Tech News

This could be the end of HTC’s flagship smartphones

Latest Tech News - 1 hour 59 min ago

“Enabling a more streamlined product portfolio.”

Hidden in that line of corporate-speak from HTC announcing its new partnership with Google may be a starker reality: no more HTC flagships after 2018.

It's no secret that HTC's mobile division has struggled in recent years. High-end handsets such as the HTC 10, U Ultra and U11 have failed to draw the limelight away from Apple and Samsung, while breakout competitors such as OnePlus and Huawei have strengthened their positions in 2017.

The Taiwanese firm isn’t blind to the challenges it faces, and has significantly scaled back its phone portfolio over the past five years. 

Head over to the official HTC website now and the firm's range comprises only a handful of devices, and it’s launched just three globally in 2017 (U Ultra, U Play and U11).

This strategy is by no means a bad one – OnePlus, for example, has just one handset, while Honor tends to keep its offering to around three devices at any one time.

The HTC U11 may be one of the last flagships from HTC

For HTC though, this approach hasn't helped it shift devices at a rate to challenge the major players, and when you also factor in a highly confused marketing strategy that was unable to convey just how good some of its devices were, the brand’s line is still a strange one for consumers to properly comprehend. 

HTC’s problem hasn’t been making good smartphones – it has a long history of doing just that, but it’s really struggled to communicate why its handsets are worth buying to the general public.

However, given this already pared-down approach, the news that HTC will streamline its portfolio further is all the more pertinent. What's left to cull? The easy answer is the flagship. 

The final flagship over the horizon

Flagship phones are time-consuming and expensive to research, develop and produce. 

The demands on phone makers to introduce breakthrough technology – such as Edge Sense on the U11 – in new flagships further complicates the process, and adds additional cost.

It would be far more time- and cost-efficient for HTC to focus on the mid and mid-high tiers of the smartphone market, where it can easily churn out handsets without the pressures that come with the ‘flagship’ label.

Flagships do act as excellent halo products for the brand, and lead the way with technology that can filter down to the rest of the range – and without a lynchpin device at the top of its range, HTC could well struggle even more to stand out.

The new cooperation agreement with Google could well provide the trickle-down technology for HTC, although without some rather blatant HTC branding on new Pixel devices the link may well be lost – and let’s face it, Google isn’t going to be rushing to slap another brand’s name on its products.

And with the search giant continuing to produce premium Pixel handsets going forward, it seems counter-intuitive for HTC to go head-to-head with its new partner when there’s a whole market below the top end to penetrate.

Google's Pixel range could spearhead HTC's phone tech

Nothing will happen immediately though, as HTC also confirmed in the announcement that it has a team “which is currently working on the next flagship phone”, which we expect will launch in the first half of 2018. 

For now we’ll refer to that phone as the HTC U12, although the firm may decide on a new naming regime come next year. 

There are, however, rumors that HTC is preparing to launch a trio of new devices before the end of the year, which would fly in the face of its ‘streamlined portfolio’ claims.

We asked HTC about its plans to streamline its portfolio, but a spokesperson only offered the following statement: “HTC remains fully committed to our branded smartphone business, following the successful launch of our flagship HTC U11 earlier this year, and we are currently working on our next flagship phone. We have a very exciting 2018 product pipeline.”

The hope is that the deal with Google will breathe new life into HTC’s mobile division and see it rebuild its presence in the market, rather than heralding the demise of an iconic brand.

HTC has made fantastic phones in the past – the Desire, One (M7) and One M8 all scored coveted 5 star TechRadar reviews. And now, with Google taking some of the pressure off, it will have more time and energy to focus on creating knockout handsets – even if, in the coming years, those don’t include flagships.

Categories: Tech News

Ford using AR apps to prototype its future car designs

Latest Tech News - 2 hours 3 min ago

Your next car, if it's a Ford, may have been designed using AR smarts thanks to Microsoft's HoloLens augmented reality headset.

The car giant has been using the headset to help its designers visualize their concepts and ideas, letting them see changes that would once have required costly clay model reworks to be instantly laid over existing real-world prototypes.

“With HoloLens, we can instantly flip through virtual representations to decide which direction they should go,” says Michael Smith, Ford design manager. 

“As a designer, you want to show, not just tell. This is much more compelling.”

As well as checking out the changing aesthetic properties, Ford's designers are able to use the head-mounted computer to assess physics values, iterating quickly to find faults and inefficiencies, while having the added benefit of experiencing the product in a 3D space.

Coming to a dealership near you?

Though Ford hasn't explicitly committed to it, there's a potentially useful application for consumers too. Say you're at a dealership, and want to check out a slightly different interior or paint job? With an AR application like the one Ford is using, you could have it right in front of you, laid on top of a real-world car rather than just checking it on a screen or in a brochure.

“HoloLens allows a whole team of people to collaborate, share and experience ideas together,” says Elizabeth Baron, Ford virtual reality and advanced visualization technical specialist. 

“Mixing virtual and physical models is exciting, because it helps our designers and engineers communicate effectively and ideate to see what the future looks like earlier in the process. This allows great freedom and efficiency in how prototypes are created or changed.”

HoloLens, for the time being at least, remains a commercial rather than a consumer product. But with Google Glass returning, and Apple making big strides with its ARKit augmented reality push, the age of the AR headset may be rapidly approaching.

Categories: Tech News

Flipkart Big Billion Days: Best deals on DSLRs

Latest Tech News - 2 hours 33 min ago

Amazon and Flipkart have officially kicked off its their festive season sale yesterday. This is not the first time that both the e-commerce giants are coming face to face with each other, in fact, we have seen similar events in recent past as well. We have been constantly covering the best deals around multiples categories on both the platforms but we still aren't done with all of it. 

Flipkart is offering various deals on a number of products like power banks, storage devices, wearables etc. But if you are looking for a DSLR to level-up your photography game, this is the first post where we have tried to cover the best deals on DSLRs. 

Canon EOS 1300D DSLR Camera Body with Single Lens: EF-S 18-55 IS II (16 GB SD Card + Camera Bag) at Rs 19,990 @ Flipkart (save Rs 10,005)

Canon EOS 1300D DSLR Camera Body with Dual Lens: EF-S 18-55 mm IS II + EF-S 55-250 mm F4 5.6 IS II (16 GB SD Card + Camera Bag) at Rs 30,990 @ Flipkart (save Rs 10,705)

Canon EOS 1300D DSLR Camera Body with Dual Lens: Canon EF-S 18-55 IS II + Tamron AF 70-300 mm F/4-5.6 Di LD Macro Lens (16 GB SD Card + Camera Bag) at Rs 30,990 @ Flipkart (save Rs 12,005)

The Canon EOS 1300D is an entry-level camera that comes with a 18-megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor giving sharp images to the users. Its DIGIC 4+ image processor allows users to take quality images even in low light conditions. 

Though it comes with a fixed display, the camera was in news because of its in-built Wifi and NFC technology which was something that the company didn't offered in its predecessor.

Flipkart is also offering a discount of Rs 10,705 on the camera kit which includes an additional zoom lens- EF-S 55-250mm. Also, there is Rs 12,005 discount on the camera kit that includes a prime lens along with a Tamron AF 70-300 mm F/4-5.6 Di LD macro lens.

Nikon D3400 DSLR Camera Body with Dual Lens: AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55 mm f/3.5 - 5.6G VR + AF-P DX NIKKOR 70-300 mm f/4.5 - 6.3G ED VR (16 GB SD Card + Camera Bag) at Rs 35,990 @ Flipkart (save Rs 11,460)

Nikon D3400 DSLR Camera Body with Single Lens: AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Kit (16 GB SD Card + Camera Bag) at Rs 25,990 @ Flipkart (save Rs 11,000)

The camera features a 24.2-megapixel CMOS image sensor and EXPEED 4 processor that promises to deliver good quality images at all lighting conditions. Its light weight body makes it handy and easy to use. With its long lasting battery you can capture as much images as you want. You can also shoot HD videos on it.

Canon EOS 700D DSLR Camera Body with Dual Lens: EF S18 - 55 mm IS II and EF S55 - 250 mm IS II (16 GB SD Card + Camera Bag) at Rs 38,990 @ Flipkart (save Rs 6,005)

The Canon EOS 700D has a 18-megapixel CMOS Optical Sensor and is equipped with a 9-point auto focus system. The highlight of the camera is that being an entry-level DSLR, it offers a wide ISO range of 100-12800 which is further expandable to 25600 in H mode. The camera also has additional offers on the lens.

Nikon D5300 DSLR Camera Body with Dual Lens: AF-P DX NIKKOR 18 - 55 mm f/3.5 - 5.6G VR + AF-P DX NIKKOR 70 - 300 mm f/4.5 - 6.3G ED VR (16 GB SD Card + Camera Bag) at Rs 44,490 @ Flipkart (save Rs 11,460)

Nikon D5300 DSLR Camera Body with Single Lens: AF S18-55mm (16 GB SD Card + Camera Bag) at Rs 34,990 @ Flipkart (save Rs 10,460)

The D5300 has a great performing CMOS APS-C sensor of 24.2-megapixel which works magically with the EXPEED 4 processor to give you high quality images. It has 3.2-inch display that has a 170 degree viewing angle. The camera also offers a nine effects mode, 16 scene modes and other picture modes as well. we can say that the camera is made for creative photographers. It also has in-built wifi connectivity to easily transfer your files directly to your PC's.

Nikon D3300 DSLR Camera Body with Dual Lens: AF-P 18-55mm VR + AF-P DX NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED VR Kit (16 GB SD Card + Camera Bag) at Rs 31,990 @ Flipkart (save Rs 10,960)

The D3300 is the predecessor of D3400 that features a 24.4-megapixel CMOS APS-C sensor and EXPEED 4 image processor. Though the sensor and the processor is similar in both the cameras, the D3300 got replaced by the latter because of its weight, less battery life and numerous other features. 

Nikon D5600 DSLR Camera Body with Single Lens: AF-P DX Nikkor 18-55 MM F/3.5-5.6G VR (16 GB SD Card + Camera Bag) at Rs 49,990 @ Flipkart (save Rs 8,960)

Nikon D5600 DSLR Camera Body with Dual Lens: AF-P DX Nikkor 18 - 55 MM F/3.5-5.6G VR and 70-300 MM F/4.5-6.3G ED VR (16 GB SD Card + Camera Bag) at Rs 60, 990 @ Flipkart (save Rs 8,460)

The D5600 is again an entry-level DSLR that offers decent image quality with its 24.2-megapixel sensor. Its an upgraded version of D5500 offering a 39-point AF system and touchscreen interface. Flipkart is retailing the camera with single lens as well as dual lens kit.

Canon EOS 200D DSLR Camera Body with Single Lens: EF-S18-55 IS STM (16 GB SD Card + Camera Bag) at Rs 36,990 @ Flipkart (save Rs 36,990)

The camera comes with the latest DIGIC 7 image processor that is able to capture more details of the subject. Though it has a polished touch screen interface but offers 9-point AF system which is quite basic. It also does not support 4K videos which could be disappointing to some users. 

Canon EOS 800D DSLR Camera Body with Single Lens: EF S18-55 IS STM (16 GB SD Card + Camera Bag) at Rs 50,990 @ Flipkart (save Rs 15,005)

Adding to the offers list is the Canon EOS 800D. The camera offers an excellent live view AF and touchscreen controls. The 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor along with the DIGIC 7 processor produces high quality images highlighting the details even in low lighting conditions. But, just like the above mentioned camera, this also lacks the 4K video quality.

Nikon D 810 DSLR Camera Body with Single Lens: 24-120mm VR Lens at Rs 2,14,990 @ Flipkart (save Rs 29,960)

The Nikon D810 is a full-frame DSLR camera that comes with 36.3-megapixel CMOS sensor coupled with EXPEED 4 image processor. It also offers a continuous shooting speed of 5fps at full resolution. Apart from having, such good features, the camera can not shoot a 4K video. 

Flipkart is selling the camera at a discount of 12% with additional offers on camera lens and accessories.

Categories: Tech News

Researchers are using Wikipedia to teach robots that you can’t eat tables

Latest Tech News - 3 hours 10 min ago

Verb pairings come pretty naturally to humans. You instinctively know that your phone can be picked up, put down, turned on, smashed, even loved. But you can’t swim it, dance it, or stir it.  

Robots don’t have the same instincts, and so will often lack the understanding about what you can and can’t do to an object, meaning they can struggle knowing how to interact with it.

This is a problem that a team working out of Brigham Young university has been working on, using an unconventional method; Wikipedia.

“When machine learning researchers turn robots or artificially intelligent agents loose in unstructured environments, they try all kinds of crazy stuff,” said co-author Ben Murdoch.

“The common-sense understanding of what you can do with objects is utterly missing, and we end up with robots who will spend thousands of hours trying to eat the table.”

The team developed a method for teaching artificially intelligent ‘agents’ about the actions that can be applied to an object by cross-referencing the pairings of verbs on the publicly editable encyclopedia.

Bring me the horizon

To test the efficiency of the learning, the agents were put through a test that included a series of text-based adventure games, where a player and an agent have a back-and-forth interaction, suggesting situations, and then corresponding phrases. According to the BYU newsletter, the Wikipedia solution “improved the computer’s performance on 12 out of 16 games”.

The practical applications of this are far reaching, with lead author Nancy Fulda envisioning that a care robot with the ability to interact with the world intelligently “has incredible potential to do good, to help people”. 

So if a robot is told to “get my glasses”, it would be able to understand that glasses were required, but also that glasses could be lifted, carried, and passed, all requirements of the action that otherwise would have to be individually programmed.

The team recently presented its work at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, and claims that there’s still a lot of work to be done before it reaches the end goal of having a fully functioning android with these capabilities. As we hear of any further developments we’ll let you know.

Source BYU

Categories: Tech News

IPVanish named best VPN at T3 Awards

Latest Tech News - 3 hours 26 min ago

IPVanish is celebrating being named the best VPN of 2017 by our sister tech website T3 by offering a big discount on its annual plan until the end of the month.

Following the provider’s win in the T3 Awards (known as the ‘Oscars of the tech world’), IPVanish is offering new subscribers 30% off its annual plan.

That means you’ll now pay $54.59 (£40) for a year’s worth of VPN service, which works out to be $4.54 (£3.35) per month. The offer will run from today until September 30, and you can apply the coupon code T3AWARD to avail yourself of it.

It’s no coincidence that IPVanish is also top of the table when it comes to our list of the best VPN services of 2017, and that the provider acquitted itself admirably when it came to our review of the service.

And if you’re curious about which other products and services scooped awards from T3, then check out our breakdown of the big winners right here. A couple of highlights for you: Amazon’s Echo bagged the gadget of the year accolade, and as for phone of the year, that honor went to Samsung’s Galaxy S8, not the latest iPhone.

  • For those who don’t want to spend a penny, we’ve also picked out the best free VPNs
Categories: Tech News

Here are the best games of 2017 (so far)

Latest Tech News - 3 hours 31 min ago

2016 is done and dusted from a gaming perspective, but don’t fret -  there are enough great titles coming out in 2017 to put your New Year’s resolution of getting outside more or spending less on games in some serious jeopardy.

That being said, we've gone through and compiled the list of the best games coming next year as well as collected the best ones that have already come out (Gravity Rush 2 anyone?). 

The reason for this list is two-fold: First and foremost we want to give you a look ahead at the new year of gorgeous games – powered in large part by powerful hardware like the PS4 Pro and Xbox One S. Then, once we start collecting more games that deserve to be called "the best of 2017" we'll group them together by month for your perusing pleasure. Combined, this list should give you a pretty complete overview of where you should spend your free-time next year.  

Oh, and in case you missed it, and are interested the best gaming moments of last year, be sure to check out our 2016 Game of the Year Awards

Looking for the best of all-time lists? We have ones for the best Xbox One games, the best PS4 games, the best Nintendo 3DS games, the best PC games, the best indie games, the best iPhone games and the best Android games.

OK, we've spent time enough living in the past. Our first eagerly-anticipated release is less than a month away, so let's not waste any more time.

Resident Evil 7

What system(s) is it on? PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

The latest entry in Capcom’s survival horror series is a wild departure from its past few predecessors, but in the end that only made it better. Foregoing the guns-blazing action mentality that had come to define the series for better or worse in the past few years, Resident Evil VII came at us with a much more subdued scare tactic. A first-person horror adventure trapped in a musty, rotted house with a family of musty, rotted maniacs? If that doesn't scream nostalgia, I'm not sure what does. Resident Evil 7 was a great return to form for the series and one that's well worth your time.

Read our full Resident Evil 7 review

Gravity Rush 2

What system(s) is it on? PS4

Gravity Rush 2 was a huge sleeper hit this month. The original – while definitely unique in its premise and art style – didn't reach critical acclaim, but that's a whole different story here. New gravity powers and styles make combat feel fresh and the expanded relationships give us something more to latch onto. There are still a few control problems here, as you might obviously expect from a game that involves manipulating gravity, but overall its charm and beauty far outweigh any lingering issues we might've had. 

Yakuza 0

What system(s) is it on? PS4

Yakuza 0 is a game you didn't know you wanted from a series you might've only heard but it's downright amazing. Imagine Grand Theft Auto minus the ludicrous amount of ammunitions and adding in tons of hysterical side quests.

To that end, Yakuza 0 is a deadly serious game about some really adult material that never takes itself too seriously. You'll have just as much fun pummeling people for cash as you will playing any number of the wacky and wonderful mini games you can find throughout the massive game world. Gravity Rush 2 was this month's sleeper pick, but Yakuza 0 is this month's somehow even sleepier sleeper pick. 

Horizon: Zero Dawn

What system(s) is it on? PlayStation 4

The newest project from Killzone series developer Guerrilla Games, Horizon: Zero Dawn’s concept is far more unique and engrossing than the forgettable mashup of words that make up its title. (Seriously, we challenge you to leave us a more generic-sounding title in the comments below.) 

Thankfully, Horizon's premise was far more original. 

An action adventure set in a world overrun with robotic fauna, Horizon casts you as a human hunter named Aloy who uses a mix of stealth, ranged combat, and a little improvisation to fell inorganic beasts and survive in the mecha-wilderness. Not just a unique take on an open world, Horizon pushes what the PS4’s hardware can do from a graphical level. That said, we feel this game deserves a spot in any gamer's PS4 library. 

You can read our full review here.

Halo Wars 2

What system(s) is it on? Xbox One, PC 

Despite it being eight years since the last game, Halo Wars 2 doesn’t feel like a large step from the original. It looks better and it takes into account everything that’s happened in the Halo story since the first game, but mechanically it is much the same as its predecessor. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. Everything considered, Halo Wars 2 is enjoyable – if not that innovative.

Read our full review here.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

What system(s) is it on? Nintendo Wii U, Nintendo Switch

As we expected, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was the Nintendo Switch's big launch title and it's certainly done well for itself. With good reviews pretty much across the board it's a must-have title and a great way to start off your relationship with the new Switch console. 

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild takes the adventuring shenanigans of Link and blows it up onto a sprawling open world where players can explore at their leisure and daring. Even the series’ trademark dungeons can be played in whatever order the player wants, making Breath of the Wild a game that is just as much about maintaining the series' status quo as it is breaking it. 

While previous entries in the Legend of Zelda series like Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker have played with the concept of a large explorable map, Breath of the Wild is taking things to ambitious new heights. 

Read our full review here.

Mass Effect Andromeda

What system(s) is it on? PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Given how the original Mass Effect trilogy wrapped up the epic tale of Commander Shepard’s battle for all sentient life with a nice lil’ bow, the next installment in BioWare’s sci-fi series had us intrigued. With essentially a blank slate to tell a new story, Andromeda is set far in the future, 600 years after the events of Mass Effects 1 through 3. 

In an expansive, semi open-world environment, players are tasked with exploring new planets with the aid of your own ship, the Tempest, and a customizable six-wheeled space whip called the Nomad. Of course, things don't always go according to plan in the more roguish parts of the galaxy, so you'll also be bringing your allies, laser weaponry, biotic powers, and other abilities both familiar and new to Mass Effect fans along for the ride.

Though it's the latest game in the Mass Effect franchise we're not so sure it's the greatest and you can find out why in our full review.

