Coming to PS4 (version tested), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC on October 17

First released for PS2, Xbox, and Nintendo Wii back in 2006, Rogue Trooper has received a surprisingly robust cult following thanks to its bleak industrial setting and fittingly tongue-in-cheek storytelling. Now the ageing shooter has been remastered for modern consoles, with updated visuals and controls. Coming from the same 2000AD comic universe as Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper Redux is a flawed yet charming trip down memory lane.

Pre-order Rogue Trooper Redux from Amazon UK

You play as Rogue, a super-soldier created with one purpose in mind: war. Rogue is genetically superior, with his glistening abs, increased intelligence and an extreme proficiency with firearms. Unfortunately, this doesn’t prepare you or your squad mates for the hell that waits upon Nu-Earth – the main playing field of Rogue Trooper Redux. Rogue’s brethren are immediately wiped out, left with nothing but biochips that can be inserted directly into the player’s equipment for a range of shenanigans.

This is one of the core ideas that helps Rogue Trooper Redux be something other than a generic third-person shooter. Despite your squad mates not having a physical presence, they’ll still partake in silly banter and provide tips; their souls reside in assault rifles, helmets and other parts of the usual military arsenal. One of my friends – now inside my rifle – could be left by an open door, keeping an eye out for reinforcements while simultaneously picking them off as a mobile turret. It’s a shame the AI is so brain-dead that it will often stumble into the oncoming fire anyway.

Related: Upcoming PS4 Games

The opening levels of Rogue Trooper Redux have been lovingly restored for modern systems. Although clearly still an experience from 2006, both in terms of visuals and mechanics, a modern coat of paint goes a long way to making it feel at home so many years later.

Character models are sharp and detailed, while environments emit a gnarly, post-apocalyptic atmosphere that drenches nearly every scene in a palpable sense of dread. It’s also a tiny bit cheesy, with the main villain feeling like they were pulled straight from a classic B movie.

While its shooting can still feel archaic compared to the likes of Gears of War or Uncharted, Rebellion has made some noticeable improvements that make it more straightforward to play. The cover system has been completely revamped, making it far easier to duck behind nearby walls and hide away from enemy fire. Unfortunately, blindly firing from cover is grossly inaccurate, with Rogue seemingly incapable of aiming without his eyes firmly cemented on a target.

Starting with an assault rifle and pistol, Rogue’s repertoire of destruction grows with each passing level. I soon found myself in possession of a powerful shotgun and utterly devastating mortar launcher for wiping out heavier enemy units. These new additions are introduced at an ideal pace throughout the opening stages, ensuring that things stay fresh as the same generic baddies march toward you like brain-dead cannon fodder.

Salvage is a crafting material that can be found in each stage and on the corpses of defeated soldiers. This can be used to craft armour, upgrade weapons and add new abilities to your arsenal. It’s simplistic but effective, and made me feel like Rogue was growing stronger with each subsequent tweak I made to his load-out. Having to constantly stay on top of crafting ammo and med-kits also lends an aura of strategic urgency to the more intense firefights.

Related: Call of Duty WW2 Preview

Rogue Trooper makes some admirable attempts at stealth – but, sadly, it doesn’t feel as effective as just blasting soldiers away the second I see them. Rogue moves far too slowly to make sneaking about seem like a truly viable option. It arduously interrupts the flow of an otherwise bombastic third-person shooter. One exception to this rule is turrets and alarm systems that are capable of spotting the player from afar. Taking these out without being noticed is fun, especially when emerging triumphant and completely unscathed.

The predictable flow of running and gunning is occasionally shaken up by a stationary turret section or two. Here you’ll be tasked with wiping out an oncoming tank or preventing a barrage of soldiers from storming your current position. Watching your foes comedically fly about the screen in response to gunfire is unintentionally hilarious, and never failed to crack me up. Sniping from afar results in a similar display of slapstick acrobatics that gives Rogue Trooper Redux a strange yet lovable charm.

Rogue Trooper Redux will also support online co-op for two to four troopers alongside other multiplayer options. While I didn’t have the chance to try this out extensively, this seems like a shooter that would fare well with multiple players plotting an assault on enemy strongholds. That is, if the artificial intelligence doesn’t stand there oblivious to your every move like I experienced on several occasions. 

First impressions

Despite proving innovative over a decade ago by providing the player with multiple avenues of approaching each situation, Rogue Trooper Redux simply can’t stand up against its contemporaries without falling apart at the seams.

However, it remains an entertaining third-person shooter that I’m eager to see through to completion. The visuals have been faithfully remastered in a way that helps the world of Nu-Earth feel vividly imaginative as you blast your way through dozens of Nort soldiers.

Pre-order Rogue Trooper Redux from Amazon UK

For those who played and enjoyed the original back in 2006, this is an excellent remaster with decent improvements and online modes to look forward to.


Google Pixel 2 XL hands-on: A step in the right direction

Google Pixel 2 XL price

Pricing for the Google Pixel 2 XL starts at £799 for the 64GB model and rises to £899 for the 128GB option.

Google Pixel 2 XL release date

The Google Pixel 2 XL is available to pre-order now, with a release date in November.

 

Hands-on with the Google Pixel 2 XL

Out of the two Pixel phones Google has just announced, the Pixel 2 XL comfortably feels like the more exciting option. The smaller Pixel 2 feels like the typical generational evolution. But the Pixel 2 XL actually seems like a flagship worthy of taking on the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and iPhone X.

The biggest difference between the two versions of the Pixel is the design. The Pixel 2 follows the blueprint of the original, but the Pixel 2 XL goes in a much more modern direction. Like the LG V30 and Galaxy S8, it slims down the bezel surrounding the display and pushes that panel right to the edge. It not only looks much slicker, but it gets you a bigger screen in a body that’s a similar size to the older XL.

Google has slightly updated the back of the phone too. There’s still a contrasting glass panel that covers the camera, but it’s shorter than before and I doubt the reaction to it will quite so contrasting. It also no longer covers the fingerprint sensor. Hopefully it won’t get quite so grimy as it did before.

Related: Pixel 2 vs Pixel 2 XL

The Pixel 2 XL is a good looking phone, that’s comfortably nicer than its predecessor, featuring a full-screen front and decent sounding front-firing speakers. These do, however, come at the cost of the headphone jack. You’ll either be using a USB-C dongle or a pair of Bluetooth headphones, like the excellent Bowers and Wilkins PX, with the Pixel 2 XL.

Look past the design, and there’s not a lot that separates the Pixel 2 XL from the smaller Pixel 2. There’s a Snapdragon 835 paired with 4GB RAM, plus either 64GB or 128GB of internal storage. In my short time with the phone it felt fast, but then I wouldn’t expect anything less and the real test is how it performs over an extended period of time. The first Pixels impressed in this area, so fingers crossed it’s the same here.

The bump in storage is welcome too – the older Pixel XL started with just 32GB – but the lack of a microSD card will no doubt irk many. It as at least IP67 rated for water-resistance and new pressure-sensitive sides that can be squeezed to open up Google Assistant.

