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Local Review Singapore

Omotesando Koffee Review

After hearing our subeditor rave about her Omakase experience in Japan and “the best tasting coffee” she ever had, the THG team visited the coffee joint’s Singapore chain to check out the hype.

Here’s our review of Omotesando Koffee!

Address: 6A Shenton Way #04-01, The Work Project, Downtown Gallery, Singapore 068815

 

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Video Test

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Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry’s standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. It has survived not only five centuries, but also the leap into electronic typesetting, remaining essentially unchanged. It was popularised in the 1960s with the release of Letraset sheets containing Lorem Ipsum passages, and more recently with desktop publishing software like Aldus PageMaker including versions of Lorem Ipsum.

 

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Gadgets Highlights International Review Singapore

New Apple Fitness Service Introduces Healthy Competition to the Fitness App Industry

Testing italics 

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) is reportedly working on launching a bundled fitness-oriented service by October for the higher end, to push its services business into the fitness and digital health industry. Apple’s fitness app is set to move into the digital-only subscription fitness space dominated by Peloton and Nike, that provides access to a library of virtual fitness classes at a monthly price that is lower than your typical gym membership.

And while the details remain unclear, Apple’s fitness app sounds very much similar to Peloton (NASDAQ:PTON) offerings: a digital-only subscription offer that provides access to a content library of virtual fitness classes.

The question is: Will Apple be giving Peloton a run for its money?

Following the report of possible competition from Apple, shares of Peloton, the trendy at-home fitness service that streams classes to a spin bike or treadmill, fell more than 4% in premarket trading — but then quickly recovered — and closed at $65.65, up 2%. Though Wall Street analysts remain confident that the exercise-bike company can maintain its lead in the virtual fitness space.

During the coronavirus pandemic, there has been an upsurge in interest for at-home fitness classes due to gym closures and a preference to reduce contact between individuals. During the pandemic period, guided workout app downloaded grew 220% year-on-year globally.

In broad strokes, the plan echoes products from Peloton and Nike, which offer streaming classes at a monthly price that is lower than your typical gym membership — a trend that has recently gained popularity as people have been flocking to at-home fitness classes during the coronavirus pandemic that has forced temporary gym closures across the globe. As a result, Peloton shares have been up more than 120% this year thanks to a surge in sales for its bikes and treadmills, even garnering diehard fans that some would consider ‘cultish’.

Apple’s new fitness app will be available on the company’s devices, like the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV, while Peloton’s offerings are tied to hardware devices such as bikes and treadmills. As compared to Apple, Peloton already offers thousands of on-demand classes in addition to live-streamed ones. Whilst the former has lots of groundwork to be done, given how its recent new video streaming platform does not have a particularly robust content catalogue. It is also unclear how much Apple’s fitness subscription service would cost. Though it might make sense to bundle it with the Apple Watch.

In Q3 2019, Peloton’s digital-only subscription revenue represented only 1% of total revenue, which means that the biggest value in digital subscribers for the company is their potential conversion to connected fitness subscribers.

“We think Apple’s new fitness app could compete vs. Peloton’s digital only subscription offer, but will have limited impact on Peloton’s connected fitness base that uses Peloton’s bike or a tread,” Bank of America Securities Analyst, Justin Post wrote. “Longer-term, it is unclear whether Apple would partner with other at-home fitness hardware companies, or create its own proprietary bike/tread, though we think former is more likely than the latter.”

One potential partnership could be ReflectFitness Asia, a one-stop portal filled with digital classes on demand or live-streamed, and supported with resources related to fitness, health, and exercise. Launching in October, ReflectFitness builds upon its community roots and creates a digital ecosystem that revolutionises the way people exercise and consume fitness related information. ReflectFitness aims to make exercising in the comfort of home, at the user’s own time, simple and convenient. Operating with paired accessories such as heart rate monitors to track output and progress after each workout, world-class Reflect instructors will provide live and on-demand one-on-one style workouts including Strength, Cardio, Yoga, Pilates, Barre, Kickboxing, and Zumba, all within the ReflectFitness ecosystem. The portal also allows users to compete with friends through community challenges and leader boards, creating an exciting platform to engage friends and family on the user’s fitness journey.

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Entertainment International Review

Tenet (2020): Nolan’s Half-Empty Vessel With Barely Any Noise

Let’s get one thing straightened out — Christopher Nolan makes resplendent cinema.

