A few weeks ago Arctic introduced its Freezer i32 Plus CPU cooler, and today the cooling manufacturer is back with three new units: the Freezer 33, Freezer 33 Plus, and Freezer 33 CO. The three coolers all come with the same heatsink assembly, but differ in their fan options – the standard Freezer 33 comes with a single 120mm fan, the Plus variant comes with two, and the CO model packs a different 120mm fan built for continuous operation.
The heatsink measures 150mm tall and 123mm wide. Without fans, it is 52mm thick, and each fan adds 25mm to that figure. Heat is drawn from the CPU and pushed to the fin stack with four 6mm thick direct-contact heatpipes. The fin stack consists of 49 0.5mm thick aluminum fins.
To push air through the heatsink Arctic has two fans, but aside from the bearing both offer the same spec sheet. They will spin at speeds between 0-1,350 RPM, producing up to 0.3 Sone, which roughly translates to somewhere between 22-23 dBA (Arctic, if you’re reading this, please supply your noise levels in dBA) whilst drawing 0.2A at 12V. The standard white F12 PWM fan comes with a fluid dynamic bearing with an extra oil reservoir for longer life, whereas the gray fan on the CO version of the cooler has a dual ball dynamic bearing for an even longer lifetime.
Topping the kit off, all versions of the Freezer 33 come with a zero-RPM feature, which stops the fans from spinning when the PWM duty level sits below 40% – a creative way to get a semi-passive CPU cooler, considering that many motherboards won’t allow you to fully switch off the CPU fan, even at lower temperatures.The Freezer 33 coolers come with mounting hardware for all major Intel and AMD sockets, including the new AM4 socket for Ryzen.
Arctic’s Freezer 33 and Freezer 33 Plus will be available any moment now, with the Freezer CO available for pre-order for April. The single-fan Freezer 33 costs $46, whereas the dual-fan model and the CO variant will sell for $50.
There are dozens of free photo editors designed to enhance your pictures with a couple of clicks, but far fewer could be called a genuine alternative to the industry standard editor Adobe Photoshop.
Simple photo-enhancing software has its place, but a genuine Photoshop alternative needs more than just red-eye correction and a handful of retro filters; it has to offer layers and masks, batch-editing, and a wide assortment of automatic and manual editing tools. It also needs plugins to fill any gaps in its feature-set, and enable you to work as efficiently as possible.
Some of Photoshop’s unique features (like asset-linking) mean it will always remain the professional’s tool of choice, but the rest of us have an excellent choice of free alternatives.
Have we missed your favorite Photoshop alternative? Let us know in the comments below.
GIMP is the best free Photoshop alternative – powerful and almost infinitely expandable
Powerful and adaptable, GIMP is the best free Photoshop alternative. With layers, masks, advanced filters, color adjustment and transformations – all of which are fully customizable – its feature set it unbeatable.
One of GIMP’s best features is its wealth of user-created plugins and scripts – many of which come pre-installed and ready to use. Some of these replicate popular Photoshop tools (such as Liquify), and there’s even a package of animation tools for bringing your photos to live via blending and morphing.
If that all sounds a little intimidating, don’t worry – GIMP’s excellent user manual includes step-by-step tutorials and troubleshooting guides to get you started.
The latest version of GIMP offers a new interface that puts all of its toolboxes, palettes and menus together in one window. This gives it a smart, Photoshop-like appearance, though its extensive patchwork of user-created tools means you’ll have to spend a little time experimenting and perusing the documentation to learn how to get the best results from each one.
Another remarkable free Photoshop alternative. Well designed, with just a few restrictions
If you haven’t heard of Photo Pos Pro, you’re in for a treat. This free Photoshop alternative aims to give the best of both worlds, offering interfaces for both novice and advanced users. The novice option puts one-click filters and automatic adjustments at the fore, while the latter closely resembles Photoshop. Both are well designed, and more intuitive than GIMP’s endless lists and menus.
Photo Pos Pro offers both layers and layer masks, as well as superb clone and healing brushes. All the expected color-refining tools are present and correct. There’s support for batch-editing and scripts to save time on routine tasks, you can import images directly from a scanner or camera.
Its main drawback is the limit on the size of saved files (1,024 x 2,014 pixels), but if you like the basic version and want to upgrade, Photo Pos Pro Premium is currently discounted to £17.67 (US$19.90, AU$29.78) – a very reasonable price for a top-rate Photoshop alternative.
A free Photoshop alternative that’s a little light on features, but easy for newcomers to master
Open source Photoshop alternative Paint.NET started life as a substitute for Microsoft Paint, but over the years it’s grown into a powerful photo editor in its own right.
Like GIMP and Photo Pos Pro, Paint.NET offers an excellent selection of automatic filters, plus manual editing tools for fine adjustments. It also supports layers, though you’ll need to install a plugin for masks. Batch editing is included by default, and its clone stamp makes it easy to erase blemishes and distractions.
