Monthly Archives: November 2015

Iiyama B2783QSU review : 27″ QHD Monitor With FreeSync

  • Good picture quality out of the box
  • Excellent response times
  • FreeSync support
  • Nice design features
  • Good connections
  • Refresh rate: 70 Hz is a bit low, especially for FreeSync
  • Outdated OSD
  • Contrast isn’t great

The Iiyama ProLite B2783QSU is a QHD monitor with a 2560 x 1440-pixel display, a decent finish and plenty of handy design features. The price tag is attractive too. But it’s above all the FreeSync function that’ll appeal to gamers on a budget.


  • Screen size : 27 inches
  • Panel type : TN
  • Resolution : 2560 x 1440 pixels
  • Response time : 1 ms
  • Inputs (HDMI / DVI / VGA / Component) : 1 / 1 / NC / NC
  • Other details : 2 x USB 3.0


The Iiyama ProLite B2783QSU has a 27” TN screen panel with 2560 x 1440 pixels and is compatible with AMD’s FreeSync technology for variable refresh rates when gaming. Selling for under $400/£400, this model offers excellent value for money. In fact, the only cheaper alternative is the AOC q2778Vqe, which doesn’t offer the same design features or FreeSync support. This Iiyama monitor has a height-adjustable stand with screen tilt and swivel functions, and the display can pivot into portrait mode. There are plenty of connection ports and Iiyama has even included a pair of built-in speakers.


Matte plastic casing and matte screen

Design-wise, the B2783QSU is classic Iiyama stuff. The screen is matte and has an anti-glare finish to keep reflections at bay. And, like the Prolite B2483HSU-B1 and XB2783HSU, Iiyama has kept the screen bezel as slim as possible. The design is inoffensive and will fit easily into most workstations. The casing is made from matte black plastic, which doesn’t feel amazing in quality, but it does at least hold up well over time.


Height-adjustment, tilt function, portrait mode

Like higher-end Iiyama monitors, the B2783QSU comes with plenty of mechanical features. The stand is height-adjustable over 13 cm, the screen tilts from -5° to +22°, the stand swivels by around 45° and the screen pivots into portrait mode. The switch from portrait to landscape and back is perfectly smooth with no creaking plasticky noises, which is testament to this monitor’s good build quality and finish.


Iiyama is also generous with connections, offering an HDMI port, a DVI Dual Link port and a DisplayPort 1.2 entry, which you’ll need for the FreeSync mode. There’s a headphones out port and an audio line in for inputting sound to the monitor’s pair of two-watt built-in speakers. Plus, there’s a USB hub with two USB 3.0 ports on the monitor’s left-hand edge. The cherry on the cake here is that the B2783QSU comes supplied with a DVI cable, a DisplayPort cable, an HDMI cable and an audio cable.


Out of the box, the B2783QSU guzzles 43 watts of power, but this drops to a more reasonable 24 watts with the brightness at 150 cd/m² (brightness setting 19), which works out at 119 W/m². It’s therefore not the most energy efficient monitor on the market, as some models push down under 100 W/m².

The main downside of this monitor’s design and handling is the On-Screen Display (OSD), which isn’t very well designed. There are five buttons for navigating through the menus, but their specific functions aren’t easy to understand and the menus themselves take you straight back to the 90s. It’s a far cry from Asus with its handy joystick or BenQ menus.


Adora temperature couleurs(1)
Default settings: color temperature over grey scale = 6249 K 

Msi Adora gamma
Default settings: gamma = 2.2

adora delta E

Default settings: Delta E = 2.3

Straight out of the box, picture quality isn’t half bad in the B2783QSU. The gamma is almost perfect, averaging at 2.2 and proving just a little wobbly in the white. The average color temperature works out at 6249 K, which is very close to the “ideal” value of 6500 K. While red and green are way off the mark in terms of true fidelity, the average Delta E (the difference between “perfect” colors and those displayed onscreen) works out at just 2.3. Contrast is a low, however, at 948:1, but that’s pretty typical for a TN display.

Adora temperature couleurs(1)

Manual settings: color temperature over grey scale = 5829 K 

Msi Adora gamma

Manual settings: gamma = 2.2

adora delta E

Manual settings: Delta E = 2.6


By dropping the brightness setting to 19 and switching the contrast to 85, actual screen brightness works out at 150 cd/m².This in turn makes the gamma a little less stable, but the average stays at 2.2 and color temperature drops to 5829 K. Colors are a little less accurate, with the average Delta E at 2.6. Still, the Delta E remains under three, so colors will still look perfectly rendered to the human eye. Contrast drops slightly to 921:1.

Adora temperature couleurs(1)
Calibration: color temperature over grey scale = 5985 K Msi Adora gamma
Calibration: gamma = 2.3

adora delta E

Calibration : Delta E = 2.4

Calibration with a colorimeter doesn’t improve things much, bringing the average gamma to 2.3 and the average color temperature to 5985 K. The colors do, however, get a little more accurate, with an average Delta E of 2.4.

Contrast is still disappointing, at 913:1.

RESPONSIVENESS 5/5  — 6.5 ms

This display doesn’t use a Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) function. PWM varies the brightness of the LED backlights, which some people perceive as screen flicker. In some rare cases, PWM can lead to eye strain and headaches.

With Overdrive set to 1, we measured the average response time at just under 7 ms, which is a great score for a TN display, even though the BenQ XL2430T manages to do better with 5 ms. The Iiyama B2483HSU came in at 6 ms and the BenQ XL2420G at just 4 ms.

Like other Iiyama monitors, the B2783QSU comes with an overdrive function to help limit the effect of ghosting. This is switched off with the monitor’s out-of-the-box settings. Set to 1, ghosting disappears but a very slight trace of reverse ghosting can be seen. Thankfully, it’s not too distracting.

Input lag was measured at just 10 ms. Latency between a frame being sent from the source and being displayed onscreen is therefore tiny, and shouldn’t bother even hardcore gamers.

FreeSync versus G-Sync

It’s not easy to compare the performances of AMD’s FreeSync with those of Nvidia’s G-Sync. When tested with the XFX Radeon R9 290 graphics card, games seemed a little less super-smooth with FreeSync, but then AMD’s system did manage to avoid image tearing when sync dropped out. Plus, this Iiyama monitor has a maximum refresh rate of just 70 Hz, or 70 frames per second, whereas G-Sync monitors often boast refresh rates topping 120 Hz, which also helps keep the image looking smooth.

In practice, both systems have trouble keeping the refresh rate synced when the number of frames per second sent from the graphics card isn’t in the refresh rate range supported by the monitor. The Iiyama B2783QSU supports 50 to 70 Hz, so it’s preferable to keep the game running at 50 to 70 frames per second. When the graphics card drops the rate to 30 or 40 fps, the image can stutter. We found stutter to be more marked with FreeSync than with G-Sync. Still, FreeSync is a good alternative to Nvidia’s G-Sync. Plus, it’s much more affordable, as this 27″ Quad HD monitor really isn’t over-priced (for once!).



The Iiyama B2783QSU is an affordable 27″ Quad HD monitor. Response times are excellent and it has plenty of great design features. That said, the OSD is outdated. AMD’s FreeSync technology is an added bonus for gamers. This display just misses out on a fifth star due to its low contrast and 70 Hz maximum refresh rate.


Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Lens Review


The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM is a very fast, moderate wide-angle lens for Canon’s full-frame DSLRs, incorporating two aspherical elements and one UD glass element in a 14 element, 11 group optical formula. Featuring Blue Spectrum Refractive Optics technology to achieve a higher level of chromatic aberration correction, Sub-Wavelength Structure Coating (SWC) to help combat flare and ghosting, an ultrasonic focus motor, a 9-blade circular aperture, silent high-speed AF performance and full-time manual focusing, the new Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM is ideal for travel and reportage photography. The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM is available now for £1799.99 / $1799.99 in the UK and the USA respectively.

Ease of Use

As this is a very fast, premium wide-angle prime lens, the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM is predictably big and bulky, weighing in at 760g and measuring 10.5cm in length. You can use it on a smaller Canon EOS APS-C body for a 56mm equivalent angle of view, but it balances much better on a full-frame camera like the EOS 5DS R that we tested it with.

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens mounted on the EOS 5DS R

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USMCanon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens mounted on the EOS 5DS R

As you would expect from a lens that costs this much, build quality is excellent, certainly living up to the “L” moniker that denotes Canon’s premium lenses. The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM feels very solid in your hand, even if the outer barrel and the filter thread appear to be made from plastic. The focusing ring is a good size and has a ridged, rubberised grip band. It has no aperture ring, though, which is no big deal unless you wanted to use it on a very old film body.

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens alongside the EOS 5DS R

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

Side of the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens

The lens features a distance scale complete with a DOF scale, although the latter is of limited use, having markings for f/11 and f/22 only. Still, certainly better than nothing.

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

Front of the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

Rear of the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens

The only other control on the lens barrel is a focus mode switch with the usual AF/MF settings. Note that this lens offers full-time manual focusing even when AF is selected.

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

Side of the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM len in-hand

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens with the supplied lens hood fitted

The lens ships with a plastic petal-shaped lens hood (EW-77B) and a protective bag.

Focal Range

At the 35mm focal length the angle of view is 63 degrees.

Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM

Field of view at 35mm


The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens has quite a large focus ring. There are hard stops at both ends of the range, making it easier to set focus at infinity. Polariser users should be pleased that the 72mm filter thread doesn’t rotate on focus.

When it comes to auto-focusing, the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM zoom is a quick performer, taking about 0.15 seconds to lock onto the subject when mounted on the Canon EOS 5DS R that we tested it with.

We didn’t experience much “hunting”, either in good or bad light, with the lens accurately focusing almost all of the time. It’s also a quiet performer, thanks to the built-in USM (Ultra Sonic Motor), which makes this lens well-suited to video recording.

Chromatic Aberrations

Chromatic aberrations, typically seen as purple or blue fringes along contrasty edges, are impressively well controlled with this lens – the examples below show the worst-case scenario.

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

Light Fall-off

With the lens wide open at f/1.4, you can see some noticeable light fall-off in the corners. Stopping down helps, although to completely get rid of this phenomenon, you will need to use an f-stop of f/4 or smaller.

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM


The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM is not a macro lens. The close-focus point is at 28cm from the film/sensor plane, and Canon quotes a maximum reproduction ratio of 0.21x for the lens. The following example illustrates how close you can get to the subject, in this case a CompactFlash card.

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

Close-up performance


Bokeh is a word used for the out-of-focus areas of a photograph, and is usually described in qualitative terms, such as smooth / creamy / harsh etc. One of the reasons to buy a fast lens is to be able to isolate the subject from the background, which is normally very hard to do with a wide-angle lens. Canon was apparently very much aware of this requirement, as they employed an iris diaphragm with 9 rounded blades for a very pleasing rendering of the out-of-focus highlights. Based on what we have seen, we can say that they largely succeeded. Below you’ll find some examples, but you are also encouraged to check out our sample images.

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM


In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following page.

Sharpness at 35mm

The sharpness tests for this review were carried out using a real-world subject rather than a test chart. The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens was attached to a Canon EOS 5DS R body, which in turn was mounted on a sturdy tripod. Self-timer mode was activated. Slight tonal changes are due to slight changes in natural light during the session.

The full frame

The full frame at 35mm

Centre sharpness remains very high through from f/2 to f/11, with f/16 and f/22 being adversely affected by diffraction. The edges aren’t quie as sharp as the centre, with f/4-f/11 producing the sharpest results.

Aperture Centre Crop Edge Crop










Angle of view (horzntl, vertl, diagnl) 54°, 38°, 63°
Lens construction (elements/groups) 14/11
No. of diaphragm blades 9
Minimum aperture 22
Closest focussing distance (m) 0.28
Maximum magnification (x) 0.21
Distance Information Yes
AF actuator Ring USM¹
Dust/moisture resistance* Yes
Filter diameter (mm) 72
Max. diameter x length (mm) 80.4 x 105.5
Weight (g) 760
Lens cap E-72II
Lens hood EW-77B
Lens case/pouch LP1219
Rear cap Lens Dust Cap E
Magnification w/ Extension Tube EF12 II 0.58-0.36
Magnification w/ Extension Tube EF25 II 1.03-0.80
Extender Compatiblity Not Compatible
AF actuator ¹ Full time Manual focus
  • *Lenses with dust/moisture resistance are fitted with a rubber ring on the lens mount which may cause sligth abrasion of the camera mount.
  • This in no way effects either the lens or camera performance.


The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM is a very capable, but big and pricey, moderately wide-angle prime lens that will appeal most to travel and reportage photographers looking for outstanding image quality.

The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM’s build quality is reassuringly excellent, and t makes a great match for a full-frame Canon DSLR like the EOS 5DS R that we tested it with. Auto-focusing is quiet and quick, with the ability to instantly manually override it via the focus ring if required proving a nice touch. The lens lacks image stabilisation, but the very fast maximum aperture of f/1.4 used in conjunction with a high-ISO monster like the EOS 5DS R is a low-light shooter’s dream ticket, making it easy to hand-hold the camera and get the shot.

Image quality is outstanding. Chromatic aberrations are virtually non-existent thanks to the new Blue Spectrum Refractive Optics technology, geometric distortion is impressively low for a wide-angle lens, and the Sub-Wavelength Structure Coating (SWC) coatings successfully prevent contrast loss attributable to flare. The only real optical issues are some corner shading at the maximum aperture, something that every full-frame shooter has to put up with, especially when using wide angles, and a slight lack of critical edge sharpness between f/1.4-f/2.8 and f/16-f/22.

If you can afford the eye-watering price-tag and you can live with the size and weight of what is a big lens, we can certainly recommend the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM as the best Canon-branded 35mm lens in terms of image quality. If smaller size and less weight are more of a priority than optical and build quality, though, then we’d recommend the slower Canon EF 35mm f/2, which additionally boasts image stabilisation, especially as it’s less than half the price of its “L” class sibling. If you’re willing to venture off-brand, the popular Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM is the same price as Canon’s more consumer-oriented f/2 offering whilst almost matching the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM for image and build quality.