Yooka Laylee

What system(s) is it on? PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, Nintendo Switch, PC

Sometimes it takes a genre coming back with a vengeance to remind you just how long it's been since you've seen one of its kind. That was the overwhelming feeling playing Yooka-Laylee, the Kickstarted spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie from a group of ex-Rare developers, left us with. 

The recent absence of the cartoon platformer is what initially makes Yooka-Laylee such a novel game. You play as Yooka, and Laylee sits on your shoulders, allowing you to perform special moves and providing a second character to bounce witty dialogue off. It's a formula we haven't seen in some time, but it's one we're all the more excited to come back to all these years later.

Prey

What system(s) is it on? PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

From the ashes of the cancelled-before-its-time Prey 2, Arkane Studio’s revival of the Prey franchise is, well, some interesting branding. With little direct resemblance to the original Prey to be a reboot, nor anything really to do with its scrapped sequel, Prey is more of a re-imagining of the series’s original concept - though we question what constitutes a series when only one entry ever saw the light of day, but we digress. What now stands in Prey 2’s place is something wild, intriguing, and plenty ambitious enough to be whatever it wants to call itself. 

Aboard a research vessel floating in space to study a mysterious alien life form, players will have to use their wits and resources to survive as a breach puts them - and possibly the entire Earth - in danger. 

We've given the game a "play it now" recommendation in our full review, praising its often surprisingly deep story, incredible atmosphere and open-ended approach which offers something to both casual and hardcore gamers. 

Read our full review of Prey here. 

Injustice 2

What system(s) is it on? PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Marvel ain’t the only superhero property throwing down this coming year. NetherRealm Studios’ 2013 brawler Injustice: Gods Among Us is getting a sequel in 2017, returning to the DC Comics universe to knock some serious heads. With classic standbys like Batman, The Flash, and Wonder Woman going toe-to-toe with new additions like Gorilla Grodd and Blue Beetle, Injustice 2 is looking to be a from-the-pages slugfest both fighting game fans and comic aficionados alike can really enjoy. 

To that end, Injustice 2’s tagline of “Every Battle Defines You” isn’t just a dramatic piece of marketing text. Each time you step into the ring with one of the DC’s finest, that character walks away with new loot that enhances their skills, traits, or overall ability until you have a suped-up Superman tuned exactly to your tastes. 

Read our tips and tricks guide to give yourself a fighting chance in Injustice 2.

Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy

What system(s) is it on? PlayStation 4

Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is the game we've waited over 20 years to play – it's the not-quite-remastered remake of the game many of us loved growing up. It wasn't something we ever thought would happen considering that the game's original development studio, Naughty Dog, is deep in development of The Last of Us Part 2 and Uncharted 4 DLC, so we're thankful another developer, Vicarious Visions, was there to pick up the slack. Call us suckers for PlayStation-era nostalgia (guilty as charged) but with a year like 2016 in the recent past, it'll be nice to have something to bring us back to the good ol' days.

We think Crash Bandicoot is an example of how classic games should be redone.

Tekken 7

What system(s) can I play it on? PS4, Xbox One and PC

Tekken is up there as one of the best fighting game franchises out there and Tekken 7 is a worthy addition to the series. As ever you'll find an exciting roster of fighters and incredible depth when it comes to controls and tactics.

One problem wth Tekken 7 is that it can be somewhat inaccessible if you're new to the series. Bearing that in mind, we've put together a tips and tricks guide to help you get started.

Arms

What system(s) can I play it on? Nintendo Switch

Tekken 7 isn't the only worthwhile fighting game to have come out in June 2017. While Xbox One and PS4 got the latest Tekken, Nintendo kept itself in the fight by releasing the new and Nintendo Switch exclusive Arms.

Arms is a single and online multiplayer fighting game that's quite unlike anything else on the market right now thanks to its colorful characters with telescopic (and interchangeable) 'arms'.

As you'd expect, a new IP means learning new skills and we've got a tips and tricks guide to get you off to a good start. 

Splatoon 2

What system(s) can I play it on? Nintendo Switch

Being Nintendo's first real stab at an online shooter, the original Splatoon was a bit of a surprise hit for the Wii U. This time around, however, we were ready and waiting for the sequel on the Nintendo Switch.

Splatoon 2 didn't disappoint, improving on the original in nearly every way while bringing more of the same paint-based fun. Nintendo has really pushed Splatoon 2's online play through competitions at various shows such as E3. If you want to be capable of a stage-worthy performance, you definitely need our tips and tricks guide

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

What system(s) can I play it on? PlayStation 4

And they thought it was all over! Yes, we thought the Uncharted series had come to an end after Naughty Dog told us that Nathan Drake's story had been told but we have to admit we were glad we were wrong. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is a standalone spin-off starring the Nadine and Chloe from the main series.

It runs a little shorter than a core Uncharted game and Nathan Drake is nowhere to be found but it's an excellent game that captures the spirit of the franchise perfectly. After playing it for ourselves, we said it was like an extra verse being added to your favorite song.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

What system(s) can I play it on? Nintendo Switch

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle took us by surprise but it's absolutely a stand out game from August 2017.   

Nintendo's Mario and Ubisoft's Rabbid rabbits doesn't seem like a combination that should work but we promise it really does.

This is a turn-based tactical game and it's incredibly fun to play thanks to gameplay that's satisfyingly complex and deep without being overly difficult. It's a lovely game to look at with fantastic level and character design – overall it's just a charming experience. 

With this partnership, Nintendo has managed to secure another successful exclusive for the Switch. With our tips and tricks guide you can ensure your first foray into the game is equally as successful. 

Destiny 2

What system(s) can I play it on? PS4, Xbox One and PC

Destiny 2 is the hotly anticipated sequel to the massively successful online multiplayer shooter Destiny. Created by Bungie, this game improves upon the original with an excellent single-player campaign and a much improved sense of accessibility. 

We said you should play it now in our review and if you decide that's exactly what you're going to do, we have a tips and tricks guide that's perfect for easing you in. 

When's it come out? November 3

What system(s) is it on?  PS4, Xbox One and the PC 

Call of Duty is returning at the end of this year and this time it's going back in time to WW2. A more historical approach worked for Battlefield 1 and there's great potential here. 

After Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare disappointed fans and Activision it looks like this next installment is going to give the series a much-needed shake-up. Call of Duty WW2 will feature a single player story campaign, multiplayer, and a multiplayer mode with a story element so there should be something for everyone. 

Expectations are high for this ambitious new game and we hope that when the game is released on November 3 it meets them. 

Here's everything we know about Call of Duty: WW2 so far!

Star Wars Battlefront 2

When's it come out? November 17 2017

What systems is it on? PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC

Star Wars fans have a lot to look forward to this year, and one of the things we're most excited about is the new addition to the Star Wars Battlefront series from EA DICE, Star Wars Battlefront 2.

Though the first game in the series really captured the atmosphere of the Star Wars universe, it was lacking in other areas. This time around it looks like DICE is really taking criticism on board and making some much-needed improvements. 

First off, we're getting a single-player campaign mode that will put players in the shoes of Iden Versio, a member of the Imperial Forces elite ops unit called Inferno Squad and occupy the time between the sixth film of the franchise, Return of the Jedi,  and the seventh film, The Force Awakens.

Excitingly, the sequel will also expand beyond the original trilogy and explore characters, locations and events from the new films and prequel trilogy too. 

That means that in addition to characters like Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Han Solo and Boba Fett, players will get to take control of characters such as Rey, Kyrlo Ren, Yoda and Darth Maul. 

Taking all of this together, we're looking forward to a game that should be bigger, deeper and hopefully better. 

This is everything we know about Star Wars Battlefront II so far!

When's it come out? 2017

What system(s) is it on? PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Say what you will about the show's humor (though we think it's absolutely spectacular), Trey Parker and Matt Stone's first foray into South Park video games, South Park: The Stick of Truth, was actually fantastic. The game combined the hilariously childish and yet somehow poignant comedy from the show with the tropes of our favorite medium. It's with those memories in mind that we can't wait for its sequel, the outrageously named South Park: The Fractured But Whole, to come out sometime in 2017. 

That being said, both Parker and Stone have been known to delay games until they're ready in the past, meaning we might end up waiting another 12 months until we get our hands on The Fractured But Whole ... wait, that just sounds wrong.

When's it come out? End of 2017

What system(s) is it on? Nintendo Switch?

A new Super Mario game is always a big event and a new Super Mario game for the brand new Nintendo Switch console is likely to be huge. 

Super Mario Odyssey looks set to be one of the biggest Mario games ever with a more open sandbox world, a wide variety of locations to explore and new moves that will offer even more ways to explore them. 

We're even more intrigued now that it seems the game will offer a challenge to players after Shigeru Miyamoto said the game would appeal to veteran players who had lost interest because of the increasingly casual approach of recent Mario games. 

This is sure to be one of the biggest hits for the Switch so far and though there's no confirmed release date just yet we know it's coming before the end of the year and can look forward to more details when we get hands on at this year's E3!

Read everything we know about Super Mario Odyssey so far right here!

Categories: Tech News

The Simpsons Hit and Run and gateway gaming

Latest Tech News - 3 hours 43 min ago

Earlier this week I received some startling news – this month The Simpsons: Hit and Run turned 14 years old. For anyone that somehow managed to miss this game when it was released in 2003, it was intended to be a parody of Grand Theft Auto 3 and it allowed you to joyride through the town of Springfield , completing missions and causing chaos. 

To this day I credit it with being my gateway into Grand Theft Auto. My training ground. 

It was probably just before the age of 14 when I, funnily enough, first delved into the Grand Theft Auto series with a pre-owned copy of Grand Theft Auto 3. 

I was, looking back, probably (definitely, actually, if you abide by small matters like official age ratings) much too young to play it. But I knew I wanted that game and, taking advantage of the fact that my mum wasn’t fully aware of what the series entailed (and her probable relief that I was asking for a game that only cost £14.99), I managed to get it.  

Youthful...exuberance?

Before this I’d seen my older brother playing the original Grand Theft Auto on his PlayStation but I hadn’t really been interested in this top down affair that looked like one of my old city play mats. 

No, it was the promise of more open 3D worlds and joyriding I had enjoyed so much in The Simpsons Hit and Run that drew me to Grand Theft Auto. That and Grand Theft Auto 3’s back cover had a picture of a helicopter which suggested to me the stakes would be thrillingly raised.

I was around 10 when I first played The Simpsons Hit and Run on PlayStation 2 and I was already a huge fan of the TV series. It was my 6pm routine to watch it on Channel 4 over my dinner (even if I’d seen the episode a million times before) and then loyally tune into every new episode on a Sunday night. 

Being a fan of The Simpsons is actually a pretty key requirement to getting any enjoyment out of Hit and Run. The game offers an astoundingly accurate and deep recreation of the town of Springfield and it’s clear that the developers love and know their source material. 

Given that it was the show’s own writers and voice actors who worked alongside the developers Radical Entertainment, this is unsurprising. 

You can explore every inch of the town, from Krusty Burger to Springfield Cemetery.  All around the game world you’ll find subtle references to memorable episode events from Hans Moleman getting hit in the groin with a football to finding that horrifying clown bed in Bart’s room. 

Why does everyone run away from me?

The sense of humor from the show is also absolutely present in every cut scene and line. It took a while for me to get tired of hearing Bart shout “eat my dust, dust eaters!” 

Aside from these catchphrase-like one liners, the sense of humor that you’ll find in The Simpsons actually ties in fairly well with the humor you’ll find in Grand Theft Auto – it’s tongue-in-cheek with a tendency to lean to the dark side and while The Simpsons dabbles in the ridiculous more than Grand Theft Auto, neither misses an opportunity to be puerile.

In Hit and Run you get to play as Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Apu across 7 levels with access to a huge variety of cars and costumes you’ll recognise from the show. My favorite to drive was Chester’s Rocket Car but I loved the inclusion of the Mr Plow truck just for the opportunity to sing the jingle. 

Aside from care for its source material, the game shows care for the player experience and a genuine fondness for Grand Theft Auto. 

Like Grand Theft Auto, each car handles slightly differently – some are fast, some slow, some don’t handle turns well and some are ideal for ramming someone off the road. The differences are highly noticeable and your choice of car could absolutely impact your performance on a mission, something any Grand Theft Auto fan will know all too well.  

Another similarity is that you could end up destroying your car given enough damage, running down pedestrians wasn’t out of the question (nor was getting out of the car and kicking them) and creating enough chaos would result in a police chase. 

The knowledge that it’s Chief Wiggum chasing you makes it way more fun than the faceless police force of Liberty City, admittedly, but you’ll just as quickly find yourself cursing him, Ralph, Sarah and even Lou when he rams your door and ruins your chances of completing your mission. 

Taking all of this together makes Hit and Run feel like a game that was genuinely created for the enjoyment of fans, rather than to milk them. 

That said, while I was able to get to the end of Grand Theft Auto 3’s main story, I never had the same success with The Simpsons Hit and Run. While Hit and Run’s missions obviously never had the variety of those you’ll find in Grand Theft Auto, the final mission of Hit and Run was obscenely, stupidly difficult and absolutely not for kids. Given that I still haven’t finished it, though, maybe it’s not for adults either. 

Perhaps Grand Theft Auto is the more universal game after all. At least it didn't feature underage driving. 

  • Emma Boyle is taking a look back at games gone by (some of them older than she is.) Follow her time traveling adventures in her bi-weekly Retro Respawn column. Got any games you'd especially like to see her revisit? Let her know on Twitter @emmbo_ 
Categories: Tech News

Engineers teach robots to understand emotion through touch

Latest Tech News - 3 hours 55 min ago

Touch is one of the most important senses that humans have. As well as letting us sense the world around us, it also provides vital information when we meet other people - the old adage that you can tell a lot about a person from their handshake has at least a grain of truth in it.

Now researchers from Université Paris-Saclay are attempting to bestow the same benefits onto robots. Adriana Tapus and her colleagues are aiming to develop a humanoid robot that's sensitive to tactile stimulation in the same way people are.

“Giving robots a personality is the only way our relationship with artificial intelligence will survive," said Tapus. 

"If we can simulate a human like emotional response from a robot we can ensure a two-way relationship, benefiting the most vulnerable and isolated members of our society."

Social interaction strategies

Alongside a team that included Moustapha Hafez, Mehdi Ammi and Pierre-Henri Orefice, Tapus has been investigating the social interaction strategies that could allow robots to integrate in different human environments. 

For examples, the robots can elicit different emotions and dominance depending on the situation.

While testing a robot that could adjust its arm stiffness and amplitude in a handshake, the team claims that the system was able to infer the gender and how extroverted the person they were shaking hands with was in 75 percent of cases.

"Our research will help the next generation of social robots to be polite, empathetic, and maybe have their own sense of humour”, said Tapus.

Categories: Tech News

Voting is now open for the Golden Joystick awards

Latest Tech News - 4 hours 11 min ago

The “biggest publicly-voted video game awards ceremony on the planet” is back for its 35th year. The venue has been confirmed as the Bloomsbury Big Top in London. The date, November 17. The host, the brilliant Danny Wallace. 

But the most important element of the night is yet to be decided, and that’s where you come in. Head over to our sister-publication GamesRadar and cast your votes now to ensure that the games that have had the biggest impact on you over the last year walk away with the accolades you think they deserve. 

Don’t worry if you’re not London based, the entire ceremony is going to be livestreamed on the night so you can watch as the makers of your game of choice take to the stage to thank you for your all-important vote. 

Here’s Danny Wallace to tell you all about it:

There are a number of different categories for you to vote in, including (for the first time ever) Best VR Game. To help you before you make your decision, we've included some of the shortlist below:

Multiple nominee Horizon: Zero Dawn Best Storytelling

The visually stunning platformer Cuphead Best Visual Design

Experience the world of Star Trek first hand with Bridge Crew Best VR Game

Beyond Good and Evil 2 is up for Most Wanted Most Wanted Game

Ultimate Game nominee Assassin's Creed Origins Ultimate Game of the Year
Categories: Tech News

I went to an international arms fair (and all I got was this lousy existential dread)

Latest Tech News - 4 hours 20 min ago

I’m an old hand at covering trade shows at this point. CES, MWC, IFA – I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe – Jean Michel Jarre climbing an 11ft, £350,000 bluetooth speaker; a fat toner for your neck; a voice controlled fridge; an AR mirror that would make Hulk Hogan look like a Pussycat Doll.

But there’s not much that would prepare you for a day spent at an international arms fair – not even a youth wasted with GI-Joe dolls and a ‘prestige’ rank on Call of Duty. There’s something for everyone – so long as by ‘everyone’ you mean leaders of banana republics and mercenary groups that would make Sylvester Stallone’s Expendables seem as deadly as, well, a bunch of 70 year olds running around playing soldier.

The DSEI is essentially a Toys ‘R’ Us for arms dealers.

The Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) is a bi-annual military trade show held in the shadow of London’s Docklands financial district, one of the few areas where residual corruption is present at a concentration fitting to make the wheeling-and-dealing of an arms fair palatable.

I’d been visiting to get a handle on how augmented reality use-cases vary from industry to industry. As you’d imagine, for the military, using AR is a world apart from plonking a digital IKEA sofa into the corner of your living room. With some downtime between meetings, I traipsed the halls of the eXcel Centre, getting a feel for the tech the military was developing. With so much money pumped into the defence sector (the global military expenditure for 2016 was close to $1.7 TRILLION, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) a substantial amount of what’s developed eventually finds a second (usually less deadly) home in consumer tech.

Say hello to Skynet

It’s not often you can walk 20 metres and see a jump jet, land-to-air defence system and a Brexit-eering tank decked out in the Union Jack colours all under one roof, but the DSEI is essentially a Toys ‘R’ Us for arms dealers. It’s courted controversy and protest for decades - though Britain had been at war with Iran for close to six years, a delegation from Iraq were invited to attend in 1986, for instance. This year’s conference saw more than 100 protesters arrested.

If there was any disruption outside on the day of my attendance, it was in stark contrast to the relative calm inside – absurd given the death-dealing machinery all around. Within minutes of entering, I’d had my own hunter-killer Terminator moment, with a remotely-operated machine gun tracing my movement down an aisle. 

Staring down the barrel of something like that is NOT FUN.

I smiled emptily at the winking exhibitor, enjoying himself as heartily as if he had an Xbox controller in his hand instead. The Terminator analogy extended to all manner of autonomous weaponry, from an unmanned mounted weapon sat on what essentially was a roboticized mini tank to a fleet of dancing drones.

There were some cool-looking amphibious vehicles, one that appeared to be a modified Mazda Mk 2 MX5 roadster, the other closer to a quad-bike, that looked like they’d be a good laugh to drive.

Who needs an ark when you've got this?

And then I spotted the camo paint job running on the opposite side of the vehicle, and checked myself as to why they were on sale here.

The trauma trove

Genuinely impressive were a miniature Death Star offering a mobile satellite communications system:

Miniature Death Star, or giant Lindt Lindor?

...and an air-traffic control tower that could be put up like a Meccano set:

Flat-pack comms.

The medical zone offered perhaps the strangest sights, with mobile trauma centres set up to show field medics the latest in life-saving combat zone procedures. There was an eerily-realistic robot baby, used to train people for delivering babies in the high-pressure environments of a warzone, and a genuine amputee having his missing leg dressed in truly gory fashion for some later demonstration, under a grim banner that read “Bleed, Treat, Survive, Repeat”:

"Repeat"? No thanks.

Even the media room had a vein of machismo running through it that’d be absent from the geek-filled events I’d usually feel at home in – an international journalist was walking around with an (unlit) cigar the size a Smarties tube dangling perpetually, precariously from the corner of his mouth. 

It wasn’t a day entirely devoid of laughs. One purveyor of body armour, in an attempt to show how discretely its wares could be worn, had dressed up the most conspicuous dummy this side of an M&S window:

"Don't mind me, I'm just a heavily armoured mannequin at an arms fair." Meet Nigel

And then there was my bizarre interaction with a clumsy Nigel Farage-a-like.

Turning the corner of a particularly busy (and unevenly floored) stand at speed, this man took a nasty tumble that saw him fly like a cruise missile into the throngs of people around him, the quaint shrapnel of his leaflets, promo USB sticks and business cards rocketing off in all directions. There were gasps. There were embarrassed eyes, turning away from the disaster zone. There were more than a few chuckles.

“Are you alright mate?” I asked, picking up a few pens.

“Oh yes, quite,” said the man as he dusted himself off, before adding, “Good to see you though. Amazing who you bump into in these places.”

