Monthly Archives: June 2015

PayPal rewords user agreement after robocall criticism

Paypal has announced that it is clearing up the wording in user agreement after being called out the FCC for illegal practices violating consumers privacy with the potential for invasive robocalls. Users worried that the because the text in the user agreement indicated they would be subjected to robocalls, that PayPal could be selling the personal data to external call lists. The previous language made it seem as though PayPal was violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

The FCC sent a stern warning to PayPal on June 11th, detailing how PayPal could be violating the law. The FCC drove the point home by reminding PayPal that it along with any service providers or affiliates could be fined up to $16,000 per text message or call.

A contentious point of the earlier version of the user agreement was theat there was no way for users to opt out of receiving auto-dialed calls. The agreement was worded as though if users failed to give permission to receive robocalls and autotexts, they would forfeit their right to use PayPal entirely.

PayPal uses its updated language to clarify three main points about the potential robocalls. According to section (1.10) of the user agreement, PayPal primarily uses auto-dialing and auto-texts to:

Help detect, investigate and protect our customers from fraud

Provide notices to our customers regarding their accounts or account activity

Collect a debt owed to us

This isn’t the first time PayPal has landed in hot water over its shady practices. PayPal Credit’s deceptive bill collecting practices let to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) forcing PayPal to pay $25 million in fines and consumer refunds.

PayPal will be sending customers an email notifying them of the new user agreement. Users should also be able to opt out of the calls. As the new agreement was crafted hand in hand with the FCC, PayPal should be in the clear, going forward.


Microsoft has just improved the Oculus Rift’s lenses

At E3 earlier this month it became apparent that Microsoft andOculus have developed quite the buddy-buddy relationship, with the latter’s Rift VR headset being compatible with both the Xbox Oneand Windows 10. Since the companies are good friends now, Oculus shouldn’t take offense that Microsoft has developed a better lens for the Rift, offering a sharper image and less chromatic aberration. The design comes from the Microsoft Research group, and offers a decent improvement over the Oculus Rift DK2.

Microsoft has even shared the design via a downloadable CAD file, but know in advance that things will get pricey. The lens can be purchased from Edmund Optics, and the housing can be 3D-printed, however Microsoft suggests the printer be an Objet Eden 260 3D, something that is much more high-end than the usual hobbyist hardware. Also, the lenses need to have a “visible light (VIS) antireflection coating.” This brings the price up to roughly $200 per eye.

Microsoft may have just one-upped Oculus Rift with better lenses

If you can get past all that, Microsoft says its new lens design has a field of view that is slightly smaller than the default Rift hardware, but “is sharper across the field and has far less chromatic aberration.” You can see the improvement in image quality above.

Seeing as how the Oculus Rift DK2 is priced at $350, it makes sense that they would have to skip on luxuries like anti-reflection coating. However, the recently announced consumer version of the headset promises “custom optics,” which we can only hope will reduce lens distortion.


LG introduces performance boosting hexagonal smartwatch batteries

LG Chem, a branch of LG, has its sights on moving up the ranks of the small-battery market which feeds the smartwatch and wearables industry. The company already claims to have the number one spot in the medium to large-sized battery market. It hopes to top the competition by releasing an innovative, hexagonal battery for smartwatches with circular faces such as the Moto 360 and LG’s own G Watch R and Watch Urbane.

Before now, rectangular or square batteries were used in circular smartwatches. This left a substantial amount of un-utilized space. In the realm of wearables where the devices are so tiny, performance depends upon making the most of the limited area. Apple Watch and Pebble Time are both rectangular, but an increasing number of Android Wear smartwatches feature circular designs.

The hexagonal shape uses the space under a circular watch face much more efficiently. Its shape has more degrees of freedom than a traditional battery. This isn’t just about space, the new design increases battery capacity by up to 25%. LG hopes it will add an additional four hours of battery life to smartwatches.

The hexagon-shaped battery is part of LG Chem’s “free form battery” business that uses proprietary patented tech called “stack and folding” to create small batteries in any shape. According to theElectronic Times, the method entails “injecting electrolytes after stacking anode material, separation film, and cathode material layer by layer.” Compared to the traditional “winding” method of battery manufacturing, free form batteries should provide greater performance stability and energy density.


HP goes back to school with convertibles, Chromebook

School may just be ending but it’s never too early to prepare for the next academic year, especially when it comes to purchasing a new laptop. To make things easier, or perhaps even more difficult, HP is announcing its own batch of PCs designed with students and teachers in mind. Or maybe “re-labeled” might be a better term, as the HP Spectre Pro x360 G1, the HP Pro x360 310 G2, and the HP Chromebook 11 G4 are practically minor updates or even rehashes of existing HP products.

The HP Pro x360 310 G2, for example, is an education version of the HP Pavilion x360 that was announced just last April. This 11.6-inch convertible is designed for students, or so says HP. It has the same four modes found in any HP convertible: notebook for regular usage, tablet for mobility, stand for presentations, and tent for interaction. The durable mechanical hinges ensure that it would survive the usual rough handling of students.

In terms of specs, the HP Pro x360 G2 runs on either an Intel Celeron N3050 or Intel Pentium N3700 Braswell chip. The resolution is 1366×768 HD. Supported RAM is up to 8 GB, while various storage configurations are available, including up to 256 GB of SSD or 500 GB HDD. The convertible is about 0.9 inches thick and weighs 3.3 lbs. Expected retail price starts at $449.

The HP Spectre Pro x360 G1, on the other hand, is supposedly more ideal for teachers because of its slim profile. And it has a price tag to match, since it’s practically the same HP Spectre x360 we saw earlier this year. That means a 13.3-inch Full HD screen, choice on an Intel Core i5 or i7, up to 8 GB of memory and anything between 128 and 512 GB of SSD storage. It’s 0.63-inch profile does make it seem more portable and classier than what you might be willing to spend for a student laptop. Of course, it supports the same four modes as any HP convertible.


The HP Chromebook 11 G4, as the name implies, is an update tolast year’s model. This one carries within it an Intel Celeron N2840 and up to 4 GB of RAM. The 1366×768 resolution display measures 11.6 inches. Storage is unsurprisingly a measly 16 GB. Since this is a Chromebook, focus is, of course, on the cloud and Google’s Drive storage. It is also the most affordable of the bunch, with a price tag starting at $219.


Mercedes A45 AMG bumped to 381hp

Mercedes has massaged the A45 AMG hatchback to get even more power from its 2.0L 4-cylinder engine. In fact, the 381hp output for the four-banger turbo makes the engine the most powerful 4-cylinder around. The power bump grabs the most powerful four title away from Audi (who took it from Mercedes) dethroning the Audi RS3.

Mercedes A45 AMG bumped to 381hp

The bump in power for the Mercedes doesn’t come from a simple increase in turbo boost. Mercedes revised the cams and valves along with several other tweaks to get the new power output. The nearly 400hp turbo four is mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox that has been revised.

The ratios in that transmission have been lowered to improve acceleration. Mercedes now claims that the A45 AMG can zip from a standstill to 62 mph in 4.2 seconds. The car does use AWD making it easier to put the power down.

With a sprint to 62mphg needing 4.2 seconds, it seems likely that the car could hit 60 mph in under four seconds. Buyers wanting more traction can order the car with mechanical LSD for the front differential. That diff comes in the AMG Dynamic Plus package that also includes AMG Ride Control and selectable driving modes, including a race mode. Pricing is unannounced at this time.


Hyundai missed its fuel-cell target massively, but it’s not giving up

Electric and hybrid cars may be most peoples’ first thought when it comes to green travel, but Hyundai isn’t letting underwhelming sales sour it on fuel-cells. After a year of sales, the company has sold or leased a little more than a quarter of the hydrogen-powered Tucson EV it hoped to, with just 273 cars reaching drivers since production began in 2013. Although that’s well short on its 1,000 target, Hyundai maintains that fuel-cells have more potential for the company than electric cars, though its logic may be a little skewed.

The promise, according to Kim Sae Hoon, general manager on the company’s fuel-cell engineering design team, is that competition among automakers is relatively low in comparison to all-electric EVs and gas/electric hybrids.

The designer also told the AP that designers have more flexibility in vehicle type when using hydrogen, with the technology being able to scale from small cars through to larger vehicles like buses. Refueling times, which are comparative to filling up a gas or diesel tank in a traditional car, are another advantage over even speedy charging systems such as Tesla uses in its Supercharger network.

2016 Tucson Fuel Cell

That said, Hyundai isn’t expecting anybody else to necessarily come round to its way of thinking in short order. The firm predicts it could be another decade before fuel-cell technology is more broadly accepted, with things like fueling infrastructure and the comparatively high price of cars based on the technology cited as key issues still requiring attention.

There’s no getting away from the dreary demand for the Tucson – also sold as the ix35 Fuel Cell in Europe – however, with Hyundai slashing the price in South Korea by almost a half. Even after that cut, the car is priced at the equivalent of around $76,000.

In the US, where the Tucson Fuel Cell is only leased in Southern California, it is priced at $499 per month, though there’s no opportunity for purchase after the three years is up. That figure also includes maintenance and hydrogen refueling.