Design 4.5
Features 4.5
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 5
Value for money 3.5


How to turn on Windows 10’s Find My Device feature

Microsoft’s Windows 10 November update brings with it a handy “find my device” feature, but it’s not just for tablets or phones. Any Windows 10 device can take advantage of the new feature, including desktops and laptops.

Find My Device in Windows 10 doesn’t do a whole lot right now. There isn’t a way to have your tablet make a sound, lock itself, erase data, or anything like that. Instead, you can only find out where its last known general location was.

Nevertheless, if you want to try this feature out here’s how to turn it on.

Find My Device is buried under Settings > Update & Security.

To active this feature go to Start > Update & Security > Find My Device.


On this screen you’ll see a big Change button under the heading “Find My Device is off.”


Turn this slider to On and you’re done.

Once you click Change you’ll see a pop-up panel that says “Save my device’s location periodically.” Turn the slider to On and you’re done.


Find My Device is now on.

You should now see that the Find My Device screen has changed to “Find My Device is on” as seen above.

To make sure everything is working, login to with your Microsoft account and you should see the name of your PC listed under “Your devices.”

If you don’t know the name of your device, right-click on the Start button and select System. In the Control Panel window that opens you’ll see it under “Computer name.”



Apple TV to get Amazon Instant Video ‘within a few weeks’

The latest Apple TV model has been available for a few weeks now, but in terms of apps for streaming video services, there is one significant option mission. Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, and more are all available to users, but anAmazon app for Prime/Instant Video is still yet to be seen. Fortunately, that may be changing “within a few weeks,” if an email from a customer service representative turns out to be accurate.

Engineer Dan Bostonweeks contacted Amazon to bring up their lack of support for the Apple TV’s tvOS. Sharing the response on Twitter, he was told that Amazon’s technical team is currently developing an app for tvOS.

As we have already succeeded in developing an app for iPhone and iPad, we hope to make an app separately for the Apple TV. Hopefully, within a few weeks span, you will be able to see the Amazon Instant Video app feature on your Apple TV.

Amazon has yet to comment about an app for the Apple TV, so it’s important to remember this statement came from a customer support member, and not an official spokesperson, thus “within a few weeks” may not be entirely accurate, if correct at all. If a tvOS app does see release, it’s likely to function just as the iOS version does, allowing Amazon Prime subscribers to stream movies and TV shows, and non-Prime members to buy or rent content.

When the Apple TV launched without an Amazon Video app, it was originally theorized that Apple was maybe getting revenge for Amazon’s decision to no longer sell rival streaming video devices, namely the Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast. Turns out that wasn’t the case at all, as Apple stated that “all are welcome” when it comes to video services, and it was just a matter of Amazon not yet submitting anything.


Cortana for iPhone debuts for Microsoft’s beta testers

It was less than a month ago that Microsoft put out the request for those interested in beta testing Cortana for iPhone, and now those lucky enough to be selected are getting notified to download the voice-powered digital assistant. While designed to compete with Apple’s own Siri, as well as Google Now, Microsoft’s Cortana will be fairly limited on the iPhone in terms of capability, at least compared to the native Windows version.

Cortana for iPhone debuts for Microsoft’s beta testers

Microsoft is making use of Apple’s TestFlight platform to allow testers to download the Cortana app. As Apple has set a limit of 2,000 users per beta test group, it means this initial Cortana rollout is fairly small.

Cortana for iPhone debuts for Microsoft's beta testers

Among the tasks the iOS version of Cortana can handle include creating reminders, scheduling calendar appointments, composing emails and messages, and perform internet searches. Cortana is designed to let users speak with natural language when communicating with the assistant, much like Siri.

Microsoft is asking its beta testers to see if Cortana “can talk with you like a real personal assistant,” as well as see how certain tasks are performed cross-platform with Windows 10. The assistant is meant to allow PC users to set reminders and schedule appointments from their desktop, with the events being pushed to their iPhone.

A Cortana for Android beta was also launched back in the summer, however Microsoft hasn’t stated when it plans to launch a final version of the app for iOS or Google’s platform.


Mario watch by Romain Jerome is the perfect $19K Christmas gift

If you’re an old-school Mario fan, or need the perfect Christmas gift for someone who is, look no further than this limited edition Super Mario from Romain Jerome. Only problem is, it’s going to cost you a whopping $18,950. Ouch. Maybe it would better to just track down an old NES in working condition along with copy of the original Mario game.

The timepiece from the luxury watchmaker is to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Nintendo’s most iconic game character. The mechanical watch features pixellated graphics of Mario, a mushroom, and more, all with a 3D effect thanks to the enameled figures being slightly raised from the background.

Mario watch by Romain Jerome is the perfect $19K Christmas gift

As for being something worn on the wrist, the watch case measures 46mm wide, is made of black titanium, and features automatic movement. The watchmaker says its limited to only 85 pieces, in honor of the debut of Super Mario Bros. in 1985.

Romain Jerome has actually created several video game-themed watches in its collaborations line, including timepieces with Space Invaders, Pac-Man, andTetris designs. Now, if only it was easier to choose between the Mario model and something like a new car.


iPhone 7 rumored to use Lightning port for audio, drop headphone jack

According to new rumors, Apple’s forthcoming iPhone “7” will do away with the 3.5mm headphone jack, and instead rely solely on the Lightning connector port for both charging and the use of any wired headphones. This news comes from the Japanese website Mac Otakara, which is often reliable when it comes to Apple rumors, who cite anonymous sources. The reason for needing to ditch the traditional headphone jack? Why, to make the next generation iPhone even thinner, of course.

The idea of using the Lightning port for headphones isn’t new, as for the last year Apple has allowed third-party accessory manufacturers to make use of the port. There have been a few companies, such as Philips and JBL, to release wired headphones with Lightning connectors.

The iPhone 7’s Lightning port would then remain the same size as it is now to maintain compatibility with the existing accessories. It also seems likely there will be a 3.5mm to Lightning adapter to allow backwards compatibility with non-Lightning headphones. By shedding the headphone jack, it is believed that Apple could make the next iPhone over 1mm thinner than the 7.1mm thick iPhone 6s.

Should this design change turn out to be true, Apple will surely do two things: release a new version of its own EarPods headphones with a Lightning connector, as well as encourage the migration towards Bluetooth headphones, allowing them to promote a truly wireless audio experience with the iPhone.


Lenovo and Razer team up for co-branded gaming PCs

This week Razer and Lenovo have announced their intent to collaborate on a series of gaming PCs. These PCs will exist within the Lenovo Y series, coming as “special Razer Editions”, appearing for the first time in prototype form at the gaming convention DreamHack Winter 2015. Lucky you, though, we’ve got a set of images of this first desktop machine right this minute. This machine comes with NVIDIA GPUs and black, green, and rainbow colors included.

The launch of these co-branded special Razer Editions of Lenovo’s Y series devices will launch officially at CES 2016. We’ll be there to show you the whole collection up close and personal. For now, you’ll see this one prototype as well as whatever else the brands bring to show off.

Lenovo and Razer suggest they’ll co-brand and co-market these devices. They’ll be utilizing “the manufacturing, supply chain, and channel relationships of Lenovo” with the “technology and deep expertise of Razer.”


The first line of machines from these two brands will “reflect the edgy Lenovo Y series look and feel” while they roll with “iconic Razer elements like customizable Chroma lighting effects.”


Dinan Engineering S1 BMW M4 adds power, loses performance

The BMW M4 is no slouch when it comes to performance, but many car guys and gals are always out for more performance. Dinan Engineering is a name that has been associated with hopped up BMWs for decades and its latest foray into modern BMWs is the S1 BMW M4.

Thai car is a bit milder than other Dinan BMWs in that it doesn’t get an entirely new engine. This car has relatively modest upgrades. Relatively modest because upgrading any BMW is an expensive proposition. Dinan spends only $7247 upgrading the engine here. Not cheap, but certainly better than some previous models where engine mods alone were over $30,000.

Mods include a new signal conditioner, free flowing exhaust, and cold air intake. Dinan says that the gains are 105hp and 98 lb-ft of torque, at least on paper. The Dinan dyno says that BMW underrates the M4 from the factory making real gains at the wheels more like 46hp and 58 lb-ft of torque.

Disappointingly, the gang at Car and Driver found the Dinan car slower to 60mph by 0.1-second. Dinan also modded the suspension of the car, including attractive and larger diameter wheels, ultimately hurting handling performance with the S1 M4 pulling 0.97g on the skidpad, worse than the last M4 C&D tested.

Take the performance loses here with a grain of salt, the conditions for both tests were different and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the original car C&D tested was a ringer.


VTech’s ‘Learning Lodge’ hack exposes kids’ data

In a statement today, VTech, maker of gadgets for children, announced that its customer data has been breached. According to the company, an “unauthorized party” accessed data within the Learning Lodge app store database earlier this month; that database has neither banking info nor certain personal identification details like social security numbers, but does have ‘general’ profile info.

VTech has long made devices for children, and in recent years these devices have included kid-friendly tablets. The Learning Lodge is essentially the app store for VTech’s platform, giving kids access to age appropriate and educational content.

The breach took place on November 14. Upon discovering it, VTech says it initiated an investigation into the matter and took steps to prevent this sort of breach from happening again in the future. Compromised data includes email addresses, secret question answers, names, IP addresses, one’s download history, and physical mailing addresses.

Passwords were also stored on the database, but were encrypted. The company doesn’t state who was behind the breach, nor whether it has any leads regarding that. VTech doesn’t detail how many people are affected by the breach, but Troy Hunt goes into great detail about the incident on his blog, revealing that it is massive in scope.


Formula E reveals ROBORACE driverless EV series for 2016

Could driverless racing ever as exciting as events where there’s meat behind the wheel? Formula E believes so, with ROBORACE expected to kick off during its 2016-17 season. Billed as part of the support package for the FIA Formula E Championship, the races will see autonomous electric cars going up against each other as teams compete to hone the best AI.

Each race will see ten teams compete, with two cars apiece. They’ll use the same tracks as the regular Formula E electric races, each session lasting an hour.

Interestingly, the differentiation between the teams won’t come from the physical cars themselves, but the software they rely upon to replace a physical driver. Each car will be identical, leaving participants to tweak the real-time algorithms and AIs to get an edge.

While it should make for some entertaining racing, according to ROBORACE founder and Formula E partner Denis Sverdlov of Kinetik, the trials should also help accelerate self-driving car development and acceptance.

“We passionately believe that, in the future, all of the world’s vehicles will be assisted by AI and powered by electricity, thus improving the environment and road safety,” Sverdlov said of the new series. “ROBORACE is a celebration of revolutionary technology and innovation that humanity has achieved in that area so far. It’s a global platform to show that robotic technologies and AI can co-exist with us in real life.”

Details on the teams themselves and the technologies they’ll actually race have not been announced, with Formula E promising more news in the new year.

However, one of the ten will be a “crowd-sourced community team” that the organizers say will be open for “enthusiastic software and technology experts” so that they can go head to head with mainstream automakers and big-budget researchers from universities and other companies.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen attempts to prove self-driving technology on the race track. Audi has developed a number of prototype cars, based on its RS 7, which can memorize a course and then complete a “perfect” lap, for instance, including taking into account differences in weather conditions and more on the day.


LG pumps $8.7bn into OLED for your car, TV and wrist

LG really, really wants your next TV, smartwatch, and car to use an OLED panel and, preferably, one that’s come off its new $8.71bn production line. The company’s panel arm, LG Display, has announced a whopping 1.84 trillion South Korean Won investment into a brand new facility dubbed P10, which will cater for what LG predicts will be blockbuster demand for OLED in a range of sizes.

LG pumps $8.7bn into OLED for your car, TV and wrist

That $8.71bn is only the tip of the iceberg, mind, and the plant – to be constructed in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, Korea – is expected to eventually cost more than five times that amount.

Construction will begin this year, with the initial investment expected to cover the P10 building itself, the foundations for its clean rooms, and the various components of infrastructure for water and power supplies.

When complete, P10 is expected to cover 382m x 265m, the equivalent of fourteen football fields, and stand 100 meters high. Mass production on the first line is scheduled to begin in the first half of 2018.

It’ll be a multipurpose facility, too, with LG Display looking across the tech industry and further afield for potential applications for its OLED screens. The obvious use is in TVs, but the company says it’ll also be working on flexible and transparent panels.

Smartwatches are another area of interest, with flexible OLED seen as having particular potential there.

Meanwhile there’s also automotive, and as increasingly complex car dashboards gain more functionality and need to communicate more information with the driver, LG Display expects demand for its panels to ramp up there, too.

Audi’s recent e-tron quattro concept, for instance, features a number of curved OLED screens throughout its interior. It’s unclear how many will make it through to the production model Audi expects to release in a few years time.

The automaker’s Prologue concept of 2014 featured flexible OLED, too, with a display that twisted up into view when the car was turned on.


GM scrambles to build more Colorado and Canyon trucks

Demand for the mid-size Canyon and Colorado trucks is booming and GM is left scrambling to figure out just how it’s going to up production of the trucks to meet the demand. The industry forecast for sales of those trucks was about 80,000 units. So far sales of GM’s mid-size trucks is on pace to reach 120,000 units this year.

To get more of the trucks into production GM is considering outsourcing the production of some van models to AM General. By outsourcing the production of those vans, GM could use its plant near St. Louis to build more of the popular Canyon and Colorado trucks.

GM made its plans official in a note sent to workers at its Wentzville, Mo plant this week where it noted that it was studying a partnership with AM General to build the cutaway Chevy Express and GMC Savana cargo vans. These vans are sold to upfitters and make up about a third of the over 100,000 commercial vans that will have been built by the end of the year.

No official agreement between the two firms has been announced at this time. AM General has a similar contract building plan in place in the US for making Mercedes R class crossovers with a multi-year contract for the construction.


