COD Advanced Warfare

An Amazon UK product page for the recently revealed Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare reveals the game’s box art and tons of new details about the latest entry in the shooter series. The game is in development at Modern Warfare 3 co-developer Sledgehammer Games.

Amazon says Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is coming to Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PC. There’s no mention of Wii U.

Below is a roundup of details about Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, pulled from the Amazon product page. Of note, we’re still waiting on Activision to confirm full details about the game, like specific platform availability. The game launches November 4.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare:

Story:

Academy Award winning actor Kevin Spacey plays Jonathan Irons. He is one of the “most powerful men in the world,” and president of the world’s largest Private Military Corporation — Atlas Corporation.
Takes place in a “plausible future” where technological progress and military practices have “converged with powerful consequences.”
Private Military Corporations have become dominant armed forces.

New player attributes:

Players have exoskeletons that “evolve every aspect of a soldier’s battle readiness.”
Players will have “enhanced player movement and verticality” skills like boost jumps and grappling, as well as cloaking abilities and biomechanics.
This new exoskeleton system “fundamentally” changes the way you’ll play Call of Duty across all game modes, Activision says.

Weapons:

Advanced Warfare will offer a “hi-tech, advanced arsenal and ability set.”
There will be new equipment, technology, perks, and vehicles like hoverbikes and drones.
You can choose between standard ammunition and a new class of “directed-energy weaponry” that is said to enable new gameplay dynamics.

The Best Android Digital Comic Book Apps

Take the Android platform and add digital comic book apps—that’s how you get the best one-two punch since Luke Cage met Danny Rand. There are many digital comic book readers on Google’s mobile platform that can entice comic book fans to tap the download icon, but not all are created equal. Some digital comic book readers feature integrated stores. Others are stand-alone readers that let you enjoy DRM-free comic files. A few others are publisher-exclusive apps for fans of a particular comic book house. In short, there are a variety of ways to read comics on an Android device, and some are better than others.

And that’s exactly what we’ve rounded up here, after countless hours sacrificed to onerous task of reading digital comics: the best. It’s a dirty job…

Unprecedented Accessibility
The basic greatness of digital comic readers is that they let you purchase and read comics from your smartphone or tablet—you no longer need to live near a comic book store to pick up The Mighty Avengers, Sex Criminals, Superman, or other titles. In fact, you never have to get up off your Wi-Fi enabled couch. This is a level of accessibility never before seen in the comic book industry.

The still relatively new digital format is fast finding a home with comic book fans. Digital comic books make up roughly 10 to 12 percent of overall comic book purchases—a share that looks set to keep rising. That translates to a great many people reading comics on electronic devices (although the super fans with deep pockets and obsessions may skew the curve a bit).

Android tablets, naturally, make for easier reading than Android phones thanks to their larger screens. You can check out our top picks in our Best Android Tablets roundup. That said, if you’re set on reading on a smartphone, a large handset like the Samsung Galaxy Note is relatively easy on the eyes. Select Android devices support Comixology’s stunning HD comics.

The Ones to Sample
The five Android digital comic book readers in this roundup are the best of the bunch. We have apps from both the comic industry’s digital powerhouses and less-famous but still high-quality offerings, too. The summaries for each app below only brush the surface of what these apps can do; check out the full reviews for a big picture view of each digital comic book app’s functionality.

Once you’ve got your apps all picked out, make sure to visit our list of ten digital comics you should read right now, which is updated monthly.

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Comics

Free

Android smartphone and tablet-owning comics fans should download the revamped Comics app. A new cart feature adds convenience to the comic-purchasing process, and the panel-to-panel Guided View reading mode is a joy to behold. That said, a few significant back-catalog gaps may drive some fans to visit their local brick-and-mortar comic shop to buy print copies of, for example, Secret Wars II. Still, if you prefer buying the new The Amazing Spider-Man without worrying about mylar bags and backing boards, Comics is the go-to Android digital comic book app.

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Perfect Viewer

Free

Perfect Viewer lacks an integrated store like the Comixology’s Comics app, but it supports numerous comic-friendly file formats, import methods, and reading styles. If you’re a digital comic book enthusiast who doesn’t want to be locked into Comixology’s ecosystem, Perfect Viewer is worth a download.