Bet Nige has one of these in the drive.

“Erm, yep,” I replied. The man had now done an about turn, walking astride me in the opposite direction he’d been going before his fall. Despite his insistence, I’d no idea who he was. 

“Are you alright? If you’re hurt you’ve gone down in the right place – there’s a mobile trauma centre on aisle C,” I nervously joked, as we continued to walk together for some minutes. I couldn’t risk showing my unease at his dogged determination that he recognised me, given the stuff on show at DSEI. He may well have been an assassin sent from the future.

There may well be a bespectacled warlord out there somewhere who’s my conflict-zone doppleganger.

“Yes, very good. Who are you here for this year then?” he asked before taking a quick glance down at my name badge. And then it all changed.

“Yes, well. Yes good to see you then.” And with that he was back off the way he’d originally been headed in. Whether he’d been using me to swiftly escape the jeers of his hyper-masculine peers, or had genuinely mistook me for some other attendee, I’ll never know. But it did make me think there may well be a bespectacled warlord out there somewhere who’s my conflict-zone doppleganger.

Vultures, big cats and not-so-mighty mice

For all the easy smiles, sharp suits and cocksuredness that comes from an improbably clear conscience, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of desperation in the air all the same. 

Whether engineers, spin doctors or generals, all were digging deep to justify the merit of the ‘technological advancements’ they were buying or selling. “We protect and beautify the world” read the myopic banner slogan for one manufacturer dealing in coatings for military vehicles. 

Walking the halls surrounded by missiles, tanks and hawkers who’d be made redundant if people stopped killing each other, I felt a bit like a mouse darting around the savannah, vultures circling overhead, looking to profit from the easy meat left behind by the big cats. 

I’m an old hand at mastering the art of cognitive dissonance too, holding two contrary beliefs in mind at once – the world is full of extinction-dealing technology, and this is fine. But the DSEI scared me.

  • Gerald Lynch is TechRadar’s resident futurist. His Future Gazing column casts a critical eye over the technologies and trends that are set to shape our world, bringing back to today a glimpse of tomorrow in the boot of his Delorean.
Categories: Tech News

The best 4K HDR movies and shows to get the most out of the Apple TV 4K

Latest Tech News - 4 hours 35 min ago

It’s been a long time coming, but Apple is finally jumping aboard the 4K format with its new Apple TV 4K streaming box. 

Along with support for the new resolution, the box also supports HDR, which is the technology that allows for a much greater contrast between dark and light parts of an image than ever before. 

That means blacks are properly black rather than just a milky grey, and bright whites have real sparkle to them. The added depth this technology adds to images is really stunning. 

But of course, any media player is only as good as the content you choose to watch on it, so we’ve duly put together a list of the movies and TV shows that we think best show off the technology that the new box is packing. 

The following include a selection of content that you can buy from Apple directly via iTunes, as well as our picks of the best 4K/HDR content from Netflix. Since the Amazon Prime Video app isn’t available on the Apple TV 4K at launch, we’ve chosen to exclude it for the time being. 

Few action movies manage to pack in more spectacle than Mad Max: Fury Road, which has made it a favorite for demonstrations of 4K / HDR technology. 

But what makes the film especially compelling is its restrained use of CGI, which means the extra detail delivered by 4K just ends up delivering more fantastic production design, rather than exposing the cracks in some poorly done special effects. 

Pay special attention to: the sandstorm scene, which has the kind of detail and contrast that 4K HDR TVs were made for. 

JJ Abrahms’ 2009 reboot of the classic sci-fi franchise might have annoyed some fans by straying a little too far from what made the original TV series so special, but it’s a change that worked out great for AV enthusiasts with epic space battles aplenty. 

It turns out the infinite blackness of space contrasted with the Enterprise’s Phase cannons is a match made in HDR heaven, and well worth experiencing again in the new format. 

Pay special attention to: the scene where the Enterprise warps in to discover the wreckage of the Vulcan’s fleet is a visual treat, as we’re treated to the sight of the ship frantically trying to avoid thousands of pieces of debris. 

When you attend enough TV demonstrations, you get used to seeing the same clips from the same movies over and over again. 

The Lego Batman Movie is one such film, and you can see why. The whole thing is packed full of detail, and the bright vibrant colors will push every TV to its max. 

Pay special attention to: the scene where the Joker frees the Lego world’s worst villains from the Phantom Zone doesn’t just look great, it’s also absolutely hilarious. 

Unfortunately Wonder Woman won’t be available to buy on iTunes until September 24, but we wanted to include it on this list for a couple of reasons. 

First is the fact that it’s the first DC movie that’s genuinely quite good, but it’s also got a great look to it with its World War I setting, which is a step above the drab modern settings of other recent movies from the comic book publisher. 

Pay special attention to: Wonder Woman’s battle in the veld village, where keen-eyed viewers might just spot TechRadar’s own Jon Porter playing a dead soldier at Gal Gadot’s feet. Seriously, we’re not kidding. He spent two weeks of his life lying in the dirt in the middle of February. 

Few superhero films are as bleak as Logan, which charts Wolverine’s later years as a world-weary mutant who’s suffered one too many battles throughout his lifetime. 

However, don’t expect this downbeat tone to result in a lack of spectacle. Logan has action sequences to rival the best the franchise has to offer, and their more real-world setting really benefits from the detailing of Ultra HD. 

Pay special attention to: the landscapes of the film are especially impressive. From the dusty landscapes of Logan’s initial hideout, to the forest setting of the conclusion, all benefit from the colors and detail offered by 4K HDR. 

A film about giant mechanised robots fighting alien invaders directed by the Guillermo del Toro was never going to look bland, and it doesn’t disappoint. 

Pacific Rim is a feast for the eyes, with an amazing art style that couldn’t have come from anyone other than del Toro. 

Pay special attention to: the scenes set inside the Jaegers (the giant mechanised robots that are used to defeat the incoming monsters), whose combination of bright neon lights against shadowy backdrops look phenomenal in HDR. 

It’s not just the world of cinema that benefits from the next generation of TV tech. Netflix has also been quick to embrace the standards for its original programming, which these days is dominated (much like the world of cinema) by Marvel properties. 

While the first series of Jessica Jones is regarded by many as being the best of the bunch, we’ve got a soft spot for Charlie Cox’s Daredevil, whose debut series is filled with some fantastic martial arts. 

Pay special attention to: the extended fight scene at the end of the second episode. The lengthy tracking shot is beautiful, and excellently choreographed. 

While GLOW occasionally throws a sucker-punch of ’80s neon, the show uses HDR in a far-more subtle way. This is because its makers have added an ‘80s sheen to make it period appropriate. 

But HDR isn’t just about crispness of image, it’s about making things look more like real life and GLOW really does.

GLOW is one of the first things anywhere to use HDR to top up an image that’s been deliberately made to look retro and it really does work. The technology doesn’t brighten everything, it just makes the things in a scene that are meant to stand out truly ping.

Pay special attention to: the moment the wrestling gets started. You won't be able to get away from the 4K sweat and tears. 

If you haven’t yet watched Chef’s Table, you are in for a treat. It’s as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the belly. Each episode follows the story of a different world class restaurant, so you get a peek into the worlds, (and importantly the kitchens) of some of the world’s finest chefs.

The cinematography on this show far exceeds any expectations that you might have for a cookery show, so we are really excited to see the rich vibrant colors provided by open fires and steaming pots in 4K HDR. 

Pay special attention to: In each episode the ‘plate reveals’ are a sumptuous treat, playing with light, color and contrast, perfect for your HDR TV to flex its muscles with. 

The Defenders may not be the ultimate small-screen superhero team-up the world was hoping for, but where the plot sometimes falters the look of the show certainly doesn’t. 

Pay special attention to: the way the color scheme subtly shifts between each defender's visual motif: Jessica Jones is blue, Daredevil red, Iron Fist is green and Luke Cage is yellow. In the early episodes, this shading is really noticeable and pretty damn cool.

This, coupled with the fantastic lighting, not only helps define the characters but it also makes the HDR footage truly pop. If only the plot was as clever...

Categories: Tech News

New Nvidia Shield TV bundle drops the controller for a cheaper entry price

Latest Tech News - 4 hours 39 min ago

On the market for new streaming box to sit under you TV? A new Nvidia Shield TV bundle goes up for pre-order today, ditching an accessory for a slightly more affordable entry price point.

You can now order a 16GB Nvidia Shield TV streamer for £179 / $179, bundled in with just its mic-packing remote. It lets you jump into the Android TV eco-system, streaming 4K HDR movies from the likes of Netflix and Amazon Video, as well as catch-up service apps, and Google Play gaming apps.

However, for just an extra £10.99 / $20.99, the existing 16GB Shield TV bundle packs in Nvidia's solid gamepad controller too. It's also squeezing in a mic for voice control, and is great for playing app games, using Nvidia's Gamestream service to beam titles played on your PC to your Shield box, and its Netflix-for-games GeForce Now cloud gaming service.

Consider your options

The controller isn't essential – the Shield TV works nicely if you hook up other USB gamepads too, including a PS4 pad. 

But considering the sold-separately price of the controller is £59.99/ $59.99, it's probably still worth coughing up for the pricier option. If you're on the market for the premium Shield TV experience, you can still get the 500GB box with control pad and remote for £279.99 / $299.99, too.

The Apple TV 4K may have stole the headline recently, and seems to be looking to eat into Nvidia's set-top box/console hybrid market with a renewed focus on gaming. But the Shield TV remains a device to contend with, thanks to its open approach to apps and file formats, and the range of gaming options it offers along with its suite of video apps.

Categories: Tech News

iPhone 8 deals: how to get a 'free' iPhone upgrade every year

Latest Tech News - 5 hours 55 min ago

There's no other way to say it - it's really expensive to buy new phones these days. Whether you want to buy a new phone outright or get one on a contract, you're going to pay through the nose.

In our roundup of the best iPhone 8 deals, for example, the average cost of the best deal on each of the four major networks works out at £1,268 over a two year plan. That's a heck of a lot of money for the average person.

It's even more frustrating for those people who like to get a new phone every year - 24 month contracts are so inconvenient!

So what's the most economical way to buy a new iPhone 8 if you want to pay as little as possible while not locking yourself into an expensive two year contract? There are actually a bunch of good options which we'll detail for you on this page. What's more, TechRadar has teamed up with Direct Mobiles to offer TR readers an exclusive saving on the iPhone 8.

Option 1: TechRadar's exclusive deal - save £39!

Step 1: Get a 12-month deal and sell your phone next September
This is actually a highly attractive option once you look into it. It requires a little bit of work on your part to make it work, but if you're a frugal sort this is well worth considering. The idea here is that you commit yourself only to 12 months of payments at which point your phone still has some value. You trade it in or sell it and use the money to get the new phone next year. At the moment, you can trade in a year-old iPhone 7 for about £330 which is pretty good. Luckily, TechRadar readers can currently get a £39 discount on the upfront cost of the iPhone 8 with a 12 month plan on EE...

EXCLUSIVE: iPhone 8 64GB | £659.95 upfront (save £39) | 18GB data | Unlimited calls and texts | £21 per month for 12 months (Total cost £911.95)
With this deal you get the phone for £659.95 instead of £699 which is a saving of £39.05 compared to what you'd pay for the phone outright at Apple.com or Carphone Warehouse. You then pay £21 per month for a year for an 18GB plan on EE which also bags you unlimited calls and texts. Including the upfront cost, this leaves you paying £911.95 over the whole year. See this deal at Direct Mobiles

Step 2: Walk away from your plan and sell your iPhone 8 online
At this point you've paid a little over the odds for your year with the iPhone 8, so step 2 is important! Your next task is to sell your iPhone 8 online - don't worry, it's really easy! Be sure to use at least a screen protector and if possibly a protective case so that after the year your phone is in good condition. You can now go to sites such as Music Magpie or Envirofone and sell your iPhone 8 hassle-free. Currently you could sell a year-old iPhone 7 for about £335. So given the increased cost of the iPhone 8 this year, a modest estimated value for the iPhone 8 in 12 months is a minimum of £350.

Take that away from your £911.95 and what have you paid for your year with EE and iPhone 8? The answer is £561.95. Times that by two and you'll find see that the two year total of £1,123.90 is equivalent to most of the standard two year plans out there - but they don't get you a new phone each year!

Step 3: Repeat the process!
The final step, of course, is to repeat steps 1 and 2! Buy an iPhone 9 and sign up for either a 12 month contract or a SIM only deal.

To see if all that was worthwhile, let's look at the numbers. Assuming your year with the iPhone 8 is roughly the same as what you'll pay for a year with the iPhone 9, your 24 months has now cost you £1,123.99. If you compare all of the best iPhone 8 deals out there right now, you'll struggle to find many deals that cost less than that. In fact the best 'big data' iPhone 8 deal on EE right now is probably this one at Mobiles.co.uk which gives you 25GB data for a total cost of £1241.76 over two years.

So your alternative deal costs you £118 LESS than that AND you get an upgrade to the iPhone 9 after 12 months. And at the end of two years, you simply rinse and repeat.

Caveats and other things to consider

There are a few things to consider before signing up for a plan like this. Firstly, remember if you stick with your iPhone 9 at the end of the two years instead of repeating the plan, you'll have ended up paying a bit more - probably more like £1,550 because you won't have had the 'rebate' of selling your phone. That's still competitive in the grand scheme of things (and it's still a good way to get a new phone if you're less bothered about the bottom line), but might make this plan more hassle than it's worth. So in a way you're only saving money with this method for as long as you're willing to keep up with it - if you ever duck out you'll end up saving no money.

What about the Apple Upgrade Programme?

This is very similar to the way the official Apple Upgrade Programme works. Apple's scheme will charge you £69 for the iPhone 8 and then you'll be committed to paying £37.95 per month for 20 months. The benefit of this is that you get AppleCare+ coverage and after 11 months you become eligible for an upgrade to the next iPhone. So this is another way to get an iPhone upgrade every year, but it'll only save you money for as long as you stay in the scheme - as soon as you stick with your current phone and pay the monthly fee for the remainder of your 20 month commitment, you will have negated the savings - and you still have to pay for a SIM only deal to get data, calls and texts. There's also no guarantee how much the upfront fee will be on your next upgrade or what the monthly installments will be.

Option 2: Buy at retail and pair with SIM only

The other obvious way to do this is by simply buying the iPhone 8 outright, and sorting a SIM only deal separately. This way you won't even need to worry about how long your contract is, since you can simply swap your SIM in and out of whichever phone you're using. That being said, SIM only deals tend to only come in 12 month and 1 month flavours anyway.

Categories: Tech News

4K and Ultra HD: Everything you need to know about the hot new resolution

Latest Tech News - 6 hours 3 min ago

Update: With the Apple TV 4K arriving soon, we've given our Ultra HD explainer an overhaul to fill you in on everything you need to know about the new resolution. 

Original article continues below...

If you're only just getting used to the clarity and detail of HD then we've got bad news for you. There's a new high resolution format in town called 4K. If you thought HD had a lot of pixels, then you ain't seen nothing yet. 

4K (or Ultra HD as it's also confusingly known) has enough pixels to fill four Full HD 1080p screens. With four times the amount of pixels it's able to display four times the level of detail. 

This is especially helpful on television's that are 50-inches and above. 

Whereas traditional HD is limited to 1920 vertical columns and 1080 horizontal rows of pixels, Ultra HD has a total resolution of 3840 pixels by 2160 – a slightly smaller resolution than the 4,096 x 2,160 resolution seen on cinema screens (that, for the record, is called Cinema 4K).

We're used to being slightly wary of new television technologies that try to entice us into parting with our hard-earned cash (thanks 3D), but when it comes to 4K there are relatively few downsides – aside from the lack of native 4K content out there right now.

It used to be the case that you'd have to part with thousands in order to purchase a 4K set, but as technology has improved, prices are rapidly falling with even budget sets now being 4K-compatible.

At the end of the day it might not be the raw resolution of 4K that tempts you into your next TV purchase, but the inclusion of other cool technologies like High-Dynamic Range, Quantum Dot and OLED panels. Before we get into the specifics of each technology, here's a video outlining 4K in a nutshell.

Check out our video below for an introduction to the world of 4K. 

What is 4K?

Pure and simple, 4K means a clearer picture. It's more pixels (8,294,400 to be exact) on the screen at once that creates images that are crisper and capable of showing more details than standard HD.

That's it?

That's it.

What is the resolution of 4K?

4K resolution, at least the way most TVs define it, is 3840 x 2160 or 2160p. To put that in perspective, a full HD 1080p image is only a 1920x1080 resolution. 4K screens have about 8 million pixels, which is around four times what your current 1080p set can display.

Think of your TV like a grid, with rows and columns. A full HD 1080p image is 1080 rows high and 1920 columns wide. A 4K image approximately doubles the numbers in both directions, yielding approximately four times as many pixels total. To put it another way, you could fit every pixel from your 1080p set onto one quarter of a 4K screen.

Samsung's new line of SUHD with Quantum Dot is a premium series of 4K TVs. Why is it called 4K?

Because the images are around 4,000 pixels wide. And before you ask, yes, the industry named 1080 resolution after image height, but named 4K after image width. For extra added fun, you also might hear this resolution referred to as 2160p. Welcome to the future. It's confusing here.

Do all those extra pixels matter?

They matter very much. More pixels means more information. More information means sharper pictures. Sharper pictures are more engaging. More engaging content is more fun. And fun... well fun is the thing, isn't it?

So I'll see a huge difference?

That's where it gets sticky. We're talking about a similar jump in resolution as the one from SD (480 lines high) to HD (1080 lines high). And 4K screens are noticeably sharper than 1080p screens. But there are a few reasons you might not feel the same thrill you did when you upgraded your old CRT to a flatscreen.

When most people went from a 480 to a 1080p set, there was a good chance they were making a big jump in TV size as well. In terms of wow factor, display size is more powerful than any resolution jump could ever hope to be. Last time around most people got big jumps to both screen size and resolution. But this time screen sizes are staying about the same, with the most popular models falling in the 40 inch to 70 inch range.

If you have the bandwidth, you can now watch many of Netflix's shows in Ultra HD 4K

Most importantly, though, you'll only be able to see the resolution difference on a 4K set if you're 1) watching 4K content through it and 2) you're sitting close enough.

Sitting close enough?

Yup. Remember when Apple made a big fuss about "retina" displays a few iPhones back? "Retina" refers to screens that have sufficient resolution that at a normal viewing distance your eye can't make out individual pixels. Get far enough away from a 1080p set and, hey presto, It's a retina display! More importantly, at that same distance, your eyeballs won't be able to squeeze any more detail out of a 4K image than a 1080 one. If you're at "retina distance" from your 1080p set now and don't plan on moving your couch closer, upgrading to 4K may not make a big difference to your experience. This chart shows how close you need to sit at any given screen size to see the difference.

So I should sit closer?

Oh my yes. The ability to get up close to the screen without the image breaking down is one of the most intoxicating things about 4K. Sitting closer allows the same sized screen to fill more of your visual field, which yields greater immersion. The up-close factor is one of the reasons 4K computer monitors have become one of the technology's fastest growing sectors. 4K monitors remain pin-sharp even when you're just a foot or two from the screen, as you are when you're sitting at your desk.

Difference between Ultra HD and 4K

Technically, "Ultra High Definition" is actually a derivation of the 4K digital cinema standard. However while your local multiplex shows images in native 4096 x 2160 4K resolution, the new Ultra HD consumer format has a slightly lower resolution of 3840 X 2160.

This is one reason why some brands prefer not to use the 4K label at all, sticking with Ultra HD or UHD instead. However, the numerical shorthand looks likely to stick. As a broad brush label it's so much snappier!

Why should I care about 4K Ultra HD?

There are many reasons why 4K should make you rethink your next TV purchase (actually, there are eleven and you can read about them here), not all of them immediately obvious.

Photographers who routinely view their work on an HD TV are seeing but a fraction of the detail inherent in their pictures when they view them at 2160p.

A 4K display reveals so much more nuance and detail – the difference can be astonishing. While 3D has proved to be a faddish diversion, 4K comes without caveats. Its higher resolution images are simply better.

The higher pixel density of a 4K panel also enable you get much closer without the grid-like structure of the image itself becoming visible –this means you can comfortably watch a much larger screen from the same seating position as your current Full HD panel. Currently all available 4K Ultra HD TVs are in excess of 50-inches.

