excellent, with a crisp and clear picture that looked almost as good as the source PC, we had major issues maintaining 60fps. Some titles like Homeworld Deserts of Kharak ran flawlessly, while others such as Rainbow 6 Siege struggled to maintain 45fps on the Link. Yet Siege ran faultlessly at 60fps on the host PC. When using Steam’s In-Home Streaming to stream Siege from one PC to the other, it maintained 60fps on the client machine without any issues, pointing to the Link as the, well, weakest link.

To remove the factor of wireless networking, we then ran the same tests but with the Link now patched into the network via Ethernet cable. This didn’t appear to make any difference to performance; it was only after we changed the image quality setting from ‘beautiful’ to ‘fast’ that we saw a slight framerate increase, but at the cost of vastly reduced image quality. Streaming from the slower PC saw the framerate decrease even more. One tangible benefit was visible when using Ethernet though; input latency seemed to decrease from barely noticeable to non-existent.

A range of other network settings can be tinkered with on both the Link and the host to improve the image quality, including total bandwidth used, enabling network prioritisation and whether or not the host machine uses NVIDIA, AMD or Intel hardware video encoding, but we couldn’t perceive any noticeable difference regardless of setting. Further testing revealed that performance between different games was all over the place, yet not in the ways that we expected. Some games that didn’t require much horsepower ran poorly, while more demanding games ran much better. It was only when we dropped the outputted resolution to 720p that we were able to hit 60fps regularly, which looked rather soft on our large 1080p plasma.

We’re not sure whether it’s the relatively cheap hardware within the Link, or the fact that the software is still so new, but our experience with the Link shows that it’s not as capable as a decently specced NUC or laptop when it comes to In-Home Steam streaming. If you’re happy to play at 30fps at 1080p or 60fps at 720p, then the Link is an extremely affordable and convenient way to bring your games to the living room. Unfortunately, the promise of 1080p 60fps gaming hasn’t been realized yet, but given Valve’s brilliant support of the Link so far, we’re hoping that dream becomes a reality by the time it officially launches in Australia in the next couple of months.


Verdict

Provided Valve figures out the 1080p/60fps issue soon, the Link will become a must-have item for PC gamers.

ͦ ͦͦ ͦͦ ͦ Very convenient
ͦͦ ͦͦ ͦͦ ͦ Fantastic value
ͦ ͦͦ ͦͦ ͦͦ Tiny silent
ͦ ͦͦ ͦͦ ͦͦ 1080 60fps isn't reliable
ͦͦ ͦͦ ͦͦ ͦ Requires decent host PC specs
overall score

80   %


Specifications

Product Dimensions: 3.9 x 2.8 x 0.5 inches ; 1.9 pounds

By Bennet Ring

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Steam Controller Review

Steam Controller


A combination of touch and gyro-controls that delivers an accuracy and speed that rivals, if not beats, the humble mouse

The Steam Controller was meant to be the holy grail of control pads. Promising to deliver the accuracy of a mouse and keyboard combination from the comfort of your couch, without requiring an unwieldy lap-board, it first landed in the hands of overseas reviewers in November of last year. Within just a day or two of getting thumbs on with its revolutionary design, most reviewers were quick to cut it down to size, claiming that it was ergonomically unsound, and that the special track pads were no match for the standard twin-stick design found on today’s controllers.

Three months later and I’ve just finished spending a week with the Steam Controller. And I freaking love it. There are two reasons why I’m not joining the chorus of disappointed reviewers. For starters, I spent some quality time with it before passing judgement. Secondly, and this is a biggie, I’ve had the benefit of being able to utilize three months’ worth of community-created configs to see what this thing could really do. Those initial reviewers were stuck with building their own, or sticking with the basic templates that Valve created. It turns out that Valve missed one of the best configs around - a combination of touch and gyro-controls that delivers an accuracy and speed that rivals, if not beats, the humble mouse.

