Digital Life: Never mind the megapixels -- focus on the new Nikon's quality
In cameras, as in life, quality not quantity counts. Don't be fooled by the megapixel myth that cons you into believing a higher number automatically produces superior photos.
With even the least ambitious budget camera now sporting 12 or 14 megapixels, how does Nikon hope to get away with a mere 10 megapixels in its latest snapper, the Nikon 1 J1? By punching you in the face with its stunning image quality, that's how. Er, not literally, obviously.
The J1 is part of the new '1' family from Nikon aimed at people looking for the calibre and interchangeable lenses of a pro camera but without the massive size. Several other manufacturers, including Sony, Olympus and Panasonic, are already hard at work in this area and Nikon has given them a headstart.
With neither a price nor a size advantage, the J1 has had to work hard to keep up with its competitors. But compete it does, coming very close quality-wise to the brilliance of Sony's similar NEX range while packing a few tricks of its own.
Ultra-fast autofocus and speeds of up to 60 frames per second make the J1 a perfect match for sporting action. Smart Photo Selector fires off 20 shots in a row and then picks the best five to save -- handy for restless subjects such as children.
The autofocus in movie mode is equally adept and the ability to snap a full-resolution photo while videoing is nigh-on incredible.
But Nikon built the J1 with some wasteful quirks. The mode dial has just four options, one of which is a totally useless gimmick, and ignores the potential for quick access to manual options such as shutter speed, scenes and so on. Also, the movie button right beside the shutter doesn't work unless you set the mode dial to movie.
The Nikon 1 J1 costs €640 with a 10-30mm lens. Three other lenses are available as options.
Greetings, earthling, take me to your leader. At least that's what I imagined the Philips SoundSphere DS9800W docking speakers said to me when I opened the box.
Resembling a pair of pot-bellied aliens with one bulbous eye each, the SoundSpheres fit the trend of hi-fi systems as conversation starters. They don't just sound terrific, they look good too. If by "good" you mean "a bit arty and weird".
Intended as an iPod dock, they also work with other MP3 players via a 3.5mm jack. But with an iPhone (or iPod Touch, iPad, computer with iTunes), the SoundSpheres can stream music wirelessly over WiFi using Apple's AirPlay technology, no cable required.
The set-up's a little fiddly and the remote control sometimes takes an age to respond. But with a punchy sound and a distinctive style, the SoundSpheres go some way to justifying their €800 price tag.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
The final salvo in the Modern Warfare trilogy, there's no way in hell we've seen the last of Call of Duty. The first Modern Warfare transformed the series from a mere blockbuster into a globe-swallowing monster, beating out the likes of Harry Potter movies and even Grand Theft Auto at the tills.
But while MW3 takes comparatively few risks with the military shooter formula, it's obvious many of the gazillions of dollars earned have been pumped back in. The expansive single-player mode is backed up with a robust set of co-op missions, but as usual they're only the hors d'oeuvres for the tasty main dish of multiplayer.
Thankfully, there's nothing like the bad taste of 'No Russian', the notorious slaughter of the innocents that blighted MW2. The storyline traces a familiar arc but with the thrill needle turned up constantly to 11 it's hard to notice and the pace only accelerates toward the end.
In multiplayer, some much-needed balancing ensures rookies stand a fighting chance against the hardcore on the 16 new maps. Tweaks to the kill streaks and perks plus additional team modes give veterans solid reasons to migrate from MW2.
There'll be another Call of Duty in just 12 months' time but how it can top this is anyone's guess.
Ten years after Halo revolutionised shooters, this shot-for-shot remake updates the graphics but leaves the perfectly tuned gameplay intact.
That it still holds up a decade later is little short of remarkable, the guns feeling beautifully weighted, the enemies almost too smart, the level design (except for the awful maze of the Library) cleverly open-ended.
Shame that the multiplayer -- retooled from the recent Halo: Reach -- isn't of quite the same high standard. And ignore the new 3D and Kinect options.
Kinect Sports: Season Two
One of the best of Kinect's launch titles, the original Kinect Sports offered 11 events. Here, Season Two offers just six. But they're widely varying, from the relaxed and enjoyable take on golf to the awkward and tiring American football.
Improved use of motion control and voice recognition make this sequel worthwhile but short on longevity.
Destiny achieves the rare feat of making playing a superhuman feel ordinary. Dreary, repetitive combat shackled to dreary, repetitive landscapes do not a great game make.