One of the best ways LG takes advantage of its unique 18:9 display is in the camera. Let’s take a closer look.
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One of the best ways LG takes advantage of its unique 18:9 display is in the camera. Let’s take a closer look.
One of the best ways LG takes advantage of its unique 18:9 display is in the camera. Let’s take a closer look.
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The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 11 airs in the UK tonight. Here’s how to watch The Walking Dead online and on any device. Also see: How to watch US Netflix in the UK.
Like all popular TV series and films there will almost certainly be people uploading The Walking Dead Season 7 torrents or hosting illegal streams of the programme. In this article we will show you the legal way to watch The Walking Dead Season 7 in the UK.
The Walking Dead returned to AMC with Season 7 on Sunday 23 October in the US, and in the UK on Fox UK on Monday 24 October at 9pm. The mid-season finale aired on 12 December in the UK (11 December in the US), but will return to our screens in mid-February.
The next episode is 7.11, which airs at 9pm on Fox UK on Monday 27 February 2017. This episode airs a day earlier in the US on the evening of Sunday 26 February on AMC.
In the UK The Walking Dead is shown on Fox UK. If you’re a Sky or Virgin Media customer you will have this channel as part of your subscription, shown on channel 124 on Sky, and 157 and 199 on Virgin, and you’ll be able to watch live or catch up with episodes using the associated mobile apps. If you don’t subscribe to either of these services, we’ll look at a few other ways you can watch The Walking Dead Season 7 online below.
If you are a BT Broadband customer with BT TV as part of your subscription you will have free access to AMC, which is the UK version of the US channel that will be used to broadcast The Walking Dead Season 7. The Walking Dead will not be shown on AMC UK, but AMC UK will broadcast Fear The Walking Dead. BT TV customers can buy The Walking Dead episodes from the BT store.
If you are a TalkTalk Essentials TV or Plus TV customer you’ll have a YouView box through which you can stream The Walking Dead Season 7. You’ll need to buy an Entertainment Boost, which adds Fox, Watch, Comedy Central, Dsicovery, Sky 1, Sky Living and more to your account for an extra £5 a month (for three months; £10 thereafter).
TalkTalk TV is also accessible through YouView.
Now TV is a subscription-based service much like Netflix and Amazon Prime, and our preferred method of watching The Walking Dead Season 7 online if you do not subscribe to Sky or Virgin.
In order to watch The Walking Dead Season 7 online through Now TV you will need to subscribe to the £6.99 Entertainment Pass, which gives you access to 11 paid-TV channels not available on Freeview, including Fox UK. You also get Sky Atlantic, Sky 1, Gold, Sky Living, ITV Encore, Sky Arts, Comedy Central, MTV, Discovery Channel, Nat Geo Wild, ABC Studios and Viceland.
Now TV also offers more than 250 on-demand TV boxsets, plus catch-up facilities. As a bonus, previous seasons of The Walking Dead are available for those who are only just getting into the series.
You don’t need a Sky subscription to watch Now TV; nor do you need a Now TV box – apps are available for Chromecast, PlayStation, Xbox, Roku, LG smart TVs, Windows and Mac, and iOS and Android.
The Walking Dead Season 7 will be available through Amazon Prime Instant Video but, sadly, not as part of your subscription. Based on the prices it is currently charging for Season 6, you’ll pay £1.89 per episode (or £2.49 in HD), or you can buy the entire season for £19.99 (SD; £24.99 HD).
You can buy The Walking Dead Season 7 through iTunes on your iPad, iPhone or Apple computer for £24.99 (£29.99 in HD).
The Walking Dead Season 7 will also be available on Google Play Movies & TV, and you can buy the entire season for £24.99.
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Unfortunately we got to see only one of these exciting upcoming phones yesterday at MWC 2017, with the Galaxy S8 not due to launch until 29 March. However, as always with Samsung flagship launches, there are very few details that haven’t leaked about the new phone. Here’s our LG G6 vs Galaxy S8 preview. Also see: Best phones 2017
As with any leak, you should take the information with a pinch of salt because not all of it turns out to be correct. On the whole, though, it is on the money and we also have a small amount of official information.
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Following the lead of Xiaomi and its Mi Mix, the trend for this year’s flagship phones looks sets to be bezel-free designs. Not only does this look great, but also means you get a larger screen on a phone that’s no bigger – potentially smaller – than before.
The invitation for the LG G6 launch even goes as far as to say, ‘Big Screen. That Fits.’ so it’s not like we even needed rumours on this front. The now-announced LG G6 boasts an impressive Quad HD 5.7in display with an aspect ratio of 18:9, taller than the standard 16:9.
LG has also moved away from the modular design of the LG G5 and has ditched the removable battery in favour of waterproofing and a more aesthetic metal body. The fingerprint scanner remains on the back.
The Galaxy S8 will have a similar-size screen, expected to be 5.8in, though it is also said to feature dual curved edges. Samsung will also squeeze a larger screen into the frame of the device thanks to much smaller bezels. This will largely be achieved by ditching the top and bottom sections, losing the home button in the process and moving the fingerprint scanner to the back.
You can expect both phones to be made from a combination of metal and glass as previously.
As mentioned above, the headline feature of the G6 and Galaxy S8 will be the screen so let’s focus on that.
Starting with Samsung, the Galaxy S8 is tipped to get a 5.8in screen with a Quad HD resolution. It also looks like the firm will bring its dual-edge technology to the regular model so either side of the screen will curve around the side towards the back. A larger Galaxy S8 Plus is rumoured to offer a 6.2in display, also with a Quad HD resolution.
The LG G6 has a big screen, but it’s not quite as large as its rival at 5.7in. Interestingly it has an 18:9 aspect ratio (yes that’s 2:1) with a 1440×2880-pixel resolution.
We’ll sum up the rumoured specs of each phone below to give you an overview but another interesting element to talk about is the processor. While the Galaxy S8 is expected to be powered by the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, the LG G6 is not and comes with the older Snapdragon 821 instead.
• Android 7.0 Nougat
• 5.8in Quad HD Super AMOLED screen, 1440 x 2960, dual-edge
• Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor
• Adreno 530 GPU
• 4GB/6GB RAM
• 64/128GB storage
• Micro-SD card slot
• 12Mp rear camera, OIS, f/1.7, PDAF
• 8Mp front camera, f/1.7
• Dual-band 11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, NFC
• USB-C port
• Fingerprint scanner, Iris scanner
• Non-removable 3000mAh battery
• IP68 waterproof
• 140 x 72 x 7.3 mm
• Wireless charging
• Quick Charge 4.0
• Android 7.0 Nougat
• 5.7in Quad HD LCD screen, 1440 x 2880, 565ppi
• Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor
• Adreno 530 GPU
• 4GB RAM
• 32/64GB storage
• Dual 13Mp rear cameras
• 5Mp front camera
• Dual-band 11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, NFC, 4G LTE
• USB-C port
• Fingerprint scanner
• Non-removable battery
• IP68 waterproof
• 3,300mAh fixed battery
• Wireless charging only in US
• Quick Charge 3.0
• Hi-Fi Quad DAC only in Korea
Key takeaways from the rumours spec sheets are that the Samsung Galaxy S8 is supposedly coming with 6GB of RAM compared to 4GB. It’s also interesting that the G6 has dual cameras, as per the G5, but it may be the case that only the Galaxy S8 Plus will offer this feature.
In advance of the 2017 Game Developer Conference (GDC), SensoMotoric Instruments (SMI) revealed to Tom’s Hardware that it is collaborating with Valve to bring its eye tracking technology to Valve’s virtual reality platform. The two companies succeeded in pairing SMI’s eye tracking system with HTC Vive headsets, and now they’re integrating the technology directly into Valve’s open-source VR platform, OpenVR.
Valve and SMI installed SMI eye tracking technology into a handful of HTC Vive HMDs and shipped them to research partners around the world so they can start experimenting with the possibilities offered by tracked pupils. Last week, Google revealed its mixed reality “Headset Removal” technique, which is possible thanks to SMI’s upgraded Vive headset.
“Eye tracking opens up several interesting possibilities to both VR developers and customers,” said Yasser Malaika of Valve. “Our collaboration with SMI on R&D, as well as on SMI’s efforts to make eye tracking enabled Vive units available to the larger VR community, have been critical to our growing understanding of how HMDs with integrated eye tracking will positively impact the future of VR.”
Eye tracking isn’t a new concept. We’ve seen implementations of the technology in laptops, and you can buy devices that bring eye tracking tech to your desktop PC. Eye tracking is somewhat niche for flat displays, but it’s one of the holy grails of virtual reality advancement, and it is sought after with vigor.
In 2015, Fove Inc. launched a Kickstarter campaign to create an eye tracking focused VR developer kit (which started shipping in January). Later that year, Starbreeze revealed it was working with Tobii to bring eye tracking technology to the StarVR HMD (which you can try at IMAX in LA). SMI also has agreements in place to put its eye tracking tech in at least 10 upcoming HMDs, including mobile VR and AR devices powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon VR820, and it’s a key component in Qualcomm’s VR HMD Accelerator Program and Snapdragon 835 VR dev kit.
There’s good reasoning behind the push for VR with eye tracking. Today’s VR experiences are incredibly compelling, but eye tracking technology stands to increase the sense of presence by a large margin. By tracking your pupils, digital artists can create virtual characters or virtual avatars that make eye contact with you in an experience like VRChat. Eye tracking also lets you interact with items and menus at a glance, instead of with a click of your mouse, flick of your wrist, or press of a button. The technology is already used in VR HMDs for the medical industry to detect brain damage and augment therapy for paralyzed patients.
Foveated rendering is the big-ticket item on the list of eye tracking enabled technologies because it could be the gateway to higher resolution VR HMDs. In fact, according to Michael Abrash, Chief Scientist at Oculus, we may never reach 4K resolution per eye and beyond without foveated rendering.
The idea behind foveated rendering is simple: It reduces the GPU workload by lowering the quality of the image outside of your focal point. When you move your eyes around, the eye tracking hardware relays your pupil position to the render pipeline, and the image adapts accordingly. The section that you are focusing on gets rendered at the highest fidelity, and the area in your peripheral vision runs at reduced quality settings, which results in higher framerate performance.
