HP have revealed details of their first 27-inch all-in-one PC, dubbed the HP Omni 27. Upon release, it is due to pack features including a non-touch version of the Magic Canvas software, up to 2 TB of HDD space, Beats Audio, HDMI input and optional extras such as a TV tuner or a Blu-ray drive. The basic model will have a 2.5 GHz Sandy Bridge Core i5-2400S processor, integrated graphics, 6 GB of RAM and two USB 3.0 ports. All this will be cased within the 27-inch 1080p LED-backlit display, constructed with edge-to-edge glass. Clearly, all-in-one PCs aren’t new, but they are becoming increasingly popular. A combination of a mature and improving industry sector, as well as the trend to fit your tech into a small neat space within your home, has made all-in-one PCs an increasingly attractive option for all.
The Asus Transformer Prime has yet to reach our fair shores but there is already talk of a possible Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime Mini. By all accounts, the Asus Transformer Prime is one of the champion of champions when it comes to Android tablets. And as such, it will be the chosen one to lead the fight against the iPad. The Transformer Prime Mini looks set to be a smaller and more affordable tablet; think something more Kindle-sized. Sound interesting yet? Well how about these tasty specifications: 7-inch capacitive screen, 1280×800 resolution, 1.2 GHz dual core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, up to 64GB flash memory and 3D capabilities.
This year at CES heralds the march of the ultrabooks into the homes of gadget lovers and technophiles across the world. There will be a number of manufacturers competing to gain our attention and divert interest away from Apple’s consistently board-sweeping offerings. Acer have recently unveiled the world’s thinnest ultrabook – 15mm at its thickest point – called the Aspire S5. The device is expected to become available in Q2, and boasts a magnesium alloy cover, InstantOn technology, and HDMI, USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt ports – no mean feat for such a physically small machine. The push on ultrabooks by all manufacturers is the result of an Intel initiative to produce a rival to Apple’s MacBook. It would seem that by banding together, they hope to ease pressure being put on them to cut their prices to attract custom away from Apple. I’m all for competition, so this should be interesting.
If tablets are more your thing, the ‘world’s thinnest’ tablet title has just been claimed by Toshiba. The Excite X10 is the world’s thinnest 10-inch tablet – just .3 inches thick and weighing 1.2lbs. Another potential big player on the soon-to-be flooded tablet market? Definitely – 1GB of RAM and a TI OMAP 4420 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, with 1200×800 screen resolution, a 2 megapixel front face shooter for video chat and a 5 megapixel shooter on the back of the tablet, with mini connectivity ports for HDMI, USB and SD card. As yet though, the OS is unconfirmed and Toshiba’s previous offerings in that area haven’t been promising. It’s speculated that it will be issued with an Android operating system – depending on the Excite’s release date, it’ll be Honeycomb or Ice Cream Sandwich.
For the sake of absolute transparency, I’ll openly admit that I want this tablet, so yes my opinion is biased. Nonetheless, I will try my hardest to present everything that follows as objectively as I can, to ensure you are fairly informed.
By all accounts, the Asus Transformer Prime will be the all conquering champion that Android has been waiting for in it’s battle against the iPad. Well, that at least is the account you’ll get when you read articles of those from the Google Android camp, of course, Apple advocates will more than likely tell you a different story. I think it’s fair to say, that those who have an interest in the tablet format but are neutral towards a manufacturer or operating system, are a little bit excited by the prospect of what the Asus Transformer Prime has to offer. So let’s get straight into the good stuff.
Design – Sleek elegance
The basic tablet format, for the most part, is fixed. The main variations are in the dimensions, casing and docking/port options. The Asus Prime will have a 10.1″ Super IPS+ display with the tech screen of choice, the Corning Gorilla Glass. You’ll see mention of the Super IPS+ display, which is an acronym for In-Plane Switching, a technique developed to improve viewing angles by allowing the crystal of a display to move parallel to the panel plane instead of perpendicular to it. This difference allows a reduced amount of light scattering and in turn gives wide viewing angles and good colour reproduction. The ‘+’ is Asus’s indication that there has been improvements over the previous variant that was present in the predecessor. The back casing would appear to be a lightweight, brushed metal alloy. All this is a strong statement of intent and encouragement that the user experience will be of a high quality.
Hardware – Power and grunt
Perhaps the standout feature of the hardware of the Transformer Prime, is the Tegra 3 quad core processor. Upon release, it will be the first tablet to sport this new configuration which also has a dedicated ultra low voltage fifth-core for handling non-CPU intensive tasks. The biggest benefit of this is the improvement in battery life which is an approximate total of 12-hours, which is boosted to 18 hours when docked. Other features include what Asus are calling SonicMaster Technology, which in everyday terms translates as great speaker. Sound quality is perhaps not the biggest consideration for most guys purchasing a new tablet, but if you’re at home or in a public place and want to watch a video clip, you’ll really appreciate the different in audio quality. The final hardware point I’ll highlight, is the improvements made to the touch responsiveness, with Asus claim to have halved the normal response time form when the device detects your finger movement and follows along. It’s an issue that most would generally consider to be a matter of software but this attention to detail, will ensure that Asus as a manufacturer will be held in high regard and compete closely with the likes of Samsung and Motorola.
Software – Android Ice Cream dessert
Currently, what the guys over at Asus have running on the Prime is Android’s Honeycomb OS, not a bad OS but not the latest. What has already been stated, is that it won’t be long before the Prime will be running Ice Cream Sandwich, the unification OS that will be on both Android tablets and mobile phones. Clearly, much like the approach taken by Apple with their iOS operating system, having one OS that runs one both mobile phone and tablet is great for app developers and should further help the proliferation of app production and the overall standard of apps available to your Android device. There has been a lot already said about Ice Cream Sandwich, and perhaps it isn’t the huge leap that everyone wanted to see from Android but even this reiteration of the Android system comes with much welcomed improvements and is the most polished version of Android yet.