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My first day with the Controller was an interesting one, as my small hands came to grips with its larger size. It’s both thicker and taller than a normal control pad, as it has to accommodate the two huge circular touch pads. As a result, the usual X, Y, A and B buttons seem much further away, and I really had to stretch my thumb out to hit them all. The standard analogue stick on the left is much easier to reach though, and when both thumbs are on the touch pads it fits snugly in the palm of both hands.

On the rear/top are the usual left and right triggers and bumpers that can be activated by your trigger fingers, but there are another two large switches that can be squeezed by your remaining fingers. These are part of the cover over the battery area, which unclips to reveal space for twin AA batteries, off which two Duracel are included. Considering the size of the unit, it’s remarkably light, and once I got used to the button position, very comfortable.

Each touchpad is a haptic device, which means they vibrate when you touch them, provided you’ve enabled this feature. It’s supposed to only rumble in the spot that you touch, but I couldn’t tell if it was that accurate – I definitely felt the slightest of rumbling when I touched each pad, but it didn’t seem to be localised under my thumb.

Heading into the configuration screen, which seems to only be available when running Steam in Big Picture mode, reveals a cornucopia of different options. The settings for the triggers and buttons are pretty standard, but those twin track pads can be run in myriad different ways. From the main drop down list, it’s possible to set either up as a D-pad, button pad, mouse, mouse joystick, joystick move, joystick camera, scroll wheel, touch menu or mouse region. Whew. Each of these operates very differently, and comes with another seven or eight options, such as acceleration, trackball mode, trackball friction, friction vertical scale and several other mysteriously named options.

Steam Controller Desktop Configuration

Figuring out exactly what each of these modes, and their accompanying options means will take weeks, if not months. But I didn’t bother tweaking any of them, as the community had already done the hard work for me. One of the best features of the Controller is its ability to have a different profile for each game, and how easy they are to discover. Every time I started a game via Steam, I was prompted to select a specific Controller profile for that game. The game developers can supply and suggest a mode they’ve created, or you can use one of the generic templates that Valve has created. However, it’s the community supplied profiles that really untap the potential of the controller. Most games have up to a dozen community supplied profiles, and the software displays them in order of popularity. Obviously I generally went with the most popular profile for each, and was blown away at the ingenuity of these profiles.

On the first day of use I ignored the community profiles, sticking with developer or Valve created profiles, and struggled to tame the camera in anything first-person. It was fine for third-person games, but that right touchpad didn’t have the speed to handle first-person well. And then I discovered the Gyro-Aim configuration created by the community, which seems so simple that I’m amazed it’s not one of the default options. Basically, the left trigger puts you into zoom or Aim-Down-Sight mode. Whilst holding it in, the controller’s internal gyroscope means you can make quick aiming movements by twisting your wrists, moving the controller from side to side. Once you’re in the general region of your target, you can then use the right control pad to fine tune the aim to pull off headshots.

This was a revelation for me, albeit not an instant one. After a few days of using this mode, I was approaching the accuracy and speed that normally requires a mouse. Put simply, it wiped the floor with a traditional analogue joy stick, and sold me on the Controller. I also experimented with using the right pad as a mouse, and found selecting units in the new Homeworld to be as natural as using a mouse – the challenge was remembering which buttons were bound to game shortcuts.

So then, the Steam Controller has me hooked. I’m convinced that this has the potential to become the standard controller design of the future… provided gamers spend the week or two necessary to learn such a radically different method of control. I’m also amazed that Valve can deliver such a beautifully built piece of hardware packed full of innovation for just US$50. It won’t replace my mouse and keyboard when I’m gaming at my desk, but when it comes to couch-based controlling, the Steam Controller will make you a force to be reckoned with.


Verdict

The community has saved the day with a raft of brilliant profiles that prove what the Steam Controller can do.

overall score

90   %


Specifications

Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 6.3 x 2.7 inches ; 1.2 pounds
Platform : Windows, Linux, Mac, SteamOS
It does come with a wireless dongle/adapter to connect it wirelessly to a PC/Mac?