Technology that can lower the graphics demands of VR content is critical for advancing the average resolution of VR HMDs, but it can also help improve the experience you get with existing VR hardware. For example, developers could use the freed-up resources afforded by foveated rendering to push the graphic details of their game higher.
Valve will have SMI’s upgraded HTC Vive HMD at GDC 2017 to give demos of the new OpenVR eye tracking features to developers and members of the press.
“[…] We are thrilled to see our eye tracking on show as part of the Valve platform,” said Christian Villwock, SMI Director OEM Business. “This demo is the result of the experience and the valuable learnings we have accumulated during our relationship with Valve, a company that had the foresight to see the value of eye tracking at an early stage.”
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.
It’s the apps that really set iOS apart from other platforms – there are higher quality apps available on the App Store for the iPad than any other tablet. So which ones are worth your cash? And which are the best free apps?
Luckily for you we’ve tested thousands of the best iPad apps so that you don’t have to. So read on for our selection of the best iPad apps – the definitive list of what applications you need to download for your iPad now.
If you are looking for games, then head over to Best iPad games – where we showcase the greatest games around for your iOS device. Or if you’re using an iPhone 7 (or one of its excellent brethren) head over to our best iPhone apps list.
Setup is almost comically simple: launch iStat Server on a computer, then install iStat 3 on your iPad. If the devices are on the same network, everything should start communicating; if not, enter some network details and you should be good to go.
iStat itself is all about graphs and histories. It’ll show all kinds of wiggly lines and numbers to represent CPU, memory, disk space, network usage, fan speeds, and temperatures. You can check out what’s happened over the past hour, day, week, month, or year, along with performing a ping or traceroute.
Naturally, this kind of thing largely lends itself to professional users, but there are home applications, too – for example, keeping an eye on a home server that sends media around your house – and iStat’s user-friendliness makes it approachable for anyone.
It’s fair to say that the original WAVESTATION was one of the weirder synths that showed up in the 1990s. It worked by combining and sequencing multiple waveforms, allowing you to morph and mix what you heard by twiddling a joystick. The result was a synth where you could conceivably fashion an engaging loop simply by holding down a single key.
As ever, the digital recreation is authentic, but adds further smarts by way of enabling editing of sounds through the touchscreen. You also get a delightful pad-based controller option for tapping out sounds.
There are some drawbacks, though, in this not being the most intuitive of synths to dig deep into, and the morphing joystick not being available on all screens.
However, if you want an iPad synth that sounds like nothing else out there, and with a huge library of noises to explore, iWAVESTATION is an excellent choice.
Each ‘non-place’ is somewhere you’d usually ignore or stay only on a very temporary basis, but here, the mundane is subverted through unusual and unexpected juxtapositions.
You’ll find yourself staring at a luggage carousel, before the bags begin a lazy Mexican wave. Elsewhere, palm trees ride mall escalators, while a run-of-the-mill seating area is suddenly flooded, a warning siren slicing its way through inane background chatter.
The result is frequently disorientating, but Islands also has the capacity to surprise, and is often oddly beautiful.
You either take a photo or load an image from your iPad and then select a preset. You get everything from the chunky character-oriented Commodore PET, through to relatively powerful fare such as the detailed 16-bit graphics of the SNES and Atari ST.
From an authenticity standpoint, Retrospecs wins out, but the app also affords plenty of tweaking potential. You can switch modes for those machines that offered multiple resolutions, choose alternate dither patterns, and adjust contrast, vibrancy, and other settings. Best of all, you can use any of the existing presets as the basis for your own unique slice of retro-filter joy.
It’s all very simple: drag weird cartoon characters (each of which plays their own instrument) to spots on the stage, and they automatically jam along with the only song that Toca Band appears to know. Lob a musician at the star and they start a unique solo improv with a modicum of user control.
Toca Band is a very sweet app, which even toddlers should be able to grasp. A word of warning, though: that Toca Band riff will quickly become an earworm you’ll be hard pressed to remove.
The main screen is smartly designed, with a custom keyboard bar offering Markdown and navigation buttons; if you’re using a mechanical keyboard, standard shortcuts are supported.
Further focus comes by way of a typewriter mode (auto-scrolling to the area you’re editing) and graying out lines other than the one you’re working on.
Elsewhere, you get an optional live character count, iCloud sync, and a robust Markdown preview. We’d like to see a split-screen mode for the last of those (as per the Mac version), but otherwise iA Writer’s a solid, effective and affordable minimal writing app for iPad.
1972’s ARP Odyssey was a classic of the era, and reborn in 2015 with a smart new design and modern connectors. Now, the duophonic synth is on iPad and, if anything, the digital incarnation beats the hardware original.
With , you still get the many synthesis controls of the real-world kit, allowing for a huge diversity of sound. The sliders are a mite fiddly, but any frustration is mitigated by the wealth of presets and ability to save your own.
The best bit, though, is the programmable arpeggiator, which transforms sounds into rich, exciting loops. Sadly, the feature is omitted from ODYSSEi’s Korg Gadget incarnation, but as a standalone synth for iPad, this one’s hard to beat.
You can grab PDFs from iCloud or Dropbox, and then get to work rearranging pages, adding new content, creating notes, completing forms, making highlights, and even doodling with your finger.
As a reader, the app is impressive, too, ably dealing with large PDFs. There’s also a text-to-speech mode that reads documents at a speed of your choosing, highlighting words as it goes.
The app also wisely integrates the kind of smarts found in the developer’s own Documents app, so you can use PDF Expert as a central repository for your iPad PDFs, filing, merging, archiving, and sharing them as needed.
We’re not sure what makes this edition of the famous mockney chef’s recipe book ‘ultimate’, bar that word being very clearly written on the icon.
Still, is certainly a very tasty app. The 600 recipes should satisfy any given mood, whether you’re after a sickeningly healthy salad or fancy binging on ALL THE SUGAR until your teeth scream for mercy.
Smartly, every recipe offers step-by-step photos, so you can see how badly you’re going wrong at any point. And when you’ve nearly burned down the kitchen, given up and ordered a pizza, you can watch the two hours of videos that reportedly tell you how to “become a real kitchen ninja”.
Note: this doesn’t involve wearing lots of black and hurling sharp objects at walls, sadly.
You start by selecting a color and shape. The former dictates an instrument and the latter the number of leaves on your lily. Tap + to open the flower, and then the flower itself to access a pulsating playback head.
You then tap spaces to lay down notes, which can be shifted entire octaves by prodding adjacent vertical lines. Repeat the process with more lilies and you’ll soon have an oddly delicate cacophony serenading your ears.
Lily’s a very sweet app. It’s perhaps a touch too abstract to be as immediate as it wants to be, but all becomes clear with a little play. We do wish songs could be saved (although you can export a recording) – the lives of these lilies are all too fleeting.
The moody black and red graphic design is very 1990s, but it’s Poison-202’s sounds that hurl you back to the halcyon days of electronic music. Aficionados of The Prodigy, Chemical Brothers and Orbital will be overjoyed at the familiar (and brilliant) sounds you can conjure up simply by selecting presets and prodding a few keys.
And if you’re not satisfied by the creator’s (frankly awesome) sound design smarts (in which case, we glare at you with the menace of a thousand Keith Flints), all manner of sliders and dials enable you to create your own wall-wobbling bass and ear-searing leads.
There are iPad synths that have more ambition, and many are more authentic to classic hardware; but few are more fun.
For free, provides the means to record the odd bit of audio, bookmark important bits, and mash together a few such recordings into something resembling a podcast. But pay the $19.99/£14.99 IAP and this app gives desktop podcast-creation products a run for their money.
Using the smartly designed interface, you can import clips and sounds from various sources, craft multi-track edits that make full use of slicing, fading, ducking, and silence stripping, and add professional effects to give vocals that bit of extra punch.
On an iPhone, this is an impressive app, but on iPad, the extra screen space you get makes for significantly faster editing of your audio and a far superior user experience compared to the cramped screen.
Rather than be all things to all people, is a painting app with a sense of focus, emulating the feel of an East Asian ink brush. It’s therefore suited to flowing, semi-abstract artistic effort with your finger to offer a digital take on calligraphy.
On iPhone’s teeny screen this app feels a little redundant, but it comes alive on the iPad’s larger display, especially if you have a stylus. The selection of tools is intentionally limited to keep you focused, but you can still swap between a red and black brush, experiment with alternate brush sizes or dryness values and swap out the underlying canvas.
There is a sense of give and take about Zen Brush 2’s level of realism: strokes are applied wonderfully, but inks don’t interact with each other nor the paper beneath. Still, the strong sense of character gives artwork created in Zen Brush 2 a unique feel and it’s a relaxing, almost meditative, app to spend time with.
The iPad Google Maps app has a perfectly serviceable (if, in recent updates, somewhat fiddly) Street View mode, and so the notion of paying for an app to browse such panoramas may seem strange. But proves itself to be interesting and genuinely entertaining.
Although you can browse locations in Streets 3 by dragging a map and dropping a pin to define a location, the app speeds things along with a gallery. This showcases famous sights and places, including museums, zoos, and even the Large Hadron Collider.
Using the old arrows movement system (rather than the newer Google Maps swiping model) makes for fast, efficient navigation.
Usefully, a little extra context is provided about the famous sites, so you can learn rather than just gawp; and favorites can be stored for return visits. None of which perhaps cements Streets 3 as essential, but it’s certainly fun for the armchair tourist.
There are loads of great painting apps for illustrators and artists, but tries something a bit different, introducing you to a world of tessellation and symmetries. This makes for an app that has plenty of potential for professional use, but also one that anyone can enjoy.
To begin, you select a style. The simplest is a split-screen mirror, but there are also kaleidoscope-like options, and those that create tiled, repeating patterns. It’s then a question of scribbling on the canvas, and watching a pattern form before your eyes.
The toolset is quite basic (with a bafflingly overthought color palette selector), but Amaziograph chalks up a big win when it comes to flexibility.
