The Exciting World Of No Cost Electronica

Electronica-Feature-Image

These days, if you’ve got a PC or a Mac, a little hard disk space and an internet connection you’ve already got everything you need to produce music. No, you don’t need to buy any more hardware and you don’t need to spend any money on software. None at all!

So, getting started is simple. But, as any dedicated producer will tell you, simple doesn’t always equate to easy. After all, the best tools are wasted on the inexperienced craftsman, right?

So, no, we can’t help you become a production wizard in one article, be we can help you down that path, and honour our promise that you can start without a single penny’s outlay.

And who knows, maybe a fruitful career in the music industry awaits, a little later down the line?

Too Much Choice And Too Much Information

But there’s the all pervasive software problem. Of all the masses of freely available software, where to begin?

Well, take it from me, as a composer/producer since about 2006, I’ve tried a lot of stuff, both on Windows and OSX. I’ve wasted many hundreds of hours testing glitchy software, suffering crashes, hard drive failures and pretty much all that bad stuff technology throws at you.

But I’ve also found some real diamonds in the rough too.

So, the purpose of this article is to cut through all the noise and give you a list of things that have stood the test of time and just worked. I intend to spare you many hours of frustration.

Let’s see how we do.

Thus Simple: Good

And, obviously, with so many styles of music to produce, so many types of plugins and so many individual ways of working – we’re simplifying a little here for the sake of your convenience (though it sure beats information overload).

So, let the simplifications begin!

Introducing The DAWs

A ‘DAW’ (Digital Audio Workstation) is essentially the tool that you use to take your musical ideas into musical reality. Everything from recording, to synthesis, to sampling to eventually mixing and mastering, is handled by your DAW.

(Insert Light My Fire joke here as/if appropriate…)

Commercial DAWs start at around £30 and go all the way into the four figure range. True, you aren’t going to get  £1000s worth of functionality with a piece of freeware – but you don’t necessarily need all of those features if you are. In fact it might be better not to get stuck on detail and face the all to prevalent overwhelm which can get in the way of your actually making music…

Reaper

COCKOS – Reaper  Windows/OSX

First up is COCKOS’ Reaper. Reaper comes up as #1 because in terms of speed and flexibility, I’ve found nothing to beat it. REAPER isn’t actually free, but COCKOS as super cool guys have made the trial effectively endless, and priced it quite reasonably for personal use. They probably find that those who stick with it eventually buy, and for $60 it’s a steal. Try it and see.

MU.LABWindows/OSX

I don’t have quite so much experience with MU.LAB, spending most of my time in Reaper, but from what I’ve seen of it I don’t know why it isn’t more popular. Unlike many other freeware DAWs the UI is sophisticated and the featureset is quite extensive. Considering you pay nothing, it’s a sweet deal.

Ardour

ArdourOSX/Linux

Again, I don’t have all that much experience with Ardour either, but it’s got a clean & intuitive interface, excellent plugin compatibility and awesome functions, such as matrix style plugin patching. Again, sweet deal for nothing…

The Plugin Suites

An audio plugin, as it’s name may suggest, is a piece of software that ‘plugs in’ to your DAW, expanding your sonic possibilities. For our intents and purposes they come in two main formats; VST, and AU (OSX only).

Plugins can do pretty much anything, but simplifying again, we’ll divide them into 3 types…

Synthesisers: Generate (synthesise) a unique sound, which ranges from obviously digital in nature, to more ‘natural’ sounding, and everything in between!

Samplers: Are used like ‘loaders/players’ for existing sounds (often banks made up of pre recorded sounds – ‘samples’, such as a drum kit, or a brass instrument)

FX/Processing: Are used to take an existing sound and make it sound different. An example of an FX is reverb, which creates the psychoacoustic impression of space and can make things sound ‘big’.

There are many hundreds, possibly thousands of these plugins available. To save you time I’ve grouped them into ‘suites’, by developer.

