All posts by Top5's by ScareMeSilly

Editor of scaremesilly.com lover all all things horror, strange and creepy.

Peak vs Elevate

Recently I’ve been pondering wether its possible to enhance your mental fitness. I mean its easy to improve your physical fitness – you can go to the gym, run, improve your diet etc – but when it comes to brain power is it really possible to see progress? Back in 2005 Nintendo certainly thought so with the introduction of Brain Age for the popular DS console. Brain Age had you solve simple math problems and complete basic tasks with the premise of making you smarter. Today however, there are several excellent options available for your smart device which make similar claims.
The three most popular brain training apps for mobile are Elevate, Peak and Luminosity. For me, Luminosity is way too expensive (£7.99/$11.99 per month) and as such I have opted to leave it out of this comparison. The two apps which really stood out for me as viable options were Elevate and Peak. Both apps offer a similar experience but they go about delivering it in a slightly different way. I subscribed to both premium services and have been using them frequently for about a month.
Elevate
Probably the most popular brain training app at the moment is Elevate. Although only launched in May 2014, at time of writing the app has been downloaded 5 million times. What makes Elevate great is its intuitive, bold design and slick execution. Recently Elevate hit the headlines when it was voted as Apples App of the year for 2014. New users to Elevate will first have to complete a quick diagnostics test which will tell the app the areas which need improving on etc. According to elevate the service focuses on your reading and writing skills, along with memory and focus. The app offers a customised service which adjusts appropriately to your performance over time.
Elevate comes with a pretty comprehensive free to use service but if you really want to reap the benefits you will want to subscribe to the premium service for £2.99/$4.99 a month or £31.99/$44.99 for the year. This will give you access to 8 exclusive premium games, unlimited access to all 25 games and also the ability to compare your performance to other Elevate users.
Peak
Peak brain training comes from the London based company Brainbow. It offers a very similar experience to Elevate and also comes with some very positive review. Peak also comes high in many app rankings and to date has been downloaded 2 million times. Like Elevate, Peak helps improve your language skills, but puts more of an emphasis on mental agility and problem solving. The service allows you to set your own training goals and like Elevate offers a customised service which adapts to you performance over time.
Sign up to Peaks pro subscription and gain access to the 6-game daily personal workouts, more comprehensive analytics and unlimited access to all games. The premium package will cost you £2.99/$4.99 a month or £24.99/$34.99 for a yearly subscription. There is also a pretty decent free version, although like its competitor you will need to subscribe to the premium service if your serious about seeing improvements.
Games and design
 
The structure of Elevate has improved recently and now comprises of three main sections: These ‘Training’, ‘Games’ and Elevate design‘Performance’. The ‘training’ tab gives you access to your daily training session and comprises of three specially selected games. The ‘games’ tab gives you access to all 25 games and allows you to practice them as much as you like, and the ‘performance’ tab gives you access to all you statistics and tracks your performance (more on this later).

Elevate games

The games are beautifully designed and incorporate bold colours, slick animations and great sound effects. Because the games
are so well designed and such fun to play you would hardly know you are working out at all. It is clear that a lot of effort has gone into creating this type of experience. Some games are locked until you reach a certain level in associated games, and others are only available in the premium service. There is usually a goal in each game (like maintaining propulsion of a space rocket or navigating a boat across an ocean) and it all helps to make Elevate both interesting and engaging.

Peak designPeak also has a lovely design which is easily recognisable. The app basically comprises of two screens. The first screen is centred around your daily goal and workout, and the second contains all you performance stats and progress. You can move between the two screens by swiping with you finger. There is also an icon in the top left hand corner which takes you to the menu, and another in the top right which takes you to the games archive. The interface is very slick looking and fairly easy to use. The games themselves are also very fun to play and offer enough variety to keep you interested. Unlike Elevate though, the games feel more functional rather than recreational.
Peak gamesWhilst both apps are exceptionally designed and lovely to use, Elevate is possible slightly simpler to navigate due to is tab based design. That said, I think Peak’s home screen design is a little bit more interesting and dynamic, particularly when you get used to it. Whilst games on both are great, Elevate perhaps shines a little more due to its use of animations and sounds.
Performance analytics
 
