Update

This blog will be on hiatus until further notice.

Prestigio MultiPad 9.7 PRO Tablet PC

3366985Tablet PC’s are all the rage nowadays, compact and convenient, the tablet PC has fast become the device of choice whether you’re using it for business purposes or recreation.  Though not in the same class as mobile PC’s, and sometimes even referred to as ‘underpowered laptops’, tablet PC’s are lightweight tools ideal for books, comics, movies, internet and music, and serve as the perfect media companion when traveling.  These devices are everywhere, and this can be confirmed by strolling through your local mall where you would undoubtedly see people (usually in coffee shops) reading the news while they sip their coffee or groups of people gathered at one table as some work-related slide show or spreadsheet is being displayed.  The real problem with tablet PC’s of course, is picking the right one…

So who are Prestigio and are they any good? Well, while not as renown as Samsung or Apple – the two largest players in the tablet PC world with the Galaxy Tab and iPad respectively, Prestigio is a relatively new brand, only been on the market for a decade and are based in Cyprus, with a business model offering luxury, state-of-the-art technologies aimed at competing with the high-end market.  Prestigio is a fast-growing and well-established international brand sold in 63 countries and is increasingly ranked among the most regarded brands in emerging markets across the EMEA (Europe, Middle-East & Africa) region.

So let’s get down to brass tacks.  Prestigio offers a wide range of tablet PC’s designed to suit the specific needs of consumers, my model of choice was the MultiPad 9.7 PRO as it is the nearest equivalent  to an iPad or Galaxy Tab, retailing for around R2900 (320USD).  The reason I picked this tablet over the aforementioned competitors is because I believe them to be overpriced, and while Samsung’s Galaxy Tab is Android-based, I disdain Apple’s far-less flexible iOS platform and cannot justify purchasing the Apple product when there are literally thousands of free Android apps readily available.

As with all computer-related hardware, specs are important and thankfully the MultiPad 9.7 PRO has a rather impressive array.  The MultiPad 9.7 PRO is preloaded with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, a very nice, very neat little OS that not only looks great but is easy to utilize and navigate and comes preloaded with a multitude of apps.  Apart from all the free apps available online as well as the aforementioned preinstalled ones, there are also over 300 000 apps available to purchase on Google Market.  At its core, the MultiPad 9.7 PRO runs on an ARM Cortex A8 Rockchip RK218 cpu @1GHz.  It has a 9.7″ display with a 1024×768 resolution and has back-light LED IPS with a capacitive multi-touch screen using G-Sensor rotation.  It has an internal memory size of 8GB, 1GB of installed DDR3 RAM and supports 32GB Micro SD/Micro SDHC.  Apart from the Micro SD/SDHC, other interfaces include – WiFi, Mini HDMI x 1, Mini USB 2.0 x1, and 1 3.5mm mini jack.  Bluetooth and VGA interfaces are not included and it’s worth noting that as there are no phone features, the only internet interface available is WiFi.  A 0.3 megapixel camera is present on the front of the device, one of the MultiPad’s few drawbacks, and supports the following multimedia formats:

  • ebook formats – EPUB, PDF, TXT, FB2
  • Audio formats – APE, AAC, MP3, WAV, OGG, FLAC & stereo audio playback.
  • Image formats – PNG, BMP, JPG, GIF
  • Video formats – AVI, FLV, 3GP, MOV, MVN, MKV, MP4, RM, RMVB, WMV, VOB (DVD), DAT & has full HD playback.

