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Fri, 01 Jun 2018 11:28:41 +0000

Vincent Teoh
1 day 11 hours ago
Price when reviewed 

Sony is clearly a brand that likes to keep its options open. Unlike rival manufacturers who have backed either OLED (Panasonic) or LED LCD (Samsung) as the display technology of choice for their high-end TVs, Sony is spreading its bets by embracing both technologies within its BRAVIA television lineup. And now the Japanese brand has added to its OLED family with the arrival of the Sony AF8 series.

Sony KD-55AF8: What you need to know

The KD-55AF8, or A8F in the US, gives last year's BRAVIA A1 OLED a welcome facelift. On paper, the specifications of the Sony AF8 are almost identical to last year's critically-acclaimed Sony A1, featuring an ultra-high-definition OLED panel, the company's most advanced X1 Extreme picture processor at this time of writing, the Android Smart TV platform, Acoustic Surface sound technology which allows the entire screen to act as a speaker, and HDR support for HDR10, HLG and – following a firmware update – Dolby Vision formats. The main difference between the Sony AF8 and the A1 comes down to design.

Sony KD-55AF8: Price & competition

The 55-inch Sony KD-55AF8 retails for £2,499, putting it right in the mix with its direct 2018 OLED competitors such as the LG OLED55C8 (read our full review) (£2,799) and the Panasonic TX-55FZ802B (£2,299). It’s also available in a 65in version for a cool £3,299. Not convinced? Then Sony is also continuing to sell 2017's BRAVIA KD-55A1 OLED, which may possibly come down in price now that the AF8 has landed.

Buy the Sony KD-55AF8 from Currys

Sony KD-55AF8: Design & features

The design is wonderfully minimalist. The OLED panel is wafer-thin, and there's an inconspicuous Sony logo at the bottom left corner of the screen. While last year's Bravia A1 OLED featured a pronounced lean-back design supported by a kick stand, the Sony AF8 sits vertically on a table-top stand with the lowest profile we've ever seen. Our review unit still exhibited a very slight lean back when inspected from the side, but it's not noticeable from the front.

The stand takes up barely any space at all, which means that it sits nicely on narrower AV racks. And you can safely ignore the pair of rubber stand spacers provided in the box: they’re intended to add stability but are really not needed.

Should you choose to not wall-mount the Sony AF8, the screen is almost flush with the surface below, so there isn’t enough clearance for a soundbar. However, Sony believes that the AF8’s onboard Acoustic Surface Speaker should be good enough to obviate the need for a soundbar – this technology turns the whole screen into a giant speaker, while further speakers in the body of the TV handle the lower frequencies. The result is impressive audio clarity, and the kind of precise soundstaging that most other TVs on the market can only dream of, but bass isn't as rich as last year's Sony A1, which is probably due to a change in subwoofer configuration.

The connections are found on the left rear of the display. As is the case with all Sony X1 Extreme TVs so far, there are four HDMI inputs, but only HDMI 2 and 3 are the full-bandwidth HDMI 2.0b ports that support 4K HDR video at higher frame rates, chroma or bit-depth, and you'll need to manually enable HDMI signal "Enhanced format" in the user menu to get the full benefit. For cable management, Sony has provided not only cable ties behind the TV, but also four plastic covers to help you achieve a clean, minimalistic look.

Sony KD-55AF8: Picture quality and gaming responsiveness

OLED is the best display technology going. As it’s self-emissive, every one of the 8.3 million pixels on the Sony KD-55AF8 is effectively its own miniature backlight, and can be turned on and off independently of each other. The result is perfect blacks, vibrant colours and wide viewing angles -– unlike LCD TVs, there is virtually no loss of contrast and colour saturation when watched off-axis.

The AF8’s OLED panel buddies up with Sony's X1 Extreme chipset, which we’d rate as being the best in-TV video processor on the market today. For starters, its upscaling quality of standard-definition content is better than that delivered by any other TV brand. The gap closes when you feed it with high-definition material though, as most high-end 4K TVs are competent enough not to reveal any upscaling issues – or at least not from typical viewing distances.

Another feather in the Sony's cap is its near-black handling. This is the cleanest among consumer OLEDs, and exhibits less noise and posterisation (that blotchy effect which you might have noticed in images of bright skies) in darker areas than its rivals. Engage Sony’s Smooth Gradation super bit-mapping technology, and the good news is that any remaining posterisation can be reduced even further.

