Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Samsung_Galaxy_Note_4Manufacturer: Samsung10

Release Date: 10/17/2014

MSRP: $749.99 (Full Retail) (T-Mobile Version Reviewed)

Colors: White, Black



The Good: Ultra fast and powerful, solid housing and physical design, great S Pen, gorgeous high-def screen, amazing software features

The Bad: Friends who don’t have a Note 4 may get envious

Samsung is the top dog right now in the phone business. They know what customers want and know exactly how to utilize the Android OS on their device the best. With the Note 4 being my second Samsung Android phone and my 4th Android phone in general, I have to say Samsung has finally perfect the smart phone. Even after playing with this thing for three days and running a numerous amount of apps and benchmark tests I can’t find anything wrong with the phone. I honestly really tried hard to find some minute detail that I overlooked and just can’t like I was able to with previous Android phones. Why is this phone so perfect? Let’s start with what’s under the hood to get an idea of why this phone can do what it can do.

Under the Hood

The Note 4 is a beast in small clothing. There is so much going on under the hood; so much amazing hardware crammed into this tiny shell that I am just flabbergasted at how Samsung was able to pull it off. Let’s start with the basics. The phone is 6.04″ tall, 3.09″ wide, and 8.5mm thick. That’s not a lot of room to cram this much hardware into. The phone actually has a good weight to it: Not to light but also not too heavy. It doesn’t feel overly cheap like the iPhone 6 does. The actual material doesn’t feel cheap either. The edges are solid aluminum and wont bend or twist in your pocket or under pressure. The back has a faux leather texture which feels extremely nice. While Samsung is known for cheap plastic backs, the faux leather makes up for it.


With any Samsung phone you will be familiar with the hardware button layout. A menu button, volume rocker, and power button as well as two soft keys. I actually have to compliment the volume rocker here, it feels more solid and easier to find with your thumb. Instead of the whole rocker being flush each side sticks out a tad more than the middle section. One thing that will throw users off is the new task list softkey that replaced the soft menu key as of the Galaxy S5. It took a while to get used to this as I was always hitting the app list key thinking the app menu would come up.

After the sleek and comfortable design is looked over you will notice what is probably the best looking phone screen available right now. The 5.7″ Super AMOLED screen just looks fantastic. While Samsung device owners will be used to quality screens this one is a huge jump up. Being twice the resolution of most large phone screens. This screen has a whopping 2560×1440 resolution with 515 ppi. Trumping every other smart phone including the iPhone 6 Plus which is just a 5.5″ screen and 1920×1080 resolution. This quad HD screen is just addictive to look at. Everything, no matter what it is, just looks gorgeous with deep colors and a vibrant backlight. The screen is also much brighter than previous Samsung phones, but for some reason uses less battery power than even the Galaxy S4 did.

For the picture lovers out there the Note 4 has one of the most powerful phone cameras available and is one of the few that can shoot in full 4K resolution. The Sony IMX240 camera allow 5K photos. The 16MP rear and 3.7MP front facing cameras are just fantastic. With the front being a 3.7MP camera it is a better quality camera than the average 2MP front facing camera that most phones have. Under the rear facing camera is a heart rate sensor as well as a UV sensor. This heart rate sensor is more useful than you think. Want to take a selfie with the better rear camera? Press your finger against this sensor and it will snap the photo for you. Health nuts will also love the sensor for fitness apps.


Let’s get to the heart of the phone. The Note 4 uses the Snapdragon 805 chipset which sports a Krait 540 quad-core CPU at an astounding 2.7Ghz. The GPU is the Adreno 420 which is one of the most powerful phone GPUs out right now. The phone also sports some the most RAM you will find at a solid 3GB of LPDDR3 RAM. The internal memory is 32GB which is great for photo takers and gamers. What does this mean to the average user? Your phone will operate at lightning fast speed with no slowdown when switching or using apps. If you want to know just how powerful the Note 4 is take a look at the screenshots for benchmarks from 3D Futuremark’s benchmarking software. The Note 4 ranks the fourth most powerful phone in existence while the iPhone 6  and 6 Plus is way down 31 and 26 respectively.