At any point, you can adjust the settings of the current grid, or choose a different symmetry/tessellation type. This propels the app far beyond ‘toy’ territory, opening up avenues for creativity regardless of your level of artistic prowess.
As a combination clock and weather app, works well across all iOS devices, but use it with an iPad in a stand and you’ve got something that’ll make other clocks in the immediate vicinity green with envy.
As you might expect, your first job with the app is to define the cities you’d like to keep track of. At any point, you can then switch between them, updating the main clock and weather forecasts accordingly. Tap the weather and you can access an extended forecast for the week; tap the location and you get the current times and weather for your defined locations.
But it’s the Earth that gets pride of place, taking up the bulk of the screen. It shows clouds by default, although weather geeks can instead choose colors denoting temperature, wind speed or humidity values. Then with a little swipe the globe rotates, neatly showing heavily populated locations during night time as lattices of artificial man-made light.
Whether you need a few minutes of peace or help to fall asleep after hours of stress, offers meditative splashy reflection. Choose from six scenes, plonk headphones on and then just sit and listen to gorgeous 3D audio recordings of streams, waterfalls and rivers.
Should you feel the need, noodle about with the parallax photo – although that’s frankly the least interesting bit of the app.
There is room for screen interaction though – the slider button gives you access to a mixer, to trigger ambient soundtracks by composer David Bawiec, and add birdsong and rain; while the Flowing icon houses guided meditations by Lua Lisa.
There’s also a timer, so you can fall asleep to a gently meandering brook without it then burbling away all night. In all, even if you don’t make use of every feature, Flowing is an effective, polished relaxation aid.
It caters to various kinds of animation: you can use your iPad’s camera to capture a scene, import images or videos (which are broken down into stills), or use a remote app installed on an iPhone. Although most people will export raw footage to the likes of iMovie, Stop Motion Pro shoots for a full animation suite by including audio and title capabilities.
There are some snags. Moving frames requires an awkward copy/paste/delete workaround. Also, drawing tools are clumsy, making the app’s claim of being capable of rotoscoping a tad suspect. But as an affordable and broadly usable app for crafting animation, it fits the bill.
The basics are ably dealt with – the app automatically locates documents in front of your iPad’s camera (assuming there’s contrast with the desk underneath), and you can crop, rotate, color-adjust, and save the result.
Buy the Pro IAP, though, and Scanbot becomes far more capable. It’ll run OCR text recognition on any document, and attempt (with a reasonable degree of success) to extract details for single-tap ’actions’, such as triggering a phone call or visiting a website, based on what it finds.
There are annotation and PDF signing tools, and the means to reorder pages in multi-page documents. So rather than being a tap-and-done scanner, this app keeps helping once the scans are done, making it an essential purchase for the office-oriented. (We do miss the smiling robot icon, though – the new one is so dull.)
For the majority of iPad users, Apple’s iMovie is the go-to app for cutting footage and spitting out a movie. However, is a great option for anyone who wants a more desktop-like video editing experience.
The interface is efficient, enabling you to pre-trim clips, and quickly navigate your in-progress film by way of a standard timeline, or quickly jumping to scenes by tapping clip thumbnails. Additionally, there are tools for complex audio edits across three separate tracks, and adjusting a clip’s rotation.
The only downside is an initial feeling of complexity and an ongoing sense of clutter – this isn’t an especially pretty app. However, it is a usable, powerful and effective one, and that more than makes up for any niggles.
Another example of a book designed for kids that adults will sneak a peek at when no-one’s watching, Namoo teaches about the wonders of plant life. Eschewing the kind of realistic photography or illustration you typically see in such virtual tomes, Namoo is wildly stylized, using an arresting low-poly art style for its interactive 3D simulations.
Each of these is married with succinct text, giving your brain something to chew on as you ping the components of a plant’s cells (which emit pleasingly playful – if obviously not terribly realistic – sounds and musical notes) or explore the life cycle of an apple.
Wikipedia is one of the most amazing resources around, but it looks like a dog’s dinner. You might find certain subject matter thrilling, but your eyes will glaze over before you get through half an article on an iPad. V for Wikipedia rethinks this entire experience, unassumingly describing itself as “a nice reader for Wikipedia”.
Every aspect of V for Wikipedia feels like output from a careful, considerate designer. There’s a smart nearby places view, where lines snake from an overhead map to Wikipedia article titles awaiting a tap, search results include brief synopses and images, but best of all, the articles themselves look great – more like a book to lean back and read than a website you’d prefer to flee from.
There are plenty of apps that enable you to plonk text over photos, but Over excels when it comes to control. Load a photo (or start with a blank canvas) and you can add words, stickers and additional imagery, gradually fashioning a card, poster or slice of social media genius.
For free, you get the basic app, but a one-off IAP unlocks handy additional features, such as drop shadows and adjustments. In combination with editable layers and saved projects, these things make Over resemble something you’d find on the desktop, albeit with the kind of intuitive and immediate interface you only find in the best iPad apps.
On the desktop, Scrivener is widely acclaimed as the writer’s tool of choice. The feature-rich app provides all kinds of ways to write, even incorporating research documents directly into projects. Everything’s always within reach, and your work can constantly be rethought, reorganised, and reworked.
On iPad, Scrivener is, astonishingly, almost identical to its desktop cousin. Bar some simplification regarding view and export options, it’s essentially the same app. You get a powerful ‘binder’ sidebar for organizing notes and documents, while the main view area enables you to write and structure text, or to work with index cards on a cork board.
There’s even an internal ‘Split View’, for simultaneously smashing out a screenplay while peering at research. With Dropbox sync to access existing projects, Scrivener is a no-brainer for existing users; and for newcomers, it’s the most capable rich text/scriptwriting app on iPad.
At the last count, there were something like eleven billion sketching apps for iPad, and so you need something pretty special to stand out. Concepts shoots for a more professional audience – architects, designers, illustrators, and the like – but in doing so presents a far more flexible product than most.
When scribbling on the infinite canvas, you’re drawing vector strokes, which can be individually selected and adjusted. The tools area is customizable and colors are selected using a Copic color wheel.
Pay the pro IAP and you unlock all kinds of features, including precision tools and shape guides, endless layers, and the means to export your work as high-res imagery, SVG, DXF or PSD. In use, whether using a finger or stylus, Concepts is elegant and usable but powerful.
So for free, this is an excellent tool for wannabe scribblers, and for the price of a couple of coffees, a high-end digital sketchbook suitable for professionals. Sounds like a bargain either way to us.
Your eyes might pop at the price tag of this iPad synth, but the hardware reissue of this amazing Moog was priced at a wallet-smashing $10,000. By contrast, the Model 15 iPad app seems quite the bargain. To our ears, it’s also the best standalone iOS synth on mobile, and gives anything on the desktop a run for its money.
For people used to messing around with modular synths and plugging in patch leads, they’ll be in heaven. But this isn’t retro-central: you can switch the piano keyboard for Animoog’s gestural equivalent; newcomers can work through straightforward tutorials about how to build new sounds from scratch; and those who want to dive right in can select from and experiment with loads of diverse, superb-sounding presets.
From its earliest days, the Mac was in part a product of Steve Jobs’s obsession with typography. Although iOS includes a large range of fonts, your iPad lacks the extensibility of a Mac, which is where AnyFont comes in. Using the app, you can load new fonts from a PC or Mac by way of iTunes or import from Dropbox. Said fonts then become available in the likes of Pages, Keynote and Microsoft’s Office suite.
There’s no bulk import via Dropbox; and the app must create a separate profile for each imported font. These limitations initially irk, but also force a sense of focus, having you import only the fonts you really need rather than a collection of thousands.
Relaxation aids have a tendency to be a bit ‘right on’, but Windy frames itself as part story, part artwork, and comes across as elegant and interesting rather than preachy. You get six scenes to explore and each offers a parallax image to drag about and a piece of text to read.
But it’s the audio experience that really grabs hold. Each scene features a unique 3D wind recording, which sounds superb through decent headphones. Using the app’s settings, you can mix in rain, water, birdsong and cricket noises. The composition you create plays indefinitely, or you can set a timer, to help you nod off to your custom soundscape.
There are plenty of apps that enable you to add comic-like filters and the odd speech balloon to your photos, but Comic Life 3 goes the whole hog regarding comic creation. You select from pre-defined templates or basic page layouts, and can then begin working on a Marvel-worrying masterpiece.
Importing images is straightforward, and you get plenty of control over sound effects and speech balloons. For people who are perhaps taking things a bit too seriously (or actual comic creators, who can use this app for quick mock-ups), there’s a bundled script editor as well.
Oddly, Comic Life 3’s filters aren’t that impressive, not making your photos look especially hand-drawn. But otherwise the app is an excellent means of crafting stories on an iPad, and you can export your work in a range of formats to share with friends – and Stan Lee.
It’s been a long time coming, but finally Tweetbot gets a full-fledged modern-day update for iPad. And it’s a good one, too. While the official Twitter app’s turned into a ‘blown-up iPhone app’ monstrosity on Apple’s tablet, Tweetbot makes use of the extra space by way of a handy extra column in which you can stash mentions, lists, and various other bits and bobs.
Elsewhere, this latest release might lack a few toys Twitter selfishly keeps for itself, but it wins out in terms of multitasking support, granular mute settings, superb usability, and an interesting Activity view if you’re the kind of Twitter user desperate to know who’s retweeting all your tiny missives.
This music app is inspired by layered composition techniques used in some classical music. You tap out notes on a piano roll, and can then have up to four playheads simultaneously interpret your notes, each using unique speeds, directions and transpositions. For the amateur, Fugue Machine is intuitive and mesmerising, not least because of how easy it is to create something that sounds gorgeous.
For pros, it’s a must-have, not least due to MIDI output support for driving external software. It took us mere seconds to have Fugue Machine working with Animoog’s voices, and the result ruined our productivity for an entire morning.
(Unless you count composing beautiful music when you should be doing something else as ‘being productive’. In which case, we salute you.)
There’s a miniature revolution taking place in digital comics. Echoing the music industry some years ago, more publishers are cottoning on to readers very much liking DRM-free content. With that in mind, you now need a decent iPad reader for your PDFs and CBRs, rather than whatever iffy reading experience is welded to a storefront.