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ComicRack

$7.49

ComicRack for Android lets comics fans read and manage DRM-free comics with ease, but the lack of solid CBR support may turn off a few potential customers. Still, the wireless sync and SmartList features are sweet bonuses in this relatively pricey app.

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Komik Reader

Free

Komik Reader may not be packed with high-end features like other Android digital comic book readers, but there’s elegance in its simplicity. The app—which supports DRM-free comics—is attractive and very simple to use for both novices and longtime digital comics fans.

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Marvel Unlimited

From $9.99 per month

Comixology’s Comics app may be the face of the digital comics space, but voracious Marvel readers will find Marvel Unlimited (from $9.99) a satisfying alternative. Instead of focusing on individual issue sales as the Editors’ Choice award-winning Comics does, Marvel Unlimited lets users dig through a library of more than 15,000 digital comics. Depending on the subscription tier chosen, the app offers the hardest of the hardcore plenty of geektacular extras, such as exclusive Hasbro action figures.

Samsung UE40H6400

Clean lines, classic Samsung

From a design standpoint, the H6400 is refreshingly conventional. It’s a relatively slim set with characteristic translucent edging and chromed pedestal stand. The panel itself is thin enough but bulges toward the base to accommodate two downward firing stereo speakers.

Ports on the Samsung UE40H6400

Connections will cover most needs. There are four HDMIs, one of which supports ARC, plus legacy Scart/component/composite inputs with stereo phono audio inputs, Ethernet and three USBs. There’s also a digital audio optical output, headphone output and CI slot. A single Freeview HD tuner provides over the air content. Wi-Fi is built-in. Alternatively there’s a Wi-Fi direct mode for non-network wireless connection as well as Screen Mirroring for Android phones.

Features

As you might imagine, this Samsung is well equipped when it comes to connected functionality.

While Samsung’s Smart Hub doesn’t look overly different this year, there have been a number of changes upfront and behind the screen. The set now boasts a Quad core processor. Screen animations can still appear jerky, but the extra processing power provides a relatively nippy ride.

Samsung UE40H6400 Smart TV trending screen

Onscreen the Smart Hub now boasts a Trending window which presents full screen tweets from what appear to be largely random TV shows, as well as a Timeline thumbnail TV guide built upon viewing recommendations. Samsung is also keen to ride the casual gaming bandwagon, offering a dedicated slate of titles.

Football mode own goal

While Samsung has traded extensively on the fact that it offers viewers a full complement of big channel catch-up TV services, at the time of writing neither iPlayer or Demand 5 were available on the H6400 and the company was unable to specify just when they’d land. It’s a certainty they will be added at some point, though.

Time line view Samsung UE40H6400

Also new this year is a revamped Football Mode. In addition to ‘optimised’ picture settings (which are positively hallucinatory), the set can auto record match ‘highlights’ to a USB device, triggered by crowd noise.

Multimedia playback support from USB and networked devices is comprehensive, with a wide selection of file types supported including AVI, MOV, MKV, and WMV; audio compatibility covers WAV, FLAC, MP3 and WMA.

Project Morpheus

When the creator of Oculus Rift told us that he didn’t think consoles were fit for virtual reality, I wondered if he might have a point. But as is the way with VR, seeing is believing, and having taken Morpheus for a spin there’s no longer a doubt in my mind: virtual reality on the PS4 is going to be amazing.

Morpheus is in prototype right now. Sony told us that the final product will probably be quite different in both look and specs, but the current headset looks pretty damn slick nonetheless.

It certainly feels more “finished” than Oculus; not only does the main eyepiece look like a polished product, there’s a dynamic plastic headstrap to boot. Getting it to fit wasn’t too difficult and the headset felt secure enough for the purposes of the demo.

However it does feel like the weight balance needs addressing, and Sony will want to relocate some of those wires that I kept almost chewing on.

Project Morpheus

Morpheus hits the ground running with a 1080p display – some of you will never know the nausea that an SD screen with lag can induce. We asked Sony if its God of Dreams might end up in 4K however it didn’t sound promising. As it is, Morpheus is satisfyingly crisp, but I did notice the occasional jaggedly-rendered object and felt the odd frame rate stutter. It’s the same stuff we’ve seen with Oculus.

