This week's hottest reviews on TechRadar
31st Aug 2013 | 07:00
All the hottest hits and techiest toys from the last 7 days
While curved OLED TVs may be little more than an expensive distraction, Ultra HD is the future and the future is… now.
Samsung has just released its first Ultra HD TV in the shape of the Samsung UE55F9000 and it's been one of the most delicious treats of the year. A brilliant all-rounder, offering superb picture quality, smart tv features and all sorts.
It's IFA 2013 next week which means we'll be seeing roughly 64 trillion 4K pixel-packing panels announced by the likes of Philips, Panasonic and many other manufacturers that don't begin with P. And the good news is that some of them might even be in the price range of us mere mortals, so keep your eyes peeled to TechRadar next week.
1. Samsung UE55F9000
Yep, Samsung's UE55F9000 is another simply spectacular Ultra HD TV that also happens to bring the high-resolution technology in at more manageable price and size levels than any previous 4K model.
Its slender design delivers an attractive alternative to the bigger look of Sony's 4K TVs, and its smart TV service is unmatched in terms of the video streaming content on offer.
The Samsung UE55F9000 isn't necessarily better than Sony's X9005A 4K models, but it's certainly just as good, simply offering a surprisingly different approach to the undoubted joys of UHD.
2. Samsung Galaxy S4 Active
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active finds itself a little in no mans land, and it's a difficult one for us to recommend outright. If you're in the market for a super powerful smartphone which you can take on extreme activities, swimming and in the bath then sure the Galaxy S4 Active is the best around, but that's a pretty limited market.
When it comes to the best high-end smartphone around there are a number which trump the S4 Active in terms of style, portability and features and if you're shelling out a lot of money surely you want the best?
So if you're in the market for a top end smartphone then we'd say it's worth taking a look at the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One, Sony Xperia Z and even the Nokia Lumia 925 or iPhone 5, but if you fancy something a little different then you won't be disappointed with the Galaxy S4 Active.
3. Panasonic Lumix GX7
The Panasonic GX7 is a very nicely constructed camera that should meet the needs of experienced photographers looking for a small camera that accepts interchangeable lenses and enables plenty of control. It's a good alternative to a DSLR.
It's designed to be more compact and more portable than Panasonic's mini-DSLR style G-series cameras, but it still provides an impressive range of features. Our only disappointment is that the screen is tilting rather than fully articulating to make it more useful when shooting upright images.
Panasonic has managed to produce a contrast detection AF system that is getting close to a good phase detection system in a DSLR. It is to be congratulated for pushing the boundaries of what can be done with a compact system camera, and for making them more versatile.
4. Philips 46PFL8008S
Philips' top Full HD television for 2013 - with the exception of the larger Philips 55PFL8008S, perhaps - is one of the best in the business. Detail in both moving images and close-ups is excellent, blacks are profound and its Perfect Natural Motion circuitry adds an enjoyable high frame rate-look.
Ambilight impresses once again, while the floating design is incredibly effective. Its double-sided remote makes entering text on a TV at least a possibility, while the sound quality is nothing short of stunning.
5. Netgear R6300
Read:Netgear R6300 review
The revised firmware in this router certainly improves performance almost across the board. Originally we were pleased by the 802.11ac results, but not blown away by them. The update with the added beamforming manages to lift the Netgear R6300 into a definite-buy category.
This is cemented by the huge improvements to the 2.4GHz 802.11n speeds, which had held it back in our minds, limiting speeds with existing devices. While it remains a humongous router, at least the market price has dropped from the initial full price of £200/US$200, bringing it closer to standard dual-band routers and making it a much more tempting purchase.
6. Creative Sound Blaster EVO Zx
With a £199.99 / US$249.99 / AU$279.95 asking price, the Creative Sound Blaster EVO Zx is an expensive gaming headset. There's some genuinely good technology in these cans, and it's great to see some more NFC gear. If you use these headphones with a desktop PC, however, you won't get much out of most of this tech, especially if you have a fancy sound card - since the SB AXX1 chip bypasses any sound cards.
You're then left with a well-built pair of headphones that offer good, but not superb, sound quality. Later this year Creative will release the Creative Sound Blaster EVO ZxR, with larger 50mm drivers in each can, compared to the EVO Zx's 40mm. We'll have to wait to see if the increase in driver size - and jump in price - results in a boost in quality.
7. Bose QuietComfort 20i
The Bose QuietComfort 20s are easily some of the best sounding in-ear noise canceling headphones we've ever put through their paces. Of course, for $300, they better be. So ultimately we're forced to stand by our original summation, if you have $300 to spend on in-ear noise canceling then these are probably for you.
8. Mio Cyclo 505 HC
Read:Mio Cyclo 505 HC
GPS navigation devices are now pretty commonplace in our cars, but as the name suggests, the Mio Cyclo 505 HC Western Europe has been specially designed for bicycles. It's a great idea, since cycling is a popular pastime, so any device that can help us to find some picturesque routes to ride down gets the thumbs up from us.
It's not a perfect gadget, but it's a great addition if you're a keen cyclist who wants to explore new routes. The large price tag, and competition from smartphone apps, makes the Mio Cyclo 505 HC more difficult to justify, however.
9. Sony Alpha 3000
After an initial play (full review in progress) we can't help but be a little confused by the Sony Alpha 3000. It's basically a hybrid of the Alpha and NEX systems, and while both are excellent in different ways, we're not entirely convinced of the merits of combining the two at the moment. But perhaps that will come when we've had a chance to use it properly.
While we understand the desire for a large form factor camera, we're not quite sure why Sony has chosen to omit the NEX name from the range, since this shares the E mount of its NEX siblings. We'll be keen to see how well this camera is received, and whether others also find a confusion between the name and the system.
On the other hand, we're pretty sure that image quality will be good, as we've come to expect from Sony cameras. Keep a look out for our full Sony Alpha 3000 review when it becomes available for testing.
10. Sony NEX-5T
With the Sony NEX-5T only making the relatively minor adjustment of adding NFC, we can pretty much be certain that the image quality will be fantastic.
It's not something we'd recommend ditching your existing Sony NEX-5R for - unless you're really very keen on NFC of course - but it should make for an excellent upgrade for anybody else with either a compact or a beginner/older compact system camera.
Look out for our full review, which should confirm our suspicions, in due course.
11. Sony RX1-R
Like on the original RX1, Sony has decided not to include a touchscreen on the RX1-R. This makes changing the autofocus point a little more fiddly than the near-instant benefits of a touchscreen. First you'll need to press the button at the centre of the navigation pad, then use the arrow keys to scroll around the screen.
Since Sony hasn't changed the body or menu system of the RX1-R from its predecessor, for a more in depth look at the quirks of using the camera, you can read our original Sony RX1 review.