Monthly Archives: May 2017

iOS 11 Preview: Here’s What to Expect

Sure as the sun will rise in the east tomorrow, Apple will take the opportunity at its Worldwide Developers Conference keynote next week to discuss the latest update to its mobile operating system.

The coming iOS 11 update is sure to bring a slew of new features to Apple’s iPhone and iPad, but it’s always hard to be certain with the traditionally tight-lipped company exactly which features will make the cut. Here’s what to look for.

When Will iOS 11 Come Out?

Kết quả hình ảnh cho iOS 11

While the new OS will no doubt be shown off during the June 5 keynote, it likely won’t get a full release until the fall. Apple typically ships the new version of iOS on or around the time  it launches a new model of the iPhone, and if prior patterns hold true, that’ll be sometime in September.

That could potentially change if rumors of delays to the iPhone 8 bear out, but it seems unlikely that the final iOS 11 release date would be anything but September.

The past two years, Apple has put out a beta of its iOS releases in the summer, giving iPhone owners who don’t mind running a not-entirely-finished OS on their devices a chance to try out the new software. It’s likely the company will follow suit in 2017 with iOS 11.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho iOS 11

What Features Will Apple Add to iOS 11?

Apple always keeps its cards close to its vest, and when it comes to software, it’s even harder to divine what the company might be up to. Unlike with devices like the iPhone, there’s no supply chain sprouting leaks for software updates. But a few possibilities have made their way into the public arena, and there are always a few tea leaves that we can read.

Apple Music, now with video: The company has put off launching the video component of Apple Music, postponing its much touted Carpool Karaoke series to “later this year.” During an interview with Apple executive Jimmy Iovine, Bloomberg reported that a version of Apple Music that “better showcases video” would be among the features of the next version of iOS. That could also mean a slight redesign for the Music app, which has seen its fair share of changes over the past few years.

Siri: It’s been six years since Apple first launched its virtual assistant, and at the time it was ahead of the game. But in the subsequent years, it’s seen more competition from the likes of Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google’s Assistant. Back in 2015, Apple purchased the U.K.-based VocalIQ, which was working on improved natural language technology. Since then, reports have a number of its former engineers working out of a Cambridge Apple office. In theory, this means the company might be aiming to pump up Siri’s ability to communicate more naturally, which, in combination with Apple’s heavy investments in machine learning, could make the virtual assistant more powerful than ever, able to handle complex queries in a single bound.

Group FaceTime calling: For years, FaceTime has been a two-way street (unless, of course, you have the whole family crowded around a single iPhone). But one rumor posted at an Israeli tech blog suggests that the ability to have multiple parties involved in a call, similar to other video-calling services such as  Skype, could be included in iOS 11. Speculation is that it could accommodate up to five participants and be integrated with iMessage.

iPad features: After a major jump in capabilities with iOS 9, Apple’s tablet was largely ignored during last year’s iOS 10 update. As such, some of the features first introduced in iOS 9 have begun to feel a bit long in the tooth, such as the overcrowded and clumsy application picker for Split Screen mode. It seems likely Apple will spend at least some time discussing iPad-specific improvements for iOS 11, even if we don’t get everything hoped for by ardent iPad fans. Some have speculated that perhaps Shared iPad, the multiple account systems for iPads that’s only available in Education environments, will finally be available for all users.

Dark mode: Inquisitive developers poking around in Apple’s macOS-based Simulator uncovered evidence that a “dark mode” for iOS that makes text easier to read in low-light settings actually exists in current versions of the operating system. There’s just no way to activate it. It’s certainly possible that Apple will offer such a feature in iOS 11 — after all, it launched a similar option for Apple TV last year.

Credit: Apple

Credit: Apple

Improved Maps: Apple’s been playing second fiddle to Google Maps ever since it ditched the Mountain View, California, company for its own in-house mapping solution back in iOS 6. But Apple has been steadily improving its mapping solution with each version of iOS. The company’s also been buying up firms developing mapping technology, and it’s possible that some of those features — indoor mapping and navigation, for example, and deploying drones for faster updating of maps — will finally see the light of day in iOS 11.