Morepheus’s 90-degree field of vision does lose out to Oculus’s 110 degrees but this is hardly noticeable – and likely to change come the final product.

Morpheus

Lost in space

The first game I tried was space simulator Eve: Valkyrie. Already a fan of Strike Suit Zero on the Oculus Rift, I was reasonably prepared for what was about to come.

Hurtling through space, admiring the view of giant ships as you pass under them, dodging your way through asteroid fields – this is exactly the kind of stuff we all dreamed about when we were younger.

Morpheus

And even though I’d experienced space in VR before, there were a couple of barrel rolls that sent my stomach spinning.

It’s clear that some people are more prone to feeling physically affected by VR than others, but the clarity and low latency of Morpheus in its current state mean the risks of nausea are low. I felt ok during my 10 minutes with Eve, but like I said, there were a couple of hairy moments.

Morpheus

Beyond the sea

But as great as space was, it was exploring the ocean depths that really set the pulse racing. The Deep, Sony’s second demo, was a perfect tease at what’s possible when you wed VR and horror.

The game begins with you in a diving cage, floating near the surface of the ocean. What was different about this experience was that I was standing up so the game needed to account for this. Sure enough, when I squatted down I noticed my virtual legs bent at the same time, a feat made possible by the motion tracking.

What if Apple bought Beats not for headphones, but wearables?

Nobody knows why Apple is buying Beats, but many are taking a guess. Business reporters and financial analysts are keen to tell you about all the known pieces of Beats that kind of, sort of, probably add up to a good reason to buy a company. But what if we’re all missing the point? What if Apple isn’t buying Beats for a known quantity, but for a product that hasn’t been announced?

Imagine if tomorrow, Apple announced a smartwatch. Imagine how Beats could help.

Apple’s modus operandi has always been to acquire firms that help it build things. Do you remember SoundJam MP? P.A. Semi? How about C3 Technologies? Probably not, because Apple ground their bones to make its bread. Apple baked their technology and talent into iTunes, the Apple iPhone’s processor, and Apple Maps, respectively. At the time, their ideas were key to a direction Apple wanted to pursue, but their brands were relatively worthless.

Beats is all about the brand

Yet Beats is all about the brand, as headphone enthusiasts and streaming audio fans will gladly tell you. With its copious engineering resources, Apple could build better headphones itself. And while Apple might indeed want to pursue a streaming music service to compete with Spotify, there’s no indication yet that Beats Music might be able to help do so. As my colleague points out, the service appears to have acquired fewer than 200,000 followers so far, compared to Spotify’s millions, and Apple wouldn’t be able to transfer Beats’ music deals to a streaming service of its own.

So what could Apple do with that brand? What everyone seems to be forgetting is that Beats is a fashion company which sells technology that you wear.

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No matter how obvious it might be that wearable computing is the future, and how much brand value Google has, Google Glass was a fashion disaster when the $1,500 prototype went on sale last year. Getting its own spread in Vogue didn’t stem the concern that wearers looked ridiculously geeky and potentially creepy while wearing them around. Glass has also recently become an occasional symbol of economic inequality, something Apple surely wouldn’t want for a new wearable device of its own.

Meanwhile, Beats has spent its entire existence selling expensive, fashionable wearables, ones that are accepted as status symbols without a second thought. Celebrities wear them, and people want them. In Piper Jaffray’s latest “Taking Stock with Teens” survey, 46 percent of teens said Beats was the headphone brand they’d like to purchase next. Only 17 percent said they might like a $350 Apple iWatch.

Iovine’s marketing muscle is undeniable

Under the shrewd eye of music mogul Jimmy Iovine, Beats has demonstrated a remarkable knack for being in the right place at the right time with celebrity deals while the entire world was watching. In 2008, Iovine turned a personal connection with LeBron James and his manager Mav Carter into international publicity when James distributed them to every member of the men’s basketball team at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Just this January, Beats managed to inject its brand into a real-life controversy surrounding football star Richard Sherman, garnering priceless attention. One increasingly popular theory is that Apple is entirely after Iovine’s dealmaking prowess: both he and Dr. Dre will reportedly become Apple executives after all is said and done.