Whether its chronologically mischievous narratives in 20th century breakthrough Memento, bouncing Joseph Gordon-Levitt off twisting corridors à la Inception, or the (literally) star-spangled intergalactic regurgitation of Interstellar, the mercurial filmmaker requires no introduction to his mastery of tapping into our childlike wonder whilst simultaneously turning our adult psyche into mush.

When it comes to commandeering tropes which are often deemed tried-tested-expired by even the most venturesome filmmakers, it’s Nolan who wraps his claws around stale waters, promising riches in waterfalls and Trevi fountains. Where many see difficulty it’s Nolan who sees opportunity.

Which makes writing this all the more gruesome. I wanted to love Tenet.

It encapsulated much of what pandemic fatigued movie-goers needed after being holed up indoors; a paradoxical, mind-melting plot device anchored by time; a Black ‘James Bond’ display of nitty gritty action sequences; a devilishly handsome cast; and another Nolan puzzle that would dominate dinner party conversations for months.

Tenet dons the classic ‘spy saves the world’ suit by introducing our Protagonist (which is also his only callsign throughout), played by John David Washington, embroiled in a mysterious global war he doesn’t yet seem to understand, spearheaded by equally talented counterparts in Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, and Kenneth Branagh for its pivotal characters.

For its score, longtime collaborator Hans Zimmer took a backseat for a more sentimental project, meaning Nolan relied on Ludwig Göransson (Black Panther, The Mandalorian) to curate the grand synergy between visuals and sonics that’s trademarked as a Nolan signature in his blockbusters.

We’re steadfastly thrown into disarray as Tenet’s opening seconds follows Protagonist into an asset extraction mission that takes place in an Opera house. All seems to be going well (or not, we can barely tell because of intentionally murky character dialogue, a well-documented gripe audiences have with beloved Nolan) until, amidst the swarm of gunfire, we’re shown that a single bullet is un-fired from an object of which it has already hit, closing its initial entry point, ricocheting back to its firer’s direction, and the surface is spanking brand new again.

Our visibly perplexed Protagonist spots this anomaly, now etched into his mind, before scurrying on with his time-sensitive extraction mission. This is the film’s first tease and entrapment of what its sci-fi element entails, reminiscent of Inception’s opener/Di Caprio’s dream-state flurry, and in we go to the whirlpool of time travel.

Except it isn’t. It’s inversion, the reversal of an object’s entropy, allowing it to move backwards in motion while everything else around it tick-tocks forward as per normal. How it all works is briefly explained several scenes later, with Protagonist and an inversion scientist convincing him (and invariably us) that understanding it is futile — feel it, she says. To grasp inversion she advises him to first picture traditional movements in his mind’s eye, then to execute it backwards. And what follows is brilliant absurdity.

In the realms of Tenet, punches, or inversion punches, are sonically portrayed as vacuum-like suctions accompanied with the visual motion of arm moving backwards, yet still inflicting damage. Try picturing an inverted wrestling match with multiple participants.

Inversion car chases mean engines roar to strange screeches when being driven. Devastating explosions deconstruct from clouds of smoke into atom-less nothings, with surrounding damage reconstructing back into its original form. A Boeing 747 is un-blown to smithereens to form its whole again. Inversion fire? Sub-zero ice.

All of which makes for fantastic viewing, and when coupled with backwards sound design, Tenet is unlike anything any film has offered in such elaboration, unless you count putting on Transformers entirely on rewind.

But the grandiosity stops there.

The same intricacy and accuracy to sound, however, is alarmingly absent for the aforementioned character dialogue. A substantial amount of understanding the film hinged upon its explanations, and in all his inversion whimsy, Nolan seems to have forgotten that his audiences aren’t soppy sacks of toddlers that salivate at mere booms and swashbuckling action.

For all the cerebral lunacy which he wants us to feel when watching Tenet, the sheer inaudibility of speech meant viewers are left with more questions than answers, and not in a fun ‘solve the mystery’ notion.

If Inception was an unsolved Rubik’s cube, Tenet is that cube, but with its sides so disheveled and banged up to the point where you could no longer discern its colours. The cube becomes unplayable and  thus unsolvable, similar to how Tenet was at times unwatchable because a plethora of its key plot points and explanations was, to put it mildly, audible mumbling.