Paint.NET isn’t quite as feature-filled as GIMP, but its smaller community of volunteer coders means its interface is more consistent and easier to use overall (though not as slick as Photo Pos Pro). Paint.NET is a particularly good choice for working with multiple photos thanks to quick-access tabs that use thumbnails to represent each open image at a glance.
Paint.NET is also very fast, and runs well even on low-powered PCs. There’s no limit on the size of saved images, but it takes third place due to its smaller range of options and customizable tools.
A browser-based free Photoshop alternative that’s more robust than many desktop applications
Pixlr is no ordinary free Photoshop alternative – it’s the work of AutoDesk, one of the biggest names in computer-aided design and 3D modelling software, and is as impressive as its pedigree implies.
There are several versions available, including web, desktop and mobile apps. Here we’re looking at the Pixlr Editor web app, which is the only one to support layers.
Pixlr Editor features a prominent ad on the right-hand side that limits the size of your working space but that’s its main drawback. You get all the expected image-refining tools (including sharpen, unsharp mask, blur, noise, levels and curves to name just a few), as well as artistic filters and automatic optimization options. Nothing is hidden behind a paywall.
Pixlr Editor also gives you a toolbox very much like GIMP’s, with brushes, fills, selection, healing and clone stamp tools – all customizable via a ribbon above the workspace. There’s support for both layers and masks, and although Pixlr Editor doesn’t offer batch editing, it can cheerfully handle multiple images at once.
A trimmed-down app that bundles Photoshop’s best features in a mobile-friendly package
Adobe Photoshop Express is a lightweight version of the industry-standard photo editor available free for your browser, and as a downloadable app for Windows, iOS, and Android.
Photoshop Express is the simplest of the tools here, but Adobe’s expertise in photo editing means it’s far superior to other quick-fix software. It packages Photoshop’s most useful picture-enhancing sleek, minimalist interface that’s particularly well suited to touchscreens. Sliders enable you to adjust contrast, exposure and white balance of your photo dynamically, and there are automatic options for one-click adjustments. Once you’re satisfied with the results, you can either save the edited photo to your PC or share it via Facebook.
The main appeal of Photoshop Express is its simplicity, but this is also its biggest drawback. There are no layers, plugins, or brush tools, and you can’t crop or resize your pictures.
If you’re looking for a powerful image editor for your smartphone or tablet, Photoshop Fix (for restoring and correcting images) and Photoshop Mix (for combining and blending images) are also well worth investigating. Photoshop Mix even supports layers, and both apps integrate with Adobe’s Creative Cloud software, making it an excellent counterpart to the desktop version of Photoshop, as well as a superb tool in its own right.
Upgrading the in-ear headphones supplied with your phone or other gadget is top priority for many. If so the Yamaha EPH-M200 in-ear headphones are worth a look. Here’s our Yamaha EPH-M200 review. See also:Best budget headphones.
Yamaha EPH-M200 review: Price
The M200 in-ear headphones sit in the mid-range sort of bracket for the market at around the £100 mark in the UK and $149 in the US. That’s not bargain basement but it’s not at the premium end either.
That said you can pick up the headphones on Amazon for £72 if you’re happy with the black colour option. Still, there’s tough competition with some really impressive in-ear headphones for under £50 such as the OnePlus Icons and Rock Jaw Alfa Genus V2.
Yamaha EPH-M200 review: Design and build
In terms of design and build, the Yamaha EPH-M200 in-ears look and feel pretty average. In fact, we expected a little more considering the price tag. The ear buds have a nice angled design and this helps with comfort so that’s a big plus point.
It’s also good to see a decent hard carry case included as well as a gold-plated 1/4in jack adapter and five different sizes of tips in the box (as opposed to the traditional three). We took a look at the black model but you can also get red or white, with matching in-line remote.
What were a bit disappointed by is the plastic build, although this helps with weight. The M200 headphones just don’t feel like £100, especially the cable which feels cheap but is anti-tangle. There’s an in-line control and microphone as you’d expect but on Android you can only use the buttons to pause and skip tracks.
Luckily what you’re paying for here is inside the Yamaha EPH-M200 and what the in-ear headphones lack in the design and build department, they make up for in sound quality.
Yamaha EPH-M200 review: Sound quality
The firm says the EPH-M200 have a ‘specially designed beta-titanium sound tube for the ultimate in comfort and sound quality’. Maintaining the shape of your ear canal reduces resonance and ensures balanced bass and natural treble, according to Yamaha.
What we’re impressed by is the sheer size of the drivers on offer here. At 5/8in they’re almost 16mm which is a full 5mm larger than in-ears with, what we would consider, big drivers. They have a frequency response of 20-20,000Hz with an impedance of 28 ohms and a power rating of 30mW.
Thanks to those large drivers, and perhaps the sound tubes, the bass is really impressive. The M200 exude expansive, yet tight bass that doesn’t simply dominate the dynamic range. This balance means the headphones aren’t just good for bass lovers, although they might be best for this.
The balanced response means that that although the bass is the star here for us, the mid-range is still very strong so vocals are clear and crisp alongside key instruments like pianos and guitars. There’s not much top-end to speak of so you don’t get as much detail but for most consumers this won’t matter much.