560-apple-ipod-people

Apple doesn’t need to buy cool, but cool isn’t enough

Some have also speculated that Apple is simply buying Beats to replenish its “cool factor.” That might be partially true. Apple products have gotten a little boring, allowing rivals like Samsung to become increasingly popular. It’s easy to look back to when the iPod was dominant, white earbuds everywhere, and say that Apple is trying to recapture that market. But Apple doesn’t need to buy cool, because Apple’s brand isn’t weak. In fact, it’s at the very top of Interbrand’s Best Global Brands list for 2013, with brand value ahead of Google, Coca-Cola, IBM, and Microsoft. White earbuds are also quite alive and well. Walking the downtown streets of San Francisco and the Caltrain commuter rail, I saw one, two, three, four, eight sets of Beats in all. But I also saw 84 sets of Apple earbuds.

Still, you have to remember that consumers didn’t buy those 84 pairs of Apple earbuds: most came free with the purchase of an iPhone or iPod, and many of those iPhones were free on contract or at least an expected biennial purchase. Just because Apple has products in the market now doesn’t mean it can convince people to buy new ones for a premium. That’s where Beats comes in.

Destiny


Bungie has emphasized that the universe of Destiny will be “alive”. Events may happen in-game that are not necessarily controlled or planned by the developer, which will help to create a dynamic developing experience for Bungie and a dynamic playing experience for gamers. The game’s style has been described as a first-person shooter that will incorporate massively multiplayer online game (MMO) elements, but Bungie has avoided defining Destiny as a traditional MMO game.[10] Instead, the game has been referred to as a “shared-world shooter,”[11] as it lacks many of the characteristics of a traditional MMO game. For instance, rather than players being able to see and interact with all other players in the game or on a particular server—as is the case in many conventional MMO games—Destiny will include on-the-fly matchmaking that will allow players to see and interact only with other players with whom they are “matched” by the game.[10]

Destiny will incorporate a new game engine that allows global illuminations and real-time dynamic lighting to occur together. An innovation in Bungie’s “hopper” technology, which has been the backbone for Halo’s matchmaking system, will allow better player matchmaking in order to create a more natural experience in either cooperative or competitive multiplayer modes.[12]

Destiny is set seven hundred years into the future in a post-apocalyptic setting following a prosperous period of exploration, peace and technological advancement known as the Golden Age.[13] In a universe where humans have spread out and colonized planets in the Solar System, an event known as “the Collapse” saw the mysterious dissolution of these colonies, the end of the Golden Age, and mankind teetering on the brink of extinction. The only known survivors of the Collapse are those living on Earth, who were saved by “the Traveller”, a white, spherical celestial body whose appearance centuries before had enabled humans to reach the stars.[14] The Traveller now hovers above the last remaining human city, and its presence allows the “Guardians of the City”—the last defenders of the human race—the ability to wield an unknown power, only referred to as “The Light”.

Upon mankind’s first attempt to repopulate and reconstruct after the Collapse, it is discovered that hostile alien races have occupied mankind’s former colonies and civilizations and are now encroaching upon the City. The player takes on the role of a Guardian of the City, and is tasked with investigating and destroying these threats before humanity is completely wiped out.

Destiny will center around the journey of the Guardians, the last defenders of humanity, set to protect Earth’s last city. Guardians will be divided into three distinct races: Humans, Awoken, and Exo. Humans are described as being relatable, tough, and uncomplicated. Bungie drew its inspiration for the Human race from military, professional athletes, and action heroes. Awoken, described as exotic, beautiful, and mysterious, were inspired by fictional depictions of elves, vampires, ghosts, and angels. Exo are described as being sinister, powerful, and tireless. Exo were inspired by the undead, Halo’s Master Chief, and the titular character of The Terminator.[15] The playable races will be purely cosmetic and will have no effect on the game mechanics of Destiny.