Motion performance is top-notch with the correct settings. Slow panning shots in 24fps movies are presented smoothly without judder, and should you choose to use frame interpolation, Sony's Motionflow algorithm doesn't introduce as much soap opera effect (SOE) or interpolation artefacts as similar technologies from the competition. There's black frame insertion available on the Sony KD55AF8 too, but we think most people won't be able to tolerate the drop in brightness and the increase in flicker, and especially not for the 50Hz content we watch in the UK and Europe.

We measured a DCI-P3 colour gamut coverage of 99% which is exactly what we'd expect from a consumer OLED TV these days. However, colour accuracy for standard dynamic range video was superb after calibration, and the result was supremely realistic colours and skin tones.

When cycling through full-field slides, brightness uniformity was excellent with no dirty screen effect (DSE), vignetting or colour tinting on our review sample. Near-black uniformity (that's very, very dark grey to you and me) was good too without any vignetting or reverse vignetting, and although the Sony AF8 wasn't free of thin vertical streaks in very dark scenes that characterises consumer OLED TVs to date, we weren't bothered in real-life viewing.

There is one weakness, however. Given the supposed newer OLED panel on the Sony 55AF8, we were really surprised that its peak brightness only measured 600 nits on a 10% window after calibration, which robbed HDR content of a little impact when compared to LG's 2017 and 2018 OLEDs, let alone dramatically brighter LED LCDs such as the Samsung Q9FN or Sony ZD9.
In Game mode, input lag was 31ms when fed a 4K signal, but if you send the TV a 1080p video signal (such as from the Nintendo Switch), latency will go up by one frame due to the upscaling involved, resulting in an input lag of 47ms which is relatively sluggish by today's standards.

Buy the Sony KD-55AF8 from Currys

Sony KD-55AF8: Verdict

There’s much to like about Sony’s new OLED TV. The modest brightness levels for HDR and middling gaming responsiveness may put off some people, but the KD-55AF8’s superb processing means that its motion handling and video processing are second to none. If you’re after a TV that can work wonders with standard definition TV while providing a great 4K HDR experience, then the Sony KD-55AF8 will take it all in its stride.

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Fri, 01 Jun 2018 08:35:42 +0000

Kate Hilpern
1 day 13 hours ago

If your iron has started to splutter water, or leave chalky white deposits on your clothes – or if it just doesn’t work as well as it used to – it’s almost certainly in need of a clean. Here’s our guide to the best, most effective ways to clean your iron, and the top products that will leave your iron sparkling clean and working as well as the day you bought it.

How can I tell when my iron needs cleaning?

Your iron needs cleaning when any of the following occur:

  • The iron leaves chalky white deposits (limescale) on your clothes
  • The iron leaves marks and stains on the fabric
  • There is a sticky layer of gunk on the soleplate
  • The iron starts dragging instead of gliding
  • It’s three months since you last cleaned it

Of course, if you only do the ironing once in a blue moon often then you don’t need to religiously clean your iron four times a year. Conversely, if you iron mountains of clothes every week, you may need to do it more frequently.

READ NEXT: Best steam generator irons

What parts of my iron should I clean?

With irons, there are three different parts to clean separately – the soleplate, the steam vents and the inside. When cleaning the soleplate, the important thing is not to use abrasive cleaners – these will destroy its delicate coating. Here’s some safer approaches that work well:

  • Turn the iron onto low, then wipe the soleplate with a clean damp cloth
  • Turn the iron onto low, then wipe the soleplate with tumble dryer sheets (you’ll need to use a few at once)
  • Apply commercial soleplate cleaner cream – see our recommendations below
  • Rub a bit of white toothpaste onto the cold soleplate, then wipe off with a damp cloth
  • Mix together one tablespoon of water (filtered or distilled if possible) with two tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda; apply the mixture directly to the soleplate with a finger or a spatula, leave it for a few minutes, then wipe off with a clean wet cloth
  • Mix together equal quantities of salt and white vinegar, then heat to dissolve the salt. Rub the mixture onto the bottom of your iron with a cotton cloth, then finish by wiping with a clean cloth

How do I clean clogged steam vents?

Vents can be easily cleaned with a cotton bud: simply dip it into some fresh distilled water and clean out each steam hole in turn. For a more thorough clean, use a mixture of equal parts water and vinegar – not forgetting to wipe the vents clean afterwards. Depending on how much gunk is in your steam holes, you might need to use multiple buds.

How do I clean the inside of my iron?

Most irons have a self-clean or anti-calc setting – check your manual to see how often these need running, carefully following the instructions.

Alternatively, empty out any water left in your iron and pour in distilled or filtered water until it’s a third full. Then, turn the iron onto its highest setting, with the steam setting on, and wait for all the sediment to be flushed out.

