Mac|Life - Reviews http://www.maclife.com/articles/22/feed en Review: GameSmart CTRLi Mobile Gamepad http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/review_gamesmart_ctrli_mobile_gamepad <!--paging_filter--><p>When the MFi (Made For iOS) controller standard came into being about a year ago, it had the potential to usher in a new era of iOS gaming that allowed developers to deliver true console-quality gaming on an iOS device. Unfortunately, most MFi controllers have suffered from one problem or another: too expensive, too unwieldy, too unresponsive, or a combination of the above. The GameSmart CTRLi Mobile Gamepad from Mad Catz aims to succeed where others have failed, and it does a very admirable job.</p><p>All it takes is one look at the CTRLi to see where it gets its inspiration: the controller is clearly modelled off of an Xbox 360 gamepad. That's not a bad thing; the CTRLi has a good heft to it — it doesn't come off as flimsy or cheap in the slightest — and feels very natural in one's hands. Unfortunately, the controller also borrows one negative feature from Xbox — the somewhat clunky D-pad (digital directional pad). The D-pad on the CTRLi is arguably superior to that of an Xbox controller, but it still sometimes requires an extra-firm touch to get it to do what you want it to.</p><p><img src="/files/u332541/2014/10/madcatz_ctrli_620.png" width="620" height="465" /></p><p>Luckily, just about everything else about the CTRLi is excellent. The two analog sticks have just the right amount of tension, the shoulder buttons are well placed, and the face buttons are very responsive. There are plenty of <a href="http://madcatz.com/compatibility/ctrli/" target="_blank">compatible titles</a> in a variety of genres, and every game we tested benefitted from improvements to maneuvering and action; gameplay was significantly smoother and easier to control than it was via touchscreen-based virtual joysticks and buttons. The controls were less consistent when navigating menu screens, but that's a fault of the software rather than the controller itself.</p><p>The CTRLi was easy to get up and running as well; all it takes is a couple of button presses to get it synched via Bluetooth to your iOS device. It comes with a detachable smartphone clip, too. Though you can play with your iOS device propped up or in a stand, you can also attach the easy-to-use spring-loaded adjustable clip and slide your iPhone right in to create a makeshift portable gaming system. The clip is surprisingly sturdy and it's big enough to even hold an iPhone 6 Plus.</p><p>Speaking of which, don't worry about the fact that the package claims it's made for iOS 7 and iPhone 5s/c; we tried it with iOS 8 and the aforementioned iPhone 6 Plus (as well as a 4th-gen iPad running iOS 7), and the controller worked beautifully. Perhaps the biggest strike against it, however, is the fact that doesn't feature a rechargable lithium-ion battery; though that helps keep the cost down to just under $60, it means you'll have to keep a supply of AAA batteries on hand for whenever it runs out of juice (which reportedly won't happen for 30 hours or so).&nbsp;</p><p>If $60 is a bit too pricy for you, you could also consider Mad Catz's Micro CTRLi; it's smaller, so it may be less comfortable depending on the size of your hands, but it's $10 cheaper and offers most of the same functionality as its larger sibling.</p><p>Though the CTRLi isn't perfect, it's the best MFi controller we've tried. It provides comfort and responsiveness in a reasonably priced package, and it significantly improves the playablity of console-style games on iOS devices.</p><p><strong>The bottom line.</strong> If you're looking to get an MFi controller, this one should be at the top of your list.</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>GameSmart CTRLi Mobile Gamepad</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"> Mad Catz </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://madcatz.com/gamesmart-c-t-r-l-i/" target="_blank">www.madcatz.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>iPhone 5, iPad (4th gen), iPad mini, or iPod touch (5th gen) or newer device running iOS 7 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>Feels great. Controls are mostly responsive. Reasonable price.</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>D-pad is a tad sticky. Runs on AAA batteries rather than built-in lithium-ion.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/review_gamesmart_ctrli_mobile_gamepad#comments Reviews controller CTRLi GameSmart iOS mad catz MFi controller Micro CTRLi iPad iPhone iPod Games Wed, 22 Oct 2014 22:02:55 +0000 Chris Hoffman 20827 at http://www.maclife.com Review: MagiCam http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/review_magicam <!--paging_filter--><p>The latest iPhones take pretty amazing pictures, but an app from the creators of Camera+ aims to improve upon that experience by transforming images into perfection within seconds. You’ll hear the sound of a bell and, before your very eyes, the app magically improves contrast and color saturation to make almost any photo look great.