Cool Bananas Netbook Organiser, A Review

Thanks for GearZap for sending this to review!

Back in April the Geeks Have Landed team attended the Gadget Show Live press event, and we needed to be prepared. We took just about every device we could manage, phones, tablets and laptops, as well as the chargers for each device and the cables to transfer photos. However due to the large amount of devices, we had to take a case which could manage it all. I opted to take a laptop case that I have been using for a number of years now, it’s big and bulky and looks awful. It’s complicated to use and was extremely annoying to carry around for the 5-6 hours that we were attending. It’s extremely annoying that I didn’t come across this Netbook Organiser by Cool Bananas before we went to the show, as it’s given me a completely new perspective on how to transfer my gadgets.

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HTC One X – The Good, Bad & Ugly

The HTC One X was released in the UK on April 6th and will be coming out in the US on May 6th. There is some good, some bad, and some just plain ugly to be seen from this phone.


The Good

The HTC One X is very fast. With 1GB of Ram and a quad-core 1.5GHz CPU it is nearly twice as fast as the IPhone.

It has an 8MP rear facing camera capable of 1080p video recording, and an LED flash bright enough to take great pictures on the darkest of nights. The 4.7” 720p laminated Gorilla Glass display will allow you to see photos, videos, and games with great clarity, even at a 90 degree angle.

With Beats Audio and stereo sound, even though the speakers, the sound is absolutely amazing.

The Android Ice Cream Sandwich v4.0 OS runs smoothly and is extremely user friendly.

My favorite thing about this phone is that it has a gently curved shell which sits very comfortably in your hand.

The Bad

There is very little about the HTC One X that can be seen in a negative light. My biggest peeve with this phone is that it only comes with 32GB of memory. To be honest, that isn’t really enough in a smart phone, especially considering that it is essentially running two OS’s.
4.7” may sound great, but it’s a little oversized. It won’t be able to easily fit in a pocket. For those with small hands it will be difficult to keep a good grip on.

With the battery being non-removable, those who are heavy users will need to carry a phone charger around with them, which is quite annoying.

The trend in phones of being able to take higher quality video than the display can handle is quite annoying to me, as well. I mean, what’s the point?

The Ugly

There is one thing about this phone that I really dislike. The camera lens protrudes from the back. If stuck in a pocket with change, the lens will get scratched, thus ruining one of the biggest selling points of the phone.

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A Review of The iDapt i2+

Nowadays, you are out of sync with the world if you use less than two or three devices regularly during the day. Whether it’s a mobile phone, an mp3 player, a USB gadget or even a cigarette, you are always going to be in possession of a rechargeable device. Trouble is, with all these devices, keeping track of the different chargers, and keeping the cables neat can be a real hassle. That’s where the i2+ universal charging station comes in extremely handy.

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Flud 2.0, An Android Review

Last month, one of the best looking and most functional applications I have  ever used on my iPad, became available on the Google Play Store for Android users. While this excited me, I was extremely worried that they wouldn’t be able to replicate that same gorgeous design on a different operating system, and that it would become just another news reader.

However, my fears were short-lived. After logging in using the same account I use on my iPad (guest log-in is available also), the  same black and red colour scheme which has become so familiar to me recently was suddenly on my Desire S. Now, as much as I love Android, I do agree with the opinion of most in that while Android apps offer a lot of functionality, the often lack the same effort when it comes to the design department. This is where FLUD changes things. Of course, I expected this after using the iPad app and seeing the iPhone version, however it was extremely satisfying to see it on my phone.

The UI, although nice, needs to be easy to navigate to collect your daily dosage of news. Failing to do this would make even the most ugly of news readers superior. Fortunately, the functionality matches the user interface. It’s insanely easy to navigate. All you have to do is scroll sideways to change news sources, and scroll down to view the most recent articles available from that website. A relatively new feature on FLUD is the ‘FLUD Stream’ section, which collects and show you what your friends have been looking at. If you are into that kind of thing, that’s great…but not many of my friends are as interested in technology as I am.

 

As I mentioned above, FLUD is a multi-platform application. That means that I can view my news on my Wi-Fi limited iPad, and pick up from where I left off on my phone when I leave my home. Having this kind of cloud functionality really makes you feel like you will never miss a single news story again, as it can literally be taken anywhere!

Now i’m going to be honest. Up until last month, my preferred news reader of choice was Flipboard. The reason behind that being that when I was looking at purchasing my iPad, Flipboard looked like one of the most revolutionary apps ever. Even now I don’t think Flipboard is bad, it’s very very good. However if they fail to release it for Android, soon enough they will begin to lose more and more customers to FLUD, as it shares an equally amazing design, but on more platforms.