We’re left pondering over every minute detail in its major action sequence, which consisted of an impressive inversion ‘Pincer movement’ of soldiers in differing timelines, before we could indulge in all its glory. But by then, the pace of the movie had already swept its viewers into incongruent abyss. Purchase a second screening in attempts to re-hear what was said? Not in this economy.

Unlike in Dunkirk, where dialogue wasn’t pivotal, and Inception, where visual cues already contained precedence in meaning, it’s deplorable that Nolan’s post-pandemic endeavour suffers from something that could so easily be rectified.

All this, without even getting started on the casts’ poor character development, his tiresome, sexist caricature of Elizabeth Debicky’s character, and his continuous blindspot for female portrayals.

Under the guise of ‘the next Inception’, or even as a standalone, I wanted to love this film — but this was too far off the mark. If Tenet was intended as a pandemic reprieve, look (and listen) elsewhere.

Overall Rating: 2.5/5

Tenet/Cinemablend
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Gaming Review

Fall Guys: Rises Above The Rest

Release date: 5 August 2020

Platform: PC, PS4

Developer: Mediatonic

Publisher: Mediatonic

The good:

  • Oddly addictive
  • Colourful and absurd
  • Gets you hooked every level
  • Pushing friends off platforms

The bad:

  • Slow character progression
  • Technical bugs in the game

 

30 seconds. That’s all you need to fall in love with Fall Guys. No plot twist required. No need to unlock any game-changing ability either. Unlike certain games that take an hour or two of gameplay before it grows on you, Fall Guys subverts the battle royale genre and turns it into a wild party. Imagine if Call of Duty: Warzone, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and Mario Party had an illegitimate child. Intense? Definitely. Cute? Yes. Well, if a battle royale with 60 jelly beans dressed as owls, dinosaurs, pineapples, and more isn’t, we don’t know what is. But trust us, trying to survive until the end and walk away with the coveted crown will give you anxiety with the barrage of gunfire. While it feels like your typical battle royale, it actually is a battle royale unlike any other. The best part? No guns. Just fun. And you’ll still feel like a winner even though you have lost.

A full match takes about 3-5 rounds, each of which are randomly selected from a field of 24 different levels. And what’s amazing is each level brings a different type of fun. Think bouncy players racing across giant seesaws to advance, and sprinting up a hill, shoving other players while trying to avoid massive fruits. Every level doesn’t fail to surprise, and there’s definitely something for everyone.

While there are no private games at the moment, you can still invite friends to games. Unfortunately, there are no squad-based modes either, but it’s still fun to keep track of your friends and witness their victories and defeats, which will crack you up all the same. The game can get infuriating on some levels too, especially when players do not follow the rules in soccer mode rounds like ‘Fall Ball’ and the ever so messy ‘Egg Scramble’. That said, whether you’re playing alone or together with friends, you’ll definitely enjoy every level regardless.

Run. Jump. Dive. Grab. That’s all there is to the game. And that’s what makes it beautiful. Even a first-timer would seem like a seasoned gamer. It’s simple, especially how certain gamers would shy away from the battle genre given how intense it can get. Fall Guys is filled with many silly mini-games that will provide just as many silly moments. It’s easy to play and there’s a lot of mass appeal for sure. It’s wickedly fun too. Just wait till you use ‘grab’ to hold someone in place until they fall off a sinking platform, or drag someone down to elimination with you. Well, just because you can’t win doesn’t mean you can’t succeed in making others lose!

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🚨🎙¿Quieres ver Fall Guys en Switch o Xbox One? Dile a sus creadores🎙🚨 . Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout es el juego del momento y es que su fresca fórmula Battle Royale está divirtiendo a muchos. Su gran problema es que sólo está disponible en PlayStation 4 y PC, por lo que muchos no pueden probarlo; sin embargo, existe la posibilidad de que llegue a más plataformas, sólo tienes que pedirlo. . En su página de soporte, Mediatonic, estudio de Fall Guys, señaló que existe la posibilidad de que su juego llegue a más consolas.  . Ahora bien, antes de que Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout llegue a otras plataformas es necesario que la comunidad muestre interés en ello. Así pues, si quieres que llegue a Xbox One o Nintendo Switch, te recomendamos que se lo digas a Mediatonic en Twitter o Discord. . Y a ti, ¿te gustaría ver Fall Guys en Xbox One o Nintendo Switch? Cuéntanos en los comentarios. ————————————————— #ElCuervoGeek @Maty_poblete_zamora ————————————————— #Ps4 #Pc #Xbox #Switch #Videojuegos #FallGuys #2020 #2021 #somosgeeks #GeeksChilenos #GeeksEnVallenar #Sueñenengrande #AmamosLosJuegos #Gamers #Logamerjamasduermen