Chunky is the best comic-reader on iPad. The interface is simple but customisable. If you want rid of transitions, they’re gone. Tinted pages can be brightened. And smart upscaling makes low-res comics look good.
Paying the one-off ‘pro’ IAP enables you to connect to Mac or Windows shared folders or FTP. Downloading comics then takes seconds, and the app will happily bring over folders full of images and convert them on-the-fly into readable digital publications.
You’re probably dead inside if you sit down with Metamorphabet and it doesn’t raise a smile — doubly so if you use it alongside a tiny human. The app takes you through all the letters of the alphabet, which contort and animate into all kinds of shapes. It suitably starts with A, which when prodded grows antlers, transforms into an arch, and then goes for an amble. It’s adorable.
The app’s surreal, playful nature never lets up, and any doubts you might have regarding certain scenes — such as floaty clouds representing ‘daydream’ in a manner that doesn’t really work — evaporate when you see tiny fingers and thumbs carefully pawing at the iPad’s glass while young eyes remain utterly transfixed.
Pop music is about getting what you expect. Ambient music has always felt subtly different, almost like anything could happen. With generative audio, this line of thinking became reality. Scape gives you a combined album/playground in this nascent genre, from the minds of Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers.
Each track is formed by way of adding musical elements to a canvas, which then interact in sometimes unforeseen ways. Described as music that “thinks for itself”, Scape becomes a pleasing, fresh and infinitely replayable slice of chillout bliss. And if you’re feeling particularly lazy, you can sit back and listen to an album composed by the app’s creators.
Illustration tools are typically complex. Sit someone in front of Adobe Photoshop and they’ll figure out enough of it in fairly short order. Adobe Illustrator? No chance. Assembly attempts to get around such roadblocks by turning graphic design into the modern-day touchscreen equivalent of working with felt shapes — albeit very powerful felt shapes that can shift beneath your fingers.
At the foot of the screen are loads of design elements, and you drag them to the canvas. Using menus and gestures, shapes can be resized, coloured, duplicated and transformed. Given enough time and imagination, you can create abstract masterpieces, cartoonish geometric robots, and beautiful flowing landscapes.
It’s intuitive enough for anyone, but we suspect pro designers will enjoy Assembly too, perhaps even using it for sketching out ideas. And when you’re done, you can output your creations to PNG or SVG.
Typography is something that doesn’t come naturally to everyone. And so while there are excellent apps for adding text to images, you might want more help, rather than spending hours fine-tuning a bunch of misbehaving letters. That’s where Retype comes in.
You load a photo or a piece of built-in stock art, and type some text. Then it’s just a case of selecting a style. The type’s design updates whenever you edit your text, and variations can be accessed by repeatedly prodding the relevant style’s button. Basic but smart filter, blur, opacity and fade commands should cement Retype’s place on your iPad.
Even though the iPad is an immensely powerful mobile device, there’s no getting away from it sometimes being fiddly for performing complex tasks; this is all the more frustrating if said tasks are something you must do regularly. Fortunately, Workflow is here to help.
It includes over 200 actions that work with built-in and third-party apps, enabling you to fashion complex automation that’s subsequently activated at the touch of a button.
To help you get started, the gallery houses dozens of pre-built workflows, and for added flexibility, you can access those you create or install from inside the app, via the Today widget, or by way of a custom Home screen app-like shortcut.
iPads have opened up a world of creative possibilities for guitarists by way of apps that ape all kinds of amps and stomp boxes. But AmpliTube Acoustic does something new. The clue’s in the title — this is a tone studio created for acoustic guitars, and designed to be used with the iRig Acoustic clip-on microphone.
Highlights include a particularly lovely 12-string simulator, and the ‘bass maker’, which adds low-end to your strumming. Of course, electric guitarists can also use the app, for clean tones and effects, and developer IK Multimedia has, as usual, issued a limited freemium version that acts as a demo of sorts.
There are plenty of great distraction-free writing apps for iPad, but Ulysses for iPad adds serious management and editing clout to the mix. The idea is you use the app for all your writing — notes; in-progress text; final edits; and export. Items in your library can be manually sorted, grouped and filtered; text can be processed to PDF, DOCX, TXT, Markdown, HTML and ePub.
But what’s most astonishing is how the app’s interface mirrors its Mac counterpart’s, and yet still feels entirely at home on the iPad. (And for iPad Pro users hankering after a top-notch writing app to use in Split View, look no further).
The lofty boast with RealBeat is that you can use the app to make music with everything. The remarkable thing is, you really can. The app has eight slots for samples, waiting for input from your iPad’s mic.
You can record snippets of any audio you fancy: your voice; a spoon smacking a saucepan; a pet, confused at you holding your iPad right in front of its face. These samples can then be arranged into loops and songs using a familiar drum-machine-style sequencer and pattern editor.
Completed masterpieces can be exported using Audio Copy and iTunes File Sharing, and the app also integrates with Audiobus.
On the desktop, Panic’s Transmit is a perfectly decent FTP client. But when it was first released for iPad, Transmit felt rather more like the future. It was smart and elegant, utilising all of the then-new iOS features, such as Share sheets.
Even today, its interface seems a step beyond its contemporaries — the vibrant icons and dark lists look gorgeous and modern. Most importantly, the app remains very usable, with an excellent drag-and-drop model, smart previews, and support for a huge range of services, including local shared Mac folders.
Calling Editorial a text editor does it a disservice. That’s not to say Editorial isn’t any good as a text editor, because it very much is. You get top-notch Markdown editing, with an inline preview, and also a TaskPaper mode for plain text to-do lists.
But what really sets Editorial apart is the sheer wealth of customisation options. You get themes and custom snippets, but also workflows, which can automate hugely complex tasks. You get the sense some of these arrived from the frustrations at how slow it is to perform certain actions on an iPad; but a few hours with Editorial and you’ll wish the app was available for your Mac or PC too.
Previously known as iDraw, Graphic is now part of the Autodesk stable. Visually, it looks an awful lot like Adobe Illustrator, and it brings some suitably high-end vector-drawing smarts to Apple’s tablet.
All the tools and features you’d expect are present and correct; and while it’s admittedly a bit slower and fiddlier to construct complex imagery on an iPad than a PC, Graphic is great to have handy when you’re on the move. Smartly, the app boasts plentiful export functions, to continue your work elsewhere, and will sync with its iPhone and Mac cousins across iCloud.
Depending on your age and media preferences, Molecules by Theodore Gray might appear to be the future of books, a modern take on a CD-ROM, or something that’s escaped from a Harry Potter movie. At its core, it is, of course, a textbook. But this is a textbook that begs to be explored, primarily due to dazzling your senses with dozens of animated photographic objects that you can interact with.
This is a trick publisher Touchpress has used before, but it never really gets old. Spinning objects beneath your fingers adds a playful side to a subject that could be considered quite dry; this is further enhanced by videos you can drag to scrub through, and molecule simulations.
The simulations are perhaps the smartest aspect of the app, not because they’re the most visually exciting, but because of what they represent. In dragging their component parts around and seeing how molecules react to changes in temperature, you’re suddenly very aware these aren’t static building blocks, but are always alive and in motion.
A printed tome can only hint at such things, but this digital volume brings a level of intrigue and immersion paper simply cannot match – making it well worth the higher cost.
One of the curious things about the iPad is the absence of major Adobe apps from the App Store. The creative giant instead seems content with smaller, simpler ‘satellite’ apps, assuming users will continue to rely on the desktop for in-depth work. Pixelmator thumbs its nose to such thinking, reworking the majority of its desktop cousin (itself a kind of streamlined Photoshop) for the iPad.
Given the low price tag, this is an astonishingly powerful app, offering brushes, layers, gorgeous filters, levels editing, and more. You need to invest some time to get the most out of Pixelmator, but do so and the app will forever weld itself to your Home screen.
There are loads of sketching tools for iPad, but it feels like Procreate is the one really forging ahead, bringing artists a well-balanced mix of power and accessibility.
If you want to keep things simple, Procreate gets out of your way. The toolbar doesn’t distract, and the only on-screen controls are handy sliders for brush size and opacity; but even these can all be auto-hidden after a user-defined period, leaving the entire screen to display your masterpiece.
Whether drawing with a finger or a stylus, Procreate proves responsive and feels surprisingly tactile. The tool selection is straightforward but offers real depth, not least in how you can really delve into brushes and mess about with their characteristics.
But the app has also taken to heart the fact it’s running on a touchscreen. To straighten a stroke, you simply hold its end point for a second. Undo and redo are merely a two – or three – finger tap away. And the strength of layer effects is determined by swiping across the canvas, in a pleasing and precise manner.
If you’re the kind of person who watches a plane fly overhead and wonders which airline it is, where it’s going, and where it’s been, you should download Plane Finder immediately. On launch, the app figures out where you are, loads a map, and gets to work showing planes zooming about the place.
If you live near an airport, this will evoke a combination of excitement and terror once you realise just how many steel tubes with wings are being hurled across the sky.
Plane Finder absolutely revels in this plane-based geekery. An augmented reality mode has you wave your iPad in front of your face to track the positions of planes in 3D. (Go outside for best effect — it’s a bit weird having plane info splattered across office walls.) There’s a time-travel mode, so you can watch a previous day’s flights in fast-forward, and filters and alerts help you drill down into any specifics you happen to be interested in.
There’s even a practical edge to the app, with arrivals and departures boards when you tap on an airport, although we will admit in that case it’s probably a bit quicker to just visit the relevant website.
There are plenty of apps that provide the means to turn photos into messages and poster-style artwork. Elsewhere in this list we mention the excellent Retype, for example. But if you hanker after more control, Fontmania is a good bet.
This isn’t the most complex or feature-rich app of its kind, but it is extremely pleasing to use. On selecting your photo, you can add a filter. Then it’s down to business with typography. The ‘Art’ section houses frames, dividers, shapes and pre-made ‘artworks’. The ‘Text’ section is for typing out whatever you like, and you can choose from a range of fonts.
