Blast from the past: Atari Jaguar

As a kid I owned a Sega Megadrive. I loved it dearly and spoke openly with my mates about my loyalty to Sega. It was funny back then in the early nineties; you either swore allegiance to Sega or, in the enemy’s case Nintendo. My brother owned a Super Nintendo and we fought bitter battles for console supremacy. Of course there was no doubt that Sonic was way cooler than Nintendo’s strange Italian plumber! Back then Sega and Nintendo had a massive monopoly on console gaming and these 16bit beasts were at the cutting edge of what consoles were capable of. There was however a huge competitor capable of wiping Nintendo and Sega off the face of the world. The Atari Jaguar launched in 1993 and marketed as the world most powerful gaming console was a major threat to the likes of Sony and Ninty. Why then did the 64bit powerhouse from the future prove to be such a commercial failure?       

 
Atari  had been making popular games consoles and computers since 1984 and enjoyed a pretty solid reputation. It was however well known that unless they could offer a competitive rival to match the super popular Megadrive and Snes then the company would likely be doomed. Bearing this in mind Atari went one step further and designed a mega-console. A console that was capable of trumping the competition and more.  Unbeknown to Atari the Jaguar would not only be their last ever console but would almost bankrupt the company. There are of course many reasons for this, but we can have a look at some of the key issues;
 
Third party support
 
History has shown us that what makes a games console sell is its games catalogue. It is vital to have a good range of games at release to make a console successful. It is similarly as important to ensure you have developers on board and a decent catalogue of future games. What made this particularly difficult for Atari was that the Jaguar was notoriously difficult to develop games for. Not only was the console riddled with bugs but initial poor sales figures made the platform very undesirable to developers. Although the console did have a few good games including Doom, Wolfenstein, Rayman and Alien vs Predator, It was just not enough to keep the platform afloat. Many of the games were rushed out and totally rubbish or massively delayed. This major lack of support from developers proved to be one of largest nails in the Jaguars coffin.
 
Competition
 
Although the Jaguar did enjoy a modest marketing budget of $3Million Atari struggled to compete. The Snes and Megadrive had already enjoyed huge success and in 1995 Sega released the Saturn and and Sony released its first ever console the Playstation. Although both were only 32bit, it was argued that the Jaguar wasn’t actually a true 64bit console. Sony were the ultimate winners of this console war and enjoyed enormous success.
 
Hardware and focus
 
Let’s not forget that god awful controller. It was totally rubbish; far too big with way too many buttons. Furthermore, the cartridge based medium that Atari opted for presented many limitations.
Another issue was that Atari seemed to lack focus. Rather than putting most of their efforts into the the console itself, They spent too much time thinking about new ad-on’s and future developments. 
 
Perhaps ultimately the Atari jaguar was just too far ahead of its time. It had so much potential but just couldn’t deliver. Its a shame really because when Atari finally threw in the towel it had been in the process of developing a new console; the Jaguar 2. It was suggested to have been 2 to 3 times more powerful than the Playstation! Who knows what it may have been capable of and where Atari may have been today. Imagine an Atari rival to the current next gen games consoles! The Jaguar will however live on in our hearts and does in fact enjoy a bit of a cult following today.
 
If you ever owned an Atari Jaguar then please share your experience.
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Blast from the past: Sega Dreamcast

Who remembers the excitement of The Sega Dreamcast being released? With that unique and intuitive controller and that cool little visual memory card accessory? I never owned one personally but my brother did. He used to hate the way that every time he came home from college I would be in his bed room playing Resident Evil Code: Veronica. I loved that game dearly.

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The Dreamcast is yet another example of a product which was ahead of its time. Released globally in 1999 it way more powerful than Sony’s Playstation and Sega’s own Saturn. Sega really needed to make amends for its failing Saturn console and all seemed well when the Dreamcast kicked of with strong sales figures.  Unfortunately for Sega however the much anticipated Playstation 2 was just around the corner. This posed a major threat to Sega and unfortunately hit Dreamcast sales fatally.

The Dreamcast was officially discontinued in March 2001 and Sega pulled out of the hardware market all together. Like with the Atari Jaguar we really need to consider where Sega Could have been today if it had Continued making hardware. As a long time Sega fan I would love to have seen Sega making next gen consoles today.

