Wednesday 22 November 2017

Digital Life: Never miss a show, as home TV comes to a phone near you

The Finepix Real3D W3
The Finepix Real3D W3
The Slingbox
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

The best technology is more akin to magic, to paraphrase Arthur C Clarke. There's certainly something supernatural about watching your home TV from thousands of miles away.

But that's exactly what the unique Slingbox device enables you to do, with a little help from your broadband connection. You might be just in the office down the road or across the world on holiday, yet you'll have full access to your entertainment.

The Slingbox sits in your living room hooked up to your Sky box or DVD player, or cable TV. It squashes a copy of the TV signal down your broadband line so that you can watch it from almost anywhere with a good internet connection -- on your laptop, your smartphone, your office PC. Result: pretty good picture quality.

Not only will it accept input from up to three sources, but a small remote-control sender enables you to change channels, set recordings or anything else you could do if you were in the same room.

Slingbox devices range in price from the simple €170 Solo (connect only one source) through to the €230 Pro (three sources), to the €300 Pro-HD (transmits high-definition video).

As clever as it is, the Slingbox could do with improvement. Amazingly, it doesn't have wireless internet built in, so you're expected to string wires like confetti around your living room or buy extra gear to deliver the signal. Nor can it accept the HDMI connection common on many set-top boxes and Blu-ray players. And charging a stiff €24 for the iPhone/iPad apps seems like gouging.

But if you want to watch a lot of TV away from home, there's nothing like a Slingbox.

uk.slingbox.com

Fuji gave us a glimpse of the next dimension last year with the first consumer camera to capture 3D photos and video. The Finepix Real3D W1 was a bit of a curio, though, thanks to its troubling bulk and the difficulty of viewing the resulting images.

Undeterred, Fuji has returned with the improved W3. It still has a face only a mother could love and needs to work harder at the gym. But, aesthetics aside, the W3 captures noticeably better-quality pictures.

Not every situation lends itself to 3D, nonetheless, and it takes practice to snap a convincing illusion of depth. Its video mode is less successful, with quality not nearly as good as its still pictures.

The big, bright LCD screen on the rear shows off your 3D snaps to good effect but to really get the full impact, you can connect the W3 to a 3D TV via HDMI.

Fuji also runs an online photo lab from which you can order prints but at about €4 a pop for the small size, it quickly gets expensive.

It's still early days for 3D and Fuji is in a field of its own with the quirky W3. If you've been grabbed by the 3D bug, this €440 camera is worth the investment.

www.fujifilm.ie

Game On

Operation Flashpoint: Red River

X360/PS3/PC

RATING: 9/10

Bang, you're dead. One shot and it's game over. The first few minutes of OF:RR may come as a shock to joystick jockeys raised on the popcorn warfare of Call of Duty and its ilk.

Instant death lies around every corner in this convincing battlefield simulation and it won't be to everyone's taste.

Like its spiritual brother, Ghost Recon, tactics will save your life, while run-and-gun CoD style is a ticket to the mortuary.

Commanding a squad of three marines in a near-future conflict set in Central Asia, early missions gently ease you into a careful pattern of flank and attack.

As the scenery becomes ever more beautiful, the Chinese arrive and the tense gameplay ratchets up several notches.

Red River's realism will be too much to swallow for many gamers but amid the carefully choreographed warfare of many modern shooters, it stands out from the crowd.

Brink

X360/PS3/PC

RATING: 8/10

A futuristic shooter with a twist or two, Brink is a game that demands an internet connection. Sure, you can play its team-based action by yourself with the help of AI buddies.

But like all great multiplayer games such as Counter Strike and Team Fortress 2 (both of which Brink strongly resembles), real people make it much more interesting.

Forget the paper-thin storyline; the missions boil down to familiar staples, such as capture this objective, escort this VIP, etc.

The twists lie in the ability of players to scale obstacles parkour-style and the awarding of XP points for almost every action.

The former adds not a lot, the latter opens a world of unlockables that gives Brink real staying power.

Steel Driver

NINTENDO 3DS

RATING: 6/10

Patrolling that lonely part of the gaming ocean reserved for submarine sims, Steel Diver has novelty but lacks longevity.

The sideways-scrolling action demands you navigate mines, depth charges and rocky channels to attack targets.

But though the unusual controls make for a fun start, the paltry collection of missions quickly runs out.

ISLANDS OF WAKFU

X360

RATING: 6.5/10

Drawn with a vibrant palette and revelling in its self-conscious wackiness, Islands of Wakfu conceals an iron fist inside its silky glove.

You're lulled into a vaguely Final Fantasy set-up before being hit with ultra-tough enemies and long-winded battles.

Many players won't find the slog worth it, even for all the strange sights you'll see along the way.

Bits and bytes

Birds are coming

This could be end of all office productivity as we know it -- the magnificent Angry Birds is coming to a web browser near you for free.

The puzzle game has already been downloaded 140 million times and made its creators a fortune.

Now you can sample its productivity-hogging addictiveness at home or in the office for nowt.

chrome.angrybirds.com

Zite for sore eyes

My favourite new iPad app is Zite, which resembles the style of the beautiful Flipboard but automatically selects online stories that it thinks you may be interested in.

Once you teach it your preferences a few times, it proves unerringly accurate at serving up articles of interest in an attractive magazine format.

Get the free Zite from the App Store.

PlayStation security

Sony's hacked PlayStation Network came back online last week but has been struggling under the strain of users trying to salvage their security by changing their passwords and profile details.

But it's worth persevering to ward off the remote possibility of your information being used for nefarious purposes.

Check the PlayStation blog for the latest updates.

blog.eu.playstation.com

Irish Independent

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