Your performance in Elevate is based on what has been coined ‘Elevate proficiency quotient’ (EPQ). This is based on you Elevavate statsperformance over time, how often you play and the variety of of games you play. It gives you a score ranging from 0 – 5000. Your EPQ is will give you an idea of how well you are performing in the five areas: Speaking, Writing, Reading, Listening and math and for each category Elevate will tell you which is your best game. You also get a percentile ranking which compares you against Elevate users. This is pretty cool although I’m not sure my writing skills would actually put me at 96.8% against other users. The scores do seem a little exaggerated.
Peak on the other hand does things a little differently. Importantly it gives you a single score based on your overall Peak Performance. This is scored out of 1000. There is also a graph which shows your score over the past week. If you want more in-depth statistics then Peak also breaks things down in much more detail. A very cool function is the ability to compare your Peak score to people within your age group or profession. This is great as it gives you a feel of how well you compare to others. The information is displayed in a spider chart which includes Peak brain score, memory, problem solving, language, mental agility and focus. As if this wasn’t enough there is also a graph charting your performance in each category over the last month and a break down of how you perform in each category compared to your age group.
Peak statsThe app further breaks down your performance and gives you a Peak brain score for every game you have played. It even tells you which day of the week you have performed best.
Whilst both Elevate and Peak have excellent performance trackers, there is no bout that Peak’s is more comprehensive. I also much prefer having a single score to keep me motivated. I find this gives me a target to focus on and means I don’t have to get bogged down in statistics if I don’t want to.
The science 
According to the Elevate website ‘Elevates games are designed in collaboration with experts in neuroscience and cognitive learning and are based on extensive scientific research’. Furthermore ‘Elevate’s brain training algorithms further focus the learning experience by drawing from research in memory studies to develop a personalised training program for each user’. 
Peak makes a similar claim ‘Designed in collaboration with experts in neuroscience, cognitive science and education, Peak makes brain training fun and rewarding. The scientific advisors involved with Peak includes Bruce Wexler, Professor Emeritus and Senior Research Scientist at Yale, and Amir Konigsberg, PhD from Princeton in cognitive psychology‘.
What this all means, I’m not really sure. Both claim to be based on scientific research but neither goes any way in explaining what this actually means to the end user. The subject of brain training is a slightly controversial subject at the minute. It has been suggested that there is actually little evidence to suggest that such activities actually have any positive impact on mental agility. That said, doing any sort of task repetitively will surely have some sort of benefit. If your interested you can take a look at this study which suggests mixed results concerning the effectiveness of computer based cognitive training.
From my point of view it is difficult to say wether I have personally seen results. Looking at my analytics from both apps, I seem to do well some days and then terribly bad on others. It is difficult to judge wether I have actually improved in any of the given areas or wether I have just become well practiced at particular tasks. I’m sure in the long term however I will start to see more positive results. That said, I’m not sue how all this transfers to the real world.
Final thoughts
 
Wether or not these brain training apps are actually having a positive effect, they are certainly fun to play and I can see that there must be some benefit to exercising my brain regularly. To which app is best is a difficult question to answer. Both are excellent and tailored for slightly different needs. Peak offers a more all over experience, but Elevate focuses more on language and math. Both are beautifully designed and offer a lot of variety to keep you engaged.
I would say that Elevate certainly has a more bold and dynamic design, but in my opinion Peak offers better analytics and progress tracking. It is very difficult to recommend one over the other but if I had to continue just one of my premium subscriptions it would probably be with Elevate.
If you have had any experience with Peak, Elevate or any other service then please let me know.

Tesco announces Hudl2

UK retail giant Tesco have just announced the successor to their immensely popular Hudl tablet – the Hudl2. The Hudl2 undercuts the likes of Samsung and Apple with a rather unbeatable price of £129.

The original Hudl was incredibly popular with people having to sell their own body parts to get hold of one.

The Hudle2 is better than its predecessor in every way and is larger, faster and more premium looking. The design philosophy hasn’t changed however with a similar look and feel.

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The new Hudle features a 8.3 inch full HD display which is not only bigger that its predecessor, but also features smaller bezels giving for a much premium feel.The device is powered by a 1.83GHZ Intel Atom Quad Core processor with 2GB RAM. The 16 GB internal memory is fully expandable via a Micro SD slot and the device also features a 5MP rear facing camera. According to Tesco the Hudl2 is three times faster than its predecessor so it should be able to handle all the latest games and apps.

The Hudl2 is available in eight different colours and should be available from October 9th.

The original Hudl sold 750,000 units in the first year and Tesco will hope that this latest model with help turn around struggling share prices and put to bed some negative press.

Everything you need to know about Windows 10

So its official – the latest version of Microsoft’s popular operating system is official, and will be known as Windows 10. But what happened to Windows 9 I hear you say? Well nothing really, Microsoft just decided to leapfrog it. The new operating system offers a new design and a host of new features. Read on to find out everything you need to know about Windows 10.