Players will also be able to choose a “class” to go alongside their race. There are three classes available to players in Destiny: Hunters, Warlocks, and Titans. Hunters are a reconnaissance-based class meant to be reminiscent of the classic “bounty hunter.” Bungie cites as influences Star Wars’s Han Solo and classic characters from old Western films such as Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name. Warlocks combine weapons with special powers from “the Traveler”, and are meant to be a form of “space wizard”. The Warlock class is influenced by the Star Wars series’ Jedi Knights, The Lord of the Rings series’ Gandalf, and The Matrix series’ Morpheus. Titans, which favor heavy weapons and melee attacks and are intended to be reminiscent of the classic “future soldier”, were inspired by Bungie’s own Halo Master Chief, Stormtroopers from Star Wars, and other “space marines” from science fiction.[16]

Boom Boom

boom boom wireless smart speaker by mathieu lehanneur for binauric
image © gautier billotte courtesy binauric

 

 

 

influenced by the flow and growth in nature, the boom boom wireless smart speaker by mathieu lehanneur for binauric combines friendly design features, to create an interactive user experience. speaking in several languages, the intelligent sound system incorporates a human voice-over; ‘it’s as simple, instinctive and enticing as an apple that has just fallen from a tree,’ explains lehanneur ‘a sonorous object ripe for the picking,’ he adds. presented during milan design week 2014, the bluetooth speaker has been designed to support future technological updates and additional features such as conference calls and gestural controls.

 

 

a look behind the features for the ‘boom boom’ speaker system for binauric by mathieu lehanneur

 

 

the unit also integrates a touchpad for managing volume, play/pause and bluetooth connectivity, and a soft-silicon facade that creates a unique tactile experience. alongside the audio jack cable that also acts as a handle, the boom boom also boasts a USB plug for charging the device, two line jacks and an on / off switch. the speaker is compatible with all computers and smartphones including iOS and android.

boom boom wireless smart speaker by mathieu lehanneur for binauric

the touchpad can be used for managing volume, play/pause and for controlling bluetooth connectivity

boom boom wireless smart speaker by mathieu lehanneur for binauric

boom boom wireless smart speaker by mathieu lehanneur for binauric

 the audio jack dubs as a handle for carrying the device around with ease

boom boom wireless smart speaker by mathieu lehanneur for binauric

 the ‘boom boom’ features a soft-silicon skin that feels smooth to the touch

mathieu lehanneur overviews his design for company binauric

boom boom wireless smart speaker by mathieu lehanneur for binauric
portrait of designer mathieu lehanneur

Sony Alpha 6000

Design and Features
The Alpha 6000$579.99 at Dell looks a lot like the NEX-6$523.99 at Amazon that it replaces in Sony’s mirrorless lineup, but there are a few changes in body design. It measures 2.6 by 4.7 by 1.8 inches (HWD) and weighs 12.1 ounces without a lens. It’s just a little bit smaller and lighter than the NEX-6 (2.8 by 4.8 by 1.7 inches, 12.2 ounces), but still manages to squeeze in an extra control button and separate a pair of control dials that were stacked on the NEX-6 so that they are side-by-side on the Alpha 6000. If you’re used to the feel of the NEX-6 in your hand, it won’t be a dramatic change to move to the Alpha 6000.

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The camera skips the SLR styling of some other mirrorless cameras with an integrated EVF, including the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5$419.00 at Amazon. Instead it places the viewfinder in the corner of the camera, allowing all of the controls to slide over to the right side. It lacks the viewfinder hump that makes the Olympus E-M10 a taller camera, but it also omits the in-body image stabilization system that Olympus houses in that space; if you want stabilization, you’ll need to look for E-mount lenses that bear the OSS (Optical Steady Shot) designation. There is a built-in flash—it’s mounted on a hinge so you can tilt it back for indirect illumination—and a multi-function hot shoe. It can accommodate a number of accessories, including larger flashes, external microphones, and an XLR adapter for balanced audio input.

