The festive season is upon us once again. While the festive season is a great time to spend with family and friends it can be a bit of a stressful time when it comes to purchasing the perfect gift. Throughout 2015, IT News Africa has reviewed as well as tested out a host of mobile devices, gadgets, and games.
As experts within the tech industry, we have picked out the Top Gadgets and Games to get this Christmas. These devices and games are available throughout Africa as well as around the world, and can be found at most retailers.
In non-ranking order, you can find our Top Gadgets and Games below:
Top 10 Gadgets & Devices
Additionally, while the console has already been around for sometime now, there are plenty of games to pick for the console as we now end off 2015. A full list can be found below.
Some exclusive titles to look out for the Xbox One include: Rise of the Tomb Raider, Halo 5: Guardians, and Forza 6.
Recommended Retail Price: USD $349 (dependent on exchange rate)
The PlayStation 4 is also a great option when it comes to gaming. The console has also been out for quite sometime and also has a host of games on the retail shelves at the moment, which can be found below.
Additionally, there are plenty of great titles coming out in 2016, which makes it an ideal gift for the festive season.
In November 2015, Sony had revealed that the PlayStation 4 (PS4) computer entertainment system has cumulatively sold through more than 30.2 million units worldwide as of November 22.
Recommended Retail Price: USD $399 (dependent on exchange rate)
Intel Compute Stick
The Intel Compute Stick is essentially an entry level PC; however, instead of coming in the form of a traditional PC tower, or laptop-styled device, the Intel Compute Stick comes packaged in the form of a much larger USB stick-styled device.
Due to its size and shape the Intel Compute Stick can be plugged into just about any monitor or TV, which features an HDMI port, and essentially be used as a miniature PC. When taking a closer look the Intel Compute Stick’s technical specifications, we found that it the device features Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth, as well as 32GB of internal storage – which can be expanded up to 128GB with a MicroSD card.
The device also features an Intel Quad-core 1.33GHz Atom Processor, 2GB of DDR 3 RAM as well as the option of one of two operating systems – Windows 8.1 or Linux Ubuntu. When looking at the performance of the device the Intel Compute Stick is just as powerful as a new tablet or small notebook PC. Additionally, the device has the processing power to run Windows 10.
Recommended Retail Price: USD $150 (dependent on exchange rate)
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Pro
The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Pro is a phenomenal device. Not only does it feature an astounding 13.3-inch display, but it also features a built-in pico projector. This allows users to take business to the boardroom, as well as transform their living room into a fully-functional home theater experience. To add to the features, the device can be connected to a home theater system via Bluetooth, or alternatively via an auxiliary cable.
The Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Pro features a kick-stand that will allow you to Hold, Tilt, Stand, and Hang the device just about anywhere. While Lenovo has definitely brought innovation to the table when it comes to this device, it is just unfortunate that the tablet runs a slightly watered down version of Android 4.4.2.
Overall, Lenovo has a great product in its arsenal, and is sure to give other device manufacturers a run for their money.
Recommended Retail Price: USD $579 (dependent on exchange rate)
HTC One M9 Smartphone
Much like the HTC One M8, the HTC One M9 offers up a superior build quality as well as an elegant design. When looking at the device, you can clearly see that it has been crafted with precision. The device features a full metal casing that is not only durable, but also extremely attractive.
HTC has moved away from the confusing camera specs that the HTC One M8 featured, and have gone with a straight forward 20.7 Megapixel rear-facing camera. The front-facing camera comes in at 4 Megapixels and performs extremely well in low light conditions. To add to the high spec rear-facing camera, it can also record 4K video (3840×2160)… while the front facing camera can record in full HD (1920×1080).
HTC has once again proved that front-facing speakers are the way to go. The HTC One M9 comes with a 5-inch display as well as dual front-facing stereo speakers, which direct the sound towards you… rather than away from you.
Recommended Retail Price: USD $499 (dependent on exchange rate)
Huawei Mate S
According to the Huawei, the Mate S has been marked as the flagship device for the Mate series. When taking a closer look at the Huawei Mate S, we found that the devices comes standard with a 5.5” AMOLED FHD display – which is cased in a full metal shell with side edges of only 2.6mm and an ergonomically crafted curved surface to ensure it cushions itself seamlessly into the palm of the consumers hand.