Finish by ironing a clean cloth or piece of kitchen towel for a few minutes, to catch any last bits of gunk that might drip out. If your iron has a manual steam button, press it repeatedly to clear out the system as thoroughly as possible.

As with steam holes, you can also use a mixture of water and white vinegar – although note that some types of iron specifically advise against this. If you’re using a vinegar mixture, turn the iron onto a medium heat and let it steam for five to ten minutes until the liquid has all been expelled; then refill it with fresh water and turn on the iron again to flush the system, and finish by ironing a clean cloth as above.

Should I clean my steam generator iron in the same way?

You can clean the soleplate of a steam generator iron in the same way as a regular steam iron – but most have built-in systems for cleaning the insides, so check the instructions and be sure to thoroughly rinse out the tank with distilled water.

How do I clean a scorched soleplate?

Unplug your iron immediately and remove the scorched fabric from the soleplate as best you can. If there’s any melted material stuck to the soleplate, wait until it cools, then try to pull it off with tweezers.

To remove marks, heat up some white vinegar, then dip a clean cloth into it and gently wipe the scorched sole plate until the marks are gone. Finish by cleaning off the surface with a cloth dipped in water. If this doesn’t get rid of stubborn marks, try dissolving a few teaspoons of table salt or bicarbonate of soda into the hot white vinegar.

How can I take better care of my iron?

It’s easy to minimise the build-up of limescale deposits: just be sure to empty out the water chamber each time you've finished ironing. 

Best products for cleaning an iron

Faultless Hot Iron Soleplate Cleaner Cream: Best soleplate cleaning cream

Price: £6.99 | Buy now from Lakeland

Commercial soleplate cleaning products can be hit and miss – but this non-abrasive cream, which hails from the USA, was a clear winner among our testers. It’s quick and easy to use and successfully gets rid of sticky residue, as well as stopping any dragging. You can use it on all metal, Teflon and Silverstone coated soleplates – just be ready with a clean, pure cotton tea towel that you’re prepared to throw away, and be warned that it might take a few repetitions to get rid of the most stubborn marks.

Buy now from Lakeland

Prym Iron Cleaner: Best soleplate-cleaning stick

Price: £6.99 | Buy now from Amazon

This soleplate-cleaning stick has an odd tendency to melt like wax – you’ll want a piece of kitchen towel or old newspaper ready to catch the mess. Even so, it works fantastically. You simply heat up the iron to non-steam level two, rub the stick on the soleplate, then wipe with a clean tea towel until clean. Finally, put the iron on its steam setting and test it on an old tea towel a few times before you turn it loose on your clothes. The stick is suitable for all types of irons, and ticks all the boxes in terms of getting rid of sticky residue, dirt, limescale and even scorch marks. Our only caveats: it’s pretty stinky, and the instructions could be clearer.

Ecozone Kettle and Iron Descaler: Best iron descaler

Price: £6.99 | Buy now from John Lewis

This impressive descaler restored an iron that had completely stopped steaming to full working order in under half an hour. It’s easy to use too, and very affordable. Especially good for hard water areas, this product can also be used on kettles – and we like the fact that it’s environmentally friendly, BUAV approved, not tested on animals and approved by the Vegan Society.

Buy now from John Lewis

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Thu, 31 May 2018 14:44:54 +0000

Tom Bruce
2 days 7 hours ago

For several years the Amazon Kindle has achieved near total domination of the ebook reader market. The only other company to even come close is Kobo (it’s an anagram of “book”), the Canadian underdog that released its first ebook reader in 2010.

Between the two of them, they’ve not left much room for other companies to elbow their way into the market but that’s not necessarily a bad thing and, in Kobo, Amazon does at least have some competition worthy of the name.

In this article, we’ll assess the six best ebook readers available in 2018 and, hopefully, help you make a decision about which one is right for you. First, though, a little explanation about the services they offer.

READ NEXT: How to find the best free UK Kindle books

All Amazon’s ebook reader devices have exclusive access to Amazon’s ridiculously large library of ebooks and magazines, which are largely reasonably priced and many of which are free. The downside is that the Amazon Kindle won’t read certain file types, as it’s only programmed to work with files purchased through Amazon’s Kindle library. If Amazon doesn’t have what you want (which is unlikely) you’ll have to go without.

Other boons of siding with Amazon include family ebook sharing and the perks of the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library and Prime Reading service for Prime subscribers. The former allows Amazon Prime subscribers with a Kindle device to borrow one book per month at no cost, with no due dates, from a choice of 600,000 books. Prime Reading gives Prime members free access to a smaller library of 1,000 titles – including books, magazines, and comics – which they can download and keep.