According to Hyundai earlier this month, 70 residents in Southern California have leased the car, and have collectively driven in excess of 475,000 miles over the course of a year.

Toyota Mirai

In contrast, Toyota’s fuel-cell powered Mirai sedan will be offered for sale at around $57,500 when it launches in the US later this year. Government subsidies are expected to bring that down to more like $45k, or there’ll be a leasing option that matches Hyundai’s $499 per month.

Hyundai intends to spend the equivalent of $10bn on environmentally-friendly car tech over the next four years, though that will be spread across multiple types of powertrain rather than focusing on hydrogen.


Study says HUDs could make driving more dangerous

Head up displays, more commonly called HUDs, put digital images on a driver’s windshield so they can see data — speed or navigation instructions, for example — without having to take their eyes off the road. The common thought process has been that this technology makes driving safer — eyes are always forward, and devices like smartphones are tucked out of sight. A new study from the University of Toronto, however, indicates otherwise — rather than improving safety, HUDs could actually make drivers more dangerous by meddling with their attention.

The problem is that using a HUD puts two sources of data into a single visual field, and this causes the driver’s attention to be split between the two, forcing them to concentrate harder on what’s happening on the road and risk being distracted anyway when data on the display changes without warning.

In order to demonstrate this, researchers developed two tests that used visual information to assess the impact of HUDs. A visual display was presented to participants, and it showed spots ranging from one to nine. The participants had to report on the spots as they appeared.

In the second test, a square was introduced, and the participants had to keep an eye on both — the spots and, when it showed up, the square. In this case, the participants frequently failed to see the square (an average of 15 times). HUDs would prove even more distracting, as the data they display and the events on the road are far more complex.


Google Translate gets more conversational

Google Translate is notorious for spewing out either oddly worded or overly formal results, but the company says it’s getting better thanks to people’s help. Mountain View’s online translator is now more adept at figuring out informal speech — for instance, it can tell if you want to ask “Is everything alright?” when what you’ve typed in has another more literal translation, as you can see below the fold. That’s all made possible by the volunteers who spend time translating phrases and checking the quality of other people’s submissions on the Translate community website.

The company promises to incorporate more and more translations over time as its service learns each language better. Hopefully, that means locals won’t look at us funny next time we try to use it overseas.


Shazam shows you the music artists are discovering

The ability to follow your favorite music artists on Shazam isn’t new, but that feature is now getting a huge boost. Starting today, the service will let you see how entertainers are using Shazam to discover tunes, too. Because famous people — they’re just like us. With the refreshed iOS and Android apps, you’ll start seeing the option to follow hundreds of artists, including Alicia Keys, Coldplay, Enrique Iglesias, Pitbull and Shakira, and view the music any of them are identifying through Shazam. Better yet, you can listen to these songs directly from the application. Don’t expect artists to make everything they try to recognize public, though, since there is an option to keep guilty pleasures (or blunders) private.


“What we learned is that artists themselves are discovering things with Shazam,” says Chief Product Officer Daniel Danker about the company’s new feature. “We wanted to turn this [feature] into an ongoing relationship between the user and the artist.” At launch, participating artists are only able to share music content with their followers. But Danker adds that, in the future, this functionality may expand to other Shazam-ready items — like books, movie posters, magazines and more.



Samsung is launching ‘several’ more Tizen smartphones this year

It’s tempting to think of Tizen as an also-ran in the smartphone world next to powerhouses like Android and iOS, but that’s not entirely true when Samsung has sold 1 million Z1 phones in India since January. In fact, there are now signs that the Korean firm is doubling down on its partly in-house platform: Reuters sources hear that Samsung is planning to release “several” more Tizen phones later this year at a range of prices. While there aren’t more details yet, the move suggests that Samsung is confident that it can expand Tizen’s audience relatively quickly.

There’s certainly a lot of pressure to do that. Samsung has been on less-than-friendly terms with Google because of its sometimes aggressive attempts to build an ecosystemon top of Android. The more Tizen phones Samsung sells, the more it reduces its dependence on someone else’s platform for success — it can promote its own services and stand out in a market where almost everyone else is relying on Google software. You probably won’t be buying a flagship-class Tizen phone any time soon, but it’s evident that Samsung is determined to avoid Bada’s slow fade into obscurity.


iPhone 8-years on: what’s next for Apple’s flagship?

Eight years ago Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone to the world, and the world changed. Apple didn’t invent the smartphone, but they certainly started the craze. Eight years on, we’re having a look at how this quintessential smart device has evolved – where it’s been, what it’s meant to the industry, and where it’s about to go. As always, the next step is the most important for us. Once the newest phone is in your hands, it’s time for the next one. What’s left for Apple to do to the device that changed the way they did business?

The iPhone was officially approved by the FCC in May of 2007. Two and a half years before that, Steve Jobs began looking forward to the day when he’d be able to show the iPhone to the whole world, all at once. The video you’re about to see shows the keynote.

On June 29th, 2007, the iPhone was first released to the public. It was the beginning of the modern era of line-waiting and wild enthusiasm at the doors for Apple product releases. The image you see below is of SlashGear’s own Vincent Nguyen immediately after having purchased the first iPhone on opening day.


The first iPhone didn’t do a whole lot compared to what today’s models are capable of. But it didn’t matter. Compared to every other phone on the market back in 2007, the iPhone was a revolutionary piece of equipment.

Fast forward to our iPhone 3G review and you’ll find the speed of the network and the release of the first App Store being the key pieces of greatness in the release of the device.

“Fresh to the homescreen is the icon for the Apple App Store, which will eventually offer thousands of free and paid software titles that can be directly downloaded via 3G to the iPhone itself (assuming they’re under 10MB; larger apps require WiFi or a sync with iTunes).”


In our first iPhone 3GS hands-on in June of 2009 you’ll find the ability to record video with the back-facing camera (the only camera on the device).

“We’re thankful that there’s even the possibility of recording video on the iPhone 3G S in the first place, something requested ever since the original iPhone in 2007.”


The iPhone 4 was the first device that looked markedly different from its musical cousin, the iPod. Here the iPhone had flat edges, a full metal rim, and a wholly modern looking set of buttons and heft. The iPhone 4 brought the first white iPhone – marked by an at-first controversial limited run.


The iPhone 4s brought Siri. Very similar to its predecessor – with a better camera, Siri, and a few more internal feature bumps – the iPhone 4s was the first device to look so similar to its predecessor that, to the untrained eye, you might not have been able to tell the two apart.

The next big move from Apple in hardware modification came with the iPhone 5, a device with a 4-inch display. This phone was the first from Apple to break from the original “ideal” proportions of the original iPhone’s display. Slightly larger than the thumb on an average human could reach with one hand’s access only.


In the iPhone 5S we saw the release of multiple colored metals. Space Gray met Gold and silver. This device also launched the Touch ID sensor.

At the same time we saw a larger array of colors available for the 4-inch display-toting iPhone, this time called the iPhone 5C. This smaller device would be the first to replace the lowest tier (otherwise the iPhone 5) just 2-years after release instead of 3.


Apple again boosted the size of the displays with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, the biggest changes in iPhone since the 5. Bigger is better, as it were.


Now we’re looking forward to the next device, quite likely called the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. Apple’s kept with this naming scheme every other year since the launch of the iPhone 3GS, and we’ve got no reason to believe they’d do anything different this year.

In the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus you’ll very likely see Force Touch. Similar to the Apple Watch, this feature will allow much more versatile interactivity between your thumb and the iPhone’s display.

The display sizes will stay the same. The battery sizes will stay the same. Software optimizations to make better use of the batteries will almost certainly be in play.


The next iPhone will probably be available in Rose Gold.

To match your Apple Watch.

And it’ll probably come in some luxury options, like a $10,000 Apple Rose Gold Edition. Imagine the possibilities.

Have a peek at the iPhone 6s archive below and remember where this all began. In a mixed-up device that crammed an iPod, a phone, and an internet communication machine, all into one handy pocket-sized device.

Don’t forget our Apple hub as well – more iPhone, iPad, and Mac than you can shake a stick at.


Moto G 3rd gen surfaces in retail shots

We’ve seen shots of the upcoming third generation of the Moto G a few times now, but this latest leak — assuming the shots are legit — gives us our best look at them thus far. They are press images, likely the same shots we’ll be seeing show up on retailers’ websites in the near future. The same oblong rear camera design is present as well as the familiar Moto G dimple. The handset hasn’t yet been announced, but the increasing leaks and sightings hint at an upcoming launch.

Moto G 3rd gen surfaces in retail shots

The third-gen Moto G is model XT1540, and it is said to feature a 5-inch display with a 720p resolution and a 13-megapixel rear camera (a big jump over the original handset’s 5MP offering). The front-facing camera is said to be 5-megapixel, internal storage is 8GB, there’s reportedly a Snapdragon 410, 1GB of RAM, and LTE.

Motorola saw quite a bit of success with its Moto G, a solid budget handset wedged firmly between the Moto X and Moto E. It has been a solid handset since the first iteration, with the second-gen improving upon it in subtle ways — chief of which is likely the inclusion of a micro SD card slot for most users.

Motorola has not officially announced the third generation of the Moto G, but it has been cropping up increasingly, including making a brief appearance on an online retailer’s website. As always we’ll have all the details as they arrive, but until that time comes check out the timeline below!


