Digital Life: Spectre can’t escape the shadow of the MacBook Air
More than two years after Apple carved out a niche with the ultra-light MacBook Air laptop, the world of Windows is still trying to catch up. Few manufacturers have had much success even by cloning the Air's look and specs.
HP is trying again with the Spectre XT, an evolution of its previous 13-inch machine that could easily be mistaken for an Air if you squint. Like all in this Windows category known as Ultrabooks, you get a feather-light machine with plenty of power but no DVD drive.
It feels good and works well while, at €1,000, it actually costs less than HP's previous Ultrabook.
Sadly, it doesn't have that machine's standout feature: stamina. Battery life clocks in at about four hours — three hours less than that of its predecessor.
Perhaps it has something to do with running Windows 8, which may be more power-hungry in addition to being less likeable than Windows 7.
The Spectre XT's screen is fairly average, with poor viewing angles, and the small trackpad will win it few friends. But as Ultrabooks go, the HP is a solid entry with a good keyboard and attractive, robust design.
Motorola has been out of the phone game for a long time, at least on these shores. But having been bought by Google, it's spreading its wings again.
The Razr i mobile joins the teeming Android family with a unique calling card: it's powered by an Intel chip. In practice, this means little except that it's incompatible with a few apps.
Otherwise, the Razr i stands as a decent, speedy mid-range phone, with long battery life and a resilient body that can take a beating. It costs €350 on pre-pay or about €100 on the cheapest contract from Meteor or eMobile.
Game of the week: Far Cry 3 * * * * *
Welcome to a poisoned paradise.
Far Cry 3 returns to the tropical island setting that served so well in FC1, all of eight years ago now.
But it takes its stealth action cues from predecessor, FC2, with a complex mesh of open-world missions and strong storyline.
The result is an ambitious and rich shooter that comfortably stakes a claim for the accolade of game of the year.
The story is woven around three strong characters, a tourist (you) and the madman you're trying to escape are the first two.
The third is the enigmatic and beautiful island.
Gorgeous scenery, an abundance of freedom and endless supply of trigger-happy adventure. What more could you want?
Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two * * *
The original took liberties with Disney's mascot and ended up an interesting but flawed platforming experiment.
This sequel dials back the dark tone but muddles up the controls and introduces an infuriating co-op partner. Played alone, the co-operative elements are spoiled by inconsistent AI. With a friend, it becomes manageable, but EP2 fails to generate enough game mileage from its undoubtedly lovely artwork.
Playstation All Stars Battle Royale * * * *
Inspired by Nintendo's Super Smash Bros, in which its iconic characters brawl across a 2D landscape, PASBR pits famous PlayStation names such as Nathan Drake, Kratos and Sackboy against each other in constantly shifting arenas.
It gets a little too frantic at times and the camera may zoom out too far occasionally, but this is a well-executed brawler with plenty of variety and the novelty of moving stages.
F1 Race Stars * * *
Boasting bobble-headed drivers and Mario Kart-style comedy weapons, this is an unusually loose interpretation of the usually joyless world of F1.
But just making a karting game featuring the likes of Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton isn't enough to lift it to the dizzy heights of Nintendo's classic original.
The tracks are pleasingly outlandish, but, after several laps around each, the mundanity of the actual driving takes its toll.