Meanwhile, Kobo users can buy or borrow ebooks from pretty much anywhere – apart from Amazon. The Kobo Library, the local library Overdrive system and certain Amazon Kindle file types work, too. You can even buy through indie bookstores to support physical businesses that have partnered with Kobo. Kobo ebook readers are also compatible with a wider range of file types than Kindle and Kobo’s own library of ebooks is actually pretty comprehensive these days. It’s now rare to find a hot new best-seller that is on Amazon but not on Kobo.

Now, without further ado, let’s take a look at the best ebook readers you can buy right now, starting with Amazon’s flagship digital library device, the Kindle Oasis.

Best ebook readers in 2018 from £60

1. Amazon Kindle Oasis

Price: £230-£320  | Buy now from Amazon

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: this is the best ebook reader ever made. Amazon’s Kindle Oasis doesn’t come cheap but if you’re already into ereading and fancy an upgrade then this is what you’ll want. Weighing just 194g, it’s lighter and thinner than the Kindle Paperwhite, it comes with up to 32GB of storage, and cleaner, crisper lighting on a 7in touch screen. Not only that, but the newest edition of the Oasis has Audible integration, Bluetooth connectivity and is waterproof up to two metres.

Admittedly, it is an expensive device. It’s twice the price of the mid-range Kindles and a lot more expensive than the Kobo Aura One but it is the most luxurious ebook reader available. It has 12 built-in LED lights for clear glare-free reading, an ambient light sensor, and page turn buttons if you prefer that to using the touchscreen. Battery life is roughly the same as an Amazon Voyage or Paperwhite. Three models are available, with the most expensive featuring 3G connectivity and more storage.

Amazon Kindle Oasis: Who is it for?

The high-flying, speed-reading adventurer who wants to read every book in the world and is damned well prepared to try. Also for the clumsy; if you drop in it the hot tub or the pool, it’ll keep right on ticking.

Read our full review of the Amazon Kindle Oasis

2. Kobo Aura One

Price: £190 | Buy now from Amazon

Kobo’s newest ebook reader has been designed to directly compete with Kindle Oasis. It’s cheaper, has front lighting and an ambient light sensor, and it is waterproof, too, and will take being submerged in up to two metres of water for 60 minutes.

Its display has the same resolution as the Oasis. It’s stunning and sharp and easy on the eyes since and it even has a blue light filter, especially helpful for improving sleep if you’re a late-night reader.

Then there are the drawbacks: it smudges easily, feels cheaper than the flagship Kindle ebook readers,  it’s heavier than any Kindle at 230g, it’s way thicker, and with a larger screen of 7.8in it can be difficult to wield in one hand. This makes it less desirable for commuters, but anyone who likes to read in bed or the bath will appreciate the added size and words per page. One final drawback is the limited storage. Without a microSD slot, you have no choice but to make do with the limited 8GB capacity.

Kobo Aura One: Who is it for?

At-home readers and night-time readers. Also, those who want no restrictions when it comes to their choice of ebooks. The Kobo Aura One supports a huge range of file types, so you can read pretty much anything from anywhere.

Read our full review of the Kobo Aura One

3. Amazon Kindle

Price: £60-£70 | Buy now from Amazon

The classic. The standard. The OG. Whatever you want to call it, the Amazon Kindle remains a stalwart of the ebook reader market and an excellent choice for anybody buying their very first ebook reader. The Kindle has been upgraded time and again since its initial launch back in November 2007 with better memory, longer battery life, and now it has a touchscreen as well.

The low price means compromise. There’s no LED lighting, so you’ll need to rely on external sources and with 4GB of storage, it has half the capacity of the cheapest Oasis.

Amazon Kindle: Who is it for?

Casual readers who want the cheapest Kindle device possible, don’t particularly care for the frills of its pricier upgraded models and are planning to use it in well lit indoor environments.

Read our full review of the Amazon Kindle

4. Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

Price: £110-£180 | Buy now from Amazon

The Paperwhite represents the middle ground of the Kindle range. But it’s quite a hike on the standard Kindle; even the non-3G version costs almost double that of the Kindle original. What it does have over its cheaper sibling, however, is LED lighting and a 300ppi screen, plus battery life of up to six weeks if used for half an hour per day.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite: Who is it for?

Standard Kindle users seeking an upgrade with more features. Although it is considerably more expensive than the basic Kindle, it is worth it.

