Tag Archives: comparison

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.

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.