The Dreamcast was pretty revolutionary as far as games consoles go. It was the first to be released with a built in modem (who remembers ChuChu rocket?) and the first to output video in Enhanced-Definition 480p. Strangely, the Dreamcast had no operating system installed. The operating system was actually loaded onto the system via the games discs. Microsoft had done a lot of work with Sega developing a version of Windows CE. It was not however the most widely used operating System. Either way the Dreamcast was revolutionary and demands our respect.

One thing is for Sure; with game’s like Crazy taxi, ChuChu Rocket and Shenmue the Dreamcast will gown in history as a gaming masterpiece.

HTC one leaks….again

A further picture of HTC’s up and coming flagship ‘one’ leaks again, this time its in black. Previously thought to be known as the M7, the new device will likely sport a full HD display, 2GB of ram, a modern quad core processor and a 13MP camera. Expect the device to be unveild at HTC’s press conference on February 19th. Lets just hope this phone has enough to turn around HTC’s troubling sales figures. It does looks a lot like the love child of the iPhone 5 and Blackberry’s Z10!

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Leak courtesy of evleaks.

MiniDisc – R.I.P (1992-2013)

Although it will hardly come as a surprise Sony have finally thrown in the towel with their revolutionary MiniDisc format. Originally launched back in 1992 the mini disk was a direct contender to the popular CD. Marketed as being smaller than the CD and skip-free it showed promise. The popularity of CD had been underestimated however and the rise in digital media made the MiniDisc un-competitive. In 2011 sales of portable MiniDisc players ended. The last MiniDisk stereo systems will be rolling off the production lines in March. Its actually quite surprising that the format lasted 20 years.

 

MiniDiskSny MiniDisk

Is that a Phablet in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

Just what exactly is the perfect size smartphone? For years and years phones had been getting smaller and smaller. I remember back in around 2006 receiving my Samsung D500 phone. It was the cutting edge in technology. Colour screen, 1.3 mega pixel camera and GPRS data all crammed into a clamshell design. Back then the smaller the better. But things have changed. There will always be supporters of pocketable little phones, but for those of us who have a desire to consume as much media as possible then bigger is almost certainly better.

I laugh out loud when I think about the first time I laid eyes on Samsung’s Omnia HD. It seemed gargantuan with its pocket busting 3.7 inch Amoled display. In fact it seemed so massive I was sure people would assume I had some sort of major insecurity. But 3.7 inches today is nothing. I had owned a Samsung Galaxy S 3 for about 9 months. It’s 4.8 inch Super Amoled HD display makede the omnia HD look like a dwarf. But I think this just shows how opinions have changed. My mate had a HTC desire for years. He loved it and hated the idea of getting anything bigger. That was until he checked out my S3. He is now the proud owner of a LG Galaxy Nexus and can’t understand how he put up with the Desires minuscule 3.7 inch display for so long.

It just shows how the world is changing. A phone isn’t just a phone anymore. It’s our window to the world. Why watch video content on a tiny display when you can experience it in glorious HD. My smartphone is my pocketable media device. I love watching HD content on my phone. The bigger the better. Playing games and trawling through the Internet just wouldn’t be the same on a smaller device. I think a lot of people are coming around to this way of thinking. Samsung clearly read the market right with its Galaxy Note range. Needless to I recently owned the massive note 2 with its delightful 5.5 inch display. I can’t imagine anything smaller now. Having ‘downgraded’ to the HTC One I am once again craving a larger screen.

I think to a certain extent Apple have missed the mark with its iPhone range. They certainly caved in to demand with the iPhone 5 and 5s. The screen was stretched out into widescreen aspect but critics argue it is still too small. This may well explain current rumours suggesting future iPhones may come in different sizes! For me the iPhone just seems too small. I’m sure people will disagree but I’m convinced that large screen phones are here to stay. With the recent release of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, LG G2, Sony Xperia Z Ultra and rumored HTC One Max it is clear that Samsung has founded a market which is here to stay.  Either way i’m now considering the Note 3 with its gorgeous 5.7 inch Super Amoled full HD display. Its absolutely glorious! Yes this is a phablet in my pocket and I’m proud of it!

Beauty!
Beauty!

Picture courtesy of wired.co.uk

BB10 is here!

It’s make or break for blackberry who have had a pretty rocky ride over the past few years. Some very negative publicity and dwindling sales have cost the Canadian smartphone manufacturer dearly. Blackberry has put all its faith in its new BB10 operating system which is being showcased by the all-touch-screen Z10 and the soon to come Q10 with familiar keyboard.