Design

The new design and interface is where the majority of the changes can be seen. As windows 8 was criticised for being too different, Microsoft have rolled back the interface to something more reminiscent of Windows 7. Microsoft have done away with the annoying tile like meta-interface, and have replaced it with a more compromised traditional look. A big reason for this shift in design is attributed to an acknowledgement by Microsoft that not everybody loved the touch screen focus of Windows 7.
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Windows 10 then, is much more reminiscent of Windows 7, and Microsoft have even made the big decision to re-introduce the popular ’start’ menu. This is one area where users will notice a more balanced user interface, with the inclusion of resizable tilesTech-Preview_Start-menu-500x281 which can be customised with your favourite apps, people and websites. Microsoft acknowledge that many users are still using Windows 7 and as such want to make the transition to Windows 10 as seamless as possible.
If you prefer the full touch experience then don’t panic, the charm bar is still available for simple gesture controls and you still have the option of running the touch mode which will display tiles in the familiar Windows 8 style.

Continuum

Like Apple and Google, Microsoft wants want to lock you into their own eco-system with multi platform functionality. Windows 10 has been designed to run cross platform and will offer a bespoke interface depending on the hardware. There will also be just one Windows store running across all platforms.

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Continuum means that the operating system will detect the hardware set up and offer the best user experience. This means that the user interface for a mouse and keyboard setup will differ to that of a touchscreen tablet. This is good news for all-in-one devices as the operating system will be able to detect when the keyboard has been removed and adjust the interface appropriately.

Multi tasking

Multi tasking capabilities have also been greatly improved with new features aimed at the power user. Importantly, Microsoft have introduced a new ‘task view’ button which will give an overview of open virtual desktops and apps and gives a simple way of switching between them. This is something which has been available in OSX for ages so should come as good news for Windows diehards.
Tech-Preview_Virtual-desktop-500x281
Virtual desktops are a means of being able to increase productivity by having access to multiple desktops for with different setups. This is a feature which will be recognisable if you already use multiple monitors. If however you only have one display, then virtual desktops are available to give give you similar functionality.

Windows ‘snap assist’ has also been improved with a new user interface. This allows for apps to be snapped from multiple desktops and auto sized to fit either all or part of the display in a tiled format. This is a multi tasking feature which gives greater Tech-Preview_Three-program-snap-and-suggestions-500x281functionality by allowing multiple apps to be displayed besides each other in an expanded interface. A new improvement is the ability to now have up to 4 snapped apps running per desktop. Windows 10 also introduces a quirky little feature whereby it will recommend similar apps you may want to run besides them.

Windows Apps

Windows apps have also received an overhaul and are now capable of opening in the same format as desktop programs. These can be resized at will and moved around the desktop. This is a big improvement compared to Windows 7 apps which could only be opened in full screen mode. This is also good for cross platform functionality with the ability to adjust apps accordingly.

New search

Microsoft have gone and improved the search functionality with a search bar now present within the task bar and start menu. This is reminiscent of Apple’s Spotlight feature and will display results from both your computer and the internet.

Availability and price

Windows 10 is slated as being available to consumers by the end of 2015. There are still a lot of tweaks and improvements to be made and the OS will be available to business users first. Prices are still unknown but there have been previous rumours that it may be a free upgrade!

If you just can’t wait however then Microsoft are offering a beta program via the ‘Windows Insider Program’. Microsoft have pointed out however that this will give users access to a preview version of Windows 10 which will by no means be a final package. Therefore make sure you know what your doing and expect to encounter plenty of bugs and rough edges.

Ebay and Paypal getting a divorce

It would seem that the marriage between Ebay and its Payment service Paypal is to coming to an end.

According to TechCrunch Paypal is to be spun off as a separate company and will no longer come under the Ebay umbrella.

The 12 year partnership will end amicably with Paypal becoming a public listed company with both companies getting new skippers.

Apparently this is a strategic move initiated by Ebay’s board of directors and is aimed at growing both companies within their respective markets.

This announcement should not come as a shock however with TechCrunch reporting that ‘this is a split that many, including activist investor Carl Icahn, have predicted or called for in the past’

The move is expected to go ahead later in 2015 and will see Paypal better placed to compete with other mobile payment services such as Apple Pay.

How to get the most money for your old smartphone

So, the latest and greatest smartphone is just on the horizon and you want it, you want it badly. Trouble is your only half way through you current phone contract and there is going to be a cost implication involved. And probably a large cost implication.

You have two choices: You either buy out of your contact early, or you buy your new device SIM-free and use it with your current contract or a pay as you go SIM. Depending on how long you have left on your contract will determine which option you go for.

Now I am a sucker for new tech, I really am. When I want something I just have to have it and ill do anything possible to get my hands on the latest smartphone. Yes it usual costs but if your clever about it you can minimise this cost a great deal. The trick is to use your current smartphone as equity towards your new one.

I have compiled this short guide to help you in getting the most money for your current smartphone, and as such avoid having to pay out too much towards your new one.

