Best of TechRadar 2013: our favourite features and wisest words of the year
21st Dec 2013 | 10:01
All our best words from the last 12 months
As the year comes to a close and we all panic-buy last minute Christmas presents, take a few minutes to have a cup of tea and take a tour through our best words from the last year.
We've loved writing these articles, so thanks a lot for reading, commenting and sharing!
How the Internet of Things will change all of our lives
An Orwellian nightmare or Utopian future?
The chances are you've already heard someone mention the Internet of Things, and it's certainly a phrase that you are going to hear more and more in the coming years, so what exactly is it? At its most basic, the Internet of Things is the, frankly horrible, term used to describe the millions of devices that are now connected together and to the internet but that do not require humans to tell them what data to share. Everything from fitness bands to internet connected fridges, smart thermostats to microchipped street lights can all feed data back to the net with or without our behest, and that's potentially a hugely powerful shift in the way that we live our lives. Continue reading...
LG vs Samsung: the story behind the biggest rivalry in tech
A tale of espionage, in-fighting and... restaurants?
The rivalry between Korean tech giants LG and Samsung is well known, but it took a visit to LG's headquarters in South Korea this week for the true nature of the conflict to become clear to us. The upshot of the situation is that passing through buildings owned by these companies is like getting through security at an airport. Bags are scanned. Cameras are confiscated. Lenses on phones are taped over. USB storage devices are not allowed. Security cameras are everywhere. Continue reading...
7 breakthroughs in physics that unlocked the modern age
Science is interesting, and if you don't agree you can...
Before the likes of Galileo and Newton began to unlock the secrets of the universe, our understanding of everything in it was almost entirely absent. There was no scientifically plausible explanation for any of the phenomena in the night sky and no real understanding of any force of nature. In short, we were the people in Game of Thrones but without the dragons and magic and zombies.
However, instead of spending thousands of years building large walls instead of inventing things, we have used the discipline of physics to provide answers to many of the mysteries of existence, and with that knowledge the human race has achieved incredible things. From powering the industrial revolution to sparking the electrical era and unlocking the secrets of the stars, physics has underpinned our technological adventure into the 21st Century. Continue reading...
PS4 vs Xbox One graphics: what are the differences and do they matter?
Just how much better will PS4 games look and why?
What was once a rumour is now confirmed. At least some cross-platform games will run at a higher resolution on the Sony PlayStation 4 than on Microsoft's Xbox One. But why is this happening and should it influence your decision over which of the next-gen game boxes to buy? Continue reading...
11 reasons why your next TV has to be 4K
Unconvinced by 4K? We're not and here's why...
Ultra High Definition 4K TV technology is the hottest topic in tellydom right now. Major manufacturers are fast-tracking large screen 4K TVs able to display four times the resolution of current HD sets, while broadcasters conduct widespread technical trials behind the scenes. The nascent format dominated this summer's IFA tech fest and it looks certain to do the same at the 2014 International CES in January. Even pro-broadcast bash IBC was 4K obsessed this year. But for normal folks, it may be tempting to cock a snoot when it comes to shortlisting that next TV. However that could prove a costly mistake if you're planning to buy a well-heeled Full HD flatscreen.
Need convincing? Here are eleven reasons why we think your next TV needs to be 4K…
Meet Pacific Rim's giant monsters
And the man who brought the Kaiju and Jaegers to life
A creature towers above a miniature landscape, its upper body stretching beyond wispy clouds. There is commotion underneath, created by the threat of being trampled, but the creature is oblivious. Its eyes trained on something else in the distance, its arms up ready for battle. This could describe any of the many fantastic battle scenes in Pacific Rim, director Guillermo del Toro's monster bash which heads to Blu-ray in the UK November 11, but it's actually a description of The Colossus, a 19th Century painting by Goya. Continue reading...
How Dolby Atmos brought gravitas to Gravity
"This film is basically silent, right? Because there's nothing in it." That might seem like a strange thing for a sound designer to say. It might seem like a strange thing for the sound designer of runaway action hit, Gravity, to say. It definitely seems a strange thing for a sound designer to say about a film that is pretty much made for Dolby Atmos. But sound doesn't travel in space so how do you handle space-sound in an action film that sells itself on its intergalactic realism? Continue reading...