OnePlus offers refunds for USB Type-C cable, adapter

As part of Google engineer Benson Leung’s crusade against sub par USB Type-C accessories in the market, he reviewed OnePlus’ own blessed accessories and found them not complying with the most recent USB specifications. The Chinese startup has finally replied and, to some extent, did admit to the technical findings. However, it also defends its choice in the matter. Nonetheless, it will offer refunds for the USB cable or adapter, but only for those who bought the accessories separately from a OnePlus 2 for use with other devices.

OnePlus concedes that its accessories only uses almost a fifth of the resistor required by the latest USB Type-C 1.1 standard, 10k ohms vs 56k. The purpose of this design was so that the cable could draw more power from a 2 amp power source for fast charging. While that may be fine and dandy for OnePlus, it could be fatal for others.

The crux of OnePlus’ argument is this: it designed the USB Type-C cable and adapter for use with the OnePlus 2 specifically. That it could be used with other devices and power sources is only a side effect of the overall USB-C design. As such, they cannot guarantee that it will work well with third party power sources or USB ports. In fact, they might damage those.

The problem is that many seem to have bought the accessories for the purpose of using them on something other than the OnePlus 2, which is actually what happened in Leung’s tests.

Being a Googler, he was of course more interested in how these accessories behaved with the Nexus smartphones. Although there might be instances when the accessories will work without issue, the rule of thumb is not to use OnePlus’ cables with other devices.


And so OnePlus is offering those buyers of those two Type-C accessories a chance to return and refund their products before December 31 this year. The one caveat is that those who got their cable as part of the OnePlus 2 package, since that was specifically designed for use with the smartphone.


Three things new Gear VR users need to be aware of

This Christmas Santa will be leaving a bunch of new Samsung Gear VR headsets under trees all around the world for gamers to enjoy. There are some things that people new to VR headsets and the Gear VR need to know to keep their new toy working and to keep themselves tip top.

Three things new Gear VR users need to be aware of

The first thing is that you should never leave the Gear VR facedown or outside. The outside bit is a no brianer, you never want to leave any electronic gadget lying around outdoors. The lenses in the Gear VR could focus the sun’s rays like a magnifying glass and cause damage to your smartphone if you leave it lying face down outside.

Another warning is to never use the Gear VR without your phone docked inside the headset. The problem here is that the lenses inside the headset are designed to focus the light into your eyes from the phone screen. Accidentally focusing the light of something bright like the sun or a powerful flashlight could cause eye damage.

The final warning is that kids under 13 years old shouldn’t use Gear VR. If you do let younger kids try the headset out, you need to be sure they take breaks and are monitored closely to prevent eyestrain or fatigue.


One Education’s Infinity modular laptop/tablet hits Indiegogo

It was way back in February that the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative and its partner One Education announced a modular laptop/tablet hybrid, dubbed the XO-Infinity, promising a debut in the following weeks. Well, it’s a bit later than expected, but One Education finally has working prototypes, and, after dropping the XO part of the name, has now launched an Indiegogo campaign to crowdfund the Infinity.

As you can see by the images, the Infinity is designed to be used by young students, and like the other devices from OLPC, features a design that is both rugged and simple. While the tablet-like display can be removed from the keyboard dock, similar to other flagship computing devices introduced this year, the modular aspect is not about boosting performance or other specs, rather it’s to allow easy repairability.

One Education’s Indiegogo campaign is looking to raise $50,000 to help cover manufacturing costs, and expects to begin shipping in September 2016. Early backers who pledge $249 will get their own Infinity, however that price will go up to $299 soon.

The Infinity has a keyboard dock with a touchpad and mouse buttons, while the removable touchscreen display features a 8.9-inch, 2560 x 1600 display. It’s powered by 1.4 GHz quad-core processor with 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage that can be expanded via microSD card slot.

It supports WiFi and Bluetooth, and has a 7,000 mAh battery that charges via USB-C port. One Education notes, however, that these specs may be changed during the remainder of their development process.

On the software side, the device runs Android 5 Lollipop with a customized interface, and comes with a suite of educational apps. Among the modular parts that can be easily removed and replaced include a camera, battery, the display, and a central module that contains the CPU, memory, wireless card, and storage.


HTC Preview solicits user feedback for upcoming designs

HTC once admitted that it didn’t have the massive marketing budget the likes of Samsung has at its disposal. So instead, they relied more on word of mouth, viral marketing, and the power of the crowd to get their message, and their products, across. Now they seem to be once again trying to harness that resource when it comes to quality testing and design feedback not just for new software but even for upcoming hardware by launching the new HTC Preview program for loyal fans to join.

After the success that was the HTC One (M7), the Taiwanese OEM has been steadily receiving no small amount of criticism over its smartphones, both in the lack of significant innovation in hardware as well as stagnation in design. The recent One A9, on the other hand, has been flamed for aping Apple’s iPhone 6 design. Needless to say, HTC seems to be in need of help testing its designs before putting them out to the market.

HTC Preview solicits user feedback for upcoming designs

That is exactly what the HTC Preview is trying to do, without having to hire (and pay for) a dedicated team. Users who are dedicated to the brand and would like to see some changes happen in HTC can now indirectly make that happen. Applying for membership only requires signing up, but getting into the program is, of course, a different matter. Most of the projects under Preview will be about software changes and updates but there will also be a chance to test new hardware. Which program you get into depends on the details that you put into your profile when you apply.

So what’s in it for end users? Mostly the satisfaction of having done their part to help build HTC’s future. Oh, and you also get to see upcoming features before anyone else does. As for privacy concerns, HTC does admit that they will be collecting some logs on network/signal strength, battery information, usage times, apps used, etc. but nothing personally identifiable like passwords, account information, or messages.

And as for possible leaks, HTC will of course require participants to sign a non-disclosure agreement and might even threaten legal action against those who break them. That said, you can bet leaks will happen anyway. Hopefully for HTC, it will all be worth it.


There might be a Tegra X1 NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet after all

Just last week, NVIDIA put out a new SHIELD Tablet, this time with “K1” appended to its name. It might have disappointed many who have been expecting, or at least wishing for, a refreshed gaming tablet with more up-to-date specs. Sadly, the K1 was but a mild change over the first SHIELD Tablet, but carrying a more affordable price tag. But if leaked details, which has already been taken down, found on GFXBench are any indication, NVIDIA might indeed have a Tegra X1 powered model coming soon.

Let’s start first with the SHIELD Tablet K1. It’s practically the same as the first except for a few minor details, not all of them good. For example, the front-facing speaker grilles now sport a more rubbery material which affords a better grip. The price has also been knocked down to $199.

There might be a Tegra X1 NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet after all

But that package now excludes the DirectStylus that the tablet inherited from the Tegra Note 7. And even if you buy the $19.99 accessory separately, there is no longer a silo for it. The internal storage has also been halved down to 16 GB, though there is always room for a microSD card.

Aside from those, it’s the exact same SHIELD Tablet inside, meaning a Tegra K1 processor, hence the name. It’s not that bad, really, but in the face of the newer Tegra X1, there is, of course, reason to be a bit hopeful. NVIDIA’s latest mobile chip has been benchmarked to be one of the most powerful around, especially when it comes to gaming, which is exactly what the SHIELD Tablet is for.


The NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet X1 sighted on GFXBench does bear that quad-core processor and is even paired with 3 GB of RAM, up from the 2 GB of the current model. Storage seems to be once again capped at 32 GB. Given how the SHIELD Tablet K1 seems partially a downgrade in these specs, there is a chance that the X1 version will be billed as a more premium, but also more expensive, version. Whether that will come with a stylus and silo is, however, anyone’s guess at this point.


Huawei Mate 8 phablet rocks full metal body, Kirin 950

Gone are the days when Chinese smartphones will be accused of being cheap and plastic. At least not the flagships from major OEMs these days. As the West moves towards metal, so do China’s finest. The Huawei Mate 8, which was just partially revealed, joins that new trend as well. But more than just the metallic body, the smartphone also rocks what might be one of the most performant hardware in the region. The one drawback? The Mate 8 is huge. Good thing then, that it’s almost all screen.


We’ve seen a few leaked photos before pointing to the Mate 8’s super thin bezels. Now Huawei is proud to proclaim that indeed it has an 83% screen to body ratio, one of the highest we’ve seen so far. That, however, is spread over a 6-inch Full HD, not 2K, screen. For many, that might be too big to handle, at least without using both hands.


Moving from design to core hardware, the Huawei Mate 8 does run on the newest Kirin 950 processor. We’ve seen this blow the competition out of the water with its 83,000 score on AnTuTu. Of course, now it has to be tested running inside an actual smartphone. but the 2.3 GHz octa-core processor might be able to deliver. Plus with 4 GB of RAM at the highest configuration, it sounds like it will run buttery smooth.

Huawei Mate 8 phablet rocks full metal body, Kirin 950

One interesting aspect of the Kirin 950 is the i5 Sensing Coprocessor. The concept of relegating sensor duties to a more low-power chip started with the first Moto X and was eventually popularized by Apple’s “M” coprocessor. Now it seems that everyone is trying to get into that trend as well. Huawei’s i5, specifically, is able to handle speech recognition, low-power MP3, sensors, and fused location provider, all without putting a drain on the battery.

The rest of the specs include a hefty 4,000 mAh battery, a rear-positioned fingerprint scanner that pretty much looks like the Huawei-made Nexus 6P’s sensor, and a 16 megapixel Sony IMX298 sensor on the rear camera.

The Huawei Mate 8 is now available for pre-order in China via Vmall, where it goes for 3,199 RMB ($500) for 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, 3,699 RMB ($580) for 4GB RAM and 64GB storage combo, and 4,399 RMB ($688) for 4 GB RAM and a whopping 128 GB of storage.


iClever QY8 Bluetooth earbuds mini-review

The days of sound-leaking, heavy, and tinny headphones are long gone. In their place is an array of affordable wireless headphones that come in at a budget rates while offering audio quality more than suitable for most consumers’ needs. We recently got our hands on a pair of iClever QY8 Bluetooth earbuds, and at $19.99 USD, they certainly fall into the budget category. Does the quality suffer as a result? Read our mini review to find out!

iClever QY8 Bluetooth earbuds mini-review

iClever’s QY8 headphones are lightweight and feature a flat cable, and while they don’t snap together like certain other earbuds, they shave quite a bit off the typical price tag. Each ear piece is large and round, which will appeal to some but may be a touch too visible for others. It comes down to personal style and taste.

The earbud tips, however, are well made and fit snuggly in the ear, with a secondary rounded components fitting within the outer ear to further block out unwanted noises. The headphones are very light, weighing in at only 0.58ounces. As such, they’re a good choice for joggers and those who are frequently out and about. It is very easy to forget you have something in your ear, and popping one out so that you can hear noises around you won’t result in strain on the other ear.

earbud 1

The centermost portions of the ear pieces are buttons, and there’s a volume rocker on the side of one ear piece. The other earbud features a micro USB port for charing the internal battery — of which you can expect somewhere around 6 hours of battery life, at least in my experience. The maker rates the battery at about 7 hours.


The audio quality is surprisingly ample and well rounded, akin to the quality you’ll get from a pair of $50 or more headphones. It was a pleasant surprise, as one doesn’t expect too much from sub-$20 earbuds. There’s nothing to dislike about the earbuds, except perhaps if you’re expecting high-end audiophile quality. The iClever QY8 is available on Amazon.


2017 Bentley Bentayga – First Drive Review : Bentley’s first SUV skips the learning curve altogether.

Legend has it that Ettore Bugatti once called the Bentley 4½ Litre the “world’s fastest truck.” We’re guessing that he didn’t know he was merely being prophetic. Because now Bentley builds an SUV, and guess what? Its 187-mph top speed is the highest on record for a vehicle of that type.

Why an SUV? Simple: People who drive Bentleys tend to have other vehicles (a lot of them), and the vehicle they drive in the winter—or when it’s raining, or foggy, or below 75 degrees—tends to be an SUV. Now that Bentley makes an SUV, a lot of those buyers will make that SUV a Bentley, as well.

2017 Bentley Bentayga

For the last three years, Bentley has sold more than 10,000 vehicles annually, a major milestone for the company. The Bentayga is going to help obliterate that record: The company plans to build 5500 Bentaygas in 2016. That estimate already has been revised upward once, and company executives tell us that, as interest builds, that figure may enjoy yet another upward correction.

And while the Bentayga might be tall for a Bentley at 68.6 inches, it’s not otherwise particularly large for one. At 202.4 inches long and 78.7 inches wide, it’s about 17 inches shorter than a Mulsanne and three inches wider. At nearly 5400 pounds, it’s about 550 pounds lighter than the Mulsanne and just shy of a Flying Spur W-12. The floorpan is steel, but most of the rest of the sheetmetal is aluminum, including all exterior panels. Bentley says that the body side is the auto industry’s largest single aluminum stamping.

With its (relatively) low mass for a Bentley, the Bentayga is kind of spectacular to drive. The damping of the multilink front and rear suspensions is exemplary. Even over the extreme speed bumps peppered throughout the hamlets of southern Spain, the most massive of wheel displacements are forgotten in a single, gentle compression and rebound of the suspension. The electric power steering is weighty and direct, although it doesn’t enjoy a ton of feel. But by SUV standards, it’s excellent. As are the brakes. The pedal is firm and progressive, and even barreling down the twisting switchbacks of the Sierra Blanca mountains, there was never a hint of fade.

Handling is neutral enough that you’ll forget this is a 5400-pound SUV with a 12-cylinder engine in the nose. Sure, you can force it into understeer, but you can also set it up to flow through turns better than a vehicle this size has any right to, mostly because it corners remarkably flat. Its outstanding body control is the result of Bentley Dynamic Ride, a new active anti-roll bar that counteracts natural roll with a pair of electric actuators, one at each end of the vehicle to stiffen and soften the front and rear bars. It’s a trick system, but don’t expect the sports-car world to rush to adopt it. In order for the system to act quickly enough, says product-line director Peter Guest, it needs to operate on 48 volts, with a supercapacitor meting the voltage. With the bars, the actuators, the supercapacitor, and the heavy-duty cables—which he says are about four times the diameter of most automotive cables—the system weighs between 30 and 40 pounds. Bentley chief executive Wolfgang Dürheimer says Bentley Dynamic Ride is technically capable of leaning the Bentayga into a turn, motorcycle-style, but, in the interest of passenger comfort, the company stopped short of allowing that capability. We’d be quite interested to see what sort of impact that would have on cornering. The system allows a firm, controlled—but never harsh—ride on pavement but allows maximum wheel articulation off.