Apologies if your not from the UK. Although this article is based on UK prices etc, the concepts should still be relevant no matter where you live.

1. Think phone value.

You need to be smart right from the beginning and consider the future value of your phone. If like me you change your device IMG_0769more often than you change your pants (not literally of course) then this is important. If you sign a new phone contract today, think about how much your new device might be worth in a year. If you don’t know much about smartphones then do your research. Have a look at SIM free prices and consider the actual value of the phone. Remember some branded phones will depreciate in value quicker than others. For example Apple and Samsung branded devices hold their value very well.

2. Be careful if signing up to a contract.

Do not sign up to an expensive phone contract if all you are getting is a entry/mid level phone. Chances are it will only be worth a few hundred quid and if you want sell it in a years time it will have little worth. Also, think about how much you are paying a month and remember that if you do decide to buy out early you will need to pay your monthly fee times by the amount of months you have left. This can be expense so sometimes its a good idea to get a bit of equity in the device from the start.

3. Look after your phone.

This may sound obvious but look after you phone. Insure it, put a case on it and for the love of god don’t keep it in the same pocket that you keep you keys in! The future value of your phone depends massively on its condition. People looking for second hand phones on Ebay will be much more attracted to ones advertised as being ‘immaculate’ as opposed to devices listed as having ‘some light scratches’. Its not difficult to look after you device. Treat it like your own child and it will reward you later in life. Furthermore, make sure you keep the box, instructions and all accessories. This will effect the future price.

3. Know where to sell your device.

Chances are your network provider or local phone shop will give you bugger all for your old phone. To get the best price shop around. There are many different avenues for selling your smartphone. Lets explore these:

4. Ebay

Ebay is a very good means of selling your device. It takes a lot of stress out of the process and sorts most things for you. There is also some comeback if it all goes a bit Pete Tong (That means wrong my American friends). You will have to make sure you Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 20.21.57listing stands out so make sure you use loads of pictures showing off the condition of the device and pay attention to your excerpt. If your device is immaculate then make sure you get this in. Also don’t list it too high or you won’t get any attention. Think about your delivery costs too as anything too high will put people off. One downside of Ebay is the charges. Make sure you know how much you are going to be charged.

Just over a week after the iPhone 6 came out, the iPhone 5S 16GB is selling for around £260 on Ebay in the UK. After you take into consideration the 10% seller fees you are going to get less that £234. You need to decide wether you can get more money via other avenues.

5. Recycle websites.

Recycle websites are great at giving you quick access to selling your phone and you should definitely consider checking them out. The easiest option however is to just log on to a comparison website such as Sellmymobile.com and they will give you the best price. You are still worth checking individual websites yourself as some may be excluded for the comparison website searches. Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 17.49.35

Again, a week after the iPhone 6 came, the best price I could find for the iPhone 5S 16GB was £255. This isn’t bad when you consider this is the actual price you will get and all you have to do is post the phone to them.

6. High Street stores.

You should never discount high street stores as they will often give a good price for your old gadgets. You should definitely pop into your local town/city and explore the local trade in shops. Popular trade in stores in the UK include CEX and Game.

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 18.22.06Again for the 16GB iPhone 5s CEX would give me £258 and Game £260. Clearly this would be the preferable option based on the fact that that there are no hidden costs. These prices do however rely on the device being in perfect condition.

What is good news is that there are plenty of options for selling you smartphone when you decide that its time to get a new one. All you need to decide on is wether you want to sign up to a new contract, or wether you you can afford to buy a device SIM-free. Personally I opt for both options and try to purchase my devices outright whenever possible.

You will certainly save money in the long run if you buy your device outright but of course this often results in a much larger up front cost.  Remember, where there’s a will there’s a way. Think smart and think ahead. There is always a way of getting that shiny new smartphone!

Is the Blackberry Passport the ugliest phone ever?

I’m not quite sure what Blackberry were thinking with their curious new smartphone, the Passport. The device is a strange looking little thing with a screen aspect not commonly used in todays smartphones. Furthermore, the Passport may just be the ugliest smartphone I have ever laid my eyes on. I’m just clueless as to what Blackberry were thinking.

The new device is based around a decent sized 4.5 inch IPS display with a resolution of 1440 x 1440. This equates to a brilliantly sharp 453 pixels per inch (PPI). When you compare this to the 326 PPI of the iPhone 6 you can understand just how sharp this is. The display is really very good and is one of the smartphones best features.

Actually, talking about the other specifications, these are also rather good. The device features a speedy Snapdragon 801 Quad Core processor clocked at 2.26GHZ and even has 3GB of RAM. Furthermore, in the optics department we have a 13MP snapper which features optical image stabilisation.