Here goes:

NI-Kontakt

Native Instruments – Komplete Players Windows/OSX

Native Instruments are one of the biggest players in the music production industry. Their Komplete range is an amazing (and expensive) set of plugins that pretty much covers the bases in synthesis and sampling . But they also do a little free giveaway in the form of their Komplete Players, which though just a fraction of the paid offering, are still incredible.

u-He’s free giveaways Windows/OSX

Triple Cheese, Zoyd, TyrellN6, Zebralette 

u-HE are one of my favourite developers, and they make some seriously incredible and versatile synths. All of their free synths are worth trying out too, being just as quirky as powerful as their paid offerings (albeit with a little less functionality)

Blue Cat’s Freeware Plugins Pack Windows/OSX

A very non gimmicky and useful set of FX plugins from Blue Cat that includes most of the studio essential, equalisation, flangers, spectral analysis, and so on…

TAL – Effects Suite  Windows/OSX

TAL’s free FX are very handy, and include some more unusual offerings – such as a bitcrusher and a tube saturator, both of which can make your mixes much harder and edgy.

DSK – Synths Windows

DSK are beyond ridiculously generous in their (pretty awesome) free plugin offerings. There’s way too many to list here, but it runs from traditional Indian instruments to synths that specialise in making spacey pads. Shame there’s no OSX offerings…

Illformed – ‘Old VST Plugins Pack’

Which contains a bunch of plugins under the FSU category (I’ll let you guess what the acronym stands for) Glitch 1.3, Crusher, Stretch & TapeStop. As of this date the plugins were no longer supported, but they still work, and for adding carnage to your mixes, it’s hard to beat them.

Soundhack – Freesound Bundle Windows/OSX

Soundhack (who teaches computer science) has some FX offerings that are slightly more…esoteric than some of the other free FX you might find. They’re presented in that wonderful minimalist UI that you might come to love and treasure.

The Single Plugins

These are same as the above ‘bundles’ but are individual plugins. Though not grouped in any convenient collection, these ones were too good to miss…

Applied Acoustics Systems – Swatches Windows/OSX

AAS are perhaps best known as masters of creating realistic (and far out) sounding string synths. Think note for note reproductions of Eddie Van Halen’s lead guitar tone or crazy alien violins. Swatches is preset player that lets you try out the best sounds from all of AAS’s synths.

FXPansion – ORCA Windows/OSX

FXPansion’s ORCA is a somewhat stripped down, yet pretty powerful subtractive synth that was released as a showcase for new & experimental audio technology. One worth collecting.

Magical 8bit Plug Windows/OSX

This is, IMHO, the best plugin to create the 8bit/’chip tunes’ sound in the style of the Nintendo gameboy. I use it regularly and love it.

Sam – CHIP32 Windows/OSX

Sam’s CHIP shows it’s age a bit now, but is capable of creating similar kinds of lo-fi sound to the 8 bit plug we mentioned above.

alphakanal – Automat

Automat is a pretty straightforward and useful synth. It’s workhorse capable of all kinds of sounds, from spacious pads to punchy leads.  It’s a pretty good ‘all rounder’.

Linplug –  Free Alpha 3 Windows/OSX

Linplug’s Free Alpha is a stripped down version of the Alpha synth. It also shows its age a little now, but is still capable of some cool noises, especially with pads.

IK Multimedia – Sampletank FREE Windows/OSX

IK’s Sampletank is the smallest of IK’s sampler series. Packing 58 free instruments and half a gig of samples, all sampled in the high quality IK is known for, it’s worth getting your hands on this one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Vrs2OEq3InI#action=share

Camel Audio – Alchemy Player Windows/OSX

Camel Audio’s Alchemy is an extremely versatile sampler/synth hybrid. The full version is incredible, and the freeware ‘player’ still comes with over 200 instruments and a gig of samples – I think this one’s an essential!

Conclusion

This should be enough to get you started. Hopefully I’ve landed this article somewhere in that sweet spot between too little and too much information. What do you think?

Also, if you are looking for some audio hardware to get the most out aural pleasure and accuracy of your mixes (and yeah this’ll probably involve shelling out cash) – you may want to check out what’s big in our Audio Video category

Happy music making!

Wahoo RFLKT: Second Screening on Two Wheels

Wahoo-RLFKT

I’m an avid cyclist, so I’m constantly on the look out for great tech that can make my life better. We even published a handy guide. So I was delighted to get my hands on the RFLKT iPhone bike computer – a cycling computer that harnesses the power of your smartphone (provided your smartphone is an iPhone).