Ultra HD Premium

If you're sitting there thinking that all these new technologies and acronyms sound confusing then you'd be right. That's why a group of companies decided to form the UHD Alliance with the expressed aim of defining what technologies should be included in the next generation of TV sets.

The UHD Alliance is comprised of 35 companies including television manufacturers such as LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Toshiba, Sony, Sharp, audio companies such as Dolby, and film and television production companies such as Netflix and 20th Century Fox.

The idea then is that if everyone can agree on what features they think UHD should include then Disney (an example member of the alliance) can produce a movie that Netflix will be able to stream through a Samsung TV, and the eventual image will be exactly what the director at Disney intended.

The result of this alliance was the UHD Premium specification announced at CES 2016. The specification comprises a list of features that should be included in products like TVs and Blu-ray players to ensure maximum compatibility with other content and hardware produced.

Currently, in order to adhere to the UHD Premium specification a product must have:

  • A resolution of at least 3840x2160
  • 10-bit color depth, allowing for 1,024 shades of each of the three primary colors red, green and blue, as opposed to the 256 allowed by the current 8-bit standard.
  • Be capable of displaying pixels at a certain brightness and darkness for HDR purposes (technically this light level is from 0.05 to 1,000 'nits' for LEDs and 0.0005 to 540 'nits' for OLED sets for all you number lovers out there). Adhering to these standards means blacks should look truly dark as opposed to just milky black and whites should really pop.

Now that this standard has been defined it should just be a case of checking that your next purchase has the 'Ultra HD Premium' logo and not having to worry about your set being incompatible with the slew of 4K content that's about to emerge over the next few years.

Except of course it's not that simple.

Samsung and Panasonic are embracing the new standard, with both of their flagship lineups wearing their UHD Premium badges with pride. Sony however have decided to go down a more confusing route and have decided to stick with their internal '4K HDR' label despite their sets all actually meeting the required specification. Philips won't be using the alliance's badge, but its sets don't currently meet the specification anyway.

It's only natural that while a technology is still emerging these problems will continue to exist, but we hope that soon we'll be able to recommend looking for a UHD Premium set without reservation. Until the whole industry unambiguously backs the standard however, we'd still recommend you tread carefully to ensure maximum compatibility.

You also said "and up." Can UHD also designate higher resolutions than 4K?

Yes. This is the slightly confusing part. An 8K display would also be UHD.

What is this 8K you speak of?

It's the next resolution standard up from 4K. Basically it doubles the pixel height and width again to yield approximately 32 million pixels. It's a regular pixel party.

Find out more about the new resolution in our full guide to 8K

That sounds awesome. Should I just get one of those?

Absolutely not. The 8K standard is primarily for the exhibition market (aka movie theaters). To make that many pixels matter, you need to be feeding a truly gigantic screen and sitting right in front of it. Besides, you can't buy an 8K screen today without having it custom built, which would cost approximately seven hojillion dollars. And there's no commercially available 8K content. You'd need to get movies directly from distributors the same way theaters do. You do not need this unless you are Jerry Bruckheimer. (If you are Jerry Bruckheimer, though, give me a call. I know a guy.)

My friend told me about 4K OLED. What's that?

More acronyms! Isn't this fun? OLED - organic light emitting diodes - have been around for some time, but producing big screens using this technology has proven to be prohibitively expensive, something which has so far prevented OLED television from being a mainstream proposition.

It's a real shame because OLED technology can be stunning, offering vibrant colors, deep blacks and bright whites. But don't give up hope just yet. Several companies (most prominently LG) are laboring away to bring OLED to 4K televisions. We recently took a look at LG's new 4K OLED sets, but while they're gorgeous, pricing remains sky high. Hopefully that will change soon, though. "I believe the price and yield rate will be higher immediately and the price will be down," Mr K I Kwon, president of LG Electronics UK, told TechRadar recently. We hope his predictions hold and we aren't ruling out OLED as a big player in the next generation of televisions.

I've heard Netflix has been streaming in something called HDR. What is that?

HDR, UHD, OLED ... there's no shortage of acronyms in home entertainment.

HDR, or high dynamic range, essentially increases the difference between the lightest and the darkest portions of an image. Blacks get properly dark rather than milky grey, and whites get blindingly light.  

This means that images have more depth to them, and you should also be able to perceive more detail in the lightest and darkest portions of the image. 

Netflix was the first content provider to release HDR video in 2015, but Amazon Instant Video also offers high dynamic range content. HDR has also been included in the new Ultra HD Blu-ray standard. 

HDR is a big enough topic by itself, so we've got a full explainer dedicated entirely to it

Why isn't broadcast TV all in 4K?

Because every 4K frame contains four times the information of HD, 4K content is four times more bulky than regular HD content in terms of its raw file size. That makes it a challenge to get it to you.

Steps are being made to get 4K content into broadcast television. In the UK, Sky has started broadcasting select sports in 4K, and BT is also using IPTV technology to do likewise

On the streaming side, bandwidth is a definite issue. The internet's bandwidth is already dominated by Netflix's traffic, prompting ISPs to go after them for extra cash, and that's with most of its streams at SD and HD levels. Upping everything to 4K doesn't sound like a reasonable option just yet. And even if it were possible to stream 4K content to everyone without breaking the internet, streaming 4K content requires a 25Mbps or faster downstream internet connection, which is faster than most people have at the moment.

So what can I watch?

Your best UHD options right now come from Netflix and Amazon.

Netflix is leading the 4K streaming waters with most of its original shows (The Defenders, House of Cards, Breaking Bad, The Blacklist) being available in 4K, alongside select films (Ghostbusters, The Smurfs 2). 

The selection might be more limited than the amount of HD content, but it's increasing day by day. 

Amazon has also gotten into the 4K UHD streaming game by offering some of its highest-rated shows – Transparent, Mozart in the Jungle, Man in the High Castle, The Grand Tour and Mad Dogs – in Ultra HD.

Both streaming services say even more content is on its way and expects the roll-out to ramp up once more TV watchers make the jump to the higher-resolution standard.

If you have the bandwidth, you can now watch some Netflix shows in Ultra HD 4K What about gaming in 4K?

We've had 4K gaming on the PC for a while now for those with a powerful enough rig, but 4K gaming on consoles has been heating up over the last year thanks to the efforts of Sony and Microsoft. 

Sony got the ball rolling with the PS4 Pro, which uses an advanced form of upscaling to generate a 4K image. It might not be native 4K, but we think the results are excellent. 

Although Microsoft dipped its toe in the 4K water last year with the upscaling Xbox One S, but will be embracing it fully with the Xbox One X soon which will offer native 4K gaming for select titles. 

What kind of cables will I need for 4K?

The two standard cables you're most likely to use are either a standard HDMI or if you're connecting a PC to a Ultra HD monitor, DisplayPort.

HDMI cables now come in four flavors: high speed with ethernet; high speed without ethernet; standard speed with ethernet and standard speed without ethernet. Standard speed cables are capable of 1080i, but aren't able to handle the bandwidth of 4K. High speed cables can do anything higher than 1080i. Now, as long as you're using the same class of cable, there is no distinguishable difference in terms of performance between one manufacturer's set of cables and another's.

The speed of your connection will depend on the types of connectors, which includes HDMI 1.4, HDMI 2.0 and HDMI 2.0a. HDMI 1.4 connectors support a 3820x2160-resolution at 30 frames per second, while HDMI 2.0 is the latest spec and can output video at Ultra HD resolution at 60 frames per second. (But more on that below!) HDMI 2.0a is capable of HDR.

The bottom line is that if your HDMI cable is able to handle 1080p (the standard for a number of years now) then it should be able to also do 4K. Don't get conned into buying expensive cables. 

The other type of cable you can use is DisplayPort. DisplayPort carries 4K image and audio signal from most high-end graphics cards to monitors without any noticeable artifacts or delays.

So should I buy a 4K set now or should I wait?

If you're buying a TV that's 55-inches and above that you should absolutely think about investing in 4K. All of the major players are embracing it as the new standard, and the amount of content is only going to increase over time. 

If you're buying a TV smaller than 55-inches then the question gets a lot more complicated. 

The problem is not that 4K doesn't make enough of a difference at these sizes, but instead that the additional technologies that have been combined with 4K in most sets haven't trickled down to the smaller models just yet. 

As a result, while it's totally possible to get a 4K TV that's as small as just 40-inches, at this point it's unlikely to have a decent level of HDR (which we'd consider as going as bright as 1000 nits or more), 10-bit color, or wide color gamut. 

Sure you'll get the right amount of pixels, but they won't have the additional technologies to make them look really beautiful. 

Eventually they'll make their way to smaller sets, but for now 4K is at its best at 55 inches and above where you can get all the bells and whistles that really matter. 

Scott Alexander originally contributed this article

Categories: Tech News

Best AR apps: great augmented reality experiences - from ARKit to Android

Latest Tech News - 6 hours 14 min ago

Augmented reality has big potential in the smartphone world. While virtual reality has established a somewhat rocky position through Google’s Cardboard and DayDream headsets and Samsung’s Gear VR, the headsets detract somewhat from the convenient portability we’ve come to associate with our smartphones. 

By overlaying graphics over our existing environments rather than inviting us to escape them, however, AR is positioning itself somewhat differently and, for the general user, more appealingly. 

At the moment, AR technology looks set to change the way we look at and interact with the world, with experiences geared towards everything from gaming, to shopping, to accessing information.

Google is already involved through Project Tango and ARCore but it’s Apple that’s pushing the technology notably hard through iOS 11 and ARKit. Now that iOS 11 has launched, millions of iPhones and iPads are AR compatible and there’s be no need for any external hardware to get started.

Not being in the Apple ecosystem or having iOS 11, however, doesn’t preclude you from enjoying some great mobile AR experiences across iOS and Android. 

Sure what you can freely access now isn’t quite at the level of what’s possible through hardware like HoloLens and Google Glass but if you’re curious about AR’s potential when it comes to augmenting your reality, we suggest checking out some of these great apps across Android, iOS and ARKit. 

‘Well, obviously’ we hear you sigh. Yes, it’s an obvious one but since its launch in the summer of 2016, Pokemon Go has remained one of the best and most addictive uses of augmented reality in gaming. 

You’re probably familiar with the game, but essentially it uses your phone’s camera to place catchable Pokemon in the world around you and highlights points of interest in the real world. Pokemon Go is a basic augmented reality game, but it’s also a great example of how augmented reality can make something as simple as wandering around your own local area more entertaining. 

Available free on Google Play and iTunes.

There are few things more real and permanent than a tattoo so the fact that AR can help you get a look at what a tattoo will look like on your very own skin before you commit is exceptionally useful. 

You can either overlay a design from the app’s pre-created gallery of designs or upload your own and then use your phone’s camera on the part of your body you’re thinking of inking to see the tattoo appear there in real time. Even better you can capture the image and share it if you’re looking for some input from others. 

Available free on Google Play and iTunes

Giphy has managed to worm its way into our messaging and social media apps from iMessage to Facebook and Twitter. Now it's trying to get directly into our real lives with Giphy World.

With this you'll be able to bring your favorite GIFs into the real world, record the video and share it with friends. 

This is an app that's just for ARKit and iOS 11 users and it can be found free on iTunes

It’s not as easy to safely kick a ball around the streets anymore as it once was, particularly for those of us that live in busy cities and have very poor co-ordination. Kickball is a fun AR solution that makes the most of the fact that most of us are looking down at our feet and/or phones while we walk anyway by placing a football at our feet. 

It’s simple, but it’s fun and allows you to practice your fancy footwork without worrying about breaking a vase or a bone. Adjustable difficulty levels keep the challenge up to boot. 

Available free on Google Play and iTunes.

Though it started out as a means of sending self-destructing messages, Snapchat has become a great example of how augmented reality has the potential to enhance how we communicate. Using your phone’s camera, Snapchat makes it possible to overlay your face and your environment with lenses, animated stickers and writing and share it with friends. 

Available free on Google Play and iTunes.

Fitness is another area we imagine AR is going to make a big impact and Fitness AR is a good example of a way it'll do so.

Though it's not an official Strava app, Fitness AR works with the Strava service, pulling in data from your previous run and cycle routies and displaying it on a 3D terrain map which you can then view in the real world through your iOS device.

Through a combination of ARKit technology and Mapbox, it's possible to view your route on this map from all angles, zooming in to see things in more details. 

If you don't have a Strava account but you're planning a future bike tour, you can use the app to simply explore famous routes and see the terrain in greater detail than a standard map would allow. 

It does, however, work best for those with a Strava account. 

Fitness AR is exclusive to iOS 11 users and costs $2.99/£2.99 from iTunes.

Not only will AR change how we game and how we communicate, it also has the potential to open up more of the world for exploration.

Google Translate's Word Lens feature is AR in its most simple form but it makes it possible to translate foreign text into your own language simply by pointing your phone’s camera at it. 

It makes navigating foreign countries slightly less daunting and though it’s not always entirely accurate, we recently found it especially useful to look for allergens in restaurant menus while on holiday. The best thing is it can be used offline so you don’t need to worry about pesky data allowances.

Available free on Google Play and iTunes

It often takes us by surprise how often we’re out and about and find ourselves in need of a measuring tape. How often do you make rough estimations of the size of a piece of furniture before you buy it? Or very roughly try to calculate the distance between things by using your very vague memory of how long you think a ruler probably is.

We’re not likely to start carrying rulers or, god forbid, full measuring tapes around with us ‘just in case’ but an AR solution is appealing since we’ll always have our phones. 

The availability of apps like this is, however, limited at the moment. For Android users there's the app simply called Measure. This app is free but it's only compatible with Google Tango enabled smartphones. 

For iPhone users, there's Air Measure which uses the new ARKit platform. It requires iOS 11 to use and will work on iPhone models 6S and later as it relies on the A9 processor. 

Holo is a simple but highly entertaining AR app which allows you to place a range of 3D objects and people into your real-world environment by using your phone’s camera. You can only place one hologram at a time, but the library of options is extensive so you can pose beside anything from Spiderman to a tiger. 

Once you’ve placed your hologram you can either snap a photo or record a video in which it’ll move and then share it on social media. It really is one of the most simple ways to enjoy AR but it’s the variety of content that sells Holo and with new holograms being added every week you’re unlikely to get bored.

Available free on Google Play and iTunes.

If you know what the Big Dipper is but you couldn’t even begin to point it out in the night sky, you might like what Star Walk 2 brings to the table. 

Place your phone between your eyes and the night sky and this app will be able to map out what you’re looking at in real-time, from constellations, to planets, to individual stars. You can zoom in and out depending on how much detail you want on an individual star or planet and pull up a range of statistics and information.

Even better, this app works without an internet connection so you don’t have to worry about signal if you decide to embrace cliche and stargaze during that camping trip in a dense forest.

Available free on Google Play and iOS

Ikea showrooms are deceptive in that they always manage to convince you any piece of furniture would look great in your home. Then the sofa arrives and you realize your pattern-matching error. 

Shopping is an area of our lives where AR is likely to have a big impact and, anticipating this, Ikea has created its own AR app that allows you to place the latest Ikea catalog items in your home to see how they’d look. 

In its current state we probably wouldn’t rely on the app to decorate an entire room as it can run on the slow side.

For those on iOS 11, there's also Ikea Place which is built on the ARKit technology. There are more than 2000 pieces of true-to-scale Ikea furniture in this app from sofas to coffee tables that can be placed in your home. 

Available free on Google Play and iTunes. 

If you frequently find yourself voluntarily trapped under your laptop in a Wikipedia black hole of potentially useful information, you might be interested in Wikitude. 

This AR app will let you find out snippets of information about the world around you simply by holding your phone aloft. If you’re in a city you could find out more information about the buildings around you in an instant, or if you’re reading a magazine that’s decided to jump on the AR bandwagon it’ll allow you to access additional digital content like videos or digital purchase buttons. 

Available free on Google Play and iTunes

We all think we’re capable of a touch of artistic vandalism but if it came to it and someone placed a can of spray paint in our hand and told us to tag a wall, we’d probably chicken out.

Fortunately, AR apps are going to make it possible to experience the wild side without the consequences. While Inkhunter will let you try out a tattoo, WallaMe will let you  draw all over the world around you without leaving a mark. 

Simply point your phone’s camera at a wall, a building or a pavement, draw a geotagged message and share it with your friends through the app. They’ll then be able to head along to the location, hold their own phone camera up and see the image you drew there. You have the option to share your message privately, or make it public so that anyone using the WallaMe app can see your message.

Available free on Google Play and iTunes.

If the world just isn’t scary enough for your tastes, Ghost Snap is an AR app that will turn your world into a horror game. Just hold your phone camera up and you’ll see your real-time location turned into a dark and creepy setting filled with evil supernatural creatures. 

It’s like a cross between Blair Witch and Fatal Frame, taking your first person view of the world and having you capture pictures of the ghosts that appear on your phone’s screen as a means of defending yourself against them. 

This app is best used with a set of headphones as there are atmospheric sounds and music that really immerse you in the world you’re seeing. 

Available free on Google Play. 

Being a great drawer takes dedication and practice. But if you don’t have time for that and you just want the satisfaction of drawing a panda that isn’t constantly mistaken for a sun bear, Sketch AR is an app with appeal. 

This is basically digitally assisted tracing. Just select the image you want to draw, hold your phone above your paper and or canvas and follow the lines on your phone screen to draw the image. 

At the moment there's an Android version and iOS version of the app that works across all devices. However, those with Google Tango enabled devices will be able to access additional features such as image scaling and the ability to draw on surfaces larger than A4 and A5 sheets of paper. 

Available free on Google Play and iTunes.

Categories: Tech News

Samsung Galaxy Note 9: what we want to see

Latest Tech News - 6 hours 33 min ago

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is one of the biggest phones Samsung’s ever made, not to mention one of the best, and there’s no doubt that the company will follow it up next year with the Samsung Galaxy Note 9.

In fact, we’re already hearing the first rumors about that phone, and they suggest it could be even more futuristic than the iPhone X.

You’ll find everything we’ve heard about the Note 9 below, along with our own analysis and a selection of the features and improvements we most want to see.

Cut to the chase
  • What is it? Samsung's next flagship phablet
  • When is it out? Possibly August 2018
  • What will it cost? Probably at least $929 / £869 / AU$1,499
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 release date and price

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 was announced on August 23 and released in September, while the short-lived Samsung Galaxy Note 7 followed a similar schedule the previous year.

So there’s a good chance that the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 will be announced in late August 2018, before hitting stores possibly in mid to late September.

When it does it’s sure to be expensive. The Galaxy Note 8 retails for $929 / £869 / AU$1,499 and we can’t see Samsung lowering the price for the Note 9, especially now Apple has pushed smartphone prices even higher with its iPhone X.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 news and rumors

The biggest Samsung Galaxy Note 9 rumor relates to its fingerprint scanner, which could be built into the screen.

Both Samsung and Apple have been rumored to be working on this but failed to achieve it in time for their most recent handsets, pushing Samsung to move the scanner to a sub-optimal position on the back of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note 8, while Apple ditched it altogether from the iPhone X.

The latest rumor comes from analysts at KGI Securities, who reckon the in-screen scanner won’t be ready in time for the Samsung Galaxy S9, but will be done for the Note 9. If it is, Samsung could retain the all-screen front of its phone while still having a conveniently positioned scanner.

An even more ambitious goal for the Galaxy Note 9 could be for it to have a bendable display. This is something Samsung’s been working on for even longer, and now Samsung’s president of mobile has said the company plans to launch such a phone next year.

However, that’s only if it can overcome certain unnamed problems, and if it does launch it may not be the Note 9 which has such a screen, though Samsung has been known to equip its Note phones with new and innovative technology in the past.

Could this be an early look at the Samsung Galaxy Note 9's design?

And a patent may have given us a glimpse at what the Note 9 will look like, as Samsung has published a phone design with a screen that curves at the right edge, but oddly not at the left.

It’s an unusual look for a phone, and quite different to the Note 8, so we’re skeptical that it will be used for the Note 9, but you never know.

That’s all we’ve heard so far, but there are some things we’re fairly confident the Galaxy Note 9 will have. For one thing, it’s almost certainly going to have a large Super AMOLED display, an S Pen stylus and at least 6GB of RAM, since the Note 8 does.

It’s also likely to retain the Note 8’s dual-lens camera, though probably with some improvements, and will likely have a curved screen.