Person-to-person Apple Pay: Since launching Apple Pay back in 2014, one feature has been missing: the ability to easily send payments between users of Apple devices. Reports suggest that a money-swapping feature might be in the offing for this year, though it may not materialize at WWDC. (Apple waited until the iPhone 6’s fall launch to unveil Apple Pay, for example.)

Which Devices Will iOS 11 Run On?

Apple tends to maintain a strong backward-compatibility with its device lineup, but sooner or later some devices just get too old. While Apple may maintain compatibility with the same devices as iOS 10, there are  indications that Apple is planning on no longer supporting apps that are 32-bit-only in iOS 11. (iOS 10.3, for example, added a compatibility checker that flags 32-bit apps.) That would mean the end of support for 32-bit devices, which would mean the iPhone 5 and 5c and fourth-generation iPad won’t be able to run iOS 11.

(tomsguide.com, https://goo.gl/BteVtI)

Apple Watch Series 3 investigation: How Apple’s next smartwatch could go solo

Analysts, developers and others give their thoughts on the rumours

We get it, the Apple Watch Series 3 is on your mind. What if you buy the Series 2 or another smartwatch now then it lands in September and blows everyone’s minds? Elon Musk said the first Apple Watch was a few iterations away from greatness – this could be the one.

In truth, firm details of what we can expect are light on the ground. Apple doesn’t make a habit of leaking key specs or features, so it tends to either leak out from the companies that are tasked with building the wearable, or it doesn’t leak at all.

Apple Watch Series 3 investigation

But that hasn’t stopped us from putting on our sleuthing hats and doing some digging for clues. We’ve rounded up a crack squad of analysts, developers and insiders to give their predictions and thoughts about Cupertino’s next smartwatch and we’ve collected the most likely rumours from around the web.

With WWDC 2017 just around the corner, here’s what we think the Apple Watch Series 3 might just look like…

Apple Watch Series 3: LTE

Apple Watch Series 3 to feature new display technology says report

Christopher Rolland, an analyst with Susquehanna Financial Group, says he believes the next Apple Watch will include a SIM card, which means it’ll have LTE support. And he’s not alone – many of the experts we surveyed pointed to a truly standalone Apple Watch as likely.

“Having an Apple Watch that operates as its own connected device isn’t going to be interesting because you could make phone calls, it will be interesting because of all the cloud-based services you could use anytime, anywhere,” says Patrick Kalaher, VP of technology strategy at Frog. “The majority of wearables connect to the world through a personal area networking technology like Bluetooth, so smartwatches are always essentially peripherals of some other device. It limits many of the possible use cases, because you’ve got to be near your (say) phone to connect to the internet and to cloud services.”

If Apple does go down this route, it’s possible it could follow Android Wear in offering smartwatch app downloads directly from the Apple Watch.

Ariel Vardi, co-founder & CEO of Little Labs, the team behind watch face platform Facer, told us this is on his wishlist: “We’d like to see Apple creating an actual App Store on the watch itself (and ideally include watch faces in that store). Most users today have no idea how to install apps on their watch. Discoverability is critical for any app ecosystem to thrive and this could be addressed relatively easily by Apple with some fairly minor UX changes.”

On the other hand, Paul Reynolds, who was an advisory board member to healthcare platform startup Gliimpse before it was purchased by Apple, isn’t so sure. “I’m not convinced LTE support is needed at this time,” he told us, pointing out that user markets for the Watch and iPhone are “tied” and the technical costs for adding LTE are “significant.”

Apple Watch Series 3: Battery improvements

Apple Watch Series 3 to feature new display technology says report

A bigger battery is likely to balance out any power sucking from an LTE chip, which has reportedly been Apple’s biggest concern in adding standalone connectivity to its smartwatch. For instance, way back before Series 2 was announced Apple was researching low-power cellular chips.

