Mac|Life - Reviews http://www.maclife.com/articles/22/feed en DiRT 3 Complete Edition Review http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/dirt-3-complete-edition-review <!--paging_filter--><p>At turns lush and austere, Codemasters’ DiRT 3 is an exercise in balance: while stocky BMW M3 rally cars careen through the lovingly re-created Maasai Mara, the game confidently dispenses with finickier genre conceits such as contract negotiations or vehicle upgrades.&nbsp;</p><p>DiRT 3’s career mode is split into four sections of increasingly difficult and exotic off-road racing events. Drivers gain “rep” as they win races, which theoretically offers access to more teams and more cars. However, players are free to switch teams before each race, and the differences between the Peugeot 207 and the Fiat Grande Punto will be purely visual to all but the most devoted gearheads. DiRT 3’s career mode is stripped down, with a laser-focus on racing instead of race management.</p><p><img src="/files/u332541/2015/05/dirt3_620.png" width="620" height="349" /></p><p>Sophisticated options exist for skilled players, but DiRT 3 operates in a comfortable space between simulation and simple representation, where the steering and handbraking are tight and responsive, but players won’t have to fine-tune their suspension and gear ratio to be successful.</p><p>Instead, players are tested in how well they navigate different vehicle types and terrain: the four-by-fours are top heavy, but the snow buggies are prone to drifting around tight corners. DiRT 3 is at its best when players are barreling through the Michigan muck or knifing along the Col de Turini in the middle of the night, learning and improvising as they go.</p><p>Career mode is awkwardly punctuated by “gymkhana” events: a freestyle spectacle in which drivers are awarded points based on the grace and control of their drifts, spins, and donuts. There’s little in the way of tutorial or direction, and these events come off as clumsy and haphazard as a result — an annoying barrier that stands in the way of DiRT 3’s stronger suite.</p><p>Frustratingly, the version of DiRT 3 on the Mac App Store doesn’t include any online multiplayer options. While basic races are available in split-screen multiplayer, you’ll need to be connected through LAN for access to the “Invasion,” “Outbreak,” and “Transporter” modes. For online racing, you’ll need to get the Steam version.</p><p><strong>The bottom line.</strong> Gymkhana notwithstanding, DiRT 3 is deft and accomplished.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-the-bottom-line"><legend>Review Synopsis</legend><div class="field field-type-text field-field-product"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Product:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dirt-3-complete-edition/id910949621?mt=12" target="_blank">DiRT 3 Complete Edition</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-company"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Company:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Codemasters/Feral Interactive </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-contact"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Contact:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="https://www.feralinteractive.com" target="_blank">www.feralinteractive.com</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-price"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Price:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> $29.99 </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-requirements"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Requirements:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Mac running&nbsp;OS X 10.9.5 or later, 2GHz processor, 4GB RAM, 256MB VRAM, 15GB hard drive space</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-positives"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Positives:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Approachable racing. Distinct vehicles and terrain.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-negatives"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Negatives:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Gymkhana modes feel out of place. Mac App Store version lacks online multiplayer.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/dirt-3-complete-edition-review#comments Reviews DiRT 3 racing rally Mac Games Thu, 21 May 2015 17:20:58 +0000 Joseph Leray 21646 at http://www.maclife.com Shifts — Shift Worker Calendar Review http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/shifts-shift-worker-calendar-review <!--paging_filter--><p>Unless you’re on a regular nine-to-five work schedule, juggling ever-changing work shifts can be a pain. There is, of course, an app solution for taming this time-consuming beast, though, which makes your schedule easy to follow.</p><p>Shifts is specifically designed for people who need to manage non-standard schedules, such as medical professionals or factory workers who don’t punch the clock on a traditional Monday through Friday routine. After creating one or more shifts — each with a unique name, icon, and color — adding them to a monthly calendar can be done in just a few taps.</p><p><img src="/files/u332541/2015/05/shifts_620.png" width="620" height="542" /></p><p>For hourly workers, Shifts can also use this data to offer a glimpse at your monthly earnings, which is a great addition, though it won’t help if you’re paid by the job. In that case, features such as a Today widget in Notification Center and reminders before the start of a shift are still very handy.</p><p>The biggest drawback is that Shifts is currently an island unto itself — scheduled shifts are confined to the app and can’t be synced with other calendars, so they won’t show up on your Mac or PC, for example. Shifts offers a way to overlay data from calendars already on your device (which appear as a small dot underneath the date), but only from one at a time.</p><p><strong>The bottom line.</strong> Shifts has the potential to be a real convenience for workers who don’t punch the nine-to-five clock and want an easy way to track and check on their schedule, but the inability to sync with other calendar apps is a big limitation.