Ready to Crawl

That’s right: off road. Because this is a Bentley meant for dirt, our drive included some semi-serious off-roading. At first we feared that the trail was going to be too easy, something a rental Toyota Camry could conquer, but we got into some pretty tricky attitudes—the oiling system is designed to keep the engine lubricated at up to 35 degrees of tilt in any direction. We crawled through a few ditches that had the Bentayga alternately kissing the ground—a few trucks in our group actually did scuff their chins, an occurrence that is probably about 10 times more expensive than your entire beater Jeep—and hanging a rear wheel off the ground at full suspension droop.

There are, of course, additional vehicle settings for off-roading: snow and grass, dirt and gravel, mud and trail, and sand dunes. There are two suspension settings that raise ground clearance a little or a little more (Bentley declined to provide specific figures). Hill-descent control holds your speed on downslopes, and there’s an infotainment-system screen that monitors each of these settings as well as wheel articulation and incline/decline and side-slope angles. Also, the front parking camera is well suited to peeking over sharp crests for a better view of what’s out of sight below the Bentayga’s domed hood. Some of these features distract from the simple joy of driving through nature—as does the pulsing of the brakes mimicking limited-slip differentials—but you don’t have to use them. They turn off automatically above 47 mph in case you accidentally drive onto pavement with them still engaged. At the end of the trail, Bentley had positioned a car-washing crew, but we waved them off and finished our drive proudly wearing a fine dusting of ruddy dirt over our Bentayga’s immaculate Verdant Green paint.

2017 Bentley Bentayga

The off-road driving might be impressive, but the de rigueur semiautonomous operation is less so. As is the standard for modern luxury vehicles, the Bentayga pairs its adaptive cruise control with an automatic lane-keeping function for short stints of hands-off driving. But like many of them, Bentley’s system tends to either ping-pong back and forth in the lane or crowd the middle of the road with the wheels nearly on the center line. If you signal to pass the car in front, it won’t pull out like the Tesla Model S does, but it will accelerate toward the car ahead, which seems like the wrong order of operations. We found the system more annoying than helpful, fighting us with little steering-wheel tugs on even our most relaxed lines through corners.

Where once there were rumble strips and other motorists honking, now there’s electric power steering jerking the car back and forth. It’s not necessarily more graceful than the old system, but at least it’s less obnoxious to other motorists.

‘W’ For ‘Win’

But don’t worry, the Bentayga is fully capable of being obnoxious. The all-new 6.0-liter W-12 grunts out 600 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 664 lb-ft of torque from 1350 to 4500 and will whip this horse to 60 mph in a claimed four seconds flat. That’s sure to widen the eyes of occupants and bystanders alike.

The new W-12 shares its bore spacing with its predecessor but no parts. Bentley shaved 66 pounds from this generation, an impressive feat with such a dense box of mechanical parts. Engineers pulled precious ounces from everything—the block, heads, crank, and cams to name just a few. The one system that isn’t lighter is the fuel injection, which now has direct and port injectors. At idle and under full load, the direct injectors do their precise work, while the port injectors are engaged at part throttle, when they’re said to better mix fuel and air while reducing emissions. Bentley also claims the W-12 is 10 percent more efficient than its predecessor, with cylinder deactivation shutting down six cylinders when conditions are right and a “sail mode” that decouples the engine from the transmission when the driver is off the throttle at higher speeds. We noticed neither system at work.

Product-line director Guest says that twin-scroll turbos are much of the reason the W-12 is all-new—the engineers couldn’t fit the faster-spooling turbos onto the old engine. Here, they’re so snug against the block that they’re almost integrated into it. And they actually are integrated into the exhaust manifolds. New oil pumps make sure the turbos get a steady supply of fresh oil even at extreme off-road angles.

Immaculate Interior

Guest also tells us that the sound insulation that enables Bentley’s famously serene interiors means that those worried about off-road dust in their Bentleys have nothing to fear. Like any Bentley, the Bentayga uses triple seals around all openings, and sound waves are smaller than any particulates. “Once you’ve insulated for noise, you’ve insulated for everything,” he says.

The Bentayga’s interior is one you want to keep pristine. Buyers can choose from 15 colors of hide to trim the cabin, in three different two-tone layouts, plus contrast or matched stitching and piping. There are seven different veneers—heck, there are seven different seatbelt colors. Not only does the instrument panel still use physical gauges with real needles, but those gauges are protected behind a sheet of actual mineral glass, rather than the plastic used on just about every other vehicle. The speaker grilles are even designed to mimic high-end stitching.

And of course that’s only the beginning. Buyers can spend $5715 on extracost paints, $7870 for the Touring Specification technology package, $11,015 to replace the three-place rear bench with two individual thrones, $7155 for a pair of removable tablets to put in front of those seats, and $28,500 on carbon-fiber trim. Plus, a ton of other stuff, including pie-in-the-sky customization. It’s pretty easy to send the base price of a Bentayga from $232,000 to well north of 300 grand.

But the coolest (and most appalling) thing in the Bentayga interior is the optional Breitling clock set atop the dashboard. It’s available in either white or rose gold, with a face of black or white mother-of-pearl, and studded with eight diamonds. Cost? 150,000 euros, or about $160,000. There’s one guy at Breitling who makes them, and each one takes him three months. That exclusivity guarantees that Bentley will sell the four it can offer every year.

Even without that clock, the Bentayga should vacuum massive amounts of cash into Bentley’s coffers. As the Volkswagen Group, in the wake of its diesel scandal, scrutinizes the business case for every last model in its portfolio, maybe Bugatti will want to take its own crack at that “world’s fastest truck” business.


Apple Pay vs Samsung Pay: The smartphone war spills into mobile payments

Samsung Pay vs Apple Pay: Apple’s mobile solution beats Samsung’s to the UK

Initially announced alongside the Galaxy S6 and then released shortly after the Note 5 hit shelves, Samsung’s mobile payment solution goes directly up against Apple Pay. Both aim to let your phone replace your wallet, but there are plenty of differences.

Of course, it’s important to note that while Apple Pay is now fully out and working in the UK – unless you bank with Barclays – while Samsung Pay is restricted to South Korea and the USA.

So how do they compare? Let’s take a closer look and see.

Apple Pay vs Samsung Pay – Purpose

Both Apple Pay and Samsung Pay share a common purpose – to enable card-free, wallet-free payments from your smartphone.

In both cases, you can store your debit and credit cards securely on your phone. It’s then possible to make payments by holding that phone up to a retailer’s payment point.

Apple Pay

Apple Pay vs Samsung Pay – Technology

This is where the two standards really differ. Apple’s implementation of Apple Pay is really quite traditional, in the sense that it follows the NFC standard that had been established in previous mobile payment systems.

You can only make Apple Pay payments in NFC reader-equipped retailers – those that still carry traditional card readers are entirely out of the loop until they upgrade.

And that’s where Samsung Pay could really trump Apple Pay. Thanks to Samsung’s acquisition of LoopPay, it has implemented Magnetic Secure Transmission technology into its payment system.

This essentially fools classic magnetic stripe card reader technology into thinking a physical card is being swipe through, when it’s actually a digital signal. In practice, it will feel much like a standard NFC payment.

As such, retailers don’t need to upgrade in order to accept mobile payments from Samsung Pay devices.

Of course, Samsung Pay also makes use of NFC technology, where available, to make modern mobile payments. This will become more prominent as time progresses, but for now Samsung Pay’s legacy support knocks Apple Pay into a cocked hat.

Apple Pay

Apple Pay vs Samsung Pay – Support

Apple Pay currently works with the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, plus the Apple Watch will also enable you to use a paired iPhone 5, iPhone 5C, and iPhone 5S.

Samsung Pay, meanwhile, will work with the Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+ and Note 5 along with whatever devices it releases later on in the year.

Elsewhere, both standards are supported by the major debit and credit card companies, including MasterCard and Visa. Apple Pay has a slight advantage in that it also has the support of over 90 banks, though we can expect Samsung Pay to make improvements on its own relatively modest number of supported major banks.

However, in terms of retailer support, Apple Pay’s aforementioned technological limitations ensure that it only has around 220,000 US shops in its corner.

Support for Apple Pay in the UK is strong with banks supported from launch including HSBC, Lloyds, RBS, M&S Bank, Bank of Scotland, Halifax, Ulster Bank, American Express, Santander, First Direct, Nationwide, MBNA, TSB and Natwest.

Apple Pay in the UK

You’ll also be able to use it at all the retailers that currently accept Contactless payments, think places like Waitrose, Pret a Manger, McDonalds and so on.

LoopPay, meanwhile, has stated that its system – the one that forms the basis of Samsung Pay – “has the potential to work in approximately 90 per cent of existing point of point-of-sale terminals.”

Apple Pay vs Samsung Pay – Authentication and Security

Both systems utilise the phone’s fingerprint-scanning technology to authenticate mobile payments.

Previously this would have granted Apple an advantage, as Touch ID has led rival mobile biometric systems by some margin when it comes to reliability and intuitiveness.

However, the fingerprint system built into the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge managed to eliminate that gap and draw level with Apple. Both systems simply require a light press of the home button to authenticate.

apple pay uk

In terms of the authentication between device and payment point, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay are very similar. Both utilise Mobile Digital Enablement System tokenisation.

Tokenisation means that rather than sending out your payment details to the retailer’s system, both Apple Pay and Samsung Pay will generate and send out unique “tokens” applicable to a single specific payment.

This ensures that it will be virtually impossible to lift your card details from the information shared in a mobile payment.


Apple Pay vs Samsung Pay – Availability

Again, Apple Pay has an advantage here by virtue of being available right now, but that’s only in the US and UK currently. It should spread outside these borders this year, but when is anyone’s guess.

With the launch of the S6 Edge+ and Note 5, Samsung announced that its Pay service is just about ready. It’ll launch first in Korea, then the States in September before coming to Europe in ‘the near future’.

Early Verdict

At this early point, Apple Pay obviously holds the advantage by virtue of it being in the market and doing relatively well. But it’s only in two markets, the UK and US.

Samsung Pay, on the other hand, has the genuine potential to overtake it – and to do so quickly.

It has nothing to do with the relative merits of Samsung’s and Apple’s handsets, either, although Samsung needs the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge to keep on selling well if Samsung Pay is to flourish.

More important to its prospects is the fact that Samsung Pay has addressed the matter of retail support. You’ll be able to make payments using Samsung Pay even in shops that still use the old-fashioned card swipe system. That’s huge.

As we suspected, 2015 is going to be a pivotal year for mobile payments – and these two systems are going to be key to the direction they take.


Motorola Droid Maxx 2 review

  • Amazing battery life
  • Solid Build
  • Large 5.5-inch screen
  • Near stock Android experience
  • Quick charging
  • Average camera
  • Mono sound
  • Quick charger costs extra

Motorola Droid Maxx

Fans of the Droid Maxx series finally have something to get excited about. After two years of waiting for a sequel, Verizon and Motorola finally teamed up again to release a worthy successor to its first Maxx, the Droid Maxx 2.

The Maxx 2 is actually a re-branded Moto X Play, which is a more affordable version of the Moto X Style. It features a good balance of mid-range and high-end specs. Since the Moto X Play isn’t available in the States, we welcomed the Maxx 2 with open arms.

At $384 (or $16 for 24 months) off contract, the Maxx 2 is not only competitively priced, it’s able to hold its own against other flagships.

Simple design

Motorola Droid Maxx

Motorola doesn’t make the flashiest phones in the world, but the company knows how to build quality handsets. Whether it’s an entry-level Moto E or the flagship-caliber Droid Turbo 2, Motorola always invests a lot of time in its craftsmanship.

The Droid Maxx 2 isn’t a flagship phone, so you won’t find a metal body or frame, but Motorola’s choice of materials give it a premium look and feel.

The back has an etched pattern with a soft rubber-like texture, which offers fantastic grip.

Motorola Droid Maxx

The back has an etched pattern with a soft rubber-like texture, which offers fantastic grip with none of the slipperiness found on other phones. The silver frame adds to the premium look, even though it’s plastic disguised as metal.

The body has a nano coating that acts as a water repellent. The phone shouldn’t be mistaken for waterproof, but it will be able to survive accidental spills, splashes, and light rain.

A major highlight of the design has to be its size, which is 149.8 x 78.0mm. The iPhone 6S Plus is 158.2 x 77.9mm, which is much bigger. Considering that both phones have massive 5.5-inch screens, the Maxx 2 has a clear advantage. It’s a lot easier to use and hold one-handed.

The downside is that the Maxx 2 is thicker. It’s actually 7.6mm at the sides, but the rounded back pushes it to 9.2mm at its thickest point. In comparison, the iPhone 6S Plus is only 7.3mm thick. However, the Maxx 2’s rounded back gives you the impression that it’s thinner than it actually is.


Although Motorola didn’t open up its Moto Maker customization engine for the Maxx 2, the removable back can be swapped out for a different color, which is arguably a benefit because you can change it any time you want.

Looking at the front of the phone shows speakers at the top and bottom that could easily be mistaken for stereo sound. Unfortunately that’s not the case, as the speaker phone and media playback sounds will only fire through the bottom speaker. The top speaker is reserved for in-ear phone calls.

Fantastic display and performance

Mid-range phones usually come with a below-average screen to keep the price down. However, the Maxx 2 sports a generous 5.5-inch 1080p screen, which equates to a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. This is the sweet spot, since it offers the perfect balance between viewing experience and battery life.

Motorola Droid Maxx

The screen is an LCD panel instead of the traditional AMOLED screen that we’re accustomed to on past Motorola phones. As such, it’s technically not as energy-efficient, but the battery size more than makes up for that. Although the colors don’t pop as much as they would on an AMOLED screen, the Maxx 2 looks sharp and viewing angles are very good. Plus, it performs well in sunlight, which is usually the case with LCD panels.