By Bennett Ring

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Saturday, March 19, 2016

Dell UP3216Q Monitor - Review

Dell UP3216Q Monitor


There is no question that ultra-high definition (UHD) monitors represent the future of display technology, but as is the case with the content they are designed to show, the monitors themselves are not that plentiful in the market. If the recently concluded CES is any indication, then we will soon be flooded with a plethora of UHD monitors including some built with OLED.

Until the newer versions arrive later this year, discerning users can choose between a few UHD LCD monitors already available such as the Dell UP3216Q.


HIGH ON ALL COUNTS

The Dell UP3216Q is a 32-inch monitor with a maximum resolution of 3840 by 2160. Compared to the regular full HD monitors that are available aplenty, this monitor’s price is also on the other end of the scale. This is definitely a monitor aimed at elite end of the professional market.


GREAT DESIGN


Dell UP3216Q great design

As with other Dell monitors and even a few from other manufacturers, the Dell UP3216Q has a black with brushed aluminum design. The black bezels and surfaces have a nice matte finish. The panel itself has a non-reflective, anti-glare coating. This is far more appealing in a workplace environment than highly reflective glossy screens.

There are also six touch-sensitive buttons including the power switch positioned along the lower right side of the monitor. The monitor stand has a brushed aluminum finish which is all the rage these days. Although larger and thicker, it reminds one of the Asus Zen AIO PC stand. The stand also has a mounting arm for holding the large and heavy panel.

The UP3216Q can be tilted quite a bit horizontally and vertically to achieve the best viewing position. But keep in mind that the panel cannot be rotated 90 degrees or even close to it for a portrait feel. Hardly surprising considering the size of the panel itself. The Dell UP3216Q monitor can also be wall mounted. Considering its sheer size, it will make an excellent replacement for a 4K TV, albeit an expensive one.


PORTS GALORE


Dell UP3216Q ports

The UP3216Q is equipped with two DisplayPorts, an HDMI port and five USB 3 ports. All the ports are tucked away at the back of the cabinet and not that easily accessible. It would have been better if at least the USB ports were split along the twin sides of the monitor. The included 6-in-1 card reader is also a welcome addition.

The UP3216Q can be customised using the on-screen-display menu system. There are no depressible buttons, only touch-sensitive buttons on the bezel itself. There are seven preset modes available - Standard, Multimedia, Movie, Game, Paper, Color Temperature and Color Space.

We suspect most regular owners will not bother mucking around with the preset color settings and will stick with the default Standard settings. In our tests using 4K videos and PC games like Need For Speed, we could not see a dramatic difference between the seven presets, particularly the first five.


COLORFUL OPTIONS

The last two presets are obviously aimed at the professional designer. This category of buyers require precise control over color grades and color temperature.

The color Space selections include Adobe RGB, sRGB and two calibrated modes. The Adobe RGB color space is an RGB color space developed by Adobe Systems in 1998. It was designed to encompass most of the colors achievable on CMYK color printers, but using RGB primary colors on a device such as this monitor.

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sRGB is a standard RGB color space created cooperatively by HP and Microsoft in 1996 for use on monitors, printers and the internet. sRGB used a gamma curve typical of CRTs in the 1990’s. This specification allowed sRGB to be directly displayed on typical CRT monitors and helped its acceptance worldwide.

There has always been dispute in the industry over which color specification offers the greatest range. Overall, these days, most professional artists prefer to stick with sRGB as it is now an accepted global standard.

But fans of Adobe RGB need not be disappointed. Adobe RGB has a reputation for requiring expert software to setup and that is exactly what this monitor provides. This Dell monitor comes with its own calibration software. This allows you to tweak the color settings to your heart’s content.

The UP3216Q has brightness, contrast settings and there are PC, Mac gamma settings as well. The DisplayPort 1.2 setting allows the monitor to display the image at 60Hz although it is set at 30Hz by default. But you will need to pair it with a suitable graphics card that can output 4K images at 60Hz.

