Year: 2014 (page 3 of 5)

NomadKey Review

Charging cables aren’t usually the most interesting of topics and not something I think much about apart from ensuring I have cables for my devices at work, home and when I travel. That basically means a lightning cable and a micro USB cable to cover the many devices that I use day to day.

I was contacted by Nomad and asked if I was interested in trying a NomadKey and passing on my thoughts via this site. A few weeks ago I received a Lightning and micro-USB NomadKey and since then I’ve been using them to charge my iOS devices and my work phone and mifi device.

Lightning NomadKey

Lightning NomadKey

The NomadKey is a reworked version of the Nomad ChargeKey that launched last year. The main feature of the NomadKey is it’s size and flexibility. Slightly larger than a standard house key it’s designed to live on your key ring so no matter where you are, if you have your keys you can charge your device…well, as long as there is a USB socket nearby.

The NomadKey features a slim USB connector at one end and a lightning or micro-USB connector at the other. Both ends are made of a hard plastic and the middle is a flexible rubber which covers the cable connecting both ends. This allows the NomadKey to twist and allow you to charge your device in some pretty awkward places. While fine for phones and small devices it’s not practical for things like an iPad. The chargers are really light, so much so you won’t notice any additional weight on your key ring or if you decide to carry them in a travel or office bag.

In use I’ve found the NomadKey to be fast and reliable. For iOS devices it’s not only a charge cable but sync’s as well and is certified by Apple. I’ve seen no difference in charge or sync times between an official Apple cable and the NomadKey. It also carries enough current to charge an iPad.

Flexible NomadKey

Flexible NomadKey

Although reliable over the last three weeks I do have a couple of niggles. Firstly the USB and lightning connectors are uncovered. As the premise of the NomadKey is for the charger to live alongside your keys I do worry that over time the connectors will pick up dings and scratches. The more durable plastic that hooks onto your key ring does look robust but again, over time will it become chewed up?

Finally is the question of value. The NomadKey costs $29 with free shipping to the UK which feels a little steep. A 1m lightning cable from Apple is £15 and I think the NomadKey would be more appealing to users if they managed to undercut Apple even slightly.

Despite the niggles I loved the NomadKey cables and would recommend them to anyone looking at picking up a new charge cable or who tend to misplace or forget their current chargers. It’s an excellent day to day charger and especially useful for the frequent traveller. Nomad are also bringing out a new product called the NomadClip which is a portable charging cable in the shape of a carabiner and something I’m far more interested in.

If you like the look of the NomadKey or any of their other products then you can pre-order them now and for a limited time you get 25% off if you use the code “LIVESIMPLE”.

Destiny Alpha

It’s been hyped for years, it’s costing $500m and it’s the future for Bungie and for the last 4 days the Destiny Alpha has been available on the PS4.

Some quick thoughts after a few hours play:

  • The presentation is very slick throughout the Alpha
  • There are many nods to Halo throughout the game which I guess is no surprise
  • Graphically it’s impressive but some of the environments feel quite sparse, although again it’s an alpha and no doubt much more to come later in the year
  • The music and audio are great – really atmospheric
  • The more I played through the missions, the more it felt like Halo which while great as Halo is a game I really enjoyed, I was expecting a bit more. Working as a team, playing through a set piece and then moving on through to another set piece – all been done before.
  • Character customisation looks to be really deep with most locked off in the alpha. Three different classes to play through too.
  • Multiplayer was accessed via the Crucible. Two maps, basically hardpoint from Titanfall and while they played OK on moving back to Titanfall it showed that Destiny felt a bit lacking.
  • The firing mechanics are fine, just felt a but unsatisfying. Only really played with a couple of weapons so too early to tell if this is an issue
  • Ammo is limited in multiplayer – you have a heavy weapon for example but no ammo for it, with random and infrequent drops during the game.
  • It is a very pretty at times

Destiny First Look Alpha_20140614084525

Destiny First Look Alpha_20140614171048

Destiny First Look Alpha_20140615152650

Destiny First Look Alpha_20140615152716

Destiny First Look Alpha_20140615154207

There is one big downside to the Destiny Alpha – it’s limited in scale and finished yesterday. The beta launches in July but the real game isn’t out until September. It’s going to be a long three months as despite some shortcomings I’m looking forward to the final release.

A final shout out to the PS4 which allows you to copy screens and video to a USB disk. Makes for easy transfer of great quality screen grabs and also allows you to show off some video from Destiny.

Goodbye Three, Hello EE

A month ago I finally switched away from Three after a couple of years dealing with a number of issues with them. Mostly due to price and unlimited data I stuck by Three but at work I invariably would have limited data or no data connection at all.

The final straw was at the end of March when I couldn’t even make or receive calls at work. I’d leave the office and get a text saying I had a voice message. No missed call, no text or call at the time…hours after a call I’d get notified that I’d got a message. This wasn’t just one day and went on for a couple of weeks. As per the last couple of times I contacted Three’s engineers, no faults in the area and it must be my phone despite others in the office on Three having the same problems. I’d also call voicemail and get disconnected after 20 seconds – constantly. So frustrating.

So after waiting and getting 4G in Glasgow on Three it was time to move on and I went for EE as they had tweaked there prices to make it slightly more competitive and their speeds at my workplace were excellent. Monthly contract, 4GB of 4G data for £23. Unlimited everything else so not too bad.

