Digital Life: This galaxy's out of this world
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. There can be no doubt the photocopiers worked overtime in the design department when Samsung came up with its latest mobile, the Galaxy S.
Squint a little and you'd swear it was an iPhone, the older one. But power it up and the Galaxy's secret weapon kicks in.
Blessed with a beautiful four-inch display, it puts the last-generation iPhone to shame in terms of size, sharpness and colour of the touchscreen. It retains its screen-size advantage over the new iPhone 4, too, but quality-wise the two are almost identical.
Running the latest version of Google's Android software, the Galaxy represents a serious step up from Samsung's previous touchscreen efforts.
First, it's fast -- really fast. Second, with Android on board, it's a pleasure to use -- free of Samsung's often-clumsy embellishments.
Nifty features include the ability to act as mobile WiFi hotspot and Swype, an intriguing alternative method of predictive texting.
Compared to other Android phones out there, it scores best for excellent battery life and that luscious screen, one of the best on any phone.
But the Galaxy doesn't quite have the same build quality and slickness of HTC's Desire.
However, the phone's biggest stumbling block is not one of Samsung's making. Google still has not sanctioned paid-for apps in Ireland (and dozens of other countries).
While the Android app catalogue may be sizeable, there are still huge gaps. For that reason alone, the iPhone keeps its crown as the king of smartphones.
The Samsung Galaxy S is available from all networks, costing, for example, €110 on a typical Vodafone contract.
Almost as certain as death and taxes is the inevitable re-design of games consoles when they need a little sales lift. Sony's a past master, reaping big rewards when both the PS2 and PS3 got makeovers.
Frankly, it's amazing it took Microsoft so long, what with the well-documented Red Ring of Death (RROD) flaw that caused many an Xbox 360 to melt down.
But that original design has finally been overhauled, almost five years after it kicked off the current console war in 2005.
Cosmetically, the new Xbox 360 Slim is no radical re-think.
Sure, it's smaller, lighter and now sports a glossy finish.
But it's roughly the same shape as before and that clunky power brick still hangs off the back, albeit in downsized form.
We'll take for granted that the innards have been effectively re-worked in recent years to prevent a repeat of the overheating catastrophe that became known as the RROD.
But immediately apparent is what's missing: the noise. The original 360 often sounded like a jet winding up for takeoff but the Slim has knocked that on the head with a more efficient fan system.
The disc drive is still audible when it spins up, but at last the 360 can hold its head up beside the PS3 for peace and quiet.
Other upgrades include built-in wireless (which arguably should have been there from the start), a more capacious hard drive at 250GB and three extra USB ports (for a total of five).
Round the back, you'll also find a Kinect port to accommodate Microsoft's forthcoming motion controller, which was confirmed last week to arrive in stores on November 10.
The re-design brings no extra power -- your games will look and sound the same.
But at €250, the same price as the model it replaces, extra features and quieter operation make the Slim a no-brainer if you're looking to get a new 360.
If the budget is a little tight, Microsoft also released last week the new 360 4GB, which is more or less identical except obviously with less storage.