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03/12/2017

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This Mac-only app looks more Photoshop-like than it used to, but still has a light grey user interface and no enclosing window. Its sparse floating palettes don’t dock, but at least they don’t disappear on you like Pixelmator’s.There’s no image management. Raw images open in a pre-processing module with a fair range of controls, but there’s no Shadows/Highlights adjustment either here or in the main window, which is a big miss.Acorn is great if you’re mainly interested in adding corrections and effects to an entire image, since its adjustments and filters are highly controllable and non-destructive – click for a larger image Where Pixelmator’s effects can only be applied permanently to an image layer, Acorn’s are always applied as a layer style, meaning you can stack as many tweaks as you like and edit them freely later. Previewing is directly on the image, and you can directly alter the centre and radius of many effects. Conventional layer styles, such as drop shadows, are among the options.This is a neat way of working – in some ways better than Photoshop. One catch is that the stack can’t include filters applied to selections. You can apply these non-destructively using a duplicate layer with the selection as a mask, but Photoshop’s system of adjustment layers with their own masks is more flexible.

A bigger problem is the dearth of selection tools. The basic Magic Wand and functionally similar Instant Alpha just aren’t controllable enough, and no additional refinements are offered. You can paint on a mask, but trying to select complex areas like this feels old-fashioned.Vector shapes are confined to their own layers and there’s no way to use them as masks – online help offers a clunky workaround using blending modes to reveal a vector area. Accordingly, clipping paths aren’t supported. There’s no image slicing, and the web export options are limited and slow to preview.With a limited range of tools to help with selections, complex cutouts are time-consuming to get right – click for a larger image In other respects, editing is generally responsive, but even basic operations like using the Eraser can slow down on layers with effects applied. You can undo multiple steps, but with no History palette you’re flying blind. Although there are good distortion filters, there’s no lens correction as such, and no equivalent of Liquify or a Warp Brush.

For the consumer bamboozled by pro editing software, Acorn’s admirably straightforward approach will come as a relief. There’s no reason this couldn’t be built on with more advanced tools, but for the moment there’s too much missing for serious work.Recently on BBC Radio Five Live, a sports reporter fell silent for a few seconds during a news summary before announcing that his script was no longer scrolling. He then spent the next minute elaborating bizarrely on the only sports item he could still see on screen, a report on a Division Two football match he hadn’t seen and didn’t know anything about, between teams he’d only vaguely heard of because he’d noticed their town names while driving up the A1 last summer.Even more memorable was the occasion on BBC Radio 4 when the on-the-hour newsreader, impeccably and without missing a beat, informed listeners that she would have to stop reading the news because her computer was going to restart in order to update Windows. Just as she passed back to the main programme, we could hear the restart chime in the background.

Live public presentations at trade shows, exhibitions and conferences are the worst, though. I recently attended an IEEE event in Cyprus, during which one intellectual giant after another took to the podium to demonstrate their inability to operate a projector. These smart men and women could send me to the Moon, talk for days about photons or sketch a working model of a viable flying car on a napkin, but none of them could persuade PowerPoint to progress to the next slide.I was sorely tempted to run up to the mic like they do in medical emergencies in the movies and shout: “is there an engineer in the house?”Back to my Augmented Reality man. He wore a wacky headset mic; we wore wireless headphones. It was like a silent disco, minus the stench of teen sweat and Red Bull. The demo had practically been purpose-built for failure from the start.“Can everyone hear me OK?”, he asked. I know he asked this because I can lipread. Cue five minutes of Santa’s little helpers running around the audience, swapping out headphones, playing with volume controls, switching off and back on again and so on.“Are we OK now?” Yes, we nod. The nodding causes all our headphones to fall off and land on the floor. Batteries fall out; some headphones can’t be revived; more running for the demo elves.At last, the show begins. After a brief preamble, the presenter announces he will show us a demo of AR in action, triggered on his iPad. This involves having to pull the plugs from his laptop, laboriously change their various adapters and replug them into his tablet.

We can see the camera view from his tablet. Then we can’t. Then we can. Oh, it’s gone again. It is like a Blake Edwards comedy: the plasma display behind him appears fine while he is looking at it but mischievously goes blank every time he turns away.Despite this, he insists on swapping all the connections between his laptop and iPad several times during the demo, with accompanying fiddling, dropping of cables onto the floor, loose connections and, worst of all, delivering a running commentary of what we can already see he is doing.For a while, he is unaware that we are being treated to the sight of his iPad’s desktop wallpaper. It’s a bit indistinct, but I’m guessing he was either recently married or is a bridl cross-dresser.One of the main advantages of Nvidia’s latest 900 series GPUs is increased power-efficiency. That has enabled Gigabyte to cram an SLI rig containing two GTX 970M graphics cards into its new Aorus X7 Pro, while still keeping the laptop down to a relatively slim 23mm thick and a weight of 3.1kg.The rest of the laptop is pretty high-spec too, with an Intel 2.5GHz quad-core Core i7-4780HQ with a Turboboost option that steps it up to 3.7GHz. There’s even a pair of 256GB solid-state drives configured as a RAID 0 volume for maximum performance. Top it all off with a glare-reducing 1920x1080 display and you’ve got a pretty attractive piece of gaming gear.

The PCMark 8 benchtest doesn’t really benefit from the SLI rig, so the X7 Pro doesn’t break any records there, producing scores of 4671 and 5057 in the Home and Work suites. Games performance, however, is in a different league altogether. When running Tomb Raider at 1920x1080 resolution the X7 Pro breezes to 104fps even in that game’s Ultimate mode. Performance with Batman: Arkham City isn’t quite so strong, but a score of 77fps with that game’s maximum graphics settings still puts it 15-20fps ahead of any single-GPU laptop tested here.Futuremark PCMark 8 results for Home and Work benchmarks - check out that 'Casual Gaming' frame rate There are some downsides, though – not least of which is the £1999 price tag. Battery life is also poor, managing barely 105 minutes even in power-saving mode. It’s pretty noisy too, with the cooling fans clearly audible during some of our heavier benchmarking tests, so a set of headphones will come in handy when you really want to crank up the frame rates to max.Lenovo’s Y70 is more of an all-round entertainment laptop than a full-on gaming beast, but it manages to provide capable gaming performance while still giving you 5p change from £1000. It’s smartly designed, measuring a relatively sleek 26mm thick and weighing 3.4kg.

sign, Lenovo has managed to squeeze a subwoofer into the base of the Y70 Touch to add a little extra sonic impact for games, movies and music. The screen is a bit of a mixed bag, though. The 1920x1080 touchscreen display is certainly bright and colourful, but its highly reflective glossy coating can be distracting at times.The sub-£1000 price tag also involves a few compromises, such as a 1TB hybrid drive equipped with only 8GB of solid-state storage. However, you do get the same Intel quad-core i7-4710HQ chip as featured on many rival models. The PCMark 8 benchmark tends to show up storage performance, and the Y70 could only manage mid-range scores of 3102 and 4166 in its Home and Work suites.Its GeForce GTX 860M graphics card isn’t going to break any records either. Even so, it still manages a playable 27fps when running Tomb Raider in Ultimate mode at 1920x1080, and stepping down just one notch to Ultra mode bumps that up to a healthy 45fps. It handles Batman: Arkham City quite well too, with 31fps on highest graphics settings, and 40fps on medium.

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