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All in the name of fun

Yes, it’s a battle royale game. And it’s anything but intense. Frankly speaking, it really is pretty easy to get into the groove of things. Each round lasts about 2 minutes, and even though elimination comes early for most, defeat still tastes rather sweet. 

The colour palette is bright. The soundtrack is energetic. More than just a party game, Fall Guys is in itself the party! Not a gamer? That’s alright too. It’s just as entertaining watching the game.

Because you’ll still feel like you’re part of it even though you’re just spectating. As much as it is a thoroughly exhilarating game to both watch and play, if you’re into highly competitive games, the randomness of Fall Guys may not be something that you’d appreciate. What we didn’t really appreciate was the physics of the game. It’s unpredictable and you’ll get “crowdsurfing” jelly bean avatars piling on top of each other. And as funny as that may sound, it actually gets frustrating. What’s more, each level begins with players randomly placed at the starting line, and if you are highly competitive, you’d realise that a front or side placement would give you a slight advantage over the others. To the more lighthearted competitors, it’d just be an irresistible mix of skill and luck. Truth be told, it’s a game that favours good fortune, and no one would be able to rely on their skills forever. While that’s something not every player would enjoy, Fall Guys is all about having fun unlike most other battle royale games. You actually feel good when you lose. And besides, you’ll only be a few seconds away from beginning anew with 59 other goofballs. Also with Fall Guys, there’s no such thing as ‘just one game’.

You can also show off your jellybean-like avatars by dressing them up in costumes, emotes and colourful patterns. And if you’d like to unlock items, be sure to come out on top with more wins, and by levelling up. Alternatively, you could just purchase them. Don’t worry, they are all reasonably priced. Kudos (pretty cute, huh?), the game’s currency, can be obtained through regular play or even purchased with money. And costumes, emotes as well as colour patterns go for about 800 Kudos a pop. But if you’re not willing to part with your money that’s ok, you just got to spend more time on the game. And just as you thought things can’t get any better, this is only ‘Season 1’ according to Mediatonic, which only means that it’s highly likely for the game to have new levels, or even cosmetics! 

If there was anything wrong with the game, it’d definitely have to be its congested servers. But hey, this only means that it’s popular! With Fall Guys, Mediatonic didn’t just break the rules, they basically rewrote it. And to put it simply, Fall Guys is like battle royale. But on crack. 

4/5 stars

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Entertainment Review

Little Women (2019): A Beautiful Sisterhood 

A period drama film, Little Women is the latest adaptation of the 1868 novel by Louisa May Alcott. Directed by Greta Gerwig, the coming-of-age film follows the lives of the four March sisters played by a stellar cast: loving Meg (Emma Watson), hot-tempered Jo (Saoirse Ronan), sweet Beth (Eliza Scanlen) and sheltered Amy (Florence Pugh). Chronicling their lives, Little Women illustrates the sisters’ joy and struggles in two intertwining timelines. 

Set in 1868, the protagonist, free-spirited Jo is working in New York City as a tutor. An avid writer and aspiring novelist, Jo visits the unreceptive Mr Dashwood (Tracy Letts) who owns a publishing house. Selling her work under an alias, Jo struggles with Mr Dashwood’s criticism on how “Morals don’t sell nowadays”. However, Jo manages to publish her work albeit largely truncated according to the public’s appetite. Her desire to make a living from her literary works puts her at odds from the stories she truly wishes to write.

The film pans between the past and the present, and a flashback shows the fateful encounter between Jo and neighbour Laurie (Timothée Chalamet). Dressed in an elegant gown and a handsome suit respectively, Jo and Laurie became fast friends, the two goofing around inappropriately in a high society setting while Meg revelled in the festivities. Their friendship deepened, with Laurie being absolutely charmed by Jo and her family. Despite their seemingly compatible personalities, Laurie’s marriage proposal was turned down by Jo. 