And there are more leaks to back up the research. Back in January this year, Digitimes cited Economic Daily News (EDN), reporting that the new Watch will be manufactured by Quanta Computer and feature “better performance and longer battery life”, according to market watchers.

“Currently, improving battery efficiency is Quanta’s main task for the new Apple Watch and its other hardware will not see much change,” it added. (Incidentally new rumours back up that Quanta Computer info and add Compal as a manufacturer too).

It’s curious that it looks like LTE is forcing Apple to rethink battery even though many smartwatches offer better battery life. Frog’s Kalaher speaks again on why this might be: “Whatever Apple’s design teams have learned about people’s charging preferences is far more likely to drive battery life than anything else. When we’re designing wearables, we think about what the natural recharging intervals might be, and design around them. Battery life beyond (say) one day wouldn’t be much more useful than once a day, since users can easily get used to charging their watches overnight while they sleep.”

Still, battery life could help with something else – the Apple Watch’s blank screen problem. Little Labs’ Ariel Vardi sees this as a priority.

“The most immediate and needed improvement in my mind is the screen which, despite having one of the highest DPIs on the market today, suffers from being completely black 95% of the time,” he told us. “This makes Apple Watch lag significantly behind the Samsung Gear S3 and its beautiful always-on screen – a necessary feature for any modern smartwatch.” Whether Cupertino agrees with him remains to be seen. When it is on, though, it’s bound to be a beaut.

Apple Watch Series 3: New screen

Apple Watch Series 3 to feature new display technology says report

That’s because one of our first notable Apple Watch Series 3 rumours came courtesy of Digitimes, which claims the third-generation smartwatch will adopt new display technology.

The report references supplier TPK Holding, the panel supplier for current Watch panels, and suggests Apple is switching things up on the screen front, moving from a glass panel to a glass film touch solution.

It also mentions that TPK Holding encountered issues dealing with the curved surface of the Apple Watch, which complicated the manufacturing process of the touch sensors. Those new panels will start shipping in late 2017, which (just about) fits with the most recent Apple Watch Series 3 release date rumours pointing to an autumn 2017 arrival.

Still on the screen front, other rumours point to a more expensive Apple Watch that uses micro LED panels rather than OLED to increase both brightness and efficiency.

We spoke to Joe Santana, CEO of Vector Watch, the smartwatch startup that’s been snapped up by Fitbit. Santana’s predictions appear to support reports that we could be looking at a new display for the Series 3:

“I think when Apple comes with the new product it will be a huge improvement over the current Apple Watch. I hear the new display is coming out – I don’t hear anything about batteries, but the screen is the major improvement. I think the next Apple product will be a success. Some people say the current one is a success, others say it didn’t match expectations, but Apple is not going to drop this.”

So for now, it sound like the screen could be a major talking point when or if Apple unveils the Watch Series 3 later this year.

Quite what that means for the next-gen Watch, we’re not so sure. It’s fair to say that along with Samsung’s Gear S3 and Google’s array of Android Wear watches, Apple managed to produce one of the best smartwatch screens out there. The Series 2’s screen was also its brightest, cranking up the brightness to 1,000 nits – that’s 450 nits more than the first Watch.

Apple Watch Series 3: Slimmer build and accessories

Apple Watch Series 3 to feature new display technology says report

We also have the wonderful world of patents to look to for clues as well, with a recent Apple filing suggesting that the Cupertino company’s next wearable could get significantly more svelte.

Now, we know Apple likes to make its tech slimmer than the previous generation so there are no surprises there, but the filing appears to show us that it could be achieved by moving the haptic motor to the wristband of the Apple Watch to make the body less portly.