The two real strengths of the original Pixel were its excellent camera and clean software, and I am hoping both of these will impress again . Google has once again layered a Pixel Launcher over the top of Android 8.0, adding in a few new tricks that’ll probably trickle down to other Android phones soon. The search bar now sits below the icons, an odd move I must say, and there’s a new calendar widget that dynamically changes to show upcoming events and weather.

Android in its purest form, as seen on these devices, is still the best way to experience it. Samsung and LG’s skins might have more tacked on features, but the smoothness and lack of bloatware make unskinned Android so much slicker.

Related: Pixel 2 deals

I have high hopes for Google Pixel XL 2’s rear camera, but I will need to spend a lot more time with it to see just how has changed. The 12-megapixel sensor now benefits from optical image stabilisation, a big addition, plus a wider f/1.7 aperture that will let more light into the snaps. There’s also a portrait mode that uses machine learning to blur the background behind the subject.

There’s a 3575 mAh battery inside, plus fast wireless charging. No wireless charging, though.

Opening impressions

The biggest thing holding back the first Pixel XL was its bland design. Thankfully, with the Pixel 2 XL that’s no longer the case. This is clearly the phone Google is hoping will go toe-to-toe with the iPhone X.


Coming to PS4 (version tested), Xbox One and PC on November 17

The rebirth of Star Wars Battlefront in 2015 was a bittersweet affair. It managed to be a rip-roaringly intense dive into the iconic sci-fi universe, but also suffered terribly at the hands of restrictive downloadable content and a segmented player base. However, DICE still did a phenomenal job, and Battlefront 2 is shaping up to be a spectacular shooter with more modes, maps and heroes for fans to enjoy.

Pre-order Star Wars Battlefront 2 from Amazon UK | Amazon.com

Unlike its predecessor, Battlefront 2 contains locations, characters and narrative strokes from every major Star Wars movie. During my time with modes from the upcoming beta I force-choked clone troopers as Darth Maul and cut down the First Order as Rey. Experiencing Battlefront 2 through three generations of trilogies is really fascinating, and even, if just a little bit, makes up for the rightfully maligned prequels.

During my few hours with DICE’s latest galactic shooter, I had a chance to experience all of the modes coming as part of its upcoming beta. They provided a solid taster of what Battlefront 2 has to offer both in terms of scale and variety. It feels as if DICE has listened intently to fan criticism, ensuring that Battlefront 2 is filled with far more variety as it truly hits the ground running.

Related: Upcoming PS4 Games

First up is Arcade mode, which has thankfully been improved significantly after an underwhelming debut in Battlefront. While you still face off against AI-controlled enemies, they feel far more threatening and capable of gunning me down than before. It makes sense, as even the coolest of Sith Lords, Darth Maul, shouldn’t be invulnerable to laser fire. Despite this, cutting down hordes of troopers with his double-edged lightsaber felt like a delightful power fantasy, reliving moments of me waving sticks around the front garden as a child.

It’s entertaining stuff, further emphasised by the inclusion of unique missions and objectives. My particular excursion was based on Naboo inside the vast Royal Palace. Choosing between either Darth Maul or a Super Battle Droid, my job is to wipe out as many clone troopers as possible within the time limit. It’s relatively simplistic but provides an ideal template for testing out characters without the threat of real-life players getting the jump on you.

Individual missions are once again rated on a three-star basis, with each subsequent round ramping up in difficulty. Racing against the clock to earn a certain score is great fun and undoubtedly made easier with a friend or two by your side. While it didn’t seem to be present in the beta, I’d love to see arcade successes translate into cosmetic upgrades to be used online. Perhaps an exclusive bit of gear to showcase my talent for mastering each mode?

I personally don’t see Battlefront 2’s arcade mode possessing any sort of meaningful longevity alongside online offerings, but it certainly has the potential to offer fun couch co-op for friends looking to tear up enemies offline. I’m also surprisingly eager to see which locations make up the rest of its missions, as there are plenty of opportunities here to not only recreate famous conflicts from the film but crossover beloved heroes in ways we’ve never seen before.

Related: Xbox One X vs PS4 Pro

The meat of Battlefront 2’s multiplayer comes in the form of Galactic Assault. These vast 20-versus-20 matches pit colossal armies of infantry and vehicles against one another as you complete a series of objectives. Playing as either Droids or Clone Troopers, you must either defend or attack the palace residing in the centre of the map. Once again taking place across Naboo, fans of The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones will immediately recognise some of the sweeping vistas on display. All of which are lovingly rendered on PS4 Pro.

While playing as Clone Troopers, my team had to slow down the incoming Multi-Troop Transport with Ion Launchers scattered across the map. Reaching these required fast reflexes and coordination as we darted between enemy fire while lobbing grenades and setting down turrets. Vehicles and heroes can be summoned by amassing a certain number of points, rewarding players for pulling off multiple kills and playing the objective. This also means that whatever your skill level, playing as heroes is never an impossibility. Building up enough points to summon forth Rey or Darth Vader is basically inevitable.

Failing to run down the enemy team’s lives in the first stage will see them storm the throne room, eventually taking charge of control points required to win the match. Galactic Assault feels like an intense game of tug-of-war. Storming Starkiller Base and the sun-drenched streets of Mos Eisley sounds like a sci-fi nerd’s dream.

Related: Call of Duty WW2 Preview

Aerial combat has also been revamped. An entire mode is dedicated to X-Wing and Tie Fighters duking it out across the final frontier. Starfighter Assault, much like Galactic, is a mode with multiple objectives at the core of its formula. The arena I played saw the Empire and Rebels fight underneath the shadow of a colossal Star Destroyer.

As a rebel, I had to eliminate enemy units before destroying the goliath starship’s shield generators. Doing so granted temporary access to the main reactor, vulnerable to a bombardment of missile fire as the Empire helplessly tried to push us back. It had far more depth than I imagined, and the assortment of ships flying about the expansive map only adds to this. Having to precariously balance the completion of the objective with dogfighting against nearby ships is excellent, even if it took me a while to master controlling each ship.

While I’m unsure Starfighter Assault shines as bright as other modes, having the opportunity to weave the Millenium Falcon through the confines of a Star Destroyer is unbelievably cool. Deftly soaring through space, firing a homing missile into a nearby enemy before plummeting toward the objective is thrilling, aided by the historic John Williams incredible score.

Just like other modes, ships are separated into an array of different classes with unique weapons, skills and abilities. They all have different roles to play on the battlefield, whether it be pushing through hostile lines or sniping them from afar. Experimentation is required to find your acquired taste, with some occupations proving easier than others. Heavy was most certainly my cup of tea during ground assaults, while the Bomber proved invaluable when skybound.

Related: Assassin’s Creed Origins Preview

Star Wars Battlefront 2

The final mode I played was Strike, a smaller scale affair where two teams compete in traditional objective-based rounds. Competing inThe Force Awakens’ Maz’s Castle, our mission was to retrieve an artefact and bring it to the extraction point. Pretty simple stuff when the opposing team isn’t hurling grenades straight at your feet. My shining moment was spawning as a rocket trooper before wiping the entire team from a distance.