In New York, Jo’s work is lambasted by acquaintance Professor Bhaer (Louis Garrel) who is sincere in his words, believing that Jo should not write to accommodate the scandalous tastes of the public. Their blooming friendship is immediately nipped in the bud by Jo’s temper getting the better of her. Returning home to Concord, Massachusetts for her ailing sister, viewers are now introduced to Beth who suffers from scarlet fever. Quiet Beth, she frequently seeks solace in the piano, revealing a reserved character that deeply cares for the people around her. 

“Why does she (Amy) get away from everything?”

Jo is furious when Amy, the youngest, is still travelling in Europe with their Aunt (Meryl Streep) in blissful ignorance while the two older sisters tend to Beth. Carrying herself like a proper lady, Amy is seen to be vain and self-centered at times. In contrast, Meg is shown to be living rather frugally, having married a penniless tutor out of love. Their Aunt March has pointed out many times, the only way to be unmarried is to be rich and to marry poor is a failure in life. Little Women has made such bold statements, reflecting the status quo of the high expectations society has imposed on women. 

Returning to the halcyon days when the four sisters still lived together, their days were filled with joy. Enacting plays from Jo’s stories, they would don elaborate costumes and perform for the neighbouring children. Laurie, who was easily accepted into the group, was their unanimous sibling back in a simpler time. It was the age when the sisters had each other, and Laurie. 

In the past, Beth had recovered once from the disease. Jo’s memories are melancholic, remembering how they had celebrated Beth’s recovery in conjunction with their father’s return from war. The crowded house of March was filled with laughter and joy then. In stark contrast, the present is silent and painful as Beth’s health deteriorates and she eventually passes away. Gerwig’s use of the flitting past and present narratives is excellent in accentuating the inevitable changes of life. From an overjoyed Jo celebrating Beth’s recovery with the others to a miserable Jo weeping silently for the loss by herself. 

In the present, Amy is shown to be arguing with Laurie about how marriage is an economic proposition. As Jo has stated, “Marriage is not romance but mercenary”,  the repeated theme highlights the distinct gender inequality and women’s lack of rights. Amy further informs Laurie, feeling dispirited about how her money, her children, and everything that she owns will eventually be her husband’s property. Reminiscing of Aunt March’s constant reminder of “Save your family by marrying well”, it is emphasized by Amy’s frustration at the shackles a woman wears. The coddled sister is forced to grow up following the reality of society.  

Later, a sincere Professor Bhaer appears at the Marches’ doorstep to see Jo for the last time before his leave for California. In a twist that defies gender expectations, Jo stops Professor Bhaer, urging him to stay for her. 

The film then ends on a happy note, Meg and her husband promising to work hard for the family, Laurie and Amy finding love in each other, and Jo opens a school with her perfect match, Professor Bhaer. The sisters’ bonds are shown to be stronger than before, fulfilling a wish of their late sister, Beth. The final scene closes with Jo’s successful negotiation with Mr Dashwood, retaining her copyrights and publishing her book based on their lives, Little Women. 

Little Women speaks volumes of the expectations placed on women while serving as an inspiration for all looking to transcend those weights. The scene whereby Jo and Amy argue about publishing Jo’s Little Women has struck a chord in me. “Writing confers importance,” Jo seems apprehensive about publishing a work based on their ordinary lives while the encouraging Amy retorts, “Writing about something makes it more important.” After all, the most beautiful thing in life is usually found in the mundane. 

“Women, they have minds and they have souls, as well as just hearts. And they have ambitions and talent as well as just beauty. I am sick of people saying that love is all a woman is fit for.” In particular, I have loved this line as spoken truly by Jo. 

Little Women is a beautiful film, succinctly sharing the emotional yet inspiring narratives of four very different women struggling to make their voices heard. 

IMDB; Gerwig, G. (Director). (2019). Little Women [Film]. Columbia Pictures, Regency Enterprises, Pascal Pictures.
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Exclusive Gadgets International

Skip These Phones: Galaxy Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra

At this year’s Galaxy Unpacked event, Samsung released 2 new phones, The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and vanilla Note 20 priced at S$1398 and S$1898, respectively. Our take? There are many other phones in the market that are cheaper and can provide the same experience (other than the S-pen), so pick those instead.