There are other hardware features such as 2.4/5Ghz Wifi, and even MHL A\V link for connecting your phone to your TV. While the Note 4 surprisingly is missing the USB 3.0 port seen in the Galaxy S5 and Note 3, it is replaced with a fast charging Adaptive Charge technology that allows the phone to fully charge in 1 hour.

While that is a lot of technology there is one thing that the Note series has been beloved for and that’s the S Pen. This little guy does so much and becomes so useful in situations you didn’t think it would. The software suite for the pen may be small but it is all useful. Artists will love how accurate the pen is for drawing thanks to pressure recognition and pinpoint accuracy. Writing memos is extremely easy. Once you pop out the pen you can use it to highlight text, write down email addresses, phone numbers, and links and turn them into usable actions on your phone. This is a very neat idea and even comes in handy at job places. The pen hides away on the bottom right of the phone and is completely flush. It feels nice in your and is nearly as long as the phone. My favorite feature is being able to have your phone alert you if you leave your pen somewhere and even show you where you last had it on Google Maps.


Software wise the Note 4 uses a tweaked version of the Galaxy S5 OS. With a better drop down menu and more options in the device settings you can completely hand tailor this device to every possible need for yourself. One feature I wanted to save for last is the fingerprint scanner. Yes, I know the iPhone 5S started it, but it’s a fantastic feature to have. The sensor is actually more responsive than the 5S sensor as it also recognizes the tip of your pad. You honestly would have no idea the menu button has a sensor built into it. I found linking my PayPal account to the sensor for logging in was great and added a ton of security. You can even set this as a lock screen and save up to 3 different fingers.


There are various other little features such as download booster. If you have weak Wifi the phone will use your 4G speeds along with Wifi to break data up into packets and increase your download speed. I tested this with my work’s Wifi as its max speed is about 4mbp/s. I downloaded a 250mb app and the download booster kicked in and showed me a comparison bar. While the Wifi was pulling in about 4mb/s the 4G was pulling 35mb/s. Of course this is only if the file size is over 30MB to keep everything you download from kicking in the booster.

Another neat feature is the emergency assistance. Add your contacts and you can press the power button 3 times and it will send pictures and sound recordings to those contacts. This is great if you are in a car accident with no one around and need help. While this isn’t a substitute for 911 it can be used for situations where 911 doesn’t apply.

Overall the Galaxy Note 4 is just a fantastic phone all around. With a solid physical design, a gorgeous screen, a very useful S Pen, and various other software features you are just going to fall in love with this phone.


Logitech K480 Bluetooth Keyboard

a53958b4-20f2-489c-90a6-896047b71380._V326795447__SR150,300_Manufacturer: Logitech9.5

Release Date: 9/12/2014

MSRP: $49.99

Colors: Black/Yellow, White/Gray








The Good: Fantastic ergonomics and design, excellent and smart keyboard layout, keyboard app works very well, switching between three devices is super handy

The Bad: Weighs a lot for a compact keyboard, uses standard batteries

Logitech makes some pretty fantastic products, and it doesn’t surprise me that they make the first bluetooth keyboard that actually interests me or seems useful. Most are too small, too big, or just don’t feel right. The K480 is perfect for anyone with big hands or multiple devices.


While the keyboard isn’t exactly portable and won’t fit into any small carry bags, it doesn’t need to. What got my attention right away was being able to switch between three devices on the fly. The turn dial on the left allows to switch between a tablet, phone, and computer all at the same time. Why would you need to do this you ask? Well you may be using your computer like normal while texting a friend or typing up a report on your tablet, or vice versa. You can do your research on your computer while you do the typing on the tablet and still chat with a friend. Some people may not need to multitask like this so having three channels is great to have without having to re-sync your keyboard with every device you use every time.

With that said, you can fit a 7″ tablet laying sideways with a 4″ wide phone next to it, or a 10″ tablet by itself. You can also have the 7″ tablet standing up with a 6″ phone laying sideways. It’s up to you. The keys feel great and click just right. The keyboard looks “bubbly” and sleek with the keys concaved just right. The actual layout makes sense and works with Macs, iOS devices, and Android. With the FN key you can use the top row as F keys on PC, and without it they are your regular functions on a touch device such as menu, home screen, recent apps, media keys, screenshot, volume, etc. It’s a smart layout and one of the best I’ve ever seen on a compact keyboard.