</p><p>We say “almost” because MagiCam isn’t perfect for every situation. The app occasionally overexposed correctly lit shots, or excessively boosted grain in darker images. In other apps we could hit undo, but with MagiCam there’s no way to revert — users can toggle a before and after view, but you’re stuck with the end results.</p><p><img src="/files/u332541/2014/10/magicam_620.png" width="620" height="349" /></p><p>There are also no settings in MagiCam; you can’t even tap the screen to manually adjust focus or exposure, since the app handles that. MagiCam includes options for switching between front/rear cameras, auto/on/off flash control and the ability to shoot with Instagram-friendly square framing, but it would benefit from a way to export untouched photos or save before and after images separately.</p><p>MagiCam does feature one option for controlling the look of images, courtesy of nine different “Moods” that can be applied live or after a shot is taken. Sharing is also about as easy as it gets, with one-tap save to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or other apps for further tweaking, including Camera+ should you own it.</p><p>A row of thumbnails across the bottom displays only images taken with MagiCam; tap one to open, with options to go back, trash, share or apply Moods, while swiping left or right scrolls through adjacent pictures. We accidentally deleted shots on more than one occasion due to the back button being located too close to the trash button — here’s hoping the developers can adjust this UI faux pas in a future update.</p><p>We also noticed shots appeared somewhat fuzzy when viewed inside the app, despite looking sharp in the Photos app; for some reason, MagiCam images also refused to automatically import into our favorite journal app, Heyday.</p><p><strong>The bottom line.</strong> When it works (thankfully most of the time), MagiCam shoots eye-popping photos, but we’d prefer the option to retain the original, unaltered shots just in case.</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>MagiCam 1.1</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"> tap tap tap LLC </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.taptaptap.com/magicam" target="_blank">www.taptaptap.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"> $1.99 </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>iOS 7.0 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>Effortless great photos, automatically. Fast, one-tap sharing. Nine different “Moods” can be applied live or on previous shots.</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>No option to save original photos. Occasionally produces over- or underexposed images. View mode back button too close to delete button.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/review_magicam#comments Reviews App AppLife MagiCam Photography Photos iPad iPhone iPod Wed, 22 Oct 2014 17:17:13 +0000 J.R. Bookwalter 20826 at http://www.maclife.com Review: WinZip 3 http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/review_winzip_3 <!--paging_filter--><p>It’s rare to find an archiving tool worth paying for these days. WinZip makes a better case than most, though, with an excellent interface and some handy features.</p><p>The main interface fills a gap that the built-in OS X archiver and its many alternatives miss, allowing ZIPs to be updated by dragging and dropping files, rather than treating the archive as a fixed thing to simply be created or extracted. WinZip is able to extract from ZIP, LHA, RAR and 7Z files and archive as ZIP, ZIPX and LHA, though it prefers its own format.&nbsp;</p><p><img src="/files/u332541/2014/10/winzip3_620.png" /></p><p>One-click unzipping is available from the context menu, though the default is to open the ZIP in something approximating OS X’s standard folder views.</p><p>The cloud features let you add files from and extract ZIPs to your choice of destination on Dropbox/Google Drive (but not iCloud), which is done using their APIs rather than relying on shared folders already on your Mac.</p><p>For simply opening files, all of this is not really worth the best part of $30. That said, the interface that handles the ZIP files is a huge improvement if you do regularly make or receive zips with many files to sift through, or you simply want a way to be able to compress large numbers of files without losing the ability to deal with them on an individual basis</p><p><strong>The bottom line.</strong> One of the best archiving tools around, but at a hefty price unless you find its features essential.</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>WinZip Mac 3</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"> WinZip </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.winzip.com" target="_blank">www.winzip.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"> $29.95 </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>OS X 10.7 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>One-click unzipping. Treats ZIPs as folders. Syncs to cloud storage.