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Best of AVForums Reviews and Articles: March 2014

New TVs and Projectors, product announcements and blockbuster movies and games are amongst the highlights

by Mark Hodgkinson Apr 1, 2014 at 2:30 PM


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    Best of AVForums Reviews and Articles: March 2014
    With the month of March 2014 now consigned to the history books, we bring you its highlights through the eyes of our ever industrious editorial members.
    Hardware Reviews & Features

    Spring is most definitely in the air and the manufacturers are beginning to let their new kit free. 2014 is the year that we envisage the Resolution Revolution will really make its mark and Samsung were first out of the blocks with their 65-inch Ultra HD HU8500 LED television, whose curvy form factor and scintillating picture quality certainly left Steve Withers impressed. The 55H8000 may not have the 4K resolution but it proved that Samsung still cares about 1080p and it shares the bendiness of its UHD stable mates.

    Sony are equally big on 4K although, for now, only their new Full HD TVs have seen the light of day. Our first taste of this was straight from the Japanese's top drawer, with the flagship 55W95 but it was something of a letdown. However, as Mark discovered, they still know how to produce a cracking LED TV and the step-down W829 proved an altogether more accomplished telly, earning it a Highly Recommended accolade.
    The Resolution Revolution is in full swing

    There's never been a better time to buy in to true in-home big screen action with the sub £3000 projector market brim full of quality options. Sony's VPL-HW55ES is one such beamer, providing great contrast performance married to superbly accurate colours and a host of interesting and innovative processing options. Actually, that makes the HW55 a bigamist but we will forgive it that.

    And if circa £2,800 is out of your price range, the Epson TW5200 proved you can do it for even less. This entry-level projector absolutely excelled with 3D images and wasn't half bad with its 2D presentation, too. That you can get your hands on it for as little as £750 is quite remarkable.

    At the other end of that scale, albeit in a different product category, the Sennheiser IE800 In-Ear Earphones are a no holds barred flagship product, with a corresponding price-tag of £600. That's an awful lot of money for a set of wax collectors but Ed Selley was of the opinion that they are worth every penny. Mind you, this is a guy that routinely shells out such sums on the likes of a jacket and a prams (yes, really) but he assures us the Sennheiser's are genuinely something special and we believe him!

    In contrast, Final Audio, a manufacturer well known for its expensive in-ears delivered a genuine surprise with their budget Heaven II offering. These are priced much more reasonably, at around £90, yet delivered the same tonal accuracy that the more expensive models achieve.

    Panasonic showed us the fruits of their latest endeavours at their European Convention, held in Amsterdam toward the end of March. Phil and Steve were on hand to provide a video report with the focus on their new AX902 and AX802 4K LED TVs but there was a lot more to look at besides. For more detail on their full TV line-up, we also detailed their Full HD TVs and entry level sets in written pieces.
    The Xbox One has a killer app
    Games Reviews and Features

    Whilst Sony has been busy crowing about the early successes of the PlayStation 4, until now Microsoft and Xbox One owners have had to suck it up and play the long game. All this changed with the release of Titanfall, however, and it has made good on all the hype and early promise by delivering the freshest multiplayer experience we've seen in a long time. Of course, Titanfall is not an Xbox One exclusive and PC gamers have also been lapping up the mech-fest with relish. Manny Brown is one such gamer and he gave us his angle on TF from a PC perspective .


    The Wii U has had an inauspicious start to its existence but as this is Nintendo we're talking about, it was just a matter of time before the top notch first party titles began to appear. Mario Kart 8 is just around the corner (assume the drift position) but, for now, owners can go ape with another old friend. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze might be a case of more of the same but it certainly doesn't stop it from being fun, as our games editor Mark Botwright discovered.

    We also welcomed a new member to the games team in March and James Thomas has come out of the blocks in rapid fashion. James first looked at four more games graduating from Double Fine's annual Game Jam and got to look in to watch as things as they developed during Amnesia Fortnight 2014. James has also had hands on with Xbox One's game maker, Project Spark and gave us his take on Facebook's buy-out of Oculus VR.
    Super Hero Movies will never get old (maybe)
    Movies Reviews and Features

    Our dedicated team of film buffs produce some of the finest content on the interwebs and March has been no exception. Probably the standout movie of the month was Captain America: The Winter Soldier which despite only carrying a rating of 12A is superior political action thriller, with lashings of violence and one of the best of the Marvel canon yet.

    Cas Harlow was almost as impressed with the sequel-tastic The Hunger Games: Catching Fire which has just been released on Blu-ray. Building on its surprisingly strong opening salvo, Catching Fire takes the baton and runs with it and scored a very healthy 9 out of 10 with Cas.



    As they used to say on Gambit, we have a difference of opinion at 10 to1 with Steve Withers not particularly enamoured with 300: Rise of an Empire when he went to see it at the cinema. Steve described the sequel as a pointless companion piece to Zac Snyder's original but, evidently, Chris McEneany was far more impressed.

    So thrilled was Chris that he saw fit to give us one of his special in-depth articles where he examined all things Spartan with a detailed look through sword and sandals epics. Special attention was paid to 300 and Rise of an Empire, taking in motivation, music and majesty along the way. It could be just that Chris has a weakness for barely dressed, buffed-up men in his movies but it's always good to get both sides of the story.

    Chris wasn't quite so enthused by another muscle-bound movie, in the formidable shape of Chris Hemsworth playing Thor in yet another sequel, however. Thor:The Dark World has just been released on 3D Blu-ray and whilst the picture was good and the sound terrific, the movie itself was less impressive.

    So there we have our highlights of March 2014 and April is looking set to be even busier, so stay tuned to AVForums for the latest news, views and reviews.

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