Actually getting this thing to function with a device isn’t that hard, but Android users may find switching between devices a little annoying when having to select the default keyboard. Using the Logitech app to allow you to type without the touch keyboard is needed. This is actually an issue with Android OS and not the keyboard itself.


The PC and Mac have their own software that allows you to use the shortcuts on the desktop. It’s fairly easy to connect and use without much hassle. Now the biggest issue with this keyboard is that it uses standard AAA batteries which blows my mind. In this day and age most of these gadgets should have internal batteries, but maybe this cut the price down? I don’t know. Just make sure you have rechargeable AAA batteries handy. The other downside was the weight. This thing is pretty heavy by itself and even more so if you have a tablet and phone on it. It’s meant to sit on a desk or table so don’t expect it to be comfortable on your lap.

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition

cover_largePublisher: Square Enix9.5

Developer: Crystal Dynamics/Nixxes Software/United Front Games

Release Date: 1/28/2014

Rating: Mature

MSRP: $49.99

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The Good: The new Lara is memorable and more human, the gun play and exploring mechanics are tight and cinematic, lots of fun collectibles to find, interesting and engaging story, outstanding graphics and sound

The Bad: Boring multiplayer, not enough tombs to explore

This is exactly how you do a game series reboot right. I wish I could end my review on that, but I need to tell you why. Tomb Raider suffered through a few mediocre games during the first run of the series during the late 90’s-early 2000’s. The first reboot did well for the series by maturing Lara and giving us better controls and a more cinematic experience. Now comes Tomb Raider in 2013, a fantastic game that shows the more human side of Lara. The game starts out with you and a science crew on a ship on the way to an achealogical site, but things go awry when Lara decides to head to the Dragon’s Triangle off the coast of Japan. A mysterious storm destroys the boat and Lara and team are stranded on this island. There is a mysterious cult trying to sacrifice people to a sun goddess to end these storms. Lara has to deal with this if she wants off course.



What makes Tomb Raider so memorable is the struggle she goes through while surviving. She is nearly raped, suffers tremendous injuries and has to cope with herself in dealing with the fact that she has to kill to survive. She is not comfortable with this at first and really struggles to pull the trigger. This adds layers of depth to her character that weren’t seen before. Not only is her personality more memorable, but her looks have changed. No longer is Lara wearing the short shorts and tight shirt with her huge bust. She has been knocked down a few cup sizes and is much younger, straight out of college in fact. It’s hard to really describe her more than this, you have to play the game to really connect.

The gameplay in Tomb Raider has completely changed, but yes there is platforming and gun play. Both are tight and very well crafted. Gun play consists of using scraps to create a pistol, bow, machine gun, and shotgun. That’s it. As you progress and find salvage in crates and dead bodies you can upgrade these to look like and feel like better weapons. There are many upgrades that increase damage and accuracy as well as adding new ammo types. Lara’s animations are very well done and realistic and this falls into combat. She scrambles around and ducks behind cover, the guns feel great to shoot and you can see how inexperienced Lara is, she’s not a Navy SEAL or commando. Unlike other games like this her stumbling animations don’t interfere with the game at all. You can still move around, you can dodge, and there’s even some melee thrown in. As you upgrade your skills (done at various campfires throughout the game) you can dodge and through quick time events can do some pretty gruesome kills.



While gun play is tight and fun, exploring is just as important. This island is massive and you can go anywhere, there’s no limits. Fast traveling via camps really helps, but there’s a reason for moving around everywhere: collecting hidden items. These range from relics, GPS caches, documents etc. There are hidden tombs found throughout the game that hold area maps for these items. These tombs consist of cleverly made physics puzzles that are really fun to complete. You get rewards like art and 3D models to view. The whole game just has an amazing atmosphere and is just so much fun to explore.