Many PCs with integrated graphics and low-end GPUs do not ship with a DisplayPort at all. However, this should not be a problem for the buyers of this monitor as they would likely be graphics professionals with workstation-class graphics cards such as Nvidia Quadro and AMD Fire Pro.


EXCELLENT IMAGE QUALITY


Dell UP3216Q excellent image quality

The UP3214Q's image quality is excellent – exactly the key feature demanded by the design professionals that it is aimed at. 4K photos and videos look stunning on this monitor with excellent levels of contrast between the light and dark areas. If you are seeking a monitor which can display dozens of shades of a particular color with clear separation between them, then you do not have to look beyond this Dell monitor.

The eight millisecond response time of the UP3214Q is not the fastest around from a gamer’s perspective. But the picture quality is beyond compare. This is particularly evident while playing a horror game like SOMA which has a lot of areas of grey and absolute darkness. This monitor can immerse you in such games like no other.

There is no question that the Dell UP3214Q monitor is one of the best that money can buy.


Verdict

A very good monitor suitable for the professional market.

overall score

87   %


Specifications

MAXIMUM RESOLUTION: 3840x2160
RESPONSE TIME: 8 milliseconds
CONTRAST RATIO: 1000:1
I/O: 4 USB 3.0 ports, 1 HDMI 1.4
DISPLAYPORT: 1

By PCmatter

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Yoga Tab 3 Pro - Review

Yoga Tab 3 Pro


Nice Projector

With the tablet market having reached the point of saturation, it seems like there is less and less difference between the products in the market. Each tablet seems to look the same, with the main difference being the material the device is made out of. Lenovo, never one to sit on their laurels, has decided that to stand out, you can’t just have a beautiful screen, a slim design or the best chassis, you also need it to be a projector for those nights binge-watching Netflix in bed.


PREMIUM FEEL

Picking up the device, the Yoga Tab 3 Pro is definitely one of the more premium products on the market. The tablet uses copious amounts of metal and aluminum all around the chassis, with a soft leather panel on its back which is both comfortable to hold and really nice to the touch. As if that wasn’t enough, Lenovo went ahead and made it P21 certified – this means it is splash proof and can survive accidental spills.

While there are many other premium tablets on the market, where the Yoga Tab 3 Pro truly differentiates itself is the cylinder on its left. Housing the power button and the rear camera, the cylinder has a pop-out kickstand which allows the tablet to stand and also reveals the hidden microSD card panel.

The kickstand itself is really sturdy, and allows quite a degree of flexibility when positioning the tablet, not unlike Microsoft’s Surface line up. So what’s so game changing about the cylinder? I mentioned that it’s the tablet’s differentiator, but it isn’t the kickstand I’m talking about – it’s the built-in projector.


PORTABLE CINEMA

Yes, there’s an actual projector built right into the cylinder of the tablet, and the short of it is that it’s pretty dope. Activated by pressing the dedicated projector button on its side, the 480p pico projector can project up to 70-inches at 50 lumens. Once the projector is set up, the software will automatically adjust the picture’s keystone and sharpness. A good many hours were spent watching Netflix in the comfort of my bed and I was really impressed with the quality of the video. Battery life is also pretty impressive with the projector on. Having streamed Netflix for almost 3 hours straight, the tablet only lost 40% of its charge, which means it’ll still last the rest of the day without being plugged in.

Of course, being a pico projector, it doesn’t come anywhere close to the quality of a full-size projector. It isn’t particularly bright, the colors don’t pop and its relatively low resolution means images aren’t the sharpest. Basically, if you want a truly cinematic experience, there are many projectors out there that are far more qualified to do the job. The kicker is that most of them don’t come attached to a fully-functional tablet. The ability to carry a small tablet to a friend’s house and project a 70-inch image onto a wall offers a truly unique experience to be shared.


