Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour is a bit of a rare beast because it’s a full-on first person shooter that’s available for Android, iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Windows Phone 8. That means it’s available for most smart-device owners, only BlackBerry 10 users being left out of the fun. It’s also one of those games that makes you wonder about the wisdom of buying a console or forking out for proper PC games. At a fiver MC4:ZH isn't cheap, for a mobile game it’s actually rather expensive, but for the money it delivers the full, immersive FPS experience and may be all the shoot’em’up most people need.
The last few years has seen Sony's crown as the maker of the best tellys usurped by the likes of Samsung but the new W9 series TVs are set to put Sony right back on top . Gone is the heavy base and monolithic, macho styling of previous ranges and in comes a more futuristic, airy look, with a very cool circular chrome stand. The W9 design is called "Sense of Quartz" by Sony and features cut-glass edges, a narrow matte black bezel to set off the display and a so-called "intelligent core" below the screen which gently glows with a colour dependent on the input source. All in all it's a very smart bit of kit.
Della Mae was formed in 2009 in Boston, Massachusetts and has the distinction of being one of the few (if not the only) all-female bluegrass bands. The band's members (Kimber Ludiker on fiddle, Celia Woodsmith on vocals and guitar, Shelby Means on bass, Jenni Lyn on guitar, and Courtney Hartman on guitar, vocals, and banjo) were all accomplished musicians prior to forming the band making it something of a bluegrass super group. This World Oft Can Be is the band's first full length collection following a seven track acoustic EP released all the way back in 2010. It's been worth the wait.
Most tablets have 10 inch screens mounted in a chassis that weighs something in the region of 500g and cost around £500. But what if you want a 20-inch tablet that weighs 5.1Kg and costs just over £800? Well, then Sony has you covered with it's new Vaio Tap 20 a machine that's one part tablet, one part desktop PC and one part object d'art.
If there's one message contained within the remake of The Lone Ranger it's that there's a very real limit to how much Johnny Depp and a shed-load of makeup can accomplish. In Gore Verbinski's flamboyant re-imagination of the long-running radio show and '50s cowboy TV series, Depp enthusiastically attempts to recreate the extravagant on-screen magic of his similarly lunatic Jack Sparrow, a character that was the very heart and soul of Verbinski's Pirates of the Caribbean series. Sadly it doesn't quite come off.
What do you get when you lock a Samsung Galaxy Camera and a Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone in a cheap hotel room with a bottle of wine and a Barry White album and let them get it on? The answer is the Galaxy S4 Zoom, a device that blurs the line between phone and camera to such an extent that it becomes impossible to say which is the primary function. Is it a phone with a huge camera or a camera that can make a phone call?
Think cloud storage apps and you naturally enough think of DropBox but there is an alternative called Box that's also worth a look. Like DropBox Box is a free service but while DropBox offers only 2GB of storage Box offers 5. Box also runs regular special offers - at the time of writing if you sign into your account from a Dell Windows 8 machine you get an extra 25GB. Sign in from a BlackBerry 10 device and you get an extra 10GB.
With the new 500L (L standing for Large) Fiat is out to prove that Mini isn't the only car maker that can stretch, bend, twist and re-shape an entire model range out of a single retro hatchback. The 500L is intended to be a family-friendly version of the the 500, a cracking little hatchback that I have a lot of time for, especially the rorty TwinAir versions.
The Civil War's 2011 album Barton Hollow was my favorite album of that year so when in November 2012 the American folk due cancelled the remaining dates of their UK tour owing to, and I quote their Facebook page "internal discord and irreconcilable differences of ambition" I was slightly gutted to say the least. Like many I figured that was the end of band and that Joy Williams and John Paul White had gone their separate ways. But luckily as it turns out album #2 was already in the can.