The MultiPad 9.7 PRO uses a lithium-ion polymer battery with a decent capacity of 6000 mAh, approx 4hrs video playback, 36hrs audio playback and has a standby time of 120hrs.  The dimensions and weight of the MultiPad 9.7 PRO are as follows:

  • Width (mm) – 241
  • Height (mm) – 187
  • Depth (mm) – 9.6
  • Weight – 610g

The MultiPad 9.7 PRO is an extremely affordable and high-quality device with its best feature undoubtedly being the display. Images and video are sharp and crisp, and with OpenGL 3D technology, multimedia files (such as HD films) run remarkably smooth, and thanks to the HDMI interface, one can easily connect the tablet to a TV.  Much like the Galaxy Tab and iPad, the MultiPad 9.7 PRO also features a scratch resistant screen as well as a high quality metal housing with rubber grip pads on the backside.  You will find all the buttons and outputs located on the topside of the device.  To top it all off, this device comes with a stylish leather pouch.

Conclusion

The MultiPad 9.7 Pro is a superb device, and if like me you were looking for a tablet specifically for books and comics then you need not look further.  Though some may find the lack of phone features and WiFi-only internet annoying, it doesn’t bother me in the least as I have a laptop and PC to access the net, and even then I can download any app I like and just place it onto the tablet.  The only niggle I have with this device is that the Micro SD  card is almost impossible to remove without tweezers and it’s a little annoying that if the tablet is connected to a PC via USB it renders the SD card inaccessible.  If you intend on using this device for comics, do yourself a favour and download the app – QuickPic, as it renders images faster and is more feature-rich than the default image viewer.  All-in-all, the MultiPad 9.7 PRO is a sleek, cost-effective and high-performance alternative to the iPad and Galaxy Tab.

Grade: A

Seasons Greetings

anime-xmas-1Another lazy post I’m afraid, but certainly valid, wishing all the readers a festive Christmas and happy new year :)

News

Updates coming soon, watch this space.

Dredd 3D

Info:

Genre: Science-fiction, action, crime

Director/s: Pete travis

Running Time: 95 mins

Budget: $45 million

Released: 21 September 2012

Plot:

In a violent, futuristic city where the police have the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner, a cop teams with a trainee to take down a gang that deals the reality-altering drug, SLO-MO – imdb

Review:

This one has been a long time coming, after the atrocious – Judge Dredd in 1995, you’d be forgiven for wanting to overlook Dredd for fear that it is merely a remake of the aforementioned travesty, but fear not, Dredd has done the science-fiction anthology – 2000AD, proud.

For starters, in case you didn’t know, 2000AD is a science fiction magazine originating in the UK, with Judge Dredd being the magazine’s longest running character since first appearing in issue #2, back in 1977.  It is also a well-known fact (assuming you know anything about Joseph Dredd) that in 35 years of publication, Judge Dredd’s face has never been properly revealed, always obscured by his helmet, apart from a couple of occasions where he was forced to remove it (though his face remains hidden in some way or another).  The creators of Judge Dredd decided that keeping the helmet on would reinforce the facelessness of the law, and Judge Dredd is the law.  Perhaps the biggest peeve of fans was Dredd removing his helmet (within the first 15 and-a-half minutes) in the 1995 film adaptation, for the majority of the film, a fact which is still brought up today as why the film sucked (though there are many, many other reasons).  Though Stallone certainly had the right demeanor and jawline to play a convincing Dredd, his rendition of the character was marred by a shitty script and poor production value.

Dredd debriefing Anderson.

17 years later and we have Dredd 3D.  This 2012 adaptation is faithful to the source material, filled with all the gratuitous carnage and violence a Dredd fan would expect (in true 3D I might add) and best of all, Dredd never removes his helmet.

Enter Karl Urban – the new face (or rather mouth) of Dredd, every bit as brutal and bad-ass as the Judge Dredd character should be.  Completely incorruptible and unwavering, Urban’s Dredd has been lifted from the 2000AD magazine.  Judge Dredd is the most infamous of the street judges (something of a legend), and just like the original source material, a judge has the power of arresting, sentencing and sometimes even executing criminals on the spot, without the bureaucracy of due process.

The visuals are quite amazing at times, more so thanks to the true 3D treatment.