Really, it’s the interface that makes Fontmania. The simple sidebar is clear and non-intrusive, providing quick access to tools like Color and Shadow. All items added to the canvas can be manipulated using standard iOS gestures, avoiding the awkwardness sometimes seen within this sort of app.
Perhaps best of all, though, Fontmania is a pay-once product. Download and you get access to everything, rather than suddenly discovering a drop shadow or extra font will require digging into your wallet again.
iPad video editors tend to have a bunch of effects and filters lurking within, but with VideoGrade you can go full-on Hollywood. On launch, the app helpfully rifles through your albums, making it easy to find your videos. Load one and you get access to a whopping 13 colour-grading and repair tools.
Despite the evident power VideoGrade offers, the interface is remarkably straightforward. Select a tool (such as Vibrance, Brightness or Tint), choose a setting, and drag to make a change. Drag up before moving your finger left or right to make subtler adjustments.
Smartly, any tool already used gets a little green dash beneath, and you can go back and change or remove edits at any point.
All filters are applied live to the currently shown frame, and you can also tap a button to view a preview of how your entire exported video will look. Want to compare your edit with the original video? Horizontal and vertical split-views are available at the tap of a button. Usefully, favorite filter combinations can be stored and reused, and videos can be queued rather than laboriously rendered individually.
A lot of modern camera apps do much the same thing, presenting a seemingly endless array of filters but locking them into categories with names you can’t hope to remember. The net result is people find a few they like and ignore the rest. infltr tries something a bit different, brutally simplifying and largely randomising the entire process.
On selecting an image from your camera roll (annoyingly, this must be a local image – shared iCloud albums aren’t supported), you tap the filter button and then drag your finger about. With every movement, the app cycles through its reported seven million different filters. If that still feels like too much work, double-tap to instantly apply a random filter.
This loss of control feels a bit weird at first, and there’s no way to save favorite filters, but then that kind of feature would miss the point. infltr is about letting go, enjoying watching a photo change as you drag across the glass display. That it also works with Live Photos, panoramas and the camera adds further value to an initially seemingly throwaway but actually rather lovely app.
Freed from the confines of pesky reality and plastic, building blocks have become hugely popular in the digital realm. Tayasui Blocks isn’t Minecraft, but does have some of that giant’s elegance and social smarts.
Straightforward tools enable you to add and colour blocks and layers. Blocks almost stomp into place, emitting a pleasingly chunky sound effect; and if you find quietly deleting errors dull, you can lob a bomb or shuriken at errant cubes.
Tayasui Blocks is gesture-aware. You can zoom, move and spin your creation, making it simple to add blocks to any surface. And the aforementioned social aspect works very well, offering downloads of existing models and uploads of your own. (Wisely, the app knows if you make very minor alterations to someone else’s design and blocks attempts at sharing.)
During testing, we found the odd bit of lag with very large, complex builds (a blocky Death Star even made an iPad Air 2 stutter), and optional stickers (mouths, eyes, and the like) seem broadly pointless. Otherwise, this is a first-rate, elegant and simple building-block toy for your tablet.
Korg Gadget bills itself as the “ultimate mobile synth collection on your iPad” and it’s hard to argue. You get well over a dozen varied synths, ranging from drum machines through to ear-splitting electro monsters, and an intuitive piano roll for laying down notes.
A scene/loop arranger enables you to craft entire compositions in the app, which can then be shared via the Soundcloud-powered GadgetCloud or sent to Dropbox. This is a more expensive app than most, but if you’re a keen electronic-music-oriented songwriter with an iPad, it’s hard to find a product that’s better value.
There are quite a few apps for virtual stargazing, but Sky Guide is the best of them on iPad. Like its rivals, the app allows you to search the heavens in real-time, providing details of constellations and satellites in your field of view (or, if you fancy, on the other side of the world).
Indoors, it transforms into a kind of reference guide, offering further insight into distant heavenly bodies, and the means to view the sky at different points in history. What sets Sky Guide apart, though, is an effortless elegance. It’s simply the nicest app of its kind to use, with a polish and refinement that cements its essential nature.
Every now and again, you get an app that ticks all the boxes: it’s beautiful, audacious, productive, and nudges the platform forwards. This perfectly sums up Coda, a full-fledged website editor for iPad.
The app’s graphic design borrows from the similarly impressive Transmit for iOS, all muted greys and vibrant icons. It’s a style we wish Apple would steal. When it comes to editing, you can work remotely or pull down files locally; in either case, you end up working in a coding view with the clout you’d expect from a desktop product, rather than something on mobile.
Naturally, Coda is a fairly niche tool, but it’s essential for anyone who regularly edits websites and wants the ability to do so when away from the office.
Mind-mapping is one of those things that’s usually associated with dull business things, much like huge whiteboards and the kind of lengthy meetings that make you hope the ground will swallow you up. But really they’re perfect whenever you want to get thoughts out of your head and then organise them.
On paper, this process can be quite messy, and so MindNode is a boon. You can quickly and easily add and edit nodes, your iPad automatically positioning them neatly. Photos, stickers and notes can add further context, and your finished document can be shared publicly or privately using a number of services.
When you’re told you can control the forces of nature with your fingertips that probably puts you more in mind of a game than a book. And, in a sense, Earth Primer does gamify learning about our planet. You get a series of engaging and interactive explanatory pages, and a free-for-all sandbox that cleverly only unlocks its full riches when you’ve read the rest of the book.
Although ultimately designed for children, it’s a treat for all ages, likely to plaster a grin across the face of anyone from 9 to 90 when a volcano erupts from their fingertips.
For most guitarists, sound is the most important thing of all. It’s all very well having a massive rig of pedals and amps, but only if what you get out of it blows away anyone who’s listening. For our money, BIAS FX is definitely the best-sounding guitar amp and effects processor on the iPad, with a rich and engaging collection of gear.
Fortunately, given the price-tag, BIAS FX doesn’t skimp on set-up opportunities either. A splitter enables complex dual-signal paths; and sharing functionality enables you to upload your creations and check out what others have done with the app.
With visible pixels essentially eradicated from modern mobile device screens, it’s amusing to see pixel art stubbornly refusing to go away. Chunky pixels are, though, a very pleasing aesthetic, perhaps in part because you know effort and thought has gone into the placement of every single dot. For our money, Pixaki is the only app worth considering for iPad-related pixel art.
It’s simple and elegant, with straightforward tools, an extremely responsive canvas, global and document-specific palettes, and multiple brush sizes. Extra points, too, for the opacity slider’s handle being a Pac-Man ghost.
Although Apple’s Inter-App Audio, baked deep into iOS, has gained traction, it’s Audiobus that leads in terms of app compatibility. The audio-routing system enjoys support from over 600 products, covering a huge range of DAWs, synths and guitar apps. With the multi-routing IAP ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99), you can create complex chained effects and other sophisticated set-ups.
And if you’ve multiple iOS devices, Audiobus Remote (also $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99) provides a second screen for your session, simplifying recording, sample triggering, preset selection, and more.
You might argue that Google Maps is far better suited to a smartphone, but we reckon the king of mapping apps deserves a place on your iPad, too. Apple’s own Maps app has improved, but Google still outsmarts its rival when it comes to public transport, finding local businesses, saving chunks of maps offline, and virtual tourism by way of Street View.
Google’s ‘OS within an OS’ also affords a certain amount of cross-device sync when it comes to searches. We don’t, however, recommend you strap your cellular iPad to your steering wheel and use Google Maps as a sat-nav replacement, unless you want to come across as some kind of nutcase.
Adult colouring books are all the rage, proponents claiming bringing colour to intricate abstract shapes helps reduce stress – at least until you realise you’ve got pen on your shirt and ground oil pastels into the sofa.
You’d think the process of colouring would be ideal for iPad, but most relevant apps are awful, some even forcing tap-to-fill. That is to colouring what using a motorbike is to running a marathon – a big cheat. Pigment is an exception, marrying a love for colouring with serious digital smarts.
On selecting an illustration, there’s a range of palettes and tools to explore. You can use pencils and markers, adjusting opacity and brush sizes, and work with subtle gradients. Colouring can be ‘freestyle’, or you can tap to select an area and ensure you don’t go over the lines while furiously scribbling. With a finger, Pigment works well, but it’s better with a stylus; with an iPad Pro and a Pencil, you’ll lob your real books in the bin.
The one niggle: printing and accessing the larger library requires a subscription in-app purchase. It’s a pity there’s no one-off payment for individual books, but you do get plenty of free illustrations, and so it’s hard to grumble.
We’re not sure whether Slack is an amazing aid to productivity or some kind of time vampire. Probably a bit of both. What we do know is that the real-time messaging system is excellent in a work environment for chatting with colleagues (publicly and privately), sharing and previewing files, and organising discussions by topic.
There’s smart integration with online services, and support for both the iPad Pro and the iPad’s Split View function. Note that although Slack is clearly designed with businesses in mind, it also works perfectly well as a means of communicating with friends if you don’t fancy lobbing all your worldly wisdom into Facebook’s maw.
Podcasts are mostly associated with small portable devices – after all, the very name is a mash-up of ‘iPod’ and ‘broadcast’. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore your favourite shows when armed with an iPad rather than an iPhone.
We’re big fans of Overcast on Apple’s smaller devices, but the app makes good use of the iPad’s extra screen space, with a smart two-column display. On the left, episodes are listed, and the current podcast loads into the larger space on the right.
The big plusses with Overcast, though, remain playback and podcast management. It’s the one podcast app we’ve used that retains plenty of clarity when playback is sped up; and there are clever effects for removing dead air and boosting vocals in podcasts with lower production values.
Playlists can be straightforward in nature, or quite intricate, automatically boosting favourites to the top of the list, and excluding specific episodes. And if you do mostly use an iPhone for listening, Overcast automatically syncs your podcasts and progress, so you can always pick up where you left off.
We’re big fans of Duolingo on iPhone. Its bite-size exercises are perfect for quickly dipping into, when you’ve a spare moment to tackle a bit of language-learning. On iPad, the app is basically the same, and the screen’s relative acres make everything feel a touch sparse.