JBL STEREO

Having included four front-facing speakers, the Yoga Tab 3 Pro delivers one of the best audio experiences on any tablet in the market today. The treble was sharp and the mids were full of life. Even the bass sounded pretty chunky. Putting the tablet next to its competitors such as the iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Yoga Tab 3 Pro simply blew its rivals out of the water.

The included Dolby audio app allows further customization of the soundscape for the musically inclined, though I personally felt that the sound was already excellent out of the box. Having that many speakers also means that the volume can get pretty loud; this proved excellent when watching movies in the hall with some boisterous folk in tow.


BRILLIANT SCREEN

While praises have been sung about its pico projector, what about when the tablet isn’t used as a movie projector, but as a… tablet? Thankfully, Lenovo has packed what is possibly one of the best displays on the market. The superb 2560 x 1600 QHD resolution means that texts and images were extremely sharp and colors were threatening to pop out of the screen. Brightness levels were excellent, allowing good legibility even in direct sunlight despite its reflective nature. If there is something to be said about the display, it’s more oversaturated than balanced, leading to colors that pop rather than those that are accurate.

Lenovo has also done something pretty nifty with its display as its AnyPen feature allows any conductible material to interact with the screen like a stylus. This means that you can still use something like a pencil rubber to navigate the device even when your fingers are covered with cookie crumbs.


MIDDLING PERFORMANCE

Unfortunately, while the visual experience impressed, general performance around the OS left much to be desired. Despite packing one of Intel’s latest chipsets, navigating around was a laggy affair. There were stutters throughout the OS, whether I was just scrolling through the app drawer, entering into the settings menu and just opening apps. Opening the multitasking view also displayed dropped frames.

Once the app is in view however, general performance was decent, with minimal dropped frames even with the latest games. While the high resolution display might be to blame, I suspect it’s mostly on the software optimisation side; Lenovo has a lot of work to do to improve the overall experience of the tablet. At best, it’s an annoyance and at worst it can get pretty frustrating as it lags even for minimally taxing tasks.


ENTERTAINMENT TABLET

The Yoga Tab 3 Pro is without a doubt one of the premier entertainment-focused tablets in the market today. Its built-in pico projector is a killer feature, and it backs it up with excellent audio and superb battery life. Even with the projector off, the vibrant and beautiful display will ensure that any form of media consumption is done with a smile on your face.

What might wipe that smile off though is the constant lag experience when navigating around the device. While it’s not exactly deal-breaking, it’s jarring seeing the OS lag when everything else around it feels so good. Still, regardless of its software niggles, the tablet is likely to satisfy almost any movie junkie out there.


Verdict

A nice Android tablet with a built-in projector.

overall score
85   %


Specifications

SIZE: 247 x 4.68 x 179 mm, 664g
DISPLAY: 2600 x 1440 IPS
OS: Android 5.1
PROCESSOR: Intel Atom x5-Z8500
RAM: 2 GB
STORAGE: 32GB
MICRO-SD: Up to 128GB
CAMERA: rear-facing 13MP, front-facing 5MP
PROJECTOR: Casts up to 70-inch image
AUDIO: 4 Front-facing JBL Speakers with Dolby Atmos
BATTERY: 10200mAh, up to 18 hours usage
CONNECTIYITY: GPS, Voice call, 4G LTE, Bluetooth 4.0
INTERFACE: microUSB slot, 3.5mm analog jack, Micro SIM card slot

By PCmatter

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Xbox One the perfect partner for your Windows PC

Xbox One


Even if you don't play games Xbox One is the perfect partner for your Windows PC

When Microsoft announced that its venerable Media Center application wasn’t going to make the cut in Windows 10, many PC & Tech Authority readers doubtless let out a mournful sigh. The era of the front-room entertainment PC seemed to be over.

But Microsoft had its eye on the bigger picture. The Xbox One might be regarded merely as a games console, but its all-round entertainment capabilities make it a better fit for the front room than the full-fat Windows PC ever was. The $399 block of glossy black plastic is growing into a DVR, a media centre, a web browser, and a host for the same Windows Store apps you might run on PCs and tablets – and, of course, remains a fine games console. In fact, with Windows 10’s ability to stream games from the Xbox to the screen of a laptop or tablet, it arguably circumvents the need to run games on your PC at all.