Yamaha EPH-M200: Specs
Impedance: 28 ohms
Driver Unit: 15.8mm, dynamic
Cable Length: 1.2m
In-Line Remote: Yes
Sound Pressure Level (SPL): 106dB
Connector: 3.5mm jack
Rated Power: 30mW
Frequency Range: 20 – 20,000Hz
While we find the design and build a bit too plasticky, the Yamaha EPH-M200 in-ear headphones are comfortable and offer impressive bass and mid-range. Not everyone will want to spend this much considering some of the options at around half the price, though.
Nokia Android phone release date: 27 February 2017, on sale Q2 2017
Nokia used to be the biggest and best-known mobile phone manufacturer, but in 2011 it made the fatal mistake of agreeing to produce only Windows phones. Fast-forward to 2014 and Nokia as we knew it was dead. But now Nokia is getting back into the mobile phone game, with the China-only Nokia 6 running Android announced in January. That phone is now coming to the UK, as well as two more Nokia Android phones: the Nokia 3 and Nokia 5.
Nokia Android phones are said to be different to rival Android phones in three main ways: through Nokia’s relentless focus on the everyday experience, whether that is seen in the display or the camera; through its premium design and build quality that is present no matter where in the line-up a model sits; and through its use of the purest version of Android you have seen, with monthly security updates, fast Android platform updates and the implementation of the Google Assistant across the range.
The Nokia 6 is a unibody Android Nougat phone crafted from a single block of Series 6000 aluminium. This is paired with a 5.5in full-HD laminated in-cell display with protective 2.5D Gorilla Glass. Inside HMD has fitted the Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 octa-core processor, along with the Adreno 505 GPU, 4GB of LPDDR3 RAM, 64GB of storage and a 3,000mAh battery.
The Nokia 5 is a more compact version with a 5.2in HD IPS display, 13Mp camera with autofocus and a dual-tone flash at the rear, and an 8Mp wide-angle selfie camera at the front. It also has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage (plus microSD support up to 128GB). It supports both 4G connectivity and NFC, and has a Micro-USB port and 3.5mm headphone jack. The battery is rated at 3000mAh.
The Nokia 3 is the cheapest of the trio, with a 5in HD screen but the same premium design. It has 8Mp cameras front and back, and pairs its 1.3GHz MediaTek MTK6737 quad-core processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage.
Home security cameras are better and easier to use than ever. Y-Cam’s HomeMonitor system lets you keep an eye on your kids, pets or your property via an app on your smartphone, just like the Nest Cam. There’s now the Protect alarm system in the range, and a smaller indoor camera, the Evo, which can be set up from your phone via Bluetooth.
Update 8 March 2017: Y-Cam has now launched a third-generation Outdoor HD Pro. It’s still a 720p camera, but it has a new lens with a 100-degree field of view that lets you see a lot more than before. It’s also £20 cheaper than when we reviewed the original model back in 2015, now £179.99.
Plus, Y-Cam has made a few tweaks to improve image quality – you can see the difference in the screengrabs below. We’re also told that a firmware update for all Outdoor HD cameras is on the way. This will include a much more sophisticated detection algorithm – hopefully much like the Netatmo Presence – that’s said to vastly reduce the number of false alerts you tend to get at night when changing lighting sets off the motion detector. Perhaps not in that update, but coming in the near future is the ability to more precisely select motion zones, as you can with other cameras. The current rectangular areas aren’t suitable in some scenarios, and we’re hoping for a Nest-style system.
What hasn’t changed with the new model is the setup process which forces you to connect the camera using a network cable to your router. And you’ll have to do the same if you ever upgrade the router or change the Wi-Fi SSID.
Y-cam Outdoor HD review: Price
The HomeMonitor range includes both a weatherproof outdoor camera and two indoor cameras.
Both models have night vision, so they can capture video round the clock. Since they use infrared LEDs at night, footage is black and white rather than colour.
Both models have a resolution of 1280×720 – that’s three times more pixels than older VGA IP cameras, which have a paltry 640×480 resolution. (There is an Indoor VGA model in the HomeMonitor range for £99, but you should avoid it as image quality is poor.) There’s really not much benefit to getting a 1920×1080 camera as video tends to be compressed when uploaded over your broadband connection for remote viewing or recording to cloud storage. So far, we haven’t noticed a difference between the quality of 1080p and 720p cameras which store video in the cloud.
But if you must have it, look to the Nest Cam which forces you to take out a monthly subscription for motion alerts and continuous recording.
Y-cam Outdoor HD review: Features and design
The Outdoor HD Pro has a large detachable antenna which you have to use for Wi-Fi operation.
As well as letting you watch the live feed, video clips are recorded when movement is detected in up to two zones you define. Both the live feed and recorded videos come from the cloud rather than directly from the camera. This is because the video is routed via Y-Cam’s servers before you see it.
There are pros and cons to this method. The first drawback is that the live feed isn’t actually live. It’sa few seconds delayed in our experience. That’s not usually a problem, though, even if something was happening that required you to take action, since you’ll get a motion alert on your smartphone almost the instant motion is first detected, and you can tap on the camera to see the video feed – the recorded clip isn’t available for up to half a minute.