However, Duolingo remains the same impressive and approachable app, and the iPad’s form-factor lends itself to more extended sessions, which is great for when you want to properly crack the next challenge the app throws your way. As ever, we remain baffled that this app remains entirely free. We’ve yet to find the catch.
Learning a musical instrument isn’t easy, which is probably why a bunch of people don’t bother, instead pretending to be rock stars by way of tiny plastic instruments and their parent videogames. Yousician bridges the divide, flipping a kind of Guitar Hero interface 90 degrees and using its visual and timing devices to get you playing chords and notes.
This proves remarkably effective, and your iPad merrily keeps track of your skills (or lack thereof) through its internal mic. The difficulty curve is slight, but the app enables you to skip ahead if you’re bored, through periodic ‘test’ rounds. Most surprisingly, for free you get access to everything, only your daily lesson time is limited.
Maybe it’s just our tech-addled brains, but often we find it a lot easier to focus on an app than a book, which can make learning things the old fashioned way tricky. That’s where Khan Academy comes in. This free app contains lessons and guidance on dozens of subjects, from algebra, to cosmology, to computer science and beyond.
As it’s an app rather than a book it benefits from videos and even a few interactive elements, alongside words and pictures and it contains over 10,000 videos and explanations in all. Everything is broken in to bite-sized chunks, so whether you’ve got a few minutes to spare or a whole afternoon there’s always time to learn something new and if you make an account it will keep track of your progress and award achievements.
As you launch Kitchen Stories, you catch a glimpse of the app’s mantra: “Anyone can cook”. The problem is, most cooking apps (and indeed, traditional cookery books) make assumptions regarding people’s abilities.
Faced with a list of steps on a stark white page, it’s easy to get halfway through a recipe, look at the stodge in front of you, reason something must have gone terribly wrong, and order a takeaway.
Kitchen Stories offers firmer footing. You’re first met with a wall of gorgeous photography. More importantly, the photographs don’t stop.
Every step in a recipe is accompanied by a picture that shows how things should be at that point. Additionally, some recipes provide tutorial videos for potentially tricky skills and techniques. Fancy some Vietnamese pho, but not sure how to peel ginger, prepare a chilli or thinly slice meat? Kitchen Stories has you covered.
Beyond this, there’s a shopping list, handy essentials guide, and some magazine-style articles to peruse. And while you don’t get the sheer range of recipes found in some rival apps, the presentation more than makes up for that — especially on the iPad, which will likely find a new home in your own kitchen soon after Kitchen Stories is installed.
On opening Toca Nature, you find yourself staring at a slab of land floating in the void. After selecting relevant icons, a drag of a finger is all it takes to raise mountains or dig deep gullies for rivers and lakes.
Finishing touches to your tiny landscape can then be made by tapping to plant trees. Wait for a bit and a little ecosystem takes shape, deers darting about glades, and fish swimming in the water. Using the magnifying glass, you can zoom into and explore this little world and feed its various inhabitants.
Although designed primarily for kids, Toca Nature is a genuinely enjoyable experience whatever your age.
The one big negative is that it starts from scratch every time — some save states would be nice, so each family member could have their own space to tend to and explore. Still, blank canvases keep everything fresh, and building a tiny nature reserve never really gets old.
The fairly large screen of the iPad means you can access desktop-style websites, rather than ones hacked down for iPhone. That sounds great until you realise most of them want to fire adverts into your face until you beg for mercy.
Old people will wisely suggest ‘RSS’, and then they’ll explain that means you can subscribe to sites and get their content piped into an app.
Reeder 3 is a great RSS reader for iPad. It’s fast, efficient, caches content for offline use and — importantly — bundles a Readability view. This downloads entire articles for RSS feeds that otherwise would only show synopses.
Like on the iPhone, Reeder’s perhaps a bit gesture-happy, but it somehow feels more usable on the iPad’s larger display. And we’re happy to see the app continue to improve its feature set, including Split View and iPad Pro support, font options for the article viewer, and the means to sync across Instapaper content.
It says something about the flexibility of LumaFX that we initially thought it broken during review. It wasn’t — we’d in fact accidentally applied so many effects to a video that it ended up looking like a nightmarish Eastern European animation from 1977. We weren’t counting on a video app enabling rapid layering of advanced effects just by blithely tapping away, you see.
But that’s LumaFX in a nutshell — it makes mucking around with videos almost laughably simple. You can crop and fit videos in various ways, reorient those that are the wrong way round, change their speeds, adjust colours, and fiddle about with that effects catalogue. There are vignettes, blurs, and weird pixelation effects, all of which render almost absurdly quickly. It’s all rather brilliant.
Given the sheer photo-editing power available for nothing in Google’s excellent Snapseed, paid apps in this space need to be something special.
Enlight covers all the basics, much as you’d expect, with a range of tools for cropping, making adjustments, adding filters, and so on. Where it excels is in shooting for a more artistic and professional approach.
From an art standpoint, you get a bunch of painterly and classic film filters that really look the part. When it comes to professional retouching, you can process up to 50MP images on an iPad Pro, work with noise reduction, freeze areas of images when transforming them, and precision-mask any effect.
The first time you try any tool, a tutorial leads you through the process, but on the whole Enlight has the kind of interface that’s easy to click with.
The destructive nature of effects and editing is a pity – you can’t later adjust something you changed a while ago, only undo. But that’s the only niggle in this otherwise excellent photo editor for iPad.
Although Apple introduced iCloud Keychain in iOS 7, designed to securely store passwords and payment information, 1Password is a more powerful system. Along with integrating with Safari, it can be used to hold identities, secure notes, network information and app licence details. It’s also cross-platform, meaning it will work with Windows and Android.
And since 1Password is a standalone app, accessing and editing your information is fast and efficient. The core app is free – the company primarily makes its money on the desktop. However, you’ll need a monthly subscription or to pay a one-off $9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99 IAP to access advanced features (multiple vaults, Apple Watch support, tagging, and custom fields).
The vast majority of iPads in Apple’s line-up don’t have a massive amount of storage, and that becomes a problem when you want to keep videos on the device. Air Video HD gets around the problem by streaming video files from any Mac or PC running the free server software. All content is live-encoded as necessary, ensuring it will play on your iPad, and there’s full support for offline viewing, soft subtitles, and AirPlay to an Apple TV.
Perhaps the best bit about the software is how usable it is. The app’s simple to set up and has a streamlined, modern interface – for example, a single tap downloads a file for local storage. You don’t even need to be on the same network as your server either – Air Video HD lets you access your content over the web. Just watch your data downloads if you’re on 3G!
Although there are more powerful text editors available for iPad (such as Editorial and Ulysses), Byword is where it’s at if you just want a no-nonsense distraction-free writing environment that lets you get on with writing.
The subdued interface and typewriter-style font feel resolutely old-school, but there are nods to modern working by way of Markdown support (assisted by a custom keyboard row) and live word/character count. For anyone publishing to the web, the app also provides integration with the likes of WordPress and Tumblr.
Drum machines are always a lot of fun, but many of those available for iOS are rather throwaway, their options exhausted within minutes. DM1 is pretty much the exact opposite, packed with a huge number of drum kits, a step sequencer, a song composer and a mixer.
The bundled sounds are extremely varied, ranging from acoustic kits to thoroughly modern ear-monstering electronic samples. And the option to switch between live play (by way of bashing pads) and step-writing is welcome. Inter-App audio, Audiobus and MIDI support also ensure what you create doesn’t end up in a percussion-rich silo.
Dropbox is a great service for syncing documents across multiple devices, and chances are you’re familiar with it already. On the iPad, we used to consider Dropbox essential as a kind of surrogate file system.
Even now that Apple’s provided easier access to iCloud Drive, Dropbox remains a useful install, largely on the basis of its widespread support (both in terms of platforms and also iOS apps). The Dropbox app itself works nicely, too, able to preview a large number of file types, and integrating well with iOS for sending documents to and from the various apps you have installed.
Although you get the sense eBay’s designers can’t get through a month without redesigning their app, it’s always far superior to using the online auction site in a browser.
eBay for iOS works especially well on an iPad, with images looking great on the larger screen, and browsing proving fast and efficient. Speedy sorting and filtering options also make it a cinch to get to listings for whatever it is you fancy buying.
In a sense Evernote is an online back-up for fleeting thoughts and ideas. You use it to save whatever comes to mind – text documents and snippets, notes, images, web clips, and even audio. These can then be accessed from a huge number of devices. (We suspect any day now, Evernote will unveil its ZX Spectrum app.)
The app itself could be friendlier, and there’s a tendency towards clutter. But navigation of your stored bits and pieces is simple enough, and the sheer ubiquity and reliability of Evernote makes it worthy of investigation and a place on your home screen.
Apple’s own Calendar app is fiddly and irritating, and so the existence of Fantastical is very welcome. In a single screen, you get a week view, a month calendar and a scrolling list of events. There’s also support for reminders, and all data syncs with iCloud, making Fantastical compatible with Calendar (formerly iCal) for macOS.
The best bit, though, is Fantastical’s natural-language input, where you can type an event and watch it build as you add details, such as times and locations. On iPad, we do question the layout a little – a large amount of space is given over to a month calendar view. Still, in portrait or, better, Split View, Fantastical 2 is transformative.
GoodReader is the iPad’s best PDF reader, and also a means of editing documents on the move. Using the app’s excellent toolset, you can annotate documents and extract text. Pages within documents can be rearranged, and files split and combined.
Beyond working specifically with PDF, the app will preview many other file types, and includes the ability to archive and extract ZIPs, and connect to a wide range of online services. It therefore goes far beyond the likes of iBooks, becoming a handy tool for anyone who regularly works with PDFs and sends them on elsewhere.
You’re not going to make the next Hollywood hit on your iPad, but iMovie‘s more than capable of dealing with home movies. The interface resembles its desktop cousin and is easy to get to grips with. Clips can be browsed, arranged and cut, and you can then add titles, transitions and music. For the added professional touch, there are ‘trailer templates’ to base your movie on, rather than starting from scratch.
And should your iPad be powerful enough, this app will happily work with and export footage all the way up to 4K, which will likely make anyone who used to sit in front of huge video workstations a decade or two ago wide-eyed with astonishment.