Slightly larger than a regular cycling computer (the case reminded me of a mini-DV), the Wahoo RFLKT is incredibly easy to set up as you just hit a button and it pairs with most cycling apps on your phone. It’s also very easy to install – either in an ostentatious fashion on your handlebars or in a discreet gentlemanly manner on your stem (using rubber bands!). Both are quick and effortless but if you live in an crime ridden city you’ll need to carry the metal removal key around with you. It’s hard to casually remove RFLKT without the key which should deter the casual thief, so gauge the motivation levels of your local larcenists as you park.

The RFLKT wirelessly receives all app data and ride information from the iPhone via low-power Bluetooth 4.0 technology. My iPhone battery is unreliable to the point where I don’t leave the house without back-up power and want to set the ring tone to “Why Does It Always Drain On Me?” but riding around all day with RFLKT (playing MGMT) didn’t have any significant impact on battery life. The RFLKT runs on a single coin-cell battery which should hold out for a year.

RFLKT reflects your iPhone screen so you can operate your favourite iPhone cycling app, switch between screens, start or stop intervals and even control iPhone functionality such as music playback, while your iPhone remains safely out of sight. There’s even a little light for when you’re riding at night.

I have a perennial problem with apps such as this in that I listen to music through Spotify or the Podcasting app so every time I hit the music playback album iTunes would kick in. That’s a minor gripe. And because I’m spoilt I really wanted this to be a touch screen – I kept swiping at the screen – even though many cyclists wear gloves making this a stupid idea. A clock face would have been nice – but not essential.

The app relies on your iPhone’s GPS for data, making it accurate overall but leading to wild jumps at times – the occasional glance at the screen will make it seem like you’re breaking the speed limit. You can plug RFLKT into Wahoo’s wider eco-system of accessories- they have a heart strap monitor and cadence sensor if you really want to drill down on data. But if you’re a little less hardcore the RFLKT is an excellent entry point into cycling metrics.

The Wahoo RFLKT is priced at £119.99 and is available from the end of June from the Apple store, and www.wahoofitness.com.

Hands On with Huawei’s Ascend P6: World’s Slimmest Smartphone

Ascend-P6-in-the-hand

I didn’t have much awareness of the Huawei brand beyond dongles but after a fairly intimate 6 hours session with their engineers, managers and PR people in London’s Roundhouse it feels like it’s all I’ve ever know. Huawei chose June 18 to launch the superslim Ascend P6 smartphone as it’s just 6.18 mm thin. I was quite worried about how easily I could break a phone that thin. Wouldn’t it bend or break easily? However, the Ascend P6 looks and feels like a very high quality device with the aluminium frame and brushed steel familiar to iPhone users. It’s sleek and stylish with recessed controls and feels reassuringly robust, despite only weighing 120 g.

It’s not all svelteness without sophistication – the Ascend P6 features a 1.5GHz quad-core processor, Android 4.2.2 operating system, 2000mAh battery, 4.7-inch HD in-cell LCD screen technology, and ‘MagicTouch’ for enhanced screen responsiveness even when wearing gloves.

The camera is very impressive. The 10mp rear camera comes packed with easy to use features to make your phone snaps look great including a 4cm macro view for great close ups – if you like taking endless pictures of your food this is the camera for you. It also produces very good images in low light. But, in a sad reflection of the times this is a phone that was made for selfies with a 5MP front-facing camera that even has a beauty filter which supposedly makes you look up to ten years younger. Sadly there were no 9 year olds in the crowd to test this on.

The Ascend P6 comes in black, white and a lovely soft pink. Huawei’s new superslim device will be available from July with a recommended retail price of EUR449 (GBP385).

Top 5 Ingenious Bathroom Gadgets

We all spend a varying proportion of our time in the bathroom, be it for nature’s necessities, taking a long relaxing shower or pruning ourselves for a night out. If you are of the inclination to spend perhaps a little more time in the bathroom than really required, you’ll be pleased to be informed about five great bathroom-orientated devices on the market, designed to make restroom visit more interesting, pleasant and fun.

The Kohler Moxie Showerhead and Wireless Speaker

As you soap yourself up in your shower you can gyrate to your favourite music with the Kohler Moxie. An extremely civilised showerhead, which has a cordless magnetic easy fit speaker in its centre, the Kohler Moxie is the perfect way to listen to liven up your shower.