What has to let the device down then is the peculiar design. As already mentioned the screen aspect is rather unconventional with a ratio of 1:1, and the device itself is pretty huge. It definitely falls into the phablet category with a width of 3.5 inches. In comparison, this is wider than even the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. From what we understand however the build quality is pretty good with a stainless steel rim running around the edges and a soft touch plastic battery cover on the back. Blackberry have also done away with their traditional 4 row keyboard and have opted for 3 rows. Its still full QWERTY but commentators are stating it feels rather squashed.

The Passport comes running Blackberry OS 10.3 with the Amazon App store pre-installed. Here lies a problem as you will not have access to the Google Play Store. Although the Amazon App store is now pretty comprehensive, you will still struggle to find some of your favourite games.

So whilst the Blackberry Passport has excellent specs and a great camera, the design is going to make it difficult to use. Can you imagine trying to squeeze this massive square into you pocket? It certainly isn’t going to be comfortable! Certainly not suitable for skinny jeans. The screen aspect is also going to make certain games and Apps feel awkward. That said, for business functionaltiy such as viewing and editing documents, it should be excellent. And it is indeed the business audience which Blackberry are targeting with this device.

With specs this good and a market leading display, I do wonder why Blackberry didn’t try to make a more universally appealing device. Although I appreciate that they have struggled to crack the domestic smartphone market and as such are clearly attempting to win back their traditional business customers.

So is the Blackberry Passport the ugliest smartphone on the planet? Possibly, although I imagine its rather like marmite – you either love it or you hate it!

Do I want one? Absolutely not…… actually I sort of love it.

Image from Trustedreviews.com

Release of HTC M8 Eye imminent?

It may seem like only yesterday that HTC released the stunning M8, but already people are talking about HTC’s next rumoured smartphone – the M8 Eye.

The M8 Eye is basically the same as the original M8, but with one significant difference – a 13MP Duo camera. According to GSMArena the M8 Eye is due to be released sometime in late October and will come running Android 4.4.4 KitKat, with HTC’s own Sense 6 software running on top.

If you weren’t already aware, here at LivelyState we are big fans of the original M8. The stunning design and beautiful screen are only part of what makes it such an attractive purchase. We, like many others, however were disappointed with the camera performance. This spoilt what was otherwise and superb smartphone.

HTC had been adamant that camera performance was not all about the number of pixels, and the UltraPixel camera was the product of this philosophy.

Whilst the HTC One M8 is certainly one of the best phones on the market, the improved M8 Eye is sure to become one of the best smartphones money can buy. We certainly cannot wait to get our hands on one.

iOS 8.0.2 update with support for HealthKit apps rolls out.

Well after a few days of embarrassment for Apple, finally the latest IOS 8 patch has been rolled out.

As you may recall, when iOS went live a week ago Apple had to disable support for HealthKit app integration due to various issues. The iOS 8.0.1 patch had supposed to resolve this and enable HealthKit apps, but this was subsequently recalled due to it causing issues with signal and Touch ID, amongst other issues.

Well today iOS 8.0.2 is finally being rolled out and we can confirm that this has now enabled support for HealthKit applications. These third part apps are designed to integrate with Apples Health Kit suite and offer simplified interfaces and extra features. According to 9to5Mac, the only one currently available is FitPort which acts as a cool interface for your health stats.

To be fair on Apple, it has only taken a few days to resolve the issue and fans will be pleased to get to grips with the new health apps.

Apple withdraws latest iOS 8 update

It seems its not all been plain sailing with the rollout of Apples latest iOS 8 update.

After the HealthKit fiasco Apple have now had another embarrassment in the form of the iOS 8.0.1 update which only went live earlier today. The update was slated as bringing some major fixes to the platform, but this has now also been pulled from the app store due to some user reported bugs.

Apple will clearly be feeling a little red faced in light of this further hiccup.

For more information check our source 9to5Mac.

Deezer review

Deezer review

Music streaming is all the rage at the minute. With Apple acquiring Beats Music, and streaming becoming part of the UK music charts, we can be sure that this is the way music consumption is going. As less people begin paying for music downloads, streaming services such as Deezer are becoming far more popular. The concept of all you can eat music for a small monthly fee is actually rather exciting.

I have had been using Deezer for about a year now and as such I have had plenty of time to get to grips with the service and write this, hopefully, balanced Deezer review. I have also used both iOS and Android applications, though this review has been constructed using the iOS app. Both are ultimately the same however and differ little from the web version.

I am not an audio engineer or an expert in the field, so this Deezer review is concerned with my own experience of using the service.

I hope you find this informative.