Sony A5100 Review

Early in 2014, Sony knocked the ball out of the park with theSony A6000 compact system camera, one of the most popular models we’ve seen in years. Now, it gives that camera a younger sibling in the form of the Sony A5100, and it will clearly be hoping to repeat its success.

Although its name might suggest it to be a followup to the A5000, the 24.3-megapixel Sony A5100 actually replaces the NEX-5T, the final Sony camera to sport the now-retired NEX badge. As such, the A5100 will sit in between the existing A5000 and A6000, replacing neither, but providing an alternative to both.

Sony A5100 Review -- 3/4 front left view

Compared to the A5000, the Sony A5100 provides a significant step forward in terms of sensitivity and performance, especially in terms of autofocus. It also offers a little more resolution, a higher-res monitor that has a touchpanel overlay, and an uprated movie mode. And it’s available in only two colors, where for the A5000 you have a choice of three.

The main differences from the A6000 are that the A5100 is more affordable and less swift, lacks a viewfinder or hot shoe, and has a weaker internal flash. On the plus side, it has a smaller, lighter body, and adds a zoom lever for power-zoom lens control and the aforementioned touchpanel overlay. Interestingly, it also boasts a couple of movie features its higher-end sibling lacks! (We’ll get to those in a minute.)

Available from September 2014, the Sony A5100 is priced at US$550 body-only, a savings of US$100 over the A6000. A kit with Sony E PZ 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OSS lens is priced at US$700, again a handy US$100 less than the corresponding A6000 kit. Compared to the A5000, which ships only in kit form with the same optic, the A5100 is about US$100 more expensive — a difference that will seem quite reasonable when you consider its advantages!

Ready to pre-order? Place your order for the Sony A5100 at one of our trusted affiliates below. Your order for the A5100, or any other product from these retailers, helps support this site!

Sony A5100 Review -- rear view


A replacement for the NEX-5T, the Sony A5100 sits between the A5000 and A6000 in Sony’s lineup. In terms of design, though, it’s A5000 all the way. All controls and features are located just as they were in that camera, and although the body itself has a new finish — including a change to a leather-like texture on the hand grip — the Sony A5100 looks very, very much like the A5000.

In fact, the only notable change we spotted is that there’s now a cutout in the flash card / connectivity compartment door which provides access to the USB multi terminal without opening the whole door, to accommodate a new wired remote. Dimensions are identical, although weight has increased by a scant half-ounce (14g). And of course, the A5100 is available only in black or white, with no silver option like the A5000.

Sony A5100 Review -- left view



At the heart of the Sony A5100 is the same 24.3-megapixel, APS-C sized CMOS image sensor as in the extremely popular A6000. This new sensor is not just higher-resolution than that in the 20.1-megapixel A5000, it’s a key to many of the A5100’s feature upgrades as compared to that model, as we’ll see in a moment.

Likely saving a little cost, it seems that Sony A5100 has switched from a vibration-based dust removal system to one based solely on an antistatic coating. By contrast, the A5000 and A6000 use piezoelectric dust-removal systems that are combined with an antistatic coating, so we’d expect them to need sensor cleaning less frequently.

Sony A5100 Review -- right view

Processor and performance

As in the A5000 and A6000, the Sony A5100 pairs its image sensor with a BIONZ X-branded image processor, the current generation.

The Sony A5100 will shoot as many as 56 JPEG, 23 raw or 22 raw+JPEG frames at a rate of either three or six frames per second. By contrast, the A5000 shoots just 27 JPEG frames at a rate of 3.5 fps or below. While the A5100 still lags the 11 fps capture of the A6000 by quite some way, it’s clearly a big step forwards from the A5000 on the performance front.


The same is also true of sensitivity. The Sony A5100 provides a broad sensitivity range of ISO 100 to 25,600 equivalents for still imaging, or up to ISO 12,800 equivalent for movie capture. That’s the same range as provided by the more expensive A6000. By contrast, the A5000 is limited to ISO 16,000 for still capture, or ISO 3200 for movies. Unlike its more expensive sibling, though, Multi Frame Noise Reduction which captures multiple images and blends them to reduce noise while offering a boost in maximum ISO to 51,200 equivalent is not available on the A5100.

Hybrid autofocus

Perhaps the most important single difference between the A5000 and this camera, though, is on the autofocus front. That’s because the Sony A5100 inherits the excellent hybrid autofocus system of the A6000, intact.

As with that camera, the A5100 sports 179 phase-detection autofocus points on its image sensor, which it combines with a 25-point contrast-detection AF system to provide what Sony calls Fast Hybrid autofocus. The A5000 has only the 25-point CDAF system, with no phase-detection capability. That means you can expect significantly greater autofocus performance for your money from the A5100 — which is big news whether you’re shooting sports, or just the kids running around.

Taking advantage of the A5100’s better AF performance, it also offers an automatically-switching AF-A mode that chooses between single and continuous autofocus as needed, plus Eye AF and Lock-on AF functions as seen in the Sony A7 and A7R, and a Flexible Spot AF area function.

Video is better, too

Another important difference from the A5000 is that the Sony A5100 has significantly improved video capabilities — and not just the fact that it sports fast hybrid autofocus with tracking, although that helps. In fact, in one respect the A5100 outperforms even the A6000, boasting a feature we can’t remember having seen on any camera before: the ability to record two video file formats at once.

You might wonder why you’d want to do this, but if you stop to think about it, the idea makes a lot of sense. Although most of us want to maximize image quality at the expense of file size — so that when we get home, we can edit to our heart’s content — the huge file-sizes that we’re recording are completely useless when it comes to spontaneous, online sharing. By recording both MPEG-4 video for sharing and either XAVC S or AVCHD video for posterity, the A5100 can cater to both needs. It’s genius, really.

And yes, we did say XAVC S. The Sony A5100 is also relatively unusual in providing for the newer, less-compressed video format, which can potentially reduce artifacts in your videos at the expense of file size. You have a choice of Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel) capture at 24, 30, or 60 frames per second with 50Mbps XAVC S compression, as well as a variety of resolution / frame rate options for AVCHD and MPEG-4 capture.

One more piece of good news: The Sony A5100 will read out the full image sensor before downsampling to your output resolution in-camera, unlike most cameras which perform line-skipping prior to readout. That means less artifacts and better image quality. Also, you can control autofocus drive speed and tracking duration for movie capture, handy given the uprated autofocus system.

Sony A5100 Review -- tilting LCD

LCD monitor (but no viewfinder)

One of the key differences between the Sony A5100 and A6000 is that this camera lacks a viewfinder. If you want the experience of shooting with the camera to your eye, you’ll want to spend the extra for that model instead, but for those who’ve grown up shooting at arm’s length — or just want the smallest possible camera body — the A5100 will prove a better option.

What you do have is a 3.0-inch, flip-up LCD monitor, just as in the A5000. Unlike that camera, though, the Sony A5100 sports a Sony WhiteMagic-branded panel that supplements the red, green and blue subpixels of most LCDs with an extra, white subpixel. The four dot per pixel arrangement allows a brighter display for better visibility when outdoors, but a lower backlight level (and thus better power consumption) when indoors. It also helps boost dot count to 921,600 dots, versus the 460,800 dots of the Sony A5000. Also unlike the A5000 and A6000, the A5100’s LCD has a capacitive touch panel overlay. (The NEX-5T also has a touch panel, but it’s the less responsive resistive or pressure-sensitive type.)

Slightly less battery life

Almost certainly due to the increase in sensor resolution — and the increased processing power needed to offload more data faster than before — the Sony A5100 has slightly lesser battery life than the lower-res A5000. (Which makes the switch to a more efficient LCD even better news, as the decrease would likely have been more significant were the old design retained.)

The Sony A5100 uses the exact same NP-FW50 lithium-ion rechargeable battery packs as the A5000, perhaps not surprisingly given its near-identical body. Sony rates the A5100 as good for 400 shots on a charge, to CIPA testing standards with 50% flash usage. That’s still pretty close to the 420 shot rating of the A5000.

Sony A5100 Review -- 3/4 front right view

Internal flash

We’ve mentioned it in passing already, but like the A5000 before it, the Sony A5100 has a popup flash directly above the lens barrel. It has a guide number of four meters at ISO 100, the same as that of the A5100 and two meters lower than the built-in flash strobe of the A6000. And as did the A5000, the Sony A5100 lacks a flash hot shoe, making its internal strobe all the more important.


Still, many photographers choosing a mirrorless camera do so for their smaller size than an SLR — and if size is important, you’re likely not carrying an external strobe anyway. Given its generous ISO sensitivity range and generous range of exposure controls, the internal strobe will probably work out just fine for much of your shooting.

The Sony A5100 offers shutter speeds from 1/4,000 to 30 seconds and determines exposures with a 1,200-zone evaluative metering system that provides center-weighted and spot options, just like the A6000. And it provides all the exposure modes you’d expect at this price point, plus some features you probably wouldn’t dare hope for.

