Digital Life: A charge a day keeps this Apple laptop ready to play
Sorry for the personal question but how long can yours keep it up? I thought I was doing alright with four hours but apparently seven hours is what should you expecting nowadays -- more if you're careful.
We're talking laptop battery life, of course (what else could it have been?).
Sales of portables have surged in recent years because they are no longer the poor relation of the desktops. The latest generation of machines conquer what was always the Achilles heel of laptops Achilles heel: power consumption away from a wall socket.
But it still comes as a bit of a shock to glance at the battery meter of the new MacBook Pro.
Freshly charged, it estimates battery life hovering between eight and nine hours -- why, that's a whole working day.
Such predictions are notoriously unreliable, obviously, and depend entirely on whether you're just pottering about on the web or thrashing the battery by, say, watching a DVD.
But in general the MacBook Pro holds good to Apple's indication of seven hours on the go -- and frequently surpasses it. The laptop comes in three options -- 13-inch, 15-inch and 17-inch -- starting at €1,200 for the basic model.
Digital Life tried the 13-inch, which like its brethren and its predecessors, has been beautifully machined from solid aluminium. So it feels impressively robust if a little weighty.
Apart from being faster and yet more parsimonious on the juice, the new range is the first in the world to support Intel's new Thunderbolt standard for ultra-high-speed connections to disks, and so on. In theory, you could transfer a high-definition movie in seconds.
Alas, almost nothing else supports Thunderbolt yet, so it's one for the future.
Of more immediate use is the improved webcam, even though the picture quality is not quite the high-def promised.
As always with Apple's computers, you are paying a premium for cultured design, superior construction and slick software. Some of the latest laptops running Windows can match the MacBook Pro for battery life and cost less too.
So the iPhone is tracking your movements -- should you be worried?
Researchers revealed last week that the Apple phone was retaining up to a year's worth of information about the places you've been.
Before you get paranoid, it's worth remembering a few key points. The information records only the rough location coordinates and time every so often. It doesn't get sent to Apple.
Second, the data is stored on the iPhone and on your computer but someone -- a jealous spouse or suspicious boss -- would need physical access to either before they could do anything nefarious with the information.
Third, it's highly likely Apple will issue a software update shortly to drastically shorten the period in which the information is stored.
Fourth, Android phones also retain this data but for much shorter times.
Top Spin 4
The Borg is back. No, not the villains from Star Trek who liked to assimilate everyone. The original Borg, Bjorn himself, master of the grass court.
Nearly three years after Top Spin 3 set a new benchmark for tennis games, TS4 only goes and slams an ace past it. And it includes my favourite tennis player ever.
What's not to like?
Friendlier controls, a nice create-a-pro mode (including choosing your own grunt and animations for celebrating/ complaining) and even 3D build on what was already a superb tennis sim.
If you get tired of playing as one of the current crop of stars, you can dip back into history and step on to court as the likes of Sampras, Agassi and, yes, Borg.
Oddly, one of the venues on offer is the, ahem, world-famous Dublin grass-court stadium. Do the makers of Top Spin 4 know something we don't?
Alien Breed Trilogy
Exhuming a 1991 classic, this trilogy makes more sense to buy in this better-value pack than it did as individual downloads from Xbox Live Arcade.
By turns atmospheric and pedestrian, the top-down shooters mine the survival horror vibe of the Alien movies. The nerve-shredding exploration of an abandoned spacecraft infested with gruesome monsters works well enough.
But too much backtracking and repetitiveness tend to cut through the well established tension. Yet for sheer value, the trilogy delivers a lot of chills and thrills for your money.
The loony rabbits of the long-running Rabbids series make the jump into 3D for Nintendo's new console but they might as well have stayed in two dimensions.
A retro-style sideways-scrolling platformer with some interesting layered backgrounds, it never gets out of second gear. Even the antics of demented screaming rabbits fail to raise a grin after the first few minutes.
Splinter Cell 3D
Remaking a classic Xbox game for the 3DS is a risky proposition.
When you choose one such as Splinter Cell that relied heavily on shadowy visuals, you'd better be sure it scales well down to the smaller screen. It doesn't.
The close-up camera makes it nearly impossible to see anything in the murk and the complicated gameplay necessitated the lobotomisation of the enemy AI. Epic fail, as the kids would say.
Bit and Bytes
Sony puts a stop to producing PSP Go
- The PSP Go never really set the world on fire and now, just 18 months after its launch, looks set to die. Sony won't explicitly confirm it but the handheld console is expected to cease production shortly.
The lack of backward compatibility, high price of the downloadable games and the console's cost are what did for the PSP Go.
Let's hope Sony learns some lessons for its next-generation PSP, due in late 2011 or early 2012.
RTE plays nice with Apple for viewers
- The RTE Player has been a big success for the national broadcaster, attracting more than 350,000 people to the catch-up TV service every month.
But iPad and iPhone users have been left out in the cold due to Apple's draconian ban on Flash video for those devices.
Happily for them, RTE has confirmed that iOS versions of the Player will finally be available later this year at no charge.
An Android app will also arrive at the same time but many of the latest Android phones can already use the Player via Flash.
One free iPhone, for two years, on Three
- Mobile network Three now offers the iPhone 4 for free on one of its cheaper tariffs -- the catch being you have to sign up to a two-year contract.
That means you're committing yourself to 24 months of €40 a month -- or €960.
It doesn't work out much more expensive than opting for an 18-month contract and Three has recently introduced its all-you-can-eat data plans, where you will not be charged any extra for downloading a lot.