The cordless speaker picks up a signal from a Bluetooth device up to 30ft away. The internal battery is said to last for up to seven hours between charging, which should satisfy even the longest of the long-stay bathroom types. Whilst you can use the speaker anywhere, it is tailor made to fit magnetically like a hand in a glove within the showerhead.

Showerhead Speaker

Fitbit-Aria-Top-5

Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale

For the dieters and image-conscious amongst us, scales are an integral feature in the bathroom. If you are weary about owning scales that you suspect aren’t tracking your weight accurately, you may want to exchange your existing scales for the Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale.

The Fitbit Aria loads data such as weight and height wirelessly to a private Fitbit account and then analyses the information, giving details about your BMI and body fat percentage. All manner of personal graphs and charts are available for you to study and muse over. What’s more, the Aria scale can deal with eight accounts at once so a whole family can spend additional minutes in the bathroom being monitored!

For £99, the Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale could be a good investment for those striving to lose weight. Failing that, you could adopt rock star Ozzie Osborne’s approach, who once said of his successful plunge down the scales: “You just drop your ****** fat intake and do some ****** exercise!”

Fitbit Aria

Talking-Loo-Roll-Holder

Talking Toilet Roll Holder

Oh what fun for £12.99 – You can record a message on the Talking Toilet Roll Holder and it is replayed as the paper is unwound. Leave a message for your children, such as: “Now please wash your hands but don’t use too much of the very expensive hand wash.” Maybe you will leave a more deeply voiced and sinister message at a party: “I am the God of the Bog and I have been watching you” – A little bit sick but hey, we all like a laugh!

Talking Toilet Roll Holder

Toilet-Time

Toilet Time Pro

If you are of the tendency to spend too much more time on the toilet, whether it is due to reading a book or flipping through the social media channels on your iPhone, Toilet Time Pro could be an invaluable asset. Toilet Time Pro is basically an alarm clock app that tells you when your time is up on the loo! Presumably you can alter the time allowance if you are suffering from a complaint such as Delhi Belly?

You can download the first and only toilet time controller app for £0.69 at iTunes

Wine-Holder

Bath Wine Glass Holder

This delightfully civilised little gadget allows you to relax even more in the bath with a securely-positioned glass of your favourite wine next to you. If you know someone who likes to spend hours in the bath surrounded by candles and aromas and enjoys a drop of wine, for just £7.50 this ingenious bathroom gadget would surely make the perfect gift.

Bath Wine Glass Holder

E3 Roundup: XBox One vs Playstation 4 – Price vs. Promising Lineup

PS-Four-vs-XBox-One

Gamers struggling to make a informed decision on whether to buy an Xbox 1 or PS4 this Christmas are not alone – but you will be glad to know both console makers laid their cards on the table at last night’s E3.

Both console makers gave a firm launch window of Winter 2013 for Europe and the US – basically November. The biggest headline from both shows was: price. Microsoft unveiled that their new console would cost $499/£425 – which on the face of it is quite pricey. Compared to the Xbox 360 launch the price point it’s a scary one. For example when the first Xbox 360 launched 8 years ago the base model was a mere £209, admittedly, though you didn’t get a lot of functionality for that price. When Microsoft wrapped up their presentation they unveiled their price-point and collective gasp echoed across the show floor like an icy wind.

Sony on the other hand unveiled an incredibly competitive price point of $399/£349. But that didn’t actually get the biggest cheer from the gaming fraternity. Oh no. Jack Tretton then went onto fully explain Sony’s stance on the thorny issue of DRM, he confirmed that the company wouldn’t be employing any form of draconian secondhand game policies. So if you want to lend a game to friend: you can. If you want to trade a game in at a retailer: you can. If you want to play any PS4 game offline: you can. Basically Sony made a massive song and dance that their console, on paper, is faster, it’s cheaper, and isn’t looking to completely re-write the whole paradigm of game ownership. Now, in the interest of impartiality, you can do almost all of that with Microsoft’s system, too, but their solution is a lot more convoluted and requires games to be online at least once every 24 hours, whilst secondhand games can be traded in depending on whether third party publishers get a cut of the trade-in fee – but it’s their decision, if they want to block trade-ins they can though – a worrying trend as we move towards a digital era.