There’s something fascinating about animation, and iStopMotion is a powerful and usable app for unleashing your inner Aardman, enabling you to create frame-by-frame stories. The camera overlay makes it easy to check your current scene against the previous one, and you can preview your work at any time.
There’s also time-lapse functionality built-in, and the means to use the free iStopMotion Remote Camera with an iPhone on the same network.
If you’re still convinced the iPad is only a device for staring brain-dead at TV shows and not a practical tool for education, check out iTunes U. The app enables you to access many thousands of free lectures and courses taught by universities and colleges, thereby learning far more than what bizarre schemes current soap characters are hatching.
For instructors, it’s similarly a boon, enabling them to build lessons, collect and grade assignments, and have one-to-one or group discussions. It’s also an app that gels well with Apple’s modern design sensibilities, the interface getting out of the way and letting content shine through.
Touch Press somewhat cornered the market in amazing iOS books with The Elements, but Journeys of Invention takes things a step further. In partnership with the Science Museum, it leads you through many of science’s greatest discoveries, weaving them into a compelling mesh of stories.
Many objects can be explored in detail, and some are more fully interactive, such as the Enigma machine, which you can use to share coded messages with friends.
What’s especially great is that none of this feels gimmicky. Instead, this app points towards the future of books, strong content being married to useful and engaging interactivity.
The idea behind Launch Center Pro is to take certain complex actions and turn them into tappable items — a kind of speed-dial for tasks such as adding items to Clear, opening a URL in 1Password, or opening a specific view in Google Maps. Although the list of supported apps isn’t huge, it’s full of popular productivity apps; and should you use any of them on a regular basis, Launch Center Pro will be a massive time-saver and is well worth the outlay.
It’s not like Microsoft Word really needs introduction. Unless you’ve been living under a rock that itself is under a pretty sizeable rock, you’ll have heard of Microsoft’s hugely popular word processor. What you might not realize, though, is how good it is on iPad.
Fire up the app and you’re greeted with a selection of handy templates, although you can of course instead use a blank canvas. You then work with something approximating the desktop version of Word, but that’s been carefully optimized for tablets. Your brain keeps arguing it shouldn’t exist, but it does — although things are a bit fiddly on an iPad mini.
Wisely, saved documents can be stored locally rather than you being forced to use Microsoft’s cloud, and they can be shared via email. (A PDF option exists for recipients without Office, although it’s oddly hidden behind the share button in the document toolbar, under ‘Send Attachment’, which may as well have been called ‘beware of the leopard’.)
Something else that’s also missing: full iPad Pro 12.9 support in the free version. On a smaller iPad, you merely need a Microsoft account to gain access to most features. Some advanced stuff — section breaks; columns; tracking changes; insertion of WordArt — requires an Office 365 account, but that won’t limit most users.
Presumably, Microsoft thinks iPad Pro owners have money to burn, though, because for free they just get a viewer. Bah.
There are loads of note-taking apps for the iPad, but Notability hits that sweet spot of being usable and feature-rich. Using the app’s various tools, you can scribble on a virtual canvas, using your finger or a stylus. Should you want precision copy, you can drag out text boxes to type into. It’s also possible to import documents.
One of the smartest features, though, is audio recording. This enables you to record a lecture or meeting, and the app will later play back your notes live alongside the audio, helping you see everything in context. Naturally, the app has plenty of back-up and export options, too, so you can send whatever you create to other apps and devices.
We mention Microsoft’s iPad efforts elsewhere, but if you don’t fancy paying for a subscription and yet need some spreadsheet-editing joy on your iPad, Numbers is an excellent alternative. Specially optimised for Apple’s tablet, Numbers makes great use of custom keyboards, smart zooming, and forms that enable you to rapidly enter data. Presentation app Keynote and page-layout app Pages are also worth a look.
For a long while, Paper was a freemium iPad take on Moleskine sketchbooks. You made little doodles and then flipped virtual pages to browse them. At some point, it went free, but now it’s been transformed into something different and better. The original tools remain present and correct, but are joined by the means to add text, checklists, and photos. One other newcomer allows geometric shapes you scribble to be tidied up, but without losing their character.
So rather than only being for digital sketches, Paper’s now for all kinds of notes and graphs, too. The sketchbooks, however, are gone; in their place are paper stacks that explode into walls of virtual sticky notes. Some old-hands have grumbled, but we love the new Paper. It’s smarter, simpler, easier to browse, and makes Apple’s own Notes look like a cheap knock-off.
PCalc Lite‘s existence means the lack of a built-in iPad calculator doesn’t bother us. For anyone who wants a traditional calculator, it’s pretty much ideal. The big buttons beg to be tapped, and the interface can be tweaked to your liking, by way of bolder and larger key text, alternate display digits, and stilling animation.
Beyond basic sums, PCalc Lite adds some conversions, which are categorised but also searchable. If you’re hankering for more, IAP lets you bolt on a number of extras from the paid version of PCalc, such as additional themes, dozens more conversions, alternate calculator layouts, a virtual paper tape, and options for programmers and power users.
Whereas most digital comic stores deluge you with content, Sequential has a slightly different take on the medium. It feels rather more upmarket, serious and considered, concentrating on interesting and often more thoughtful graphic novels, rather than individual issues of throwaway superhero fare.
That probably all comes across like Sequential is a bit ‘worthy’. But in reality it just means that whatever you spend your money on is likely to be of a high quality. The app itself is, fortunately, decent too, offering a strong reading experience for whatever’s in your collection.
We tend to quickly shift children from finger-painting to using much finer tools, but the iPad shows there’s plenty of power in your digits — if you’re using the right app. Autodesk SketchBook provides all the tools you need for digital sketching, from basic doodles through to intricate and painterly masterpieces; and if you’re wanting to share your technique, you can even time-lapse record to save drawing sessions to your camera roll. The core app is free, but it will cost you $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99 to unlock the pro features.
In theory, we should be cheerleading for FaceTime, what with it being built into iOS devices, but it’s still an Apple-only system. Skype, however, is enjoyed by myriad users who haven’t been bitten by the Apple bug, and it works very nicely on the iPad, including over 3G.
Unlike on the iPhone, where Skype clearly wants to be a Windows Phone app, the iPad version feels a lot more like a restrained desktop app. Usefully, Skype works well in Split View, too, so you can message people while referring to an open document or web page.
Apple’s Photos app has editing capabilities, but they’re not terribly exciting — especially when compared to Snapseed. Here, you select from a number of tools and filters, and proceed to pinch and swipe your way to a transformed image. You get all the basics — cropping, rotation, healing brushes, and the like – but the filters are where you can get really creative.
There are blurs, photographic effects, and more extreme options like ‘grunge’ and ‘grainy film’, which can add plenty of atmosphere to your photographs. The vast majority of effects are tweakable, mostly by dragging up and down on the canvas to select a parameter and then horizontally to adjust its strength.
Brilliantly, the app also records applied effects as separate layers, each of which remains fully editable until you decide to save your image and work on something else.
Soulver is more or less the love child of a spreadsheet and the kind of calculations you do on the back of an envelope. You write figures in context, and Souvler extracts the maths bits and tots up totals; each line’s results can be used as a token in subsequent lines, enabling live updating of complex calculations. Drafts can be saved, exported to HTML, and also synced via Dropbox or iCloud.
Initially, the app feels a bit alien, given that people have been used to digital versions of desktop calculators since the dawn of home computing. But scribbling down sums in Soulver soon becomes second nature.
TED describes itself as “riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world”. The app pretty much does as you’d expect – you get quick access to dozens of inspiring videos. However, it goes the extra mile in enabling you to save any talk for offline viewing, and also for providing hints on what to watch next if you’ve enjoyed a particular talk.
Traktor DJ wisely dispenses with skeuomorphic representations of deck-spinning; instead of virtual vinyl on your iPad, you get waveforms, providing visual cues regarding what you’re playing. The app is efficient and simple to use, enabling you to define cue points and loops, along with dropping in effects; helpfully, Traktor DJ also attempts to tempo-match songs from your iPad library. It’s a very different approach to iPad DJing, but one that works wonderfully.
When the YouTube app presumably became a victim of the ongoing and increasingly tedious Apple/Google spat, there were concerns Google wouldn’t respond. Those turned out to be unfounded, because here’s yet another bespoke, nicely designed Google-created app for iOS. The interface is specifically tuned for the iPad, and AirPlay enables you to fire videos at an Apple TV.
We’re big fans of the Foldify apps, which enable people to fashion and customise little 3D characters on an iPad, before printing them out and making them for real. This mix of digital painting, sharing (models can be browsed, uploaded and rated) and crafting a physical object is exciting in a world where people spend so much time glued to virtual content on screens.
But it’s Foldify Dinosaurs that makes this list because, well, dinosaurs. Who wouldn’t be thrilled at the prospect of making a magenta T-Rex with a natty moustache? Should that person exist, we don’t want to meet them.
When someone talks about bringing back the sounds of the 1980s, your head might fill with Human League and Depeche Mode, but if you played games, you’ll instead think of Rob Hubbard and Martin Galway, chip-tune pioneers whose music graced the C64, leveraging the power of the MOS Technology 6581/8580 SID (Sound Interface Device) chip.
SidTracker64 is a niche but wonderfully designed iPad app that’s a complete production package for creating SID tunes. It’s unashamedly retro in terms of sound, but boasts a modern design, with powerful editing and export functionality. If you’re only into raw chip-tune noises, Audiobus and Inter-App Audio are supported; but if you’re an old-hand, you’ll be delighted at the bundled copy of Hubbard’s Commando, ready for you to remix.
After two weeks circling opponents, sword held stiffly above my head, waiting for an opening, I think it’s time to slap an official score on For Honor. It’s not the score I wanted to give, and it’s not even a score I’m confident will apply long-term—Ubisoft has leaned heavily on games-as-a-service the past few years, with numerous instances of a stuttering launch experience turning around to an unabashed success. Looking at you, Rainbow Six Siege.