Motorola Droid Maxx

The back has an etched pattern with a soft rubber-like texture, which offers fantastic grip.

The Droid Maxx 2 features the octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor. Although a mid-range chip, it’s more than adequate for just about anything you can throw at it. Videos and games play smoothly, and I didn’t notice any stuttering or lag when navigating the user interface or opening and closing apps.

Motorola Droid Maxx

Internal storage is limited to 16GB, but the included MicroSD slot means that you can add up to an additional 128GB for all your pictures, music, and videos.

As mentioned before, this phone doesn’t have stereo sound, but at least the one speaker is front-firing. The sound is nothing to brag about, which is expected for a phone in this price range.

Motorola Droid Maxx

Crazy good battery

Battery life is becoming increasingly important because so many phones continue to fail to last through an entire day. Motorola has been a leader in battery life ever since the company introduced the Droid Razr Maxx back in 2012.

The Maxx 2 sports a whopping 3,760mAh battery, which is rather large for a phone of this size. The similar-sized iPhone 6S Plus only has a 2,750mAh battery, and the larger Galaxy Note 5 features a 3,000mAh battery. As such, the Maxx 2 is one of the most dominant phones in terms of battery life.

Motorola Droid Maxx

In our battery rundown test in which we play continuous video while the phone is connected to 4G LTE (not Wi-Fi) and the display is set to about 60 percent brightness, the Maxx 2 performed spectacularly. It went from 100 percent to 0 percent in 11 hours and 4 minutes. How does this translate in real life? Motorola promises 48 hours, which is not out of the realm of possibility with moderate use. Last weekend, I went from Friday morning well into Sunday without charging it once. Power users are likely to be limited to 30-36 hours, but even that’s phenomenal.

Motorola Droid Maxx

When it comes to most smartphones, you begin to panic when you hit 30 percent battery, but 30 percent on the Maxx 2 is like 80 percent on most other phones.

On top of the amazing battery life, you also get quick charging capability, or as Motorola calls it, “turbo power.” That’s just another term for Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0.

Motorola Droid Maxx

On top of the amazing battery life, you also get quick charging.

If you do find yourself in a pinch, you can juice up pretty darn fast using a quick charger. Starting from 0 percent, our tests showed that the Maxx 2 will charge to 25 percent in just 20 minutes, 50 percent in 45 minutes, and 100 percent in 2 hours. This means that you can grab 12 hours of life after just 20 minutes of charging, or about 24 hours after just 45 minutes.

Motorola Droid Maxx

The downside is that a quick-charging compatible charger doesn’t come in the box. You can buy one directly from Motorola, or any third-party charger will work, as long as it’s certified with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 standard.

Motorola Droid Maxx

Unfortunately, wireless charging isn’t onboard, but you won’t miss it with battery life like this.

Average camera

Motorola has never blown anyone away with its cameras, but the company has improved greatly over the past couple of years. The Droid Maxx 2 sports a 21-megapixel main rear camera along with a 5-megapixel front-facing lens. When you consider the rear cameras on the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus are 12-megapixels and the Galaxy S6 sports 16-megapixels, this is very generous for a phone in this price range.

Droid Maxx 2 Camera Sample

However, it’s not all about the megapixels. Megapixels only make it easier for you to crop images, but none of that matters if the quality is subpar. The Maxx 2 handles brightly lit situations very well, but the lack of optical image stabilization shows up in low-light shots, in which a decent amount of noise is present. There is a Night Mode, which does cut down on the noise, but at the expense of lowering the megapixel count down to 3.7. Ouch.

Droid Maxx 2 Camera Sample

The camera software itself is very minimal with limited controls. It’s meant to be a simple point and shoot. In fact, it’s so simple, that you can tap anywhere on the display to capture a shot. For those who like to tweak things, there is a drag to focus with exposure control option.

Droid Maxx 2 Camera Sample

Although it has a high megapixel count, the Maxx 2 cannot record 4K video. This isn’t going to be a big deal for most people, though. It can record up to 1080p (1920 x 1080) at 30 frames per second, which is more than enough.

Droid Maxx 2 Camera Sample

The front-facing camera doesn’t include flash, but the display can be used for the same purpose. There is also a Best Shot mode that will automatically pick out the best selfie photo from a series of shots, but I was unable to get that to work.

Useful Motorola software

The Droid Maxx 2 runs Android Lollipop 5.1.1 out of the box, which is a bummer since the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update has been available for over a month. However, Motorola and Verizon promise that the Marshmallow update is coming very soon.

What separates Motorola from other Android manufacturers is its software on top of Android. While other manufacturers continue to muck up Android with a different look and useless apps, Motorola preserves the pure Android experience and includes some very useful features.


New for this year is Moto Loop, which again, shows Motorola’s prowess in offering stuff that fits into your everyday life. This app is the perfect way to keep track of each family member’s location and also offers the ability to send messages to each other. You can set certain locations where family members can auto check in. That way, you will be notified when your child gets to school and home, plus, you can always check the real-time location as well. If this isn’t enough, Moto Loop can also automatically control your Nest Thermostat or Philips Hue lights when you get home.

Other familiar apps like Voice, Display, Assist, and Actions are all back again.

  • Voice allows you to initiate commands without the need to wake your phone. You can ask questions, set reminders, play a song, and more.
  • Display shows your notifications without the need to turn on the full display. All you need to do is nudge your phone and they will appear.
  • Assist recognizes when you’re at home, driving, at work, or any other custom location. You can adjust the settings for when you’re at each location, like whether you want your text messages read to you, notifications silenced, and more.
  • Actions opens the camera with two flicks of the wrist.

Droid Zap, a past Verizon exclusive, is also back with the Droid Maxx 2. This app allows you to share photos and videos directly with other friends near you. It’s perfect for parties and group outings. It’s available on other Android phones, as well as iOS (Motorola Zap), so your friends don’t have to own a Droid-branded phone.


Motorola’s Limited Warranty for the Droid Maxx 2 covers fixes for one year. After that, you’ll have to pay for repairs or to extend your coverage. Motorola will not repair or replace phones that have water damage, either. Out-of-warranty repairs cost $175.

The Maxx 2 has a special screen program, which isn’t as extensive as the ShatterShield promise Motorola offers on the Droid Turbo 2. Motorola will give you one free certified replacement within 2 years of purchase, if you break yours.

Motorola offers a few more paid options for those who need more protection. Moto Care Accident Protection covers accidents that affect the functionality of the device, like drops and spills. It comes with an additional 3 or 12 months of Motorola’s standard limited warranty. It’s more expensive, though, and prices vary widely based on how many months you signup for and what device you have. Prices are between $15 – $70 for 15 months of coverage or $25 – $100 for 24 months of coverage.

The $13-$20 Moto Care Extended Service Plan covers an additional 12 months of Motorola’s standard limited warranty, with an unlimited number of claims and low deductible.


At $384 off contract, you’re going to have a hard time finding a better value smartphone. The OnePlus 2 and Asus Zenfone 2 are worthy contenders at $330 and $300 respectively, but neither one will work on Verizon Wireless or offer this kind of battery life.

On the other hand, the recently announced HTC One A9 will work on Verizon, but it costs $500. The best competitor might be the Google Nexus 5X, which sells for $400. It will work on Verizon, and it has a better camera, but its battery life can’t hold a candle to the Droid Maxx 2, and we don’t recommend it as a viable alternative, based on our terrible experience with the phone.

The Droid Maxx 2 is exactly what the Honda Accord is for automobiles. You get rock-solid performance with a near luxurious experience for a lot less money.

If you’re looking for a new phone that won’t break the bank and is built to last, you can’t go wrong with the Droid Maxx 2.


Ruark Audio MR1 review

  • Impressive build quality
  • Excellent detail, punch and composure
  • Timelessly stylish design
  • Poor remote
  • Relatively expensive

Key Features: 20W linear Class A-B amplifier; Bluetooth with apt-X; Long-throw 75mm woofer and 20mm treated textile dome tweeter; Auto Standby function; Available in Rich Walnut, White or Black

Manufacturer: Ruark Audio

What is the Ruark Audio MR1?

The MR1 Bluetooth speaker system is out to prove that you don’t have to settle for second-class sound quality just because you’re streaming music from your phone. It’s designed for use with a variety of sources, including phones, TVs and PCs. But no matter what you play, Ruark sets out to make it sound as good as possible.

The MR1 has been around for a couple of years, but has criminally gone under my radar, so I thought it was high time I had a listen.

Design and Connections

The MR1 comprises two compact speakers, each measuring 170mm high by 130mm wide, with all the electronics and amplification housed in the active right speaker – signals are sent to the left speaker through the supplied coaxial cable.

The hand-crafted wooden cabinets are styled with panache, most of which comes from the gorgeous Rich Walnut veneer – although they’re available in more modern-looking White and Black finishes too. Rounded edges give them a funky “lifestyle” look that should appeal to the Apple generation, while also keeping fans of old-school hi-fi gear on side.

Build quality is excellent – not only are the cabinets rigid and weighty, but they’re also adorned with high-quality fittings such as the metal rear panel and sturdy rubber feet underneath. The drivers are covered by a black cloth grille that slots securely into plug fixings.

Ruark Audio MR-1

The MR1’s size is a big part of its appeal. The speakers are small enough to be placed either side of a PC monitor without seeming imposing, plus you can put them on a shelf or sideboard without the need for a reshuffle. They’re the epitome of living-room-friendly.

On top of the right speaker is a volume dial that also acts as a power and source-selection button – just hold it down to switch between inputs, and a small light tells you which is selected (orange for line input, blue for Bluetooth). The rubberised dial moves smoothly and you can feel the increments as you turn it.

Ruark Audio MR-1

On the back is an output for the left speaker, a 3.5mm subwoofer output, a 3.5mm line input and a switch that attenuates the input signal from high-level devices such as TVs and Blu-ray players to prevent distortion.


The MR1 features Bluetooth with apt-X, which means you can enjoy CD-quality sound from compatible devices – a feature that fits nicely with the MR1’s hi-fi ethos.

Each speaker boasts a long-throw 75mm woofer with a neodymium magnet system, which costs more than traditional ferrite systems. However, its greater magnetic concentration allows for better driver control.

Meanwhile a 20mm treated textile dome tweeter fires out high frequencies, also using a neodymium magnet. The system favours a linear 20W Class A-B stereo amplifier over the Class D amps used by most systems of this type.

Elsewhere, an Auto Standby function shuts the system down after a period of inactivity, and when connected to a TV it will wake up or sleep when you turn the TV on or off.

Ruark’s optional BackPack is a rechargeable battery that clips onto the rear and makes the MR1 fully wireless – handy for garden use.

Ruark Audio MR-1

Setup and Operation

Setup is simple and streamlined. Just run the cable between speakers and plug it in. Job done. Bluetooth setup is equally simple. Switch to Bluetooth mode, start pairing and find “Ruark MR1” on your device. I didn’t have any trouble pairing any devices.

You can quite happily control the system using the tactile control dial, but there’s also a slim credit-card style remote in the box for sofa-bound operation. I don’t usually like these off-the-peg remotes with their fiddly blister buttons and unergonomic shape, but with only six buttons to grapple with it’s not so bad. The buttons include standby, volume up and down, Bluetooth, line-in and mute.


Start playing your favourite tunes via Bluetooth and the MR1’s hi-fi quality shines through immediately. Unlike some desktop speakers that reveal only a fraction of what music has to offer, the Ruark gives you a full-fat listening experience.

Impressive detail reproduction lends texture to vocals and a feeling of lightness in the cymbals and percussion. Turn up the volume and the top-end stays calm and composed, stopping short of the hardness that blights lesser systems. The system has a decent set of pipes too, delivering a loud, potent sound that belies the speakers’ dinky dimensions.

Voices are full-bodied and detailed, making them sound intimate and realistic. Piano-led ballad “Pride” by Tahirah Memory sounds beautiful thanks to the MR1’s ability to convey all the texture and emotion in the singer’s soulful voice.

Such subtlety is backed up by dazzling dynamics and attack. Play “It Feels So Good” by Afro Elements and the MR1 drives the track forward with crisp snares and tight, nimble bass. There’s wonderful weight and depth in the bass notes, but the sound never feels bogged down or muddy. The jazzy brass lines punch through the mix and the vocalists don’t have to compete for space. The MR1 organises everything beautifully.

Switch over to the line input and the music sounds slightly fuller and beefier – but essentially, you get the same well-balanced, detailed and energetic performance. This caps off a very assured performance from a brand that goes up in my estimation with every system I review.

Ruark Audio MR-1

Should I buy the Ruark Audio MR1?

With its delicious design, foolproof operation and sophisticated performance, it’s almost impossible not to recommend the MR1. It isn’t quite in the same league as the remarkable Monitor Audio AirStream S150 – particularly since it costs half as much as the Ruark – but it’s certainly in the same ball park.

It delivers a full-range hi-fi listening experience from speakers so compact they’ll barely make a dent in your desktop space, while the top-class build quality provides more justification for that hefty price tag. The only negative is the small, fiddly remote, and when that’s all you have to moan about then you know you’re onto a winner.


A stylish, well-made and great-sounding Bluetooth system that brings a bit of hi-fi finesse to the wireless world.

Scores In Detail

Design : 8/10
Features : 8/10
Sound Quality : 9/10
Usability : 7/10
Value : 8/10


Cube Talk 9X review : A Chinese Android Tablet to Take On the iPad Air

  • Overall screen quality/powerful contrast, good colour fidelity
  • Responsiveness/good application of the new MediaTek octa-core processor
  • 3G compatible/easy to make calls (with headset) and text
  • Excellent value for money
  • Screen—poor brightness
  • Graphics chip not up to standard of octa-core processor (graphics distinctly average when gaming)
  • Battery life could be improved/Length of time required to fully charge device too long
  • Average audio


  • Operating system (OS) : Android
  • OS version tested : 4.4 KitKat
  • Chipset (SoC) : Mediatek MT8392T
  • Processor (CPU) : ARM Cortex-A7 2 GHz
  • No. of CPU cores : 8
  • GPU : Mali-450


While the majority of the tablet market is occupied by the likes of Apple, Samsung and other A-listers, there’s another section of the market that’s been gaining followers month by month: Chinese brands selling Android slates with heavy duty specs at moderate prices. Cube is one of these brands, and every year it releases a handful of Android devices that have become known for boasting powerful components in relation to their price.