</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>Comparatively pricey.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/review_winzip_3#comments Reviews App archive software WinZip 3 Mac Tue, 21 Oct 2014 17:35:50 +0000 Richard Cobbett 20821 at http://www.maclife.com Review: Publisher Plus http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/review_publisher_plus <!--paging_filter--><p>Publisher Plus is a curious app. It’s seemingly laboring under the misapprehension that Apple’s Pages does not exist. It’s like someone’s grabbed Pages, pulled off some of the complicated bits, and glued some clip art and templates onto what remains.</p><p>Oddly, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Pages has a lot going on, and a more focused product that provides a wider variety of starting points could have added value. As it is, we were certainly impressed by the range of templates on offer — everything from menus to magazine covers — although the actual design is variable in quality and broadly less stylish than the smaller selection in Pages.</p><p><img src="/files/u332541/2014/10/publisherplus_620.png" width="620" height="388" /></p><p>In use, the app heavily resembles Apple’s, providing you with a toolbar, canvas, and inspector. Even the tabs within the inspector are identical. The main differences are that Publisher Plus is a touch faster to use, because it doesn’t hide options behind menus. Unfortunately, the main reason for this is that there are fewer settings to choose from; for example, there’s only &nbsp;a standard drop shadow, with no contact or curved shadows.</p><p>Extended use highlights further distinctions between the two products, although not always in Publisher Plus’s favor. A second sidebar provides fast access to iPhoto images and any custom folders dragged there, and it can be toggled to display a selection of clip art of variable quality.</p><p>But it’s that reduced toolset that is a problem. The Shape and Draw tools are both fine, but the Background button is odd, providing only settings for the canvas, while Calendar dumps a barely configurable calendar onto your document — and that’s about it.</p><p>The Text tool is perhaps the most disappointing, merely providing you with the means to drag out a box and adjust the font; there are no styles, so keeping text consistent across multi-page documents is tricky.</p><p>Export options also differ from Pages, because Publisher Plus flattens everything into images, even when you print to PDF. That’s understandable for an app slightly more targeted towards layout than document creation, but in a digital age, it’s a pity to not at least have the option for outputting more accessible content. Despite its faults, we still don’t consider Publisher Plus anything less than quite a good app. It’s usable, fun, and does the job it sets out to do reasonably well.</p><p><strong>The bottom line.</strong> If it were a lower price, we’d have perhaps recommended it more strongly. As it is, it’s just too similar to Pages to be worth bothering with.</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>Publisher Plus</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"> PearlMountain Technology Co. Ltd. </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.pearlmountainsoft.com" target="_blank">www.pearlmountainsoft.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"> $19.99 </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>OS X 10.6.8 or later, 64-bit processor, at least 304MB 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>Loads of templates. Simple to work with.</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>No text styles. Tools are a bit lacking.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/review_publisher_plus#comments Reviews Design layouts Publisher Plus Mac Thu, 16 Oct 2014 16:30:00 +0000 Craig Grannell 20789 at http://www.maclife.com Review: VVVVVV http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/review_vvvvvv <!--paging_filter--><p>VVVVVV is a fairly simple platformer, but one crafted and refined to mechanical perfection. The controls are as basic as the visuals — go left, go right, and flip gravity. But this game is full of things that complicate matters.&nbsp;</p><p>The aim is to rescue your scattered crew members by exploring VVVVV's grid-based world. It’s effectively made up of single-screen platform puzzles, each one offering a test of dexterity, brain-power or both (though some stretch across more than one screen).&nbsp;</p><p><img src="/files/u332541/2014/10/vvvvvv_620.png" width="620" height="388" /></p><p>Solving the harder ones is both supremely satisfying and rarely frustrating, thanks to generous restart points. It does get very hard — platform veterans will find their skills tested. But the ability to quickly try sections over and over again means casual players shouldn’t be put off, either.&nbsp;</p><p>The game controls beautifully, too — crisp and accurate, though we switched to using (non-default) on-screen buttons for greater precision.