Maybe For Honor will find itself added to that list someday. It has the potential—there’s an excellent core concept here. But oh, there’s also so much reason to be disappointed. Worst of all? There’s no reason for it. Reverse a few key choices and this all could have been averted.
I’ve come full-circle on For Honor’s combat. I once found it underwhelming, especially in the context of Chivalry, War of the Roses, and other medieval sword-and-board games. For Honor’s rock-paper-scissors style fighting, wherein you pick one of three stances and try to either trick your opponent (to attack) or match your opponent (to defend), felt a bit too stripped-down.
It’s only after spending substantial time with the game that it clicks. Yes, you have fewer options than in something like Chivalry. But the result is a cleaner and more precise game, one in which high-level play comes from out-thinking your opponent and where fights have actual heft instead of feeling like two headless chickens flailing with pool noodles.
For Honor’s combat shines best in its 1v1 mode, where its duels are given room to breathe. No second parties butting in to ruin the fun. Here, it’s just you and a stranger trying to feint, counter-feint, and land the killing blow, both of you testing the depths of For Honor’s systems and finding that even with its limited palette there are nigh-infinite ways for a fight to play out.
The other modes are pretty good too, if less pure. Elimination pits teams of four against each other, which can lead to some interesting moments for the especially-talented—seemingly-impossible 2-vs-1 brawls where the underdog manages to block, parry, block, parry, and somehow come out on top. And Dominion, the point-capture mode bolstered by dozens of dumb AI soldiers (a la Titanfall), is full of Hollywood moments, two titans locking eyes across a sea of lesser combatants, then wading through the detritus of battle to face off.
So what’s the problem? In short: Literally everything else.
We held off publishing a scored review last week because I felt like I hadn’t spent enough time in the game’s multiplayer modes. That was a good call, it turns out, because For Honor’s multiplayer is simply busted.
Yeah, playing the game is great—when you can actually play. But in my entire week with For Honor, I think I’ve had maybe ten matches proceed start-to-finish without a hitch.
I’ve had the game tell me I’ve “joined” a match only to make me sit at a lobby screen for three minutes as the game finished up—and then the connection was lost, kicking me back to menu. I’ve constantly found myself placed into games that are 95 percent done, on the losing team. I’ve been plagued with random slowdowns and stuttering. I’ve had it try to matchmake me into a game, only to tell me “Oops, that game is actually full” as if it were my fault.
And I’ve grown to loathe the words “Recovering network connection. Please Wait.” It’s a near-constant presence thanks to For Honor’s peer-to-peer connections. Every time the host drops (which is seemingly every ten seconds) the match has to migrate to a new host while everyone sits and waits. Yes, even if you’re mid-killing blow.
It’s ridiculous, for a game of For Honor’s size and with the backing of Ubisoft behind it. I feel like I’m back in 2004, trying to play Halo 2 in the early days of Xbox Live or something. I haven’t seen a game with this many P2P issues in years.
So sure, For Honor’s P2P isn’t wholly broken. Ubisoft put out a whole blog post about the structure of its P2P system and why it negates host advantage—basically, all the PCs in a session simulate a server. Cool stuff. But host advantage isn’t the only reason P2P’s largely been abandoned. There are myriad other issues with running a multiplayer game in that manner, all of which plague For Honor and suck the joy out of what’s an otherwise-interesting game.
Then there are the microtransactions.
I don’t so much mind the cosmetic stuff. That’s par for the course these days, and while I could rant about “A Better Time” circa 1999 when it wasn’t par for the course there just doesn’t seem to be much point. And so while For Honor has plenty of unlockable symbols, helmet adornments, color schemes, and all sorts of stuff with which to outfit your soldier, it’s ignorable.
I also find it hard to care about earning in-game currency to unlock customization options for the game’s full roster of 12 classes. Not only are the characters playable (in stock form) from the start, one run through the game’s campaign netted me enough to “unlock” every character with currency to spare, so it’s not like Ubisoft’s put that out of reach. I’d wager it’s easier to snag the full For Honor roster than Rainbow Six Siege, a game I like a hell of a lot more.
The gear system, though. Layered on top of For Honor’s cosmetic items is an overly-complicated gear system, with each piece you equip buffing certain stats and draining others. Not only does it seem entirely unnecessary—the game would certainly be better if it were based on raw skill and had nothing to do with numbers—but its inclusion seems predicated on microtransactions.
Some amount of gear is salvaged each match, and you can also buy chests of the stuff with your in-game currency instead of wasting it on cosmetics. But you can also pay real money for the privilege of scouting out gear, which then has a direct effect on your ability to play For Honor. Add to the fact that gear is class-specific, and you could be looking at a hefty time-sink or money-sink.
It’s annoying, at best. I thought we’d already agreed: Skill-based items should not be paid for in full-price games. Cosmetics? Fine. Skill items? No. That’s been the standard for years, so why Ubisoft thought this would be a good time to revive the practice? I have no idea.
To be fair, it’s hard to say For Honor is 100 percent pay-to-win. A skilled player could still dismantle the defense of someone who sunk cash into the game but hasn’t practiced, so there’s a baseline of competition here. Gear is also tied to your level, so even if you sink money into the game you’ll eventually find better stuff to equip or (cynical viewpoint) have to sink more money into the game.
It looks greedy though, like the legacy of a free-to-play game that was expanded into a full game at some point in time. (See also: Gearbox and Battleborn) And maybe that was the case. Maybe For Honor was once intended to be free-to-play, and then they tacked on a campaign and decided to make it a full package. I don’t know. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth regardless, and detracts from the fighting itself.
That’s a shame because, to reiterate, “the fighting itself” is excellent. For Honor, when everything’s humming along smoothly and the connection is stable and it comes down to you and some other combatant facing off on a moss-covered bridge in faux-Japan? Incredible. Enough so that it’s often worth dealing with all the other garbage layered on top.
I can’t help but imagine how much better For Honor would be without its various missteps and its predatory aspects, though. What we have here is good, but it could’ve easily been great.
I can’t really say the same about the campaign, which clocks in around eight hours long—one Knight chapter, one Viking chapter, one Samurai chapter, each consisting of six missions.
In any case, it’s hard to overstate how dumb For Honor is at its core. In case you’ve missed the setup: There was some sort of earthquake/timequake called “The Cataclysm.” It swallowed up entire portions of Earth from different points in history, brought these pieces to a new dimension or something, and as a result there’s now an eternal battle between Knights and Vikings and Samurai.
It’s Deadliest Warrior, except instead of residing in the realm of the purely hypothetical Ubisoft has tried to lend the idea some semblance of credibility, of respectability. Knights behead their Viking foes, Samurai slice through Vikings, and all the while a sad aria plays in the background, a voice moralizing about war and its place in the human condition. “Ah yes, the Cataclysm” you think, trying not to focus on how silly the entire kid-plays-with-action-figures concept is from the start.
But I’m not even mad. Sure, it’s dumb, but I’m kind of happy Ubisoft leaned into it? The story is a needlessly-serious affair about a Knight named Apollyon—not-so-coincidentally the Greek translation of “Abaddon,” Angel of Death. Apollyon is upset the various factions have lived in relative peace for a while, so sets out to start a three-sided war.
The main failing is that there’s just not much to do. Missions are all some variation of “run in, kill a bunch of enemies.” That’s it, and while the scenes that play at the beginning and end of each mission are spectacular, there’s not much eye-candy within each mission. For Honor’s minute-to-minute action lacks the sort of badass memorable moments you’d expect from, say, a comparable shooter campaign. You just trudge forward and swing your sword a lot.
There are a few exceptions, including a storming-the-beach-at-night section in the Viking campaign that’s stunning. But I’m just not very impressed. Characters are paper thin, the story is even thinner, and it just doesn’t have enough “Wow!” to it. Mostly it just reminds me of playing Ryse, another perfectly-competent-but-also-so-very-boring hack and slash game.
The best thing I can say about the campaign here is it will prepare you for multiplayer, especially if you go through on the higher difficulties. There’s plenty of opportunity to get familiar with For Honor’s rock-paper-scissors style combat, the full range of character classes, and the myriad complexities particular to each faction (like unique stuns or blocking maneuvers).
Lastly, performance. I’ve already talked about the game’s weird P2P problems, so we can skip that. As far as local performance though, For Honor is solid. On my system (with an Intel Core i7-5820K and a GeForce GTX 980 Ti) I typically see frame rates between 80fps and 100fps, running at 1080p with all the settings maxed out. Aside from some awkward face animations the game looks beautiful, and it supports Nvidia’s Ansel supercharged screenshot technology if you’re using a compatible graphics card. Even with a massive crowd of soldiers battling it out on-screen I haven’t noticed any precipitous frame rate drops. I have noticed a few stutters here and there, seemingly as a result of new areas loading in, but it hasn’t affected any fights.
Not that there aren’t problems. One boss battle late in the second act (the Vikings) caused me to mute all dialogue because the boss repeated the same two barks over and over and over for the entire fight. After dying to him a few times it was either mute the dialogue or break my desk in half listening to him say “You’re a raider! Legendary!” like a broken record.
And the enemy AI could use work. Oh, it’s fine once you’re engaged in battle—not quite up to par with a real human, but they tend to feint and counter and stun-lock you enough to feel like a decent challenge, especially on the harder difficulties.
Outside of battle they might as well be plastic action figures, though. Entire groups will just stand in place waiting for you to approach, even as you shoot their nearby buddies with a ballista. I’ve also found you can easily disengage most enemies by just walking out of their zone, causing them to return to their initial position and ignore you again. It’s very artificial feeling at times.
Don’t write For Honor off though. Sure, the singleplayer’s not great, but I never expected it to be. And sure, the multiplayer has problems. Serious ones.
But damn, when it’s all working it’s so good. This is a really frustrating review because there’s absolutely a diamond somewhere within this game. You catch a glimmer of it maybe once or twice an hour, when a match has that perfect moment and you’re down to a sliver of health, deflecting every blow, and then manage to throw your opponent off a bridge or something. That! That’s For Honor.
It’s also microtransactions though, and “Recovering Network Connection,” and a hundred tiny annoyances that detract from the core conceit.The only honor here is on the battlefield itself.