Read our full review of the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

5. Kobo Glo

Price: £100 | Buy now from Amazon

This is Kobo’s slightly cheaper, albeit slightly inferior, answer to the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite. Despite being more satisfying to say out loud, the Glo is Kobo’s second best model after the Aura One. Key features include built-in lighting for reading in dark or dim conditions and a dedicated button for switching off the light entirely to help you save battery life. That light, though, is less even than on the Kindle Paperwhite.

Pound for pound, though, it matches the Paperwhite’s screen and storage specifications and it also has more customisation options. Users can change the way books look on screen in many more ways than on a Kindle. As with all Kobos, the interface isn’t quite as slick and the store isn’t as good as Amazon’s, but you do get the chance to buy and borrow from multiple sources.

Kobo Glo: Who is it for?

Those who want a well-priced ebook reader and the freedom to buy their digital books and magazines from anywhere rather than being locked into Amazon.

Read our full review of the Kobo Glo

6. Amazon Kindle Voyage

Price: £170-£230 | Buy now from Amazon

The Voyage is a great all-rounder and makes an excellent travelling ebook reader. In particular, its ambient light sensor, which adjusts brightness according to the ambient conditions, makes it wonderful for 24/7 use. Whether you’re in bright sunlight or reading under the covers the light brightens and dims automatically, so you don’t need to fiddle with the settings yourself.

There are some limitations to the device, especially in the wake of the Oasis’ arrival. It only has 4GB of storage, which is the same as the standard £60 Kindle and if you want 3G connectivity it will set you back a whopping £230; that’s only £40 less than buying the vastly superior Kindle Oasis.  

Amazon Kindle Voyage: Who is it for?

Anyone looking for a premium ebook reader but isn’t quite prepared to go all the way for an Oasis.

Read our full review of the Amazon Kindle Oasis

Want something cheaper? Try an app instead

Maybe you’re sick of losing books on the Tube, paying overdue library fees, or getting to the end of crime thriller purchased in a charity shop only to discover that some psychopath has carefully torn out the final ten pages. Perhaps you’re still not convinced by our ebook reader spiel. In that case, you could always try out a smartphone app first to test out the concept without laying out £60 or more or your hard-earned cash.

The accompanying apps from Kobo and Amazon, both of which are free, allow you to read on your tablet or smartphone without having to buy an ebook reader first and there are other free apps available, too. Google Play Books, for example, allows you to choose from an extensive library containing millions of digital books and magazines, which can be previewed for free and purchased via the app. It also has a lovely collection of classics like Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes, and Moby Dick, which can be downloaded and kept for free.

Read More ...
Thu, 31 May 2018 14:43:30 +0000

Vaughn Highfield
2 days 7 hours ago

PlayStation Plus for June 2018 is here, and it's a welcome improvement over May's rather lacking lineup.

Replacing Beyond: Two Souls and Rayman Legends, June's lineup brings XCOM 2 and Trials Fusion to the PS4 from 5 June. PS3 players can indulge in PS Plus fun with Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Future Soldier and, the charmingly named, Zombie Driver HD Complete Edition. PS Vita players can look forward to Square and Atomic Ninjas for portable fun this June.

Interestingly, it looks as if this is one month where PS3 and PS Vita games aren't cross-play compatible with PS4 – meaning you really are only getting two PS4 games this month.

All games will be available for download from 5 June, so you still have a bit of time to snap up May’s games if you haven’t already.

If you're wondering why XCOM 2 and Trials Fusion are worthwhile additions to your PS4 library, both games have a reasonable fan following and offer up some tricky gameplay while simultaneously remaining accessible for some casual play. In XCOM 2 it's your job to build back up the Earth defence force that is XCOM as a new alien threat invades the planet in a bid to destroy humanity. Gameplay is a turn-based affair, but there's always the peril of losing a hard-trained soldier permanently as permadeath is XCOMs big gameplay selling point.

Trials Fusion is the latest entry in the Trails series of obstacle-course motocross games. Expect outlandish flips, jumps, loops and all manner of bizarre obstacles as you traverse your way through levels trying to keep yourself on your bike and score big in the process. There's also multiplayer so you can go up against friends and family members to show them who's really the best at deft throttle control.

To summarise, here’s what you’re getting in June as part of PlayStation Plus.

PlayStation Plus June 2018 lineup:

Here’s what’s coming on 5 June:

  • XCOM 2 (PS4)
  • Trials Fusion (PS4)
  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Future Soldier
  • Zombie Driver HD Complete Edition
  • Squares
  • Atomic Ninjas

And here’s what’s leaving on 5 June:

  • Beyond: Two Souls
  • Rayman Legends
  • Risen 3: Titan Lords
  • Eat Them
  • King Oddball
  • Furmins
Read More ...

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