Based on past models the Note 9 is also likely to sport whatever the top-end Snapdragon or Exynos chipset is at the time of its launch.

What we want to see

There are only a few Samsung Galaxy Note 9 rumors so far, but we have a good idea of the sorts of things we want to see from it, such as the following.

1. An in-screen scanner

This has been rumored and it would be a great headline feature for the phone. Having the scanner on the back is awkward, but building it into the screen would both be convenient and the sort of high-tech, futuristic thing that could see the Galaxy Note 9 stand out among other handsets.

We’re pretty sure Samsung is working on it, it’s just a question of whether it’s ready in time for the Note 9’s 2018 launch.

2. Room-filling sound

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8's single speaker fails to impress

There are plenty of great things about the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, but its speakers aren’t among them. 

It has just a single bottom-firing speaker, so for the Note 9 we want at least two speakers, and ideally for them to be positioned on the front of the phone, for sound that travels towards you when you’re looking at the screen.

Given how large the Note 9 is likely to be though, it could maybe even manage four speakers, for truly big sound.

3. Better Bixby

Bixby is one of the key new features of this year’s crop of Samsung flagships, but in its current form it leaves something to be desired, especially when it comes to understanding what you’re saying. 

By the time of the Note 8’s launch we want it to be a true Google Assistant and Siri rival.

But however good it ends up being we also want to be able to remap the inevitable Bixby button, because not everyone is going to want to use it.

4. Two-day battery life

Samsung’s been conservative with the size of the battery in the Galaxy Note 8, understandably given what happened with the Note 7, but it’s meant that while the Note 8 should last you a day you’ll probably be plugging it in at night.

And it doesn’t charge as fast as earlier fast charging Samsung phones either. 

That may have been a safety precaution as well, but if Samsung can find a way to deliver two-day life and truly fast charging with the Note 9, without risking an inferno, we’d be very happy.

5. Improved face scanning

Samsung's face scanner isn't secure enough to replace a fingerprint scan

Although the iPhone X’s Face ID is perhaps its headline feature, it’s not the first phone to sport face scanning. Nor is the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, but it does have it, it’s just not very secure, to the point where a still image can fool it.

So for the Galaxy Note 9 we want face scanning to return, but only if it’s a lot better. If it can prove more reliable than even Face ID then Samsung could be on to a real winner.

6. A similar price

Given that it’s likely to be one of the most high-tech phones of 2018 we don’t really expect Samsung to launch the Galaxy Note 9 at a lower price than the $929 / £869 / AU$1,499 Samsung Galaxy Note 8.

But if it can keep it around the same that would be something, and would see it undercut Apple’s top-end phones, given that the new iPhone X starts at $999 / £999 / AU$1,579.

7. Even less bezel

The front of the Galaxy Note 8 is almost all screen, but there’s still a sliver of bezel at the top and bottom.

We’d like to see Samsung reduce or remove that for the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, perhaps along the lines of the Essential Phone or the iPhone X. Doing so would allow what’s always going to be a very big phone to be a bit more manageable, without having to shrink the screen.

  • We might also see the HTC U12 in 2018
Categories: Tech News

5 best VPN services for Bangladesh 2017

Latest Tech News - 7 hours 14 min ago

If you want to travel and connect online with total peace of mind, Bangladesh could prove a challenge. While the country’s internet censorship might not be nearly as bad as some other parts of Asia, the government does make its presence felt online – particularly when it comes to social media in terms of censoring what’s deemed offensive or sensitive material.

So if you want to dodge any chance of government interference, a VPN is obviously a good bet. Plus it gives you an anonymous and secure browsing experience anyway, whether you’re living in Bangladesh, or merely visiting the country.

Check out our other VPN content:

How to choose the best VPN service for Bangladesh

As ever, watertight security and a clear and transparent privacy policy are highly important aspects when considering which provider to pick. And for obvious reasons, it’s a good idea to go for a service which has local servers, as these generally provide a more stable and faster connection. These might be rare when it comes to Bangladesh, though, so the presence of any local servers at all will be most welcome.

Ideally, your VPN of choice should also offer a wide range of native clients which are user-friendly, and it should boast good coverage in terms of customer support. Anything else beyond that is a bonus!

Here are our five choices for the best VPN for Bangladesh.

ExpressVPN is one of the very few VPNs with a server presence in Bangladesh. Out of the overall 145 server locations, the British Virgin Islands-based provider has one in the South Asian country, based in the capital city of Dhaka. With 1,000+ servers available in total across the globe, there’s a lot of connection choices. The service is well-known for its wide range of quality clients (especially the mobile kind) with impressive multi-platform support. 

You can also expect impressive goodies on the security front, including 256-bit encryption and features like an automatic kill switch. ExpressVPN maintains a strict policy regarding logs with no activity or connection logs kept. Customer support is available round-the-clock either by chat or email.

The generous refund policy allows for the sampling of the full service for up to 30 days with no restrictions whatsoever. That’s good, because there’s no free trial, and this service isn’t particularly cheap. Out of the three available plans, the 1-year option will hurt your wallet the least. The packages available are:

HideMyAss users have two local Bangladesh servers at their disposal. This provider’s main draw is a broad network that covers almost every country on the planet. Desktop clients are relatively basic and straightforward, which makes HideMyAss very easy-to-use.

The service is part of AVG, the well-known antivirus company, so you’d expect security won’t be an issue. Privacy is a different story, though. The provider has an unnecessarily complicated and lengthy privacy policy, and while it doesn’t log web activity, it does log your incoming IP address and the IP address of the server you're using. That’s more than most providers do. On the plus side, there are good levels of customer support here, via email, chat and a ticket system.

Pricing will also raise a few eyebrows as even the discounted longer-term contract prices are a little on the high side. There is a 30-day refund here, though, but it comes with some restrictions – you can’t have used more than 10GB of data or made over 100 connections. As ever, the yearly subscription offers the best value. The packages available are:

NordVPN doesn’t have any servers in Bangladesh itself, but it does offer three servers in India which are the nearest options that’ll likely get you the fastest possible connection. This provider also has a huge global network of servers which is a boon in general terms, and it delivered very good performance levels in our testing.

The Panama-based service offers a host of desktop and mobile apps that are quite easy-to-use, yet packed with advanced features. P2P action is allowed on select servers and customer support is available all the time to deal with any problems.

Things look even better on the security front: all the usual expected features are here, along with dedicated IPs, Onion support, and double encryption on select servers. NordVPN clearly states that none of the user’s online activity or browsing history is being monitored, stored or otherwise put at risk.

There is a free 3-day trial to test the service, although curiously this isn’t advertised on the homepage (find it here). The monthly billing is steep so your best bet is the very affordable 2-year plan, covered by a 30-day money-back guarantee. The packages available are:

[57% Off] IPVanish (Official Promotion) - Get up to 57% Off TechRadar's #1 Rated VPN Service with IPVanish's top-tier network delivering some of the fastest speeds in our tests. Zero logs gives you total privacy. 

While IPVanish doesn’t have a local presence in Bangladesh, it offers plenty of coverage in India, the next best thing in this case. The rest of the network spans across 60 countries, making it one of the fastest growing VPNs in the world.

Performance-wise, the service gave us a significant increase in download speeds compared to our normal (non-VPN) rates. The dedicated PC client is a premium offering, and the Mac and mobile apps are of a similarly high quality. A number of settings cover both the basics and more advanced features. 

OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP/IPsec security protocols are supported and you get 256-bit AES encryption. Also, there is a ‘zero logs’ policy in place on the privacy front, with 24/7 customer support provided.

IPVanish’s pricing is just a bit higher than the rest of the VPN pack. There’s no free trial either, although the provider does offer a 7-day money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied with the service. The 1-year plan boasts the best value for money, and the packages available are:

This provider doesn’t have any servers located in Bangladesh, but with nine servers in India and a solid, self-managed network, getting a fast connection should not be an issue. A further big plus point is the fact that SaferVPN delivered above-average performance in our testing. Sadly, you won’t be able to use it for torrents as there is no P2P support.

There are dedicated clients for all the main operating systems, with support for IKEv2, OpenVPN, L2TP and PPTP security protocols, as well as 256-bit encryption. The provider doesn’t log traffic data but does store session data (connect and disconnect times, bandwidth used, your incoming IP address, etc.) which is more than we’d ideally like to see.

Customer service is available around the clock through live chat or email, and you can sample SaferVPN with a 24-hour ‘all-access’ trial. All plans have a 30-day money-back guarantee, and the 2-year option offers great value for money. The packages available are:

Categories: Tech News

The best cheap 4K TV deals in September 2017

Latest Tech News - 7 hours 19 min ago

Spent way too much of your free time looking for the perfect cheap TV deal? It's time to sit back and check out our hand-picked list of the best TV deals on the net. Our extensive guide looks at a range of sizes and shows the best prices on TVs for any budget, proving you don't have to wait for Black Friday. 

We've discovered some stunning deals on 4K Ultra HD TVs. Now's a great time to upgrade, especially with Netflix, Amazon, the BBC and Sky all planning on increasing their 4K content. Check out our guide on where to watch 4K TV shows and movies. Brilliantly, 4K and HDR TVs are nowhere near as expensive as you might think. So go on, treat yourself.

Many folk are supporting their new TV with a cheap soundbar deal too. If you'd prefer to directly browse retailer TV collections instead of our highlights, here are the direct links to their best TV deals:

Save 10% on Hisense 4K TVs over £399 at AO.com

There's a quick Flash Sale on over at AO.com today where you can save 10% on any Hisense TV costing over £399. With 4K TVs sized between 43 and 65-inches you have plenty of options to choose from. Hisense has become one of the leading brands of reasonably-priced 4K TVs and regularly feature on this page, so the 10% off codes makes some great 4K TV deals even better. We've included a few highlights below. Or you can check out the full range for yourself via the link below.

Hisense 4K TV deals at AO.com
Voucher code: 4k10399
Expiry date: 23:59 September 21

The offers below are selling fast as retailers scramble to shift lots of cheap 4K TV deals and other items in the latest TV sales. We have a selection of the best prices across multiple size ranges. Directly below, you'll find our favourite deal of the week. 

TechRadar's 4K TV Deal of the Week

Philips 55PUS6262 55-inch 4K UHD HDR Ambilight TV | Now £649 | Argos
Philips recently released a new wave of Ambilight TVs for 2017 and you'll struggle to find any of the older ones around anymore. That being said, Argos has just knocked £100 off the new 55-inch version with Smart TV apps and a 4K HDR screen equipped with ambilight technology illuminating nearby surfaces to the sides of the TV. We're expecting Ambilight TVs to really take off this Autumn.

Cheap 43-inch 4K TV deals:

Hisense H43N5300 43-inch 4K Smart TV | Now £349 | Argos
The lack of HDR keeps the cost satisfyingly low on this 43-inch 4K Smart TV. If you've no desire to take advantage of HDR content in gaming or on select streamed content, this this is more than enough TV for your money.

Hisense H43N5700 43-inch LED HDR 4K Smart TV | £377.10 | AO.com
Use voucher code 4k10399 to save 10%. Expires at 23:59 September 21.
This beats the next best deal (£399 at PRC Direct) by £22. Looking for a cheap 4K TV deal that'll give you a picture that looks like you've spent loads? Hisense 4K TVs are one of the most popular brands on this page thanks to its quality sets that won't break the bank. If you don't need or want a huge TV, then this is our pick for the best 4K HDR TV in this price range.

Toshiba 49U6763 49-inch Smart 4K TV | Now £449 | Very
This large 49-inch 4K Smart TV comes with a massive five-year guarantee from UK retail giant, John Lewis. Built-in Wi-Fi means you won't have to bother with an ethernet cable to enjoy your connected apps like Netflix or YouTube. This John Lewis TV deal is £50 cheaper than most other retailers and the extended guarantee is unbeatable.

Cheap 50-inch to 58-inch 4K TV deals:

Hisense H50N6800 50-inch 4K Smart TV | Now £521.10 | AO.com
Use voucher code 4k10399 to save 10%. Expires at 23:59 September 21.

Hisense is really making a name for itself right now with some of the best cheap 4K TVs across multiple sizes. This 50-inch TV comes with a sweet 4K picture and Smart TV functions - all viewable in glorious HDR. As this is a John Lewis TV deal, you're getting a five year guarantee too.

Philips 55PUS6262 55-inch 4K UHD HDR Ambilight TV | Now £649 | Argos
Philips recently released a new wave of Ambilight TVs for 2017 and you'll struggle to find any of the older ones around anymore. That being said, Argos has just knocked £100 off the new 55-inch version with Smart TV apps and a 4K HDR screen equipped with ambilight technology illuminating nearby surfaces to the sides of the TV. We're expecting Ambilight TVs to really take off this Autumn.

Hisense H50N5300 50-inch 4K Smart TV | Now £429 | Argos
If you're not bothered about HDR, but still want a 50-inch 4K TV deal, then this is the one for you as it's £150 cheaper than many HDR models.

LG OLED55C7V 55-inch 4K OLED Smart TV | Now £1979 | Currys
You can save a massive £1020 on this large 55-inch 4K OLED screen at Currys this week. As expected for a TV this price you're getting High Dynamic Range (HDR) along with Smart TV apps included all your favourites like Netflix and Amazon Prime. We're seriously impressed by the almost non-existent bezel around the screen's edge too. There's also a five year guarantee to sweeten this epic TV deal.

LG 55UJ701V 55-inch 4K Smart TV | Now £799 | Groupon
If you're not too bothered about an OLED TV deal like the one above, then you can save a lot of money with this similar LED 4K HDR TV at just £799. It comes with the same Smart TV apps, Freeview HD, a 10-bit picture and more. Currys had an offer on that was £100 more expensive recently and that's shot up past £100 now, so this is the best deal around by miles.

Sony Bravia 55A1BU 55-inch OLED HDR 4K TV | Now £2999 | Currys
This stunningly thin TV might not look cheap, but it's actually come down £500 since launching earlier this year. The excellent OLED 4K HDR Triluminous display  is supported by a rear stand that's not visible from the front, meaning there's nothing on show except for the screen. The Sony wizards have even designed the new Bravia so the sound comes through the the screen. We're delighted to see Currys offer a five year warranty on this 4K TV deal too for added peace of mind.

Update: John Lewis has matched this deal with the same warranty.

Samsung UE55MU6200 55-inch Smart 4K HDR Curved TV | Now £725 | Amazon
We do love a good curved screen, especially when it's rocking a gorgeous 4K HDR picture. Curved screens are best viewed head-on, so they're not the best for families scattered around the living room. For one or two of you on a sofa though, it's pretty damn sweet.

Cheap 60-85-inch 4K TV deals:

Samsung UE65MU6100 65-inch 4K HDR Smart TV | Now £1249 | PRC Direct
This Crampton & Moore deal is proof that a bit of digging can unearth a decent deal on larger 4K TVs when most retailers seem to be charging the same price. While the usual big-name brands are all charging £1399, this fetching 65-inch Samsung screen is cheaper at Crampton & Moore.

Sony Bravia 85-inch 85XD8505 LED HDR 4K TV | Now £7,899 | John Lewis
So, you're absolutely sure you can fit this in through the door? Will it get around the corner on the stairs? Serious questions that should be ignored in favour of owning this monstrosity. Buy it now and bask in its glory (you won't need any heating if you sit close enough). Consequences are for lesser beings. This John Lewis does come with a five year guarantee though.

More large screen TV deals

If you're after more seriously large TV deals, we should warn you, they don't come cheap. However, if you want to see some more large screen TV deals -we're talking about 65 to 85-inch TVs- we'd recommend heading over to John Lewis, Currys and Amazon as they seem to stock more models than most UK retailers.

The best HD TV deals

If the 4K TV deals still look a bit expensive or you simply wont be needing 4K anytime soon, you can still get a great deal on a HD TV. After all, HD still has the picture to dazzle providing you're watching the right content on anything from Netflix to your PS4. Let's have a look at some of the best bargains this week.

Sharp LC-32CHG4041K 32-inch HD TV | Now £149 | Tesco
Freeview HD comes as standard with this 32-inch HD ready TV, meaning you can enjoy the likes of BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and more in HD - trust us, the difference is worth tuning in for. You can even record live TV on a USB drive. That's a lot of functionality for just £149. 

Samsung T32E310 32-inch HD TV | Now £219 | Currys
This offer from Currys comes with a full 1080p HD picture, wide viewing angles and picture-in-picture technology meaning you can keep an eye on two different channels at once. this is especially handy if you're thinking about using this as a PC monitor as you can can have a TV and PC showing at the same time. Personal productivity might take a hit though!

Blaupunkt 43-inch 1080p HD TV | Now £249 | Tesco
For an extra £50 compared to the TV above, you can get this much larger 43-inch set. Sure Blaupunkt is never going to have a world-beating picture, but as a secondary TV, this is great value. You're also getting Freeview HD, PVR recording capabilities and a built-in JBL speaker.

Categories: Tech News

Amazon Great Indian Festival 2017: Best deals on power banks

Latest Tech News - 7 hours 25 min ago

Power banks are something we all need at some point of time or other, and they are pretty much a necessity for those who are living in rural areas of India or need to travel long distances. If you have been planning to get one of these battery extenders for yourself, then this is the perfect time. To help you get the best deal, we have handpicked the top offers on power banks available now at the Amazon Great Indian Festival.

We have also listed the best deals offered by Amazon on smartphones, laptops, speakers, wearables and storage devices.

Xiaomi Mi Power Bank 2 10000mAh at Rs. 899 (save Rs. 700)

The second generation Mi Power Bank is certainly one of the best of its kind in the Indian market. Well-known for its value for money, the 10000mAh variant of Xiaomi’s newest power bank is now available for an all-time lowest price of Rs. 899.

Xiaomi Mi Power Bank 2 20000mAh at Rs. 1,799 (save Rs. 800)

With a conversion rate of 93 percent, the 20000mAh Mi Power Bank 2 is one of the most efficient power banks available in the market. Apart from juicing up mobiles and tablets, this can also charge some USB Type-C laptops.

Lenovo PA13000 13000mAh Power Bank at Rs. 999 (save Rs. 2000) 

Originally sold around Rs. 1100 to Rs. 1200, the Lenovo PA13000 is now available at Amazon.in for just Rs. 999. Needless to say, this is quite a value for money offering.

Ambrane P-1111 10000mAh Power Bank at Rs. 649 (save Rs. 1,150)

At Rs. 649, the Ambrane P-1111 is undoubtedly one of the cheapest 10000mAh power bank you can buy. Boasting a conversion rate of 70 to 75 percent, the low-cost power bank comes with full one year warranty.

Intex IT-PB11K 11000mAH Power Bank at Rs. 699 (Rs. 1,200 off)

The affordable Intex IT-PB11K can charge three devices simultaneously. Generally sold for Rs. 800 to 900, the 11000mAh power bank is now available at Rs. 699 only.

Intex IT-PB15K 15000mAH Power Bank at Rs. 1,099 (Rs. 1,401 off)

This deal is for the Amazon Prime members only. It is hard to believe that the Intex IT-PB15K with its 15000mAh capacity and three USB output ports costs just Rs. 1,099.

COOLNUT Solar Power Bank with Solar Panel 10000mAh at Rs. 1,349 (Rs. 1,650 off)

The COOLNUT 10000mAh Solar Power Bank with Solar Panel is the only green-energy power bank in this list. With an ample capacity of 10000mAh, this Made in India power bank is surely a steal deal.

Lappymaster Power Bank 12000mAh with Digital Display at Rs. 799 (Rs. 400 off)

This 12000 power bank from Lappymaster comes with a digital display panel which shows the remaining battery percentage. However, even with this useful twerk, the power bank is quite inexpensive to buy.

Lappymaster 10400mAH Power Bank at Rs. 649 (Rs. 1,251 off) 

This ties with the Ambrane P-1111 to be the cheapest 10000mAh power bank in this list. With two USB output ports and 10400mAh capacity, this Lappymaster power bank costs just Rs. 649.

Samsung EB-PN915BSEGIN 11300mAH Power Bank at Rs. 2,862 (Rs. 737 off) The Samsung EB-PN915BSEGIN 11300mAH Power Bank is for those who want to have a high quality branded power bank. Normally sold for Rs. 3,590, this 11300mAh power bank is presently available in Amazon.in at Rs. 2,862.

