Digital Life: Epson's iPhone projector -- meet the new star of your living room
Epson's new projector, the MG-850HD, is a machine with a difference.
Thoughtfully designed for the new era of smartphones and tablets, the Epson combines all the power and advantages of the big screen with the versatility brought by the small screens.
It operates perfectly well as a conventional projector, delivering 720P HD at sizes up to 300 inches hooked into a Blu-ray player, games console or satellite/cable box. It doesn't even require a particularly dark room, just a nice blank wall. The inclusion of small speakers is a welcome bonus all other projectors should emulate.
Smartly, Epson has also made the MG-850HD eminently portable, building in a carrying handle and keeping all ports neatly tucked away behind a flap.
But its ace card is the retractable iPhone/iPad dock that enables playback of videos, photos and music from your Apple device.
Whether it's your own movies, Netflix or YouTube, the MG-850HD liberates them all on to the big screen via a handy remote control.
Android owners aren't out in the cold either, with their phones and tablets being just a few of many devices (laptops, thumb drives, etc) that connect to the Epson's USB port. The experience isn't nearly so fuss-free, but it works.
It's hard to find much fault with anything Epson has done here -- save for inevitably underpowered speakers -- and for an entirely reasonable €700, the MG-850HD proves itself a multitalented star in the living room.
The irony of BlackBerry getting into touchscreen phones is that it takes away one of the company's great advantages -- excellent QWERTY keyboards for emailing.
If you can see past that, then consider the new BlackBerry Curve 9380, an all-touchscreen phone aimed at the middle market below the iPhones and Samsung Galaxy SIIs of this world.
Essentially, it's a cut-down version of the BlackBerry Torch 9860 but with a smaller screen, less storage and an inferior camera. But it is the smallest touchscreen BB available, looks great and outlasts most smartphones battery wise.
The biggest problem it faces is that its pricing (€100 on cheapest contract, €280 on pre-pay, both are O2 only) puts it in the same ballpark as the superior (but Vodafone only) Torch 9860. And that is just one battle it's never going to win.
Final Fantasy XIII-2
It's rare that you get to live your life over again, to fix the mistakes you made, to choose a different path, to enjoy the benefit of hindsight.
But after a mixed reaction to the last instalment of Final Fantasy, the developers of the veteran role-playing series felt unable to move on. They felt there was life left in the characters of XIII and a direct sequel would address several shortcomings that had alienated fans.
So XIII-2 was born, set three years after the last and featuring some of the same protagonists and locations but with a time-bending twist. Instead of the linear slog that occupied 20-plus hours of the original, XIII-2 quickly branches out into an open-ended world, an adventure with many choices.
In fact, it's a lot like a return to the values of earlier Final Fantasy games, thanks to a slightly bewildering array of side quests and mini-games.
As always, though, the stunning art direction shapes gorgeous worlds, monsters and characters that put Hollywood to shame. If only we could say the same of the frankly barmy story and stilted dialogue.
So XIII-2 is an improvement, yes, one that will please fans but which still exhibits too many of Final Fantasy's quirks to find the much broader audience its imagination deserves.
Minecraft Pocket Edition
Indie hit Minecraft earned a fortune on PC with its gonzo version of Lego world-building. Now the mobile world gets a crack at creating outlandish buildings and terrain with this Pocket Edition.
For anyone with a creative bent, it's a delight to explore. Unfortunately, in the transition Minecraft PE has lost the other half of what made it interesting -- the monsters that arrive at night to attack and the ability to craft items beyond the standard building blocks.
A free update later this month is due to restore at least some of its missing flavour but in the meantime Minecraft PE still stands up as an eccentric version of Lego for adults.
Super Pokemon Rumble
A Pokemon game featuring almost every pocket monster ever created? What could go wrong? Lots of things obviously, because about the only thing going for this 3DS spin-off from the main franchise is the weight of those numbers.
With a shallow storyline, repetitive landscapes and a simplified battle system, SPR will amuse very young gamers. But committed Pokemon fans will be disappointed by its button-mashing tactical naivety and general dumbing-down of a finely honed formula.
Bits and Bytes
- The Sky Go app, which has proved so popular on iOS, is finally coming to selected Android smartphones by the end of the month.
Owners of a handful of the latest phones from HTC and Samsung will be able to watch Sky Movies, Sports and other channels -- provided they have the right Sky subscription.
Oddly, the app will not be available on any Android tablets just yet.
- Apple felt the wrath of human rights activists last month over a New York Times investigation into allegations of poor working conditions at Chinese factories that make iPhones, iPads and Macs.
Now an online petition has sprung up to demand that Apple produce "an ethical iPhone" and try to ensure no worker's health is put at risk.