The second con – if it is a con – is that there’s no alternative choice of storage. You can’t put a memory card inside the camera as you can with the D-Link DCS-2530L, nor can you set a NAS drive as the destination for recordings.
However, for most people this is an advantage as it means the Y-Cam is completely hassle-free. It saves the last seven days’ worth of motion recordings for free in the cloud (where they’re a lot safer from deletion or theft) and means you don’t have to provide your own SD card or leave a PC or NAS drive running 24/7.
Unfortunately, the recorded quality is lower than the maximum the camera is capable of, as it’s compressed to avoid hogging your broadband connection. You can download recordings and keep them (now via the app as well as the website), but you need to do this before they’re more than seven days old.
Or you can upgrade to the Y-Cam Plus service which costs £8.99 per month and keeps recordings for 30 days.
Another point to note is that unlike Nest’s continuous recording which uploads to the cloud 24/7 (for a fairly substantial monthly subscription cost) the Outdoor HD Pro saves video clips only when motion is detected. If it makes a mistake and misses the motion, or cuts off the recording too early you may not get to see what you needed to.
In practice, though, this rarely happens, and it’s a good compromise and also makes it quicker to view the event rather than wading through hours of video.
Y-Cam Outdoor HD Pro review: Installation
Unlike the latest cameras (such as Y-Cam’s Evo which can be set up wirelessly using a phone or tablet) the Outdoor HD Pro has to be first connected to your router with the included network cable.
Originally, you had to use a web browser on a laptop or PC, but you can now use the updated app to create a free account, type in the camera’s unique ID and set your time zone. Then you’ll then see the video feed there on the page.
Assuming you want the camera to connect via Wi-Fi, you select your wireless network, enter the password and once successfully saved you can unplug and relocate the Outdoor HD Pro outside.
Everything is supplied in the box, including a wall-mounting bracket through which the wires run. This does mean drilling a hole in your wall, but unless you already have a handily placed outdoor socket, you’ll have to do this anyway. The HD Pro supports PoE (power over Ethernet) which is unlikely to be useful unless you’re installing the camera at your business premises since most UK homes aren’t wired up for PoE.
The final step is to choose the camera’s settings, such as defining one or two motion detection zones and a schedule for motion detection. For outdoor use, it makes sense to leave it on permanently, but for indoor monitoring, you might want to enable recording only when you’re not at home.
Y-Cam Outdoor HD review: app
You can do pretty much everything through the app that you can on the website. And there are a few extras, too. One is geo-fencing which can be enabled or disabled for each camera. With it enabled, your camera will start watching out for motion when you leave and turn off recording when you return. You have to enable the feature on your phone when you’re at home or in the physical location where the camera is installed as it uses your phone’s GPS.
Another handy feature is on-demand recording which provides a record button on the live feed view so you can capture what’s going on right then. You can also grab a still image, and this is also saved to your phone’s camera roll.
You can log in to your account on the HomeMonitor website to watch the live streams and play recorded clips, but you’re more likely to use the app on an iPhone or on Android. There’s also an app for the Humax FVP-4000T set-top box because Humax sells a re-branded Y-Cam Evo as the Humax Eye.
The website and apps have a different look and feel, but they’re easy to use.
Taking the iPhone app as an example, the main screen shows the list of cameras with a power button beneath each. Tapping on the video thumbnail starts the live stream (there’s reasonably good quality audio on the camera too).
Below the live feed are the most recent 10 recordings, but you can head to the Activity section to see all the clips from the last week. You can filter by camera if you have more than one, and each recording clearly shows the time, camera name and duration of the clip.
It’s in the Activity section where you can tap the three dots to the right of a clip to mark it as a ‘favourite’ and download it.
Y-Cam Outdoor HD Pro review: Image quality
Image quality is good overall. The wide angle of view means you can see plenty in the frame, and the frame rate is good enough. The new 3rd-gen model addresses the slight lack some detail in previous versions, and the image is noticeably sharper.
Here’s the original Outdoor HD Pro:
And here’s the much wider, sharper view from the new 3rd-gen camera:
Colours are accurate during the day, and there’s enough detail to easily recognise faces, but not always car registration plates.It all depends on how close to the camera they are, of course.
At night, there’s less detail to be had (as with all similar cameras with infrared), and it’s harder to recognise faces because of the infrared lighting. Number plates tend to reflect the light, too, meaning they’re not readable, but these are both issues faced by all cameras which use infrared for night vision.
There’s no difference in video quality whether you’re watching over Wi-Fi or out and about with a 3G or 4G connection. Just be careful you don’t burn through your monthly data allowance by watching too much video on a mobile connection.
WithMiddle-earth: Shadow of War wasformally announced, Monolith Productions was at GDC last week to give us the first glimpse of gameplay footage. Whereas the first game,Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, focused on Talion’s revenge against those who killed his love ones, this game will shift direction to the broader conflict of the war against Sauron. However, you won’t have to do it alone. You’ll have an entire army of Orcs under your command.