Next to the pop-up flash are the standard mode dial and a control dial. There’s a modest handgrip in front of them—it’s got the power switch and shutter release, as well as the programmable C1 button. The other physical controls are on the rear; the physical flash release and the Menu button sit above the rear LCD, with the remainder to its right. From top to bottom, there’s the Autoexposure Lock (AEL) button, the Fn control, a control wheel with a Center button and four directional presses (Display, ISO, Exposure Compensation, Drive Mode), the Play button, and the programmable C2 button. In addition to acting as the OK control for menus, the center button (represented by a white circle on the on-screen display) activates Lock-on AF when the focus area is set to Wide or Center, and allows you to move the focus point around the LCD if you switch to Flexible Spot or Zone focus.

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Tapping Fn launches an overlay menu that gives you access to a bank of 12 shooting controls, any of which can be customized. The default set duplicates some functions that have their own controls on the body (including ISO and EV compensation). But the on-body controls are also customizable, so with a little bit of time you can configure the camera to suit your shooting style.

The rear display is mounted on a hinge, and can tilt so it faces up or down. When tilted so it faces up, it can go as far as being perpendicular to the camera, but its angle is limited to about 45° when facing down—it’s still possible to hold the camera over your head to grab a shot with this tilt range, and the perpendicular position is great for waist-level shooting. The display is 3 inches in size with a 921k-dot resolution; that’s on par with the best cameras in this class. It’s tough to notice any difference in sharpness between it and the 3-inch 1,037k-dot display found in the Olympus OM-D E-M10.

The Olympus does support touch input, which is missing from the Alpha. Touch input is useful to quickly tap the display to focus, although that’s only useful if you’re using the EVF. Panasonic cameras are an exception; the G5 and other models that feature a touch LCD and an EVF allow you to move your finger along the display to reposition the focus point, even as you use the EVF to frame an image. Other manufacturers have not yet copied that rather useful feature.

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The Alpha 6000’s 1,440k-dot electronic viewfinder doesn’t pack as many pixels as the 2,359k-dot EVF used by the NEX-6 and full-frame Alpha 7$1,698.00 at Amazon, but it’s still quite sharp to my eye. It’s an OLED design, so its look is a bit punchy, with more contrast than you’ll find in LCD EVFs like the 1,440k-dot model used by the Olympus E-M10. There is a bit of choppiness in very dim light, but it’s no worse than you’ll experience with the rear LCD, and it’s only something you’ll experience when the light gets very low. The Live View feed is acceptably smooth when shooting in the interiors of most homes.

There’s an eye sensor that automatically switches between the rear LCD and the EVF, but it’s got a bit of a hair trigger. If you’re using the camera near your body, it turns off the LCD when the Alpha is just 3 inches away from you, and even my index finger triggered the sensor when it got within an inch. I found it to be a frequent bone of contention when using the camera in the field, and the only way to toggle between the rear LCD and EVF manually is via the menu—you can’t assign that function to a custom button. A feature that would disable the EVF when the rear LCD is tilted would go a long way to rectify this issue; in the meantime you’ll just need to remember to hold it a bit away from your body when shooting at waist level.

Alienware 17 review

The 17-inch laptop is a unicorn these days. But in the gaming world, the arguably huge form factor is alive and well. Alienware has doubled down on its colossal clamshell, simply known as the Alienware 17, with an AMD-powered variant.

With an AMD Radeon HD R9 M290X pushing the pixels behind its 1920 x 1080 anti-glare screen, this version of Dell-owned Alienware’s notebook comes in $350 (about £207, AU$373) cheaper than its Nvidia-toting counterpart. Given that AMD’s latest mobile GPU houses twice as much video RAM – 4GB to the GeForce GTX 860M’s 2GB – that’s not a bad deal at all.

Aside from that, nothing about the Alienware 17 has changed, including its gigantic frame. Both the MSI GS70 Stealth and Asus G750JX are thinner and cheaper, but fall on different ends of the spectrum in terms of hardware, design and overall focus.

[Editor’s note: Since I have yet to test the latest Nvidia GeForce GTX 800M series versions of either of these Asus and MSI machines, I will continue to compare the Alienware 17 to the 700M series editions of these products. This review may be updated after testing MSI, Asus and even Alienware’s most current Nvidia-equipped products.]

Alienware 17 reviewMore subdued, but still a sore thumb at the coffee shop

Design

If you’re familiar with Alienware’s latest design ID, then none of this will be a shock. But for those coming from the Alienware M17x 2012 perhaps, plenty has changed. The pronounced curvature of the old has given in to a more angular silhouette throughout.