Program, priority and manual exposure are all there, alongside consumer-friendly Intelligent Auto and Superior Auto modes, plus nice scene modes. There’s also a sweep panorama function, the ability to bracket exposures across three shots, and both focus peaking and zebra functions. Of course, you can shoot in raw or JPEG file formats, and you can also customize five of the A5100’s controls to your own personal tastes.

Share and shoot through your phone

And like the A5000 before it, the Sony A5100 provides in-camera Wi-Fi wireless networking connectivity, along with Near-Field Communications for quick setup with many Android phones and tablets. (Apple’s iPhones and iPads still haven’t shown up to the party, preferring their own proprietary alternatives to NFC.)

Not only can you offload images and movies via Wi-Fi for sharing on social networks from your phone or tablet, you can also control the A5100 remotely from your smart device. And support for Sony’s PlayMemories Camera Apps — some free, others an optional, paid extra — is also available.

Of course, the usual HDMI high-definition video output and USB 2.0 High Speed data connection are also available, if you prefer to stick with a physical cable. The USB connection is also used to recharge the camera’s battery, with the provided AC-UB10 USB charger, and is compatible with Sony’s new RM-SPR1 Remote Commander wired release.


Like the A5000 and A6000 before it, the Sony A5100 stores images and movies on either Secure Digital cards, or Sony’s proprietary Memory Stick Duo cards. SD card support includes both high-capacity SDHC / SDXC cards, as well as high-speed UHS-I cards.

Basic Specifications
Full model name: Sony Alpha ILCE-A5100
Resolution: 24.30 Megapixels
Sensor size: APS-C
(23.5mm x 15.6mm)
Kit Lens: 3.13x zoom
(24-75mm eq.)
Viewfinder: No / OLED
Native ISO: 100 – 25,600
Extended ISO: 100 – 25,600
Shutter: 30 – 1/4000
Max Aperture: 3.5
Dimensions: 4.3 x 2.5 x 1.4 in.
(110 x 63 x 36 mm)
Weight: 14.1 oz (399 g)
includes batteries, kit lens
MSRP: $700
Availability: 09/2014
Manufacturer: Sony
Full specs: Sony A5100 specifications



Canon PowerShot G16 Review


Canon’s ever-popular G-series enthusiast compact cameras gets a speed boost and Wi-Fi with the PowerShot G16. The new DIGIC 6 processor provides a welcome increase to autofocusing speed and frames per second shooting. The G16 features the same fast f/1.8-2.8 lens with a 5x optical zoom as its predecessor, but it’s coupled to an upgraded 12-megapixel, 1/1.7-inch BSI CMOS sensor. Sadly, the G16 shares the same lack of an articulating LCD monitor (present in the G12), but even so that kept the camera’s design slimmer and more comfortable to use, if not ultimately pocketable.


AF speed vastly improved; Increased continuous frames per second (JPEGs at 12.5fps vs 10fps in G15); Solid build and ergonomic, comfortable feel; Excellent f/1.8-2.8 5x optical zoom lens; Advanced photographic features, including PASM dial and RAW capture; Dedicated ISO button; Customizable buttons; Excellent macro mode; 1080p/60fps Full HD video.


LCD screen not articulated; Larger design makes it not very pocketable; Optical viewfinder not very accurate; RAW burst shooting still slow; Wi-Fi is clunky to set-up & no remote shooting capabilities; No built-in GPS.


The Canon G16 is currently available for a suggested retail price of about US$500. Available in black only.


4.5 out of 5.0

Take a look at the enthusiast cameras on the market, and you could be forgiven for thinking that enthusiast photographers are a lonely bunch. Connected cameras that let you share your photos are everywhere these days; everywhere, it seems, but in the hands of enthusiasts. Otherwise-fully-featured compact cameras typically shun Wi-Fi and social networking, but with the 12.1-megapixel Canon G16, that all changes.

Canon G16 Review -- beauty shot

The latest update to Canon’s popular, enthusiast-oriented PowerShot G-series compact camera line, the Canon G16 follows in the footsteps of the existing G15. But for the first time in a G-series camera, it provides built-in Wi-Fi wireless networking, acknowledging the fact that social networks aren’t just the domain of amateurs. Enthusiasts have friends they want to share their photos with, too!

Canon G16 Review -- front view

Although it has a similar 12.1-megapixel image sensor and 5x zoom lens pairing to its predecessor, the PowerShot G16 also includes a new DIGIC 6 image processor, which allows for faster autofocusing, burst shooting, and movie capture. Other changes include a variety of new shooting modes, and reworked rear-panel controls.

And that, save for a new trim piece that spans the front of the camera, is pretty-much it for the external changes.

On paper, the Canon G16 is ever so slightly larger and heavier than was its predecessor. In-hand, the difference simply isn’t noticeable. As with the earlier camera, the body design caters to photographers used to shooting with an SLR. There are control dials front and rear, plus a dedicated exposure compensation dial on the top deck.

Canon G16 Review -- back view

On the rear panel is the same 3.0-inch, 922K-dot LCD display seen on the G15, and as in that camera, there’s no touch control here. Sadly, nor is there a return of the articulating screen seen in the earlier Canon G12. Thereis still an optical viewfinder, which will allow you to more than double your battery life if precise framing and the ability to preview the look of your images aren’t important.

In most respects the layout is very similar to that of the G15, but the PowerShot G16’s rear-panel controls have been tweaked slightly. The Shortcut button has jumped across the camera, and now sits beneath the Video button, making for quick access with a press of your thumb, not to mention better single-handed shooting. It no longer doubles as a Direct Print button, either; Canon is no longer emphasizing this feature, it seems.

At the same time, Canon has promoted ISO sensitivity control to a dedicated button, and decoupled manual focus control from the Macro button. Unfortunately, that means there’s one less free button, and something had to go. If you want to change metering modes, you’ll now need to visit the menu system.

Canon G16 Review -- top view

On the inside, as already noted, you’ll find a 12.1 megapixel, 1/1.7-inch CMOS image sensor similar to that used in the PowerShot G15, but it’s now backside-illuminated (BSI), and the Canon G16 couples this with a new DIGIC 6 image processor. The pairing merits Canon’s HS System branding — the HS stands for High Sensitivity — which should provide better high ISO noise performance. DIGIC 6 is also significantly swifter, in a number of respects.

Canon G16 Review -- bottom view

For one thing, Canon claims a 50% improvement in autofocus speed (and our lab results agree). Given that the G15 offered merely average autofocus performance, this is a welcome improvement. According to the company, with focus and exposure locked, the G16 can also shoot at an impressive rate of 12.2 frames per second for up to 5-6 frames, after which it slows to a still-fast 9.3 frames per second for around 522 frames. Of course, you’ll need a fast UHS-I branded Secure Digital card to take advantage of this performance. Even if you enable autofocus, you’ll still manage a reasonably swift 5.7 frames per second.

Canon G16 Review -- right side view

And it’s not just stills that benefit from DIGIC 6. The Canon G15 was limited to just 24 frames per second in its highest-resolution Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixel) movie mode, but the G16 manages a rate of 60 frames per second. If you preferred the film-like feel of 24 fps video, you may mourn its absence, but the optional 30 fps rate will get you close. Movies include stereo audio from an on-board microphone.

The Canon G16’s 5x optical zoom lens is unchanged from that in the G15. It still offers 35mm-equivalent focal lengths from a handy 28mm wide angle to a moderate 140mm telephoto, and has a bright maximum aperture that starts at f/1.8, and only falls to f/2.8 by the telephoto position. The bright lens is handy both for isolating your subject with depth-of-field blur, and when shooting in low-light conditions. And for the latter, its optical image stabilization is also a great feature.

As with its predecessor, the Canon G16 caters to enthusiasts with not just a built-in flash strobe, but also a hot shoe for more versatile flash photography. The hot shoe is compatible with the company’s Speedlite flash strobes.

Canon has added several new shooting modes to the PowerShot G16. The Star mode offers Star Nightscape, Star Trails, and Star Time-lapse Movie options, which do pretty-much what you’d think: the first exposes for sharply-defined stars behind a landscape, the second blurs them into star trails, and the third creates a video showing star motion across the sky. A Background Defocus mode aims to supplement the lens’ depth-of-field blur — always a weak spot of small-sensor cameras compared to their large-sensor brethren, even at wide apertures — for better subject isolation. There’s also a handheld High Dynamic Range mode which takes multiple shots and boosts dynamic range; this now allows you to apply Natural, Art Bold, Art Embossed, Art Standard and Art Vivid effects to the resulting HDR image.

Canon G16 Review -- flash

For our money, the most significant change in the Canon G16 after its improved performance is the built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, however. And the G16 doesn’t just receive what consumer PowerShot cameras have had for a while now; the feature is also improved for the flagship compact. The connection process is now supposed to be simpler, with no requirement to install software on your computer or enter a security key manually. Instead, you can configure the connection directly from your smart device. In our experience, the process was not as smooth as we had hoped, but worked once the clunky setup process was completed.

Canon G16 Review -- ports

We have good news to report on the device front, too: both landscape display and tablets on the Android platform are now supported. Once connected, you can share images and videos by email or on Facebook, Flickr (a new addition), Twitter, and YouTube, although in all cases your creations will first need to transit the Canon iMAGE GATEWAY service; the camera won’t connect directly to social networks or email servers. On the plus side, you can share your images and movies even on public Wi-Fi networks. And when at home, you can also transfer images from the camera to your Wi-Fi connected computer.