The plot of Dredd is neither grand or of an epic scale, rather, it is a more intimate, ‘day-in-the-life-of’ story that closely follows Dredd and rookie – Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), Anderson is seemingly unfit for judge work, but being a mutant with powerful psychic abilities, she is assigned to Dredd for evaluation.  After they respond to a disturbance in a 200-story residential slum known as Peach Trees, the judges are forced to fight for their lives as Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and her gang (who pretty much run the place after wiping out all their competitors) place Peach Trees under lock-down in order to exterminate the judges.  What ensues is an hour of gratuitous violence and nail-biting action as Judge Dredd unleashes the full force of law in a brutal and spectacular fashion, with Terminator-like efficiency.

…enter Karl Urban – the new face (or rather mouth) of Dredd, every bit as brutal and bad-ass as the Judge Dredd character should be…

However, it is worth noting that while Dredd is hugely entertaining, it is also essentially the exact same film as 2011′s The Raid: Redemption.  Whether this is a coincidence or not, it’s difficult to determine which film came out with the screenplay first when you consider that Dredd has been in development since 2009.  Having watched The Raid: Redemption first, the plot to Dredd held no surprises for me.

Conclusion

Dredd does not attempt to be of an epic scale, there is no over-the-top plot to overthrow the world, there is no love story between Dredd and Anderson (rather her presence signifies the ‘human touch’ allowing audiences to connect with the film) and most importantly, there is no helmet-removing nonsense.  Combined with a kick-ass soundtrack, Dredd is pure, unadulterated entertainment – if you’re partial to films being violent and meaty of course…

Grade: A

Uncharted 3 – Drake’s Deception

Info:

Developer/s: Naughty Dog

Publisher/s: Sony Computer Entertainment

Platform/s: PlayStation 3

Genre: Action-adventure, platform

Release Date: 2011-10-28

Review:

In 2006, Naughty Dog released the first Uncharted game, entitled Uncharted – Drake’s Fortune, setting a precedent for action-adventure gaming which the likes of Tomb Raider could never possibly match.  In 2009, the bar was raised even higher with the fantastic sequel Uncharted 2 – Among Thieves, which was awarded game of the year and is to my mind, one of the greatest games ever made and the best of the trilogy.  The first game set the rules, the second built upon that, improving upon absolutely every aspect – game-play, visuals, story-telling and what have you, and now we have Uncharted 3 – Drake’s Deception.  So what makes the second installment better…?

To make it very clear, Uncharted 3 – Drake’s Deception is an amazing achievement in terms of gaming, and is a prime example of cinematic gaming done right.  However, the reason why I reckon that the second installment is superior is due to the fact that with Uncharted 3, Naughty Dog have played it safe in that rather than try something new, they’ve essentially used the second game’s ingredients as a template for Drake’s Deception.  Needless to say, this is far from a bad thing as Drake’s Deception is an exhilarating experience (especially in the later levels and one scene involving a plane…), it’s just a shame that the developers didn’t try to raise the bar even further.  Then again, it is rather difficult to top an action scene where one is on a moving train trying to gun down a Black Ops Hind-D with an anti-aircraft turret.

So in Uncharted 3, the man with the incredible grip (he climbs everything) Nathan Drake returns once more with faithful companion and mentor, Victor (Sully) Sullivan as they embark on a quest to find the legendary lost city – The Iram of the Pillars.  Needless to say, much like Uncharted 2 – Among Thieves, Uncharted 3 is a globe-trotting adventure including locations like London, Yemen, Colombia, Rub’ al Khali and the Arabian Peninsula, which nicely contrast the Asian locales of the second game.  Uncharted 3 – Drake’s Deception has received a multitude of awards as critics praised every aspect of the game, however the title of  ‘Game of the Year’ was snatched from it in 2011 by Skyrim respectively.