Additionally, the Mate S comes with a 13MP rear-facing camera with a four colour RGBW image sensor, optical image stabilisers, dual colour temperature LED flashlights and independent image signal processor camera units. The 8MP front-facing camera has soft front lights and is easily controlled by the fingerprint sense technology.
Recommended Retail Price: USD $730 (dependent on exchange rate)
Acer Iconia Tab 8
The Acer Iconia Tab 8 comes standard with a 4 Core 1.8GHz Intel processor, 1GB RAM, and up to 16GB of internal storage space. The storage can be upgraded up to 32GB however, with an additional microSD card. When looking closer at the device’s operating system, it runs Android 4.4.4.
In terms of the device’s build quality, the Acer Iconia Tab 8 is a fairly compact device. It has a slim build and stylish aluminum styled back cover. Due to its size the Acer Iconia Tab 8 is a device that is easy to travel with.
When it comes to camera quality, the Acer Iconia Tab 8 comes with a 5 megapixel rear facing camera, and a 2 megapixel rear facing camera. For a device that comes in at R 2 899.00 (South Africa), the Acer Iconia Tab 8 is a great device for those looking for a low-end, cost-conscious tablet device.
Recommended Retail Price: USD $200 (dependent on exchange rate)
The Apple Watch is a smartwatch developed by Apple. The device incorporates fitness tracking and health-oriented capabilities as well as integration with iOS and other Apple products and services.
The device is available in four variants: Apple Watch Sport, Apple Watch, Apple Watch Hermès, and Apple Watch Edition.
The device can also be used to control your music, on for example an iPhone 6S Plus, using only your voice. With the Apple Watch, important information and essential features are always just a raise of the wrist away this Christmas.
Recommended Retail Price: USD $549 upwards depending on model purchased (dependent on exchange rate)
BB-8 Star Wars Droid
Over the years, the magic of Star Wars has always lived on screen and in our imaginations. Thanks to advancements in technology, it has been made possible to bring a new part of Star Wars: The Force Awakens into your home.
Meet BB-8 – the app-enabled Droid that’s as authentic as it is advanced. BB-8 has something unlike any other robot – an adaptive personality that changes as you play, according to the developers.
Based on your interactions, BB-8 will show a range of expressions and even perk up when you give voice commands. Set it to patrol and watch your Droid explore autonomously, make up your own adventure and guide BB-8 yourself, or create and view holographic recordings.
It’s now possible to explore the galaxy with your own trusty Astromech Droid by your side. BB-8 is more than a toy – it’s your companion.
Recommended Retail Price: USD $150 (dependent on exchange rate)
TrackR sticker is a quarter-sized device that easily fastens or sticks to any item or device. Using the TrackR app, you can quickly locate your misplaced items in seconds by ringing your TrackR, or by using the Distance Indicator or via Crowd GPS.
The device is perfect for those who are frequently losing items such as keys, mobile devices, wallets and other important items used on a day-to-day basis. To track an item you simply pull up the app on your smartphone and you can make the StickR beep in order to locate the lost or misplaced item. To add to the features, the TrackR app shows you how far away you are from your items.
Recommended Retail Price: USD starting from USD $24.95 (dependent on exchange rate)
To accompany the unique design, the Xperia Z5 features a 23Mega-pixel (MP) rear-facing camera as well as a 5.1MP front-facing camera.
According to Sony, the rear-facing camera has the fastest autofocus speed featured on a smartphone as it delivers a ground-breaking speed of just 0.03 seconds – faster than the blink of a human eye (average 0.1 – 0.4 s). So whether you’re jumping for the frisbee in the park, diving into the pool or catching air on the vert ramp, you’ll have the power to preserve spontaneous action in real-time.
Recommended Retail Price: USD $1000 (dependent on exchange rate)
HTC Desire 626 Smartphone
The HTC Desire 626 smartphone features a 5-inch HD LCD screen as well as HTC Sense, which provides an enhanced, fully customisable Android experience. The device is powered by a Snapdragon 1.2GHz Quad-Core processor. To add to the features, the device also comes with a 13MP rear-facing camera and a 5MP front-facing camera.