Panasonic's plasma TV exit is the end of a brilliant era
Plasma tech has run its course - the futire is 4K and OLED
It's been, in all honesty, the most protracted screen demise since Julius Caesar exited Carry on Cleo protesting "Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me." But now Panasonic has finally, officially, unequivocally announced it's getting out of the plasma game for good. The Corporation will shutter its only operational facility, the Amagasaki P4 factory in Osaka, in March 2014. Sibling facilities in Amagasaki and Ibaraki have already been mothballed. Unsustainable losses are the simple reason for the brand's decision.Continue reading...
Xbox One and PS4: the verdict
Two amazing console, no reasons to buy either of them
How is it possible for two competing products to be so similar and yet so different? Both the PS4 and Xbox One run the same AMD CPU and very similar graphics hardware. They've both moved over to x86, they both rock the same half-matte, half-gloss finish. Neither are good looking, though the Xbox One is particularly ugly. They both run FIFA 14 and Call of Doody, both respond to voice commands and they even smell similarly musky out of the box. And yet, they're so different it's almost unreal. So should you go out and buy one, and if so, which one should you go for? Continue reading...
Oculus Rift creator: Xbox One and PS4 are far too limited
Motion man planning for much bigger things
We're sat opposite Palmer Luckey, 21-year-old inventor of the Oculus Rift. There's so much we want to ask him but right now he's too busy explaining his plans to build the ultimate Pokemon team. "Charizard's actually competitive again now that you have mega Charizard Y because his ability brings the sun out, so he's a great sweeper." Seeing him geek out with so much passion, we've never been more glad that this is the person who controls the fate of Oculus Rift. Continue reading...
Is the internet bringing us together or keeping us apart?
Is there any satisfaction to be had from a digital book signing?
If ever there were a phrase that summed up the point to which the internet has brought us, it is "digital book signing". "It's a world first and I always like to try new things," says David Beckham awkwardly at his digital signing which has been set up through his Facebook page. He mentions the technology amid compliments on his hair, invitations to Brazil, discussion of his favourite goals, his family, his tattoos and the photos that make up his book.Continue reading...
How Britain made the Dark Knight mobile
"The brief we got [to create the Batmobile Tumbler] was for a vehicle that could do 60mph; we thought we'd give them a little bit more than that so we boosted it to 100mph, as we obviously wanted it to do some amazing things." There's very little that doesn't sound incredible when talking to John Holmes, senior special effects technician on the team involved in creating the most recent iteration of the Batmobile. The Tumbler is one of the most iconic designs in cinematic history – no mean feat when it was replacing the original 'kitsch' Batmobile. Continue reading...
10 mindblowing uses for the world-changing substance that never was
Starlite has baffled scientific minds for 23 years
Starlite could be the most valuable man-made substance ever created. It has the potential to revolutionise industries, save lives and change the course of human history. The applications for it are near infinite, no scientific mind has ever been able to work out how it works – and yet it has never actually been used for anything. So what does it do, and why have you never heard of it? Starlite was invented during the 1980s by the unlikely Maurice Ward, a ladies' hairdresser from Yorkshire. It's a plastic that's able to withstand heat to an almost unimaginable degree. Ward never revealed how it was made, saying merely that it contained 'up to 21 organic polymers and copolymers, and small quantities of ceramics'. Continue reading...
Exposed: The invisible conflict being waged by the world's superpowers
The next world war will be online, and the consequences will be very real
In the long Cold War between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, espionage was rife. Security services placed secret agents in sensitive positions, spy planes photographed strategic locations and information was smuggled through borders. The reasons were simple: each side believed that they would eventually end up at war with the other - and when conflict began, knowing your enemy's secrets could make a crucial difference to the outcome. There was only one rule: don't get caught. Getting caught could spark an international incident and bring the world one step closer to war. Is something similar happening online?
Apple rumours: How to tell fact from fiction
Separate the iWheat from the iChaff with our handy iHelper
The Apple rumour mill never sleeps!
While we were oohing and aahing at the iPhone 5S and 5C, rumourmongers had already turned their attention to the next event in the middle of October. iPad 5s! Apple TVs! Fuel-cell powered sexbots! Maybe even an iWatch! Many and perhaps even most of the predictions will turn out to be bobbins, but how can you tell which bits of smoke have fire? Allow us to help...
How Nvidia Grid is set to revolutionise cloud gaming
Providing the backend technology for the cloud
Like music and movies, gaming is also on an irreversible move into the cloud. Thanks to OnLive, the concept of cloud gaming isn't alien, but widespread cloud gaming has bumped up against technology problems – latency, plus the need to make games available across a plethora of devices. Nvidia thinks it has the answer with Nvidia Grid, cloud gaming technology that works behind the scenes of subscription-based games services. Continue reading...