The main feature ofShadow of Waris the upgraded Nemesis system. In the first game, you had to deal with multiple Orc captains and their warchief leaders. As you worked your way up the ranks, other Orcs would fill in the lower leadership tiers, which provided you with endless gameplay where you could kill or control the entire Orc hierarchy. In this game, the system was upgraded to include fortresses. The world features multiple regions, which contain these structures of varying sizes. Within each fortress is an Orc overlord. Under it are multiple warchiefs, and in order to take down Sauron and his forces, you’ll need to take control of each fortress.
The gameplay video we saw featured the fortress of Seregost, which has one overlord, Ur-Hakon the Dragon, and his four warchiefs. When Talion attacks this fortress, he has his own army of Orc followers. Aside from the usual rank and file, his army also includes a few notable Orc captains that have unique abilities that will aid on the assault. For instance, Az-Laar the Destroyer has increased damage against structures. There’s also Ragdug Iron Mount, who can move quickly due to his armored caragor mount, and he also has a resistance to fire damage, which is useful against fiery enemy attacks.
In order to deal with Ur-Hakon, Talion and company need to take on his warchiefs first. Some of these notable foes might have served Talion in the past, but they’ve since returned to the Dark Lord’s influence. The ability to bring Orcs over to your side was prevalent in the first game, but Monolith improved it as well forShadow of War, allowing you to place one of your own Orc captains as a spy within the enemy fortress and posing as one of its warchiefs. This tactic is especially useful as your spy can set traps to slow down the enemy, or in the case of the gameplay footage, create a weak point within the building that allows allies to flank the enemy.
Step By Step
Once the assault begins, you can move and fight as usual. The game’s combat which borrows heavily from Rocksteady Studios’Batmangames, is back with even more visceral attacks, and the overall movement is quicker, which is important when taking over the enemy stronghold. The overall battle seems to progress through a series of stages, where you take over multiple parts of the fortress with each enemy warchief in charge of one of these stages. For example, one of these warchiefs stood on the ramparts above the main gate. Killing him meant that Talion’s forces could easily break that first line of defense and move into the fortress grounds.
Killing these warchiefs (as well as enemy captains) still grants you different bonus types to your weapons. However, they now also grant you different sets of gear that you can use on your character, and each piece can change different stats and bonuses such as the amount of health recovered or the likelihood of picking up better gear from enemies. Matthew Allen, Monolith’s Director of Art, said that the inclusion of this feature was a major step for the studio because each piece of gear wasn’t just meant for show.
“We didn’t want to it if it was pretty pictures,” he said. “We wanted all of those upgrades to mean something.” He went on further to say that you’ll be able to change multiple aspects of your overall gear such as armor, boots, and cape. Overall, there are seven areas of your character that can have different pieces of gear.
As the battle continues, you’ll notice that some of the enemy warchiefs won’t wait for Talion to fight them. They’ll have their own methods of pushing back your army. Later in the demo, Az-Laar, who was busy with attempting to take down the second door that led to the main keep, was doused with oil as the door opened to reveal a large weapon that spewed fire, burning anyone in its path. In a matter of seconds, Talion easily destroyed it by going around the enemy front line and shooting at it with his powerful bow, and by doing so revealed the source of fire inside the weapon: a small drake.
This drake proved to be a useful asset because for the first time in the series, you can mount flying creatures. Talion used the drake against its former masters by flying it around the fortress and shooting fireballs and spewing hot waves of fire on enemy troops and buildings. Once the path to the main keep was clear, Talion opened the doors and went inside.
The Boss Man
The overlord’s strengths and abilities are mirrored through the interior design of the keep. Ur-Hakon has a predilection towards fire and violence and it’s reflected in his main hall, which is dark, bloody, and full of grates that send pillars of fire into the air. When the fight between Talion and Ur-Hakon begins, Talion must dodge these grates in addition while also managing to take out the overlord’s minions and Ur-Hakon himself. But in the same way that you’re not alone when storming the fortress, you’ll also have some help fighting the overlord. Remember your Orc ally Ragdug? His fast movement and resistance to fire allowed him to aid Talion at a critical moment in the fight. This provides enough distraction that Talion can strike the killing blow, thus taking over the fortress.
With Ur-Hakon dead and the fortress under Talion’s control, Talion must now appoint one of his own Orc captains as the main overlord for this stronghold, under him are a fresh set of warchiefs. This provides yet another base from which you can train forces or defend against enemy attacks in the fight against Sauron. The new overlord will then design the fortress in their own fashion that reflects their tribe as well as their strengths in battle.
A Large World
The short demo merely showed the assault on the fortress, so other aspects of the game, such as its open-world mechanics, are still unknown. The first game featured two large regions, which was littered with enemies and captains, but more importantly, it provided plenty of room for you to run around to complete multiple missions and find collectibles. Allen didn’t delve into specifics, but he did mention that Monolith added more areas in the game.