The HTC Desire 626 also features the ability to capture high-quality 1080p video using either the front or rear facing cameras, which can be turned into mini movies that can be shared with friends and family using the HTC Zoe Highlights feature.
When it comes to storage, the HTC 626 can support up to 2TB of additional storage via a MicroSD card. This allows the user to save and share every photo, video and experience that defines them, as often as they wish.
Recommended Retail Price: USD $190 (dependent on exchange rate)
New Nintendo 3DS XL
the New Nintendo 3DS is a vast improvement on the older models. While previous models felt incomplete, the New Nintendo 3DS feels and looks like Nintendo finally added the missing puzzle pieces to the mix. This can be seen in the overall design, the addition of new buttons, and the vast improvement of the 3D functionality.
the New Nintendo 3DS also comes with Near Field Communication (NFC), which means that Nintendo’s Amiibo figurines can now be used with current and upcoming compatible titles. Nintendo has also added in a new CPU, which essentially is set to improve on loading times as well as in-game performance. Along with the new CPU, Nintendo will also be launching new titles that are only compatible with the New Nintendo 3DS. While this is a step forward for Nintendo, users who own an older 3DS may have to start looking at an upgrade during the festive season.
Recommended Retail Price: USD $199 (dependent on exchange rate)
Rise of the Tomb Raider (Xbox One Timed Exclusive).
While Rise of the Tomb Raider plays in a similar fashion to the 2013 reboot, the team at Crystal Dynamics have included a few notable changes and additions.
These include a much larger world to explore, dynamic weather, on the fly crafting, day/night cycles, and Tombs that are actually worth exploring and raiding this time around.
While Tombs in the previous title felt rather underwhelming… this time around they are huge in scale and littered with treasures as well as deadly traps. Additionally, players will have the opportunuty to actually try and solve dramatic environmental puzzles that are actually challenging as well as decipher ancient texts to reveal crypts that are filled with even more secret.
To add to the gameplay experience, Lara will also be able to hunt for a huge array of collectibles, skin animals, collect resources as well as use a variety of weapons. To add to the overall experience, players will also gain Experience Points, which can be used in order to improve upon Lara’s survival skills. Quite simply put, Rise of the Tomb Raider is bigger, better, and more brutal than the reboot released in 2013. Read the full review here.
Review score: 90/100
Halo 5: Guardians (Xbox One Exclusive)
Developer 343 Industries and publisher Microsoft have finally released the latest title in the Halo series… Halo 5: Guardians, which comes in as an exclusive on the Xbox One console – and will officially release on the 27th of October, 2015.
Halo 5: guardians ventures back into the traditional gameplay and storytelling style of Halo 2, which essentially alternated between the storylines of two main protagonists. This time around, however, players will have the opportunity to step back into the shoes of the Master Chief, who has been reunited with his long time squad mates – Blue Team.
Master Chief and Blue Team have essentially gone AWOL (Absent Without Leave) after various colony worlds are unexpectedly attacked by a mysterious force. With Blue Team missing in action and Master Chief’s loyalty being questioned… “Legendary Manhunter” Spartan Jamerson Locke, who is accompanied by Fireteam Osiris, begin to hunt down Blue Team and the Chief. Read the full review here.
Review Score: 90/100
Fallout 4 (PC/ Xbox One, PlayStation 4)
Developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks, Fallout 4 is the latest title in the Fallout series to launch on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Fallout 4 is essentially the 5th major installment in the series, and was official launched on November 10, 2015.
Set in Boston, Massachusetts – within the Commonwealth – Fallout 4 is essentially the first title in the series to feature a voiced protagonist. Additionally, it is the first title in the series to showcase the world, even though this was brief, before the bombs fell.
No matter how brief the introductory sequence was… it set a powerful scene for the game’s simple, yet captivating storyline – which follows the footsteps of a the Lone Wanderer, who is this time the sole survivor of Vault 111. Read the full review here.
Review Score: 95/100
Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain (PlayStation Exclusive)
The Metal Gear Solid series has never failed to disappoint. Even back in 2008, when the Metal Gear Solid series graced the original PlayStation console, we were introduced to stealth and tactical espionage orientated gameplay that far surpassed any other title.