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-the-bottom-line"><legend>Review Synopsis</legend><div class="field field-type-text field-field-product"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Product:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/shifts-shift-worker-calendar/id954023130?mt=8" target="_blank">Shifts — Shift Worker Calendar</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-company"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Company:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Snowman Inc. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-contact"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Contact:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="http://builtbysnowman.com" target="_blank">builtbysnowman.com</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-price"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Price:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> $4.99 </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-requirements"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Requirements:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 8 or later</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-positives"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Positives:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Convenient and easy to use. Really does help with work scheduling. Handy Today widget.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-negatives"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Negatives:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Can't be synched with other calendar apps.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/shifts-shift-worker-calendar-review#comments Reviews App AppLife Apps scheduling Shifts Work iPad iPhone iPod Wed, 20 May 2015 17:43:18 +0000 J.R. Bookwalter 21640 at http://www.maclife.com Topaz Impression Review http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/topaz-impression-review <!--paging_filter--><p>Ever wanted to turn your photos into natural-media style works of art? This app makes it easy. Fire it up and you’re presented with a box asking you to select a photo to work with, which you simply drag into the boxed area — yes, it’s that easy.</p><p>The interface is pretty well laid out and all rather uncluttered, with the photo you’ve selected shown in the largest window on the left. On the right you’ll find a series of boxes with different visual representations of the various default paint effects from pastiche and charcoal to Dali and Turner. You can then simply click these effects to attribute them to your photographic masterpiece — the software paints over your image at a rate of approximately 10,000 brush strokes per second! It’s a good idea to visit the website to download and try out a copy of the software for free; even if your experience with digital artistic software is limited, you’ll find Topaz Impression very easy to work with, and it’s nice to be able to try out any software for free before shelling out your hard-earned dollars.&nbsp;</p><p><img src="/files/u332541/2015/05/topazimpression_620.png" width="620" height="413" /></p><p>There are over 45 presets to choose from and six collections to peruse. Once you’ve selected a preset, you can then go to work with the adjustments. You can adjust the strength and blend of the applied style with two quick on-screen options, or go further with the Adjustments tab. Here you’ll find a host of sliders and options for tweaking things further, including standards such as color (hue, saturation, lightness) and lighting (brightness, contrast, vignette), as well as more useful art-specific options in texture (adjusting your canvas) and brush (size, paint volume, stroke width and length), and more.</p><p>The Da Vinci effect, for one example, was very true to style with its pencil rendering. You’d probably have to do a great deal of adjusting parameters to imitate the exact look and feel of your favorite old master, but the adjustments are easy to choose from and quickly applied — and you want this to be your work of art too! The software seemed to lack much in the way of finite manual control, like that of the smear tool in Photoshop, for example (though it can be used as a plugin in Photoshop). It still feels a little limited for $100, though.</p><p><strong>The bottom line.</strong> Topaz Impression offers some nice, if somewhat limited, effects to your everyday snaps. Does it compete with the big boys? Not quite, but you do get a bit more change in your wallet.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-the-bottom-line"><legend>Review Synopsis</legend><div class="field field-type-text field-field-product"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Product:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Topaz Impression</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-company"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Company:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Topaz Labs </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-contact"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Contact:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="http://www.topazlabs.com" target="_blank">www.topazlabs.com</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-price"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Price:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> $99.99 </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-requirements"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Requirements:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Mac running OS X 10.8 or later, 64-bit processor, GPU acceleration</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-positives"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Positives:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Can achieve some interesting effects.&nbsp;Can be used as a plugin for Photoshop.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-negatives"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Negatives:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Limited manual controls. Rather expensive.