Dyson: 'We spend a lot of money fighting to protect our ideas'
We quiz Dyson's Airblade chief over product design, IP theft and more
Chris Osborn is clearly very proud of what his team has achieved. Based at Dyson's HQ in Malmesbury, UK, he talks candidly about the experimental nature of the company's product development as well as its no-nonsense attitude to theft of the company's intellectual property. Continue reading...
6 catastrophes that would kill your gadgets forever
Since the Sony Walkman crashed onto the shelves worldwide in 1980, consumer technology has slowly been taking over our lives. From washing machines to digital watches and from electronic word processors to modern tablet computers, the march of technology has been unstoppable. It now sits at the heart of everything we do, as we manage our schedules with Google Calendar, keep in touch via Facebook and mobile phones and entertain ourselves with games consoles and Netflix. But it could all change in an instant. The (atrocious) NBC drama series Revolution explores what the world would be like if all technology were to suddenly stop working. An appalling prospect, but could it actually happen? Here are six scenarios for the death of tech. Continue reading...
Before iWatch: the timely history of the smartwatch
The long and winding road to the iWatch and Galaxy Gear
Smart watches have been the next big thing since 1982. But this year was different: Samsung's Galaxy Gear dropped on the 4th of September and started a whole new wave of wearable tech. We've got smart watches to look forward to from pretty much everyone. So what's different this time, and why haven't smart watches taken off before now? Let's look at some of the major milestones - and mistakes. Continue reading...
Plus points: why Google+ is now everywhere you look online
It's the social network you may not want but it's here to stay
Web giant Google launched Google+ on 28 June 2011 as an invite-only "field test", with golden tickets sent to a few early adopters and journalists. The proposition was attractive: a Facebook-rivalling social network, integrated into all of the web services you already use, backed by Google's raw energy and innovation. Up front were Circles - a way to organise everyone you know, and share content only with those who would be interested in it. The photos of your new-born baby could be shared with your "Family" circle, while you type out a filthy joke for your "Friends" circle and then pen a paradigm-busting blog post for your "Work" circle. Continue reading...
Flight club: how drones can save lives and deliver our mail
Amazon's Air Prime scheme changes the conversation
Up until a couple of weeks ago, if you asked the Average Joe about drones, he may have offered a description of clandestine, pilotless US military planes, flying over the Middle East, dropping their destructive payloads on suspected terrorists. However, just recently, on a quiet Sunday night, the conversation changed thanks to Amazon and its imagination-capturing CEO Jeff Bezos. Continue reading...
Beyond Google Glass: the future of wearable tech
We talk to some of the major players involved in the most exciting new sector in tech
What if we told you that Google Glass and Galaxy Gear were just the beginning? That the impending arrival of Google's super-futuristic wearable computer and Samsung's wrist-based wonder were simply the commencement of our ascent into the realms of science-fiction cyborg-dom? Beyond the AR specs spearheaded by Google and the smartwatches in the works from Apple, Samsung and others, there are countless minds creating wearable solutions that will revolutionise health and fitness, the workplace and everything in between - from our socks to our sex lives. Continue reading...
The evolution of Shazam: from music maestro to TV tagging
Can Shazam become the only app you need for TV?
What is that song? It's a simple question but one Shazam has built an audio-recognition empire on, having answered it billions of times through its app. It was first answered on 19 April 2002. T Rex's Jeepster was the very first tag, when the service was then called 2580. Skip to 2013 and the 10 billionth answer was given this month as Lady Gaga's Applause. Continue reading...
10 things you didn't know your smartphone could do
Supercharge your phone in ten easy steps
Smartphones are great, they're basically a computer in your pocket packed full of features to make your life easier. But some of those features are less obvious than others, so to help you get the most out of your phone here are 10 things that you might not have known it could do. Continue reading...
Six marvels of the 4K revolution
To say Sony is serious about 4K is a bit like saying Canon seems to kinda like making cameras. 4K is at the heart of Sony's entire operation, and that's not surprising given the fact that it's the only company that can tell an on-brand end-to-end 4K story. It makes the movies and TV shows, it produces the cameras to shoot the content, it makes the projectors to display it in cinemas, it publishes the movies on disc, and it delivers 4K it to the home in the form of TVs, games consoles and media servers. Sony has already shipped over 15,000 4K projectors worldwide. To mark the forthcoming launch of Sony's new 4K TV range, Sony invited us to Sony Pictures Studios in LA to take a closer look at its 4K ecosystem. We've seen 4K movie sets, we've seen Breaking Bad being remastered in 4K and we've compared Sony's 4K TVs against every other brand.