Both console makers showcased as veritable smorgasbord of incredible titles coming exclusively to each console. It’s clear Sony won the battle of price and DRM, but there’s no doubt that they didn’t have a stronger software lineup compared to Microsoft’s own war chest of games. Games like Dead Rising 3 and Titanfall (from ex-Call of Duty devs) are exclusive to the Xbox One and look like hardcore games that will shift units fast. In almost every area of gaming both companies had exclusive titles; Microsoft showed of Forza 5, the latest installment of their biggest racing title, Sony’s answer was Drive Club, but on the face of it just can’t compete with Forza’s scope and vision.

Trying to decide which console to get is an exercise in futility, but now there are some big difference between the two consoles. Sony has also confirmed that their console will be region free, this means you can import a US console, for example, for a cheaper price and play games from Japan on it. Microsoft’s console on the other hand isn’t region free – again another big difference.

It’s clear that Microsoft and Sony have two different visions for their respective consoles. Microsoft is going for a walled-garden system akin to Apple’s iOS, with full control. They want to move the console into the world of the digital era, and, along with it, change the way we buy and consume games. This means games are intrinsically linked to your profile – much like they are on any digital store. Whilst Sony has stuck to its guns and will continue with the current model of open trading of games and the traditional ownership model – much to the delight of hardcore gamers.

E3 on the whole was great for both Microsoft and Sony – Microsoft clearly had the stronger software lineup with Titanfall, Forza 5 and Ryse, all shooting for the lucrative launch window. Whilst Sony nailed the all-important price point and DRM model, though their software lineup didn’t eclipse Microsoft’s with Killzone: Shadow Fall, Drive Club and The Order.

It’s clear that many gamers are still on the fence when it comes to choosing their next console, and that won’t change until they can get their hands on the controller, the system and, most importantly, the games. But on the face of it Sony’s decision to undercut Microsoft’s price point could well be the smoking gun for many. After all with such a dire economic outlook a cheaper price point is likely to secure a lot of those floating gamers who have yet to make their decision.

Will Microsoft rethink its price point? Unlikely. Will they rein in some of their draconian DRM? Quite possibly, but it’s been long suggested that their decision on DRM was at the behest of publishers unhappy at losing revenue to secondhand sales. So quite how Sony has managed to negotiate a different model does seem a bit puzzling, though, Sony’s decision to charge for online gaming could see a cut of that money going to publishers now – but at the moment that’s just pure speculation.

Stock Android: Pros and Cons

Nexus-Phone

The Nexus 4 comes with stock Android, but now more phones are getting in on the act. Once the exclusive preserve of Nexus-branded devices (and rooters), the stock version of Android is set to appear on the Samsung Galaxy S4, the HTC One and the Sony Xperia Z in the coming months (initially in the USA with a wider roll-out expected eventually). But what is stock Android, exactly? And why should you consider getting a phone with it installed?

Stock-Android

What is stock Android?

Simply speaking, stock Android is the plain, vanilla edition of the operating system, straight from the Google conveyor belt. Manufacturers such as Samsung, Sony and HTC tend to add their own bells and whistles to Android, most notably when it comes to flashy camera functions and social network widgets. In the same way that computer retailers such as Dell and HP load extra utilities and shortcuts on top of Windows, the phone manufacturers do the same with Android, often providing easy links to their own services and stores. Stock Android is the purest form of Android without any of these extras added on top. Whether or not it’s the best Android for you depends on how attached you are to these manufacturer customisations and skins.

Quicker updates

Perhaps the biggest advantage of using stock Android is that you get new versions of the operating system as quickly as possible. Whenever Google releases a new update, it hits Nexus devices almost immediately. Owners of other phones and tablets must wait until Sony, HTC, Samsung or another company have had a play around with it, added their own layer on top, and shipped it back out to customers with all bugs fixed and scenarios tested.

This trend for customising Android has exacerbated the software’s fragmentation problem. Gingerbread (Android 2.3.3-2.3.7) remains the most common version of the OS in use today, with the most recent Jelly Bean release accounting for 28.4% of the Android phone and tablet market. By using stock Android, you’re less likely to be left behind.

More apps

Google has been steadily spinning apps out of the main Android OS for some time now — most recently the stock keyboard appeared on Google Play — but one of the benefits of using the pure version of the operating system is that it ensures compatibility with the latest apps.