Specs

Both phones come with the latest and greatest Chipsets from Qualcomm and Samsung, with US variants coming with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus Chipset in the US and an Exynos 990 Chipsets in most other markets including Singapore.

The vanilla Note 20 comes with 8GB of LPDDR5 ram and 128GB of UFS 3.0 storage, while the Note 20 Ultra has 12GB of LPDDR5 ram paired with 128GB of an even faster UFS 3.1 storage. However, only the Note 20 Ultra has a dedicated microSD card slot for a maximum storage expansion of up to 1 TB.

Battery

Striaght out of the box, both phones come with a 25W fast charger which Samsung claims can top your phone up from 0 to 50% in just 30 minutes, and fast Wireless Charging 2.0 that delivers up to 15W of power. Speaking of charging, the vanilla Note comes with a hefty 4200mAh battery and the Note 20 Ultra comes with an even larger 4500mAh battery that should last you throughout the day. The phones are also still equipped with Samsung’s exclusive PowerShare Feature that allows you to charge other devices wirelessly by simply placing them on the back of your phone.

Display

These batteries have to power the monolith 6.9-inch QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X curved display on the Note 20 Ultra and a normal 6.7-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED flat display on the vanilla Note 20 with an Infinity – O hole punch for the selfie camera in the center. The most disappointing difference between the 2 models is the exclusivity of a high refresh rate 120Hz display on the Note 20 Ultra. At this price point, all phones should come with this feature — even Samsung’s own S20 released at the start of the year has a high refresh rate 120Hz display with a lower starting point. To make matters worse, many new budget phones like the One Plus Nord has a 90Hz FHD+ display and its price is just under half the price of the vanilla Note 20. Despite this, both displays have excellent color reproduction and are bright enough to use outdoors without any glare.

Build

These displays are both protected by different variants of Corning Gorilla Glass — Gorilla Glass 5 on the vanilla Note 20 and the new Gorilla Glass Victus on the Note 20 Ultra. Tests by Corning have shown Gorilla Glass Victus surviving drops onto hard, rough surfaces from up to 2 meters. These phones also have glass backs and have a build of anodised aluminum like many other flagship phones out there. The Vanilla Note 20 is available in eye popping Mystic Green, Mystic Bronze, and Mystic Gray, while the Note 20 Ultra comes in Mystic Bronze, Mystic Black, and Mystic White.

S-Pen

New improvements have also been made to the Notes Signature feature, the S-pen. This year, Samsung has managed to drastically reduce the latency of the S-pen from 42ms down to just 26ms for the vanilla Note 20 and  9ms for the Note 20 Ultra to match Apple pencil levels of responsiveness akin to writing on physical paper.

Camera

Both phones have the same 10MP, f/2.2 80-degree FOV front facing camera that supports 4K 60 fps recording. On the back, both phones have triple cameras. They also share the same Ultrawide 12-megapixel F2.2 120-degree FOV camera perfect for group shots and landscapes. The two phones have different main and zoom cameras. The main camera on the Vanilla Note 20 is a 12-megapixel F1.8, Dual Pixel AF, OIS 79-degree FOV sensor capable of 4K 60 fps recording. Things get interesting with the Note 20 Ultras 108-megapixel F1.8, OIS 79-degree FOV sensor. This camera, also found on the S20 ultra, was plagued with video auto-focus issues that made it almost impossible to use when shooting video despite its 8K capabilities. To combat this, the Note 20 Ultra comes with a hardware solution, a new red laser auto-focus module that has appeared to solve the auto-focus issues. On a separate note, both phones can shoot in 8k 30 fps video. The Note 20 Ultra can do so on its main camera, but the Vanilla Note 20 uses the zoom camera instead, so to shoot 8k videos you have to zoom in 3 times. The zoom lens on the Note 20 ultra is a 12MP, f/3.0, telephoto camera, 5x Optical zoom sensor, and the vanilla Note 20 has a 64MP, f/2.0, telephoto, 3x Hybrid Optic zoom sensor.

Bottom Line

Both the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra are phones with excellent performance and design but with extremely steep starting prices that are just too expensive for what you’re getting. The screen on the Note 20 is a deal breaker for me, so unless you really need an S-pen, don’t buy the new Notes. Phones like the S20 offer comparable performance with its 120Hz Display and since they have been around for a while now, they probably would be a lot cheaper than the Notes.