Background

Deezer is a music streaming service which allows users to stream or download music for a small monthly fee. Similar services include the likes of Spotify, Beats Music and Google Play Music. Deezer was founded in 2006 by Daniel Marhely and initially launched in France in the guise of Blogmusik. Due to copyright infringements the company was actually shut down, but was relaunched in late 2007 as Deezer. The idea was that some of the revenue made by on site advertising would go towards paying copyright holders.

Although Deezer managed to sign up the four major record companies, they struggled to cope with rising costs. In 2009 the previously free service introduced a range of paid subscription options. Although uptake of the premium service was slow to start, telecommunications giant Orange soon  became a key shareholder and premium subscriptions surged.

Today, Deezer is one of the worlds most popular music streaming services and boasts a catalogue of about 30 million tracks. Deezer is available in 182 countries and this year became available in the US – historically a very difficult market to crack.

Presentation and navigation

Deezer menuDeezer is certainly a very pretty service to use, and the iOS app is very well presented and easy to navigate. The main menu can be accessed by the menu button at the top of the screen or quite simply by swiping the screen to the right. This is where you can select what you want to do. From here you can choose to access music recommendations, access music charts and radio channels, your own music library and synced music and playlists. There are also links to other apps and access to the apps settings.

A quick swipe to the left will hide the menu bar and reveal whichever feature it is that you are currently using. The app itself is very fluid and the graphics are very pleasing to the eye. The whole thing just feels really well designed and runs very smoothly. Its clear that a lot of though has gone into the design and the result is that it is simple to use and easy to navigate. You will rarely find yourself lost in the interface.

Features
Deezer is packed with cool features and one of my favourites is called ‘hear this’. Accessed from the top of the menu, Hear this presents itself as a music feed with a feature called ‘Flow’ at the top and music reccomendations beneath. ‘Flow’ basically takes all of your music content and music that you have streamed in the past, and stitches it all together in a non stop music feed.

Underneath ‘Flow’ are all of your music recommendations, based on your listening habits. This is easily one of my favourite featuresDeezer flow as it constantly recommends new artists, albums, tracks and radio channels which I may be interested in. This is particularly good because it recommends relevant content which fits within my music tastes, and it is an invaluable tool in discovering new and fantastic music. I have discovered so many news groups and bands through recommendations and I am not sure what I would do without it.

The ‘Explore’ feature gives access to Deezer recommendations. These are not personalised but rather generic recommendations. Also found here is the option to break down these recommendations regionally. So if your interested in seeing whats hot in South America for example then you have the option to do this.

IMG_0756Another feature gives access to Deezer charts. This shows what is currently popular on Deezer. This is broken down into Tracks, Albums, Artists and Playlists and is structured in the usual charts format. I find this very useful when looking for contemporary popular music and is perhaps one of my favourite features.

Deezer has a really great choice of radio channels. These are based around music genres (e.g pop, rock, hip hop etc) and Artists. For example if your into Maroon 5 the you can select this radio channel and listen to this particular group and other similar groups/artists. The genre feature is practically the same but plays music which belongs to that genre. Again this is a really fantastic feature, and one which I haven’t really used enough. This offers so mush variety and if your struggling with what to listen to at any given time then it is so useful to just default to a particular radio channel and let Deezer select the play list. Deezer Radio

Of course one of the main features of Deezer is the ability to just search for whatever you like. Wether you want the latest Ed Sheeran album or Arctic Monkeys single, you have so much choice with about 35 million tracks to choose from. There is a handy search icon to the top right of the interface where you can search to you hearts content. You always have the option to stream the track or download it. Either way you can add it to you library, but with a premium subscription you can download it to your device for offline use.

All your content is stored in your music library where you can choose to view all your music or just those albums or playlists which you have actually downloaded. Talking about playlists, you can either create your own or access them via the charts feature. One thing I don’t like about Playlists is the inability to search of them. It doesn’t really make sense to me because if you create your own, how have people supposed to be able to search for it? I actually emailed Deezer about this and they acknowledged the issues and said they would pass it on to the development team.

This is one area I feel where Spotify has an edge over Deezer. Playlists are a big deal nowadays and I would like to see more functionality within Deezer.

All in all, the features provided by Deezer are absolutely fantastic and you will struggle to get bored with it. There is so much content to discover, and the interface makes the process much less overwhelming.

Deezer does a lot with social media integration, and you can link in with friends via Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. Once connected with friends you have the option to view their viewing habits and share music.

Sound quality

Sound quality is very good I am have rarely heard any deterioration in quality. I spend a good amount of time listening to Deezer via my car stereo and even at high volumes there are few issues with quality. Some of my tunes can become a little distorted but this tends to be older tracks which are not available with high quality audio.