Twitter’s Vine, for example, recently launched on Android and requires version 4.0 or above. If you want to use the lock screen widget built into Google Now, you’ll need Android 4.1 or higher. The more recent your version of Android, the more apps and features you have access to.

Fewer apps

Of course, at the same time you get fewer apps because you’re living without the customised add-ons and widgets produced by the phone manufacturers. In the case of the HTC One, you won’t get the social networking stream widget BlinkFeed; in the case of the Samsung Galaxy S4, you’ll miss out on the Smart Pause utility that pauses videos whenever you look away from the screen. Whether these omissions will be of interest to you depends on whether you view them as useful add-ons or needless gimmicks.

Optimisations

These stock Android versions of existing phones have another disadvantage when compared with pure Nexus devices — the hardware and software haven’t been developed in unison, so you might not experience a fully optimised experience. Stock Android will certainly work without any major problems on the latest smartphones, but you might notice one or two inconsistencies (the HTC One doesn’t have a multi-tasking button, for starters).

Stock Android has much going for it, but the trend of slapping the vanilla OS on any smartphone isn’t without its problems. You’re also more likely to pay a premium for devices sporting stock Android, though LG’s competitive pricing on the Nexus 4 is an exception to that rule. Whichever version of Android you find yourself leaning towards, having the choice can only be good for buyers.

Best of Computex 2013

Asus-Transformer

Running until June 8, Taiwan’s largest consumer electronics show Computex is taking place this week with over 1,700 exhibitors showing off their wares – here’s what caught our eye.

Asus unveiled yet more post-pc devices, with their newly announced Transformer Book Trio. It’s the world’s first three-in-one mobile device. The device has a detachable 11.6-inch display and comes with dual operating systems. The device can switch from Windows 8 notebook to Android tablet to Windows 8 desktop – a world first for a hybrid tablet/notebook.

The Transformer Book Trio switches easily between operating systems to give users access to over 700,000 Android apps on Google’s Play Store and access to 50,000 Windows apps from Microsoft’s app store.

Despite running two different operating systems, ASUS has spent a lot time making switching between the two systems a pain-free as possible, allowing users to sync data or continue to surf the web when moving from notebook to tablet mode.

The PC station comes with an Intel Core i7 processor, full QWERTY keyboard, 750GB of internal storage and, when the tablet is detached it can be connected to an external display for us as a full desktop PC. The PC dock serves as a charger for the tablet so to extend its battery life, whilst, the tablet-side of the device features a 2.0 GHz Intel Atom processor, 16:9 full HD 1920 x 1080 screen and up to 64GB internal flash storage.

Sonotar-Smart-Watch

Sonostar e-ink watches

Wearable technology is likely to be big growth industry in the coming years, with everyone from Apple and Google looking into the burgeoning technology. E Ink, the company behind the screen technology for a variety of e-readers including Amazon’s Kindle, announced a brand-new e-ink display and collaboration with Sonostar for a second-screen watch that connects to your smartphone or tablet.

E ink’s new 1.73-inch touchscreen display comes with resolution of 320 x 240 and is capable of producing 16 levels of greyscale. Obviously e-ink screens aren’t colour screens. And while this might seem like a massive oversight, e-ink technology actually has several benefits over colour screens. The technology is incredibly frugal when it comes to power consumption compared to coloured screens, and they’re a lot easier to read in direct sunlight compared to normal colour screens.

The Sonostar Smart Watch connects to either your iPhone or Android device using Bluetooth, and displays information on calls, messages, social networking updates, and emails. Also, the screen is flexible which means the watch face doesn’t have to be flat, allowing Sonostar to craft a watch that better matches the curve of your arm.

The Sonostar Smart Watch is set to be released sometime after the summer, and has been priced at £100 for either the black or white models.

Nvidia-Project-Shield

Project Shield, Nvidia

Chipset maker Nvidia were at Computex, too, showing off their new handheld Android-powered games console: Shield (yes, they’re dropping the “project” part from the name). Shield consists of a console game controller with a flip-up display housing a pin sharp 5-inch, 720p, multi-touch display.