Strike seems like the ideal playlist for those who prefer a more fast-paced and confined competition. A gunfight is always seconds away, with instant respawns acting as a incentive to hurl yourself into the battlefield at a moment’s notice. Players who prefer the frenetic nature of Call of Duty will definitely be drawn to this mode, while Battlefield purists may appreciate the more mediated and objective-driven components of Galactic Assault.  

DICE has confirmed that the majority of downloadable content for Battlefront 2 will be delivered in free content updates, much like the system found in Respawn Entertainment’s Titanfall 2. Given how so much content from the original game was held back as DLC, it’s hugely reassuring to see that players are set to receive frequent updates this time around. Pitched as a live service of sorts, DICE hopes to curate future content in response to fan requests and complaints following launch.

Related: Xbox One X

It’s worth noting that Battlefront 2 will contain loot boxes for in-game cosmetic items, weapons, and cards that can lend you specific abilities and power-ups in battle. From what I observed it won’t lend you an unfair advantage in battle, and packages can be purchased with in-game currency or real-world money.

Pre-order Star Wars Battlefront 2 from Amazon UK | Amazon.com

First Impressions

Star Wars Battlefront 2 is shaping up to be a significant improvement over its predecessor. By incorporating elements from all eras of Star Wars history DICE has crafted what could be one of the standout sci-fi shooters in recent memory.


What is the Anki Cozmo?

Imagine if Wall-E had tank tracks and could fit in the palm of your hand. That’s Cozmo. And you’ll love him.

From the makers of the groundbreaking Anki Overdrive racing game, Cozmo is a super-smart and utterly adorable tabletop rover who wants to play and be looked after. He also pushes the boundaries of what to expect from robotics in this price range.

Related: Best toys

Anki Cozmo – What do you get?

I’ll admit I was surprised when I unpacked Cozmo. He’s so ickle. Just like I did, you’ll probably be sceptical about how clever such a teensy robot can really be.

From front to back he’s 10cm long, then 7cm tall and 5.5cm wide. Pretty much pocketable, although you’re best off treating a delicate piece of robotics a lot more carefully. There’s a dedicated carry case available if you want to transport the little fella around.

The design is also curious, with tank tracks and a funny forklift/bulldozer attachment at the front, making him look something out of a Bob the Builder spin-off set on the moon. “Come on, team. We need to get this lunar base built before Mr Bentley arrives, but we’ve run out of ceramic tiles and Cozmo dropped my titanium nuts in the Sea of Tranquility.”

Adding to this cutesy charm is a 128 x 64-pixel screen that displays and animates Cozmo’s cartoonish eyes, as well as a motorised head that can angle up and down.

The head also houses a VGA 30fps camera, while there are sensors built into the front and underside of the body. Contacts on the bottom enable Cozmo to be placed in his supplied charging cradle, which in turn connects via USB.

But the key to much of your interactivity with your new robo-buddy is the three smart cubes that come with him. These are plastic blocks with four multicolour LEDS mounted around the edges of one side.

Then there’s the app (for Android/iOS), which is Cozmo’s control centre, from where you’ll give him a health check-up, learn how to interact with him, and unlock new skills. Rather than Bluetooth, he uses Wi-Fi to connect to your mobile device – Cozmo creates his own hotspot. This is a little annoying, as it means you need to disconnect from your internet Wi-Fi connection while using him, and it’s also a tiny bit fiddly when he requires a firmware update, so you have to jump back to your internet connection for the download.

Anki Cozmo – How fun is it to use?

With Cozmo charged and the app downloaded, it’s time to find out if your new plastic pal really is fun to be with. Well, the first bit isn’t that fun, as you need to connect to his Wi-Fi using a long passkey that appears on his screen. But that’s only the first time you use him.

The super-slick app explains that you need to place Cozmo on a clear tabletop with plenty of space. Oh, and you’re told that, although he should be smart enough to stop himself falling off the edge, you should keep an eye out in case he needs saving from a fatal dive.

I’ll admit I was besotted with the crazy little droid from the moment he came to life and those little animated eyes started glancing around. The first thing you’re asked to do is get him to recognise you, so enter your name in the app and let him look you up and down for a bit. When his facial recognition’s got you locked in, he’ll say your name in his weird Wall-E-esque voice. It’s adorable.

You can add a huge number of people to Cozmo’s memory, too. This is, however, one of the few cases where I found he stumbled. He repeatedly mistook my son and daughter for the same person, despite their three-year age gap, different gender, the fact that they don’t really look alike… Perhaps an upgrade to a more hi-res camera than just VGA is in order.

As expressive as little Cozmo is, the app is really how you communicate with him, and it also features nice, clear instructional videos for each function. Next thing on the setup agenda is to play your first game with Cozmo, which is called Quick Tap.

Quick Tap is basically a version of Snap. You need to place a cube in front of Cozmo and another next to it, in front of you. The LEDs on both cubes light up, and if their colours match, you need to tap your cube before Cozmo does. If you beat him and get better, there are more difficult levels with multiple colours on each cube. It’s surprisingly addictive, and Cozmo is pretty quick. It’s a nice touch that he also gets it wrong sometimes.

There are other games that you’ll learn to play with Cozmo, all equally fun and compelling. But he doesn’t always need telling what to do; leave him to his own devices and he’ll happily roll or stack the cubes, or start humming a familiar song. He’ll even set up a game on his own, which you’d better play with him or face his disappointment.

You’ll also have some maintenance to do. No, not like that – put your mini screwdrivers and book on advanced robotics away. You’ll just occasionally need to calibrate his lift or his tracks, by completing a sequence within the app. Cozmo’s energy also drops, so you have to ‘feed’ him by shaking a cube until it glows brightly and then placing it in front of your ravenous robot so he can have a munch.

It’s all ridiculously cute, and the character that’s been bestowed upon Cozmo is incredible. From the wonderfully animated eye expressions to the excellent noises and the way he’ll raise his lift and do a victory lap if he wins a game, it’s all beautifully done.

Eventually you’ll unlock an Explorer mode, which displays Cozmo’s vision on your mobile device while you drive him around the place. Then there’s a programming mode which enables you to set a sequence of steps for Cozmo to follow – although that kind of thing’s never as fun as you hope it’ll be.

Anki has a good track record with Overdrive for updating its app and firmware to enable more features, so I’ve no doubt Cozmo’s repertoire will expand over time.

For someone who grew up on Short Circuit, Forbidden Planet, Black Hole and every other movie with a zany robot companion, I’ve been constantly disappointed over the years by every consumer robot. Even the most expensive ones, such as Sony’s AIBO robot dog and the ZMP Nuvo, are gathering dust in my loft. Cozmo feels like a real step forward, though, despite its heavy reliance on an app.

If Sony had kept the AIBO project alive long enough to inject this much fun and character into those robot dogs, we’d all have owned one by now.

Should I buy the Anki Cozmo?

This is a seriously clever, fun robot. If you want your kids to take a break from virtual worlds on consoles and tablets, this is a fantastic compromise that will get them playing physical games that test their reactions and memory.

There are hours of play to be had here, as well as genuinely charming robotic companionship. If you don’t fall for Cozmo, you’re probably not human.