So there a brief run through of some of the highlights of the Asus Transformer Prime, there is in fact a bunch of stuff that I haven’t mentioned, such as the hydro-oleophobic coating on the screen or the 8MP camera with an auto-focusing f/2.4 lens and a back-illuminated CMOS sensor capturing 1080p video. But, I think I covered enough to intrigue you enough to do a bit more digging of your own, and really, that’s where you’re really going to find out what’s interesting to you. When you find that interesting point, whether it be positive or negative, please share in the comments below.
Below is an early video of the Asus Transformer Prime running the hardware intensive game, Glowball, to demonstrate its capabilities.
There have been a number of big name titles taking the Free-to-play route to market. Perhaps this is a result of the games available on Facebook or the low cost games available on mobile platforms such as iOS and Android, or it may even be a combination of a number of factors, including these. Either way, price is increasingly becoming less of an initial barrier, as at the very least you can sample a number of high budget titles for the most welcoming price of FREE.
Now, I will say right up front, that the big FREE sign is an entry cost. Once inside, you may have to spend a few pounds to experience all that the chosen title has to offer, but at the very least you’ll have a little more to go on in deciding whether this is a game you should be spending your hard-earned on.
With a number of publishers deciding that free can pay, there have been some recognisable names made available for your consumption. So here we go, in no particular order, five of the biggest free-to-play MMOs currently available.
DC Universe online
I’d say that this is the most talked about MMO at the moment, given that the transition to free-to-play has brought in a reported one million new players, this was achieved in the relatively short time span of one month. Clearly the lure of being able to assume the role and powers of your favourite DC Superheros is a huge appeal and now that the barrier to entry has been removed, fans are flocking to the DC Universe in their droves.
Sony Online Entertainment have changed the model from a month subscription, to a plan which generates income through micro-transactions and an optional subscription package. Remember, I said free entry, if you want a drink and a dance, you’re going to have to pay for that pleasure. In fairness, there is still plenty to do before you may feel inclined to share your bank details and therein lies the unsolved equation for Sony. Will there be enough mirco-transactions, as they call it, to make it worth their while to give the freedom to be Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman. We shall see in the coming weeks and months.
While Sony Online Entertainment, may have dipped it’s toe in the water, it would seem that the water doesn’t feel too bad as the rest of the foot is going in. EverQuest II, set in an alternate future to the original EverQuest, already had a free to play option but this drew many complaints about the community being divided. This issue was addressed by executive producer Dave Georgeson who said this week that “in early December we’re going to change things to be ‘Free to play’. Your way.”
Well, this “free to play. Your way” Burger King style phrase is worth taking a little look at as, I don’t know about you but my way is totally awesome and pretty difficult to recreate. A few key points are worth noting, firstly that free members are limited to two characters and Adept-tier spells. There is also a Silver and Gold membership which does come with a subscription of $5 per month and $15 per month respectively. And the last point to highlight is that both Silver and Free users are limited to four races and eight classes, with accompanying restrictions on equipment grades they have access to. To sum up, not entirely awesome but again, enough to sink your teeth into before deciding whether to sink the big money into this title.
There can be no doubt that the king of MMORPGs is World of Warcraft. This is the title that has set the standard for MMOs and captured the imagination and adulation of thousands of online gamers. While the original Warcraft series dates back to 1994 with Warcraft: Ocrs & Humans, it is arguably the move to Azeroth that occurred 10 years later in 2004 that ostensibly secured the future of the title perhaps for another decade.
This summer, in an effort to ensure that there was plenty fresh meat, Blizzard introduced a new program called World of Warcraft Starter Edition. This allowed new players, to play at their leisure without fear of their trial period expiring. What this means, is that you can battle as much as you like and you’ll gain experience up to level 20, at which point you can still continue to cast your spells and swing you swords but you’ll no longer gain experience for your victories unless you upgrade to the full version of the game.
There are a few limitations, but if you’ve be curiously sniffing around this MMO leviathan for a while, this will be a great taster.
Star Trek Online
While this one may still be a way off, January 17th 2012 if we’re going to put a date to it (as we should), it’ll still be a welcome a ddition to the growing free-to-play catalogue. It would be an understate to say the Trekkie community is massive, so no doubt there will be many that are very pleased with the news of this impending release. There has been a slight delay in getting this MMORPG out to the baying hordes, but this title has been in the works since May if this year so if they need a little more time to get this right, I say give it to them rather than being handed a poorly conceived rush job.
The free to play for this is a little different from what Cryptic, the game developer, has set out previously. The game’s economy will be “revisited” with high-end equipment will be more difficult to acquire and the low-end equipment will be extremely easy to acquire. And the familiar Dilithium will be the only item in the game can be auctioned off for Cryptic points. This may perhaps be one of the most “free” free-to-play title around. But we’ll have to wait and see what actually emerges in January.
Team Fortress 2
This first person shooter was developed by Valve Corporation and is a sequel to the original mod Team Fortress based on the Quake engine. One of the key advantages to Team Fortress is that Valve is the creator of Steam, the game platform that distributes games directly to a growing community of more than 35 million users. In fact, there are a number of Valve games available on Steam that could arguably warrant a mention, Counter-Strike being principle among them, but it is Team Fortress 2 that has the free to play option.
It is Team Fortress 2 that has one of the most “free” free to play offers, with the free version giving access to the same maps, classes and game types as players who purchased Team Fortress 2 before it was free to play. Though who purchased the game before is was made free, will be rewarded with a special in-game hat.