Shop by category on Amazon Great Indian Festival sale

If you're looking to buy a new laptop, here are the best deals on laptops

Amazon Great Indian Festival: Best deals on laptops

Some great offers on wearables

Amazon Great Indian Festival 2017: Best deals on wearables

Huge discounts on portable wireless speakers

Amazon Great Indian Festival: Best deals on speakers

Best discounts and offers on mobile phones

Amazon Great Indian Festival 2017: Best deals on mobile phones

Offers on storage solutions: Hard disks, pen drives, and more

Amazon Great Indian Festival 2017: Best deals on Hard disks, Pen drives and more

The best power bank deals on Amazon are now live

Amazon Great Indian Festival 2017: Best deals on power banks

Categories: Tech News

Best free iPad games 2017

Latest Tech News - 7 hours 55 min ago

So you've got an iPad, but have come to the dawning realisation that you've got no cash left to buy any games for it.

Have no fear, because the App Store offers plenty of iPad gaming goodness for the (unintentional or otherwise) skinflint.

  • Haven't bought an iPad yet and not sure which is best? We've got them listed on our best iPad ranking - or you can check out the best tablets list to see the full range available now.

Our updated pick of the best free iPad games are listed right here.

New this week: Topiary

Topiary is a game of concentration, involving a single digit, and an on-screen plant you’re aiming to grow into a mighty oak – albeit a decidedly odd-looking, geometric, psychedelically colored oak.

You start off with a pulsating disc, and the aim is to prod the screen when it’s at its largest, thereby giving you the biggest base on which to build. Once that’s done, you get the next slice, which you try to tap when it exactly matches its predecessor.

Fail and your tree gradually narrows until you drop the final, super-skinny twig on top. Get five perfect matches in a row (which is no mean feat) and that tier will grow again. It’s all really simple stuff, but Topiary proves to be an entertaining and relaxing one-thumb arcade test of timing and nerve.

Flippy Knife finds you hurling dangerous knives, mostly at wooden objects. Which we admit doesn’t sound particularly thrilling – and you might also have had your fill of ‘Verby Noun’ games with colorful, chunky visuals, whatever the hook. But Flippy Knife does plenty to demand a space on your iPad.

The basic Combo mode has you drag upwards to hurl your pointy weapon into the air, Angry Birds style, aiming for it to flip and stick into a wooden platform on landing. It’s a good way to get a feel for your virtual knife.

Beyond that, there’s the thoughtful Arcade mode (lob a knife through an endless cabin), the frenetic Climb (a vertically scrolling pursuit of a thieving drone), and the archery-like Target. That is, if archery involved lobbing bloody great big knives at bullseyes strapped to trees – which we totally think it should.

Vertigo Racing is a sort-of rally game. We say sort-of, because although you’re pelting along a twisty-turny track, it happens to be at the top of a wall so high its base is lost in the clouds below.

Also, you’re barreling along in old-school muscle cars, to a classic guitar rock soundtrack, and you can’t steer.

Instead, the game does the steering for you, leaving you merely able to prod the accelerator or slam on the brakes, to stop your car plunging into the abyss. This transforms the game into a decidedly oddball take on slot racing, reimagined as a roller-coaster. Or possibly the other way around.

Either way, it’s fun, even if handling and camera issues make progress in later tracks tough. Still, the upgrade path is smart (with a generous dishing out of virtual coins to upgrade your cars and buy new tracks), making for hours of grin-inducing arcade action.

Virtua Tennis Challenge is an iPad reimagining of a classic Dreamcast tennis game. Although Sega claims it’s the most realistic game of its type on mobile, Virtual Tennis Challenge is in reality very much an arcade outing, with you darting about, attempting to defeat your opponent by way of lobs, top spins, and dramatic ‘super shots’.

The gestural controls leave a lot to be desired, resulting in tennis as if your player had downed a few too many drinks in the bar prior to their match.

But plump for the on-screen virtual D-pad and buttons (or use an external MFi gamepad) and you’ll find an entertaining take on repeatedly smacking a ball over a net, while the virtual crowd presumably gorges itself on virtual strawberries.

Splashy Dots is a puzzle game that wants to unleash your inner artist. It takes place on canvases with a number of dots sprinkled about. Your task is to figure out a path from the start to the end point that takes in every dot.

This is a familiar concept – there are loads of similar games on the App Store, but the execution of Splashy Dots ensures it stands out. Every swipe you make smears paint across the screen; and these brushstrokes and splats fashion a little slice of geometric art as you play.

Over time, the canvases become increasingly complex, as you slowly build a gallery of abstract virtual paintings. A relaxing jazzy soundtrack and unlimited undos add to the relaxing vibe – only interrupted with a jolt when ads appear. But if those irk, you can silence them with a single $0.99/99p/AU$1.49 IAP.

Rocklien Run is a hybrid endless runner/shooter, featuring a little UFO blazing along space lanes populated by hordes of deadly creatures who’d very much rather the UFO wasn’t there. You tap left and right to avoid being horribly killed, attempting to scoop up bonus coins and stars along the way.

The stars are the key to Rocklien Run. Pick up a green one and your little ship starts spewing bullets. Grab a yellow one and you zoom along, temporarily indestructible. Keep on shooting, dodging, and picking up stars, and Rocklien Run transforms from a frustrating staccato experience into an exhilarating high-octane arcade blast.

Just be aware that for every breezily crazy game where you’re belting along at insane speeds, you’ll probably have another where you’re killed in approximately three seconds.

Hoggy 2 is a platform puzzler, with a firm emphasis on the puzzling. It features some cartoon slime molds, who’ve got on the wrong side of the villainous Moon Men. These rogues have taken the heroes’ kids, and so parents Hoggy and Hogatha vow to get them back.

The Moon Men’s fortress is a huge maze peppered with jars. Within each jar is a room filled with platforms, enemies, hazards, and fruit. Eat all the fruit and you get a key. Get enough keys and you can venture further into the maze.

The snag is that getting at the fruit can be tricky. Hoggy 2’s levels are cunningly designed, often requiring you perform actions in a specific order and manner, making use of power-ups that transform the protagonists into trundling granite squares or screaming infernos.

Add in lush console-style visuals and a level editor, and you’ve got one of the biggest bargains on mobile.

You know a game’s not taking itself too seriously when it begins with the hero trudging through a blizzard, only to be faced by a giant heavily armed walrus guarding the fortress of a megalomaniacal genius.

But Evil Factory is just warming up, and subsequently revels in flinging all manner of mutated madness your way in its hard-nosed top-down arcade battles.

For each, you dart about using a virtual joystick, while two large on-screen buttons activate weapons. Unfortunately, your bosses are colossal idiots, and have armed you with the likes of dynamite and Molotov cocktails. Bouts often therefore involve dodging bullets to fling wares at a giant foe, before running away like a coward.

It’s silly, relentless arcade fun – or at least it would be relentless if the ‘fuel’ based freemium model didn’t butt up against one-hit-death and tough later levels. Still, if the stop-start nature of playing becomes irksome, fuel limitations can be removed with a $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 IAP.

With a name that sounds like something an angry railway employee would yell before slapping you, Conduct THIS! actually starts out as a fairly sedate railway management game. Little trains amble along, picking up passengers you have to direct to stations that match their color.

The controls are extremely simple: tap a train and it halts until you tap it again; and switches can be triggered to send a train the most optimum way at a junction.

However, the layouts you face very quickly become anything but simple, with multiple trains to control and vehicles to avoid – both of which sometimes unhelpfully disappear into tunnels.

This is a smart, colorful mix of arcade smarts and puzzling – even if it does have the capacity to drive you loco(motive).

If you’ve ever played the last level of PC classic Driver, with its psychotic police vehicles, you’ll have an inkling what you’re in for in Reckless Getaway 2. You pick a car and barrel about a little wraparound city, driving around like a maniac, until your inevitable arrest.

Well, we say ‘arrest’, but these police are crazed. SWAT vans will hurl themselves at your vehicle, oblivious to the carnage around them. Eventually, airstrikes will be called in, at which point you might question if the law’s applying a bit too much zeal towards grand theft auto these days.

Over time, the game’s repetitive nature palls a bit, and the physics is a bit floaty; but otherwise it’s a great fun freebie for virtual joyriders armed with an iPad.

This one’s all about counting really quickly. That admittedly doesn’t sound like much – but stick with it, because Estiman is actually a lot of fun.

It begins by displaying a bunch of neon shapes. The aim is to prod a shape that belongs to the most numerous group, and work your way to the smallest. Do this rapidly and you build a combo that can seriously ramp up your score. Now and again shapes also house credits, which can be used to buy new themes.

On iPad, the game looks great, and although some themes (such as gloopy bubbles) make the game easier, that at least gives you a choice if the minimal original theme proves too tricky.

And despite Estiman’s overt simplicity, its odd contrasting mix of relaxation (chill-out audio; zero-stress timer) and urgency (if you want those combos) proves compelling.

Its overhead viewpoint and tiny players might evoke arcade-oriented soccer games of old, like Sensible Soccer and Kick off, but Retro Soccer is very much a mobile oriented affair. In part, this is down to the main mode taking you through loads of challenges, rather than a league, but mostly it’s about the controls.

There are no virtual buttons and D-pads here – everything in Retro Soccer is about taps and gestures. You tap to move somewhere, dribble with the ball or pass. A swipe unleashes a shot if you’re within sight of the goal, or a scything sliding tackle that carves up a fair chunk of the field if you’re near an opposing player with the ball.

It takes a fair bit of getting used to and really needs the iPad’s large screen for you to have any hope of mastering the game. But stick around and you’ll find Retro Soccer an entertaining take on the beautiful game.

With its chunky graphics and silly demeanor, Westy West isn’t an entirely accurate recreation of the Wild West – but it is a lot of fun.

You hop about tiny towns, deserts, and mines, shooting bad guys and being rewarded for being the kind of sheriff who doesn’t also shoot innocents.

Although the controls mirror Crossy Road (albeit with a tap to shoot rather than leap forward), progression is more akin to Looty Dungeon, with you having to complete each miniature room (as in, shoot all the bad guys) before moving on.

The net result is a game that’s ultimately an entertaining arcade title, but that somehow also feels like you’re exploring a tiny universe – and one with character. It’s amusing when you’re facing a duel, and a pianist is rather conspicuously outside, furiously playing an ominous score.

We’re in broadly familiar territory with Bomb Hunters, which twins Crossy Road with bomb disposal. This means you get chunky graphics and a swipe-based take on Frogger, but must also quickly locate and deal with high-explosives that are soon to go off.

This twist transforms Bomb Hunters into a relentlessly frantic experience, and keeps you on your toes regarding the route you’re taking. Everything becomes markedly tougher when enemy snipers and grenadiers appear, and when some bombs only disarm when you complete a dexterity mini-game.

The swipe controls can be a touch iffy at times, but otherwise this is a smart take on an otherwise tired genre – and one that rewards repeat play through unlocks that boost your survival rate during subsequent games.

The clue’s in the title in this entertaining and arcade-oriented engineering test. In Build a Bridge!, you’re faced with a vehicle, a gap over which the vehicle would like to travel, and some materials to build your bridge. You lay down a structure on virtual graph paper, press play, and see what happens.

If your bridge falls to bits – as it invariably will on the first few attempts – you can go back, rebuild and try again. Should you want to properly test out your engineering skills, you must minimize the materials used to get a three-star award – tricky when you hit levels requiring outlandish solutions that incorporate jumps and hot-air balloons.

Some of the building can be a bit fiddly, but on an iPad Build a Bridge! proves a compelling test of your engineering skills.

Yes, we know: you’ve seen a dozen games just like this, essentially endless runners with a puzzle solving edge, complete with teleporters and multiple routes. But wait – all is not quite as it seems.

One thing DROP NOT! does have in common with several other games is you auto-tumbling about an isometric world, prodding the screen to abruptly change direction. Get it wrong and chances are you’ll fall off of a narrow elevated pathway into oblivion.

But unlike the competition, DROP NOT! isn’t algorithmically generated; instead, it has 20 handcrafted levels, transforming the game into an adventure you can master.

Beating it in one go from the start requires some serious memory and timing skills; if that all seems too much, points buy keys to unlock checkpoints you can start from, in order to discover all of the game’s secrets. Either way, this title’s far more than it first appears to be.

Here we have another endless runner mining gaming’s past for a hook to hang everything on. This time, Bomberman has been shoe-horned into the genre. Fortunately for Tiny Bombers, this works.

The basic premise, as ever, is your little character must keep running, lest they be eaten up by a game world falling into the abyss. To push ever onward, they can obliterate walls and other hazards by dropping bombs and then fleeing before they explode.

During each game, you can grab power-ups, collect coins to spend on new characters, and coo at the pretty graphics. From a longevity standpoint, Tiny Bombers is probably not another Crossy Road, but even so it makes for a fun and explosive change.

We shouldn’t encourage them, really. Transformers: Forged to Fight is packed full of horrible free-to-play trappings: timers; gates; a baffling currency/resource system. And yet it’s a horribly compelling title. Much of this is down to how much fun it apparently is to watch giant robots punching each other in the face.

If you’re unfamiliar with Transformers, it’s based around robots that disguise themselves as cars and planes as a kind of camouflage - and then they forget about all that, transform into bipedal robots, and attempt to smash each other to bits.

This game has various Transformers universes colliding, which for fans only increases the fun – after all, old hands can watch with glee as old-school Optimus Prime hacks Michael Bay’s version to pieces with a massive axe. But for newcomers hankering for one-on-one Street Fighterish brawls on an iOS device, it’s still a freebie worth grabbing.

With Darkside Lite, you rather generously get the entire arcade mode from superb blaster Darkside. What this means is a slew of fast-paced and eye-dazzling shooty action, where you blast everything around you to pieces, while trying very hard to stay in one piece yourself.

The twin-stick shenanigans echo the likes of Geometry Wars (or, if you’re really old, Robotron) in terms of controls, but the setup is more Asteroids, obliterating space rocks – and also the spaceships that periodically zoom in to do you damage.

The entire thing’s wrapped around planetoids floating in the void, making for a dizzying, thrilling ride as you attempt to locate the last bit of flying rock before some alien attacker swoops in and rips away the last of your shields.

This one’s from the Pac-Man 256 folks, but this time the classic titles being mined appear to be Dig-Dug and Mr. Driller. And, yes, that was a terrible pun, because Digby Forever is all about mining, your little hero drilling deep into the ground on a quest for bling, trying to avoid regular cave-ins and various underground ‘one touch equals death’ denizens.

Bar a baffling card power-up system, Digby Forever is a breezy arcade blast. Its little world feels very alive, with explosions blasting pixels across the screen, and various creatures going about their business. Intriguingly, it also deftly deals with that problem in endless games of starting from scratch – here, you always restart from where you were last defeated.

There’s a good chance Little Alchemy would make a scientist angrily hurl their iPad at a wall on their first experience with the game, on account of how fast and loose it plays with the laws of nature.

However, this portal of discovery, thinking outside the box, and, frankly, random guessing, is nonetheless a lot of fun.

You start with the classical elements (air; fire; water; earth), and combine them to create new objects. The aim is to figure out how to make over 500 things, from volcanoes to unicorns.

Some combinations are logical and amusing – a vacuum cleaner is a broom combined with electricity. But a helicopter? That requires you merge an airplane and a windmill. And now we really want to see someone combine those things in the real world.

For the most part, side-on endless runners tend to be ideal iPhone fare, but Archer Dash 2 has a twist that makes it a much better bet for your iPad. In this world of retro-style pixelated graphics, a little archer dashes along, aiming to scoop up blue gems, and jumping to avoid getting fried on electrified fences.

The twist here is the ‘archer’ bit – drag across the left-hand side of the screen and time temporarily slows, so you can aim and unleash an arrow to destroy obstacles or collect out-of-reach bling. Now and again, there’s a frantic boss battle to survive.

On iPhone, the game works fine, but only on iPad are you afforded the precision needed to have a lengthy dash rather than a short sprint.

With Dashy Crashy, the iPad shows bigger (as in, the screen) really can be better. The basics involve swiping to avoid traffic while hurtling along a road. New vehicles are periodically won, each of which has a special skill (such as the UFO abducting traffic, and the taxi picking up fares); and there are also random events to respond to, such as huge dinosaurs barreling along.

On iPad, the gorgeous visuals are more dazzling than on the smaller iPhone, and in landscape or portrait, it’s easier to see what’s in front of you, potentially leading to higher scores.

Also, the game’s multi-touch aware, so you can multi-finger-swipe to change several lanes at once – fiddly on an iPhone but a cinch on a tablet, making for an addictive, just-one-more-go experience.

We shouldn’t encourage them. Infinite Stairs is yet another endless game, almost entirely bereft of innovation – and yet it has two really clever bits that transform it into a surprisingly absorbing offering.

First, the visuals include plenty of large characters bursting with personality. But more importantly, the controls are clever. You get two buttons – ‘turn’ and ‘climb’ – for working your way up a zigzagging staircase to the heavens. ‘Turn’ not only flips you round, but also has you climb a step.

That might not sound like much, but as the timer rapidly depletes, you’ll mess up often in the more winding sections of staircase, curse your thumbs, have another go, and realize you’re once again glued to another endless runner.

Although Solid Soccer has the visual appearance of Amiga classic Sensible Soccer, this is a much more sedate affair, with decidedly strange controls that have more in common with Angry Birds than footie games.

As your little players scoot about the pitch, you use drag and release gestures to tackle and shoot, or drag back and slide left and right to dribble.

This all feels a bit floaty, but a few games in everything clicks, and you’ll have fun kicking off against online opposition. There is a sense of shallowness, however – there’s no offline mode and none of the extensive depth found in the likes of Active Soccer 2. Still, as a freebie iPad kickabout, Solid Soccer manages a scrappy win.

Snake meets land-grabbing in Paper.io. On entering the arena – populated by other players – you swipe to guide your little square about. Encircle a section of space and it fills with your color, boosting your territory score.

You must be careful to not collide with the walls surrounding the arena. Also, square trails are player’s weak spots. Run over an opponent’s and they’re removed from the game, leaving gems you can munch. But the same’s true for you – so watch out.

Paper.io’s a bit heavy on ads and bereft of audio, but the game itself is nonetheless compelling, not least because you can dive right back in for revenge should someone abruptly terminate your go.

Here’s yet another game with a ‘Verby Noun’ moniker, and blocky voxel graphics. But although Guessy Stars riffs off of Crossy Road in those areas, it’s in fact a nicely-designed trivia game, in which you have to guess 300 famous faces, grouped into 12 item rounds.

In each case, you get a basic clue and a figurine to spin. Tap in an answer (using a suitably blocky custom keyboard) and the figurine explodes all over the screen if you guess correctly. If you’re close – just a small misspelling away – the game amusingly moves into game show host mode, asking “Can we take that?”

Should you get stuck, ask for more clues – but note: replenishing your clue token stash requires IAP or watching ads.

On consoles, fighting games tend to need millions of buttons and players to have an eidetic memory to recall all the various combinations for special moves. Mercifully, Marvel Contest of Champions simplifies things for the touchscreen, and gives you the added bonus of having your favorite comic characters smack each other’s faces off.

The plot’s thin, but the side-on one-on-one scraps pack a punch, with you swiping to unleash attacks and holding the screen to block. Visually, it’s a treat, and the fighting element is entertaining and accessible.

And the freemium angle? Well, that can irk in the long term, but – like a Marvel movie – this one’s good for a quick blast every now and again, even if it’s a bit lacking in depth and longevity.

The world’s stretchiest canine’s found himself in a world full of sticky desserts and a surprising number of saw blades. His aim: get to the other end of this deadly yet yummy horizontally scrolling world. The snag: the aforementioned blades, a smattering of puzzles, and the way this particular pooch moves.

In Silly Sausage: Doggy Dessert, the canine hero doesn’t pootle along on tiny legs – instead, you swipe to make his body stretch like an angular snake until he reaches another surface, whereupon his hind quarters catch up.

The result is an impressive side-scroller that’s more sedate puzzler than frantic platformer – aside from in adrenaline-fueled time-based challenge rooms, which even Silly Sausage veterans will be hard-pressed to master. 

Do you like brick-bashing Breakout? Do you like ball-whacking pinball? If so, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy Super Hyper Ball 2, which mashes the two together. Here, you get flippers to smack the ball around but also a little bat you move back and forth at the foot of the screen. Oh, and there are power-ups, too, which can be triggered to blow up hard-to-reach targets and bricks.