Related: Anki Overdrive: Fast & Furious Edition review

Verdict

Possibly the best robot companion so far. Certainly the most adorable.


What is the Philips EverPlay BT7900?

Like batteries, washing-up liquid and pants, you get what you pay for when it comes to buying a Bluetooth speaker.

Despite an asking price of under £100, Philips’ BT7900 is compact, lightweight and weatherproof, plus its charging cable is disguised as a wrist strap. At that price it’s almost an impulse purchase – but is it a false economy?

Related: Best Bluetooth speakers

Philips BT7900

Philips EverPlay BT7900 – Design and features

Design-wise, the EverPlay BT7900 resembles an oversized bullet, with two narrow rubber fins running perpendicular across the bottom to keep it steady. A micro-USB charging port and 3.5mm input are covered by a rubber flap at one end, while all the buttons are at the other.

For some reason, Philips has positioned them at a slight angle, perhaps to make them slightly easier to press as you reach round the side, but the fact that they’re on one end means you always have to look for the one you want, rather than finding it via feel alone.

It’s mildly inconvenient; but the functions you’ll use most often – play/pause (double press to skip a track) and volume adjustment – are likely to be controlled from your phone anyway. This is probably for the best since the rubberised buttons do feel a little cheap. The only buttons you’ll need to engage a finger for are power and Bluetooth pairing.

Turn the speaker on and you’ll hear a subtle bleep, followed swiftly by another trill to indicate it’s connected to your phone. The issue here is that it makes the same noise when you turn it off, so it can be difficult to tell what’s going on. Also, pausing the music causes the Bluetooth to disconnect after only a few minutes, so you can find yourself reconnecting it frequently – which is a pain.

Philips BT7900

There is a wrist strap. The BT7900 seems slightly too large to require a wrist strap – you’re unlikely to take it on the bus with you – but it’s really just a clever way of including a charging cable, which comes out when you squeeze the two sides of the plastic bulb together. It’s a neat solution, but one that only really does half the job, because you still need to carry the plug part with you. Still, at least you’ll always know where the cable is.

That doesn’t mean it’s only pretending to be portable, though. It’s very much a backpack speaker: it’s lightweight at just over 500g and compact enough to take with you, even if it’s just for one or two nights.

Philips describes it as ‘weatherproof’ but it’s rated at IP57. In the real world, this means that if you knock it off your sun lounger and into the pool, as long as it doesn’t go too deep and you don’t wait too long to pull it out, the speaker should survive unscathed.

Its DuraFit outer coating is a plasticky mesh that makes the BT7900 a bit of an acquired taste. Given a choice I probably wouldn’t have picked the pink version; although the turquoise one is only marginally nicer. Fortunately, there’s a black one available too.

Philips BT7900

Philips EverPlay BT7900 – Sound quality

At first listen, the BT7900 seems to lack body and excitement. Add a bit of volume, however, and its twin neodymium speakers get to work to liven things up.

This isn’t uncommon with speakers of this size, but it does mean the BT7900 sounds slightly disappointing below a certain volume. It isn’t without detail; it just lacks excitement. When the BT7900 really starts to sing, though, drums sound crisp and energetic, with impressive bass weight that doesn’t overpower the rest of the sound.

It goes loud, too, although push it too far and the sound starts to flatten, while the very highest volumes can be on the harsh side. This speaker isn’t designed to soundtrack parties – you only need to look at its dimensions to know that.

When it’s neither too loud or too quiet, the BT7900 is excellent. It sounds balanced and lifelike, with treble that’s sharp without being brittle, a well-articulated mid-range, and a good sense of space for a speaker of its size. With your back turned it’s easy to forget how small it is. When you consider it costs only £90, it’s even more impressive.

Philips BT7900

Philips claims a 30m range, which is about three times what you’d expect from most Bluetooth speakers. Perhaps in a wide-open space it would manage that. In a home, where there are doors and walls to contend with, we found it started to cut out at about half that distance. Bluetooth range isn’t something that ever really becomes a problem, so it’s hardly a deal-breaker. Just don’t expect to be able to wander off down the street with your phone in your pocket and for the tunes to continue playing.

As for battery life, a 100-hour standby time sounds impressive but it’s basically meaningless. In actual use you’ll probably get around nine hours out of  the Philips BT7900, which, unless you’re going to use it all day every day, is more than enough. Four little lights on the end indicate how much life remains, and it will take a couple of hours to fully recharge.

Philips BT7900

Should I buy the Philips BT7900?

The BT7900 costs £90, and for about the same amount of money you could also go for UE’s tougher, more in-your-face Wonderboom or Jam’s more understated Heavy Metal – but it’s very hard to look past the Philips. It’s more portable than the Jam and sounds more natural than the UE, even if it does require a couple of notches on the volume dial before it really starts to shine.

Unless you spend significantly more money, the increase in quality with slightly more expensive speakers is marginal.

Verdict

Turn it up and Philips’ BT7900 comfortably outperforms its price tag.


What is the KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker attachment?

Compatible with KitchenAid’s tilt-head and bowl-lift stand mixers, this Ice Cream Maker Attachment is a three-part accessory that turns your iconic beating and baking machine into an at-home gelateria. Keep the bowl in the freezer as recommended to churn out delicious desserts at the first sign of a sunny day, from sorbets and sherbets to ice cream and frozen yogurts.

Related: Best ice cream makers

KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker attachment – Design and Features

Practicality is the name of the game with the Ice Cream Maker attachment. Its robust, double-walled insulated bowl is all tough white plastic with a functional design. The bowl is filled with liquid that, when frozen, helps the contents to freeze evenly. Tilt-head mixer owners may puzzle at its oddly shaped perforated handles, but these allow compatibility with the bowl-lift mixers, too, since it attaches on either side. So, if you upgrade your mixer to a different style, there’s no need to replace the Ice Cream Maker, too.

A ‘dasher’ paddle sits within the bowl and is turned by a connecting drive assembly. This slides onto the motor head of the mixer; it’s double-sided to accommodate different sizes. The mixer is then operated on the lowest speed for the optimum conversion rate of freezing before the mixture can be scooped out and ‘ripened’ in the freezer for a harder consistency.

Related: Best stand mixers

KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker attachment – What is it like to use?

The instructions for fitting the Ice Cream Maker looked quite daunting, but putting it together was surprisingly simple. I was using a tilt-head mixer and sliding the drive assembly in place was. There are pointers in the instructions about how to get the best results with the Ice Cream Maker, plus recipes that require advance preparation – this is more an attachment for adventurous cooks, rather than making speedy desserts for the kids.

The bowl needs to be frozen for a minimum of 15 hours in advance, ideally at the back of a freezer. Since it’s quite bulky, I had to remove a drawer and a shelf from the freezer to fit it in.

I started by making blueberry sorbet. After processing the fruit to a smooth paste and straining to separate the liquid before chilling, I added this to a pre-made, cooled sugar syrup. The Ice Cream Maker needed to be running on a low stir speed before adding the mixture to the bowl. Chilling the juice had resulted in some gelling, so it was messy to pour it in smoothly once the paddle was turning. I left the Ice Cream Maker churning for slightly longer than the recommended 12 minutes – but, unfortunately, it remained slushy, with the mixture around the bottom and sides of the bowl more frozen. Decanting it into a container, I left it to freeze for two hours. The final sorbet was much firmer.