New materials, such as titanium and platinum cases could be launched, as according to Apple Insider between one and three new cases will debut. Apple could even be looking into using Liquidmetal. Overall we expect the design to stay pretty similar to the first two watches, though.

There’s also been talk of smartbands and battery bands to further fuel speculation of Apple moving tech out of the watch and into the band to balance out the weight and size. This would be more of a leap for Cupertino.

Apple Watch Series 3: New health features

Apple Watch Series 3 investigation: How Apple's next smartwatch could go solo

Speaking of smart bands, one way that they could be utilised to add more features to Apple’s smartwatch is through health. The Cupertino company has already made a big push on this front over the last few years with ResearchKit and according to recent speculation, health tracking features could be introduced through connected Watch bands.

Apple has apparently been busy building a team of biomedical engineers to develop sensors to monitor blood glucose, which would make the Watch a valuable wearable for diabetes sufferers by offering a non-invasive way to track the health data. Apple CEO Tim Cook, according to CNBC, has been spotted walking around Apple HQ with a prototype continuous glucose monitor attached to his Apple Watch, though it’s unknown if it was non-invasive or not.

There are devices that do offer that non-invasive method (DexCom and GlucoWise), but nothing that takes the form of a smartwatch so this would be a big deal.

Why the strap? Because it’s more likely to provide accurate readings than doing it from any other part of the Apple Watch hardware like the casing. It would also mean freeing up Apple to work on other things that the majority of smartwatch users would want to use.

Almost nailed on is the idea that the next Apple Watch will have native sleep tracking. It’s been missing and Apple’s recent acquisition of sleep monitoring startup Beddit (which had its own Apple Watch app) shows it could finally be getting serious about sleep. If Apple delivers on battery improvements (above), this could work.

Apple Watch Series 3: watchOS 4

Apple Watch Series 3 investigation: How Apple's next smartwatch could go solo

Now, this we should know more about very soon. WWDC 2017 starts on 5 June and we’ll be there to try out Apple’s latest software if/when watchOS 4 makes an appearance.

As well as new features like sleep tracking (above) and third party watch faces (below), we’ve compiled our wishlist of what else we’d like to see. That includes a revamp of complications on watch faces, auto-tracking in the Workouts app, health and lifestyle coaching and – please, please – a simpler way to handle music on the Watch.

These features will land on the existing watches but some software updates could give us a clue as to what to expect from the hardware later this year.

Apple Watch Series 3: Third party watch faces

Apple Watch Series 3 to feature new display technology says report

More of a request than a rumour but if you think about it, Apple seems to be missing a trick here with Michael Kors and co leading the way in making switching watch faces into a fashion statement.

As you might expect, Facer’s Ariel Vardi makes this case pretty strongly: “As developers, we’re hoping to see Apple open up the watch face ecosystem to third-party developers – it’s today BY FAR the most popular vertical in the content space on all other smartwatches. Allowing developers to create faces for Apple Watch would definitely create a massive new market with high revenue potential.”

Brian Mueller, creator of the popular Apple Watch app Carrot Weather, puts greater customisation of complications at the top of his list for the new Series 3 software. “I’d love to see them offer APIs to let developers customise their complications,” he told Wareable. Currently, you can’t have two versions of the same complication in similar spots.

“There’s no way to tell the difference between two small complication slots,” said Mueller. “So there’s no way for me to show wind speed in one small complication and precipitation in the other small complication. I can only have different complications in the large and the small slots. So if Apple makes that more robust, that would be fantastic.”

Mueller added: “I think it’s definitely something Apple would be interested in, because it’s spent all this time and effort on letting users customise their watch faces and make it more personally theirs.”

Apple Watch Series 3: The AirPods factor

Apple Watch Series 3 to feature new display technology says report

We’ve pondered on the possibility that Apple might bring the AirPods and Apple Watch closer together, and we could see this happen with Series 3 as it’s possible Apple will also use the big autumn event to launch the next generation of its wireless earbuds.