“It’s not a continuous world, but the best way to think of it [is that there is] a very large amount of very large spaces that you can move between at any point in time,” he said. “For us, it really is about getting from region to region and having each of those regions feel different and look different and be fun to explore on their own. In the previous game we had two [regions] and in this one we have a few more.”
This brought up the issue of whether or not the studio sacrificed the size of each area for the sake of more regions. However, Allen said that the new regions are even larger in size than before, which should bode well for those who crave the open-world feeling.
The War Continues
The short gameplay demo showed a new and intricate way of climbing up Sauron’s hierarchy of overlords and warchiefs. Some of these enemies will die by your hand while others can be recruited to fight for you. One of the final scenes within the demo showed many stronghold held by Sauron’s forces and you’ll have to take them down one by one before confronting The Dark Lord.
However, there is still much that we don’t know about the game. Small details within the demo as well as Allen’s comments provided a glimpse as to what we can expect in the final game. Until then, we just might keep watching this sole gameplay demo over and over again. There’s so much action packed within those short 16 minutes that it’s hard not to look at and get excited for what’s to come inMiddle-earth: Shadow of War.
The G6 comes at a crucial time for LG. It made a loss last year following the disappointing sales of the G5 and V10 and its new handset is a bold step in the right direction, but that doesn’t always save a company’s fortunes. To cut to the chase, the LG G6 is an astonishing smartphone that easily holds it own against the best smartphones ever made.
Its taller 18:9 screen is easy to get used to, and while many operations require two hands given the 5.7in screen, it actually is comfortable to hold, scroll, and use with one hand – just like the marketing would have you believe. LG has wisely ditched the gimmicky leather of the G4 and the cool-but-not modularity of the G5 to craft the best ever LG phone. And there have been a lot of them.
The design has been overhauled again following the leather-clad G4 and the modular G5 to a debatably more uniform metal and glass affair. LG’s Friends didn’t last long, did they?
We’ve tested the G6 rigorously since we got our hands on the unit before its announcement at MWC 2016 and it performs just as well as the best smartphones on the market. Here’s our full review of the LG G6.
Note that the version we have tested is a pre-production unit. Once we have received and tested a UK G6 retail unit we will amend any necessary sections with any differences found.
MobileFun has revealed the UK price of the LG G6: £699. You canpre-order the LG G6from its site now. The release date is unconfirmed, though we expect it to be in April or May, and we expect it to be available on all four major UK networks.
Should the official price be £699 in the UK, we are a touch disappointed. We thought LG would be wise to undercut Samsung to boost chance of sales, but it looks like it’s gone all out premium on pricing as well as build.
LG G6 hands-on review: Design and build
So LG has gone big, but it’s the screen, not the handset itself, that’s grown. The G6 boasts an 18:9 screen, expanding the display from the traditional confines of 16:9. This leaves it with a 5.7in Quad HD display. It looks seriously good.
Alongside that wonderful display is a design that conforms, unlike the modular G5 and the leather-clad G4. The G6 takes a leaf out of the iPhone 4’s book with a solid aluminium frame and Gorilla Glass on the front and back. It comes in platinum, white and black, with only the latter being a true fingerprint magnet.
Alongside that wonderful display is a design that conforms, unlike the modular G5 and the leather-clad G4. The G6 takes a leaf out of the iPhone 4’s book with a solid aluminium frame and Gorilla Glass on the front and back. It comes in platinum, white and black, with only the latter being a true fingerprint magnet.
The refined design is simpler and more elegant, with the dual rear cameras and fingerprint sensor that acts as the power/lock button sitting flush with the body. The bottom edge houses the USB-C port (fully waterproof), single speaker and mic. The right edge is smooth and clear save for the SIM tray, while the left edge has the two volume keys. The top edge has that very welcome 3.5mm headphone jack.
Even though the metal and glass frame isn’t entirely original, the rounded design is made all the more striking thanks to the rounded corners of the actual display as well. It’s a clever detail that doesn’t negatively affect use while accentuating the G6’s thin bezels and unusually tall screen. It works really well.
The black model sports this look slightly better than the white or platinum models though. The rounded screen actually has a tiny thin black gap between it and the coloured bezels, but it’s enough on the white and platinum to be constantly visible. Though it’s there on the black, it’s invisible and makes for an even better visual impression.
So, while we prefer the platinum model for looks and how it hides fingerprints, the black one wins because the rounded screen simply looks better on it.
LG said that its goal with the G6, after extensive customer research, was to make a phone with a huge screen but that you could still comfortably use with one hand. The problem here is that that is basically impossible, even for those with large hands. Where the company has succeeded though is by making the G6 perfectly pocket friendly while packing in a screen that it’s easy to scroll through and hold with a single paw.
This might sound easy to achieve, but it can be rare to find on phablets like the G6. The iPhone 7 Plus, for example, is a through and through two-handed device, and the G6 succeeds in fitting a larger screen than that phone into a smaller overall body.
From the precision cut metal rim to the flat back that still packs in dual cameras and a fingerprint sensor and, of course, the screen, LG has hit a home run with this design. If at first it looks ordinary, in use it really is far from that. No gimmicks, no leather, no risks – just incredible build quality that positively affects daily use.