In short, the Xbox One is fast becoming a must-have companion device for the PC. Far from displacing the original vision of the Windows Media Center, it builds on it – just not in the shape of a conventional PC. In this feature, we’ll explain the new features of Microsoft’s console that make it the ideal partner to your desktop PC, and explore what it all means for the PC itself.


Abetter Media Centre

Microsoft’s Media Center application was a curious anomaly. Adored by its users, and critically well received, it never managed to grow beyond cult status – even when noughties PC makers created some delectable little media PCs to pop under the television. That said, we can point to many possible reasons for Media Center’s failure to go mainstream, most notably the advent of heavily subsidised set-top boxes from the likes of Sky and Virgin Media.

So it wasn’t a huge shock when Microsoft began to phase out Media Center in Windows 8, making it a paid-for extra rather than an integral part of the operating system, as it had been in Windows 7. When the final list of features for Windows 10 was announced in January, few were surprised that Media Centre had been quietly phased out. Some pundits have even suggested that the entire concept has had its day: “Media Center’s biggest value was the combination of the channel guide, DVR functionality, and the user interface,” said Wes Miller, an analyst for Directions on Microsoft. “Today the content is coming in from everywhere, and there’s an app on everything to play it. The death of Media Center, in many ways, was because of the sun setting on the television as the family’s entertainment hub.”

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Yet Microsoft hasn’t given up on its media centre ambitions – it’s simply refocused them from the Windows PC to the Xbox One. The console will accept an HDMI input from a set-top box, and can support a USB TV tuner – so whether you prefer satellite, cable or Freeview, it will integrate cleanly with your set-top boxes, allowing you to watch shows from within the Xbox One’s TV app. You can also connect an IR transmitter to allow the Xbox One to control your set-top box; if you have a Kinect sensor, you can change television channels either using voice commands (although this is patchy, to say the least) or the Xbox controller. The Xbox even has its own electronic programme guide (EPG), allowing you to scan the schedules from the console.

Meanwhile, the Xbox SmartGlass app allows you to view the EPG on the screen of a Windows tablet, and use the device as a glorified remote control. You can even stream the TV signal itself from the Xbox to the SmartGlass app, effectively turning your tablet into a portable television.

Perhaps the best reason to connect your TV to your console is the option to snap the television picture to the side of the screen whilst you’re using an Xbox app or game. This lets you keep an eye on the football, while enjoying your own game of FIFA, with the option to easily flick into full-screen if you can see a goal coming.

The one thing that’s missing is DVR capabilities: despite the Xbox One’s hundreds of gigabytes of available storage, there’s no way to record television shows on your console. That’s set to change with a major update rolling out which officially upgrades the Xbox One to Windows 10. As well as an updated app framework (see below), this will bring a new DVR feature that turns the Xbox into a true successor to Media Center, with features that Sky+ and TiVo set-top boxes can’t match. As well as scheduling recordings from the Xbox EPG when you’re sat in front of the television, you’ll be able to set recordings remotely using the Xbox SmartGlass app on your smartphone. You’ll also be able to stream recorded shows from the Xbox to your mobile or Windows 10 devices. You can even download the recorded shows to a tablet or laptop, so you can watch on a plane or on the train to work.

However, there are a couple of catches. First, you’ll need to plug in an external hard disk: even though the latest-generation Xbox One hardware comes with a terabyte hard disk, you’re not allowed to store recordings on the internal drive, ostensibly to avoid interfering with the games stored on it. Second, while you can happily record Freeview shows, the DVR facility won’t work with satellite or cable set-top box feeds. Nevertheless, the Xbox One could well tempt viewers to make it their primary recorder.


