Reviews

If it looks like a premium smartphone, acts like a premium smartphone but is the same price as a 'budget' smartphone, is it still a premium smartphone? Not really, no.

But that doesn't mean it's all bad news for the Agora 8 Plus.

The price of high-end smartphones has gotten out of control. The iPhone X starts at $1579, while Samsung's Galaxy Note 8 retails at $1499, and as much as I like nice things, ponying up that much for a phone is kind of ridiculous. Do we really need a notch that lets you turn your face into an animated pile of poop, or a stylus that won't make your shitty stick figures look any better? But don't fret, because it's still possible to get a very good phone for a decent price.

GoPro has been the leader on action cameras from the very beginning, and its brand has attained a kind of Xerox-like omnipotence - despite the company's ongoing struggles in recent years. Amongst GoPro's problems is the difficulty in making the improvements to its line look like anything more than iterations. With its new Hero6, GoPro has juiced its top camera's guts to make it capable of some frankly incredible slow-mo action. Whether that's enough to make a difference, remains to be seen.

Instead of a normal shower, imagine standing up every morning inside of a storm cloud: The shower curtain bucking and bellowing in the wind; the air, hot and humid as a heavy mist envelopes you, washing away soapy suds. That's what it's like to use a Nebia, the shower system that's won over the biggest names in tech without a single "smart" feature. No sensors, no Bluetooth, no Wi-Fi, but it feels goddamn glorious.

A few months ago, Huawei passed Apple to become the second largest smartphone maker in the world, (Samsung is number one). Its latest flagship handset, the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro, comes complete with its own homegrown silicon that Huawei claims should make its smartphone the most intelligent.

Typing at work on Microsoft's new 15-inch Surface Book 2, I can't shake the feeling that this thing's not for me. Don't get me wrong, it's a powerful laptop, it's beautiful, and the workspace its giant screen affords made me completely forget I wasn't seated at my desk with my usual 32-inch extra-wide display. So sure, the thing is for me, in the way that a very expensive sports car will most definitely sit in city traffic for hours right next to a yellow cab. But do I need the thing, and should I spend $US3,300 (expect upwards of $4,361 here) on it? Of course not.

With his first published novel, The Martian, Andy Weir blinded us with science. It's no secret to say that the story's massive success was due to his factual yet fascinating explanation of how someone could plausibly survive on Mars. In Artemis, Weir tries to evolve to a new level of storytelling, but the changes are unfortunately not for the better.

The last time we saw Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) in Marvel's Cinematic Universe, he'd fully embraced his Punisher persona and taken to doling out his personal brand of justice even after he'd killed the people directly responsible for the death of his family. It's interesting, then, that that man is not the Frank Castle we meet in the opening moments of Netflix's The Punisher.

Zack Snyder's Justice League is both the best and worst of everything we've seen from the Warner Bros. DC Extended Universe movies. There are plenty of things to like, and about an equal number to dislike. But ultimately, its good things bumped up against the bad enough to leave me with hope and excitement for what's to come.

You are probably surrounded by more computers than you know what to do with, whether it's the phone in your pocket, the old clunker at home, or the sleek little ultraportable you got from work. And while they are more than enough for everyday tasks, when it comes to real graphics prowess, I'm talking about serious gaming, 3D design, or photo/video editing, most systems don't have the guts -- or the space to accommodate the kind of silicon you'd need to push pixels around.

Despite what you may have read, the Amazon Echo was never a do-anything smart home device. Sure it could tell you about the weather and maybe control your lights, but it lacked the under-the-hood hub capabilities that could make all your connected devices work together. The new Amazon Echo Plus offers just that. I'm not sure it's worth it, but that absolutely depends on you.

4K TVs are getting cheap as chips these days, and that means you should be getting hold of some 4K video to play on it. There's only one persistent problem with that -- 4K video files are massive, so you need some easy way of storing them en masse and playing them back on your TV conveniently. Enter a multi-bay network-attached storage (NAS) device like this one: Synology's over-sized DS918+ can handle all your house's file storage, PC backups and ultra HD media streaming and more.

Here's a fact rarely discussed outside of super nerdy gaming circles. The guts of your video game console actually matter. Once upon a time games were designed to run the same on every console and, in some cases (like the massive multiplayer first person shooter Destiny 2), games are still designed that way. But most games have what is called a "dynamic resolution" with the resolution shifting on a spectrum from as 720p to 4K depending on the scene.

Thus the more powerful the console the higher and more consistent the resolution of the game you are playing will be. Want something close to consistent 4K without spending a grand on a PC gaming rig? You need a powerful console.

The success of any AR game depends entirely on immersion: whether the player's having so much they forget how massively dorky they look with a cafeteria tray stuck to their their face. Disney's Star Wars: Jedi Challenges, a $399 standalone AR machine made in collaboration with Lenovo, succeeds at this in fits and spurts. Going toe-to-toe with Darth Maul in melee combat or commanding ground troops to retake ships is thrilling, but the package's clunky, cluttered setup presentation wastes too much time in drawing in players.

I'm a total gadget nerd, and it's been five years since a new smartphone made me nod to myself with the understanding that, "Yes, I need that thing more than I need air." But the buzz around the iPhone X has had me a little more hyped than usual.

Not just because the iPhone finally ditched the bezels and got an OLED display -- Samsung's Galaxy S8 lost its bezels in March -- but because the iPhone X is the line's first significant overhaul since the iPhone 4. I should know better than to fall for the hype, but after spending nearly a week with the device, I've actually convinced myself that spending $1579 on a phone seems like a good idea. If you hate me for saying that, that's OK, I hate me too.