On top of all the climbing around you get a climbing axe which is an important tool for climbing and combat. Your bow is used for shooting ropes across valleys and canyons to pull items to solve puzzles, break doors, and access to new areas. The whole exploring ideal in this game is just fantastic and really fun. I did have to think about how to get to new areas and actually try to navigate and experiment, that’ good game design. There is a Survival Instinct ability that highlights map markers, objectives, and when you unlock the skill, you can see items through walls.

The story itself is a bit confusing, the whole spirtual thing is a bit unbelievable in such a realistic world like this, but that is what Tomb Raider is known for. Lara is the main character here and what she goes through was the main story for me. I loved every second of the story. The voice acting is awesome and the graphics look amazing.


The multiplayer was tacked on late in development and is pretty boring. The combat was designed for cinematic game play, not multiplayer. It feels just like it does in the story, but it just doesn’t suit multiplayer well. I played all of three rounds and got bored of the game. Some people may like it, but there are better multiplayer shooters out there.

Overall, Tomb Raider is one of my favorite games of all time and is really memorable. The voice acting is solid, and Lara’s new personality makes her more human and more relatable. The graphics are outstanding and the gun play and exploring mechanics are fun and very cinematic.

Definitive Edition

I have to say that the graphics upgrade alone is worth a re-buy. The game looks even better than the best settings on PC. Lara’s newly remodeled look is fantastic and TressFX on her hair have finally been fixed to where there isn’t any slow down from it. All textures and lighting has been slightly bumped up and the smooth 60FPS in 1080p on next-gen consoles just looks gorgeous. This game still holds up well to this day and I played the game all the way through with the same excitement and rush that I did the first time. The PS4 version has been specifically tailored to the controller and headset. You can now play most of the game with voice commands, however there are quite a few and it takes a while to remember them all. The PS4 speaker is used through most of the game as ambiance but I found some narrative bits going through both the controller and TV sounded strange. The Definitive Edition is well worth the buy and is the best version yet.

Jak 3

wpid-wp-1411096769276.jpegPublisher: SCEA6.0

Developer: Naughty Dog/Mass Media

Release Date: 6/18/2013

Rating: Teen

MSRP: $29.99

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The Good: New weapon mods are more useful. difficulty has been scaled back a tad, new characters are memorable, great ending

The Bad: Same crappy car physics, hover boarding, returning to Haven City is like a nightmare come true, new desert area is a complete bore, same terrible platforming and boring missions setup

Well I finally did it. I have played the entire Jak and Daxter trilogy and I have to say it is one of the most overhyped and over rated game series ever made. While the characters and charm are memorable, everything else is sub-par and less than mediocre. I thought that three times in Naughty Dog would have nailed the gameplay and fixed everything from Jak II but I was wrong. Instead we get to revisit that crap fest with just some updated areas of Haven City and an entirely new boring open desert we can drive cars in that have awful physics.


Jak and Daxter must stop Errol who is some half cyborg from getting to the Death Star…thing. The only worthwhile part of the game is the very end when we finally get to know what the precursors are and I was very satisfied when I found out. Everything else is slightly smelly crap but complete crap nonetheless. We’re stuck with the same linear level design, repeated mission areas, hard as hell difficulty, wonky platforming, extremely wacky physics, and too much traveling between missions. I loved the new characters, but that’s all this game really had going for it.

All the new content doesn’t really feel new. Sure the missions weren’t as difficult as Jak II but they were still annoying and boring. This felt like Jak 2.5 rather than a true sequel. The new open desert area is a complete bore to drive in and bandits will constantly spawn to attack you relentlessly. You are given several buggies but they all drive like crap. The only helpful addition were the new weapon mods. There are 3 for each weapon we had in the last game, but they are all really useful and I relied on them a lot throughout the game. However, the auto lock-on system is still just as crappy and you waste a lot of ammo just trying to aim in the general direction of the enemy.


Let’s talk about Haven City. I thought I would never have to see that awful city again but here we are. Each section has been more…updated due to the on going war with the Metal Heads and Krimson Guard. The areas are a tad more wide open and the same vehicles drive a tiny bit better but not much. There is a new camera angle that puts you right behind Jak, but it just made me noxious due to the awful physics. I really just wanted the game to end and it felt like a chore just like the last two games.