The standard playback quality is pretty average, however premium subscribers get access to the much higher 320kbps which sounds great. Obviously this takes up more space if you choose to download, but sound quality is noticeably better.

If you live in the US then you are lucky as Deezer have just introduced ‘Deezer Elite’. This offers a stunning High Fidelity bitrate of 1411kpbs. This is true CD like quality. No word yet on when this will be rolled out to the rest of the world though.

Price

In the UK you basically get the option of the free ‘Discovery’ plan or for £9.99 a month you can subscribe to ‘Premium+’ which will give you high quality downloads and access to the offline mode. You also have the option to listen to Deezer via different sources i.e. you car stereo or HiFi.

Prices in the US range from $4.99 for the basic package and $9.99 for the premium option, though as mentioned there is a new ‘Elite’ option which starts at $14.99 a month but eventually goes up to a whopping $19.99.

My opinion is that for £9.99 in the UK for what is on offer, Deezer offers great value for money. I would be lost without it. Although it is a bit disappointing that it is much cheaper across the pond. This is pretty standard though where prices are concerned.

Conclusion

Deezer really is a fantastic service which offers some fantastic functionality. The music catalogue is absolutely massive and you will rarely not find what you are looking for. For me the playlist issue is a bit of a pain but certainly not a game changer. I just hope that they add the option to search for Playlists in the future as this is something which Spotify does better.

Since I have been subscribed to Deezer I have discovered so much new content and have found myself listening to things I wouldn’t ordinarily have. This is great as it has really broadened my listening habits. I Haven’t paid for a single track or album since I subscribed to Deezer so for me it represents fantastic value for money.

The interface is beautifully designed, simple to use and just feels so fluid. I love it and as such can thoroughly recommend Deezer to anyone who loves listening to music but finds high street prices too high.

Apple likely to shut down Beats music.

News just in via TechCrunch suggests that Apple is seemingly shutting down its its Beats Music streaming service. According to TechCrunch Apple has recently moved many engineers off the Beats product and on to several other Apple projects. Apparently inside sources confirm that Beats Music really does look likely to be scrapped, but what Apple is planning is unknown.

Beats was acquired back in May by Apple but what was planned for the streaming service has been a bit of a mystery. One thing we do know is that Apple are paying more attention to the iTunes platform so perhaps this will include some sort of Beats integration.

Who knows what will happen to Beats Music but this latest news comes as a bit of a surprise.

iPhone 6 first impressions

The first thing that strikes me about the new iPhone 6 is just how cool it is. The build quality is excellent and the design just oozes class. What is particularly striking is how light the device is. At first I found it a little off putting but now I’m totally used to it and it feels great.The all metal frame of the iPhone 6 is immensely thin and I love what Apple have done with the power button. If you didn’t already know then this has been moved to the side. It makes it much easier to access, when you consider the new girth!

Build quality aside, the device is lightning fast. Apple tell us it is 25% faster than the 5S but only time will tell wether this is strictly true. What I can say is that I have experienced no lag whatsoever and iOS 8 feels buttery smooth. I love how a light double tap of the home button reduces the screen size for single handed use. It just works and its simple to initiate. The new speaker sounds much better than on the 5S and kicks out some really cool sounding beats. It also placed in such a way that landscape gaming does not result in your hand sitting over the speaker.

Speaking about the screen, this is really stunning. I have never been one for pixel counts and Apples less than full HD resolution is absolutely noting to worry about. The screen looks great and the curved edges just add to the slick experience. Light levels are very good and I have experienced no pixelation when zoomed in. Pixel resolution means little really if your a secure kind of guy and the iPhone 6 shows that its all about the motion of the ocean…if you know what I mean 😉

If your worried about the 6’s size then don’t. Its super thin and fits easily in the pocket. One slight pain is that the new camera lens protrudes from the chassis. This is a bit annoying but as soon as you get a case on it its irrelevant. The camera is amazing by the way and the new slow motion mode is really cool to play with. I don’t want to go into too much detail but the camera focuses really quick and picture quality is ace.

My fist impressions are really positive and there is no doubt the iPhone 6 is set to become one of the best handsets of all time. Stay tuned for a full review.

Please comment below and let me know how you are enjoying your you iPhone 6.

Blast from the past: Gameboy Advance

Back in 2001 Nintendo unleashed on the world the incredible Gameboy Advance – or GBA for short. The GBA was the successor to the enormously successful Gameboy Colour and went on to consolidate Nintendo’s position as being the top dog in the gaming market. Gameboy Advance

The console featured a 32-Bit processor and a 2.9 inch full colour TFT display with a 240×160 resolution. One flaw in the design was Nintendo’s decision not to include a back light for the display. This meant no playing in the dark which was a bit of a downer. This wasn’t the end of the world however with a simple clip on light rectifying the issue.