Cube Talk 9X U65GT

The U65GT, or Talk 9X, is a perfect example. It’s a 4:3 slate with a 9.7″ IPS touchscreen that has super-high resolution of 2048 x 1536 pixels—exactly the same as the iPad Air. Behind the display are a 2 GHz MediaTek MT8392 octa-core processor with a Mali 450MP GPU and a choice of 16 GB or 32 GB of storage, expandable via microSD. For wireless connectivity it has Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, and 3G compatibility for data, calls and texts. The rear camera has 8 Megapixels and the front one has 2 Megapixels.

The operating system is Android 4.4 KitKat, and it’s stock because Cube hasn’t added its own interface. The 16 GB model tends to go for around £150/$225, and we’ve found the 32 GB for as low as £166/$250.

We would like to thank Touch-4U for lending us a unit so that we could write this review.

Cube Talk 9X U65GT


It’s difficult, nowadays, for a tablet like this, adopting thin aluminium or metal designs, to distinguish itself from Apple’s iPad Air. And like many before it, this model has failed to create for itself a unique identity, the Cube Talk 9X bearing a certain resemblance to its well-known Californian counterpart. Its general look, and especially the reverse of the tablet, are very “iPadesque”, constructed from brushed metal with a plastic strip at the top to facilitate wireless connectivity.

Cube Talk 9X U65GT

Despite the similarities, the border around the screen is a little larger than on the iPad, but the overall build-quality is good, as is the integration of the various ports (micro-USB, headphone jack, microSD card slots and micro-SIM). There are no sharp edges, no slippery finishes and only very slight heating (not problematic). Cube has obviously paid great attention to detail.

Cube Talk 9X U65GT

The only real negative is the weight, which, at 550 g, is 100 g more than the iPad Air. You really notice it after a few minutes of use (especially when gaming in landscape mode, with the tablet held in both hands).

Unsurprisingly, this slate hasn’t broken new ground to become the first of Apple’s competitors to recreate its neutral touch-point. This nifty little idea from Apple allows you to hold the device with your thumb on the screen, without the tablet interpreting it as a touch command. This means you can use the screen as normal with the other hand. Currently, this feature is unique to Apple.

Cube Talk 9X U65GT


With its super high resolution screen, the Talk X goes toe-to-toe against the Big Daddy of the 9.7″, 4:3 world: the iPad Air. First off, the only noteworthy difference between the two is Apple’s use of IGZO panels, which are more compact, more reactive and perhaps just pip the Talk X’s in terms of overall brightness. Despite this, the Cube X holds its own in many areas.

First of all, it has a slightly better contrast: 1060:1 against 1000:1. Then there’s the colours, which are very good and similar to the iPad Air’s. The Cube’s Delta E may be slightly higher (3.2 against 2.7), but the overall picture quality is very balanced, with no real blips. Grey and flesh tones were excellent, and primary colours didn’t disappoint either. A little reminder for those who’ve forgotten: Delta E quantifies the difference between perfect, natural colours and those displayed by the screen—colours are considered accurate below 3.

Cube Talk 9X U65GT

On the other hand, the blacks lack a bit of depth, but the colour temperature (very stable) was close to perfection at 6431 K, which means no overall colour shift towards blue or yellow. The average gamma, also very stable across the spectrum, gave a very high level of detail in both dark and light tones.

Looks like a pretty perfect set of results, right? Unfortunately, something just had to tarnish that perfect record: max brightness was a pitiful 228 cd/m². It’s still good enough for indoor use, but take a step outside and it’s game over: readability goes right down and gets even worse for video clips. Any direct light, and there’s no hope of navigating the OS.

As for responsiveness, we noticed a few little lags, with an average latency time of 28 ms. This is pretty poor for IPS, but the touch response time (time taken to respond to a touch command) was 79 ms, which, although not as good as the iPad Air’s 21 ms, is pretty respectable compared with the rest of the market, including the flagship models of certain top brands.

The resolution of 2048 x 1536 pixels is perfect for this size screen. Whether in portrait or landscape mode, the OS navigation, web browsing and reading of emails/e-books is perfectly comfortable. We barely ever felt the need to zoom or enlarge the font. In this respect, it’s level pegging for the Cube and Apple tablets.


Cube’s tablet comes with Android 4.4 KitKat, the latest version of Google’s operating system. Apart from a few backgrounds and a file browsing function, the OS is stock Android, with no personalised touches or overlay interfaces. We’d be tempted to say that this was no bad thing, since many of the home-brand interfaces are pretty power-hungry and aren’t quite fully optimised.

Cube accueil

However, Google’s suite of apps isn’t included by default, so you’ll have to download Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube, Chrome and even Hangouts from the Play Store. The latter is fortunately pre-installed. Running the latest version of Android, the Talk 9X has some pretty useful features, such as the option of creating different sessions for different users, and an Android keyboard offering Swype-like typing (move your finger between the letters of the word, and the predictive text function does the rest). 3G and wireless connectivity are addressed in the inset at the bottom of the page.

In terms of performance, we were impressed by the Cube’s ability to get the most out of the MediaTek octa-core processor. As you might have heard from other sources, the MT8392 chip has truly been pushing the boundaries in the benchmarks, and our tests confirmed this. But how many portable devices, equipped with the latest-generation components, have outperformed the competition in the benchmarks only to be brought down by a lack of optimisation?

And that’s the great thing: the MT8392 makes this slate run like clockwork, not batting an eyelid as it powers the demanding screen, and any number of apps or other functions solicited by the user. It’s a real champion. We noticed very few lags, the worst of which being a slight freeze when we were adding a dynamic widget to the Android home screen. Pretty inconsequential, really.


Web browsing is fluid and responsive, one of the best we’ve encountered on an Android tablet, including the most well known. This Cube model easily matches Samsung and Sony’s products with regard to the download speed of web pages and smooth scrolling through content. The whole experience is further improved by the screen’s very high resolution. In portrait mode, you can comfortably browse the web for relatively long periods of time.

Once you’ve downloaded a third-party app like MX Player, you’ll be able to view the majority of video files. The picture is excellent, the tablet easily displaying Full HD 1080p video, and never skipping, whatever file you open or whatever scene you skip to. However, just like with the iPad Air, the format of the screen means that the black borders get bigger still.

Cube nova

The Talk 9X was a bit of a disappointment regarding gaming. While Cube equipped its tablet with the latest MediaTek octa-core processor, easily capable of running any game available on Google’s Play Store (Real Racing 3 and Dead Trigger 2 weren’t yet compatible at the time of testing), it opted for an old hat Mali-450MP iGPU, which really limits this tablet’s gaming performance. In the end, all games, even the more resource-intensive, ran smoothly, but the graphics were unfortunately not at their best. It’s a real shame.

The headphone jack socket didn’t produce faithful sounds: distortion was too high (5% at full volume), passing the percentage limit (after which distortion can be noticed) with volume at 90%. What’s more, at this volume, the output is pretty weak, only good enough to power the most-undemanding of headphones. Dynamic range and crosstalk were just about average.

The built-in speaker delivers a pretty powerful sound, but the sound itself is very shrill, making it not that nice to listen to. On top of that, saturation was too high at full volume.


Concerning the battery, Cube spared no expense, incorporating a 10,000 mAh version to deliver enough power for the energy-hungry screen and processor (octa-core MediaTek models are certainly not the most economical). The Talk 9X’s battery life ranged from good to average. It lasted 7 hrs 45 mins in HD video playback mode, and 2 hrs 30 less than that when running games. In mixed use, we got a better battery life of 9 hrs 30 mins. These times were measured with Wi-Fi on and 3G off. If you activate 3G, it’s not quite such good news, with the average time dropping to 6 hrs 40 mins.

With this gigantic battery, you’re going to need an equally gigantic dose of patience: to fully charge it from empty will take between 4 hrs 15 mins and 4 hrs 30 mins. A special mention goes to the sleep mode, though, which is very nearly as impressive as the iPad Air’s and the Xperia Z2 Tablet’s. This means you’ll be able to let it sleep for days, without having to worry about it losing much power.


The photo and video capture offered by the Talk 9X is very impressive indeed! Of course, its 8 Mpx camera doesn’t produce anything amazing in low light (grainy, quite red, lacks sharpness), but the picture is still more-or-less usable. In good lighting conditions, the pictures are very good, although a little dull in places.

Cube Talk 9X U65GT

The first thing worth mentioning is the exceptionally quick shutter release, which is equally as good as the iPad Air and Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet. Pictures are good; while sharp, they are a little noisy, but this isn’t a big problem. Now all you have to do is find a reason to shoot with a 9.7″ tablet—making quick copies of documents or quickly capturing something in class might be a suitable use.

The front-facing camera, with 2 Mpx sensor, gives detailed picture quality, although there’s a bit of ghosting in all light conditions. When all said and done, though, you’ll get good-quality video calls when using this camera.

3G Connectivity

Cube decided to equip its tablet with 3G connectivity, but, most importantly, with the ability to make/take calls and send/receive texts. To do this, the Cube Talk 9X has some smartphone-like features, including a contacts app—typical stock Android, i.e. basic but functional—a calls app and another for texting. The latter benefits from Google’s Swype-like typing method.

For voice calls, the tablet has a standard phone earpiece speaker, but who’s going to hold a massive tablet to their head every time they want to chat? Instead, you’ll have to use either a Bluetooth headset, which we’d recommend, or the device’s main speaker. This speaker, though, is really too weak and isn’t great to listen to. On the whole, calls were a bit too quiet for our liking, but voices were still audible—the call feature is certainly no mere gimmick. The device works just fine as a back up phone, especially if you have twin micro SIM cards, like many operators are now offering.

Overall, the 3G reception was very good, even in difficult places like lifts and narrow city streets. The Wi-Fi signal strength was very strong, even when several metres from the router and with walls in between. The Cube 9X’s built-in GPS also performed well: it got a fix almost instantaneously with Wi-Fi, just like the best tablets, and after no more than 30 seconds with 3G. Accuracy was perfectly good.


The Cube Talk 9X represents incredible value for money, but there are, of course, some compromises to be made: the graphics chip doesn’t quite match up to the power of the octa-core processor, and the screen’s max brightness is a let down compared with its colour accuracy. Despite this, for anyone wanting an iPad-Air look-a-like, with plenty of power for a pretty small price, you need look no further than the Cube Talk 9X.


BrydgeMini review: Keyboard case for older iPad mini models

While Apple was busy touting the benefits of increasing the iPad’s overall size, iPad keyboard maker Brydge has been hard at work creating a keyboard for the iPad mini.

The BrydgeMini follows the same overall design of the BrydgeAir, the company’s keyboard for the standard iPad. Lacking from the smaller version, however, is the built-in speaker which I found to be a distraction anyways.

brydgemini silver mini main

The $129 BrydgeMini is available in three different colors: gold, silver, and space grey. The keyboard is compatible with every version of the iPad mini except for the iPad mini 4.

The BrydgeMini features two hinges that hold the iPad mini in place. You simply slide the iPad into the silicone shims, pair the two devices in your iPad’s Bluetooth menu, and you’re ready to begin using the keyboard.

The hinges rest on either side of the screen, and do a good job at holding onto the iPad mini. I was able to pick up the iPad mini by the keyboard, leaving the tablet ever-so-dangerously dangling above the floor and it didn’t slip out. I merely wanted to test their grip, and wouldn’t advise you to do the same.

brydgemini silver mini front

Perhaps my favorite feature of the entire Brydge line is its allowance for multiple viewing angles. In fact, there’s no limit to viewing angles. If you want to type on your lap with the back of the iPad mini resting parallel to the keyboard (flat on your legs) the BrydgeMini will let that happen. For those looking for specifics, the BrydgeMini has a 180-degree hinge. When closed, the BrydgeMini doubles as a protective cover for your iPad mini’s screen.

Having a keyboard that’s not locked into only a few viewing angles goes a long way towards enabling you to be productive, regardless of your work environment.

Size is always an issue

The BrydgeMini suffers from the same limiting form factor as any other iPad mini keyboard. Keys are cramped, a bit smaller, and often times moved around in an attempt to make the best of the small footprint. Taking that into consideration, Brydge has done a good job at maximizing space. The main letters are sufficient in size, as are the number keys.

The downside is nearly all of the perimeter keys, such as punctuation and the shift keys are small and easy to miss as a result. The keys themselves are responsive and offer a fair amount of travel.

With any new keyboard of this size, there’s a learning curve in both key layout and size. After a few days of typing, you should have no problem adjusting.

The top row of keys are iOS shortcuts. You can expect to find keys to take you home, lock the device, adjust the keyboard’s backlight, screen brightness, search, and media playback controls. The backlight key improves upon a gripe I had with the BrydgeAir. On the bigger keyboard, pressing the backlight key simply turned the backlight on or off–it didn’t allow users to adjust the brightness. That’s now changed on the BridgeMini, which features three different levels of brightness.

The battery in the BrydgeMini is said to last three months, and while I haven’t had enough time to determine it’s accuracy, I can vouch for the BrydgeAir having met or exceeded its battery estimates.

brydgemini group

Bottom line

It’s been awhile since I’ve tested a keyboard for the iPad mini. My recollection of the early days is full of keyboard that were overly cramped, providing for a horrible experience.

The BrydgeMini is cramped, but does a good job at hiding that fact. I was able to pair it to my test device and begin typing, relatively error free almost instantly.

Its $129 price tag is more expensive than offerings from the likes of Kensington or Logitech, but it’s aluminum housing is partly to blame for that (whereas other keyboards are typically housed in plastic). Someone looking for a premium keyboard for an iPad mini, the BrydgeMini is where your search should begin.