Fast Forward to 2015, and the Metal Gear franchise has evolved from what could be described as pixelated greatness to cinematic perfection.
After months of waiting, the latest title in the Metal Gear franchise is finally here, and it comes in the form of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Read the full review here.
Review Score: 100/100
Star Wars Battlefront (PC/ Xbox One, PlayStation 4)
Star Wars Battlefront has finally arrived on the PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. The title has been developed by EA Dice and published by Electronic Arts. The game is essentially a first-person and third-person shooter (players can switch from first-person to third-person perspective).
Now just to give players a heads up, Star Wars Battlefront does not contain a single-player story mode. This means that players will need an online connection to get the most out of this title. Apart from lacking a single-player campaign mode, Star Wars Battlefront offers up one of the most authentic Star Wars experiences available on PC and console. From the menus and screen savers… to the musical score and gameplay, Star Wars Battlefront offers players a truly memorable experience. Read the full review here.
Review Score: 80/100
Dying Light (PC/ Xbox One, PlayStation 4)
Techland has brought out some great gaming titles in the past, with the inclusion of some not so great titles. Some of the more notable titles would be Dead Island, Dead Island: Riptide, as well as Call of Juarez: Bound By Blood. Fast forward to 2015 and developer Techland, along with publisher Warner Bros. have now released Dying Light.
Dying Light puts you in the shoes of Kyle Crane – an operative sent to the Middle Eastern city of Harran, where an unknown infection triggers aggressive and cannibalistic behavior in its victims, turning them into flesh-hungry monsters. Your objective: infiltrate the quarantine zone and locate Kadir Suleiman, a high-ranking military officer gone missing. However, from the very start your mission goes sour, and you soon find yourself in the midst of a desperate fight for survival. Read the full review here.
Review Score: 85/100
Mortal Kombat X (PC/ Xbox One, PlayStation 4)
Mortal Kombat has changed quite a bit over the past few years. The original title graced the traditional arcade; however, the franchise slowly moved away from the arcade and took a much larger step into the living rooms of console and PC gamers. From the moment Mortal Kombat moved away from from the arcade, the franchise has produced some great titles, but equally some rather unimpressive spinoffs.
In 2011, Director Ed Boon, NeatherRealm Studios and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment took the franchise to an entirely new level. Mortal Kombat 2011 (Mortal Kombat 9) was released on the PlayStation 3, the Xbox 360, and PC and showcased how the franchise had moved forward in leaps and bounds not only graphically, but also when it came to gameplay mechanics. Unfortunately, Mortal Kombat 2011 also managed to fall flat in some instances, especially with its oversized, out of proportion character’s. Fast forward to 2015, and Ed Boon and the team have finally released Mortal Kombat X – which has finally rectified many of the issues that Mortal Kombat 2011 faced. Read the full review here.
Review Score: 85/100
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PC/ Xbox One, PlayStation 4)
To say that the Witcher 3 is a typical Role-Playing-Game (RPG) is an understatement. The Witcher 3 is a genre re-defining game that has changed the expectations of gamers for years to come. For those who have never experienced a Witcher title, now is the time to play one of the greatest titles to grace the world of gaming.
In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, players take on the role of one of the most developed and well-know video game characters to-date, Geralt of Rivia. The latest Witcher title sets Geralt on a quest to not only find his long lost lover Yennefer, but also the king’s daughter Cirilla. While past Witcher titles have had a bit of a steep learning curve, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt tends to ease into things so the player can become more accustomed with the gameplay, and gain more insight into the technical storyline that the title portrays. Read the full review here.
Review Score: 100/100
Batman: Arkham Knight (PC/ Xbox One, PlayStation 4)
Developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Batman: Arkham Knight is essentially the final chapter in Rocksteady’s Arkham Trilogy. With previous titles in the trilogy being outstanding successes, does Batman: Arkham Knight live up to expectations?
Batman: Arkham Knight is set one year after the events of Batman: Arkham City. The Joker is dead and crime has dropped in Gotham; however, things change dramatically when the Scarecrow forces a civilian evacuation of Gotham City after threatening to unleash a new fear toxin. In addition to this… Penguin, Riddler, Two-Face, Harley Quinn and even more super-villians come out of the shadows in order to take down Batman. If that was not enough of a threat, Batman also has to face off against a new enemy, The Arkham Knight. With little known about The Arkham Knight and multiple enemies to face, Batman must do whatever it takes, even if that means betraying those closest to him, to stop the latest assault on Gotham. Read the full review here.