How the PS3 won the console war
Despite its shaky start, Sony's seventh-gen powerhouse played a blinder
In part one of our console retrospective series, we have a true underdog story. PlayStation 3 launched in Europe some 14 months after Xbox 360 in March 2007, delayed by a shortage of diodes used in its Blu-Ray drive, of all things.
When it finally did arrive, it came with a considerably bigger price tag than Microsoft's offering, and was plagued by second-rate versions of cross-platform releases. The writing, it appeared, was on the wall: Xbox 360 was going to win this generation's console war.
But incredibly, Sony turned that less-than-desirable start to its advantage, and as we stand on the precipice between seventh and eighth generation consoles and take stock of the last six years, any fool can see PlayStation 3 ends the era victorious! Continue reading...
How the Xbox 360 won the console war
Ignore the red ring of death, the Xbox is the real winner here
In part two, not so fast! In looking for proof of the Xbox 360's position as the defining console of the age, you can refer to no less an authority than President Barack Obama.
It was he who criticised Republican behaviour over the recent US government shutdown by saying "You don't get a chance to call your bank and say, 'I'm not going to pay my mortgage this month unless you throw in a new car and an Xbox.'"
This bit of partisan point-scoring represents the zenith of Microsoft's incredible success in the seventh console generation - the point at which even the President admitted that "Xbox" had became interchangeable with "games console"in the way that "Playstation" had at the turn of the century.
It was, and is, the device on which most self-described gamers play games.Continue reading...
How the Nintendo Wii won the console war
With 100m+ sales, the Will is obviously the clear winner!
Part 3 - stop right there, clearly the Nintendo Wii was actually the triumphant console this generation! Did it have the graphical might to stand shoulder to shoulder with the PS3 and Xbox 360? Hell no. Did it have the hardcore library of the GameCube? Nope. Did it have a stupid name? Yeah, we sniggered.
And guys, it couldn't even play DVDs. But the Wii won this generation by doing something much, much bigger: it got the whole world playing videogames. Continue reading...
From Apple to appliances: how Nest is making everyday items relevent again
"The Internet of Things? I hate that phrase. It is horrible."
You would think that the creator of a smart smoke alarm and connected thermostat would be the poster boy for the so-called Internet of Things but Tony Faddell, the CEO of Nest, wants nothing to do with the surge in everyday objects connecting to the internet. "Just because you can connect something doesn't mean that you should," he tells TechRadar when we met up with him in London. "Connection is another technology that can dramatically change a product and an experience but people are just connecting anything. Why are there fridges with tablets on the front of them? They just bashed two things together without really understanding."
It is this understanding that seemingly permeates through Nest's product lineup, which have been met with huge popularity in the US and are now heading to the UK with the imminent launch of Nest Protect. Continue reading...
Uncovered: the technology behind the impossibly light football boot
Do you want to feel like you're floating on the pitch?
A bar of soap. The iPhone 5. A pear. An empty wallet. These are all things that weigh more than Adidas' new F50 99g football boot. When you first hold it in your hand, it's hard to believe that this is really something that a professional sportsperson could wear. It's so light that it has more in common with a ballet slipper than a protective layer worn by those earning £200,000 per week. Continue reading...
Windows RT: time's up for Microsoft's dying OS
Asus the latest name to pull out – and pretty much the last
Microsoft didn't have a clue what it was doing with Windows RT. And if it did, its strategy was a total fiasco and it spent an awful lot of money believing its own hype. Now Asus is pulling back from the beleaguered ARM-only OS, explaining that "the result is not very promising." It joins an elite band of traditional PC vendors who, having pledged support for RT, eventually decided that Microsoft's Windows touch dream was better off running on an Intel processor. You know, one with the ability to use legacy apps and the Desktop just as everybody has done since Windows 95. Continue reading...
Movie piracy in the UK: what's the film industry doing?
Online piracy is rife but education may be the key
TechRadar spoke to Twentieth Century Fox's Keith Feldman recently about this situation and he is hoping the movie industry's backing of Digital HD – a hi-definition download that can be downloaded and streamed from the cloud – will make everything a lot easier. Continue reading...