Research in motion (RIM) or just ‘Blackberry’ as its now officially known are only to aware of the importance of their new operating system. BB10 offers an intuitive user interface which is heavily gesture based. It has so far been relatively well received. Sales thus far of the Z10 have been very strong in the UK with many stores already out of stock. This has helped a 15% increase in Blackberry’s share price.

Although the Z10 is currently available in the UK it won’t be until mid March that it makes it over the pond. Unfortunately the Q10 won’t be available until between May and June. Only time will tell whether Blackberry have done enough to secure their place in what is a very difficult market place.

4K Television

With many households not even receiving High Definition TV yet, it seems strange that a new even higher resolution is making an appearance. You may have heard of 4K but what exactly is it? Well current full High Definition content is broadcast in a 1920 x 1080 resolution. What that means is that the picture is made up of 1080 pixels vertically by 1920 horizontally.  Pixels make up the image so the more of them there are then the sharper the image. So when we talk about 1080P High Definition we are referring to the amount of pixels up the vertical axis. The ‘P’ refers to ‘progressive scan’ but Ill bore you with that another time! If you multiply 1920 by 1080 then, you get 2,073,600. This is the total number of pixels.

So what exactly is 4K I hear you say? Well 4K (also known as Ultra HD) refers to the horizontal resolution. There are 4096 pixels horizontally but as this is close to 4000 we call it 4K. 4K resolution is actually 4096 pixels by 2160. As you can see then the resolution here is twice that of High Definition. The total amount of pixels however is four times that of High Definition (about 8 million) making for a very sharp picture indeed!

With only a hand full of 4K televisions available, retailing at well over £20,000, I’m sure none of us will be rushing out to buy one any time soon. 4K is on its way however. People with more money than sense will find some limited content to download from the internet, and YouTube has already started streaming 4K for premium customers. Domestic cameras capable of filming in 4K such as Gopro’s new Hero 3 black edition, are also starting to make an appearance. With everyone talking about 4K at the minute I’m sure 2013 is going be a big year!

Bravia

Samsung Galaxy S4 inbound!

Did you know that Samsung have already sold around 100 million Galaxy S3’s to date? In fact Sammy’s premium smartphone is even outselling the iPhone 5 here in the Uk. For those of you who have just invested in the latest Galaxy S device you might not be so please to learn that the S4 may be just around the corner. Latest rumours suggest the new device will be announced on March 15th (my birthday incidentally) with an April release date.

Leaked Samsung Galaxy S4?

The latest incarnation is rumoured to sport a full 1080p Super Amoled display, an 8 core processor and 2 gigs of RAM. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little excited! It will be interesting to see what Samsung will do about build quality. Opponents of the S2 and S3 argue that the build materials are a little cheap feeling. Personally I disagree but only time will tell wether Samsung will move away from an all plastic construction. You can check out my video reviews of the Samsung Galaxy S 2 and 3 on my YouTube Channel http://www.youtube.com/thefutureproofed

Uk 4G and EE’s head start

Last year EE were given permission by regulator Ofcom to push ahead with its 4G network, making it the UK’s first and only provider. Needless to say this infuriated other telecoms companies such as Telefonica and Vodafone. What was argued as an unfair commercial advantage had naturally resulted in threats of legal action. Unfortunately all this excitement has delayed the furthed roll out of 4G and we are only just now seeing discussions taking place for the remaining spectrum left behind from the analogue to digital swith over.

We know at the minute Telefonica (O2), Vodafone, BT, EE and a number of foreign telecoms providers are bidding for the remaining spectrum.

Unfortunately with EE curently the only 4G network, the lack of competition means prices are really high! 4G LTE which stands for fourth generation long term evolution is finally here however and EE are pushing hard for maximum coverage. Lets just hope prices become a little more reasonable!

If you are a current user of EE’s 4G network please let us know how you are finding it.Image

The consoles war

Rumours surrounding the latest generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft are heating up. The so called Xbox 720 and Playstation 4 are expected to be released sometime this year but it is not yet known which will come first. Initial rumours suggest Sony may wait to see what the latest incarnation of Microsoft’s Xbox offers, before releasing their own console. This isn’t the first time Sony have used this tactic with the Playstation 3 coming out well behind the Xbox 360. Whether of not Sony’s console was any better however is subject to heated debate. Who knows what will happen at this point but lets not forget Nintendo’s intuitive Wii U console which was released last year and has already enjoyed some success.

