Saturday 24 March 2018

Digital: The Surface Pro tablet addresses a problem that's already been solved

Review: Microsoft Surface Pro

Microsoft Surface Pro
Microsoft Surface Pro
The Last of Us for PS3
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

Let's play the what-if game. What if touchscreens had not become the default control system for most phones? What if the iPad hadn't upended the apple cart and forced every PC maker to rethink its strategy?

Would the computing landscape have looked much different?

Funnily enough, Microsoft would probably still have made the Surface Pro, a full computer in a tablet form. It's not widely remembered that Bill Gates led the charge for slates long before iPads were a gleam in Steve Jobs' eye.

But those early tablets were real clunkers, hampered by Microsoft's unwieldy software and the fact the technology simply wasn't ready yet in terms of battery life, size and power.

Now that silicon chips have caught up, Surface Pro is what MS had in mind all along. Instead of just a simplified iPad-like system of apps, this Windows 8 tablet runs pretty much anything a typical laptop can, but in a slim (ish) body.

Underneath the hood of its crisp 10-inch touchscreen beats a powerful engine capable of photo-editing or even a bit of gaming.

With connections for USB 3, Mini DisplayPort and Micro-SD, it's also uniquely expandable among tablets.

But. And you knew there had to be a but . . .

As well-crafted a design as the Surface Pro is, it faces stiff competition, not so much from the iPad as the latest breed of whippet-thin Windows Ultrabooks.

The Surface Pro costs a minimum of €880 for 64GB (€980 for 128GB) but really requires an add-in keyboard for serious work – count on €120 extra if you go for Microsoft's cover with built-in keys.

That leaves the Surface Pro in a perilous position compared to some touchscreen Ultrabooks that better the battery life of five hours and cost less.


The Last of Us



The default setting for the plot of 99pc of gaming casts you as the hero (yeah, yeah, sometimes the antihero, maybe even the villain).

But Joel is no hero in The Last of Us, just an everyman trying to survive with teenage girl Ellie in a horrific post-apocalypse world populated by infected humans and merciless brigands.

So the set-up isn't exactly original, pulling inspiration from Cormac McCarthy's The Road and PD James' Children of Men.

But to their credit, the creators of popcorn actioner Uncharted have resisted the temptation to make Joel a cardboard cut-out lead. He's grieving for his lost daughter, weary and even weak.

Joel is ruthless – killing without fear to protect himself and Ellie – but it takes him several cruel seconds to strangle an enemy into silence. She's wonderfully drawn too, fluently swearing one minute, whimpering in terror the next.

Their banter is a real highlight, matched by the gorgeously evocative ruins of the American continent they must traverse.

The storyline is brutal, unflinching stuff but all the better for being the 1pc of games that have something new to say.




In the five years since the original Grid, innumerable racers have crossed the starting line, with many crashing and burning by comparison. Grid 2 isn't destined to the same fate, but the gains aren't what you'd expect.

Sumptuous graphics bring the best out of beautiful motors in beautiful locations – the sparks from an overhead train, the swirl of mist on a country road.

But the cars are unruly beasts, deliberately contemptuous of your handling and demanding copious use of the rewind feature to correct mistakes.

Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes

Wii U


This port of a fairly awesome instalment of the Lego series gets a lot right but is let down by its multiplayer aspect.

The Wii U gamepad functions adequately as a single-player controller but a second player is condemned to using the far inferior Wii remote.

There's plenty of fun in store for solo gamers but the raison d'etre for the whole series hangs on the chaotic fun of playing with pals, something the Wii U version mangles.

Irish Independent

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