And if you like the tangible, the built-in Wi-Fi connectivity will allow you to print directly on the Canon PIXMA MG7120 or MG5220 Wireless Photo All-in-One printers without the need for a cable, too.

Of course, Wi-Fi is not your only connectivity option. Both standard and high-def video connectivity are provided, courtesy of composite and Mini (Type C) HDMI outputs. And there’s the de rigeur USB 2.0 data connectivity, as well. The PowerShot G16 also provides a wired remote terminal for use with Canon’s RS-60E3 remote switch.

Images and movies are stored on Secure Digital cards, including the higher-capacity SDHC / SDXC and the higher-speed UHS-I types. Power comes from a proprietary NB-10L battery pack, and battery life with the LCD monitor enabled has increased just slightly, to 360 shots. (By way of comparison, the G15 allowed 350 frames.) Disable the LCD, and you’ll save hugely on battery life for a total of 770 shots on a charge, showing the worth of the optical viewfinder.

Canon G16 Review -- battery and card

On the plus side, the battery pack is unchanged, so if you’re upgrading from a Canon G15, you’ll be able to keep using your existing packs. The same is true of almost all the other Canon G15 accessories: your conversion lens and filter adapters, teleconverter lens, flash strobes and brackets, leather case, AC adapter kit, charger, and cables can all stay in your camera bag post-upgrade. But there’s bad news for fans of underwater photography: the new body means that the previous WP-DC48 underwater housing will no longer fit. You’ll have to buy a new WP-DC52 housing if you want to take your Canon G16 on your next diving expedition.

Basic Specifications
Full model name: Canon PowerShot G16
Resolution: 12.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/1.7 inch
(7.6mm x 5.7mm)
Kit Lens: 5.00x zoom
(28-140mm eq.)
Viewfinder: Optical / OLED
Native ISO: 80 – 12,800
Extended ISO: 80 – 12,800
Shutter: 250 – 1/4000
Max Aperture: 1.8
Dimensions: 4.3 x 3.0 x 1.6 in.
(109 x 76 x 40 mm)
Weight: 12.5 oz (355 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $500
Availability: 10/2013
Manufacturer: Canon
Full specs: Canon G16 specifications

The Canon PowerShot G16 began shipping in October 2013 for about $550 in the US market initially, but the price has since been reduced to about US$500.


Canon S120 Review — Now Shooting

The Canon S120 is here, and it seems Canon was listening to us when they made it. A followup to the Canon S110 which we reviewed in March of last year, the PowerShot S120 looks to answer at least half of our main concerns about the earlier model.

The 12.1-megapixel Canon S120 retains a pocket-friendly body very similar to that of its predecessor. As with that model, it’s aimed at enthusiasts who want a larger sensor than the typical compact, but who don’t need all the bells and whistles of a G-series camera. Changes include a new image sensor, brighter lens, faster DIGIC 6 image processor, higher-res LCD, refined Wi-Fi feature set, new battery pack, and slightly better battery life. The PowerShot S120 also has a brand new body with a dual-textured front panel, and a slightly smaller rear thumb grip.

Canon S120 review -- Front quarter view

Size and weight of the Canon S120 are increased only slightly over those of the S110. Although the rear-panel control layout is unchanged, the buttons are a bit more tightly packed in, though. The reason: a larger bezel around the LCD, which also now protrudes somewhat from the rear deck, where the S110 was smooth. That’s likely the main reason for a modest increase in depth. Two other physical changes of note: the stereo microphone and monaural speaker have both moved to the top deck, and the popup flash now has a manual release on the left side of the camera body.

Canon S120 review -- Top view

Probably the key change is the new DIGIC 6 image processor. In concert with the new backside-illuminated CMOS image sensor — which has the same size and effective resolution as in the earlier camera — the Canon S120 is now capable of shooting with focus and exposure locked for five frames at a manufacturer-specified rate of 12.1 frames per second, before slowing to 9.4 fps (in the lab, the S120 managed 11.8 fps before it slowed to 9.2). Enable autofocus, and you’ll still manage 5.5 fps, a huge improvement from the sedate 1.8 fps we measured for the S110.

And DIGIC 6 doesn’t just improve burst-shooting performance. Canon also predicts better noise performance, and a 50% increase in autofocus speed, another area in which the earlier S110 lagged the competition. Throw in a new 60 fps Full HD (1920 x 1080) movie mode where the S110 topped out at 24 fps, and the switch to DIGIC 6 looks to be huge news. (If you preferred the film-like feel of 24p video, you may mourn its loss, but there is at least still a 30p mode.)

Canon S120 review --  right side view

Canon has also updated the PowerShot S120’s 5x optical zoom lens. Although the actual and equivalent focal length range are unchanged — you’ll find everything from a generous 24mm wide angle to a modest 120mm telephoto, in 35mm-equivalents — the Canon S120’s lens is now brighter across the whole range. It’s not a night and day difference, but you should find the new f/1.8 to f/5.7 optic makes it easier to shoot in low light than did the old f/2.0 to f/5.9 lens. It’ll also be somewhat easier to isolate your subject from the background with depth-of-field blur, although this isn’t really a strong point of any small-sensor compact.

Canon S120 review --  left side view

Like its predecessor, the Canon PowerShot S120 has a 3.0-inch LCD with a capacitive touch screen. (That’s the same type used in most smartphones, and is far more sensitive than the resistive types used on some older or less expensive cameras.) However, the monitor’s dot count has doubled from 461k dots to 922k dots. That equates to approximately 640 x 480 pixels, with each pixel made up of separate red, green, and blue dots. The increase should make viewing images on the S120 a much more pleasant experience, which is good news, given that it lacks an optical viewfinder.

Canon S120 review -- Rear view

Another area which we singled out for improvement in the S110 — and in which Canon has responded — is Wi-Fi. The Canon S120 retains the wireless networking connectivity of its predecessor, but initial setup of the Wi-Fi connection has been made easier, and there’s no longer any requirement to install software on your computer. Canon’s CameraWindow app for iOS and Android devices also now supports landscape orientation, as well as Android tablets. You’ll still need to use the Canon iMAGE GATEWAY service to get your images and movies onto social networking sites, but the process should be more streamlined than it was in the past. You can also print directly via Wi-Fi to Canon’s PIXMA MG7120 or MG5220 Wireless Photo All-in-One printers.

Canon S120 review -- Front right quarter view with flash

Canon has added several new shooting modes to the PowerShot S120. The Star mode offers Star Nightscape, Star Trails, and Star Time-lapse Movie options, which do pretty-much what you’d think: the first exposes for sharply-defined stars behind a landscape, the second blurs them into star trails, and the third creates a video showing star motion across the sky.

A Background Defocus mode aims to supplement the lens’ depth-of-field blur for better subject isolation. There’s also a handheld High Dynamic Range mode which takes multiple shots and boosts dynamic range, and a Smart Auto mode that recognizes — and configures the camera for — 58 different scene types. And of course, there’s a popup flash for when you need to throw a little more light onto your subject.

Canon S120 review -- battery and SD card view

We also had concerns about battery life of the PowerShot S110, and the new Canon S120 brings an improvement in this area too, albeit a fairly modest one. Where the earlier camera could manage 200 shots on a charge, Canon claims 230 shots from the S120. Enable ECO Mode, and you should be able to stretch this to a more reasonable 300 shots. There is, however, a new NB-6LH battery pack — so if you’re upgrading from the S110 you won’t be able to use your existing batteries.

Canon S120 review -- connections view

The Canon PowerShot 120 stores images on Secure Digital cards, including the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC types, as well as the higher-speed UHS-I types. Connectivity includes standard-def composite and high-def Mini (Type C) HDMI video outputs, plus a USB 2.0 data port which also doubles as a standard-def composite A/V output.

Basic Specifications
Full model name: Canon PowerShot S120
Resolution: 12.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/1.7 inch
(7.6mm x 5.7mm)
Kit Lens: 5.00x zoom
(24-120mm eq.)
Viewfinder: No / OLED
Native ISO: 80 – 12,800
Extended ISO: 80 – 12,800
Shutter: 250 – 1/2500
Max Aperture: 1.8
Dimensions: 3.9 x 2.3 x 1.1 in.
(100 x 59 x 29 mm)
Weight: 7.7 oz (217 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $450
Availability: 10/2013
Manufacturer: Canon
Full specs: Canon S120 specifications

Available from October 2013, the Canon S120 is priced at US$450 and comes only in black.


Here’s how Google checks for lag on your Android phone

Yes, Google hates lag on smartphones as much as you do — enough so that the search giant has a robot dedicated to spotting that delay between your finger input and what happens on screen. Meet the Chrome TouchBot, an OptoFidelity-made machine that gauges the touchscreen latency on Android and Chrome OS devices.

As you can see in the clip below, the bot’s artificial digit pokes, prods and swipes the display in a series of web-based tests (which you can try yourself) that help pinpoint problems in both code and hardware. This isn’t the only gadget monitoring device lag at Google, but it could be the most important given how much the company’s software revolves around touch. Don’t be surprised if this automaton boosts the responsiveness of Mountain View’sfuture platforms.