In the last couple of paragraphs, I have trailed from my main review or the Android application, and have discussed the entire news reader as a whole. And rightly so, as the application is the same on all devices. Sure, it is a bit smaller, but that is in screen size only. It still packs just as many features on all platforms and devices, has a simply gorgeous design, and is a must have for any Android, iPhone and iPad user.

Download:  iOS | Android

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You can now find Geeks Have Landed on FLUD! Simply go to the Technology section and tap our name!

 

Angry Birds Space, A Review

 

The Birds are back in town, looking better than ever.

The first Angry Birds became a worldwide sensation, with a combined 500 million downloads across the globe. With both critical and user acclaim, Angry Birds is one of the hottest franchises out there. Now, with Angry Birds Space, Finnish game developer Rovio is hoping to achieve the same kind of hit. Angry Birds Space succeeds on many levels, updating the classic gameplay and still retaining the depth that makes its puzzles fast and fun.

For the most part, Angry Birds Space does not stray too far away from its roots. Puzzles still involve hunting down green pigs with birds who are quite perturbed. There are a variety of different birds and depending on the level you’ll be given a different roster. There are birds that explode, birds that freeze objects and birds that split into three, just to name a few. What’s new here is the gravity mechanic. Planets now have a center of gravity, which will cause your bird to arc around it until the bird hits an object. This can be used to appear around obstacles and try a different approach, when can be useful when trying to three star some of these levels. The levels can present quite a challenge at times.

Space comes with 60 levels in the package, and the promise of more content through future patches and in-app purchases. Speaking of in-app purchases, those helpful Eagles from the first game return as Space Eagles. You’ll get a pretty limited number throughout the game, and more can be bought through the store. It’s a little disappointing to see a gameplay element bottlenecked by in-app purchases. Aside from the Space Eagles, the content does not disappoint, and there is plenty of it. Especially if you want to perfect all of the levels. The game looks nice and runs smoothly, as should be expected. Sound effects are comical and the music complements the atmosphere nicely. Though, most of the time will probably be spent with the sound off. Classrooms and meetings have yet another foe to contend with. The Angry Birds are back, and if Space is any indication, they’ll be here to stay for a while to come.

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Otterbox Commuter, Desire S | Review

Part of the luxury of having a modern smart phone is having a brilliant feeling design as well as an ultra slim model. So when buying a mobile phone cover which hides all of these things, it’s going to want to be a good case…or people would abandon it. Luckily, the Otterbox Commuter Series is a brilliantly sturdy case which both feels great, and protects your device from just about any everyday use.

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Mass Effect 3, A Review

Shepard and the Normandy finally return. Does the arrival of the Reapers spell disaster for the franchise, or does Shepard get the send-off he deserves?

With its release on March 6th, Mass Effect 3 represents the culmination of a trilogy and expectations of millions of fans around the globe. The Reapers have finally arrived at Earth, and it’s up to Shepard and his small band of loyal friends to unite the galaxy and stop the threat. However, is it possible for a game like this to actually deliver on every single hope and dream of fans? The short version is, no. Does that make the game a failure? No. In most places, Mass Effect 3 excels, expanding on the improvements seen in Mass Effect 2. Some moments will have you literally on the edge of your seat. The fast paced combat and exhilarating story challenges not only players’ minds but also their hearts, and aside from a few minor gripes, Mass Effect 3 is truly an awe-inspiring experience, regardless of its flaws.

Mass Effect 3 begins on Earth, where Shepard is still desperately trying to make a case against the Reapers, a truly frightening synthetic race who come to cull galactic civilization every 50,000 years. Since Mass Effect 1 he (or she) has been trying to convince the galaxy of this threat, and yet this warning has constantly fallen on deaf ears. Now with the Reapers arriving, humanity and the rest of the galaxy find themselves in a desperate situation. Shepard must bring all the help he can find back to Earth to repel the Reaper invasion. If this is the culmination of trilogy to you, then you know the story and know the score. For new players, I insist that the first two games be played. Though EA has marketed this as a good jumping off point for the series, some of the most serious emotional punches come from the people you’ve known throughout the journey, and the consequences of your actions. It’s been a wild ride for Commander Shepard, and as the player you deserve to hear the full story.

Shepard's Back, and he hasn't lost a step.

For long time fans who are wary about the third entry in the series, there’s absolutely nothing to be afraid of. The gameplay has been polished to a mirror sheen by Bioware, and it’s clear that they know what they are doing. Combat is much like it was in Mass Effect 2, with a focus on speed and squad tactics. Each of the six different classes represents a different style of gameplay, whether you want to use the risky Vanguard who charges into crowds with Biotic powers, or the pure Soldier who uses guns and grenades to clear a path of carnage. With any class, ME3 will feel like a totally different game. Combat is even faster than it was in ME2, and squads are even more easy to control. Now your squadmates will adapt powers to the situation at hand, and it’s only a simple button press away. This makes squadmates more useful than ever before.