Next, I tried making gingerbread ice cream, a recipe that required advance cooking. Gingerbread, egg yolks, honey and sugar were added to hot whole milk to create a thick batter that was chilled overnight. The following morning, I assembled the Ice Cream Maker and again set it on a low speed. Decanting the mixture while the machine was running was messy; the consistency was too thick to pour. After about 20 minutes of churning, I removed it from the bowl. The consistency was relatively soft in the middle, like semifreddo, but completely frozen on the bottom and the sides. After overnight freezing, the ice cream was hard and could be scooped out smoothly once it had been removed from the freezer for a few minutes.

Both the dasher and drive assembly can be cleaned by hand or in the dishwasher. The bowl needed to defrost before being cleaned by hand, which delayed clean-up somewhat.

Related: Best kitchen gadgets

Should I buy the KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker attachment ?

The Ice Cream Maker is a great way for existing KitchenAid mixer owners who are keen cooks to expand their repertoires. Its recipes have been designed to encourage experimentation but may require a few attempts to achieve perfect results. Where the Ice Cream Maker excels, though, is in its robust feel, and – since it’s an open bowl – offering the ability to add fruit, nuts or chocolate chips towards the end of the churning.

Verdict

A crowd-pleaser – if you have big ideas for ice cream flavours and a freezer size to match.


What is the Philips 43PUS6262?

The 43PUS6262 is an ultra-cheap 4K LCD TV. Furthermore, it carries support for HDR – and it has a killer feature: Ambilight.

Given that the prices of 4K models are coming down pretty swiftly, TVs that enter the space now need something special to help them stand out from the crowd. For Philips this is its Ambilight mood-lighting feature. The technology is a perennial trump card for TP Vision, the company that makes Philips TVs, and it’s great to see it appearing further down the range. So if you are penny-wise, there’s a chance this model could be for you.

The model here is a 43-incher, which sells for less than £500. Stablemates comprise the step-up 50-inch 50PUS6262 for £549, 55-inch 55PUS6262 for £649, and a jumbo 65-inch 65PUS6262 for £1199.

Related: Best TVs 2017

Philips 43PUS6262 – Design and features

Cosmetically, Philips flatters to deceive. Although the set’s thin pedestal sports a gunmetal look, it’s actually lightweight plastic. The bezel is at least an exact colour match. A metallic Philips logo resides on the bottom of the screen.

Connections include a trio of HDMI inputs, all of which are HDCP 2.2-compliant, allowing you to hook-up 4K sources such as a TV box, UHD Blu-ray player and games console. There’s also component AV for legacy kit, two USB ports, optical digital audio output, Ethernet to accompany Wi-Fi, and both terrestrial and satellite tuners.

This 43-inch set has everything the savvy modern TV buyer should be looking for. It’s a connected set with streaming services and a Freeview Play tuner – and, in addition to 2160p resolution, it boasts support for HDR.

The IR remote is quite clicky, but the set has a dual-core processor and responds quickly to commands. Menu navigation is intuitive.

Related: Best 4K TV

Philips 6262

The inclusion of Freeview Play ensures all the main catch-up services are available (BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, Demand 5), as well as UKTV Play and BBC News & Sport. The overall user experience is highly polished.

Philips’ own smart hub provides an alternative window on the same catch-up apps, as well as wide number of others including Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Video and Vimeo. Netflix streams in 4K HDR, while Amazon is (currently) 4K only. There’s also support for YouTube 4K streams.

The TV is DLNA-compliant and has no problems playing back music and video files from a networked NAS. It recognised our Twonky media server and played MKV downloads without issue.

If you want 3D, though, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Philips 6262

Philips 43PUS6262 – Performance

This flat panel offers a suitably sharp UHD picture, but it’s hardly the brightest TV on the show floor. As a result, I’d advise you to manage those HDR expectations right now. It looks crisp with Freeview HD and Sky Q 4K sources.

There’s no shortage of viewing options. Picture modes include Personal, Vivid, Natural, Standard, Movie and Game. With HDR content, these change to HDR Personal, HDR Vivid, HDR Natural, HDR Movie and HDR Game. Adjustable parameters include the usual suspects – colour, contrast, sharpness and brightness – but there’s also some deeper control over contrast and motion.

Contrast looks best on the ‘Optimised for Picture’ setting. Avoid ‘Optimised for Energy’ – because this is a TV, not a light bulb.

Tweaking brings only limited results. In terms of sharpness, it isn’t possible to completely eliminate ringing around fine details. Edge enhancement is seemingly baked into the picture engine. We found the best option was a sharpness setting of 2.

Motion handling is selectable through Movie, Sports, Standard, Smooth and Personal presets.

Philips 6262

On low-cost screens such as this, processing power is principally directed at smoothing pans and eliminating judder, with a consequence that images can look a little ‘soapy’ if the application is overly aggressive. When watching films, select Off or Movies from the Motion Style menu. Sports, Smooth and Standard all introduce motion artefacts – although, oddly, Standard and Smooth exhibit more smudgy artefacts than Sports.

The set has no problem delineating 4K detail, although restricted brightness can flatten ultra-fine detail. For example, the HDR Movie mode is very dull indeed, enough to eliminate gains in perceived resolution. If you want to see fine detail, HDR Vivid or HDR Natural are better options. And, of course, there’s the viewing distance to consider. On a small screen such as this, you simply won’t benefit from UHD resolution at typical viewing distances. So pull that chair up close.

Philips 6262

Of course, offering HDR support isn’t the same as delivering solid HDR performance. This set simply isn’t bright enough to ping out spectral highlights. I measured peak HDR luminance with a 5% window at 358 nits. One consequence of running HDR10 video into such a screen is that the set can make content look surprisingly dark.

Eco fantasy Okja (Netflix, HDR) offers pretty of scope for high impact visuals. The early forest sequences with the titular super-pig reveal tremendous texture. The pig’s hide appears utterly realistic, but it isn’t dappled by sunlight with the same effectiveness as you’d see on a brighter HDR model.

Ultimately, I preferred the performance of this TV with SDR 4K content. It also looks tremendous with regular Blu-ray. Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar shines: when Matthew McConaughey attends game with his family (Chapter 3), the brightness of the day, the richness of the colours, is immediately satisfying. The sky is a scintillating blue; the pitch is green; sunlight beams.

Naturally, sound quality is largely unremarkable. There’s a variety of audio modes on offer – Personal, Original, Movie, Music, Game and News. But, to be honest, most are just a variation on ‘must get a soundbar’.

Related: Best soundbars

Philips 6262

Should I buy the Philips 43PUS6262?

If you want a brilliantly specified small-screen UHD TV for less than £500, then the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. The Philips 43PUS6262 has a great set of features, with a healthy slate of streaming services and catch-up TV, wall-splashing Ambilight and a decent picture. What’s more, you won’t need to upgrade your Blu-ray collection, because SDR HD looks fine! If you want HDR, however, you’ll want to look elsewhere, perhaps the Sony XE70 series.