Facebook wants to give your photo uploads a Snapchat-like flair

Facebook may be not as in tune with the teen crowd as Snapchat, but that isn’t stopping it from trying to fit in. TechCrunch has discovered that Facebook is testing an iOS photo uploader that lets you overlay Snapchat-like filters, stickers and text on pictures as you post them.

While it’s not exactly a subtle attempt at riding the coattails of a fast-risingrival, it does show that the social network has ditched writing me-too apps in favor of adding features you’re more likely to use. Whether or not you see this uploader any time soon is another matter.

Facebook regularly experiments with features, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the revamped software sees a lot of tweaks (assuming it makes the cut) before you get to try it yourself.


Formula E’s first season of electric racing comes to a close

After several months of occasionally intense competition, Formula E’s first season of all-electric racing is over. Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird has won the second race of the London ePrix, while NEXTEV TCR’s Nelson Piquet managed to do just well enough (seventh place) to win the overall driver’s title by a single point. Not that Piquet’s chief rival, Sebastien Buemi, is about to cry — he secured the team title for E.dams-Renault after winning the first London race on June 27th.

This is a watershed moment for high-profile EV motorsports, although it’s really just the start of something larger. The initial Formula E season required that everyone drive thesame car; that’s good for showcasing driver ability, but not so hot for advancing the automotive industry. The gloves will only really come off during season two, when teams can use their own motors and batteries. While it could result in a handful of manufacturers dominating the races (remember Ferrari’s Formula 1 streak?), it should also lead to technological improvements that filter down to electric cars you can buy.


Apple Music will play on Sonos speakers by the end of the year

When Apple Music showed up, one of the biggest questions was whether or not it would get at least the same level of third-party hardware support as Beats. Will you have to chuck your Sonos speakers in favor of some Apple-blessed streaming audio gear? Not at all, apparently. The team at 1 Infinite Loop says that Sonos devices will play Apple Music by the end of this year — “ASAP,” as the iPhone maker’s Ian Rogers puts it. There’s no word of compatibility other hardware, but it’s evident between this and Android supportthat Apple is more interested in having a Spotify-like ubiquity than locking you into its ecosystem.


Jaguar F-Pace teased on video

Jaguar has made no secret that it has a new crossover SUV in the world the new SUV will be called the F-Pace and it will be based on the design on the sexy C-X17 concept SUV. the official unveil for the F-Pace is coming in Frankfurt and until that official unveil all we have to go on are spy shots and a video offered up form Jaguar to show us what the crossover is all about.

We know what the concept car the F-Pace is based on looks like, but Jag is keeping the final form of the SUV a secret. As close as we have come so far to seeing what the finished SUV will look like is the heavily camouflaged version that was spied lapping the Nurburgring last week.


The video shows a bit of the design process starting with a drawing and ending up with a pair of taillights speeding around the city. The F-Pace is expected to cost around £30,000 putting it on par with other high0end crossovers like the Audi Q5, BMW X3, and others.

If it reminds a bit of the Range Rover Evoque, it is said to be based on the same JLR platform as it and the Land Rover Discovery Sport. Check out the video and see a few more details on the performance crossover for yourself.


Stormtrooper helmet bluetooth speaker goes on sale in time for ‘Force Awakens’

With the December 18th release date of Star Wars: The Force Awakens less than six months away, now is the perfect time to start rolling out the merchandising tie-ins. While not directly connected with the new movie, one item that might be of interest to music fans is this bluetooth speaker in the form of a Stormtrooper’s helmet. The speaker comes from UK-based outlet The Fowndry, known for a number of geek-related goods, and will go on sale in October.

The 5W speaker features a rechargeable 400mAh lithium battery and USB charging cable, so it doesn’t always need to be tethered to a computer or wall outlet. It is officially licensed Star Wars merch, and measures 10.5cm x 11.8cm x 12.7cm. It can connect to any smartphone, rebel or empire-based, via Bluetooth, but there’s also a 3.5mm audio-in jack.

Stormtrooper helmet bluetooth speaker goes on sale in time for 'Force Awakens'

The Stormtrooper speaker will go on sale for 40 pounds (about $63), and pre-orders can be placed now. This sounds like it might make a great Christmas gift for any wannabe soldier of the empire.

If that’s not enough, or you’d rather keep the speaker for yourself but still want to give something Star Wars-related when December rolls around, why not check out The Fowndry’s Millennium Falcon-shaped multitool? This stainless steel, pocket-sized Millennium Falcon offers up 11 tools, including screwdrivers, bottle opener, wrenches, and a wire stripper. It will ship in September and is priced at 10 pounds ($15).

Stormtrooper helmet bluetooth speaker goes on sale in time for 'Force Awakens'


Nokia’s Android future to be built by Foxconn

Nokia fell from some lofty heights when it went from being the most popular mobile phone maker in the land to having a hard time competing in the smartphone world. Ultimately, Nokia ended up in an agreement with Microsoft that prevented it from building any smartphones of its own for a time. Once that agreement with Microsoft ends, Nokia has said that it will be back to making smartphones and we have heard in the past that the smartphones will be powered by Android.

Some new tidbits about Nokia’s Android future have surfaced and word is that Foxconn will be making the Android smartphones for Nokia. That is no big surprise considering that Foxconn makes many of the popular smartphones on the market today for the companies who sell them including the Nokia N1 and the iPhone.

Word has also surfaced that the first markets to get the new Nokia Android smartphones will be India, China, and a few European nations. Nokia appears to be targeting markets where smartphones are booming in popularity but aren’t as saturated as they are in other countries. These also appear to be nations where consumers show or budget devices rather than high-end devices.

Nokia is expected to launch the global marketing campaign by the end of 2015 with official product sites popping up online by the end of the year. The deal with Microsoft ends in 2016.


Xiaomi isn’t in a hurry to brings its phones to the US

It seems that it will be some time before we see Xiaomi perform its sales and marketing magic in the US. Perhaps disappointing fans, Hugo Barra, former Google exec and now Xiaomi’s VP for its international thrust was, somewhat ironically, the bearer of sad international news. Barra hinted that, while the company is of course interested in leaving its mark in the US, it doesn’t have an aggressive schedule to do so, content to make its presence felt through accessories and toys while waiting for the US market to become ripe for the picking.

In China, Xiaomi is a mobile miracle worker. Each and every smartphone sells like pancakes thanks to a lethal combination of price tags to die for, specs to vie for, and an Internet-based ecosystem to take care of all your needs. With the Chinese market at the point of saturation, Xiaomi has set its eyes outside, expanding to its neighbors in Asia, where its magic seems to be replicated. The US, on the other hand, might prove to be a tougher nut to crack.

Barra mentions several barriers to entry in the US market, primary among which is the culture of subsidies. Most consumers still buy their smartphones from carriers, which is in stark contrast to how Xiaomi, or most Chinese OEMs for that matter, sell its wares.Huawei acknowledged this issue and has come up with its own way to overcome it. Xiaomi, for its part, doesn’t seem to be interested in taking that route.

Another sticking point is the ecosystem and pricing. Though things are changing, US consumers are still less price-obsessed than their Chinese counterparts. Xiaomi also does most of its business online, from software to customer services. Users in the US, on the other hand, rely more on phone support or service centers. Setting all those up definitely takes time.

The only sliver of hope that can be gleaned from this is that Xiaomi is still interested to make it big in the US. When it plans to do that, however, is anyone’s guess. For now, fans will have to satisfy themselves with accessories and wearables like the Mi Band.


Sony E5663 could be the Xperia Z4 Compact

It is hard to fathom Sony’s mind these days, which makes it difficult to discern its gameplay when mobile devices are involved. TheXperia Z4/Z3+ was, to put it mildly, somewhat of a disappointment. It seems, however, that the Japanese manufacturer might have a device that could offset that blunder. A certain E5663 has appeared in GFXBench’s listings and though it might be intended to launch in India, at least initially, signs point to what could possibly a noteworthy successor to the Xperia Z3 Compact pictured above.

Sony E5663 could be the Xperia Z4 Compact

To be fair, the only direct parallel we can draw from Sony’s mini flagship is the screen size. Both the Xperia Z3 Compact and this E5663 share the same 4.6-inch. But it is the combination of that handy size and the near flagship specs that makes us wonder if it is indeed the Xperia Z4 Compact.

Take for example that screen, which is noted to have a 1080p resolution. That is definitely a step up from the 720p of the Xperia Z3 Compact and, somewhat ironically, trumps the Xperia Z4 in terms of pixel density because of its smaller size. There’s also 3 GB of RAM, which is mighty plenty. 16 GB of internal storage is cutting it close, but that’s likely augmented by a microSD card. The camera’s are also quite formidable. The back one is a 20.7 megapixel shooter similar to the Xperia Z3 Compact but the front one is a very high 13 megapixel selfie cam.


All of this is counter-balanced by the CPU, which is a 1.9 GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6795. Sony was reported to have committed itself to putting MediaTek’s chips inside its low and mid range devices, which supports the theory that the E5663 is almost a flagship but falls somewhat short of becoming one. Sony’s experience with the Snapdragon 810 probably helped cement that decision to go with MediaTek as well.