Categories
Gaming Review

Gears Tactics: Struggles To Find Its Groove

Release date: 28 April 2020

Platform: PC

Developer: Splash Damage, The Coalition

Publisher: Xbox Game Studios

The good:

  • Just as good as Gears of War
  • Immersive action

The bad:

  • Unexciting missions
  • Unrelatable plot and characters

 

The line between turn-based strategy and all-out aggression is a fine one to tread, and Gears Tactics barely strikes a balance. And though it seems like a desperate attempt, it’s still a commendable effort translating the character of Gears’ combat to a new arena, albeit losing some of its spirit.

The pace is generally fast, with each of its turns defined by the amount of viscera you can pull from guts to ground. Despite that, the game play is still fairly smooth and will have you easing off the throttle of the thumbsticks. And even as manoeuvers may be executed with just the click of a mouse, you’d be thoroughly engaged. You’ll find yourself flanking routes, carving out holes in enemy lines and being in waist-high cover.

And while it’s fast, smart and aggressive, it has its slow, shallow and meek moments as well when the action subsides. That said, it’s still a Gears of War game at heart.

Differently geared

Fans of Firaxis’ XCOM would be able to detect its similarities at one glance. Yet, Gears Tactics does more than enough to be authentically Gears of War, setting itself apart with the pace of gameplay as well as the removal of the movement grid.

For one, by removing the movement grid, you have more freedom to experiment than you would in a turn-based strategy game. The combat is freeform, with each of your Gears equipped with a baseline of three action points that can be spent at your discretion on any combination of movement, shooting, and skills. A simple but small decision with huge potential, this makes Gears Tactics feel more like a traditional action game.

You’d find yourself weaving effortlessly between points of cover, rotating freely between your Gears in the field, and responding readily to threats as they emerge from the fog of war, airdrop into sprawling arenas, and crawl out of Emergence holes. To engage, you can choose to stand and fire until you expend all your action points, move your soldiers into advantageous positions, or just use them in any combination you’d like to command. Simply put, Gears Tactics has ironed out the kinks of the XCOM combat system, made it faster, and also more aggressive.

Though Gears Tactics has carved out its own space in the genre, there are certain aspects that are reminiscent of Overwatch, like the cone representing your zone of sight that gets triggered when anything moves within it. Except, it’s more aggressive, and can be used to thin enemy lines, as opposed to defending your position. 

It’s a Gears game first and foremost, and with all its systems at play it definitely feels like one, rather than some strategy game wearing its skin. And you’d also find yourself pushing through masses of enemies during the later part of the game, which will require you to tap on the combined strength of your squad, as well as chain together skills and executions.

There are five specialised classes in all — Heavy, Scout, Sniper, Support, and Vanguard. Each with its own strengths and limitations. Plus, they can also be upgraded and heavily customised throughout the game. The trick, however, is to maintain a balanced squad by ensuring the skills learned by each unit complements the rest. Skill trees allow you to invest in any of the four combat proficiencies, giving you access to Active and Passive abilities to take on your relentless enemies.

Now here’s the fun part — gaming the game. It’s possible to create huge chains of death with a well-balanced squad, and by flanking routes. The result? Taking down your enemies in just one turn without sustaining any damage. How isn’t that fun? So if you put the ‘tactics’ into Gears Tactics, you’d be handsomely rewarded. The game is all about aggressiveness. And if you fancy a different gaming strategy, you’d find yourself losing members in your squad, and getting overwhelmed by your enemies. Unfortunately, that’s the only way to succeed in Gears Tactics, and it struggles to offer anything more than that.

Completely thrown out of gear

Though the game is much like XCOM, the way it handles downtime is pale in comparison. While it’s true that you’ll spend much of the game engaged with your enemies, there’s actually no base to grow and evolve. Instead, you’ll spend all your time devoted to levelling up your units, customising looks and going through lists of weapons and armours to create the most powerful combinations.

The good thing is, there are lots of equipment to play, especially when you hunt down storage crates amidst the chaos of combat, as well as completing mission modifiers. That said, it does get a little uninteresting after awhile, given the sheer amount of equipment available.