If that all sounds a bit like patting your head while rubbing your stomach, that’s not far off. Super Hyper Ball 2 can be like playing two games simultaneously.

Curiously, given its heritage, it can also be oddly pedestrian at times, but it’s mostly giddy fun, whether facing off against a laser-spewing skull boss, or smashing your way through a whirling disc with colorful bricks glued to its surface.

We’ve lost count of the number of puzzle games where you swipe to force a couple of blocks simultaneously slide about, aiming to make them both reach a goal. And on first glance, that’s Waiit.

But this title cleverly differentiates itself from mundane contemporaries by welding itself to the guts of an endless runner.

In Waiit’s vertically scrolling world, a universe-devouring entity is in hot pursuit. You must rapidly figure out routes to the next exit and deftly perform the swipes required to get both of your squares through unscathed.

Tension is mixed with charm as the little squares holler to each other by way of comic-style balloons. And although you’ll initially fail quickly and often – perhaps even hankering for a hazard-free zen mode – it’s Waiit’s relative toughness that’ll keep you coming back to beat your high score.

The best way to think about Brick Shot is as a radically simplified Tetris where you happen to be hurtling along at insane speeds. There’s just one shape here – a rectangular brick – and it must be fired along one of four columns, with you aiming to complete rows and make them disappear.

For the first fifteen shots, it’s pretty much impossible to mess up. The screen scrolls slowly, ensuring your aim is always true. Then Brick Shot ups the pace considerably, and even only having four columns to decide between can sometimes feel like three too many.

On the iPad at least, your fingers have space to rest and your eyes can more easily track incoming walls. Ongoing success unlocks alternate modes, although the straightforward original’s probably the best.

Coming across like Civilization in miniature, The Battle of Polytopia is all about dominating a tiny isometric world. You explore, capture villages, duff up opponents and discover new technologies in order to build more powerful units.

But the empire building is stripped back, with smart limitations for mobile. The ‘tech tree’ is abbreviated (trust us, you’ll understand when you play), and only one unit can sit in any given square. Also, by default you have a 30-move limit – although hardcore players can opt for a mode where you continue until only one tribe is left standing.

Despite its relative simplicity compared to Civilization, Polytopia has plenty of depth, and can be tough as you delve into the higher difficulty levels. Rather generously, you get the entire thing for free – IAP exists purely to unlock new tribes and boost the number you can face beyond three.

If you know your arcade history, you’ll know that Galaga is one of the earliest single-screen shooters. The sequel to Galaxian – where aliens started fighting back by way of dive-bombing – Galaga added ‘Challenging Stages’, where strings of ships would flit about rather than marching back and forth in formation.

Galaga Wars combines both approaches, increases the pace, adds glossy modern cartoonish graphics, and gleefully ends your war should your ship take a single hit. You must therefore weave through projectiles, efficiently offing opponents, and grabbing power-ups whenever they appear.

Regular boss battles up the ante in what’s a vibrant and compelling shooter. The excitement does eventually wane – levels never change and it’s a grind to reach later ones – but for a time this is a solid free blaster for your iPad, and for many of us that’s just the way we like our tablet gaming.

The original Flappy Golf was a surprise hit, given that it was essentially a joke – a satire on Flappy Bird. While Flappy Golf 2 is a more polished and considered effort, it’s essentially more of the same, giving you courses from the most recent Super Stickman Golf, and adding wings to the balls.

Instead of smacking the ball with a stick, then, you flap it skywards, using left and right buttons to head in the right direction. If you’re a Super Stickman Golf 3 aficionado, Flappy Golf 2 forces you to try very different approaches to minimize flaps and get the scores needed to unlock further courses.

For newcomers, it’s an immediate, fun and silly take on golf, not least when you delve into the manic race mode. The permanent ad during play also makes this a far better bet on iPad than iPhone, where the ad can obscure the course. (Disappointingly, there’s no IAP to eradicate advertising.)

This fast-paced rhythm-action game has you swiping the screen like a lunatic, trying to help your tiny musicians to the end of a piece of classical music without them exploding. Yep, things are tough in the world of Epic Orchestra – one bum note and a violinist or pianist will evaporate in a puff of smoke.

The entire thing is swipe-based. Arrows descend from the top of a narrow column at the centre of the screen, and you must match them with a gesture. At lower difficulty levels, this is insanely easy.

Ramp up the speed, though, and your fingers will soon be in a twist, despite the apparent simplicity of the task. A $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 IAP unlocks more songs, but you get five for free.

One of the most ludicrous one-thumb games around, Brake or Break features a car hurtling along the road. You can hold the screen to brake, and if you don’t, the car speeds up. Sooner or later, it’ll be hurled into the air and start spinning, thereby awarding you with huge points – unless you land badly and smash your vehicle to pieces.

There’s a lot of risk-versus-reward and careful timing here, with gameplay that offers a smattering of Tiny Wings and a whole lot of weird.

Most of said oddness comes by way of the environment, which lobs all kinds of objects at your car, and regularly has it propelled into the air by a grinning tornado. Stick out the game long enough (or open your wallet) and you can unlock new worlds and cars to further shake things up.

Instead of blazing through larger-than-life takes on real-world cities, Asphalt Xtreme takes you off-road, zooming through dunes, drifting across muddy flats, and generally treating the great outdoors in a manner that will win you no favors with the local authorities.

As per other entries in the series, this is ballsy arcade racing, with bouncy physics, simple controls, an obsession with boosting, and tracks designed to make you regularly smash your car to bits.

It’s also, sadly, absolutely riddled with freemium cruft: timers; currencies; nags – the lot. But if you can look past that and dip in and out occasionally to allow the game to ‘recharge’, there’s a lot to like in this racer that’s decided roads and rules are so last season.
 

There’s a delightful and elegant simplicity at the heart of Mars: Mars. The game echoes iPad classic Desert Golfing, in providing a seemingly endless course to explore. But rather than smacking a ball, you’re blasting a little astronaut between landing pads.

The controls also hark back to another game – the ancient Lunar Lander. After blast-off, you tap the sides of the screen to emit little jets of air, attempting to nudge your astronaut in the right direction and break their fall before a collision breaks them.

Smartly, you can have endless tries without penalty, but the game also tots up streaks without death. Repeat play is further rewarded by unlocking characters (also available via IAP), many of which dramatically alter the environment you’re immersed in.

Like a simulation of having a massive migraine while on a stomach-churning roller-coaster, Groove Coaster 2 Original Style is a rhythm action game intent on blasting your optics out while simultaneously making your head spin.

It flings you through dizzying, blazing-fast tracks, asking you to tap or hold the screen to the beat of thumping techno and catchy J-Pop.

The game looks superb – all retro-futuristic vector graphics and explosions of color that are like being stuck inside a mirror ball while 1980s video games whirl around your head.

Mostly you'll stick around for the exhilarating tap-happy rhythm action, which marries immediacy with plenty of challenge, clever choreography tripping up the complacent on higher difficulty levels.

It never becomes a slog though – tracks are shortish and ideal for quick play; and for free, you can unlock plenty of them, but loads more are available via in-app purchase.
 

So crazy it has an exclamation mark in its name, Crazy Truck! is essentially a reverse Flappy Bird. Your blocky vehicle bounces around like a hyperactive hybrid of a 4x4 and a flea, abruptly returning to terra firma when you hold the screen.

This sounds simple enough, yet the controls are oddly disorienting, not least when your chunky vehicle's tasked with avoiding waves of deadly bombs and rockets that litter the screen.. which is at pretty much every moment.

Games are therefore very short; and, frankly, we shouldn't encourage this kind of iPad game, given that there are so many of them. But Crazy Truck! is colorful – if frequently frustrating – fun, and neatly has you tackle the same 'course' until you beat a virtual opponent. (Well, we say 'neatly'; whether you'll think that on your 27th attempt…)

Initially, Rings baffles. You're served some colored rings and told to place them on a three-by-three grid.

But you soon realize you're in color-matching territory, rings exploding when colors match on a horizontal, vertical or diagonal line.

The twist is that there are three sizes of ring, and sometimes pieces have multiple rings with different colors. You must therefore carefully manage where you place each piece, otherwise the board fills up in a manner that will have you desperately hoping for a tiny green ring before the game bats away your trifling wishes and mercilessly ends your game.

That won't happen for some time though – the games tend to go on for too long, unless you're paying no attention whatsoever.

However, if you can carve an hour out of your day, a session with Rings should prove a satisfying and relaxing diversion that gives your brain a bit of a workout. 

Rather than requiring you to build a tower, Six! is all about demolition, tapping to blast Tetris-like shapes from a colorful column. The tiny snag is a hexagon sits at the top, and the second it falls into the void, your game is over.

In theory, Six! is the kind of game that should be ridiculously easy. In reality, the hexagon is big and unwieldy and the tower narrow enough that you must take care removing blocks, lest the plummeting shape spin and fling itself to certain doom.

When that happens, the simple fun rather nicely concludes with a frantic 'last call', where you tap like a maniac to grab a bunch of extra points before the screen dims.
 

We have absolutely no idea what’s going on in Masky. What we do know is that this is a deeply weird but thoroughly compelling game.

According to the game’s blurb, Masky’s all about some kind of grand costume ball, with you dancing to mystic sounds and inviting other masked dancers to join you. What this means in practice is shuffling left and right, adding other dancers to your merry band, and ensuring the balance meter never goes beyond red. If it does, everyone falls over – masks everywhere.

Beyond the lovely graphics and audio, there’s a smart – if simple – game here. Some masks from newcomers added to your line shake things up, flipping the screen or temporarily removing the balance meter.

Inevitably, everything also speeds up as you play, making keeping balance increasingly tough. We don’t doubt the unique visuals count for a lot regarding Masky’s pull, but the strange premise and compelling gameplay keep you dancing for the long haul.

Perhaps our favorite thing about Level With Me is that it’s, really, very silly indeed. The premise is to balance things on a massive plank, precariously perched atop the pointy bit of a tower.

Said plank’s position is shifted by tapping water at the foot of the screen, launching massive bubbles. These counter whatever’s lurking on top, unless you mess up and everything slides into the sea and explodes.

Tasks come thick and fast, often lasting mere seconds. You must quickly figure out how to balance 10 people when they’re being chased by zombies, construct a hamburger when its component parts are being lobbed from the heavens, and pop balloons by using a trundling hedgehog.

The themes admittedly repeat quite often, but everything’s so charming (and your games are so short) that this doesn’t really matter.

It’s safe to say that subtlety wasn’t on the menu of whatever service Ding Dong Delivery represents. This is a brash endless runner of the tap head/rub belly variety. You control a delivery vehicle, smashing its way along a road, attempting to hurl takeaways at waiting hungry people who might think otherwise about ordering from you in future.

This is a two-button effort, one lobs food and the other switches lanes. Games mostly involve frantically mashing the throw food button, hoping for the best, while maniacally weaving between parked cars and avoiding idiots driving into the middle of the road without looking.

It’s part Paperboy, part Flappy Bird, and while the action eventually palls, it’s always good for a quick blast – especially when you start unlocking vehicles and get to deliver pizza using a massive tank.

The BAFTA-winning INKS rethought pinball for mobile, breaking it down into bite-sized simple tables that were more like puzzles. Precision shots – and few of them – were the key to victory. PinOut! thinks similarly, while simultaneously transforming the genre into an against-the-clock endless runner.

The idea is to always move forwards, shooting the ball up ramps that send it to the next miniature table. Along the way, you grab dots to replenish the relentlessly ticking down timer, find and use power-ups, and play the odd mini-game, in a game that recalls basic but compelling fare once found on the LED displays of real-life tables.

PinOut! is gorgeous – all neon-infused tables and silky smooth synth-pop soundtrack. And while the seemingly simplified physics might nag pinball aficionados, it makes for an accessible and playable game for everyone else.

There's not a lot of originality in King Rabbit, but it's one of those simple and endearing puzzle games that sucks you in and refuses to let go until you've worked your way through the entire thing.

The premise is hackneyed — bunnies have been kidnapped, and a sole hero must save them. And the gameplay is familiar too, where you leap about a grid-like landscape, manipulating objects, avoiding hazards, finding keys, unlocking doors, and reaching a goal.

But the execution is such that King Rabbit is immediately engaging, while new ideas keep coming as you work through the dozens of puzzles. Pleasingly, the game also increases the challenge so subtly that you barely notice — until you realise you've been figuring out a royal bunny's next moves into the wee small hours.

From the off, it's obvious Ollie Cats isn't taking itself seriously. The aim is to 'ollie' (jump) an endless number of cats heading in your rad skateboarder's direction. You can perform all manner of tricks (including grinding along fences when loads of cats suddenly appear), but the game in miserly fashion only bestows a single point per cat cleared, regardless of your amazing skills.

However, you can also be the cat. That's right - it's possible to play the game as a black moggie on a board, aiming to become the coolest feline around. There are fewer stunts in this mode, but it's so ridiculous that the cat version of the game fast became our favorite.

There's very much an old-school vibe about Sports Hero, and it's not just the pixelated graphics, with characters so jagged you might cut yourself on their kneecaps.

There's also the control method, which has you hammer virtual buttons to make the retro athletes sprint, swim or lift weights. You'll look faintly ridiculous bashing away at your iPad's display, but there's something satisfying about such a simple, exhausting control scheme.

Sports Hero trips over the odd hurdle in its quest for a medal with its grindy nature. It very clearly wants you to grab an all-disciplines IAP, and so slowly drips XP your way for unlocks. But even with only a few events available, this is an entertaining title for armchair Olympians who fancy working up a sweat. 

In a marked departure from the impressive Phoenix HD and its procedurally generated bullet hell,Phoenix II shoves you through set-piece vertically scrolling shoot 'em up grinders. Every 24 hours, a new challenge appears, tasking you with surviving a number of waves comprising massive metal space invaders belching hundreds of deadly bullets your way.

A single hit to your craft's core (a small spot at its center) brings destruction, forcing you to memorize attack and bullet patterns and make use of shields and deflectors if you've any hope of survival. You do sometimes slam into a brick wall, convinced a later wave is impossible to beat.

To lessen the frustration, there's always the knowledge you'll get another crack at smashing new invaders the following day. Regardless, this is a compelling, dazzling and engaging shooter for iPad.

Sharing DNA with Super Hexagon and ALONE…, Barrier X is the kind of game that merrily smacks you in the face for having the audacity to blink.

Hurling you at insane speeds along minimal 3D tracks that some idiot's peppered with walls, all you have to do is head left and right to avoid crashing. But this isn't so simple when blazing along at about a million miles per hour.

Comically, Barrier X speeds up every 15 seconds; and if you survive long enough further challenges are unlocked. Suddenly, you're told to travel through (rather than avoid) certain barriers, and to shoot rivals, all while attempting to not become so much space dust.

Minimal visuals and a thumping soundtrack further add to Barrier X's brutal charms - it's an exhilarating, exciting title among the very best of its kind.

If you've experienced Colin Lane's deranged take on wrestling (the decidedly oddball Wrassling), you probably know what you're in for with Dunkers. In theory, this is side-on one-on-one basketball, but Dunkers is knowingly mad.

You only get two buttons, one of which dodders your player back towards their own basket, while the other lurches them into the air and in the opposite direction. All the while, their arms whirl like a hysterical clock.

You battle as best you can, grabbing the ball from your berserk opponent, fighting your way to the basket, and slam dunking victoriously. The entire thing is ridiculous, almost the antithesis of photo-realistic fare like NBA 2K; but we'd also argue that it's a lot more fun.

An excellent example in how iteration can improve a game, The Little Fox was almost impossible upon release. But a reduction in speed and some restart points proved transformative, enabling you to immerse yourself in a sweet-natured, great-looking pathfinding arcade outing.

The titular fox is on a quest that takes the bounding carnivore through 13 varied lands. Pathways comprise hexagons littered with collectables and hazards, and at any moment you can only turn left or right or continue straight on.

At the original breakneck pace (still available as an in-game option), this all feels too much. But when slowed down, The Little Fox reveals itself to be a clever, imaginative, fun title, with surprises to be found on every planet the furry critter visits.

It's hard to imagine a less efficient way of building and maintaining a zoo than what you see in Rodeo Stampede. Armed with a lasso, you foolishly venture into a stampede and leap from animal to animal, attempting to win their hearts by virtue of not being flung to the ground.

You then whisk beaten animals away to a zoo in a massive sky-based craft - the kind of place where you imagine the Avengers might hang out if they gave up crime-fighting and decided to start jailing animals rather than villains.

Despite overly familiar chunky visuals (Crossy Road has a lot to answer for), this fast-paced, breezy game is a lot of fun, with you dragging left and right to avoid blundering into rocks, and lifting your finger to soar into the air, aiming to catch another rampaging beast.

Much like previous entries in the series, Super Stickman Golf 3 finds a tiny golfer dumped in fantastical surroundings. So rather than thwacking a ball about carefully tended fairways and greens, there are castles full of teleporters and a moon base bereft of gravity. The Ryder Cup, this is not.

New to the series is a spin mechanic, for flipping impossible shots off of ceilings and nudging fluffed efforts holewards on the greens. You also get turn-by-turn battles against Game Centre chums and a frenetic multiplayer race mode.

The spendthrift release is limited, though, restricting how many two-player battles you have on the go, locking away downloadable courses beyond the 20 initially built-in, and peppering the game with ads. Even so, you get a lot for nothing, should you be after new side-on golfing larks but not want to pay for the privilege.

Apparently the national sport of Slamdovia, a country where blocky people look like they just stepped out of a Commodore 64, Wrassling is like wrestling combined with a dollop of sheer stupid.

You're dropped into the ring and must fling your opponents into the inky gloom before they do the same to you. Ridiculous controls (spin your arms with all your might!) and absurdly bouncy physics add to the game's oddball nature, which will put a smile on your face before it's promptly smashed into the canvas and then rudely hurled into the air.

With more than a hint of Fruit Ninja about it, Bushido Bear finds a sword-wielding teddy defending the forest against endless waves of evil demons. You get a brief warning about where your assailants will appear, and must quickly drag paths to move your bear about; it'll then get suitably slashy and stabby, hopefully not blundering into an enemy in the meantime.

It's a fast-paced affair, and you'll need swift reactions to survive. Over time, you unlock additional frenzied furry animals, each with their own particular skills. And, amusingly, when a bear is killed, its colleague can be thrown into the fray, ready for some angry ninja bear vengeance!

If you like the idea of golf, but not traipsing around greens in the drizzle, WGT: World Tour Golf is the closest you'll get to the real thing on your iPad. Courses have been meticulously rebuilt in virtual form, based on thousands of photographs, and WGT's control scheme is accessible yet also quite punishing.

There's no mucking about spinning balls in mid-air to alter your shot here - mess up and you'll know about it, with a score card massively over par. But this is a game that rewards mastery and perseverance, and you feel like a boss once you crack how to land near-perfect shots.

WGT is, mind, a touch ad-heavy at times, but this is countered by there being loads to do, including head-to-head online multiplayer and a range of tournaments to try your hand at.

In Clash Royale, two players battle online, sending out troops to obliterate their opponent's three towers, while simultaneously protecting their own. It comes across a bit like animated chess, if chess pieces were armed to the teeth and ranged from a giant robot with a huge scythe to an army of skittering skeletons.

The troops you have available come by way of cards you collect, from which you select a deck of eight. In matches, elixir gradually tops up, which can be 'spent' deploying said troops, forcing you to manage resources and spot when your opponent might be dry.

Clash Royale is very much a freemium game. You can spend a ton of real-world cash on virtual coins to buy and upgrade cards. However, doing so isn't really necessary, and we've heard of people getting to the very highest levels in the game without spending a penny. But even if you find yourself scrapping in the lower leagues, Clash Royale is loads of fun.

Following in the footsteps of Tomb Raider and Hitman, Uncharted: Fortune Hunter has been squirted into your iPad in puzzle-game form. Hero of the hour Nathan Drake must nab loot by working out how to not-horribly die across dozens of grid-based puzzles. Fortune Hunter lacks the polish and atmosphere of Lara Croft GO and Hitman GO, but it's still worth grabbing.

The puzzles are smartly designed, and ideal for mobile play, taking only a few minutes each to solve. And if you own the latest PS4 Uncharted, some of the iPad achievements can benefit Drake on your console (even if said benefits might only be a natty new hat).