The initial on boarding with EE was dreadful. I phoned up to see if there were any deals and got a price higher than the website. Mentioned the website price and was told to sign up there then. Charming. The signup on the website was awful. Multiple attempts to try and complete the form which kept resetting back to the start of the process. After 30 mins I’d finally got the application submitted to be told that I’d get a phone call from EE so they can check the order before it can be accepted – whats the point of that?

The phone call was quick and a couple of days later I had my new sim. 4G speeds in Glasgow are excellent and I’ve had no issues at all with connectivity over the last month.

4G speeds at work

4G speeds at work

One issue I did have was the initial transfer of the mobile number. It took three days instead of one and I kept getting text messages welcoming me to EE, then T-Mobile then finally to EE. Hey ho, it all worked in the end.

The last niggle was how much data would I use? The first month saw me use 3.2GB out of 4GB. So not too bad, under my limit although that included a week off work which saw me using less data as I was at home more.

One unexpected positive was a sharp increase in battery life. I’d typically come home from work with around 10-30% battery life and I’d put that down to iOS 7 and my usage of apps during the day. However the shift to EE has seen battery life of 40-70% when I get home. I’m assuming that the iPhone is wasting a lot of battery hunting for data while I was with Three that it isn’t now doing with EE.

So far, so good. Great 4G speeds, a reliable data connection, app’s are snappy on 4G compared to 3G and I can even make phone calls too. Bonus. I really do wish I’d moved from Three months ago but stubbornly I expected the issues to be resolved. They weren’t. If you are with a mobile company and having issues then change providers. Life’s too short.

Drymen Circular

Scary – it’s almost 2 years since my last hill walk which was a return to Dumgoyne. We wanted to tackle a munro but time and weather meant a more sensible first walk of the year – Drymen to Balmaha via Conic hill and back again. Unlike the previous weekend, the weather had closed in and there was a cool breeze and a bit of drizzle on the way up Conic.

I didn’t bother taking any photo’s from the top of Conic as I’ve been up there a couple of times now and the winter set from 2011 on Flickr contains some far better photo’s. It was also windy with not much of a view. Speaking of views, there’s been quite a bit of deforestation on the route from Drymen which really opened up the route to more impressive views.

We chose to walk along the road back to Drymen rather than following our footsteps but to be honest there isn’t much to see from the road apart that Conic looked far better as the day cleared up for a few hours. Timing is everything. RunKeeper stats for the walk are below.

Hiking_Activity_11_55_mi___RunKeeper

Overall a good walk that got the legs going and hopefully isn’t the last one for another couple of years. Maybe a munro next?

Gaming Treats

For a while I found gaming on iOS starting to stagnate. Too many free to play titles with horrible in app purchasing mechanisms, particularly from EA. However April has seen some great new releases:

Monument Valley
http://www.monumentvalleygame.com/
£2.49

At around 2 hours of gameplay many will dismiss Monument Valley but they are fools. FOOLS! This is a 10 level puzzle game that is more akin to a living M.C. Escher image than a game. The premise is simple – guide Ida to the end of the level by sliding and rotating elements of the level to allow her to complete the path.

Monument Valley

Monument Valley

It looks and sounds stunning and is such a satisfying fun game. In many ways the length is perfect as repetition is removed unlike so many games that are longer just because they can be, not for any good reason. If it still sounds too short and the screen above doesn’t convince you, the developer has announced this week that more levels are coming. There are no excuses left – just buy it.

FTL: Faster Than Light
http://www.ftlgame.com/
£6.99

A PC favourite, FTL is a real time strategy game based on your spaceship. Maybe more a resource management game but you take part in a variety of quests, battles and make choices throughout the game with the aim to save the galaxy with you in charge of your spaceship. It’s tough, especially as when you die you start from the beginning again. Works so well on the iPad benefiting greatly from the retina screen and the touch controls.

This is really addictive and each play through is unique adding to it’s shelf life. You can also take charge of different spaceships, again extending the game. Out of all the games on this post, I’d buy this one. Love it.

Hitman Go
http://hitman.com/launching-hitman-go/
£2.99

I had zero expectations for Hitman Go, expecting an arcade game or first person shooter but what Square Enix has released is a great looking turn based strategy. You control your agent, dictating which path he takes through a level solving various puzzles as you go.

Hitman Go

Hitman Go

The game is a looker and can be viewed from any angle and it’s great to see some of the big game developers developing unique mobile games rather than rushing out a crappy port. One note of caution is that there is an element of in app purchasing for hints and unlocks but they aren’t needed to play the game and it doesn’t get in the way when I’m playing. An impressive game which will take some time to complete.

Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
http://us.battle.net/en/int?r=hearthstone
Free (with in-app purchase)

Hearthstone is a card collecting 1 vs 1 battle game. Collect cards and play friends or strangers in a number of different game modes. Presentation is fantastic and it’s a very addictive game. There is in app purchasing but it doesn’t blight the game and to be honest I’ve not needed to spend any money on the game. Excellent game and you can play against PC p;ayers too.

Dungeon Quest
http://dq.shinyboxgames.com/
Free (with in-app purchase)

Final game worth trying is Dungeon Quest. Don’t let the free and IAP tag put you off. This is a great little Diablo lite dungeon crawler that supports various classes and plays really well. Great for blasting through a few levels if you’ve got 20 mins to spare.

Dungeon Quest

Dungeon Quest

Hopefully there’s something in that list to tempt you and after months of meh, it’s a great time to game again on iOS.

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