Ricoh WG-M1 Review


The Ricoh WG-M1 is an action camera that’s capable of recording full HD video (1280 x 960 pixels), which are captured at a 137-degree ultra-wide angle of view. Although primarily designed to capture video, it’s also possible to record stills. The camera has an f/2.8 lens and can capture three different angles of views with 14 million pixels. As it is designed to be used in a variety of “action” type of environments, it has several rugged credentials. It’s waterproof down to 10 metres, shockproof from 2 metres and freeze proof down to -10 degrees celcius. The Ricoh WG-M1 costs around £159.99 / $199.95.

Ease of Use

As the Ricoh WG-M1 is an action camera, it doesn’t have the same kind of design as a standard compact camera. Rather, it is a sort of square design, with the colour LCD on the top of the camera.

Pentax WG-M1

Front of the Ricoh WG-M1

This makes for quite an unusual way to compose an image, as effectively you’re looking down on what you’re composing. It’s something you get used to with time, but, thanks to the ultra wide angle view, it’s more designed to be capture the whole scene in front of it without worrying too much about precise composition.

As the Ricoh WG-M1 is designed to be used when you simply want to record whatever exciting action is happening, there aren’t too many buttons and dials which you need to get to grips with.

On the bottom of the camera is a thread for attaching the camera to a tripod or to the mount which you can use to stick the camera to handlebars etc. As the supplied mount is flat, it’s not quite as easy to stick it to a curved helmet though, which bike users may want to consider.

Ricoh WG-M1

Front of the Ricoh WG-M1

If you look down at the Ricoh WG-M1 from the top – where the screen is – you will also see that there are markings which indicate where each of the buttons is, and what they do, which can be useful for navigating through them when you can’t move the camera, or yourself, to a better viewing angle.There are just five buttons on the Ricoh WG-M1. On the left hand side, you have the on/off button, which you need to hold down for 2-3 seconds for the camera to switch on or off. When the camera is on standby, you can press this button lightly just once to switch the screen back on to use the camera again. Just next to this button is a larger record button which can either be used for taking stills or recording movies. Not only is the button larger, but it’s also textured and raised from the body, making it easy for you to tell which button is which when you can’t see the camera.

Pentax WG-M1

Pentax WG-M1

Side of the Ricoh WG-M1

On the right hand side of the camera are the buttons you need for more advanced control of the camera, although there’s not a huge amount of settings you can change.

The middle button of the three here is a circular “OK” button. Pressing this allows you to switch between stills recording and video recording. Either side of this central button is a playback button, and a menu button. The menu isn’t particularly extensive, but it takes some getting used to when navigating it since you only have three buttons to use it.

Ricoh WG-M1

Pentax WG-M1

Top of the Ricoh WG-M1

In order to save power, the screen will turn off after 30 seconds, and that includes if you’re recording a video, and you’ll need to press the On/Off button down lightly to reactivate the screen. This can be a little annoying if you’re trying to keep an eye on what you’re filming, and there seems to be no way to stop it from doing this from within the menu. On the plus side, this approach is fine if you’re recording something for a long period of time and aren’t intending to look at the screen. A red light near the on/off button will flash while a video is recording to alert you to the fact that it’s still going.You can change the angle of view in the main menu from wide, mid, narrow and when in video record mode, to water for a flatter view. When you’re in video recording, other options you can change include the size of the movie being recorded, white balance, the ability to shoot a time lapse movie, applying wind cut filter for sound, and activating loop recording.

Pentax WG-M1

 Rear of the Ricoh WG-M1

Going back to the menu, there are a few things you can alter in Stills mode. You can change the size of the image created (the largest being 14 million pixels, the lowest being 5 million pixels), you can activate burst shot if you want to shoot lots of images in one go, again you can change the field of view and white balance, too. Aside from that, it’s not possible to change other settings, such as exposure compensation, aperture and the like.

Ricoh WG-M1

The Ricoh WG-M1 In-hand

There’s a Ricoh WG-M1 wireless app which you can download for iOS or Android which allows you to remotely control the camera. You can control a few things, such as the field of view, white balance and of course firing off the shutter release. Although there’s not a huge amount you can control, there’s not a huge amount which is controllable via the camera anyway, so it’s not surprising. It’s useful to be able to control the camera remotely if you’re attaching it to a drone, kite, or something else which means you can’t alter settings or press the record button yourself.To change the battery and/or memory card, you need to open a door which has a double lock mechanism to stop water from entering and damaging the camera. As the first lock is quite stiff, it’s extremely unlikely you’d be able to accidentally knock it open and therefore open the door by accident – handy when you’re using the camera in extreme conditions.

Pentax WG-M1

You can also view images in playback and download them to your smartphone which is useful for uploading images to social networking sites and/or email quickly.

Operational speeds are pretty quick, with shot-to-shot times being good enough to allow you to shoot quite a few shots in succession.

Image Quality

The strengths of a camera like this tend not to lie in still image quality, and while it is possible to take still images with it, how often the average user of the camera will be doing that is debatable.

However, that said, images from the camera do display a good amount of vibrance and brightness, so if you do want to use it to capture stills and are happy to live with its limits, then you may still be reasonably pleased.

As light drops, image quality becomes less desirable, with but again this is not really the sort of camera that you’re likely to be using in particularly dark conditions, so the importance of that is again limited.

When you’re using the camera in its widest angle of view setting, it’s possible to see some of the black casing around the edges of the frame, which is something to bear in mind.

Although you can set the white balance setting yourself, the automatic setting does a pretty job of providing accurate colours. Although you can’t alter exposure compensation, again the camera does a pretty good job by itself.

Moving on the video capability of the camera, the WG-M1 can produce high quality video footage, with the different angles of view useful depending on what you want to photograph. Sound quality is also quite good, sounding reasonably clear and picking up a good array of sounds.


Camera Type Action camera
Size 1/2.3’’
Effective Pixels Approx. 14 megapixels
Still (4:3) 14M : 4320×3240, 5M : 2592×1944 (16:9) 10M : 4320×2432
Movie 1920×1080(30fps), 1280×960(50fps), 1280×960(30fps), 1280×720(60fps), 1280×720(30fps), 848×480(60fps), 848×480(120fps)
Sensitivity Sensitivity (Standard Output Sensitivity): Automatic (ISO 100-800)
Shake Reduction Motion Blur Reduction: Electronic image stabilization (movie only)
Usable lenses In 35mm format equivalent: approx. 16.8mm
Focal Length 3mm
Aperture Maximum Aperture: F2.8
Zoom area Field of view: Wide, Medium, Narrow, Underwater

Maximum field of view:

Still image : approx. 160°(4:3 wide)
Movie : approx. 137°(1280×960)

Focusing System
Type Fix focus length

Focus Range:

In air (Lens protector O-LP1531, Underwater lens protector O-LP1532) : 60cm-∞

Underwater (Underwater lens protector O-LP1532) : 80cm-∞

Type Built-in 1.5’’ LCD screen
Exposure system
Exposure Control Metering System : AiAE, Face AE (not switchable)
Exposure Parameters
Modes Shooting modes: Still, Movie, Time Lapse, Loop recording, Motion detection

Drive modes: Still: Single, Burst Shot

Face Recognition 10 people’s faces
White Balance AWB, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Underwater
Options Playback modes: Photo playback, Movie playback
Internal Built-in memory: approx. 100MB
External Micro SD / micro SDHC Memory Card
File Format Still: JPEG (conforms to Exif 2.3), conforms to DCF2.0

Movie: MOV/H.264, 30fps/50fps/60fps/120fps

Audio: PCM system, stereo sound

Special Features
Features Water proof: 10m : Equivalent to IPX8 / JIS Class 8 waterproof Shock proof: 2.0m : Conforming to Method 516.5-Shock of the MIL-Standard 810F Dust proof: IP6X / JIS Class 6 dustproof capabilities Freeze proof: -10°C Charging time: Approx. 200 minutes Recording time : 848x 480 (120fps): Maximum recordable time : 60 seconds
Maximum playback time : 4 minutes Lens protector / Underwater lens protector: In order to guarantee the waterproof and dustproof performance, please make sure to attach the lens protector to the camera all the time. Waterproof performance is guaranteed only when the camera is equipped with the underwater lens protector O-LP1532. Burst Shot: Approx. 10fps (number of possible shots fixed) Color model: Orange / Black Verified memory card: SanDisk SDHC 8GB Class4 Others: “*Turn on : When the power is off, press and hold Power Button for more than 2 seconds to turn on the product; or press and hold Playback Button for more than 2 seconds to turn on the product and enter playback mode. *Turn off : When the power is on, press and hold Power Button for more than 2 seconds to turn off the product. *The maximum length is 25 minutes for movie.”
Language English, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Japanese, Korean, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai, Indonesia, Vietnamese, Italian, German, Dutch, Russian, Polish, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Greek, Turkish, Hungarian, Croatian, Czech, Arabic, Hindi
Interface Interfaces: USB2.0 (Hi-Speed compatible), HDMI port (Type D)

Wireless interface:

Standard : 802.11b/g/n
Frequency : 2.4GHz band
Security : WPA2

Source Rechargeable lithium-ion battery DB-65
Performance Still : Approx. 350 pictures (using the rechargeable lithium-ion battery)

Movie recording : Approx. 150 minutes (using the rechargeable lithium-ion battery)

Playback : Approx. 400 minutes (using the rechargeable lithium-ion battery)

Height 42.5
Width 66.5
Depth 89.5
Weight Approx. 190g (including battery, microSD memory card, and Lens protector O-LP1531)
Approx. 151g (excluding battery, microSD memory card, and Lens protector O-LP1531)
Kit Content Power adapter GAC-03 EU


RICOH rechargeable LI battery DB-65 EU

Carabiner strap O-ST153

Lens protector O-LP1531

Underwater lens protector O-LP1532

WG Flat Adhesive Mount O-CM1531

Optional RICOH battery charger BJ-6 EU 171874

Power adapter GAC-03 EU 38669

RICOH HDMI cable HC-1 W/W 173611

WG flat adehesive mount O-CM1471 37030

WG handle bar mount O-CM1472 37031

WG suction cup mount O-CM1473 37032

WG repair parts 1 O-CM1474 37034

WG repair parts 2 O-CM1475 37035

WG repair parts 3 O-CM1476 37036

WG Flat Adhensive Mount2 O-CM1532 37041

WG Wrist Strap Mount O-CM1533 37042

WG Peg Mount O-CM1534 37043

WG Magnet Mount O-CM1535 37044

WG Helmet Strap Mount O-CM1536 37045

WG Grip Adapter O-MA1531 37046

WG Angle Adapter O-MA1532 37047


Although GoPro pretty much seems to have the monopoly on these kind of cameras, that’s not to say that there aren’t other viable alternatives on the market, and the Ricoh WG-M1 is one of those.

It’s reasonably priced and for that you get a decent range of specifications, while it’s useful to be able to see what you’re filming on the screen rather than the guesswork which is associated with some action cameras which are currently on the market.

The Ricoh WG-M1 is very easy to use and get to grips with as there’s only a few controls, and the fact that the buttons are both large and textured makes it easy to use underwater, or with gloves, or when your view of the camera is diminished.

On the downside, the menu system is a little more difficult to navigate, but it’s something you do get used to after a while.

It also feels sturdy and well put together, so you can have confidence when you’re using it in a variety of different action situations.

Although this is not really a camera that is recommended as your only stills camera, it can take reasonable shots with some noticeable drawbacks, which are good enough for grab shots or when you can’t use your standard camera (such when you’re in water for example). The video the Ricoh WG-M1 produces, arguably more important for a camera like this, is of high quality though, so you should be pleased with that.

The inbuilt Wi-Fi is useful for a couple of reasons – it’s pretty handy to be able to control the camera remotely, and if you catch something that’s pretty unusual, being able to share it with your social networking without having to wait until you get home is ever more increasing these days.

On the downside though, the mount which comes with the Ricoh WG-M1 is flat, which makes it difficult to attach to certain things, such as curved helmets – which seems like a bit of an oversight to what is otherwise a great offering for action enthusiasts.

Design 3
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 3.5
Value for money 4


2015 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack Review

“What’s with the bee?” An angry insect might not be the most obvious mascot for a 485 horsepower muscle sedan, but the 2015 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack certainly has enough sting to keep the hive happy. And, though it’s not the Hellcat that tops the Charger line-up, kicking off at under $40k makes this particular Dodge a very interesting one indeed.

2015 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack Review

At a time when most manufacturers are playing with turbochargers, Dodge keeps delivering the huge displacement that traditionalists demand. In the case of the Charger R/T Scat Pack that’s a 6.4-liter V8 HEMI courtesy of the team at SRT, delivering not only all 485 aforementioned horses but a blistering 475 lb-ft. of torque.


Nobody ever accused the Charger of subtlety, but the R/T Scat Pack goes further than most. The dreamy B5 Blue finish is almost as eye-catching as the twin tailpipes are loud, while the smokey 20-inch wheels and huge hood bulge give the car the stance its numbers deserve.

In terms of Dodge’s line-up, it slots in-between the regular Charger R/T and the Charger SRT 392. Compared to the latter, you keep the 8-speed TorqueFlite auto transmission but lose the three-mode suspension, while the Brembo brakes are slightly smaller and use four pistons rather than six, while the wheels slightly narrower.


It’s no less attention-grabbing, mind. I didn’t dare poll them, but I suspect my neighbors quickly came to hate me, given the noise the R/T Scat Pack makes when you hit the starter button. Think along the lines of “angry baritone wildcat meets furious bees’ nest” and you’re on the right track.

Things don’t get much less raucous on the move, either. There’s a fair amount of tire noise, and the engine note is always fairly noticeable, even at highway cruising speeds.


I confess, the Charger came in for some above-average competition during my time with it, given that McLaren had handed me the keys to the astonishing 650S. At getting on for ten times the price of the Dodge, you’d expect the British supercar to be better to the point of superlatives, but the meaty American held its own in many ways.