</p><p><strong>The bottom line.</strong> Inventive, huge fun, challenging, and satisfying. VVVVVV is one of the best platformers on iOS.</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>VVVVVV</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"> Terry Cavanagh </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.terrycavanaghgames.com" target="_blank">www.terrycavanaghgames.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"> $2.99 </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>iOS 4.3 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>Great level design. Excellent controls. Lots of retro charm.</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>N/A</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/review_vvvvvv#comments Reviews AppLife Apps iOS Platformer VVVVVV iPad iPhone iPod Games Wed, 15 Oct 2014 18:23:43 +0000 Matt Bolton 20785 at http://www.maclife.com Review: Adobe Ink & Slide http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/review_adobe_ink_slide <!--paging_filter--><p>Sold only as a set with the Slide ruler, Adobe Ink is a 5.67-inch digital pen manufactured by the Photoshop maker’s hardware partner Adonit. With an aluminum shell and weighing less than an ounce, Ink communicates via Bluetooth 4.0 LE with recent iPad models, and is capable of writing or drawing on the screen and making menu selections from any app (the stylus even works on iPhone).</p><p><img src="/files/u332541/2014/10/adobeink_620.png" width="620" height="365" /></p><p>When coupled with one of two new apps, however, Ink delivers fine-tip precision with 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity. Once linked to a Creative Cloud account, artists can copy and paste artwork, sync assets or Kuler themes, and share work, all through an innovative menu.</p><p>As for the apps, Adobe Line modernizes the tasks of drawing or drafting with a full complement of color palettes and virtual pencils, pens or markers. Switching between them is simple, as is making complicated shapes or even perspective views. Adobe Sketch provides a free-form canvas on which artists can let their imaginations run free.</p><p>Connecting is a snap: tap the pen icon in the corner of the screen, wake Ink with a button, then touch tip to display for a few seconds. When the end of the Ink glows green, you’re ready to work.&nbsp;</p><p>Even for lengthy sessions, Adobe Ink is comfortable to hold, and drawing in conjunction with Slide is a magical experience. There is a slight learning curve — artists will need to adjust to the concept of letting the apps handle some of the heavy lifting, but drawing on an iPad will soon come as naturally as with pen and paper.</p><p><strong>The bottom line.</strong> For those who can afford it, Adobe Ink &amp; Slide makes the dream of digital artistic expression from anywhere a reality for iPad owners.</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>Adobe Ink &amp; Slide</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"> Adobe Systems, 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://www.adobe.com" target="_blank">www.adobe.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"> $199.99 </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>iPad (4th gen or newer); Adobe Line or Sketch; iOS 7.0 or later; USB port (for charging)</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>Magical drawing tools for iPad. Palm Rejection prevents artist’s hand from getting the way. Doubles as basic input device for unsupported apps/devices.</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>Expensive; only available as a set. Ink occasionally finicky about USB charging. Creative Cloud features require active internet connection.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/review_adobe_ink_slide#comments Reviews accessory Adobe Adobe Ink & Slide hardware line Sketch sketching iPad Tue, 14 Oct 2014 18:52:54 +0000 J.R. Bookwalter 20779 at http://www.maclife.com Review: StarTech Thunderbolt Drive Enclosure http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/review_startech_thunderbolt_drive_enclosure <!--paging_filter--><p>This Thunderbolt drive enclosure has space for two 2.5-inch disks of your choosing; install a couple of SSDs and you can build a very fast external drive. The disks can be used as independent volumes, or you can combine them into a striped RAID array.&nbsp;</p><p>Remove thumbscrews from the back panel and it flips down to reveal the disk bays and a fan — the only tool you need is a screwdriver to secure a disk in its tray. We fitted two 1TB Samsung 840 EVO SSDs. No software is provided to adjust the fan’s speed or allow SSDs to be cooled entirely passively through the aluminum body and vents. From the moment the drive is powered on, the fan makes a persistent though acceptable whirr.</p><p><img src="/files/u332541/thunderboltdriveenclosure_620.png" width="620" height="490" /></p><p>The array achieved mean sequential read and write speeds of 615.6 and 576.2MB/sec, and reached peak speeds of 783.3 and 731.2MB/sec respectively. In the tougher test of randomly reading and writing small files, peak read and write speeds reached 597.1 and 586MB/sec respectively, and mean read and write speeds maintained a very pleasing 281.9 and 315.8MB/sec respectively.