Tie-ins between indie game companies and major movie houses often end badly, but Disney Crossy Road bucks the trend. It starts off like the original Crossy Road — an endless take on Frogger. Only here, Mickey Mouse picks his way across motorways, train lines and rivers, trying to avoid death by drowning or being splattered across a windscreen.

But unlock new characters (you'll have several for free within a few games) and you open up further Disney worlds, each with unique visuals and challenges.

In Toy Story, Woody and Buzz dodge tumbling building blocks, whereas the inhabitants of Haunted Mansion are tasked with keeping the lights on and avoiding a decidedly violent suit of armour.

Elsewhere, Inside Out has you dart about collecting memories, which are sucked up for bonus points. And on the iPad, the gorgeous chunky visuals of these worlds really get a chance to shine.

Forget-Me-Not is a distillation of the very best classic arcade games. A little square mooches about procedurally generated mazes, munching flowers, and shooting anything that gets in its way. When the flowers are gone, you grab the key and make for the exit.

It's a simple concept (as are all the best arcade games), but what makes Forget-Me-Not memorable is how alive everything feels. Varied maze inhabitants regularly beam in, some doddering about while others wage all-out war, with the demented vigour of the most psychotic videogame characters.

The net result is a frenetic neon mash-up of Pac-Man, Rogue, Wizard of Wor and a half-dozen other 1980s classics, but one that manages to match or surpass all of them. That it's entirely free (of price tag and IAP) makes it iPad gaming's biggest bargain.

This smashy endless arcade sports title has more than a hint of air hockey about it, but PKTBALL is also infused with the breakneck madness associated with Laser Dog's brutal iOS games.

It takes place on a tiny cartoon tennis court, with you swiping across the ball to send it back to your opponent. But this game is *really* fast, meaning that although you'll clock how to play PKTBALL almost immediately, mastering it takes time.

In solo mode, the computer AI offers plenty of challenge, but it's in multiplayer matches that PKTBALL serves an ace. Two to four people duke it out, swiping like lunatics (and hopefully not hurling the iPad away in a huff, like a modern-day McEnroe, when things go bad).

As ever, there are new characters to unlock, each of which boasts its own court and background music. Our current favourite: a little Game Boy, whose court has a certain famous blocky puzzle game playing in the background.

At first glance, Looty Dungeon comes across like a Crossy Road wannabe. But you soon realise it's actually a very smartly designed endless dungeon crawler that just happens to pilfer Crossy Road's control method, chunky visual style, and sense of urgency.

You begin as a tiny stabby knight, scooting through algorithmically generated isometric rooms. You must avoid spikes and chopping axes, outrun a collapsing floor, and dispatch monsters. The action is fast-paced, lots of fun, and challenges your dexterity and ability to think on the move.

As is seemingly law in today's mobile gaming landscape, Looty Dungeon also nags at the collector in you, offering characters to unlock. But these aren't just decorative in nature — they have unique weapons, which alter how you play. For example, an archer has better range than the knight, but no defensive shield when up against an angry witch or ravenous zombie.

It's not every day you get to become a robot superhero, protecting the public in the retro-futuristic Helsinki. But future Finns should be thrilled Byteman is about, because their capital city appears to be chock full of burning buildings, robbers, and villains escaping in helicopters.

Your task is to fly about, using your radar to swoop in and be all heroic, without slamming into a building while doing so. The controls are straightforward (move with your left thumb and 'speed boost' with your right), and there's a handy radar to figure out which cases to prioritise.

It all comes across a bit like a robot superhero Crazy Taxi, albeit one where the valiant android must occasionally head above the clouds to recharge its solar panels. (We bet Captain Marvel never had that problem.)

In the tiny isometric world of Traffic Rush 2, traffic lights are seemingly anathema to the general public. Instead, dangerous crossings are manned by the kind of people who need the steely nerve of an air-traffic controller. Cars rush in, and each can be temporarily stopped with a tap or given a boost with a swipe. Your job is to keep the traffic flowing and avoid a hideous pile-up.

Of course, a hideous pile-up is inevitable, not least when you're dealing with an increasing number of cars coming from all directions, driven by people who we're pretty sure have never taken a driving test in their lives.

Fortunately, wreckage is instantly cleared with the tap of a button, enabling you to have another go. Additionally, as is seemingly law these days, Traffic Rush 2 has you collect coins, receive 'rewards', and grab prizes from a machine. These enhance the game, adding new vehicles to the mix, and making the crashes a bit more colourful.

Endless 3D avoid 'em ups have been a mainstay on the App Store ever since Cube Runner arrived way back in 2008. Geometry Race, like the older title, is keen on you learning a fixed course over repeat attempts, rather than battling your way through semi-randomised landscapes. Unlike Cube Runner, though, Geometry Race is a visual treat.

For reasons unknown, your spaceship finds itself zooming through worlds packed full of geometric obstacles, such as huge toppling letters and marching cubes. Beyond not colliding with anything, you must grab fuel to recharge your ship and coins that can be used to unlock better spaceships and additional worlds.

The lack of variety may eventually dent the game's own long-term survival on your device, but for a while Geometry Race is bright and breezy fun.

Although Hectic Space 2 looks like it's been wrenched kicking and screaming from a 1980's 8-bit console, this is a thoroughly modern bullet-hell shooter. You slide your finger vertically on the left side of the screen to move your ship and the sole aim is survival, which involves avoiding projectiles while your ship's automatic weapon blasts anything in your path.

The gaudy graphics oddly prove beneficial, making it easy to spot enemy fire (red — so much red), and are occasionally dazzling when facing off against inventively designed bosses.

You know you're not sitting in front of an old Atari when a giant skull bounces around the screen, or a bunch of Space Invaders changes formation, becoming a massive gun that fires countless bullets your way.

The original iSlash came across a bit like a thinking man's Fruit Ninja combined with arcade classic Qix. Each challenge involved slicing off bits of a wooden box, carefully avoiding the shuriken bouncing about within.

iSlash Heroes is more of the same in freemium form, albeit with revamped graphics, a load of new levels, bosses that muck about with the board as you play, and some infrequent irritating social gubbins that occasionally blocks your way for a bit.

Despite some niggles, it remains a smart, engaging arcade effort, which works especially well on the iPad, given that the large screen enables you to be a bit more precise when slicing off those final slivers of wood required to meet your target.

This block-merging puzzle game is based on dominoes, where you place pieces on the board, and when three or more identical tiles sit next to each other they're sucked into a single piece with a larger number.

Should three or more sixes merge, they create an M. Merge three of those and they obliterate a three-by-three section of the board, giving you temporary breathing space.

The claustrophobic nature of Merged! means you must think carefully when placing every piece, and try to create cascades that will quickly increment tile values. It's a bit too random at times, and has some distasteful freemium trappings, but otherwise this is a fine puzzler for your iPad.

At some point, developers will run out of new ways to present endless runners, but that moment hasn't yet arrived. Surfingers tries something a bit different, marrying the genre with a kind of stripped-back breakneck match puzzler. You must line up the blocky wave you're currently on to match whatever's coming next, lest your surfer abruptly wipe-out.

At first, this is leisurely and simple, with you swiping up and down, avoiding maniacs in low-flying hot-air balloons, and collecting stars. But before long, you're two-finger swiping to get past massive rocks and buried spaceships, surfing across snowy mountains and sand dunes, and thinking a dip in the shallows might have been a smarter move. And it turns out even being an ice-cool crocodile riding a rubber duck won't save you if those shapes don't line up.

Touchscreens have opened up many new ways to play games, but scribbling with a finger is perhaps the most natural. And that's essentially all you do in Magic Touch, which sounds pretty reductive - right up until you start playing.

The premise is that you're a wizard, fending off invading nasties who all oddly use balloons to parachute towards their prize. Match the symbol on any balloon and it pops, potentially causing a hapless intruder to meet the ground rather more rapidly than intended. Initially, this is all very simple, but when dozens of balloons fill your field of vision, you'll be scrawling like crazy, desperately fending off the invasion to keep the wizard gainfully employed.

The first thing that strikes you about Into the Dim is that it transforms your iPad into a giant Game Boy - at least from a visual standpoint. Its chunky yellowed graphics hark back to handheld gaming's past; but to some extent, this is also true of Into the Dim's mechanics.

It's a turn-based RPG, featuring a boy and his dog exploring dungeons, outwitting enemies, and uncovering a mystery. But whereas most modern mobile fare offers procedurally generated levels, Into the Dim's dungeons have all been carefully individually designed. It rewards planning, strategic thinking, and patience; and although the game's finite nature means it can be beaten, doing so will make you feel like a boss, rather than a player being put through the 'random mill' time and time again.

Taking the most famous video game character of all and shoving him into an endless freemium title could have ended disastrously. Fortunately, Pac-Man 256 is by the people behind Crossy Road - and it's just as compelling.

In Pac-Man 256, our rotund hero finds himself beyond the infamous level 256 glitch, which has become an all-consuming swarm of broken code that must be outrun. Pac-Man must therefore speed through the endless maze, munching dots, avoiding ghosts, and making use of power-ups dotted about the place.

And there aren't just power pellets this time round - Pac-Man can fry ghosts with lasers, or implement stealth technology to move through his spectral foes as if they weren't even there.

Routing cabling in the real world is a source of fury, and so it might not be the smartest procedure to make into a game played on a device with a glass screen. But Aux B turns out to be a lot of fun, routing INs and OUTs, across increasingly large and complex patch boards, striving to make music blare forth.

There are 80 levels, although towards the end, you wonder whether someone should have a quiet word with the gig organiser and suggest a set-up that's a wee bit simpler. (And once you're done with the 80, the game continues randomising levels forever, placing you in a weirdly entertaining mixing desk 'purgatory'.)

Very occasionally, free games appear that are so generous you wonder what the catch is. Cally's Caves 3 is rather Metroid, except the hero of the hour is a little girl who has pigtails, stupid parents who keep getting kidnapped, and a surprisingly large arsenal of deadly weapons. She leaps about, blasting enemies, and conquering bosses. Weapons are levelled up simply by shooting things with them, and the eight zones take some serious beating — although not as much as the legions of grunts you're shooting at.

Time travel weirdness meets the morning rush hour in Does Not Commute. You get a short story about a character, and guide their car to the right road. Easy! Only the next character's car must be dealt with while avoiding the previous one. And the next. Before long, you're a dozen cars in and weaving about like a lunatic, desperately trying to avoid a pile-up. For free, you get the entire game, but with the snag that you must always start from scratch, rather than being able to use checkpoints that appear after each zone. (You can unlock these for a one-off payment of $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49.)

With its numbered sliding squares and soaring scores, there's more than a hint of Threes! about Imago. In truth, Threes! remains the better game, on the basis that it's more focussed, but Imago has plenty going for it. The idea is to merge pieces of the same size and colour, which when they get too big explode into smaller pieces that can be reused.

The clever bit is each of these smaller pieces retains the score of the larger block. This means that with smart thinking, you can amass colossal scores that head into the billions. The game also includes daily challenges with different success criteria, to keep you on your toes.

Pool for massive show-offs, with the table's pockets removed, Magnetic Billiards is all about smacking balls about in a strategic manner. Those that are the same colour stick together; the aim is to connect them all, preferably into a bonus shape, whereupon they vanish. Balls of different colours must not collide, but can 'buzz' each other for bonus points; further points come from cushion bounces. For free, you get the 'classic' level set, with 20 tables. If you want more, a $1.99/£1.49/AU$2.99 'skeleton key' IAP unlocks everything else in the game.

With iPads lacking tactile controls, they should be rubbish for platform games. But savvy developers have stripped back the genre, creating hybrid one-thumb auto-runner/platformers. These are entirely reliant on careful timing, the key element of more traditional fare.

Mr. Crab further complicates matters by wrapping its levels around a pole. The titular crustacean ambles back and forth, scooping up baby crabs, and avoiding the many enemies lurking about the place. The end result is familiar and yet fresh. You get a selection of diverse levels for free, and additional packs are available via IAP.

Having played Planet Quest, we imagine whoever was on naming duties didn't speak to the programmer. If they had, the game would be called Awesome Madcap Beam-Up One-Thumb Rhythm Action Insanity — or possibly something a bit shorter. Anyway, you're in a spaceship, prodding the screen to repeat beats you've just heard. Doing so beams up dancers on the planet's surface; get your timing a bit wrong and you merely beam-up their outfits; miss by a lot and you lose a life. To say this one's offbeat would be a terrible pun, but entirely accurate; it'd also be true to say this is the most fun rhythm action game on iPad — and it doesn't cost a penny.

We imagine the creators of Smash Hit really hate glass. Look at it, sitting there with its stupid, smug transparency, letting people see what's on the other side of it. Bah! Smash it all! Preferably with ball-bearings while flying along corridors! And that's Smash Hit — fly along, flinging ball-bearings, don't hit any glass face-on, and survive for as long as possible.

There are 50 rooms in all, but cheapskates start from scratch each time; pay $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 for the premium unlock and you get checkpoints, stats, iCloud sync, and alternative game modes.

One of the most innovative multiplayer titles we've ever played, Spaceteam has you and a bunch of friends in a room, each staring at a rickety and oddball spaceship control panel on your device's display. Instructions appear, which need a fast response if your ship is to avoid being swallowed up by an exploding star. But what you see might not relate to your screen and controls. Spaceteam therefore rapidly descends into a cacophony of barked demands and frantic searches across control panels (which helpfully start falling to bits), in a last-ditch attempt to 'set the Copernicus Crane to 6' or 'activate the Twinmill' and avoid fiery death.

A somewhat chessish two-player effort, Outwitters finds teams of angry sea creatures battling to the death, first helpfully arming them with surprisingly dangerous weapons. (It turns out crabs eschew claws when they've a mortar cannon to hand.)

Despite the cartoonish visuals, this is a deep and immersive strategy experience. Games are further complicated by a 'fog of war', which means units cannot see any further than they can move. This makes Outwitters tough to master but more rewarding on doing so and chalking up your first victories.

The best puzzle game on mobile, Threes! has you slide cards about a grid, merging pairs to create ever higher numbers. The catch is all cards slide as one, unless they cannot move; additionally, each turn leads to a new card in a random empty slot on the edge you swiped away from. It's all about careful management of a tiny space.

On launch, Threes! was mercilessly cloned, with dozens of alternatives flooding iTunes, but 2048 and its ilk lack the charm and fine details that made Threes! so great in the first place. And now there's Threes! Free, where you watch ads to top up a 'free goes' bin, there's no excuse for going with inferior pretenders.

"Expect retro graphics and megatons of enemies," says the developer about this twin-stick shooter, adding: "Don't expect a story". With its vector graphics and Robotronish air, PewPew brings to mind Geometry Wars and Infinity Field, but without a price tag.

Despite being free, PewPew nonetheless boasts five modes of shooty goodness. These range from the aptly named 'Pandemonium', where enemies spin around the screen on dying, to the more thoughtful (but still manic) 'Chromatic Conflict', where you can only shoot foes whose colour matches your ship.

It turns out if you're a sheep that thinks the grass is greener, you should check out the other side of the fence first. In Flockwork, wooly heroes make a break for freedom, but end up immersed in a kind of ruminant hell. Your task: help the sheep escape.

The tiny snag is that all the sheep move as one, meaning you must use a combination of quick thinking, finger gymnastics and fast reactions to ensure they don't drown, get eaten by clockwork wolves, or end up getting stuck behind walls like wooly idiots.

At some point, a total buffoon decreed that racing games should be dull and grey, on grey tracks, with grey controls. Gameloft's Asphalt series dispenses with such foolish notions, along with quite a bit of reality.

Here, in Asphalt 8, you zoom along at ludicrous speeds, drifting for miles through exciting city courses, occasionally being hurled into the air to perform stunts that absolutely aren't acceptable according to the car manufacturer's warranty. It's admittedly a bit grindy, but if you tire of zooming about the tracks in this game, there's no hope for you.

The basic aim of Tilt to Live is simple: avoid the red dots, either by cunning dodging and weaving or by triggering explosive devices in the arena. At the time, this wasn't especially innovative, and Tilt to Live has itself since spawned two (paid) sequels.

Even so, the game manages to appeal, largely due to its polish and sense of humour — the latter of which is especially handy when you miss your high score by moments during a particularly gruelling game and fancy flinging your device out of the window. You get the basic mode for free, and others can be unlocked by in-app purchase.

It's not the most interesting-looking game in the world, but luckily the magic of Choice of the Dragon is in its witty prose. Playing as a multiple-choice text adventure, akin to an extremely stripped-back RPG, this game is an amusing romp. It also, through a combination of stats and branching pathways with more than two options, boasts more depth than many more recent stabs at text-based iOS adventuring.

It's hard not to love Frotz when you see its App Store description 'warn' that it involves "reading, thinking, and typing" and that if you "just want to blow stuff up", it's not the app for you. And that's very true, given that this is an interactive fiction player.

You load titles written for the Z-Machine format (such as the famous Zork trilogy), and explore virtual worlds by typing in commands such as 'go north' and 'put the long dangly bit into the Tea Substitute'. As you might expect, Frotz works particularly well on an iPad (rather than the smaller screen of an iPhone), and it adds a menu for common commands to speed you along a bit.

In Triple Town, you have to think many moves ahead to succeed. It's a match game where trios of things combine to make other things, thereby giving you more space on the board to evolve your town. For example, three bushes become a tree, and three trees become a hut.

All the while, roaming bears and ninjas complicate matters, blocking squares on the board. At times surreal, Triple Town is also brain-bending and thoroughly addictive. Free moves slowly replenish, but you can also unlock unlimited moves via IAP.

Pinball games tend to be divided into two camps. One aims for a kind of realism, aping real-world tables. The other takes a more arcade-oriented approach. Zen Pinball is somewhere in-between, marrying realistic physics with tables that come to life with animated 3D figures.

Loads of tables are available via IAP, including some excellent Star Wars and Marvel efforts. But for free you get access to the bright and breezy Sorcerer's Lair, which, aside from some dodgy voice acting, is a hugely compelling and fast-paced table with plenty of missions and challenges to discover.

Who knew you could have such fun with a five-by-five grid of letters? In Letterpress, you play friends via Game Center, making words to colour lettered squares. Surround any and they're out of reach from your friend's tally. Cue: word-tug-o'-war, last-minute reversals of fortune, and arguments about whether 'qat' is a real word or not. (It is.)

With almost limitless possibilities in videogames, it's amazing how many are drab grey and brown affairs. Frisbee Forever 2 (like its similarly impressive forerunner) is therefore a breath of fresh air with its almost eye-searing vibrance.

There's a kind of Nintendo vibe - a sense of fun that continues through to the gameplay, which is all about steering a frisbee left and right, collecting stars strewn along winding paths. And these are a world away from the parks you'd usually fling plastic discs about in - here, you're hurled along roller-coaster journeys through ancient ruins and gorgeous snowy hillsides.

Proving that great ideas never die, Shadow Era brings trading cards to life on the iPad. What you lose in not being able to smell the ink and manually shuffle the deck, you gain in not being able to lose the cards or have them eaten by the dog. It's all very swords-and-fantasy oriented, and just like in real life you can also buy extra cards if you feel the need.

Score! takes the basic premise of a million path-drawing games and wraps it around classic footie goals. The combination works really well, with you attempting to recreate the ball's path in the best goals the world's ever seen. Failure results in a baying crowd and, frequently, improbable goalkeeping heroics.

The game's since had a sequel, but we prefer the original, which is less aggressive in its freemium model.

Argh! That's pretty much what you'll be yelling on a regular basis on playing this endless racer. Cubed Rally Redline shouldn't be difficult. You can go left or right on five clearly defined lanes, and there's a 'time brake' for going all slow-motion, Matrix-style, to weave through tricky gaps; but you'll still be smashing into cows, dinosaurs and bridges before you know it.

You'll persevere if you're particularly bloody minded, or just to see what other visual treats the developer's created for hardcore players.

In Smash Cops, you got to be the good guy, bringing down perps, mostly by ramming them into oblivion. Now in Smash Bandits it's your chance to be a dangerous crim, hopping between vehicles and leaving a trail of destruction in your wake. Smartly, this can all be done with a single finger, which is all you need to steer, drive and smash.

The game also amusingly includes the A-Team van and a gadget known only as the Jibba Jabba. We love it when a plan comes together!

If you liked this, then make sure you check out our best free iPad apps roundup!

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