LG G6 hands-on review: Features and specifications
In the tech press, a new high-end smartphone usually takes a fair (and unfair) battering simply because of the specs. To us, the G6 actually feels like a marriage of hardware and software that transcends this sort of nit picking because it works so well as a cohesive whole. The flack the G6 has got for using the Snapdragon 821 is a little unfair given how well it performs. Here we’ll break down the features and specifications for you to decide for yourself what you make of LG’s decisions.
One point of contention among the tech community is LG’s decision to go with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 processor rather than its latest 835 that we expect to see in the Galaxy S8.
The 821 is in its third generation, and LG told us in an interview that it therefore has more expertise in how to optimise the user experience (UX) and implied the 835 wouldn’t have brought any more noticeable advantages.
It’s true that the 835 might bring noticeable battery life gains when we see it in the Galaxy S8, but if we don’t fully know why LG chose to forego it’s hard to fully criticise the decision. The 821 is, after all, doing just fine powering the Google Pixel.
The G6 can handle some pretty heavy multitasking. We swiped between games, video streams, Spotify, document editing and more and the phone barely broke a sweat. Very occasionally in app (Spotify for example) we noticed a tiny lag on album art when switching songs, but live streaming services often do this even on high-end phones.
We can’t imagine anyone having complaints about the G6’s performance, and the benchmarks below reflect how it holds its own against the best of the best. In fact, it is one of the best.
You’ll notice some of the frame rate scores are lower than the G6’s market rivals; the OnePlus 3T and Google Pixel have the same 821 processor but have better scores.
We are putting this down to the larger resolution on the G6 and its Full HD display, and the processor needing to push that bit harder to keep up. At no point during gaming, for example, was the frame rate lagging, but if top specs that give maximum possible performance are your thing, you may want to take this into consideration
The display is a 5.7in Quad HD display with a resolution of 2880 x 1440 – it’s stunning. The extra pixels on that first figure are to account for the 18:9 aspect ratio, which you will get used to much quicker than you might think.
The latency is very good, with very fast response, but it still is a touch (tiny touch) behind the iPhone 7, but very comparable to any other Android phone we have used. It never affected our use of the device.
Aside from the 564ppi, the extra height of the 18:9 aspect means the whole experience of using the G6 is improved from the G5. If that sounds a bit too vague, it’s because you really need to get your hands on it to see what we mean. The extra height just makes sense in the slim form factor, and you really will use it with one hand. This impression is also intrinsically linked with the changes to the software, which we’ll come onto.
The screen also retains the always-on functionality from the G5, with a slightly altered setup lower down on the screen with a new default font. It still displays the time, date and apps that you have notifications for.
The rounded corners really help the display; they make it feel more contained, almost like the display has been penned in for fear of it becoming to large. This is to positive effect, and we found that everything from homescreen swipes to typing long messages was a joy on the larger display. There was a lot of room for error here, but in terms of pure presentation, LG has absolutely nailed it.
The LG G5 impressed us with its dual camera setup that enabled wide-angle shots. The G6 retains this, with two 13Mp rear facing cameras. The wide-angle lens offers a 125-degree angle and the standard has optical image stabilisation. LG claims it has found an algorithm that lets you zoom between the two cameras smoothly without a software jerk. We found, unfortunately, that this isn’t the case. There’s still a tiny flicker as the lenses switch over.
These cameras can record up to 60fps at full HD quality, and in ultra HD at 30fps. HDR support is only for still images, not video, but this is quite usual for smartphones – even the high-end ones.
We found general image quality to be excellent. The display is a joy to use as a viewfinder given its size and the root files themselves show a superior handling of composition.
The wide-angle lens option is still best on the G6 in comparison to rivals. The user-friendly presentation in Auto mode means you can easily and quickly switch between the two. Check out the comparison shot below for an idea of the perspective changes you get. Though be aware that the full wide angle does create a slight fishbowl effect at the edges of the image.
The camera is also good at handling macro-style shots, and most casual users won’t need to stray into the manual mode, though if you do, it’s well set up.
Something that’s more pushed in the marketing is the camera’s Square mode that panders towards Instagram friendly shots. It also fits in nicely with the G6’s square themed GUI. There are four shooting options in square mode: Snap, Grid, Guide and Match. Here’s a quick rundown of what they do, and an example (examples below explanations).
Snap splits the screen in half and means once you’ve taken a picture you can preview it straight away whilst the second half of the screen remains a viewfinder to take another shot in. Handy if you’re trying to get a perfect picture of an important subject (potentially your own face).
Grid is the simplest and is a quick way to create a four image grid of pictures that is itself a square. It’s the most simple and most effective mode.
Guide is where it gets slightly too clever for itself, with the option to pick an image from your gallery to act as a ghosted guide image with which to overlay in the viewfinder and better compose another picture. It ends up overcrowding the screen and is confusing to use.
Match is set up to capture two images like in Grid, but this is to be slightly kooky and combine (LG suggests) candyfloss with a vapour trail to create a trick image. It’s very hard to use and even harder to get a decent shot.