With that said if you played Jak II you won’t need to expect much from Jak 3. I’m not sure if I’m more disappointed with Jak II than this game, but I honestly can’t recommend this one either. The entire series feels like a complete bust to me and that’s a crying shame.


Jak II

wpid-wp-1411096769276.jpegPublisher: SCEA5.0

Developer: Naughty Dog/Mass Media

Release Date: 6/18/2013

Rating: Teen

MSRP: $29.99

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The Good: Interesting story, great characters and voice acting, looks good

The Bad: Horrendous open city that is a chore to navigate, controls and mechanics are so poorly implemented and developed that the game is unwieldy, no checkpoints leads to most gamers never finishing the game, lack of lock-on makes shooting feel sloppy, many bugs and glitches, frame rate on Vita is unacceptably poor

This review has actually been a long time coming. I never really liked or got into Jak and Daxter. I gave Jak II a shot back when I was about 13 and for some reason liked it, but I also remember being extremely frustrated and hating it too. The game was a complete redesign of the series. Gone is the aimless platforming and collect-a-thon stuff. Here we have an open world GTA: Vice City clone with attitude. Jak II received a lot of criticism for steering away from the cheery tone of the first game. Jak now talks but has a bad attitude, he shoots guns, and the game has more spunk and adult content. It was a great step for the series but it created more problems than the first game had.


The first thing is the crappy open world. I can’t tell you how tedious and frustrating it is to move around in this damn city. It’s a maze for one with tight linear areas to move around and the vehicles control like complete garbage. You bump into everything as you’re driving around, and if the game itself isn’t hard enough I died multiple times just trying to get to a mission. I have never seen such a poorly built open city before, this takes the cake. If the vehicles aren’t enough the difficulty of the game is by far way up there with the hardest. I guarantee 95% of players will quite before they even get 5 missions in. You will die time and time again, but not only because it’s just hard. The game is just poorly designed.


Take into account no lock-on for aiming whatsoever. You’re left with the poor auto aim which doesn’t work half the time. Add on glitches, sloppy platforming, and a crappy hover board and you have a craptastic game. Now that’s not to say Jak II didn’t have potential. It has AAA budget written all over it. Excellent voice acting, great graphics, the works. It just seems the development team wasn’t up to speed on how smooth a game needs to play.


Even with the poor game play elements aside the game seems like it wasn’t play tested. Some areas are so difficult to get through, this usually includes the mass amounts of enemies you have to shoot, that you literally need to rely on luck that the AI will miss more than hit just so you can pass on. But the one ultimate reason that this game can not be forgiven are the lack of checkpoints. I don’t just mean there’s one or two poorly placed. I mean there are none; zero. You will get half way through a mission and die and restart over and over again at the beginning. This is just absurd and completely unfair. If the game had fair checkpoints I could overlook everything else, but that one major issue nearly ruins the game.

I also don’t like how long this game is. With the difficulty and poor mechanics in place you just want it to end. Be it the hair tearing racing missions, hover board missions, or the nearly unbeatable timed missions. I don’t think I can remember a game harder than maybe Demons’ Souls, but that game was at least understandable as to why it was hard. It was meant to be that way. Jak II is not.

I really wanted to love this game but I just can’t. Even with the somewhat interesting Saturday morning cartoon type story I just hated this game. I will never play it again and wouldn’t wish my worst enemy to sit through this. Jak II has a great AAA feel, but a low budget bargain bin gameplay aesthetic. The game also looks good on the Vita, but like Jak and Daxter, the frame rate drops to single digits quite often and chugs. Either the game is pushing the Vita too hard or it’s just poorly optimized. Even without that issue the game is just terrible.

Spider-Man Unlimited

3e465238-c987-4bdb-8dc5-3d7205c654deDeveloper: Gameloft8.0

Release Date: 9/10/2014

MSRP: Free



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The Good: Great graphics and action, lots of Spider-Men to collect, responsive controls

The Bad: Some micro transaction walls are annoying, not really much of a story here, seeing the same starting area over and over gets old

Gameloft has been getting into the free-to-play business lately and they seem to be doing a decent job. While there is never a 100% fair free-to-play game, Spider-Man Unlimited at least tries to do something new with the tired endless runner genre.