This is definitely the first time we’ve heard of the possibility of Sony putting out a mini flagship, which makes the sighting all the more intriguing. Sadly, if the model number is correct, this might be a device that is limited in availability. The “63” part of the model number hints that it could be destined for India. though, if this device really is true, it definitely deserves wider coverage.


Bouncing tactical camera lets police peer safely into dangerous rooms

First responders and law enforcement officers often encounter dangerous obstacles on the job. They can’t see through walls, but a new bouncing camera can be thrown into a dangerous situation to give officers a clear understanding of where any hostages or gunmen are located.The “tactical spheres” house a six-lensed camera that can record surroundings and stitch them into a single photo which is then sent to a responding officer’s smartphone. The ball is also equipped with temperatures and carbon monoxide sensors.

Dubbed, The Explorer, this ball camera is created by Bounce Imaging which was founded by MIT alum Francisco Aguilar. He came up with the idea after learning that search and rescue teams in the 2010 Haiti earthquake were having trouble searching for survivors in the debris.

2015-06-29 1-1

The idea behind a ball-shaped camera isn’t new. Last year, we got our hands on the Panono 360 degree ball camera. With 36 separate 3MP cameras, it’s a bit more complex, and it creates enormous 108MP navigable photos, but it lacked the durability under pressure that is The Explorer’s specialty.

The Explorer aims to keep it smart and simple. Instead of using six separate cameras, the device uses a custom six-lensed camera. This allows it to pull images from all six angles at the same time and funnel them through a single processor. Aguilar says, “We had loaded the system up with all sorts of options and buttons and nifty things– but really, they just wanted a picture.”

2015-06-29 1-2

Underneath The Explorer’s thick, durable, rubber exterior is its own Wi-Fi hotspot. In the dire situations the camera ball is designed for, like abandoned warehouses or rubble in developing nations, officers shouldn’t depend on their surroundings for Wi-Fi coverage. The internal hotspot allows The Explorer to beam images directly to smartphones. In the future, Aguilar wants to incorporate his photo-stitching technology into other devices like drones.


Apple starts production of Force Touch enabled iPhones

It seems that Apple has decided to start the production of its expected new smartphones early. Insider sources have revealed that the company has just gotten the ball rolling in making the nextiPhones and have also revealed the one major feature that will set it apart from its predecessors. Confirming earlier rumors, these iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus, as they are believed to be called, will feature Apple’s fancy new Force Touch feature, bringing pressure sensitivity to a larger screen and to a larger scale of devices.

First debuting in the Apple Watch and the new MacBook’s tochpad, Force Touch basically adds an element of pressure sensitivity to those surfaces. In practice, this means that the hardware can read different levels of pressure exerted by a user’s finger and behave differently based on that, with a light touch initiating a simple click while a firmer tap doing a right-click, for example.

On a touchscreen the size of an iPhone, however, that could be taken a lot further. In early 2014, a patent filed by Apple revealed its plans to have pressure sensitive screens and this could very well be the fulfillment of those plans. One application would be to partly emulate the capabilities of pressure sensitive styluses like those from Wacom or Adonit without the need for specialized instruments or Bluetooth. It can also extend the range of available gestures to control the smartphone, varying in the degrees of pressure applied.

That said, Force Touch may be the only, if not one of the extremely few, features to differentiate this upcoming generation of iPhones from the current batch. The newer models are expected to still sport the same 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch sizes of the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. According to sources, the design of the devices will be exactly the same.

Despite the similarity in size and structure and the early start, the novelty of Force Touch touchscreen displays could still put a damper on production so an early launch of the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus is still out of the question.


iOS 9 to upgrade iTunes Match limit to 100,000 songs

As Apple Music, Apple’s new streaming audio service, is about to debut tomorrow with the launch of iOS 8.4, Senior VP Eddy Cue has answered a few question on Twitter about existing features will integrate with Music, namely iTunes Match. In its existing form, iTunes Match lets users upload up to 25,000 of their own songs that aren’t available in the company’s library to the cloud for streaming at any time. Cue has confirmed that this feature will continue to exist inApple Music, and upon iOS 9’s release this fall, the limit will be raised to 100,000 songs.

Cue made it clear that all subscriptions to Apple Music will include the feature of iTunes Match, but it just won’t be referred to by that name. Apple Music will continue to match any songs already purchased through iTunes, making them available for streaming, as well as let users upload songs that aren’t available in the Music catalog, even if they’re purchased from another source.

When Apple Music launches on June 30th, the service will users to upload up to 25,000 of their own songs, which is the same limit as iTunes Match had. Cue also tweeted that they working to have that increased to 100,000 songs when iOS 9 is released later this year.

For those who will be migrating to Apple Music from the existing Beats Music service, Cue said the transition should be painless. There will be an update to the Beats app that will help users move their playlists to Apple Music. However, it’s still unknown if those users will start Apple Music on the three-month free trial, or if they will automatically start on a paid subscription.


Audi A4 and A4 Avant pulls out all the hi-tech stops

A little over a month ago, Audi revealed its market timetable for its new generation of cars and true enough, the Audi A4 and its spacious sibling, the A4 Avant, are more than ready to hit the road. But more than just an incremental improvement over the A3, the Audi A4 represents the pinnacle of Audi’s integration of automotive technology. From virtual cockpits to intelligent driver assistance systems to gesture-based tailgate controls, the Audi A4 and A4 Avant are filled with technology that will make your driving life easier and safer while making your head spin.

To say that the Audi A4 is loaded with technology would be an understatement that it’s hard to decide where to start. So let’s start with the simplest, a feature exclusive to the A4 Avant. An optional sensor can be installed that will let owners open and close the tailgate with a swiping gesture of the foot. It may sound almost inconsequential, but it demonstrates Audi’s attention to the tiniest detail when it comes to employing technology to ease the life of its customers.


The Audi A4 is equipped with the latest in driver assistance system, most of which come as optional packages or individual add-ons. The Audi pre sense city, however, is a standard feature on both Sedan and Avant models, using a windshield-mounted front camera to scan the road ahead and, if necessary, apply the brakes to prevent collision. The Tour assistance package introduces the Adaptive Cruise Control or ACC, which uses two front radar sensors in addition to the camera to set a safe distance between cars. The City assistance package, on the other hand, uses two rear radars in assisting changing of lanes as well as warn about fast approaching vehicles. In the latter case, the system lights up the warning LED in the appropriate rear view mirror’s housing to call the driver’s attention.

Moving inside, we come across what is perhaps Audi’s greatest innovation in terms of in-vehicle infotainment systems. The optional virtual cockpit marries the latest in display, navigation, and automotive technology to deliver a seamless and safe driving experience, whether you are looking for your next turn or carefully observing your lane. The MMI infotainment system, a mainstay of Audi’s modern cars, is not to be outdone, especially when equipped with the optional MMI Navigation and MMI Touch features.

The controls are particularly interesting. The rocker switches that line up are all touch-sensitive so that when a finger merely touches it, the appropriate function is enlarged and highlighted on the LCD display. The rotary controller, which is the core control element of the MMI, features a touchpad on its top surface for input and multi-finger gestures.

With all the technology involved, you might think that it detracts from the Audi A4 as a car but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The new A4 and A4 Avant are impressive both inside and out. Although it is wider, bigger, and more spacious than ever before, Audi pulled off a manufacturing miracle and made them also lighter, up to 120 kg lighter depending on the engine. As to those engine, Audi is providing a plethora of choice, 7 in total, ranging from three TFSI and and four TDI engines, all boasting of fuel efficient, eco-friendliness, and quiet purring.


The new Audi A4 and Audi A4 Avant will be available in Germany starting Fall this year. The standard configuration is already quite competitive, starting with xenon headlights, keyless go, Bluetooth connectivity, Audi drive select, and a standard MMI 7-inch display. Keep your eyes peeled on this one as SlashGear will get a sneak preview of the cars in Ingolstadt next month.



Nissan Juke Nismo RS sets 2 wheel mile-long driving record

We usually hear and write about cars that set the record straight when it came to speed, performance, eco-friendliness, and other normal metrics, but there are just some stunts that defy odds and rationality. Take for example driving on only two wheels on the same side, something that no car was designed to do. And yet that is exactly what the Nissan Juke Nismo RS did at the Goodwood Festival Speed this weekend, setting a new world record for the fastest mile-long drive on two wheels. Without toppling over, of course.

The Juke NISMO RS is built for speed, with the a Gran Turismo class engine purring underneath the hood. But on that fateful day, it was not the raw power of the car that was put to the test. It was the quality of its build and its resilience in absurd driving conditions that gave the public reason to give applause.

Apparently, there was already a world record for the fastest driving on two wheels for a mile. That was set in 2011 by stunt driver Terry Grant. Lo and behold, the very same driver set to break his own world record, this time using a Juke Nismo RS to make the seemingly impossible possible. A drive of 2 minutes and 10 seconds, more than half a minute faster than the 2011 record.

Granted, the Goodwood track isn’t exactly the longest, given it’s only 1.16 miles. But here we’re talking about a small crossover, driving at speed and on only two wheels, navigating a course that curves and twists. That is definitely no small matter and worthy of praise and a new record.


