Digital: Superior Xperia Z built to last
Review: Sony Xperia Z
Delicate little flowers, those smartphones. We spend half our time gazing at them in slack-jawed amazement, the other half in terror worrying about of dropping or breaking the damn things.
Who among us doesn't have a sad story to tell about a phone's unfortunate encounter with a toilet bowl or a €100 repair bill for a cracked screen?
We've seen rugged phones before, of course, but they have always been ugly or underpowered runts.
Finally, someone has copped on that consumers want (nearly) indestructible beauty and power.
Take a bow, Sony. Your new Xperia Z is the only high-end mobile able to withstanding a beating or a dunking.
Waterproof to one metre and dust-proof, this Android has much to recommend it but nothing more so than its lack of fear in harsh environments such as, er, pubs and beaches.
The Xperia Z faces incredible competition in the Android superphone camp, especially from the newly launched Samsung Galaxy S4. The Sony's huge, crisp screen, thin build and innovative “stamina” mode — eking two days out of its battery — keep it in the same ballpark as the forthcoming S4 and HTC One.
But, on a software level, it doesn't feel quite so cutting edge. Prominent apps on board link to Sony's video and PlayStation games stores — but neither are available in Ireland.
The Xperia Z is available on most networks, costing with O2 for example €580 on pre-pay or €340 on a typical 12-month, €50 contract.
WANT to consult your iPad for recipes while cooking but don't like the idea of prodding at it with greasy fingers?
Belkin has thought of that, with its new €35 Chef Stand.
A simple prop for the iPad, it comes with an oversized, washable rubber stylus to control the touchscreen. Unfortunately, while the stand is useful the stylus requires a worrying amount of pressure to register a swipe or tap.
God of War: Ascension
“Pain is all I have left,” says the perennially pissed-off anti-hero Kratos, star of the GoW series.
So what's new? And iIn fairness, he's just lost his wife and child.
After three previous servings of hack'n'slash (plus some PSP spin-offs), Ascension's single-player story mode can show us little that's new.
Sure, there's spectacle aplenty — a bestiary of gigantic monsters and some fabulous visuals. Later sections of the game enable you to mess around with time and throw some intriguing puzzles at you.
But for all the gory entertainment on showarson\]d i, it just comes off as a tad familiar. Or as familiar as disembowelling creatures while grunting can ever seem.
Just as well, then, that Sony gauged something extra was necessary and thus multiplayer rides to the rescue. Thanks to some inventive modes that have more in common with shooters than traditional brawlers, Ascension comes to life when online rivals join the battle.
It may not to be everyone's taste, but multiplayer atones for a single-player story that can't raise the bar on previous instalments.
Real Racing 3
In one fell swoop, RR3 epitomises the peaks and troughs of iOS gaming that have simultaneously given Apple control of one of the most popular and lucrative platforms.
On the one hand, RR3 finds new levels of visual fidelity and near-perfect tilt controls to deliver a petrolhead's portable dream drive. It can't touch the sheer realism of PlayStation's Gran Turismo series, but for an arcade racer it's utterlyarson\] PlaySt compelling.
What a shame, then, that EA kills the buzz with an unrelenting stream of money grabs urging you towards in-app purchases — the bane of iOS gamers.
Sure, the game is free, but it's structured in such way as to obstruct progress as often as possible if you don't pay up.
Toy Story: Smash It!
An unassuming tie-in that plays like a 3D Angry Birds or a knock-off of Wii throwback Boom Blox, Smash It! has enough nuances tucked away in its DNA to make something fresh.
With a precise physics engine and some cleverly designed levels, you're getting a lot of game for your 80 cents.