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/topaz-impression-review#comments Reviews Art Photography Photoshop Software Topaz Impression Mac Tue, 19 May 2015 18:19:34 +0000 James Robinson 21635 at http://www.maclife.com Apple Watch Review [Updated!] http://www.maclife.com/article/hardware/apple-watch-review-score <!--paging_filter--><p>The Apple Watch is a very unique product, so I took a unique approach to this review. While we’re all accustomed to smartphones and tablets, wearable tech still takes some time to wrap one’s head around. You can’t put a smartwatch on for an hour, or a day, or even a week, and gain a fully formed opinion. So to truly study how an Apple Watch might affect daily life, I regularly updated my review throughout a full month of tessting before arriving at my final verdict. Below you'll find all my posts, and at the very bottom, my score.</p><p><em><strong>Note:</strong>&nbsp;I’ll assume you have general working knowledge of the watch and its core features. If you need to brush up on the basics, I invite you to look over our&nbsp;<a href="http://www.maclife.com/article/features/apple-watch-iwatch-ultimate-guide" target="_self">Ultimate Guide to Apple Watch</a>. Also, the model I reviewed is a 42mm Apple Watch Sport with a silver aluminum case and white sport band.</em></p><h3>After One Month: The Final Verdict [5/15/15]</h3><p><img src="/files/u324771/apple_watch_apples.png" width="600" height="248" /></p><p><strong>The Apple Watch: juicy and delicious.</strong></p><p>It’s now been over a month since I first put on an Apple Watch. I think I’ve got a really good handle on it now, and I don’t expect my opinion to change much from here on out. Bottom line, I enjoy using the watch and will continue wearing it. Still, this is one of the hardest reviews I’ve ever written because the value of the device is so subjective.</p><p>Apple has called the watch its most personal device yet, and I think that’s true. “Your mileage may vary” definitely applies here. That might sound critical, but I don’t mean it to be. It’s just that, while the watch has a wide array of features, in practice, its usefulness is limited to a few key functions. Many of its ancillary features, including most third-party apps, are so bare-bones and unwieldy that you won’t want to struggle with them if an iPhone version is within reach.</p><p>As I reported after my first weekend with the watch, it excels at notifications and health tracking. I’ve especially grown to appreciate how easy the watch makes it to glance at upcoming calendar events. My customized watch face displays the next upcoming event, and by tapping it I can easily scroll through the next several days using the Digital Crown or my finger. Events, time, date, temperature, Activity tracker — there’s a reason these elements can be added to most watch faces, because they’re by far the most useful. Apple Watch has also reminded me of the traditional value of a wristwatch. While in a theater waiting for a movie to start, I was able to check the time without having to awkwardly fish a phone from my pocket while in a seated position — and without annoying those next to me with a big, bright smartphone screen. It’s also nice to know what time it is even when I’ve left my iPhone at my desk or in another room.</p><p>On the other hand, sending sketches and heartbeats to other Apple Watch owners wears out fast. To be fair, these little embellishments are mostly for fun anyway, but I was surprised at how quickly the novelty wore off. I can’t imagine that even the most romantic couple will trade digital love notes more than a few times.</p><p>Having said all this, the watch is only a few weeks old, and there’s every chance it will mature into something even better. It’s tough to say what that might be, but at the very least, app developers who missed the mark early on will learn from those who get it right, and there’s no doubt future versions of the Apple Watch will present a more refined and focused vision. Or, maybe the whole smartwatch concept will prove to be an evolutionary dead end. I think the jury’s still out.</p><p>In the meantime, today’s Apple Watch will be judged by each user’s individual expectations and what he or she uses it for. Simply put, if you value instant, no-miss notifications, or health tracking, you’ll probably get good use out of this device. Those two things are really what the watch lives or dies by right now, although a few other features are certainly nice to have, such as the option to use the watch for Apple Pay or as a remote for iTunes and Apple TV. Just don’t think you’re getting in on the ground floor of the next iPhone or iPad. This is a complementary device, not a revolutionary one.</p><h3>The First Weekend: Duh, It’s About Notifications [4/27/15]</h3><p><img src="/files/u324771/watch_box_0.png" width="600" height="300" /></p><p><strong>The Apple Watch box itself seems like it should cost $20.</strong></p><p>After my first weekend wearing an Apple Watch, I may have finally discovered what the device is for. I always knew it could do a million things, just like an iPhone or iPad, but it didn’t seem to specialize in any one area — there was no singular, killer reason to own one. As it turns out, its signature feature is also its most obvious: notifications. I suspected this would be the case, and that the watch would underwhelm as a result. What good is one more device chirping at me every time I get a text, email, phone call, etc.? As it turns out, the watch doesn’t just parrot those other devices in this area, it surpasses them.</p><p>I’m reminded of an early criticism of the iPad, that it was simply a “bigger iPhone.” That was pretty much true, but the extra screen space had a profound impact on what the device could do, on the kinds of apps and experiences that were created for it. Apple Watch does notifications better than anything else. And while I don’t yet view this as a&nbsp;<em>necessary</em>&nbsp;device, I’ve enjoyed and appreciated the way it goes about keeping me informed and on task.