The game starts off in a seedy pub located in London, where Nathan and Victor have agreed to meet a man named Talbot who’s interested in buying Nathan’s ring.  However the transaction gets derailed when the pair accuse Talbot of trying to pay them with counterfeit bills and needless to say, this erupts into a bar-room brawl which then escalates into the back-alley variety.  Nathan and Sully are then subdued by one of Talbot’s associates – Charlie Cutter.  After Talbot’s client – Katherine Marlowe, takes the ring, Cutter then guns Nathan and Sully down, supposedly leaving them for dead.  The story then begins with a flashback to 20 years earlier, where a 14-year-old Nathan is exploring a museum in Colombia in search of Sir Francis Drake’s ring (obviously the ring he intends on selling in the present).  The museum is also where Nathan meets the 39-year-old Sully as well as Marlowe.  From here, Uncharted 3 becomes a globe-trotting and gun-totting adventure that further expands on the Uncharted mythos, in spectacular fashion I might add.

As per usual, this third installment of the Uncharted series, boasts some of the most impressive visuals seen in a game, due to impressive motion capture and voice-acting.  Using 2 motion capture studios – a smaller one in their studio as well as a dedicated stage at Sony Studios (responsible for the motion capture and audio), Naughty Dog were able to raise the bar for video-game motion capture, as Uncharted 3 was shot in the same fashion as a major Hollywood production.  It is the reason why Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series is so fluid and realistic.

Uncharted 3 uses an ‘upgraded’ version of the engine they used for the first 2 games, resulting in better visuals, environmental effects, physics as well as environmental deformation.  The game also includes new innovative technology that makes elemental effects such as fire, smoke, water and moving sand (the desert sequences look unbelievable) all the more realistic. Six years down the line, it’s impressive to see what Naughty Dog have managed to squeeze out of the PlayStation 3 hardware,  even though Uncharted 3 is undoubtedly graphically superior to Uncharted 2, the graphical leap is far narrower than between the first 2 games, simply because the developers were unable to push the hardware any further.  When you consider that Uncharted 2 is just below 25Gb whereas it’s sequel hovers in at around 50Gb, if developer’s wish to make ‘bigger and better’ games in the future then we may start to see PlayStation 3 games being spread over multiple Blu-Ray disks.  The PS3 hardware has really been put to the test with Uncharted 3 as players are led from one epic scene to the next.  From escaping a burning chateau as fire creeps up the walls, to wandering around an expansive desert landscape as sun and fatigue threaten to undermine your efforts, Uncharted 3 is a beautiful looking game.  Throw in an Indiana Jones style chase sequence on horseback and a daring escape as players are thrust from an aircraft as the hull tears itself apart and you know you’re in for something special.

So Uncharted 3 has the graphical goods but what about playability? Those familiar with the first 2 games will be well-adjusted for this third entry as the controls are just as responsive and fluid as one would expect them to be.  Apart from the usual run-and-gun game-play, Naughty Dog have taken the time to expand upon the melee combat which now includes a counter system – extremely useful when going up against a wily foe.  Needless to say, quick-time events make a return, but they’re so well-placed and implemented that even the quick-time haters will have to appreciate them.  Once again, various treasure pieces are hidden throughout the entire game, and if you don’t manage to find them all the first time around, they will entice you to play the game through again.  Further adding to the longevity of Uncharted 3, is the online multi-player mode that will keep you playing long after you’ve completed the game, though personally I don’t really care for competitive modes in games as the single-player story experience will always be my primary interest.  At certain sections in Uncharted 3, you will be required to solve puzzles in order to progress the story, though the puzzles themselves are relatively straight-forward logic problems and if you do get stuck one can always check Drake’s journal for clues or, if you’re really stumped or just lazy, after a certain amount of time, a help prompt will pop up, offering to solve the puzzle for you (lame).  One thing that I did find irritating about Uncharted 3 was the difficulty curb.  Naturally as you progress through the game, the enemies become more challenging and better equipped – completely understandable, but when the game decides to place you in a room with minimal cover and multiple bad guys engaging you in melee combat as a platoon of overhead snipers and grenadiers take pot shots at you, forcing you to break from cover (resulting in instant death in most cases), then it just becomes frustrating and absurd.