Verdict

If you’re after a good 4K Ultra HD TV, this Philips TV offers ridiculously good value.


Editor’s Note: Forza Motorsport 7 arrived just ahead of the review embargo lifting, meaning we haven’t quite had enough time to review the whole experience. This is our review-in-progress, which we’ll update with a final verdict after testing more of the single player campaign and multiplayer.

Available on Xbox One (version tested) and Windows PC

Considering the Xbox One X has positioned itself as the most powerful console ever, and the place to be to see the most beautiful games, it’s surprising that we’re getting Forza Motorsport 7 a month before the hardware launches. Forza has always been a showcase game for Xbox, with every new piece of hardware using one of its titles to show off exactly what it can do. While we may not have the X, this is still the most stunning racing title ever seen on a console, and it’s only going to get prettier in November.

Buy Forza Motorsport 7 from Amazon UK | Amazon.com

It’s hard to overstate just how gorgeous Forza Motorsport 7 is. From the moment you jump into your first race, it’s hard to not be in awe of the sheer beauty of everything the game does. Wet tracks glisten as the sun kisses the tarmac, rain lashes against the windscreen, changing its trajectory depending on your speed and if your car is turning. Even your opponents’ Drivatar names reflect on your car’s bonnet. The level of detail across every track and car is staggering.

Related: Project Cars 2 vs Forza 7 vs Gran Turismo Sport

Forza 7

The new dynamic weather effects take things to a whole new level, too. The Forza series has sorely lacked proper weather effects on the current generation of Xbox consoles, but Turn 10 has made up for lost time. The track transition from glorious sunshine to torrential rain is a thing of beauty, even if it does make your drive a bit trickier.

While we may not have the 100 GB worth of 4K textures for Forza 7, the Xbox One S allows for High Dynamic Range (HDR), and it makes a huge difference to the visuals. Colours pop out so much more on a HDR-capable TV, and it’s clearly games like this that will make you that much more tempted to invest in the latest telly tech. It just gives everything that little extra shine or depth to darker shades. Driving through a tunnel on a track in daylight is jaw-dropping on the first run.

As rain gathers on the track, puddles will form off the racing line, and driving across one really does affect the handling. Whichever car you’re in will suddenly feel like it’s skating, with grip only returning to you once you get off the puddle, which could be far too late entering a corner. Thankfully, Forza’s trusty rewind button is always on-hand to save the day, as are its myriad assists to cater the experience to suit your driving expertise and style.

Related: GT Sport preview

Forza 7

This is where Forza distances itself from the ultra-sims of this world like Project Cars 2. Rather than obsessing over perfectionism, Forza does a much better job of bringing the high-end racing experience to all players, and offering steps for them to improve. Assists can now be turned on and off mid-race, which is great for those who want to test the waters with tougher race settings, especially as you get your mitts on faster cars. Mods also make a return this year, and some encourage you to drive with a certain assist on or off, offering bonus credits or XP in each race. It really is an experience that feels built for every player.

As well as mods, Turn 10 has adopted the loot crate system that other Xbox-exclusive titles like Gears of War 4 use, which can contain cars, mods and driver items of different rarities. They can only be bought with in-game currency at the time of review, with no microtransactions able to unlock additional crates. But it’s a nice system for those who enjoy the random reward element of crates.

But this is one small part of a much revamped presentation, as well as a way more interesting single player campaign. Previous Forza games quickly fell into a grind of moving from isolated race to isolated quest to unlock new cars and become eligible for new events. Forza 7 changes the script by creating a series of “championships”, six in total, each with several race series and one-off special events within.

Related: Best Racing Games

Forza 7

The best part about this is how Turn 10 has revamped the progression from one championship to the next. In Forza 5, players were awarded a medal depending on where they finished, but it wasn’t dependent on finishing first, second or third. Coming in the top three rewarded gold, third to eighth silver and below that, bronze. It was a great system that allowed players to keep driving and improving no matter where they placed on the grid. Then Forza 6 took the backwards step by reverting to top-three finishes as a requirement for progression. Turn 10 has innovated again and created the best setup yet in this latest entry.

Within each championship there are multiple mini-series, each consisting of several races. Much like a Formula One championship, points are earned over the course of each race with a winner decided at the series’ close. This ‘SP’ earned adds towards your overall championship points. Collect enough of them and you earn the trophy, as well as the ability to move on to the next championship.

This sense of progression also translates to the cars, which are divided into tiers. Buying or unlocking cars within each tier also earns points, collecting enough cars within each division will unlock the next one, which houses better cars. It means that everything you do is building towards something, be it a shiny new car, a new championship or just new free stuff to earn, which is rewarded each time you accrue enough XP to level up. Gone is the monotony of moving from race to race. Now I’m chasing the next unlock, and it’s a much better system.

Related: Project Cars 2 review

Forza 7

Early Verdict

Turn 10 once again sets the bar for visual performance on the Xbox platform. Forza Motorsport 7 is a drop-dead gorgeous game that brings sim racing to players of all skill levels. It may lack the absurd depth of the likes of Project Cars 2, but it makes up for it with accessibility and a beautiful presentation across the board. I’ve had a lot of fun with what I’ve played so far, and there’s still plenty more to go.

Buy Forza Motorsport 7 from Amazon UK | Amazon.com

For those of you picking up an Xbox One X, there’s no doubt this will be one of the must-buy games to show off your new ultra-powerful hardware.


What is the Asus ZenFone 4?

The mid-range ZenFone 4 is Asus’ latest flagship smartphone. With pricing starting at £450, it targets the same segment of the market as the stellar OnePlus 5, which to date is TrustedReviews’ recommended sub-£500 handset.

Featuring an attractive design, above-average camera and reasonably good battery life, the ZenFone 4 is Asus’ finest phone to date, and will meet 99% of people’s needs.

It’s only serious shortcomings are its lower-power CPU compared to rival OnePlus 5, and the slightly confusing menu system, the result of Asus’ ZenUI.

Related: Best smartphones

Asus ZenFone 4 – Design

 

The ZenFone 4 follows the same mixed-material strategy as the Galaxy S8 and iPhone 8, featuring a Gorilla Glass 4 front and back and metal sides.

The boxy design isn’t the most original around, and makes the ZenFone 4 look a little like the mongrel child of the Galaxy and Xperia phones – but I’m oddly fond of it.

The device feels solid in the hand and, unlike the U11, the glass isn’t terribly slippery, even when wet, which is an important factor in rainy London.

It also ticks all the right boxes when it comes to functionality. On the front you’ll find a fingerprint scanner, which although not the fastest around, works well enough, and on its bottom sit a bog-standard USB-C charging port and 3.5mm headphone jack.

The 64GB of internal storage will meet most user’s needs, and the inclusion of a microSD card makes it easy enough to add further space if required.

I’m also fairly impressed by the phone’s audio capabilities. The dual-speakers aren’t good enough for serious music listening, but they’re clear and loud enough for some Netflix action. The addition of hi-res audio and DTS Headphone:X support are also a bonus for audiophiles and serious movie fans who want to experience virtual surround sound.

