Saturday 21 October 2017

Digital Life: The challengers eyeing iPad's throne

The Samsung Galaxy Tab. Photo: Bloomberg News
The Samsung Galaxy Tab. Photo: Bloomberg News
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

That thundering noise you can hear is the sound of a dozen tech firms jumping on the iPad bandwagon. Seven months after the Apple tablet burst on to the scene, the first few of many challengers have rolled out.

Digital Life tested two tablets this week; the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the Toshiba Folio 100. Both are based on Google's Android software, already used successfully in many touchscreen phones. Ironically, though, Google itself says Android is not yet suitable for the larger screens on tablets.

The Galaxy Tab distinguishes itself primarily by size thanks to a seven-inch screen, making it lighter, smaller and more portable than the iPad. But the consequent downsides are shorter battery life (about seven hours versus the iPad's 10) and a screen that's 50% smaller in area than the Apple device.

For many functions, the downsizing is irrelevant because the Tab ably handles typical tasks such as email, Facebook, videos and music. But equally the screen sometimes feels a mite cramped versus the full monty of the iPad, when it comes to web browsing, photos and Google Maps.

Let's not forget, though, the Tab (right) is capable of several things the iPad is not. It works as a regular mobile. Two cameras, front and back, make it handy for video-chats and even photos if you're not too fussy. A memory-card slot provides extra headroom above the built-in 16GB storage.

Apple has famously blocked Flash on the iPhone/iPad but Android has no such qualms. The Tab allows you to view some of the video and game websites that are off-limits in Apple-land.

Now we get into murky territory. The Tab runs most of the 100,000 apps in the Android Marketplace but few have been customised to take advantage of a screen double the size of a typical phone.

Samsung offers only one configuration -- a 16GB, 3G/WiFi model -- which costs more than the equivalent iPad. O2 sells the Tab for €635 and then you can buy pay-as-you-go data.

Vodafone and Three also sell it subsidised on a 12-month contract for €390.

While the Tab is a desirable machine, the pricing is a risky strategy against the might of the iPad brand.

That's where Toshiba is aiming its fire -- selling the Folio 100 (above) for just €400 -- €100 less than a similar iPad. With a 10-inch display and a USB port, it even has a couple of advantages over the Tab.

But the screen has a narrow viewing angle, there's no 3G and no access to Android apps beyond a handful supplied by Toshiba. The Folio 100 has already been temporarily taken off the market to fix some software bugs but Toshiba needs a more fundamental rethink to compete.

A riotous cocktail of dash, smash and blast

Vanquish

X360/PS3

Rating: 8.5/10

From the imagination of the nutters who brought us the deranged MadWorld and the Bayonetta comes a third-person shooter with a twist.

Vanquish effectively straps a jetpack to Gears of War, turning a methodical cover-based shooter into a riotous cocktail of dash, smash and blast.

In his rocket-propelled suit, hero Sam Gideon can zip across long distances on his knees, like a hyperactive Bruce Springsteen finishing a guitar solo on stage.

Faced with towering robots or crowds of enemies, Sam's survival depends on his ability to charge around their defences to deliver the killer blow or slow down time to pick them off with carefully chosen shots.

Vanquish almost makes up for the absence of any multiplayer with its visual invention and relentless combat.

Super Scribblenauts

DS

Rating: 8.5/10

The pen is mightier than the sword in the world of Scribblenauts, a hilarious game which asks you to solve puzzles by typing in the objects required -- get cat out of tree by burning it down with a blowtorch or, y'know, maybe just using a ladder.

Super Scribblenauts fixes the original's horrible controls and throws adjectives into the mix to broaden the extensive palette of solutions. Want a headless zombie or a flying doughnut? You got it.

DJ Hero 2

X360/PS3/Wii

Rating: 8/10

Doing for the dance generation what Guitar Hero did for rockers, DJ Hero returns with a fresh platter of rhythm action incorporating more freestyling, vocal options and banging mixes.

The costly original turntable is still required, however, and the beats can be tough to master for the musically inept.

Super Meat Boy

X360

Rating: 7/10

An old-school (and download-only) platformer, SMB wastes no energy on elaborate graphics or gentle learning curves, focusing on simple A-to-B levels filled with deadly traps.

Addictive in a cruel way, it may be too tough for today's cosseted gamers.

John Daly’s ProStroke Golf

PS3

Rating: 6.5/10

Competition: Win a PlayStation 3 with Assassin's Creed

Everyone's favourite medieval assassin is back and this time he's got help. Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood transports Ezio to Rome to continue the fight against tyranny by rallying a band of like-minded assassins.

Thanks to Ubisoft, we have a great giveaway -- you can win a PlayStation 3 plus a limited-edition copy of the game. One runner-up will score a regular PS3 copy.

Just answer the simple question and you're in with a chance to win.

Question: Where's is the Assassin's Creed series set? A) United States B) Burma C) Italy

Email your entry together with your name and address to rprice@independent.ie -- multiple entries will be disqualified. The closing date is this Friday.

Irish Independent

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