Also useful is the new customization system, which feels reminiscent of Mass Effect 1, but instead of having a large amount of items and a cluttered inventory system, ME3 goes for a more streamlined approach, allowing the player to attach up to two addons to any given weapon. This can mean anything from added melee damage to a scope which allows for greater accuracy. The shopping system has also been improved, allowing the player to access all the visited shops from Shepard’s ship, the Normandy. This cuts down on the clutter and complications that plagued ME1. Another addition is the Weapon Weight system. The amount of weapons that Shepard carries into combat dictates the speed at which he/she can use abilities. This adds another fun layer to the gameplay.

My usual layout, a pistol and assault rifle for fast casting.

The conversations have stayed just as complicated and interesting, allowing for an incredible number of decisions and moral choices. These all build on the decisions of the previous games, which for the most part makes for a unique gameplay experience for every gamer and every save file. Every Shepard’s journey has made different twists and turns, and almost all of them are represented in one way or another, big or small. It’s incredibly satisfying to see old faces return.

The story however, definitely fails to satisfy in certain areas. Especially when it comes to the conclusion, which most already know of by reputation due to the outcry of many fans. In addition to this, there were also a few other bugs, including the surprising return of a character who I knew to be dead. This did put a damper on the experience. However, in most cases this is not going to be a problem, and some of the emotional payoffs are huge and exciting. There were smiles, shouts and even a few tears on my play through of Mass Effect 3.

Smiles were also in abundance as I tackled the game’s new multiplayer mode, titled “Galaxy at War.” In this mode, you and a team of three others take on various forces while occasionally completing objectives, inspired by the Horde mode often seen in games today. Where ME3 differs from the pack is in bringing much of the gameplay of the single player experience online. In “GoW”, you will upgrade a character from one of the six classes just like in single player. This includes assigning talent points and customizing weaponry. The weapon weight system also comes into play here, increasing or decreasing power recharge rates based on your arsenal. The games take 20 minutes on average, awarding Experience Points for leveling up and money, which can be used to buy packs. These packs contain new weapons, mods and characters, and are completely randomized. This makes buying packs extremely addictive, much like buying trading card booster packs. It’s always exciting to see what new gun or character you’ll have next.

Integrated into this is Galactic Readiness, which determines the performance of War Assets in the single player campaign. Throughout the campaign, Shepard collects these War Assets which can alter the ending of the game. These are obtained by doing side quests and main story missions. Galactic Readiness starts at 50%, which means that the player only obtains 50% of the War Assets he or she gets. Multiplayer is necessary if the player wants to get the best ending. That’s not really a problem, as the multiplayer experience is fantastically polished and worth your time.

My soldier and galaxy at war.

Also polished is the sound, which is one of the most important things in any Mass Effect game. Within Mass Effect 3, there is an incredible amount of dialogue, and some characters are going to make you laugh again and again. For established characters, Bioware does not stray from their personalities, instead delivering a consistent experience. Sound effects have also been improved, with guns making satisfying sounds, explosions knocking you back in your seat. My one gripe would be the Reaper sound effects, which constantly sound like auto tuned garbage. I was pretty tired of it by the end of the game.

Graphically the game is solid and up to modern standards. In most ways it looks about the same as Mass Effect 2, which by its own right was a very good looking game. It runs consistently at 60 FPS, without any stutter. Some of the vistas in the game are absolutely beautiful, and the game occasionally has set pieces that are gorgeous. The art direction is fantastic. I did find the sections that take place on Earth to be a little bland and devoid of the color that usually is present throughout the Mass Effect universe. I also found there to be a few graphical glitches, such as the camera blurring at odd times and characters disappearing during conversations. Other than these minor issues, ME3 continues Bioware’s tradition of polished gaming.

Mass Effect 3 is a fantastic game. The final chapter of Shepard’s story is one that should not be missed, and the invasion of the reapers makes for some dire consequences that every player should experience. The gameplay is absolutely fantastic, and the presentation is truly stellar. It is the culmination of nearly ten years of storytelling. Regardless of the rage at the conclusion, Mass Effect 3 is a game that I will continue to come back to, and one I think that any gamer will enjoy.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

[checklist]

  • Fantastic Gameplay
  • Great Multiplayer Experience
  • Interesting Characters and Dialogue
  • Solid Graphics and Consistent Frame Rate

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[badlist]

  • Disappointing Conclusion
  • Occasional Camera Glitches and Bugs

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