WINDOWS 10, APPS AND CORTANA


Xbox One Centre

The Xbox One has long had its own library of native apps, as did the Xbox 360 before it. Predictably, most of them focus on video and entertainment. At the time of writing, the 100-strong library of downloads includes Netflix, TuneIn Radio, YouTube and various apps for recording and sharing games footage. That means the Xbox One is already competitive with most other streaming devices, such as the Apple TV, Roku and Amazon TV.

With the Windows 10 update expected in November, that app selection could – and we emphasise “could” – be massively expanded. This will allow the Xbox One to run Universal apps from the regular Windows Store, just as on a PC, phone or tablet. Microsoft has publicly spoken of “thousands” of apps becoming available to Xbox One owners, with those already purchased on other platforms being eligible for free download.

Obviously, an app designed for a tablet interface may not translate perfectly to a console. Most Windows Store apps are designed for a touch interface, so they may be difficult to control, even with a Kinect sensor. Console users also sit some distance from the screen, while phone and tablet users have it pressed in front of their faces: text, graphics and icons will likely need to be resized to suit a 42in TV rather than a 10in tablet.

This means app developers will need to approach their Windows apps like modern websites, with responsive designs adjusting the user interface to suit the size and capabilities of the screen – and the Xbox store will only house those apps suited to run on the console. Head of the Xbox division, Phil Spencer, told developers: “We won’t see people using Excel on the Xbox, but Microsoft is making it easier to port experiences from PC over to Xbox where they make sense.”

So what types of app are likely to appear for the Xbox One? You could easily imagine services such as Spotify, eBay, weather apps, travel agents and fitness tracker Fitbit embracing the Xbox One –Microsoft will be throwing money at some big names when the console transitions to Windows 10.

Another Windows 10 import is Cortana. Those with a Kinect sensor may already be used to issuing voice commands to their Xbox, but the update will see Cortana make its debut on the console. It will take on many of the duties already assigned to voice controls, such as challenging friends on Xbox Live. Cortana will also work across devices. So, if you set a reminder on your Windows Phone or desktop PC to call your brother at 8pm, it will interrupt the movie you’re watching on the Xbox to remind you.


STREAMING FORWARD

Gaming is the Xbox One’s raison d’être. When Microsoft unveiled Windows 10 back in January, it wasn’t the blue-sky hoopla surrounding the HoloLens that got many people excited, but the ability to stream games from the Xbox One to Windows 10 devices.

The feature was switched on in one of the final Insider builds of Windows 10 before the desktop OS launched at the end of July. Instead of being tied to the living-room television, gamers can now wirelessly beam their games to a PC in a bedroom, or even a tablet. The receiving hardware doesn’t need to be powerful, as it’s essentially just receiving a video feed – all the processing is done on the Xbox.

Plug an Xbox One controller into a USB port on the receiving PC and you can play as if you were sat in front of the television. At first, streams were restricted to 720p, but an update has boosted the maximum stream quality to 1080p at 60fps. As long as your wireless router has sufficient bandwidth (see right), and your receiving device has a high-res screen, you can play remotely in Full HD, with no compromise to graphics quality.

It’s a capability that raises questions about the future of video games. Gaming on Windows has been in decline for years: you’ll struggle to even find PC games in many high- street retailers these days. Xbox streaming potentially turns even lowly $200 tablets into 3D-gaming machines, and while there’s still a market for those who want to play Crysis at punishingly high frame rates on 4K screens, most gamers will settle for the Full HD output from an Xbox, especially if it means not having to upgrade their graphics card every couple of years.

There’s another difference between PC and console gaming: the controls. Many still prefer a keyboard and mouse to a handheld controller, and the Xbox One will offer support for these in games. Once the console moves to Windows 10, there may be no discernible difference between playing a game on the Xbox One and on a regular PC. Xbox owners can already play online against PCs, and parity of controllers could see even more titles span both console and PC.

The distinction between the Xbox and a PC is becoming very blurred. Soon, the only difference between the two will be the user interfaces. The Xbox One hasn’t just become a must-have companion for your PC: it’s become a PC in its own right.



By Barry Collins

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