Review Score: 90/100
Bloodborne (PlayStation 4 Exclusive)
Back in good old days there were quite a few titles that offered up a massive challenge. Looking back at some of the most difficult retro games out there… Abe’s Oddysee, Ghouls and Ghosts, Contra, and Green Beret were by far some of the most challenging titles. However, fast forward to 2015, and quite a few new titles tend to hold your hand as well as offer up various tutorials to get you started. Thankfully, Bloodborne is not one of these titles. Granted there is an initial tutorial; however, this is just to get the basics of the controls, and the rest is up to you.
While most Souls titles don’t essentially feature an in-depth storyline, Bloodborne tests the waters by adding in story elements that become more and more twisted the further you progress. The fictional city of Yharnam has been cursed with a strange endemic like illness, which has essentially spread through the city and turned its inhabitants into horrific beast-like creatures. While many travellers have attempted to find the cure for their inflictions, many have either succumb to the epidemic or have been wiped out by the town’s crazed inhabitants. This is essentially where the player takes the lead as a one of these travellers and is tasked with ridding the town of the epidemic. Read the full review here.
Review Score: 95/100
Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate (PC/ Xbox One, PlayStation 4)
Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate is one of the very few titles in the series to leave out multiplayer entirely. This essentially opened up enough space for the developers to make the most out the game’s new setting, Victorian London. With multiplayer out of the way, Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate also allows players, for the first time, to switch between the game’s two main protagonists.
Set in 1868, during the Industrial Revolution, with the Assassin Brotherhood all but eradicated, twins Jacob and Evie Frye leave Crawley for London and arrive to find a city controlled by the Templars, with both the Church and the Monarchy losing their power.
Raised as Assassins to follow the Creed, Jacob and Evie aim to take back the city from Templar control by creating a gang dubbed “The Rooks” and by infiltrating and uniting London’s criminal underworld, aided by notable figures of the era such as novelist Charles Dickens, biologist Charles Darwin, and inventor Alexander Graham Bell. Read the full review here.
Review Score: 83/100
Borderlands: The Handsome Collection (PC/ Xbox One, PlayStation 4)
The Borderlands series is possibly one of the most colourful, crazy and hilarious game series to grace the First-Person Shooter genre. Since it inception in 2009, it’s spawned three titles which have provided gamers with hours of fun, humour and fast-paced action. Recently Borderlands: The Handsome Collection has been released for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, which contains Borderlands 2 with all its released DLC. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel has its first piece of DLC on the disc and the second DLC provided free as part of an update. Does it make the move to new-gen nicely? Yes, I can say that it does.
Borderlands 2 takes place a little while after the first game; the Vault Hunters opened the vault and expected to find immeasurable wealth, but were left with a booby prize of a giant tentacled monster. Now, new Vault Hunters have entered the fray and have been hired by Handsome Jack from the Hyperion Corporation. Things don’t go so well, however, as the Vault Hunters soon realise that Jack is hunting their kind and you’re next on the list. After a failed attempt, it is decided that a journey for answers and revenge is in order. The story opens up a little bit at a time as the heroes are constantly coming up short when attempting to take Jack down. Additionally, a mysterious AI known only as “Angel” guides your way. Read the full review here.
Review Score: 90/100
PayDay 2: Crimewave Edition (PC/ Xbox One, PlayStation 4)
The original Payday 2 was launched on the Xbox 360, PC, and PlayStation 3 in August 2013; however, developer Overkill Software and publisher 505 Games have finally brought Payday 2 to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in the form of the Crimewave Edition. While Payday 2: Crimewave Edition is every bit as addictive as the original… it still suffers from some of the same old issues seen in the original title.
Set two years after the events of Payday: The Heist, the gang has now set their sight’s on various heist opportunities in Washington D.C. Once the game begins, the player can opt to play through a variety of heists with the support of A.I characters, or opt to venture online and assemble a crew of real-world players. This is where the above mentioned issues come into play. Read the full review here.
Review Score: 85/100