Nikon COOLPIX P900 Review

Oh, a 30x travel zoom? That’s cute. A 50x superzoom? Hmm, quaint. A DSLR with an 800mm lens? A 1200mm lens? How’s your back? All of these zoom cameras and telephoto lenses pale in comparison to Nikon’s latest creation, as they take the all-in-one superzoom category to the next level, following closely on the heels of the recently announced P610 60x zoom camera, with the introduction of the Nikon Coolpix P900.

Indeed, the new Nikon P900 goes way beyond the standard 50-65x superzoom category with a new, massive 83x optical zoom lens. Yes, optical. This means a lens that reaches as far as 2000mm(!) in 35mm-equivalence. And if for some reason 2000mm just doesn’t cut it, the P900 offers a total maximum equivalent of a whopping 8000mm when you factor in full 4x digital zoom (or 4000mm equivalence with Nikon’s 2x Dynamic Fine Zoom)!

Nikon P900 Review -- Product Image

In all seriousness, though, having a powerful and versatile zoom capability on your camera — especially telephoto reach — is an attractive feature for many people. Long telephoto lenses and powerful zoom cameras allow you to capture a variety of subjects, such as wildlife and sports, that could otherwise be very difficult or even potentially dangerous if you had to get physically closer with a shorter lens. High-powered superzoom cameras — those with optical zoom lenses around in the 40-60x magnification have maintained a steady popularity in the marketplace with those looking for an all-in-one camera solution with a extremely versatile lens, and the new P900 is the next evolution in this popular, versatile camera category.

Nikon P900 Review -- Product Image

With a lens this powerful, reaching to never-before-seen magnifications in a compact, fixed-lens digital camera, it’s not surprising that the Nikon P900 is far from a svelte, pocketable camera. The lens is absolutely massive — especially when zoomed in to 83x — however, in a very brief hands-on with a sample unit, the camera still felt very comfortable to hold and relatively lightweight, which the specifications indicate to be just shy of two pounds (or around 900g) with battery and memory card included.

Not only does the lens provide an enormous amount of zoom range, it’s also quite bright, especially at wide angle. With a 24mm-equivalent focal length at the widest, its aperture is a bright f/2.8, which is a nice step up from the f/3.3 aperture offered at the P610’s widest, 24mm-equivalent focal length. As you zoom, though, the maximum aperture of the P900’s lens falls to rather dim f/6.5, which isn’t unexpected for such a long zoom lens in a relatively compact design. The lens configuration makes use of aspherical and ED elements, including a single Super ED element, which help reduce chromatic aberrations and other optical abnormalities.

Nikon P900 Review -- Product Image

As lenses get longer and longer, having of some form of image stabilization becomes more and more crucial. Keeping shots blur-free or even just maintaining a view on your subject at full telephoto — especially at 83x in this case — can be difficult without stabilization. Thankfully, Nikon has introduced an impressive, all-new VR system for the P900. The new Dual Detect Optical VR system, which utilizes accelerometers in the lens as well as analyzing image motion on the sensor, provides a claimed five stops* of stabilization — the highest level vibration reduction ever included in a Nikon Coolpix camera.

Behind the powerful lens, the P900 sports a 16-megapixel 1/2.3-inch type CMOS sensor. Standard ISO range starts at a base sensitivity of 100 and rises to a maximum of 1600 in scene or other automatic shooting modes. The P900 does include full PASM exposure modes for more advanced shooting, and within those modes, ISO range is increased to 3200 and 6400. There is also a special boosted Hi 1 setting for ISO 12,800, however this is reserved solely for a High ISO Monochromatic special effects mode.

Nikon P900 Review -- Product Image

Like its less expensive sibling, the P610, the new P900 is able to fire off a burst of seven still images at up to seven frames per second at full resolution. According to Nikon, shooting lag for single-shot performance is approximately 0.12 seconds at the wide-end and 0.75s at full telephoto, which makes the P900 quick and speedy to handle fast-paced shots one after another. As with Nikon’s other superzoom cameras, they keep things simple on the P900 with only JPEG image recording; no RAW support, unfortunately.

For video, the Nikon P900 offers a standard, modern set of features including Full HD recording (1920 x 1080) at 60 frames per seconds, as well as 30fps (or 50p and 25p in PAL mode). 720p resolution is also available at 60p/30p (50p/25p) as is a neat slow-motion video mode that captures at up 120 frames per second at VGA (640 x 480) resolution. Videos are recorded using the H.264 standard in an MPEG-4 container with stereo audio.

As with many of the Nikon’s recent cameras, the new P900 includes both Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity for use with Nikon’s Snapbridge smartphone companion app. The Nikon P900 allows for wireless transfer of images for quick and easy sharing or mobile post-processing, however the Snapbridge app can also be used as a wireless remote control for even more creative possibilities. (Nikon’s optional ML-L3 infrared remote is also supported.) The Coolpix P900 also includes a built-in GPS to geo-tag your photos during your travels.

The Nikon P900 is scheduled to be available in April 2015 for a estimated retail price of US$599.95 and will come in black.

Now that we’ve had an overview of the camera, let’s take a closer look at the design and physical features of the new Nikon P900…


The Nikon P900 takes style cues from existing superzoom cameras with a large, protruding lens paired with a DSLR-esque body design with fuller, extended hand-grip and a variety of external buttons and control dials. However, in the case of the P900, the lens is definitely front-and-center; taking up a huge proportion of the camera’s overall size and shape.

Nikon P900 Review -- Product Image

Starting from the top-view, you can see just how massive the lens assembly is in comparison to the rest of the camera. The lens barrel does, however, provide substantial real estate for a balanced, secure grip.

In terms of top-deck controls and dials, the P900 follows very closely to that of the new P610, with the majority of camera controls clustered around the handgrip. Out front, on the contoured handgrip, the zoom rocker lever surrounds the shutter release button, and behind that sits a function button and the on/off button. Like a DSLR, the P900 features a main command thumb dial for quick and easy settings adjustments. The mode dial, with PASM modes and an array of scene modes, presets and special effects modes, is placed next to the side of the EVF housing. And sitting on top of the EVF itself is a built-in pop-up flash as well as left and right microphones for stereo audio capture and the covering of the GPS unit. Unfortunately, like the P610, there’s no hot shoe for mounting an external flash.

Nikon P900 Review -- Product Image

Moving to the back side of the camera, again we see a very similar control layout and design to that of the P610 superzoom. The primary control is the 4-way, rotational dial cluster as well as your typical assortment of buttons, including menu, delete, and playback buttons. The camera also features a Wi-Fi shortcut button to quickly setup and connect to a smart device, a video record button — conveniently placed right next to the textured thumb-rest area — plus the display information and LCD/EVF toggle buttons.

Nikon P900 Review -- Product Image

Also on the rear of the camera is a large, 3.0-inch, 921K-dot RGBW vari-angle LCD screen complete with anti-reflective coating and 6-level brightness adjustment. The EVF also shares the same 921K-dot resolution, and includes diopter adjustment and a built-in eye/proximity sensor to automatically activate the EVF when placed up to the eye.

Nikon P900 Review -- Product Image

Along the sides of the camera, you get another view of just how dominating the lens on the P900 is. On the left side of the camera, the body itself lacks any buttons or controls, except for the pop-up flash button. However, on the left side of the lens barrel, there’s a secondary zoom toggle switch as well as “snap-back” zoom button. The side zoom toggle button helps maintain a secure grip and control camera shake while providing a convenient thumb-controlled way to zoom the lens. The snap-back zoom button helps re-frame or reacquire your subject, which can be difficult when composing a shot at long telephoto focal lengths. The snap-back button quickly zooms back out to a full wide-angle view and then snaps back to the previous focal length once you’re ready and you let go of the button.

Nikon P900 Review -- Product Image


The right side of the camera and lens is devoid of any switches or controls, except the covering for the USB and Type-D Micro HDMI ports as well as the proximity connection area for the NFC chip.

Nikon P900 Review -- Product Image

Like the right side, the front view is quite simple. The handgrip area and left front edge covered in a grippy, rubberized material for a comfortable and secure grip. On the front, in the crux of the handgrip and lens is the small self-timer lamp.

For power, the Nikon P900 shares the same rechargeable EN-EL23 lithium ion battery pack as the P610, which is CIPA-rated for this camera to provide about 360 shots per charge. The camera is also compatible with the EH-67A AC Adapter (sold separately) for tethered, constant power. For storage, the P900 uses Secure Digital flash memory cards and is compatible with SD, SDHC and SDXC cards.

Nikon P900 Review -- Product Image

Basic Specifications
Full model name: Nikon Coolpix P900
Resolution: 16.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/2.3 inch
(6.2mm x 4.6mm)
Kit Lens: 83.00x zoom
(24-2,000mm eq.)
Viewfinder: EVF / OLED
Native ISO: 100 – 6400
Extended ISO: 100 – 12,800
Shutter: 15 – 1/4000
Max Aperture: 2.8
Dimensions: 5.5 x 4.1 x 5.4 in.
(140 x 103 x 137 mm)
Weight: 31.7 oz (899 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $600
Availability: 04/2015
Manufacturer: Nikon
Full specs: Nikon P900 specifications