They are fun modes to play around with, but it’s a distraction from the very good sensor that takes normal photos very well. But LG is trying to please the Instagram generation, and it has most likely succeeded there.
Storage and RAM
All variants of the LG G6 have 4GB RAM as standard. Regionally, some of the features differ. The European version of the LG G6 has 32GB storage but a micro SD slot for expansion up to 2TB. The same applies to the US version.
The Korean variant will have 64GB storage, but also the micro SD support. LG said these differences were down to regional marketing decisions. Hopefully it won’t make too much difference given the storage is expandable.
Connectivity and extras
Where regional decisions become a bit more frustrating is in the extras. The US G6 has wireless charging, which adds extra convenience, minimal extra weight and no design changes. However, the Korean and European versions miss out on this handy addition.
The Korean G6 has Hi-Fi Quad DAC, a component that allows for high quality audio playback. LG told us that it doesn’t cost much more to add this feature, but the US and Europe miss out on it. It referred back to regional decisions on included components, but for us it’s frustrating that the European version misses out on two desirable features.
There will also be a dual SIM version, but don’t expect this to come to the UK or Europe. These three missing features aren’t vital to the G6’s success in the UK, but we’d certainly welcome them and it’s frustrating to see a major phone split its features like this dependent on market. Extra features are universally appreciated.
The G6 does have one trick up its sleeve for all regions though. LG claims it’s the first smartphone to support both Dolby Vision and HDR 10. In basic terms, it’s the first smartphone to theoretically support superior audio-visual standards normally associated with high-end televisions.
We say theoretically because while it supports both, streaming services such as Netflix don’t actually yet offer playback of this combined quality on mobile devices. Remember when everything was ‘HD ready’, before HD actually existed? It’s like that. Watch this space.
An iPhone 7 compared to the LG G6
Where it falls down slightly – but thankfully not too much – is in how it adjusts to display content that is by default 16:9 or similar. For example, using Netflix will display the video in 16.7:9 on the G6. Swiping down from the top pf the screen gives you a green icon, tap that and you have the option to view in 16:9 or expand to the full 18:9. If you opt for the latter, it warns you ‘The app’s content may not be fully displayed’.
It’s a bit fiddly, and we found it meant having to return to the Netflix homescreen. And, in every option, some form of black bar remained on at least one edge to make sure all the content was still visible. It’s far from ideal if you want to view apps using the full display.
LG told us that it was working directly with Netflix to sort this out and bring a seamless 18:9 video experience to the G6, but we remain worried that with the plethora of services and games out there, the G6 might be doomed to a life of black bar playback. Hopefully not.
The G6 has a 3,300mAh non-removable battery. This might bug LG fans of the G4 and G5 whose batteries you could remove, but in reality this is the correct decision. The battery is big enough to easily last a full day and the bundled fast charger continues Android device’s pleasing trend of above-average battery life and very fast top up times.
Our review unit of the G6 was a pre-production model, so perhaps the slight erratic nature of the battery life can be put down to that. It was the only area of use that we suspected might be improved with the final retail version. We were never left out of juice, but some days the G6 would be on 75% by bed with reasonably heavy use (which is outstanding) while other days it’d reach that with light use by mid-morning. We’ll update this review in due course and after an even longer test period.
Our pre-production model was also a US version, and we can confirm the wireless charging works excellently with a number of third party charging pads and through various cases. It is, though, slower by a long way compared to fast charging via cable.
LG G6 hands-on review: Software
The G6 pleasingly ships with Android Nougat 7.0, but then again it’d be a crime if it didn’t. LG’s overlay has a certain playfulness in the pastel colours, square design focus and rounded edges influenced by the screen. However it is well refined, with everything from app animations to menus flowing well and without pause.
It takes a bit of getting used to if you’re coming from Samsung’s TouchWiz or pure stock Android, but after a time it’s just as fun and practical to use as them.
The G6’s software has been quite substantially overhauled from the G5’s in order to play nice with the taller 18:9 screen. LG’s own apps such as messaging, weather and calendar have been redesigned to better manage white space and information displayed since there’s more room to play with.
When presented side by side with the G5’s screens, the difference is noticeably positive:
As you can see, apps have more space to work with, so LG has worked very hard to bring the user a more aesthetically pleasing experience, working on attractive, modernised graphics in the main apps.
The camera software too has been redone, with some excellent use of the extra screen space – we love that when taking photos landscape, you get a camera roll of the last few photos taken, rather than the smartphone norm of one tiny thumbnail of the one most recent photo.
We also welcome LG’s decision to choose whether or not to display apps iOS style on the home screen or store them in an app tray. We don’t mind it on iOS, but given the choice on Android, we’ll pick the app tray every time.
Multitasking is also good on the G6. As with all Android phones that allow it, you can’t use it with every app, but it’s handy if you want to run two apps simultaneously. It works best though without a keyboard onscreen. As soon as you need it, even the 18:9 aspect can’t cope with the room needed, and multi-window becomes useless. It’s still a feature that we don’t really use, even though some continue to push it.