</p><p>A Thunderbolt interface isn’t required to reach these transfer rates, though. The same SSDs fitted into StarTech USB 3.0 enclosures (model S2510BPU33, $28 each), and again configured as a striped array, gave faster transfer rates overall — but this configuration was slower for very small transfers, making it less appealing as a startup disk. This setup needs two ports, whereas the Thunderbolt enclosure needs only one, and its second Thunderbolt port allows for further expansion, although mains power is essential.</p><p><strong>The bottom line.</strong> A costly but customizable way to improve a hard-disk-based Mac’s responsiveness.</p><p><strong>Includes:</strong> 1m (3.28ft) Thunderbolt cable &nbsp;<strong>Ports:</strong> Dual Thunderbolt (10Gbps) &nbsp;<br /><strong>Cooling:</strong> Active using fan; passive through aluminum body</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>Thunderbolt Drive Enclosure</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"> StarTech </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.startech.com">www.startech.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"> $326.99 </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>2.5-inch SATA I/II/III hard drives or SSDs</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>Built-in fan cooling. Connect up to 5 more devices from 2nd port. Cable included.</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>Expensive.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/review_startech_thunderbolt_drive_enclosure#comments Reviews accessory enclosure hard drive thunderbolt Mac Thu, 09 Oct 2014 18:36:57 +0000 Alan Stonebridge 20755 at http://www.maclife.com Review: Parallels Access 2.0 http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/review_parallels_access_20 <!--paging_filter--><p>In 2013, Parallels Access wowed us by making remote desktop access usable from an iPad — although it was saddled with an expensive annual subscription. What a difference a year makes, as the sequel offers more bang for fewer bucks, and serves the fun to more devices.</p><p>Parallels Access 2.0 improves on what made the original release great, while adding nice touches including an iOS file browser and the ability to use the iOS device microphone with remote applications. The update also adds Wake-on-LAN functionality.</p><p><img src="/files/u332541/2014/10/parallels1_620.png" /></p><p>Access is now a universal build with iPhone support, while Android smartphones and tablets can also get in on the action. The bigger news: Instead of $79.99 per year for access to each computer, Parallels now charges a mere $19.99 annually for access to up to five computers from an unlimited number of mobile devices.</p><p>Although squeezing a larger Mac or PC display onto a tiny iPhone screen is no easy feat, Access 2.0 actually makes the experience usable — great for emergencies when a tablet isn’t handy. The required desktop client also seems to more reliably restore windows after disconnecting (with the exception of OS X Safari), while Wake-on-LAN occasionally wouldn’t work on our MacBook Pro.</p><p><strong>The bottom line.</strong> A sequel that truly delivers the goods thanks to iPhone support and a pricing scheme that makes remote access affordable.</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>Parallels Access 2.0</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"> Parallels, 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://www.parallels.com" target="_blank">www.parallels.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 (requires $19.99 per year subscription for up to five computers) </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>iOS 7.0 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 more remote desktop features than before, and it's more affordable than last year. Works even on iPhone.</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>Some features don't always work properly.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/review_parallels_access_20#comments Reviews App AppLife Parallels Access remote desktop iPad iPhone iPod Wed, 08 Oct 2014 18:35:20 +0000 J.R. Bookwalter 20748 at http://www.maclife.com Review: 21.5-inch iMac (mid-2014) http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/review_215inch_imac_mid2014 <!--paging_filter--><p>The concept of a less-expensive iMac for those on a budget, perhaps students, is great. However, this is not cheap. Cheaper than the rest of the range, sure, but if you consider more than a thousand bucks to be “cheap,” your financial status likely means you could afford to disregard what is very much an entry-level computer anyway.