</p><p>The keywords here are&nbsp;<em>immediacy</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>presence</em>. While it only takes a second to whip out your phone, there’s something to having your watch within sight, delivering information immediately. And since it’s always there on your arm, even at home when you’ve left your phone in a different room, you’re never unplugged from your digital world. Wearing the watch also keeps data tracking going (such as steps taken and stairs climbed), and ensures that useful functions are always at hand (I’ve enjoyed using its Remote app with my Apple TV).</p><p>Could a constant pinging on your arm be a bad thing? It hasn’t been for me, but I’m sure it could bother some people. As with any device, your experience can vary greatly depending on how you use it. Loads of apps would love to constantly bug you, but you don’t have to let them. I’ve limited my notifications to texts, reminders, calendar alerts, emails from VIPs, and progress updates on my daily Activity goals, and I haven’t felt at all bombarded. And while notifications on your wrist are more noticeable and, I suppose, distracting, they can often be dealt with faster. Since you know you won’t miss anything important, you can cut down the number of times you pull out your phone just to check in.</p><p>On the other hand, the watch seems to be the poorest possible choice for apps that require more than a few seconds of your time. Games in particular suffer, even simple puzzlers, and not only because of the small screen — holding your arm up to play quickly becomes tiring and uncomfortable. Maybe game developers will adapt and create experiences that play to the watch’s strengths; games that build an entertaining experience out of various small interactions throughout the day.</p><p>To put all this another way, I’m learning that the Apple Watch isn’t something you should really engage with — you wait for&nbsp;<em>it</em>&nbsp;to engage&nbsp;<em>you</em>. If you’re standing in line at Starbucks, you’ll still want to pull our your iPhone. But having your watch deliver soft chimes and gentle wrist taps throughout the day is helpful, and pretty darn charming. I’m definitely smitten, and with each passing day the Apple Watch feels more at home on my wrist and in my routine.</p><p>A few extra, random thoughts:&nbsp;</p><ul><li>The sport band feels surprisingly luxurious. It’s very soft and supple (not rubbery), and doesn’t at all feel like a lesser option.</li><li>The Apple Watch packaging is Apple at its most ridiculously extravagant. The box is much bigger and heavier than you’d expect, and the watch itself comes in a hard-shell case. An additional small/medium-sized band is also included, and the magnetic charger is super cool. Unpacking it all, you feel like you’ve won the lottery.</li><li>It’s nice that the watch can be used to quickly ping your iPhone. That feature should prove to be pretty useful for forgetful folks.</li></ul><h3>First Hands-On Impressions [4/10/15]</h3><p><img src="/files/u324771/apple_watch_display_0.png" width="620" height="372" /></p><p><strong>Anyone can try an Apple Watch at any Apple Store. You don't&nbsp;<em>have</em>&nbsp;to make an appointment, but it's recommended.</strong></p><p>Today I spent an hour tapping, swiping, and Force-Touching my way through every standard app. I wasn’t able to use the sample watch as I normally would — for example, I couldn’t receive texts, emails, or notifications from friends — so for now I’ll simply report my immediate reaction to the product’s more obvious qualities: its appearance and interface. The wow factor.</p><p>Firstly, I think the watch is gorgeous. I’ve always appreciated its design in pictures, and it doesn’t disappoint in the flesh. Everything from the sharpness of the Retina display to the feel of the Digital Crown to the design of the UI delivers the expected high level of quality Apple has built its brand upon. Simple, elegant, understated yet flashy — it’s everything Apple fans have come to appreciate. It’s unfortunate the screen remains off until you tap it or raise your arm, because a blank watch face doesn’t do a good job of showing the product off to those around you.</p><p>Apple has, for the most part, done a brilliant job of reimagining traditional functions for use on such a small surface. The apps generally offer good benefits for brief, at-a-glance interactions, trusting that users will be better served by their iPhones for trickier tasks. Apple smartly focused on functions that would suit the device and the immediacy of its placement on your arm. There is a slight learning curve, which I suppose is to be expected with something this fresh and new. I was actually pretty lost for the first couple minutes, but once you learn the language of Force Touch, scrolling with the Digital Crown, and swiping up to glance at quick bits of info, things fall into place quickly enough.</p><p>A few things have me scratching my head, though. Do we really need a Photos app on this thing? Who would bother scrolling through stamp-sized images while a much more suitable iPhone display is tucked in their pocket? And while I&nbsp;<em>could</em>&nbsp;make calls, write emails, and text from the watch, would I want to? That brings us to the big question about Apple Watch, and about smartwatches in general: why would you need one if you already have a smartphone? I suspect the answer to that lies in the quality and quantity of small, nuanced interactions one has with their watch throughout the day. Some early reviewers who had weeklong access to an Apple Watch claim the device helped them to be more present, that taptic notifications removed the need to constantly check their phones. Others claim the opposite, that the constant in-sight presence of another tech toy was more distracting. I look forward to judging this for myself once my white-banded Sport model arrives at launch.</p><p>Another thing I noticed is that while there are various watch faces to choose from — each of which can be customized to display extra data such as the weather, alternate time zones, and timers — the selection seemed surprisingly slim. Once you eliminate options that don’t meet certain personal criteria — for example, I prefer to see the time displayed digitally rather than analog — the options quickly whittle down. I like the concept of faces that incorporate animated images, but those are limited to a blooming flower, a swimming jellyfish, and a wing-flapping butterfly, none of which I’m big on. Since the look of the face is arguably the most important aspect of a watch, I’m hoping to see more variations (including copious third-party options) in the App Store soon.