My only concern about the handset stems from the use of glass. I’m not a fan of glass-backed phones for a couple of reasons. For starters, every such device I’ve tested has been a smudge magnet. This remains true of the ZenFone 4, which looked like it had been taken through a Tough Mudder run within minutes of leaving the box.

But more importantly, no matter how careful you are, Gorilla Glass is still far too easy to crack or scratch. Asus does include a case with the ZenFone, which helps mitigate the issue, but following only a week with the device, the chassis was riddled with marks and blemishes. I’m still quite unsure of how the front of the device picked up a scratch after spending an evening in my pocket.

Asus ZenFone 4 – Display

The 5.5-inch screen’s 1080p, FHD resolution matches that of the OnePlus 5. Some people may bemoan the fact that Asus didn’t take the step up to QHD, but the fact remains that for most people FHD will be more than good enough. You’ll struggle to spot individual pixels, and text and icons are universally sharp.

I was a little less impressed with the ZenFone 4’s colour calibration, however. IPS panels are never as vibrant as OLED screens and don’t display blacks as deeply. But the trade-off is cleaner whites. This isn’t the case with the ZenFone 4 out of the box, where whites suffered a noticeable reddish tinge. Colours were also a little cool for my liking.

Fortunately, both issues were easy enough to fix. Turning of the adaptive brightness dramatically improved whites and the Asus Splendid screen technology made it easy to manually adjust the ZenFone 4’s screen temperature.

The only issue I couldn’t fix was the ZenFone 4’s maximum brightness, which is a little low for my liking. Even cranked to its maximum setting, the screen wasn’t anywhere near as bright as that of the OnePlus 5. This could make it tricky to use the Asus in very bright sunlight. This is a little odd, since Asus quotes the brightness as  an impressive 600 nits max.

Asus ZenFone 4 – Software

The ZenFone runs the latest Android Nougat 7.1 software overlaid with the Asus ZenUI skin. An update to Oreo has been confirmed.

ZenUI remains a mixed bag, although the ZenFone 4 sees a significantly improved version. Starting with the positives, Asus has radically decreased the amount of bloatware. Compared to past tablets and phones I’ve tested, the number of custom apps installed here is fairly limited – and in general offer things that most people would want. Asus-specific services, such as WebStorage, are also neatly contained in a folder, making them easy to ignore and hide from the homescreen.

I’m not hugely enamoured of the changes to the UI, however. Asus has completely reworked Nougat’s settings menu, loading it with more customisation options than can easily be counted. Some, such as Splendid, or the ability to create custom audio profiles are useful, but most of the changes feel fairly pointless and detrimental to the user experience. Considering how good Nougat’s UI is out of the box UI, I can’t help but think Asus would have been better off leaving the system alone.

Asus ZenFone 4 – Performance

Under the hood you’ll find a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 (UK) and 4GB of memory. The combo doesn’t match the specs of the OnePlus 5, which features an 8-series CPU and more robust 6GB of RAM. Nevertheless, it will prove good enough for most users.

Multi-tab web browsing runs smoothly and the ZenFone 4 streamed video and music without issue. In addition, my synthetic benchmark results put it just below most of the 630-powered handsets, but woefully behind rival OnePlus 5.

More demanding processes such as 3D gaming are slower to load and run compared to the OnePlus 5, which overall feels slightly faster and slicker than the ZenFone 4. Day to day, however, the majority of folk are unlikely to encounter any performance problems.

The only issues I noticed stemmed from the ZenFone 4’s ZenUI software; not its CPU. Most applications ran smoothly, but the camera app was fairly temperamental and would on occasion freeze or crash. On a couple of occasions it even caused the entire phone to crash, forcing a hard reset.

Geekbench (left), Antutu (right)


What is the Grundig GTN38267GCW?

Grundig’s latest heat pump tumble dryer combines high-tech, energy-efficient drying with simple controls and a basic choice of programmes. It majors on practicality: the huge porthole opening and bright drum light being our favourites.

It isn’t the quietest tumble dryer we’ve tested, and – like the matching Grundig GWN59650CW washing machine – the touch controls can be a bit finicky. But the GTN38267GCW is simple to use, turns in great drying results and delivers super-low running costs.

Related: Best tumble dryers

Grundig GTN38267GCW – Design and features

Styled to match Grundig’s equally modern-looking GWN59650CW washing machine, this heat pump tumble dryer is crisp and sleek. The combination of glossy black plastic, crisp blue display and touch buttons on brushed stainless steel are classy, if something of a fingerprint magnet.

There are far fewer buttons on the tumble dryer, hinting at this machine’s ease of use. While the programme count is up there with the best at 16 in total, many of those are simply different drying levels for the same load. At this price, it’s short of non-essential, nice-to-have features – steam, for example – but it covers the basics well. The features it does have are easily accessed from the main dial and a couple of buttons.

At first sight the one thing you won’t miss is that enormous door. It opens to reveal an epic-sized porthole that’s big enough to stuff in a double duvet without having to wrestle it in. Better still, as soon as the door opens, a bright white interior light comes on. Your smalls will never get lost in the deep recesses of the capacious 8kg drum.

The front lower edge of the door frame is wide enough to encompass a large fluff filter. This simply pulls out and opens so you can de-fluff it between loads. We found fingers removed the lint from the filter gauze effectively enough, but you can clean it even more thoroughly with a damp cloth.

The lower condenser also has a fluff filter, strangely referred to as a ‘water filter’ in the manual. This is secreted behind a large flap beneath the door and has a release mechanism that looks like a set-prop from a science-fiction movie. Twist the lock and withdrawing the unit reveals a washable foam filter rather than di-lithium crystals, however.

Both this filter and the main door filter trigger cleaning lights on the fascia when in need of attention. There’s also a light to indicate that the water tank is full. The tank is located as a pull-out container behind the drawer front; it slides out easily. If the machine is cited near waste plumbing in your kitchen, you can use the plumbing kit supplied to direct the water removed from your washing straight to the drain.

The GTN38267GCW is a full sensor machine and the sizeable drum looks like it might happily take the full 8kg load claimed. It isn’t exactly bristling with extras and at £650 we’d have expected a few more frills. Arguably, though, if this machine’s performance lives up to its good size, energy promise and ease of use, it will still offer great value.

Grundig GTN38267GCW – What is it like to use?

Grundig has obviously spent much time ensuring that this machine is usable even without having read the manual. The programme choice and selection is logical using the central knob, with the programme number displayed on its own blue display.

For the main programmes, the options are limited to a timed delay start, Express Dry speed-up function and the ability to cancel the buzzer that signals the end of the drying process. Insert washing, selector programme, press start/pause – it’s as simple as that.

A marginally less vivid display counts down the time to finish the programme cycle. This display also hosts illuminated warning indicators for the filters, water tank, and child lock. A post-dry anti-creasing cycle runs for two hours automatically, flipping your clothes over every 10 minutes or so to keep them supple.