Sure, the 650S would trounce it on the track – or, for that matter, on more interesting public roads with a reasonable driver at the helm – but the Charger’s 4.5 second 0-60 mph time is legitimately quick, and its 175 mph top speed nothing to be sniffed at.


There’s also the giggle factor, something which comes not from the bee but the bludgeoning of power as the Charger kicks you in the small of the back and rockets you down the road. Spinning the wheels is ridiculously easy to do, but avoid a lead foot and, with some nuance, you can coax all that energy into something more useful.

It’s insanely quick in a straight line – there’s Launch Control if you want to let the computer do its thing – and the 8-speed transmission shifts swiftly and smoothly, whether you leave it to its own devices or yank on the small paddles behind the wheel.


Sport mode is a button-press away, tightening up the throttle response and gear changes, tweaking the traction control, and adjusting the steering. If you’re inclined to fiddle, you can customize some of the settings yourself using the touchscreen in the center stack.

Cornering, meanwhile, demands a little faith. With all those liters under the hood, the Charger is unsurprisingly nose-heavy, but oversteer is predictable and the electronic nannying strikes a nice balance between keeping you safe while also letting you have some fun when it’s appropriate. A dab of extra power is often all it took to bring the RWD Charger back into line.


The brakes may be downgraded compared to the SRT 392, but the compromise doesn’t show. The Charger hauls itself to a halt with the sort of reassuring predictability you really want in a car of this sort.

Unlike more advanced V8’s the R/T Scat Pack’s HEMI doesn’t do any fancy cylinder-deactivation to save on fuel. Dodge and the EPA therefore rate it for 15 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway, for a total of 18 mpg combined; it won’t come as a surprise that it only drinks premium gas, too. Still, when I tempered my baser urges and drove with some restraint, I managed to get my combined average into the (very) low twenties.


Something has to give, mind, and that’s generally in interior comfort. Dodge’s dashboard is solid but plasticky, the buttons and controls straightforward if hardly inspiring. My review car had the $1,595 Nappa leather and Alcantara seat upgrade, which also throws in heating and ventilation, heating in the rear, a heated wheel, seat memory, and a few other niceties. Without that, you get black cloth seats.

$695, meanwhile, added navigation to the Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen, for the most part a solid and intuitive system borrowed from Chrysler’s parts bin. Unfortunately, like the Chrysler 300S I reviewed a few weeks back, it too possesses the most laggardly onscreen keyboard known to humanity.


Forget quickly punching in an address while you’re waiting for the lights to change; in fact, best factor in some time before your journey needs to start, just to allow your blood to cool down from the frustration.

Some of the other fancies I’d got used to in the 300S are also on the options list. Blind-spot and cross-path detection are part of the $595 Driver Confidence Group (which also includes rear-parking assist and heated side mirrors), while if you want adaptive cruise control it’s bundled in with the $1,995 Technology Group.

That also adds automatic high-beam control, collision warning, lane departure and keep-assist, power steering wheel adjustment, and rain-sensing wipers.


They’re nice toys, but I can’t help but feel that most would distract from the Charger R/T Scat Pack’s greatest charm: its raw, unadulterated power. This sort of power and torque really shouldn’t be accessible for such little cash, and even if you don’t have a track to go playing on, the snorting, grunting, gurgling noises the V8 is capable of even at moderate speeds are enough to fix a smile to your face.

That you can fit the family – and their luggage – in there too adds an unexpected degree of practicality.


You have to be okay with compromise to live with the 2015 Charger R/T Scat Pack. Fuel consumption will be high, cruising noise might give passengers a headache, and your neighbors will scrub you from their Christmas card list. Most of the geeky stuff is optional, and there’s a simplicity to the “power + angry style = great” equation that’s aeons away from some of the more respectable sports sedans out there.

Nonetheless, for under $40k you can have a car that’s usable every day but can keep up with exotica several multiples its price. An unapologetic slab of entertainment with enough to keep both purists and newcomers to the muscle car creed happy. And, really, who wants to be respectable all the time?


Gigabyte P55W review : New 15.6″ Gaming Laptop

  • Quality chassis
  • Good cooling system
  • High-contrast display
  • Accurate colors
  • Powerful configuration with good gaming performance
  • Fan noise when performing heavy tasks
  • Screen not quite bright enough
  • Battery life
  • Built-in speakers

The P55W is a departure from Gigabyte’s usual gaming laptops in that it has a thicker, more stylized chassis. In this case, the extra bulk is a good thing as it helps reduce some of the overheating common in the brand’s other models. And overheating shouldn’t be a hard criteria to test considering what’s fueling the computer (a Core i7 quad-core processor, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M graphics card and an SSD/HDD combo).


  • CPU : Intel Core i7
  • Graphics chipset : GeForce GTX 970M
  • RAM : 8 GB
  • Screen : 15.6 inches, 1920 x 1080 pixels
  • Storage space : 1.128 TB
  • Optical drive : DVD drive



The P55 dons a brand new body for Gigabyte. The edges are bevelled and there’s a hint of color in the form of a thin orange line surrounding the chassis.


We didn’t find any flaws or play in the body. The surface is entirely covered with soft-touch material that feels nice but smudges easily.


The chiclet keys are well-sized and offer quick rebound and finely calibrated travel. This is a comfortable keyboard to type on and will make for a good tool for either long typing sessions or gaming. The keys are backlit with two levels of brightness. The touchpad is large enough (10 x 8 cm) and recognizes all the Windows touch gestures. But as is always the case, the touchpad won’t be very useful during games, so we recommend getting a separate gaming mouse to go with the P55W.


Another benefit of the new chassis is its heat management, which has always been one of Gigabyte’s weak points. This time MSI used a cooling system that’s actually worthy of the name and is on par with one of the best gaming laptops we know, the Asus RoG G751. The highest temperature we recorded was 54.1°C coming out the back right of the body. Unfortunately, this also means loud fan noise, up to 44 dB(A).


The P55W has a matte IPS display with Full HD 1080p resolution. The maximum brightness is a relatively low 201 cd/m² (about 100 cd/m² lower than most competing laptops). Fortunately, the contrast is a hearty 948:1, providing deep blacks.


dE = 4




6485 K

We found the screen’s Delta E to be a quite satisfactory 4, which shows that the colors are almost perfectly faithful. The color temperature is even better (6485 K). The gamma curve, on the other hand, makes for messy black shading and overly bright whites.

This is one of the better screens on the market thanks to its accurate colors and good contrast. That’s why it’s unfortunate it isn’t any brighter and doesn’t have a better-calibrated gamma. But it’s still very well suited to watching movies, looking at pictures and playing games.


Intel’s new generation of Skylake processors has just hit the market (see the MSI GE72 Apache Pro), yet the P55W comes equipped with the previous Broadwell generation. All the same, it’s a highly powerful processor that got a score of 154 in our internal rating system, which is better than the Aorus X7 Pro‘s 150 and MSI GT72‘s 148, but not quite as good as the Gigabyte P35X v4‘s 157.

The P55W fully met our expectations in terms of processing power, as it aced our standard test (file compression in WinZip and 7-Zip, 3D computations in Cinebench and video compression in Handbrake). It provides a wide range of usage, allowing you to undertake anything from basic word processing to heavy video editing. For example, it took us just 294 seconds to export 100 photos in Lightroom and only 95 seconds to encode a 254 MB video.

The combination of using a solid-state drive and a hard drive provides both fast response times when starting up and shutting down and a good deal of storage space for your personal files. It just would have been nice to have a 256 GB SSD instead of 128 GB so you could install more than just a game or two.


Graphics are entrusted to an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M video card, the same one we tested on the Asus RoG G751, the Gigabyte P35 v3 and the MSI GE72 Apache Pro. It uses a GM204 GPU with 1280 processing units running at a 924 MHz base rate and 1,134 MHz boost rate. The memory frequency is fixed at 1250 MHz. In terms of performance, the 970M is mid-way between a GeForce GTX 965M (GE72 Apache) and a GTX 980M (Gigabyte P35X v4).

Games look great in the screen’s native resolution. The video card will run titles such as Tomb RaiderBioShock Infinite ou Battlefield 4 at over 40 fps in Full HD with all the settings on max. In more demanding games like Crysis 3 or Hitman Absolution, the frame rate falls to 25 fps in the same conditions, so you’ll need to lower the settings in order to obtain fluid gameplay.


Given its measurements (380 x 269 x 34 mm) and weight (2.3 kg), the Gigabyte P55W is a good compromise between the hot and thin Aorus laptops and the larger, cooler Asus and MSI rivals. We were sad to see, however, that the P55W only lasted 3½ hours in our standard battery test (continuous Netflix streaming with the screen at 200 cd/m² and headphones plugged in).


The P55W has a fair amount of connection possibilities: four USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, one D-sub, an RJ45 Ethernet port and an SD card reader, and you can get an optional Blu-ray drive.

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n make up the wireless connectivity and we measured the Wi-Fi signal as being relatively stable at -47 dBm from 5 to 10 meters away and 51 dBm from 20 meters away.

AUDIO  3/5

The sound quality is pretty good through the headphone output, providing high power and an accurate stereo image. Distortion only kicks in at the highest volumes and there are no background noises.

Gigabyte P35 V2 audio

The speakers are less impressive, as you can tell in the frequency response curve above. There’s no bass to speak of; all you can really hear are the mids. They’re also low in power. All the speakers are good for is listening to voices. 

Models, specs & options

The model we were sent to review features an Intel Core i7-5700HQ processor, 8 GB of RAM, an Nvidia GTX 970M graphics card, a 128 GB solid-state drive and a 1 TB hard drive. Our comments in the Design and Display sections above refer to all versions of the Gigabyte P55W, whereas the Processing Power, Gaming, Mobility/Battery Life and Audio sections apply only to the model we tested. Available configurations may also vary depending on the country/region in which you live.


Gigabyte finally decided to give its gaming laptops a chassis they deserve, and it was well worth it. The heat has dropped drastically (the downside being loud fan noise) and the processing power is tip-top. The P55W is a true gaming machine for real gamers, but it still has steep competition to deal with, especially coming from MSI.


Westone UM Pro 10 review : Comfortable In-Ears for the Stage

  • Precise audio rendering with excellent definition
  • Wide and intelligible stereo profile
  • Powerful
  • Light and comfortable
  • Excellent passive sound isolation
  • Good set of accessories
  • Aggressive distortion, even at moderate volume levels
  • High frequencies could be better

The Westone UM Pro 10 have loads of plus points. They’re light, comfortable, sound isolation is good and audio reproduction is excellent. They’ve clearly been designed for use on stage, where they’ll do a great job. Still, distortion is really quite strong, which limits use to relatively moderate volume levels. And that could prove problematic on stage.

Westone is back with the UM Pro 10 in-ear headphones, the most affordable option in the firm’s UM Pro range. The UM Pro 30 already bagged a five-star review from our test lab, so will this cheaper model prove just as impressive? Time to find out.


  • Headphone Type : Closed
  • Speaker : Dynamic
  • Cable Length : 1.28 m
  • Weight : 15 g



The Westone UM Pro 10 are in-ear headphones that have been designed to fit comfortably. Each earphone has a removable braided cable that tucks neatly behind your ears. Replacing the cables is a little tricky, but that’s no bad thing, as it means that the cables are securely attached and shouldn’t come off accidentally. To remove a cable, you have to hold the base of the earphone with one hand then pull firmly on the top of the cable with your other hand. The L-shaped 3.5 mm headphones jack is another nice feature. It’s sturdy and robust, and should ensure greater resistance to wear and tear than a straight plug.


Build quality is good. The Westone UM Pro 10 are designed to withstand regular concert-going. They therefore resist heat, humidity and frequent transport, and they come with a compact hard plastic travel case. Eight pairs of earbuds are included, with four sets of silicone buds and four sets of memory foam buds. They come in a range of sizes and are all color coded so you can easily find a pair.

If you’re not used to wearing in-ears, then the Westone UM Pro 10 can feel strange and tricky to position at first. Still, you soon get used to getting them in place after a few attempts. And it’s well worth persevering, as the Westone UM Pro 10 are light and comfortable to wear. With quality like this, there’s no doubt that these in-ears have been designed and built with professional use in mind.




Frequency response
Black = silicone earbuds. Blue = memory foam earbuds

The Westone UM Pro 10 headphones are primarily designed for use on stage, and for that they’ll be great. General audio precision is excellent and the frequency response is incredibly accurate. Bass frequencies are rendered with no blips, and with exemplary fidelity and excellent responsiveness. Mids are boosted a little compared to the rest of the spectrum, although they drop off after 2 kHz. High frequencies come in at 6 to 9 kHz, adding a touch of vibrancy and a hint of brilliance. With this kind of frequency response, voices find their place naturally in the output and are rendered with great clarity. Audio is crisp and smooth, but with a little more brilliance than the UM Pro 30.

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Square waves at 50 Hz.

The stereo effect is well rendered, with a wide, deep and easily intelligible profile. You can therefore position each element precisely in the soundscene, even when there’s a lot going on. The drivers are highly responsive too.

unnamed (1).jpgTotal harmonic distortion in %
Black = silicone earbuds. Blue = memory foam earbuds.

Power levels are excellent. The Westone UM Pro 10 can therefore be used with all types of audio source without volume levels sounding too weak. However, there is a certain level of distortion. In fact, this rears its head even before you reach moderate volume levels. This marked presence of distortion is a real problem when using these headphones in places with a lot of background noise, even if Westone’s passive sound isolation is excellent—particularly with the memory foam earbuds.

Like many professional in-ears, the UM Pro 10 can be custom molded to fit the shape of your ears. Still, for optimal comfort, you’ll have to take them to a specialist and fork out an extra $100/£100.


Like other models in the range, the Westone UM Pro 10 are designed for pro users. They’re comfortable to wear and come with a good range of accessories. Plus, audio quality is excellent, with a high level of precision. These in-ears may struggle to find a place in the consumer market (which is understandable) due to the wobbly frequency response upwards of 2 kHz and relatively high levels of distortion even at moderate volume levels.