</p><p>I suppose that’s all I can say about my first real Apple Watch experience; this review will be better served when I can spend significant time with the device and offer observations based on actual experience rather than speculation. For now, the watch is shaping up exactly as I’d expected: it’s brilliant, gorgeous, and fun to use — but I still need to discover solid reasons to own one, other than for the fun of it. I’ll be back with more thoughts around the launch of Apple Watch on April 24th.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-the-bottom-line"><legend>Review Synopsis</legend><div class="field field-type-text field-field-product"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Product:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Apple Watch</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-company"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Company:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Apple </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-contact"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Contact:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>www.apple.com</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-price"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Price:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Base price of $349/$399 (38mm/42mm) for Apple Watch Sport </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-requirements"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Requirements:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>iPhone 5 or later</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-positives"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Positives:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Delivers notifications better than anything. A great health-tracker.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-negatives"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Negatives:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Doesn't excel at much else; most third-party apps are too bare-bones and ill-fitting for the device.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> http://www.maclife.com/article/hardware/apple-watch-review-score#comments Reviews Apple Apple Watch Hardware Review smart watch Fri, 15 May 2015 21:59:07 +0000 Chris Slate 21627 at http://www.maclife.com Grim Fandango Remastered (Mac) Review http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/grim-fandango-remastered-mac-review <!--paging_filter--><p>Can an old-school point-and-click adventure hold up against today’s titles? Despite being nearly two decades old, Manny Calavera’s journey through the underworld is original, entertaining, and truly challenging.</p><p>A mix of noir storytelling and Mexican Day of the Dead aesthetic, Grim Fandango Remastered is punctuated by sharp dialogue, stellar voice work, and gorgeous style. There are moments when you’ll want to quit/consult a walkthrough in frustration, but they’re overshadowed by “Aha!” moments after figuring out a really tricky puzzle, and the satisfaction of knowing you can think your way out of anything.</p><p><img src="/files/u332541/2015/05/grimfandango_620.png" width="620" height="388" /></p><p>Unfortunately, there are times when Grim Fandango shows its age. Muddy or blurry textures remind you that you’re playing a 17-year-old game, and the antiquated manual saves are a chore. The interface is simple, yet there are still segments with clunky controls, caused either by shifting camera perspective or having to control a wonky vehicle. Technical glitches also put a damper on things. Audio issues were not uncommon for us, and the framerate sometimes stuttered.</p><p>Grim Fandango demands the player’s attention in a way that few modern games do. That throwaway dialogue? Actually a clue. A useless character? The key to the puzzle. It’s up to you, as the player, to use everything — the environment, the inventory, the characters — to figure out how to progress.</p><p><strong>The bottom line.</strong> Despite some technical issues and a few antiquated elements, Grim Fandango Remastered is smart, witty, and absolutely worthwhile.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-the-bottom-line"><legend>Review Synopsis</legend><div class="field field-type-text field-field-product"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Product:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Grim Fandango Remastered</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-company"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Company:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Double Fine Productions </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-contact"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Contact:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="http://doublefine.com" target="_blank">doublefine.com</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-price"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Price:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> $14.99 </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-requirements"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Requirements:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Mac running OS X 10.9 or later, Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz, 4GB RAM, Intel HD 4000 Graphics, 6GB HDD space</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-positives"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Positives:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Clever puzzles. Setting and characters still feel fresh and distinctive.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-negatives"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Negatives:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Occasional clunky controls. Marred by technical issues.