As part of our semi-regular cross promotional series, we have hooked up with excellent international site Muzicnotez to take a closer look at some of their top artists. If you're in the mood for lounge pop, party rock, a spot of dance or classical guitar (a heady combination) check out some of their recommended artists:
Part of the psych-folk revival that took shape a decade ago American-born singer/songwriter Alela Diane got her start in 2003 thanks to a well-received self-released recording called Forest Parade. Since then she has released three long-players none of which has sold in anything like the quantity here talent would suggest they should have. Hopefully it will be fifth time lucky with About Farewell.
Robotic vacuum cleaners have been around for a couple of years now and most are frankly pretty terrible - expensive toys that are about as effective at cleaning your floors as a cat covered in double-sided sticky tape. But LG's new Hom-Bot Square is billed as one of the first that actually does the job and does it properly. Though with an anticipated UK price of £550 it's still not the most cost effective way of cleaning up after yourself.
With its new FonePad Asus posits the notion that you don’t actually need a tablet and and a smartphone, just a cheap 7-inch tablet that can function as a cheap and affordable replacement for both. Cheap? How does £180 unlocked and SIM-free sound? That’s £60 less than the Nexus 4 which is the cheapest, good, smartphone you can buy at the moment. Look at it from a tablet point of view and it still makes sense - an unlocked 3G Nexus 7 costs £240 but out of the box (and like the 3G iPad mini) it has no support for voice calling and there’s no ear speaker.
Don’t for a moment think that Charlotte Higgins’ Under Another Sky is just another gazetteer of Roman ruins in Britain. It’s so much more than that. What Higgins (The Guardian's chief arts writer) has cooked up is a superb first-person account of her travels around Blighty on foot and in a chronically unreliable blue VW camper van looking at the remain of Rome’s most northerly province interspersed with examinations of how our view of Roman Britain has changed over the years and how our interpretations of its physical, emotional and intellectual legacy have similarly morphed over the centuries.
The big problem with using buses is that you often don't know exactly when they will arrive or where they are going or when they are supposed to get to where you want to be. Bus Checker answers all those questions by displaying live information about where your bus is, where it's going, where it's been and where it stops en route between the two. If you regularly use public transport this is an app you really should take a look at.
Mavis Staples was the youngest member of The Staples Singers (a gospel folk quartet led by her father Roebuck ‘Pops’ Staples) whose songs became an integral part of the American civil rights movement in the Sixties and Seventies and became the closest thing to a gospel act with a pop audience. Since then Mavis has worked with Curtis Mayfield, Steve Cropper and even Prince. Her 2010 album You Are Not Alone won Staples her first Grammy and the follow up is, if anything, even better.
If you’re Wi-Fi router can beam a reliable signal into all parts of your house then bully for you. If not then you can use your house’s electrical wiring to carry a signal using what is generally termed powerline (or HomePlug to be precise) technology. There are various types of kit available but Devolo’s new dLAN 500 Wireless Plus is easily the most feature-laden I've encountered and should solve any networking problems you have in the blink of an eye.
The original Sprinkle from Mediocre Games was one of my favorite mobile games of 2012 but that doesn't mean it was faultless. The controls were not perfect and the levels tended to be just a bit too static for my tastes. That’s not to say it was dull or impossible to master, far from it, and anyway the basic idea and the superb physics engine - you've never seen water behave like this in a game I guarantee - more than made up for any failings. But the new version of the game has fixed both problems and made a very good game great.
Small. That’s what Toshiba’s new BDX2400 Blu-ray player is all about. It measures just 290 x 180 x 36mm and weighs a piffling 800g and buying one will only lighten your wallet to the tune of £65. That’s not bad for a networked Blu-ray deck that can play USB media as well as discs. As we’ll see there are a few drawbacks for shopping in the Blu-ray bargain basement, but on the whole the new budget Tosh is a lot of media player for the money.
Want a tablet and a smartphone that can run off the same SIM card at the same time? That lets you make phone calls through the phone and the tablet? What you want then is the new Asus PadFone 2 (PadFone 1 was never released in the UK so don't worry, you haven't missed anything). In a nutshell what we have here is an Android smartphone that can be docked into a dumb tablet giving you a choice of two screen sizes but the convenience of one data connection and unified app selection and storage. This is what I call a Very Good Idea.