Much like Indiana Jones, Uncharted 3 has an established main musical theme, instantly recognizable and wonderfully catchy.  From the trademark intro music to the exhilarating action sequences, Uncharted 3 ensures that you feel like you’re the hero in some epic Hollywood film.  But it’s not only the score that makes the game so engrossing.  Uncharted 3 has some of the best voice-acting I’ve ever heard in a game.  Nolan North returns once again to voice Nathan Drake, and as expected the dialogue is as witty and humorous as ever, as Drake comes armed with his usual amount of sarcasm and wry wit as he dishes out the quips left, right and centre.

If for some or other reason, you required further inclination for getting yourself a copy of Uncharted 3, do yourself a favour and track down the Explorer Edition, which includes a Nathan Drake statue, life-size replicas of his belt buckle and ring/necklace (with leather strap), a 3D lenticular image,  Special Edition of the game including the DLC and pre-order bonuses, packaged in an art book, made in the fashion of Drake’s journal.  All these items come packaged in a stylish wooden ‘travel case’ which has space for 19 PS3 games.  Talk about value for money *phew*.

Conclusion

Uncharted 3 has done the series proud and is a worthy addition to any gaming library.  Once again, Naughty Dog have outdone themselves by pushing the PS3 hardware even further to create a near-perfect gaming experience, with some of the best and most cinematic game-play and visuals you will encounter in modern gaming.  Uncharted 3 is the definitive adventure game, and I say that confidently even with the new Tomb Raider on the way (though no Tomb Raider game has come close to Uncharted, so won’t exactly hold my breath), so even though it’s not without its faults, I highly recommend it to anyone whoever wanted to experience an Indiana Jones style adventure.  Get it…get in now.

Grade: S

Rapid-Fire Reviews | Starship Troopers: Invasion

Info:

Genre: Science-fiction, animation

Director/s: Shinji Aramaki

Running Time: 88 mins

Budget: Unknown

Released: 21 July 2012 (Japan)

Okay, first thing’s first.  I feel that I need to clear up the first bit of bullshit about Starship Troopers: Invasion.  Claiming that this film is – “A fast-paced thrill ride that tops the original”, as it says on the cover is a ridiculously stupid statement, clearly designed to manipulate people into buying the film, as it is simply not so.  The original Starship Troopers (1997) was (and still is) an amazing film, filled with space marines, giant bugs and gratuitous violence, placing it among my all-time favourite sci-fi flicks.  Filmmakers attempted to replicate the awesomeness of the original with two sequels – Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation (2004) and Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (2008), but they turned out to be such a load of crap that needless to say, when Invasion came along, I completely overlooked it until I realized it was animated.  While Starship Troopers: Invasion has all the aforementioned ingredients that made the first film so great, it definitely lacks the energy and originality that gives a film everlasting re-playability.  The animation is great, seemingly photo-realistic at times, in a similar style to Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, and everything from the bugs to the space-cruisers have been faithfully recreated in CGI.  A notable difference is the mechanized power-armour that the troopers wear (resembling Master Chief somewhat) as opposed to the regular uniforms of the infantrymen as seen in the first film.  The characters in Invasion are relatively one-dimensional, expendable and utterly forgettable, lacking any modicum of soul that made their predecessors so interesting.  Even though some of the characters return in this sequel, including – Carmen Ibanez, Carl Jenkins and Johnny Rico (resembling Big Boss), they are a far cry from their former, charismatic selves.  My only other gripe with this film is the ‘Invasion’ title.  The bugs only get to Earth in the last twenty minutes, and there’s no actual invasion as the troopers manage to contain the bugs within the confines of the ship that brought them to the planet, so not exactly the all out mankind vs. giant alien bug brawl it should’ve been.

Conclusion

Starship Troopers: Invasion isn’t without its good points – there is plenty of action and gore present in the film and the animation is pretty damn good.  A few new bugs keep things interesting and though Invasion pales in comparison to the original film, it proves to be vastly superior to the last couple of sequels.

Grade: C

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