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/grim-fandango-remastered-mac-review#comments Reviews Adventure Grim Fandango Remastered point and click Mac Games Thu, 14 May 2015 16:51:12 +0000 Sarah LeBoeuf 21620 at http://www.maclife.com Darkroom — Photo Editor Review http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/darkroom-photo-editor-review <!--paging_filter--><p>We love “create your own filter” apps for giving you a way to add individuality to the barely navigable torrents of photos uploaded to social networks each day. Darkroom lets you create filters through a combination of sliders for things like saturation and contrast, but also levels curves, with red, green, and blue all available individually. (Accessing this ability is the app’s IAP, incidentally, and you really need to pay if you’re going to get anything unique out of it.)</p><p><img src="/files/u332541/2015/05/darkroom_620.png" width="620" height="542" /></p><p>In theory, this is great — combining this level of control with other, simpler tools makes for a vast range of options. In practice, it’s merely good. The levels adjustments aren’t as fine-grained as you’d think. The curve is divided into five columns, and you roughly adjust it by swiping those columns. It simply doesn’t compare to being able to add your own adjustment points, as you would in Photoshop. You can still do lots of cool stuff, but it’s disappointing.</p><p>The app has other tricks, though, such as the infinite Undo list. This is confusing at first, but basically lets you revert your photo to any previous point instantly, so is fairly powerful. However, there are other frustrations, such as not being able to zoom in on the image at all when editing, so you can’t check how much noise is being added by the Sharpness effect, say. Sharing is basic — save to Camera Roll, send to Instagram, or use iOS’s wider sharing options for other apps. Cross-posting to multiple services would have been nice. &nbsp;</p><p><strong>The bottom line.</strong> We like Darkroom, but it feels just too limited in parts for its ambition.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-the-bottom-line"><legend>Review Synopsis</legend><div class="field field-type-text field-field-product"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Product:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Darkroom — Photo Editor</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-company"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Company:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Bergen Co. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-contact"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Contact:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="http://usedarkroom.com" target="_blank">usedarkroom.com</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-price"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Price:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Free ($2.99 IAP) </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-requirements"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Requirements:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 8 or later</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-positives"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Positives:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Adds personalized individuality to photos. Neat infinite Undo ability.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-negatives"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Negatives:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Not as much control as necessary.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/darkroom-photo-editor-review#comments Reviews App AppLife Apps Darkroom Photo Editing Photography Photos iPad iPhone iPod Wed, 13 May 2015 18:42:38 +0000 Matt Bolton 21616 at http://www.maclife.com Wrise Review http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/wrise_review <!--paging_filter--><p>These days, word processors mostly fall into two camps: the minimalism-obsessed, and Word/Pages wannabes. Wrise is something else, trying to make writing accessible to all. The interface resembles a beefed-up TextEdit, but with useful accessibility features. A predictive text window enables you to add words by tapping single keys, and the app’s speech system will read out words, sentences or paragraphs as you type. A separate “reading” mode is available that removes inspectors and palettes, which can have its own font setup.</p><p><img src="/files/u332541/2015/05/wrise_620.png" width="620" height="388" /></p><p>Wrise also has an interesting tagging system, to insert silences, adjust the speech rate, or change the spoken language. This has creative applications, not least when scripting, especially given that you can output everything to audio.</p><p>Wrise’s one failing is that it’s a really bare-bones word processor, lacking word counts or styles for keeping text consistent. For certain markets, though, what’s there now is solid, making Wrise a worthy purchase for dyslexic users, or the visually or motor impaired.</p><p><strong>The bottom line.</strong> Weak as a pure word processor right now, but very strong in accessibility.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-the-bottom-line"><legend>Review Synopsis</legend><div class="field field-type-text field-field-product"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Product:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Wrise 1.0</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-company"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Company:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> AssistiveWare </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-contact"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Contact:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="http://www.assistiveware.com" target="_blank">www.assistiveware.com</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-price"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Price:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> $59.99 </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-requirements"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Requirements:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Mac running&nbsp;OS X 10.9 or later, 64-bit processor</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-positives"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Positives:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Some clever accessibility considerations and options. Tagging can be used for creative output.