As well as predicting LTE, Susquehanna Financial Group analyst Christopher Rolland has touted better interoperability between the Watch and AirPods, which would make a lot of sense. We’ve established that LTE would open up an untethered highway to data for apps, but when it comes to making and receiving calls on the Watch, it’s still a bit of an – okay, incredibly – awkward experience. Now with the AirPods on the scene, it’s plausible we’ll see them work more closely with Watch Series 3.

Apple Watch Series 3: Release date

When can you expect to spend your hard-earned money on an Apple Watch Series 3? The original Apple Watch launched in April 2015, while the Series 2 launched alongside the iPhone in September 2016. That means there’s no established pattern yet, which makes it difficult to guess.

We couldn’t dig up any evidence confirming it. But most of the rumours suggest that the Apple Watch Series 3 will launch this autumn – for instance, a report from Digitimes, which tends to be good at reporting supply chain and part stuff, though less good at other predictions. In this case, Digitimes has based its report off the fact that the Apple Watch will gain a new supplier, Compal Electronics, and will start shipping this autumn.

This timeframe matches an earlier report from China’s Economic Daily News, which claimed the Series 3 would launch this autumn. For the time being, Apple still sees the Apple Watch as an accessory to the iPhone, so it makes sense that the company would want to launch it alongside its new smartphones, no doubt in September.

Apple Watch Series 3: Initial predictions

Apple Watch Series 3 to feature new display technology says report

A few final thoughts from our industry experts:

Ariel Vardi: “The number of Apple Watches we see in the wild on people’s wrists is dramatically increasing – it’s by far the largest smartwatch market from a unit standpoint, but sadly not one that developers can fully address today until some of the limitations previously mentioned are solved.”

It feels unlikely that Apple will change the design of the watch drastically, or introduce any new advanced health sensors, while it’s busy trying to balance battery life for an LTE-enhanced Apple Watch.

Paul Reynolds certainly doesn’t see the Series 3 introducing any game changers, with Apple instead opting for “constant and relentless improvement that over time amounts to major progress.” He’s talking “thinner, lighter, lower power displays.” Any and every way Apple can “remove friction” from use. “These things often involve significant work to improve but are invisible to the user.”

If Apple pushes anything on the hardware, Reynolds thinks it’ll be integration with AirPods. Most of the big improvements are likely to come from software, including “more health apps” and “sleep monitoring”.

Thus far it sounds like the Series 3 could be a modest upgrade, sporting a fast processor and better battery efficiency, with a standalone connection as the major new feature.

(wareable.com, https://goo.gl/ftbNsb)

reMarkable Paper Tablet Hands-on Review

KEY FEATURES
  • 10.3-inch E Ink display
  • Pen
  • Wi-Fi
  • One-week battery life
  • 8GB internal storage
  • Ships in August 2017
  • Manufacturer: Remarkable
  • Review Price: to be confirmed

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REMARKABLE PAPER TABLET HANDS-ON: THE NOTEBOOK OF THE FUTURE

The reMarkable Paper Tablet is an interesting proposition. It’s targeted at those people who still love the texture, feeling and simplicity of paper – the team behind it tell me there are lots of such folk – but who also want something connected, smart and that can be backed up.

The reMarkable is pretty much paper for the 21st century.

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The reMarkable is best described as a combination of an iPad Pro equipped with an Apple Pencil, and a Kindle. It’s the size of the iPad, but the display is electronic paper, like the Kindle. It’s also very basic – but then that’s sort of the point. You won’t be watching movies on it, playing games or even browsing the web; the reMarkable Paper Tablet is for drawing, writing and reading.

You might believe this all sounds rather limiting – but, in fact, it’s this device’s strongest feature. Ditching the additional capabilities available on other devices sets the reMarkable apart.

