Digital Life: Why (screen) size does matter for Google's mini iPad wannabe
Ronan Price checks out the latest in gizmos and games
All the signs point to an 'iPad Mini' being launched within a week or two, with suppliers in Asia leaking blurry photos like a sieve and the blogosphere rumour mill hitting overdrive.
But, for once in the tablet market, it already has a serious competitor. The full-sized 10-inch iPad has comfortably seen off many wannabes but a smaller, 7-inch Apple tablet would immediately come up against the new Google Nexus 7, a superb design smartly pitched at a very reasonable €250.
Obviously frustrated at the inability of Android tablets to make much headway against Apple, Google partnered with Asian giant Asus to put its muscle behind the Nexus 7.
The result is an affordable tablet without compromise, save for the screen size.
The Nexus 7 is powered by Jelly Bean, the cleverest, most powerful version yet of Android. It boasts ultra-smooth operation and a host of enhancements, such as improved voice recognition and location-aware notifications that keep track of local traffic and weather among other things.
It's all wrapped in an elegant matte-black case with a rubberised back that aids one-handed grip. Here we come to the crux of the matter, though.
As lovely as the 7-inch screen in the Nexus is, it's actually only half the size of that of the current iPad.
Perhaps I'm spoiled by years on a 10-inch tablet but the smaller size chafed with me regularly.
Web pages, videos, apps and photos all looked . . . a little lost.
This may not occur to any iPad virgins, of course, and for the money it's a frighteningly good package that should make Samsung and the gang go back to the drawing board.
Apple, on the other hand, may well launch the Mini at a similar price point and change the game all over again next week.
The one thing Google has failed to do is match the iPad eco-system -- from the quality of tablet apps to the availability (in Ireland at least) of movie and music stores.
Until that happens, the Nexus 7 is actually more of a luxury upgrade from the Kindle than a true iPad killer.
Little Big Planet
You wait ages for a terrific PS Vita game . . . and then only one shows up. That's the problem with Sony's handheld platform -- capable of great things but sorely lacking in showstopping releases.
LBP may be "only" a port of the brave and compelling PS3 platformer/level creator but, wow, what an effort. This is an idea at ease with its new home, the whimsical Stephen Fry-led presentation and gentle gameplay suited to short bursts of handheld gratification on the move.
But the incorporation of touchscreen antics -- front and rear -- are the icing on a delicious cake, with each level a charming reinvention of the last via a fresh twist.
Creative mode makes it intact to Vita but, as before, you need great patience to grasp the great power at your fingertips.
Mark of the Ninja
Forging in 2D what Splinter Cell and Batman: Arkham Asylum pulled off in 3D, Mark of the Ninja puts stealth at the heart of a combat-focused adventure.
A forgettable backstory plays second fiddle to a stylised, side-scrolling art style in which the challenge is to furtively dispatch an army of guards -- or, if you like, acrobatically scamper through the levels unseen.
By turns beautiful and fiercely addictive, MotN rewards repeated play, revealing new layers of possibilities with every experiment.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2
A true sequel 12 years in the making, TTT2 borrows as much from last outing Tekken 6 as from the original TTT.
The gimmick here leans heavily on the tag system that gives you two characters to bring into battle -- and the combos you can throw with them.
In the overcrowded beat-em-up genre, it's enough to give TTT2 an edge, though some game-freezing bugs suggest a bit more testing wouldn't have hurt.
Bits and Bytes
- In an embarrassing lapse in security, the world’s biggest online game was seriously hacked yesterday to massacre all of the characters in some of its virtual cities.
World of Warcraft chiefs awoke to find several servers had been compromised and entire cities laid waste.
More than 10 million gamers subscribe to Warcraft every month but it’s believed that the affected characters numbered only in the thousands before the exploit was discovered.
However, the hack had no long-term consequences for those affected except fears about the security of Warcraft’s system.
- The humble barcode turned 60 this week – just as alternatives are becoming popular due to the popularity of smartphones.
Patented in 1952, they didn’t actually make it into shops until 1974.
Now, however, improvements such as QR codes and tiny RFID chips that contain much more information are beginning to take over at least part of barcodes’ role.