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-negatives"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Negatives:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Really bare-bones from a word processing standpoint. Could do with better default setup options.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/wrise_review#comments Reviews word processing word processor Wrise Mac Tue, 12 May 2015 16:00:00 +0000 Craig Grannell 21601 at http://www.maclife.com djay Pro Review http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/djay-pro-review <!--paging_filter--><p>On paper, djay feels like a slightly incongruous candidate for promotion from iOS to Mac. The joy of djay (or indeed <a href="http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/djay_2_review" target="_blank">djay2</a>) on iOS is being able to spin virtual vinyl on a pair of pretend decks; so if you can’t make like Terminator X (kids, ask your parents) by scratching on a touchscreen, what’s the point?</p><p>Thankfully, what djay Pro lacks in tactile (if gimmicky) fun, it makes up for by doing everything it can to help you seamlessly mix tunes together and make them sound great. It hasn’t ditched the virtual decks; they’re still there and you can interact with them just as you did on the iPad, but it just doesn’t feel quite as natural with a mouse. We think you’ll quickly end up defaulting to the waveform view, which is a much better way of visually navigating within a song.</p><p><img src="/files/u332541/2015/05/djaypro_620.png" width="620" height="388" /></p><p>The app automatically integrates with your iTunes library; we’d recommend that the first thing you do with it is get it to analyze your entire library to work out the key and BPM of every song. This takes a while, and you’ll always need to double-check the results, but once it’s done you can always find the next tune in your mix by choosing something at a similar tempo.</p><p>It features all the tools you’re likely to need: a sync button for automatically matching up BPMs, multiple cue points, flexible looping options, a sample pad and just enough audio effects to keep you happy (more are available through In-App Purchase, naturally). If you’re feeling particularly ambitious you can even work with four decks.</p><p>It can get a little cramped, though, because djay Pro insists on keeping the file browser onscreen at all times. The FX/Loop/Cue points interface is hidden by default but can slide in unobtrusively; similarly the sample pad is hidden, but when it appears it obscures your decks completely. Algorriddim boasts that djay Pro has been rebuilt to take advantage of the added power of the Mac; it would be nice if more attention had been paid to the UI, because what works on multi-touch screens doesn’t necessarily work with a keyboard and mouse. You’ll soon find yourself eyeing up MIDI controllers. These are small quibbles, though, and you quickly learn your way around its little quirks.</p><p><strong>The bottom line.</strong> Despite not being quite enough of a progression from the iOS version, djay Pro is a combination of performance and price that makes it perfect for messing about at home or taking out to a club.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-the-bottom-line"><legend>Review Synopsis</legend><div class="field field-type-text field-field-product"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Product:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>djay Pro</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-company"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Company:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Algoriddim </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-contact"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Contact:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="http://www.algoriddim.com" target="_blank">www.algoriddim.com</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-price"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Price:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> $49.99 </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-requirements"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Requirements:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Mac running&nbsp;OS X 10.9 or later, 64-bit processor</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-positives"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Positives:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Cheap and easy way to become a DJ. Great tools and excellent sound quality.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-negatives"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Negatives:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Not quite enough of an evolution from iOS. Needs a MIDI controller to really fly.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/djay-pro-review#comments Reviews Audio djay Pro Music Mac Thu, 07 May 2015 17:51:39 +0000 Jim McCauley 21595 at http://www.maclife.com Hydra — Amazing Photography Review http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/hydra-amazing-photography-review <!--paging_filter--><p>The camera is one of the iPhone’s most-used features, so any app that promises to improve its already strong output is sure to attract attention. Hydra is interesting because, as well as offering HDR modes to increase highlight and shadow detail in stills and video, it promises to boost image size to up to 32 megapixels — four times the 8 megapixels of the iPhone 6. There’s also a Zoom mode for capturing distant subjects without reducing image size, and a Lo-Light mode designed to reduce the amount of image noise.