Digital: Two becomes one in hybrid laptop
Review: HP Envy x2
Technology fans always crave the new – something faster, something sexier, something different. Unfortunately, the general public isn't so easily seduced. And tech firms forget that at their peril.
Microsoft really pushed the boat out in creating Windows 8 last year. They figured the masses would be too swept up in the notion of a tablet-like approach on their desktop to put up much resistance to the huge change in computing style.
But the public voted with their wallets and ignored it in their droves, so much so that MS will revert to a more familiar layout in Windows 8.1, coming soon.
This is a bit of shame because, as muddled as Win8 is, it's driven some interesting experiments in computing such as the new hybrid HP Envy x2.
At a simple level, it's an 11.6-inch tablet running the full Windows 8 experience with a detachable keyboard/trackpad.
As HP sees it, that means you're getting two computers in one.
While docked to the keyboard, you're got a thin and light PC, complete with USB and HDMI ports, 64GB of storage space and bearing an indecent resemblance to a MacBook Air.
Unhook the keyboard and Envy x2 becomes an iPad-like tablet, except a little chunkier.
Leaving aside Windows 8's drawbacks, it means you're getting an attractive package, not quite the best of both worlds but interesting nonetheless.
In computer mode, the Envy x2 is a bit sluggish at times but compensates with mammoth battery life of 11 hours.
As a tablet running simple apps, it's a slick, fast experience. Windows 8 runs all traditional Windows programs but its tablet app store is less well stocked.
For the same money or less (€800), you could buy a faster Ultrabook laptop or a more capacious iPad. But the convertible factor in the Envy x2 deserves a second look from buyers seeking versatility.
Wonderbook: Diggs Nightcrawler
The first Wonderbook was an ingenious idea strapped to a mediocre game called Book of Spells with tenuous links to Harry Potter.
But Diggs Nightcrawler exploits the ripe potential of the augmented-reality technology to bring a "book" to life.
The Wonderbook itself is nothing more than a hardback book printed with arcane symbols. But place it in front of a PS3 with the optional PS Eye camera and your TV screen is filled by an image of your living room with cartoonish 3D graphics smartly superimposed on the book itself.
To play Diggs Nightcrawler, you must already own the Wonderbook because it doesn't seem to be sold as a bundle with the new game. But it can be picked up cheaply enough on Amazon for less than €15 while Diggs itself costs about €20. Don't forget you'll also need a PS Eye and preferably the Move controller too.
That's a not-inconsiderable outlay, but frankly the end product is actually worth it for the ingenuity at work.
Unlike Book of Spells, Diggs makes meaningful use of the book's physicality, encouraging you to pick it up, turn it around and even tilt it to affect objects on the pages.
The hard-boiled detective yarn – pitched at kids' level humour-wise and tone-wise – may not last too long, but it's a blast while it lasts.
Jacob Jones and the Bigfoot Mystery (Episode One)
If you're familiar with the headscratching puzzles and gentle humour of the Professor Layton series on Nintendo DS (and if you aren't, you should be), then Jacob Jones will hold few surprises.
Presented in a style reminiscent of an afternoon cartoon show, the gorgeous visuals and snarky jokes artfully complement a series of familiar conundrums.
Layton veterans will recognise the variations (trace a path through a maze by crossing each line only once, etc) but there's enough here to keep newcomers amused, especially at the bargain price of just €2.
The child-friendly presentation suggests the puzzles will be a pushover (they're not) but a generous hint system will allow most players to progress.