Digital Life: Does a mini iPad still have the magic?
Take it or leave it. We know better than you. You can have any colour as long as it's black or white.
Apple is not a company that panders to trends. When Steve Jobs returned to the company in 1997, he slashed the number of product lines and ruthlessly focused on a handful of key machines. He believed the public didn't know what they wanted until he gave it to them.
All of which makes the iPad Mini a bit of an exception. Jobs himself ruled out making a smaller iPad. "We think the 10-inch screen size is the minimum required to create great tablet apps," he said in October 2010.
Clearly, then, the iPad Mini is a response to the quiet but growing appetite for seven-inch tablets from Google and Amazon.
So was Jobs wrong? Sort of. Seven-inch tablets such as the €250 Google Nexus offer an alternative to the iPad, but feel cramped because they have just 45pc of the screen area.
The iPad Mini sensibly opts for a larger 7.9-inch screen with 66pc of its bigger-brother's area. The result is a more useable tablet, from web browsing to apps (of which there are far more and of better quality than for rivals).
Apple didn't just shrink the iPad either, creating a new robust, machined design for the Mini that exudes quality. And so it should, because Apple may have followed the trend for smaller tablets but haven't tried to compete on price.
Pitched at €340 for the cheapest 16GB version, that's a whopping €90 more than a 32GB Google Nexus. Better build quality and bigger screen counts for a lot, but the pivotal factor is Apple's superior app store.
GAME OF THE WEEK: HITMAN ABSOLUTION * * * *
Some people deserve to die. In Absolution, pretty much everyone does. A more despicable bunch you could never find. And Agent 47 dispassionately dispatches a lot of them — crooks, wasters, fake nuns dressed in sexy habits (really) — amid a gorgeously grimy range of locations.
Crammed with atmospheric detail, cracking voice acting and sumptuous visuals, Absolution follows the Hitman stealth-action template — carry out an assassination under the noses of the target's guards. It stumbles sometimes on the occasional linearity of missions and the attempt to shoehorn a meaningful story into the mayhem.
A clever multiplayer mode acts like a level editor to create your own assassination assignment, giving fresh incentive to dive back into Agent 47's grubby but compelling world.
PAPER MARIO: STICKER STAR * * *
Poor Mario, he must be exhausted. Yet the world's most over-used game character remains charming in this latest 2D-into-3D game. Alternating between laidback turn-based battles (powered by special-move stickers) and frustrating puzzles, PM:SS is a little hard to love. It looks beautiful on the 3DS but the obscurity of some solutions (in which you must find a hidden object to progress) saps its playability.
WONDERBOOK: BOOK OF SPELLS * * *
The idea and the execution are ingenious: a ‘book' that sits in front of your PlayStation Eye camera and conjures augmented reality on your TV screen. Very young fans (under 7) of Harry Potter will be amused by its spellcasting mini-games but older players may find the Hogwarts connection tenuous. More non-HP titles are forthcoming that can be used with Wonderbook, which hopefully will be a bit more ambitious.
WHEN VIKINGS ATTACK * * *½
PS3/PS Vita (€10 download)
So a bunch of Nordics invade, what else would you do but recruit an angry mob? In this simple and frantic bash-‘em-up, the only way to repel the Vikings is to gather as many townsfolk as possible and have them hurl street furniture (fences, cars, whatever comes to hand) at the marauders. It's repetitive, of course, and lacks much in the way of strategic options but it has an instant appeal that will easily kill a few hours.
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