Not only did that make more custom lighting zones a possibility, but it allowed for an all-aluminum lid and magnesium alloy base. This grants the Alienware 17 an even more premium look and feel than before, one that’s slightly more subdued – a much welcome change, frankly.

Alienware says that these and other revisions have increased the system’s weight in metal materials considerably, while overall the unit comes in nearly 0.25 pounds lighter. Regardless, this is still a notebook that warrants its own line of custom-made backpacks and shoulder bags.

Alienware 17 reviewIt looks as if it could take off at a moment’s notice

The keyboard and its lighting received a welcome change as well, moving on from chiclet keys to a more mechanical, switch-based board sitting on an aluminum plate. And in place of the garish, front-facing speaker lights, the entire base is now wrapped in slim, sleek strips of light. Plus, the entire touchpad now illuminates – not just its border.
Flaunting it with AlienFX

Unique to Alienware’s laptops is the wide variety of lights that line their chassis and illuminate their keyboards. The company calls this AlienFX, and it returns in full form on the Alienware 17 with incredibly deep customization, thanks to an app of the same name.

AlienFX allows for specific color profiles for each zone of lighting. For instance, if you wanted the Alienware logo and strips of light on the lid in a crimson red, with the lights lining the base shining a cool blue, there’s nothing stopping you. Furthermore, four zones of the keyboard can be illuminated in different hues. (And that’s not even close to all.)

Alienware 17 reviewSee? Those cooling vents could easily double as thrusters

Digging even deeper, the Alienware 17’s lighting scheme can cycle through multiple themes at a certain tempo. And, through the AlienAdrenaline tool, you can create special themes for different games and apps.

The options are nigh limitless, and aesthetically set the Alienware apart from the lot of boutique gaming laptops. More importantly, AlienFX brings a bit of the custom flair of gaming PCs to laptops. Now, let’s see what else about the PC gaming experience Alienware manages to emulate.

Galaxy S5

A year ago, I wondered if HTC’s gorgeous, metallic One would inspire or challenge Samsung to leave behind its cheap, plasticky ways and build a smartphone as beautiful as it is feature-rich. The Galaxy S5 is not that phone: it’s every bit as utilitarian and function-first as its predecessors. It has a slightly larger display than last year’s model, and the phone is thus slightly taller and wider, but it’s still light (5.1 ounces) and thin (8.1 millimeters), and really feels no different than the S4 or any other phone this size.

Samsung’s phones are still commodities, made to be sold but not loved

It’s plastic everywhere you touch. It comes in black, white, gold, or blue, each with a ribbed chrome edge that sticks slightly above the front face of the phone. It’s Samsung’s best use of plastic ever, with a soft, stippled back that doesn’t collect grease or shine the way the S4 does. It’s far more pleasant both to look at and hold than the S4, or even the fake-leather Note 3. Samsung is slowly learning how to make premium plastic, though it could stand to learn a lot more from Nokia and Apple on the subject.

The real feat was taking that thin, light, plastic shell and somehow making it waterproof. The S5 is rated IP 67, which means it can be submerged in up to a meter of water for up to 30 minutes. You can’t use it underwater, of course — the touchscreen goes haywire when it’s wet — but it means you can spill coffee on your phone (which I did), get caught in a rainstorm (check), or drop your phone in the urinal (twice), and it’ll live to see another day. I’ve had one phone ruined by rain and another by a random beer spill, so it’s nice to let my paranoia go for a change.

But the S5 is still creaky and cheap. It doesn’t feel thoughtfully crafted the way the One or the iPhone 5S does. The carrier and manufacturer logos aren’t integrated into the back’s dimpled design, just slapped on like rectangular stickers. The capacitive keys next to the phone’s home button bleed an ugly circle of white light. Every time the phone vibrates, its back rattles. These are small things, but they betray the fact that Samsung believes a phone that works is good enough, that it needn’t be something we love or care about. That leaves me cold, underwhelmed — I can’t imagine anyone walking into a store, picking up the S5 and the new One, and not immediately feeling the difference.