Book N Tech

Monday, July 30, 2012

Windows 8 App review: Star Chart


      I have not reviewed any Education apps yet and I am very excited to see one that rivals Google Skymap and Google Earth bringing them both into one good app. I could not try out the Augmented Reality function because I do not have a tablet yet. I will accept any people who would like to donate a Samsung Series 7 or if a Microsoft employee is reading has a Surface Pro lying around with palm block and the type cover I will gladly take one. :) Anyway this is some very cool stuff that the developer Escapist Games has made. One my third time of downloading the app it finally worked to my surprise. It is a very large app at 66MB, but that is expected for a lot of 3D models and a fully featured settings and sharing features. I was very happy to see a good feature packed app that has some decent sharing features. It is the slowest app that I own, and I am not giving it a free pass because it looks nice. There has to be ways to make the app faster on any machine or else it ruins the experience on all machines. If it can run on the Ipad smoothly than by golly they can make it run on Atom tablets!


     I was very disappointed to find an app that takes from 7 - 10 seconds to load. This is totally unacceptable. When it does load the app gets a big quicker, and loads up fast enough. Snapped view is nice and when you click on a star a cool sidebar pops up talking about where it is located, what it is, and has a handy zoom feature to see it up close. Looking at the planets is a lot like Google Earth, but some of the roving features and flight simulators is not here. When you exit the app and come back to it that is where the in app lag begins. Or if you are running other tasks it will take even longer to open the app, and going through settings and charms takes forever. Still if you have a good computer or if they update the app to run on slower hardware better than we may see some better performance. 


     I rarely go into design details on apps because they usually are the same and boring. This has some metro design aesthetics, but it feels like you are actually in the sky. It is not very hard for me to visualize what it would look like for the Augmented Reality mode. Simply you would hold the app to the sky and the e-compass and GPS sensors inside would determine which part of the sky you are looking at and display all of the stars on the map. It works like Google Sky and adding Google Earth modeled stars. The app is very pure and feels distraction free. It also shows you all of the constellations based on how they were modeled in the 15th century which is really cool. The entire catalog of stars is over 120,000 and even has a Search function baked in which is great for finding stars, galaxies, and planets if you have the name or Messier number. It updates in real time and features a night mode which essentially turns everything red. This is an excellently designed app and I would highly recommend schools utilizing this app. Sharing to Wordpress, journal by lifescribe, evernote, e-mail, and Quick Note. It also features a time lapse function that lets you go forward and backward seeing what the sky would look like. This app maintains a good score only because of the high quality design effort that was put into it. 


     HD star models and a beautifully designed app is very hard to give a bad grade. But the lagginess of the app can't be missed which is why it scores 4 out of 5. Check out the slideshow below!!
Rating// 4 out of 5