Digital Life: Rugged glory -- why Nikon's new camera is one tough cookie
Come on, abuse me more, I like it. Not many people will remember Aussie grunge stars Silverchair and their 1997 anthem 'Abuse Me'. But Nikon probably does.
The company stayed out of the rugged-camera market until now but has finally come up with a tough cookie in the form of the Coolpix AW100.
It can take some abuse. Drop it on to concrete from a height of five feet and the AW100 just shrugs and walks away unscathed.
Dunk into water and the Nikon will plunge to a depth of 10m before squealing for mercy. Take it to the Arctic on holidays and it will survive -10C. Unlike you, possibly.
In fairness, most rugged rivals are capable of similar feats. So Nikon has worked hard to differentiate the AW100 elsewhere. With a 16-megapixel sensor on-board, it's capable of some stunning quality in both stills and video.
Other compact cameras in the same price bracket can deliver better pictures, particularly in low light. But among the tough brigade, the Nikon is the champ.
The AW100 can also track where you took your photos via its built-in GPS and even incorporates a Google-style map on-screen -- though it's so sketchy on detail as to be almost useless.
Stupidly, the main buttons feel far too small and cramped for ease of use outdoors such as when you're wearing gloves or floating in the sea. Nikon makes a small concession to such situations with its unusual gesture controls -- flick the camera to start movie recording, for instance -- but they're an inadequate replacement.
Clearly, this Nikon isn't perfect -- the Panasonic Lumix FT2 has less fussy controls for example -- but its stellar image quality gives it the edge. The AW100 costs €380.
They still make Walkmans? Who knew? Or even cared? The brand has been so eclipsed by the iPod that it no longer holds the cachet it once did.
The Sony Ericsson Mix Walkman is certainly the last of its kind. The company indicated last week that from next year it would produce only smartphones, something the Mix Walkman definitely isn't.
Yes, it has a touchscreen, a few "apps" -- lousy versions of Facebook, etc -- but it's primarily a perfectly fine but very simple music phone. It has WiFi but, bafflingly, not 3G, and generally runs at the speed of an anaesthetised slug.
With similarly priced smartphones capable of much more, it's no wonder the Mix Walkman feels like a dinosaur. It costs €110 on pre-pay through the Carphone Warehouse.
The story of id Software is the story of first-person shooters. They wrote the script and much of videogame history with it. Remember Commander Keen, Wolfenstein, Doom and Quake? Yep, they were all the inspired products of id's pioneering imaginations
Rage is the first all-new game from id in 15 years, so it carries a frightening level of expectation. Unsurprisingly, it features guns, lots of 'em. Small ones, big ones, huge ones, plus, um, a deadly boomerang.
Anyone who's played Borderlands will get a sense of deja-vu with Rage.
Think of it as the videogame equivalent of Mad Max, set in a violent, post-apocalyptic world populated by bandits, pockets of civilisation and -- what else? -- murderous mutants.
Visually, Rage sets phasers to stun from the opening scene, the sprawling landscape a honeycomb of rocky terrain, abandoned towns and industrial complexes made beautiful by id's graphical prowess.
The second surprise comes with the prevalence of vehicles, which get almost as much billing as the shooting. You'll spend a lot of time on fetch quests or racing in buggies, motorbikes and souped-up sedans. But the idiosyncratic handling means it's always more of a pleasure to get back to dealing death with a weapon.
Multiplayer ends up a bit of letdown, without the usual deathmatch options familiar to Quake fans. It focuses instead on co-op play and buggy racing.
Perhaps it's because id had set the bar so high that Rage never seems the giant leap its forebears offered.
Never has something so simple concealed something so complicated. On the face of it, Radiant Silvergun appears a vertically scrolling shoot-em-up, albeit one from that piquant Japanese genre known as "bullet hell".
Your small ship faces endless waves of enemies, all of which unleash torrents of bullets on your sorry ass. But, wait, the enemies are all colour-coded and if you shoot them in the correct order you score big points. Oh, and survive to meet the next wave.
There's much more to the strategies required -- judicious use of your seven weapons, for one -- but suffice to say if you enjoy rock-hard old-school shooters, you'll love Radiant Silvergun.
The rest of us wusses will just cry and walk away.
Orcs Must Die
A lively riff on the tower-defence genre, your wise-cracking hero must defend his base against invading orcs using spike traps, tar pits and exploding barrels, among others.
But he can also wade in personally with his sword or crossbow to thin the hordes.
Fast and frantic, Orcs Must Die inevitably becomes too repetitive for its own good but is sustained by its wickedly black humour.
Bits and Bytes
• Nokia bet the farm earlier this year on a new tie-up with Microsoft to try to catch up with iPhone and Android.
The first Nokia handsets to run Windows Phone 7 were finally unveiled last week and look promising while bearing a striking resemblance to existing models such as the N9.
The Lumia 800 and Lumia 710 go on sale in the UK this month but won't reach Ireland until sometime next year.
• Want a free iPhone 4S? Or would you prefer to pay €2,000 for one? The catch is: it's the same deal. Beware the long contracts which give you a free 4S up front but tie into 24 months of payments which in some cases can add up to more than two grand.
Watch out for a full review of the new iPhone in next week's Digital Life.