I hate to say this, but there’s kind of a pointless story here and with it being a comic story it should be decent. With that said there are at least a lot different Spider-Man variations so fans will be happy. Like any endless runner there are power-ups you can use with in-game currency called Vials. The more rare currency are ISO-8 cyrstals. These are used to resume where you died or buy the better Spider-Men.

The level has three lanes you can swipe to. Jumping, ducking, and even web-swinging are all involved here to beat down enemies and avoid obstacles. The game actually has a lot of action and a lot going on on-screen for an endless runner. A new addition to the genre (that I’m aware of anyways) is the ability to use the accelerometer every so often when Spidey does a free fall or runs up the side of a building. While it’s not much, it adds something that keeps you on your toes and mixes things up.


There isn’t just and endless mode. There is a “story mode” that has Spidey taking down the six goblins wreaking havoc on Manhattan. These areas are short but a little tougher than just the endless part. Now for the biggest issue with this game. The levels are repetitive. You will see the same starting area over and over until your eyes bleed. It really gets old fast. I wish the levels and areas were randomly mixed up, but if you play in short bursts this may not be as big of an issue for you.

With that said there is a stamina element added. You can play 5 times before you have to wait 10 minutes for your stamina to recharge. Honestly, this doesn’t bother me because by the time I use the 5 lives I’m pretty much done for a while anyways. Some people like plugging away at these games for hours so they will have to pay for more stamina for an instant recharge.


At the end of the day, Spider-Man Unlimited not only looks and plays good, but it kind of does free-to-play right. People who play in short bursts won’t be blocked by the micro transaction walls, but long sessions players will be furious.


Kritika: Chaos Unleashed

kritika-chaos-unleashed_iconDeveloper: Gamevil7.0

Release Date: 7/15/2014

MSRP: Free



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The Good: Fast paced combat, good controls, a lot of content, you can easily level up without paying anything

The Bad: Some areas are heavy handed in micro transactions walls, textures are ugly and could use work, FPS drops on weak connections, repetitive combat overall as well as level design

Mobile games have come a long way. Same goes for mobile MMOs or similar games. Kritika is the only mobile MMO style game where I actually enjoyed the combat and didn’t nearly fall asleep while playing. While it is free-to-play with heavy handed micro transactions; you can easily climb the levels without paying a dime.

There’s not really a story here and you really won’t care. After picking one of two available classes from the start (another is available after one character reaches level 15). Gameplay elements are slowly unlocked as you reach higher levels. Things like enhancing items, crafting, battle arenas, and various other gameplay elements will be thrown at you regularly. This helps from everything feeling stale too early on.


Once you get into the action you will actually smile. The game has lightning fast and cool looking combat. The control layout is nice for a touch screen and after a few rounds I was pulling off 200 hit combos like nothing. Of course you will slowly unlock better skills as you level up. This all may sound solid there is one huge problem that keeps this game back quite a bit.

The big issue here is backtracking and monotony. Doing the same levels on different difficulties gets tiresome fast. Thankfully the levels can be beat in less than two minutes a piece so it’s not so bad in short 30 minute bursts. Some people may not be able to stand this, but I didn’t mind it as much as I thought I would because I was leveling up pretty fast.


Like all other free-to-play games you only get what you pay for. There are treasure chests that you can open which have different items in them. The keys are earned through rewards by logging in or beating levels. Some chests can only be opened by using Karats which can only be bought with real money or slowly earned in game (almost none at all actually). Same goes for avatar items. I like dressing up my character in cool garments as much as the next person, but just one outfit can cost $20. That’s a damn rip-off.

Outside of all the usual free-to-play restraints, the enhancement and crafting system works fairly well and I like how I can take my items that are useless and merge them into my good item to raise the stats.


All in all, the graphics are fairly decent for a mobile game, but the textures could use some work. If you don’t have a strong connection you will get FPS drops quite frequently as well. The combat is solid if repetitive, but if you just play in short bursts I’m sure you won’t mind.