&nbsp;</p><p>The processor is a dual-core Intel Core i5, running at 1.4GHz — basically the same CPU found in the current MacBook Air range. It seems woefully underpowered compared to the quad-core, 2.7GHz CPU offered by the next-cheapest iMac in the current range. Similarly, the HD Graphics 5000 chip in this model is much weaker than the Iris Pro GPU in the next one up.</p><p><img src="/files/u332541/2014/10/imac215_min2014_620.png" width="620" height="629" /></p><p>We’re glad to see Apple stuck with 8GB of memory in this machine though, and didn’t cut costs by installing only 4GB — but teardowns have revealed that the RAM is soldered onto the logic board, and so cannot be upgraded. Ever. The only custom option offered on the Apple store is to upgrade the storage from the small and rather slow 500GB hard drive to a 1TB HDD, a 256GB SSD or a 1TB Fusion Drive.</p><p>If you only use your Mac for web surfing, email and straightforward office tasks, the capabilities of this iMac are unlikely to disappoint. But even so, is it really your best option? These days, you can buy a decent 21-inch or 24-inch IPS display online for around $150-$300. Pair it with an entry-level MacBook Air and you have a similarly priced setup, with the same processor as the entry-level iMac, faster solid-state storage and the flexibility of a proper laptop. An entry-level Mac mini and a monitor would give you more processing power and cost even less — while the mid-range 21-inch iMac is just $200 dearer than this new release, with far more power.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>The bottom line.</strong> An adequate iMac for under $1,100, but there’s a huge performance gap between it and the next model.</p><p><strong>Specs:</strong> RAM 8GB, 1600MHz, 500GB storage, 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor</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>21.5-inch iMac, mid-2014&nbsp;</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, 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://www.apple.com" target="_blank">www.apple.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"> $1,099 </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>N/A</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>A cheaper iMac. 8GB RAM retained.</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>Much slower than the next model up. Pretty poor value for money.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/review_215inch_imac_mid2014#comments Reviews 2014 21.5-inch apple hardware iMac Mac Tue, 07 Oct 2014 18:14:33 +0000 Ian Osborne 20743 at http://www.maclife.com Review: Angry Birds Epic http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/review_angry_birds_epic <!--paging_filter--><p>If you have children of a certain age, you could be forgiven for thinking Angry Birds are everywhere. Rovio’s hit franchise has dominated the App Store in its four-and-a-half year, eight game run, and has branched out successfully into toys, a cartoon, and even soft drinks. And now Angry Birds Epic continues the trend of branching out from its humble slingshot-firing origins.</p><p><img src="/files/u332541/2014/10/angrybirdsepic_620.png" /></p><p>This time it's into RPG territory. All the usual suspects from the cartoon series and the prior games show their face at some point in this free-to-play game, which is light on depth (and story) and big on character and art-driven comedy and charm. Fights are all turn-based, with one defensive, one offensive, and one special ability assigned to each character according to their equipment (which can be upgraded using a simple crafting system) and innate attributes. With up to three birds at a time, you battle it out against any number of the meddlesomely conniving piggies, who've once again run off with some eggs.</p><p>Angry Birds Epic starts out ridiculously easy, but the difficulty ramps up fast. And while you can certainly scrape through without spending a dime, there’s a clear push towards buying coins to power up your flock or to keep them standing against the evil piggy scoundrels. Don’t expect to be wowed: this is a solid but unspectacular step into new territory for the birds.</p><p><strong>The bottom line.</strong>&nbsp;Angry Birds Epic swoops into RPG land with a fun and light outing to Piggy Island, but it’s neither epic nor inventive in its formula.</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>Angry Birds Epic</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"> Rovio Entertainment </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.rovio.com" target="_blank">www.rovio.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 (w/ 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>iOS 6.0 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>Nice graphics. Different than the usual Angry Birds fare. Solid turn-driven gameplay.</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 very innovative. In-app purchases are almost a must.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> http://www.maclife.com/article/reviews/review_angry_birds_epic#comments Reviews Angry Birds Angry Birds Epic AppLife Apps Rovio iPad iPhone iPod Games Mon, 06 Oct 2014 18:50:21 +0000 Richard Moss 20738 at http://www.maclife.com