Best of AVForums Reviews and Articles: April 2014

Sony plans the 4K future, the PS4 gets its first major exclusive and Spiderman re-emerges at the cinema

by hodg100 May 2, 2014 at 3:47 PM

  • The new product range launches are now in full swing and the boxes are piling up in the store room. Somehow we have now entered the month of May – where do the days go? – so it’s time for a quick recap of what happened here at AVForums during April 2014.
    Hardware Reviews & Features

    4K – you’ve heard of that, right? Well, Sony is very keen on pushing the Resolution Revolution along at full tilt and they are doing everything within their power to make it a success. Steve Withers was invited along to Sony’s Digital Motion Picture Centre, at Pinewood Studios, to see how they are helping filmmakers transition to a higher resolution workflow and it makes for interesting reading.

    Sony also outlined their plans for a 4K Future, on the domestic front, and announced a capable media streamer whilst Steve was there. All that time spent with cameramen and colourists caused Steve to reflect on the importance of having a display at home that reflects all the hard work put in to making things look right during production. The question: Why should I get my TV/Projector professionally calibrated? was posed and duly answered by Mr Withers.

    Whilst Ultra HD is certainly the current big thing, the time for OLED has not yet really come. We’ve been touting OLED TVs as the ‘next big thing’ for absolutely ages so we asked the question – Has OLED TV really got a Future or has it been the next big thing for too long?

    They may not yet produce Ultra HD devices but Epson knows a thing or two about manufacturing 1080p projectors. We got a look at two from their stables during April. The Flasghip TW9200 was a predictably solid performer whilst the TW7200 nearly matched it for £800 less!
    Will OLED TV ever really make it to primetime?
    BenQ were also good enough to send us a brace of beamers for testing. First up was the £1,000, Full HD 3D W1400 that proved they don't just ‘do’ data grade projectors but can also produce creditable ones for those seeking big-screen action, on a budget, in the home. And for less than £500, you can take home their budget W770ST which may not be quite so good as the W1400 but a value buy, nevertheless.

    Ed Selley got himself quite excited by Oppo’s first ever produced set of headphones. The PM-1 use Planar Magnetic technology so it’s a brave choice from a manufacturer primarily known for their expertise in the field of Blu-ray players but they’ve pulled it off, in some style!

    We also let Ed loose with a device possessing numerous buttons, inputs and menus, for a change. The Pioneer SC-LX57 might be one of the company’s lower ranking AVRs but it certainly performs and Steve had similar findings with the £299 Denon AVR-X2000 which might just rank as the AVR bargain of the year.

    Of course with all those channels of amplification at your disposal, you’re going to want some speakers with which to take advantage of them. We had a couple of speaker packages in for review during April and both were impressive in their own way.

    Cambridge Audio combined some cutting edge technology and old-school styling in their new Aero 7.1 speaker package and the results were great. Danish manufacturers Dali, meanwhile, managed to blur the boundaries between sub/sat and full size speaker packages with their 5.1 Zensor set and produced a Best Buy in the process.

    At the beginning of the month, Amazon announced they would be entering a marketplace currently dominated by the Apple TV, Chromecast and Roku products. The FireTV streaming player has yet to be officially announced for the UK market but one that is just out – the Roku Streaming Stick – left us very impressed. It has most of the benefits of Google’s Chromecast and plenty more besides!

    And, don’t forget you can hear us chewing the fat on all things AV, Movies & Games related, on a weekly basis, with the AVForums Podcast published every Wednesday. The Podcast Hub is here, if you want to catch up with any you missed.

    Games Reviews and Features

    After all the excitement of the new consoles being launched, things are quietening down on the gaming front ahead of E3.

    The PS4 did see its first real major exclusive released, however, and inFAMOUS: Second Son certainly tickled Ste Carter’s fancy. New chief protagonist and former small-time criminal and rebel, Delsin Rowe, finds himself in possession of a set of new and potentially deadly powers. Does he end up Super-Powered? A Super-Hero? A Super-Villain? Or just a Super-Douchebag?

    Although all the changes that were made to Dark Souls 2 could have resulted in an experience that moved too far away from the challenge of the original, it’s a pleasure to find out the opposite is mostly true, says Manny Brown. Manny terrified himself at the beginning of April with the Xbox 360 version of the game and urges others to share his pain.

    And if there’s one thing those boys like to do more than play, it has to have a right old natter. You can catch up with AVForums Podcast: Games Edition every month. The latest installment can be found here, where the team review Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zero, talk Amazon Fire TV and Facebook buying Oculus... do they like this!?
    Games were a bit thin on the ground but there were plenty of movies
    Movies Reviews and Features

    The Movies team are a very industrious bunch, indeed. The month closed with the cast of Star Wars Episode VII being announced so expect plenty more hype from now onwards for that particular movie.

    Back to more present day concerns but sticking with the Sci-Fi motif, Transcendence is brimming with great ideas, impressive cinematography and a stellar cast. It's a shame that high expectations have largely left this sci-fi drama out in the cold, both critically and commercially but there’s a decent high-concept sci-fi in there... somewhere.

    You can’t keep a good Super Hero movie down and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is certainly better than the first movie in the rebooted franchise. The Amazing Spider-Man largely overcame the odds to become the definitive interpretation of the witty teen web-slinger and the sequel follows suit, further embellishing Peter Parker’s backstory, but they really need to keep the villain count down to manageable proportions.

    Equal parts visionary and flawed, acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky’s dark biblical epic, Noah, is on the whole a compelling, powerful body of work that deserves your attention. It’s Old Testament, Aronofsky-style and the story of Noah, but not as we know it. There’s much to admire but it does have its flaws.

    Get out the cookie cutter, it's time for another 'tween' franchise. This one is called Divergent and it follows in the footsteps of the likes of The Twilight Saga and The Hunger Games but does so in less successful fashion. Divergent looks and sounds like it was written by a teenager... oh wait, it was, and there’s little to redeem it. Some of the performances are OK but we hope this isn’t a franchise set to run and run, based on our initial impressions.

    So there we have our highlights for April 2014 and we already have a lot of kit booked in for May, so keep us bookmarked for the most up-to-date reviews and features.

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