Powering Shield is Nvidia’s Tegra 4 mobile processor with a quad-core CPU, 72 GPU cores, and 2GB of RAM. The handheld also carries 16GB of onboard storage and features GPS, Bluetooth 3.0, a mini-HDMI output, micro-USB 2.0, a microSD storage slot for memory expansion, and an 3.5 mm stereo headphone jack. Shield runs Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean and can play both Tegra-optimised and regular Android games – as well as having access to Android’s 700,000 non-gaming apps. Nvidia has said it’s working on streaming your favorite PC games to Shield, too, including titles from Steam in the near future.

Asus-Monitor

ASUS Ultra HD PC screen

At Computex ASUS showcased the world’s first Ultra HD PC monitors. The new 31.5-inch monitor costs a not unreasonable £2,500 and comes with a staggering resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 – four times as many pixels as a standard 1080p PC monitor. The company is also going to be prepping a 39-inch version too. ASUS expects to begin shipping the 31.5-inch model in June, with its big brother will follow sometime in Q3.

Acer-Phone

Acer Iconia W3

Acer were at Computex and are the first company to unveil a smaller form factor Windows 8 tablet. The 8-inch Iconia W3 comes with a 1280 x 800 display. On the tablet-side of things there’s front- and rear-facing two-megapixel cameras, plus connectivity through Bluetooth 4.0 and micro-USB.

The Iconia is packing impressive specs considering its size; there’s an Intel dual-core 1.8GHz Atom Z2760 processor, and the choice of either 32 or 64GB of internal storage, which can supplemented via the tablet’s microSD expansion slot. There’s also a built-in micro-HDMI for outputting the screen onto larger screens.

Top 5 Father’s Day Ideas

Klhip

Who doesn’t love a made-up holiday designed to perpetuate gender stereotypes and sell merchandise? It’s that time of year again and Father’s Day is upon us. Still it fun giving you dad something, be it tickets to the ballet, a new CD player or just a hug. And it you’re looking for something for someone technically inclined we have 5 things that just might do the trick.

Klhip
If your father’s hand is starting to resemble a bear claw and if your old man responds well to vaguely passive agressive gestures he might very well love Klhip, the world’s first (and only) ergonomically correct nail clippers. Klhip features a precision engineered balance of increased leverage, enhanced control and world-class manufacturing using surgical-grade stainless steel.

Out now from The Foundry for £49.99.

Camper-Van-Tent

Camper Tent
If you Dad has always secretly had a thing for Mother Nature, and yearned for the Summer of Love then why not get his this officially licensed, four-person tent, which is a full-sized replica of the iconic 1965 Volkswagen Camper Van, synonmous with the 1960s counterculture he turned his back on when he married your mother and went into teaching.

Limited Edition VW Flower Power Campervan Tent: £299.99 or try and win one free from Campetition

Philips-Avance-Grill

Philips Avance Grill
Doesn’t your pops love grilled meat but also reside on the British Isles? Chances are he won’t have many chances to get his BBQ on. Fortunately Philips are hoping to change all that with the Philips Avance Grill (HD6360), the first-of-its-kind indoor barbeque with a unique Taste Infuser, enabling you to infuse your food with natural smoky flavours, herbs, or wine, giving your dishes an authentic barbeque taste.

The Avance Grill is available from Amazon for under £120.00

Looj-Fathers-Day

Looj
Wanna give the old man a break from hard work and give him a glimpse into the future household maintenance? Then give him Looj – the UK’s first gutter cleaning robot. Able to clear 30 feet in just 5 minutes the Looj is perfect for clogged cutters and automatically senses and adapts to the conditions in your gutter, making sure the dirtier areas get worked on until clean.
But more importantly you can say “hey Dad I got you a robot”.

The iRobot Looj 330 is available now from iRobot.com for £299.

Orbitsound-M12-FDay

Orbitsound Wireless Soundbar
If your Dad loves great sound and hates cables then he and I should hang out. And while we’re hanging out we’ll be using Orbitsound’s M series wirless soundbar. We loved Orbitsounds T series wired soundbars and were delighted when they made the leap to wireless. The room-filling spatial sound enhances TV audio and had Bluetiith streaming built in. And there’s a wireless subwoofer for some all-important bass.

Orbitsound M9 and M12, £299 and £399 respectively, both available from John Lewis.