On the contrary, the pacing of Gears Tactics is commendable. You’d find yourself spending hours and hours on the game just because of its difficulty. And as much as it has done a great job in terms of combat, you’d begin seeing its flaws if you were to look beyond the violence. It’s essentially 20 hours of violence. And there’s a lack of heart. The focus on family that every Gears game is known for isn’t present here, making its plot and characters unrelatable.

Story-driven strategy games are never easy to pull off, and there’s much to be learned from StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty, as well as the benchmark it has set years ago. The cutscenes and character lack polish and depth compared to Gears of War 4 and 5. It’s stiff. It’s disjointed. It’s anything but a cohesive adventure you’d be excited to play all the way to the end. What’s more, the missions are repetitive and dry. And did we mention how the insipid side quests are stifling because they are forced on you so that you can try new squad compositions? 

With all that said and done, there’s still a lot to love about Gears Tactics. Sure, the action may distract you from its flaws. But that doesn’t mean they do not exist.

2.5/5 Stars

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Affordable Minimalist Watch Brands to Keep Track of Time & Your Budget

The trend of minimalism pops up every now and then, making its way into our lives. Living on the practice that we focus on the simple things to enjoy life, it a lifestyle that seems more attractive than ever as society becomes more hectic.

In a way, minimalism goes back to the idea of simplicity. In fashion, minimalism is all about building a capsule (or basic) wardrobe with versatile and neutral pieces that can be worn effortlessly everywhere.

That doesn’t mean that you can only dress up in dress shirts and pencil skirts — you can invest in accessories to complete your outfit. Look for elegant silhouettes, neutral colours, and even statement pieces if that’s your thing.

Watches are the perfect accessories because they add to your aesthetics and are pretty useful at keeping time. A good stylish watch goes with you everywhere from work to date night, and doesn’t distract if you’re going for a clean, simple look. Need we say anymore?

Here are our five favourite brands when it’s time for watch shopping.

Daniel Wellington

Taking inspiration from travelling, the Swedish brand’s watches are universally appealing to both genders. The style selection isn’t very big with a few timeless styles to pick from, but the customisation choices are endless. Their watches come in the classic gold, silver or rose gold casings, and you can choose a black watchface for a louder statement. The straps are where you get to have fun — the removable straps come in metal links, nylon, mesh, and Italian leather.

Couple watches are a thing too over at Daniel Wellington. The same design come in both male and female styles, taking couple wear all then way down to the accessories.

Olivia Burton

Olivia Burton is known for their chic timepieces that just oozes sophistication and charm. They have sleek, all-metal watches, but its their intricate designs where they really shine. Inspired by vintage British florals and nature, most of their watchface designs are a work of art in itself.

Florals, 3D designs, and pastels are very popular as they are not too flashy, but are still gorgeous enough to turn heads for a second look of admiration. Olivia Burton also takes away the headache of pairing your jewellery as they also release themed collections with matching necklaces and earrings.

Swatch SKIN irony

Minimalist is not the first thing that pops to your mind when you first see Swatch. You’ll probably think more ‘colorful’ and ‘sporty’. The Swatch SKIN IRONY Collection is a departure from the funky, trendy designs and takes a step into a more mature direction with metallic accents and leather straps that are more suited for the office.

And the watches will feel weightless on your wrist as the SKIN IRONY range is the brand’s slimmest watch in its whole collection. Occasionally, their seasonal collaborations with brands like Hackett are a good chance to score minimalist and more refined piece.

Plain Supplies

All you have to do is take a look at their Instagram to see Plain Supplies’ dedication to modern, well-designed products. Favouring simplicity and clarity, Plain Supplies watches are made for the unpretentious modern adult. For a subtle statement piece, you might want to get the all-black timepiece with a stainless steel mesh strap to balance out all the negative space in your outfit. They also have wallets and bracelets in the same unassuming simple charm to fit into your carefully cultivated aesthetics.

Timex

Stop by Timex for an everyday, classic watch that won’t break those purse strings. The Weekender Collection is one of their more affordable selections, and it’s for someone who wants a decent timepiece but with a more luxurious vibe.

The easy versatility of their watches and replaceable bands makes it a favourite as an everyday watch. It won’t do much more than telling the time and adding to your style statement, but for a watch that’s less than a hundred bucks, that’s good enough. After your first one, you’ll soon be itching to get another in a different colour.