Oh, look, it’s a Nintendo Switch!

A few weeks ago I was invited by Nintendo to attend a hands-on session with its then-yet-to-be released Switch. Sadly, I had to decline the invitation (it was in Auckland and I live in Christchurch, which is in New Zealand’s South Island) but Nintendo’s PR company in Australia kept in touch over the following weeks.

Last week, I got the good news that Nintendo was going to send me a Switch to look at for review. The console arrived today (after being held up by Customs for a couple of days). It came with a copy of Zelda: Breath of the Wild & 1-2 Switch as well as spare JoyCon controllers (red & blue).

The last Nintendo home console I played was the Nintendo GameCube (which I still own) so I’m looking forward to having a good look at the Switch over the coming days, especially trying out the portable mode. I’ll document my thoughts in the next week or so.

Set up was easy enough and I managed to connect the JoyCon controllers the right way to the tablet body (I read on social media that some people  slid them on wrong, causing them to get stuck). As I write this, the Switch is charging the tablet.

Zelda: BOTW will also be the first home console Zelda game I’ve played (I’m not counting the Nintendo 3DS version) so I’m looking forward to it.

In the meantime, here are some images of the un-boxing process.

The tablet of the Nintendo Switch. It’s has a nice reflective screen, as you can see by my reflection.

The rear view of the Switch’s tablet. Note the bananas in the background. Our dog likes bananas, too.

The Switch in docked mode. It’s not plugged in yet, obviously.

The Switch in docked mode, with the JoyCon controllers attached.

 

 

 

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 review: the best of both worlds

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My current laptop is a 2011 MacBook Pro.

It used to be my wife’s. It would have been good in its day but now: Not so much. It takes what seems like forever to boot up (I could easily make a cup of coffee and start drinking in the time it takes to finally get itself sorted), I only get about an hour or so on battery before it needs plugging into mains power and it can’t play games very well. It’s past its use by date.

I love to replace it if I could – and I’d replace it with a Microsoft Surface Pro 4. That’s it in the photo at the top of this post.

For the two weeks or so I had the Surface Pro 4, it was my go-to device for my writing work, my web browsing and my digital entertainment consumption – and it ticked all the boxes for me.

20160828_171254Measuring 292.10mm x 201.42mm x 8.45mm, and weighing around 786 grams, the Surface Pro 4 is a laptop/tablet replacement device that I really did love the more I used it, especially with the stunning 12.3-inch PixelSense screen (offering a resolution of 2736 x 1824) that displays colours vibrantly and vividly. The kickstand is a nice change from the usual kickstand that comes with tablets: It’s a solid hinged design not the foldable cover type, so it’s secure and solid, and thanks to the hinges, it means you can adjust it to the perfect position.

Packing an Intel i5 CPU, 8GB of Ram, an Intel HD 520 GPU and a 256Gb Solid State Drive, the Surface Pro 4 will easily do all you need it to and the fact that it doubles as a tablet, when it’s not attached to the Type Cover keyboard, adds to the appeal. The device comes with one USB 3.0 port, a microSD card reader, a mini display port, a headphone jack and is running Windows 10 Pro.

One of the things I loved about the Surface Pro 4 was that I was able to set it up so that I could login using facial recognition software, meaning I didn’t have to type a password to get up and running. All I had to do was look into the front facing camera, the device would recognise my face and I was good to go (a winking face icon showed that all was ready). It was great not to have to enter a password to login into the device.

20160828_171303The Surface Pro 4 comes with a stylus, which attached to the side of the tablet magnetically, but sadly, the Type Cover which is a great keyboard that was easy to touch type on with keys that had a decent amount of travel, is an optional extra, meaning you have to pay for it separately if you want it. C’mon, Microsoft: You’ve got a great tablet/laptop replacement here just include the Type Cover as standard. Everyone wins.

 

FreshPaint-8-2016.08.10-12.41.35I loved that I could use the stylus and the touch screen to sign documents for my accountant and scribble notes for this review.

I also loved that I could use the stylus and tablet format to use sketching software app Fresh Paint to get back into drawing. I did a quick sketch of the view next to my desk at work, which you can see here. I loved that the Surface Pro 4’s stylus could be used like a pencil, paint brush or pastel, meaning it’s ideal for creative thinking and ideas people.

The Surface Pro 4 isn’t designed as a game player but I thought I’d test it out with some of my favourite PC games, anyway (this is a gaming website, sort of) so I installed the Tomb Raider reboot, Portal 2 and Batman Arkham City.

Using bench marking software PC Mark 7, the Surface Book Pro posted a score of 5025, which while not stellar and wouldn’t threaten any dedicated gaming laptop, it’s a respectable score for a device not considered a gaming platform (I understand there is a model of the Pro 4 that has a nVidia graphics option). The Surface Pro 4’s aluminum chassis has grills along its edges that help dissipate heat when it gets too hot and I could definitely feel the heat coming off it while testing the games out.

The device managed an average of 54 frames a second on Tomb Raider (at a resolution of 800×600) and Batman Arkham City. Crank the resolutions higher and frame rates plummeted, which shows the Pro 4 isn’t a out-and-out gaming device, and wouldn’t handle more graphically demanding games such as the recently released Deus Ex Mankind Divided for example, but as far as I was concerned, it didn’t embarrass itself when it came to playing some of my favourite Steam games.

I loved my time with the Surface Pro 4 and if I had any niggles about it, it would be that I would liked to have seen another USB port on it so that I could plug in, say, a USB drive AND a mouse (or wireless controller, perhaps).

When I get around to replacing my ageing MacBook Pro (and the way things are going it won’t be too long), I’m definitely adding the Surface Pro 4 into the mix. At around $2439 for the specification I had, it’s probably not too badly priced for what you get, although you can get comparable laptops for cheaper when they’re on special.

Look, I loved that the Surface Pro 4 was powerful enough to act as a laptop replacement yet offers the portability of a tablet when I need it. The best of both worlds, right?