</p><p><img src="/files/u332541/2015/05/hydra_620.png" width="620" height="541" /></p><p>Just like the iPhone’s standard Camera app, Hydra is very easy to use. The shooting mode is selected by swiping between the options arranged along the bottom of the preview and the mode settings are accessed by tapping the icon in the bottom-right corner. You just tap where you want to focus as usual and then hit the large shutter button to take the shot — but Hydra doesn’t just take one image, it captures up to 60 (depending upon the mode) and combines them into one picture.&nbsp;</p><p>While this image-combining technology is the magic behind Hydra, it can also be its undoing, because it’s important that neither the camera nor the subject moves while the images are taken, a process that can take up to almost 10 seconds. It does seem to be able to cope with a little camera-shake, but care is required to avoid getting a warning message or producing images with ghosting. A tripod helps, but how many people use one with their iPhone?</p><p><strong>The bottom line.</strong> Impressive detail in its high-res images — if you can keep the iPhone still.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-the-bottom-line"><legend>Review Synopsis</legend><div class="field field-type-text field-field-product"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Product:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Hydra — Amazing Photography</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-company"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Company:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Creaceed SPRL </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-contact"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Contact:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="http://www.creaceed.com" target="_blank">www.creaceed.com</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-price"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Price:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> $4.99 </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-requirements"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Requirements:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 8.1 or later</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-positives"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Positives:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Really does let you take photos with extraordinary detail. HDR modes. Simple to use.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-negatives"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Negatives:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>You have to remain very still for it to work.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/hydra-amazing-photography-review#comments Reviews App AppLife Apps HDR Photography Hydra Photography iPad iPhone iPod Wed, 06 May 2015 17:05:00 +0000 Angela Nicholson 21592 at http://www.maclife.com Samsung T1 1TB SSD Review http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/samsung-t1-1tb-review <!--paging_filter--><p>Apple and Samsung might not always get along, but it's hard to deny that Samsung can make good stuff. Case in point: this portable solid-state drive. The T1 surprised us with a design that’s not just small and light but which also looks and feels good. Its curved edges make it comfortable in the pocket, too.</p><p><img src="/files/u332541/2015/05/samsungt1_620.png" width="620" height="487" /></p><p>Samsung says the T1 can reach up to 450MB/s, but we measured its peak sequential read speed at 438.8MB/s — only 1.3MB/s slower than the impressive Angelbird SSD2go. However, while the T1’s 366.5MB/s mean speed is comparable to many similar drives, it lags 73.4MB/s behind the SSD2go.</p><p>When writing sequentially, the T1 peaked at 394.4MB/s — 9MB/s faster than the SSD2go — though its average trails behind on 330.8MB/s, which is 48.5MB/s slower. The T1 excels, though, in the tough random transfer of small amounts of data, achieving a mean of 197.7MB/s, which is 53MB/s faster than the SSD2go. The drives’ mean random write speeds are near identical, with the T1 narrowly ahead on 209.7MB/s.</p><p>Samsung’s list price for the 1TB T1 was $600, but it's now down to $500; if you’re not in a hurry, you might want to wait and see how low retailers will push this.</p><p><strong>The bottom line.</strong> Not quite the fastest portable SSD we’ve seen, but it offers great performance and high capacity in a very small size.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-the-bottom-line"><legend>Review Synopsis</legend><div class="field field-type-text field-field-product"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Product:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Samsung T1 1TB</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-company"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Company:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Samsung </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-contact"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Contact:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="http://www.samsung.com" target="_blank">www.samsung.com</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-price"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Price:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> $500 (500GB/$250; 250GB/$150) </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-requirements"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Requirements:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Anything with USB 3.0 compatibility</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-positives"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Positives:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Good to excellent transfer rates. Tiny and light. Sensibly rounded body.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-negatives"> <div class="field-label"><p><strong>Negatives:</strong>&nbsp;<p></div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <!--paging_filter--><p>Not especially cheap.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/samsung-t1-1tb-review#comments Reviews accessory drive Samsung T1 SSD usb Mac Tue, 05 May 2015 17:07:13 +0000 Alan Stonebridge 21588 at http://www.maclife.com