It’s not all about the three gaming tech giants this year however. Valve’s hotly anticipated Steam Box and Nvidia’s project Shield are also expected to go on sale sometime this year. With such big releases expected, there is no doubt that 2013 is going to be a huge year for gaming. Lets have a look at what we know so far:

The Sony Playstation (PS4) may not exist yet but it is certainly on its way. We know that Sony is planning a press event on February 20th and it is strongly believed that their next gen console will be announced then. With regards to hardware specs we do know that both the central processing unit (CPU) and graphics processing unit (GPU) will be made by AMD. It is believed that the PS4 will share the same 8 core processor from the Xbox 720 and that this will be clocked at 1.6ghz to make it as power efficient as possible. The processor is based on AMD’s new Jaguar architecture but unfortunately – as Techradar have pointed out – this processor is very under powered compared to modern alternatives from the likes of Intel et al. The graphics are expected to be based on an AMD Radeon 7000 series GPU and whilst much faster than the graphic unit within the PS3, not so competitive compared to current high-end PC graphics cards. It will pack 4GB’s or RAM and will more than likely be capable of outputting video is Super High Definition 4K (See my article ‘what’s this 4K all about’). It has to be noted that these specs are not set in stone however so things may change before release. A recent rumour suggests the console will cost around $400 in the US and around £270 here in the UK.

Although there is no idea currently as to when the Xbox 720 is to be released, it would be wise to do so before the Christmas. It is strongly suggested that the 720 will build on the success of the kinect and may even incorporate Microsoft’s new Illumiroom to project images around you room. The 720 will share the CPU from the PS4 but not that much is known about the consoles GPU. what is known is that it will likely be clocked at 800MHZ but recent leaks suggest it may not be as capable as the PS4’s GPU. In the memory department the 720 is expected to have double the memory of its rival at 8GB vs. 4GB. With the release of the Xbox 720 it looks like Microsoft will finally bow out to Sony and Include a Blue Ray Drive. This is not confirmed however and it is still suggested that both consoles may even rely on cloud storage. I’m not so sure however! Like the PS4, the 720 will likely be capable of 4K video out. What was suggested lately is that the 720’s interface may resemble that of Windows 8. It is also unlikely that the popular Xbox controller will change too much.

At the end of the day the specs don’t really mean that much. It is likely that both the PS4 and the 720 will be very similarly matched in the graphics compartment and both will sell like hot cakes. What will likely set them apart will be innovation. The innovative Nintendo Wii pushed the boundaries and gave us something new. Lets hope that one of the next gen consoles is capable of giving us such a new experience and pushes the boundaries of what we are used to.

Personally I am very excited by Valves Steam Box. As a PC gamer I find it pleasing that the PC gaming community has grown massively in recent years. This has only been helped by new more affordable gaming PC’s. Alienware’s excellent X51 gaming PC for example has made PC gaming more affordable and with its compact console like design has made the PC more portable. For the first time PC gaming has been taken into the front room. The Steam Box however can only build on the success of the X51 and make PC gaming a true living room experience. The steam box will be the true living room PC; Small, affordable and accessible. Although not yet officially announced, we have already seen the ‘Piston’ from Xi3. What was originally though to be the Steam Box turned out to be a third party steam like server. This however is interesting as it shows how Steam Box may not be exclusive to Valves own system.

Lets also not forget the Nvidia’s project shield gaming hand-help. Powered by Nvidia’s latest Tegra 4 mobile processor it is shaping up to be a stunner of a gadget. What is basically a controller with a 720p full touch display has the potential to shake up mobile gaming. The console which runs on Android is a true streaming device. The console is capable of streaming Games direct from your PC providing you have a compatible graphics card and are connected to WiFi. As if this isn’t enough, with it being an android device you will be able to download the latest 3D games from the Play Store. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about getting one of these!

So 2013 is really shaping up to be a stunner of a year and its not all about Sony and Microsoft. Far from it in fact. This could potentially be the year of the of the affordable gaming PC. Microsoft and Sony need to watch their backs, theirs a new kid on the block!

Google Nexus 4 sales hit 1 million

Well it’s official! Google nexus 4 sales have passed the 1 million mark. The LG built Google Nexus 4 has been selling like hot cakes. Not surprising considering the device is being sold at cost. The Nexus super phone will cost you a mere £239 in the UK for the 8GB model and £279 for the 16GB. As well as the monetary cost you may have to sacrifice a kidney to get on the waiting list!

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