Our only gripe with the operation is the one we levelled at the matching washer: the touch controls aren’t sensitive enough. Sometimes they seem to require a light touch, at other times a firm finger press and hold for a fraction of a second. On quite a few occasions we found ourselves having to press the same button a couple of times to elicit a response.

This will cease to be a problem when you get used to the sort of touch required, but in general the buttons just aren’t as responsive as they could be. Ironically, this is more obvious against the Grundig’s overall ease of use.

Grundig GTN38267GCW – How noisy is it?

If you’re looking for a super-hushed tumble dryer then this Grundig won’t be your best bet. The energy label suggests a fairly noisy 66dB, and in our tests it came in only a little lower at around 64dB.

By modern tumble drying standards that isn’t overly quiet. In the Grundig’s defence, the noise is a smooth and constant hum. The drum rotates in a single direction at constant speed, and as such we didn’t hear any of the more unusual metallic-sounding scrapes of the heat pump.

A dedicated Cotton Night programme reduces the noise output for drying in the wee small hours ‘by up to 50%’ claims Grundig’s manual. In practice, the noise was a few decibels quieter than the standard load programmes, but not enough to make the Grundig a natural night-time bedfellow.

The noise output isn’t bad, but at £650 for the GTN38267GCW we’d have expected a little quieter.

Grundig GTN38267GCW – What programmes does it have?

While much of the tumble drying market seems to have decided to compartmentalise loads into ever more specific sectors, this Grundig is refreshingly simple. While the headline figure states 16 programmes, there are in fact only 10 different material option programmes and a basic timer-only programme.

From power-up this machine defaults to programme number 4, Cottons Cupboard Dry. This is the most energy-efficient programme, and the one on which the A+++ energy rating is based. In fact, there are four other Cottons programmes that simply vary in dryness levels from iron dry to extra dry and the reduced noise level night mode.

Synthetics also have two distinct programmes, divided into iron dry and cupboard dry. If you want your synthetics extra dry, you’re out of luck.

The specialist programmes aren’t great in number but they do cover a solid range of common materials and clothing types. Shirts, jeans, sportswear, bedding, delicates and wool are all catered for with varying maximum capacities depending on the programme. These range from a serious 4kg of sportswear to a rather more modest 1.5kg of shirts or woolly jumpers. You don’t have any control over how dry these loads will emerge from the drum, however.

You get a bedding programme designed to dry one double-sized quilt, and a 4kg mixed-materials programme slightly confusingly labelled ‘daily’. If your clothes need a quick breeze through rather than drying, the Freshen Up cycle gives the load a 10-minute tumble in cool air.

Like most eco-friendly tumblers, drying times aren’t short. The default Cotton Cupboard Dry programmes comes in at over two and a half hours, for example. If you’re happy to throw a few more watts at the issue, the Express Dry option reduces the drying time – a bit. In the case of the standard cottons programme by about 30 minutes.

Grundig GTN38267GCW – How well does it dry?

While having specific programmes for different drying levels for cottons and synthetics simplifies general operation, it’s rather limiting on the secondary cycles. With no separate iron/cupboard/extra dry option on the specialist loads, you’re pretty much stuck with what the machine dictates is the correct level of dryness. That transpired to be what we’d term ‘cupboard dry’. Not too wet and not so dry you get creases sharp enough to cut yourself.

We ran with our usual 80% of the max capacity load and the Grundig swallowed all 6.4kg of it. It was tight in the drum but it all went in. That’s more than can be said for a lot of 8kg models we’ve tested.

Using the default Cotton Cupboard Dry programme, this load took all of the originally indicated 2hrs 32mins to complete. With less than 70g of moisture remaining in the load (under 1% of dry weight), we’d class this as perfectly cupboard dry.

Rummaging through this huge load did reveal some typical anomalies associated with stuffing the drum to capacity, however. These included heavy cotton jeans feeling a little more damp than ideal for cupboard dry and some light cotton shirts taken to an extra dry/ zero percent moisture level. That meant they were more creased and trickier to iron than ‘cupboard dry’ would suggest.

Reducing the load to a rather more typical/sensible 4.5kg – which is still a huge load – saw this Grundig hit a real sweet spot for drying performance and energy efficiency. The sub 1% moisture was more consistent across the entire load and drying times were reduced. A great result.

We washed the same load again, spun in a 1400rpm spin machine, and repeated the drying on the Grundig’s Cotton Iron Dry cycle. The load was complete in under two hours but the results were still too damp in our opinion. The load had retained nearly 500g of moisture. While that made it easy to iron, the act of ironing didn’t serve to complete the drying process for heavier material garments such as jeans.

The same 4.5kg load on the Cottons Extra Dry programme delivered a perfect 0% moisture result in about 2hrs 45mins. The Express Dry function did as promised and reduced most full-load drying times by about 30 minutes. The end drying results and energy were similar. For full loads then you’d question why there would be a longer cycle in the first place? Still, since 30 minutes is hardly a huge saving on cycles up to three hours anyway, it’s probably a moot point.

The upshot of our tests is that this Grundig delivers some very good Cupboard Dry and Extra Dry results, even if its Iron Dry Cottons programme left the washing a little damper than ideal.

Grundig GTN38267GCW – How much will it cost to run?

Buying a heat pump tumble dryer alone doesn’t ensure that your drying costs will be slashed. There are a lot of poorly implemented heat pump designs out there that barely improve on the energy efficiency of a traditional heater element design. Not so with this superbly efficient Grundig GTN38267GCW.

More than living up to its A+++ billing on the Cotton Cupboard Dry default programme, it used an extremely frugal 0.65kWh of energy to dry our 4.5kg load to perfection. Better still, it used just a handful of watts more to complete the full 6.4kg load, even if the drying results through that load were a little more variable.

Looking at this another way: the smaller the load, the less energy efficient this dryer is per kilogram of washing dried. It’s therefore at its best energy-wise with larger loads. To put this into perspective, an old-school heater element tumble dryer might use three or four times that amount of energy.

If you used this machine 150 times per year at 100 full loads (80% or 6.4kg to replicate real-world use) and 50 small loads up to 3.2kg on the default Eco Cottons programme, it would use around 100kWh. At 15p/kWh, that’s just £15 a year – a spectacularly good result.

Given that regime would see 800kg of clothing dried over the course of the year, this Grundig turns in the lowest drying cost per kilogram we’ve seen. And by quite a margin too! This machine has really maximised the energy benefits of heat pump technology and done so with great drying results.

Should I but the Grundig GTN38267GCW?

Offering the lowest drying costs per kilogram of clothing we’ve yet seen, Grundig’s GTN38267GCW is a super-efficient heat pump dryer that delivers superb drying results. Operation is straightforward, nice touches include the drum light, and it even dried a genuine full load in our tests.

We don’t like the lack of user-defined drying levels for specialist loads, programmes and options are limited, and the touch control buttons can be a bit hit and miss. All that makes the £650 asking price look a little steep. Nevertheless, for basic clothes drying with the lowest tumble drying running costs currently available, the GTN38267GCW is star performer.

Related: Best washing machines

Verdict

Grundig’s GTN38267GCW mixes basic programmes and frill-free operation with great drying performance and spectacularly low energy consumption.