The GBA was one of Nintendo’s best selling handhelds ever. It was a little unnecessary, in that the Gameboy Colour was still selling like hotcakes, but Nintendo were determined to stay ahead of the curve.

There was little competition for the GBA other than the Nokia N’Gage and the Neo Geo Pocket Colour. Whilst the N-Gage failed to really convince anyone it was a force to be reckoned with, the Pocket Colour had the potential to wipe the smile of Nintendo’s face. Ultimately though, and for a number of reasons, it failed to really take a chunk out of Nintendo’s sales.

Personally I never owned the GBA – but my brother did. I remember the first time I ever experienced F-Zero. It was utterly awesome. I was totally won over by the stunning graphics and amazing gameplay and played for hours and hours (to the annoyance and frustration of my brother).

Other popular games included Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap, Metroid Fusion, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Advance Wars and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. There was such a wide range of awesome GBA titles available, and even Sega endorsed the system with the release of Sonic Advance. 31590658-2-440-overview-1

No one can deny the success of the GBA but it was eventually replaced by the SP in 2013. The SP wasn’t a brand new console but rather an improved version of the GBA with a new clamshell design and rather crucially it sported a front-lit display. The SP was also massively successful and in 2005 it was again refreshed by means of a new and much improved rear-lit display.

Remembering Nintendo’s Virtual Boy

Back in the mid 90’s the Virtual Reality craze was taking the world by storm. A new generation of games consoles promised processing power like never seen before and we were led to believe that virtual reality (VR) was finally on the verge of becoming mainstream. Of course our expectations were way too high and consumer VR never really materialised. The technology of the day was bulky, uncomfortable, underpowered and grossly expensive. There is however one piece of hardware that stands out from the crowd. This comes in the form of Nintendo’s Virtual Boy.  Virtual Boy

In 1995 at the height of the VR craze, Nintendo released its first standalone consumer VR system – The Virtual Boy. Although the Virtual Boy was initially only available in Japan, it later became available in the US for a tidy $180. Although not massively expensive, the Virtual Boy was more costly than some games consoles of the time. It was also riddled with problems.

Ultimately the Virtual Boy was doomed from the beginning.

The virtual Boy was slated as being the worlds first 32bit gaming console. Although Nintendo was heavily engaged in developing the N64 at the time, the Virtual Boy was still more powerful than the current 16bit systems. The system incorporates two LED displays (one for each eye) and creates a 3D effect via two rapidly oscillating mirrors. Although graphics were rather limited by the red monochrome display, it was praised for its high resolution – 384 x 224. The whole system was powered by 6 x AA batteries.

Although described as a portable device, the Virtual Boy was far from such. It had a bulky cumbersome design which required being set up on a flat surface to use. It was not truly portable in that you could not sit it on your knee and play it on the bus, for example. As such, it was far from a comfortable gaming experience with users ofter having to hunch over to play.

Another issue derived from Nintendos decision to use monochromatic screen technology which incorporated only red LED’s. Nintendo claimed that this helped to keep costs down but in reality it just made for a very miserable gaming experience. Literally everything was red, black or something in between. This slightly undermined the 3D effect and made the experience less immersive.

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Unfortunately, users of the Virtual boy complained of eye strain, sickness and general unease during gameplay. This was largely attributed to the monochrome display and poor design ergonomics. Although Nintendo had incorporated pauses into gameplay it did little to improve the overall experience.

Another nail in the coffin resulted from a serious lack of games – only 14 were ever available in the US!

Nintendo-3DS

Whilst the Virtual Boy did not deliver the virtual experience that we expect today, it did go some way in creating a unique and immersive gaming experience with had not been seen before. Unfortunately because of the various issues with the system Nintendo just couldn’t shift enough units. Even subsequent price reductions did little to increase sales and Nintendo struggled to get developers on board.

Ultimately the Virtual Boy was a commercial disaster and was discontinued in the US in early 1996. The Virtual Boy did however show Nintendo’s commitment to innovation and certainly paved the way for the immensely popular 3DS – a truly portable 3D games console.

Google Glass available in the UK for a mere £1000

At long last Googles popular Glass hardware is available in the UK through Googles Explorer program.

Google Glass initially went on sale In the US back in 2012 but this was strictly invite only.

If you want to look like a complete burke then Google Glass is now yours for a mere £1000. Google have pointed out that Glass is still in its prototype stage and as such would love your feedback.

Heres some feedback: Its too expensive!

For those of you not familiar with Google Glass, it is in essence a lightweight frame which sits over the eyeglass. It acts as like a head up display (HUD), and in addition to making you look truly awesome, you will be able to access the internet, browse maps and much more.