The 10.3-inch high-resolution screen, for example, actually feels like paper. It has a texture that isn’t possible with glass-coated LCD, and that instantly makes writing with the pen feel more natural. I’ve tried replacing my paper notebook with an iPad Pro, but it doesn’t come anywhere near to the feeling of actually writing on paper that I get from the reMarkable.

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Oddly, the pen isn’t supplied with the tablet; it’s a $79 additional purchase. I can’t imagine anyone buying this without the pen, so it would’ve made more sense for it to be included in the package.

While the textured, higher-friction surface makes this feel like paper, it’s the minimal latency when you’re writing or drawing that keeps the feeling going. The team behind the tablet told me it’s the “world’s fastest digital paper”, and while I didn’t have anything on hand to compare it to, it did feel almost instantaneous from pressing the tip down to my scrawls appearing on the display. That short, but very noticeable, lag you’d experience when writing on a tablet isn’t there with the reMarkable.

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One of the reMarkable’s real strengths is its ability to be a great tool for artists. I was shown a number of sketches and attempted some myself, and the level of detail you can achieve is impressive. The size of the screen might limit those who prefer a big canvas such as a Wacom Mobile Studio Pro, but if you’re used to a typical sketchpad then you’ll feel right at home. You have access to various pen types; the stylus is pressure-sensitive, so you can accurately shade and alter thickness by pressing harder; and there are a few extra features for importing your work into Adobe Illustrator.

As a piece of design, the reMarkable is the opposite of its name. The version I used was a prototype, but I was told the final design will be much the same. It’s a clean-looking, plastic device that’s about the same size as an A4 sheet of paper.

Two buttons flank the display on the bottom for flipping through pages, and you’ll find a Micro USB port here too for charging. Battery life isn’t quite on a par with a Kindle – which often lasts a month – but I was assured that you’ll get through a heavy working week without needing to reach for the charger.

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The software has been developed specifically for the reMarkable and, like the design and functionality, it’s intentionally simple. There’s no browser or email client, but there are plenty of nice touches that demonstrate how much thought has gone into the development of the device.

The homescreen is laid out like a library, combining your drawings, books and notes into a grid. There’s a search box at the top, which will eventually support searching inside documents thanks to OCR (optical character recognition), and it has options to delve deeper into specific content if there’s a lot. There’s no ebook store, so if you’re planning to use the device for reading then you’ll have to get your books from elsewhere.

Arguably the most important aspect of the software is the custom cloud infrastructure and companion apps. Desktop, iOS and Android apps will be available and include live syncing between the tablet and your other devices.

I’d have liked for the syncing aspect to be more open, so you could choose your service – Google Drive, Dropbox and so on – rather than being pushed into reMarkable’s own solution. If my notes could instantly be available on my smartphone through Drive, then this product would be even sweeter.

You will be able to livestream from the reMarkable to a computer, however, which appears to make it an ideal tool for meetings and group working.

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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

After using the device for a few hours to both take notes and draw, I was charmed by the reMarkable. It’s a niche product, yet it will be invaluable for those who can really get the most from it.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho reMarkable Paper Tablet

The sensation of writing on the high-friction surface is the best digital representation of paper I’ve tried, and that instantly puts its above using a consumer tablet such as the iPad Pro.

But the biggest barrier to entrance for this device is surely going to be the price. And, of course, the availability. The reMarkable Paper Tablet was originally conceived on Kickstarter and if you backed it there, you would have got yourself a decent deal. Prices started at $379 (around £295), and those units will begin shipping from August.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho reMarkable Paper Tablet

However, if you want to buy one now, you’ll be paying more. The tablet will cost $529 (£411) and the pen $79 (£61). There’s a 33%-off promotion on currently, but that’s unlikely to last much longer. Also, ordering it now will see it ship in October, which is quite a long wait.

The reMarkable’s obvious rival, Sony’s DPT-RP1, is even more expensive at $799 (£620), so the price isn’t unreasonable. But until it becomes more accessible, the reMarkable will remain a niche product.

(trustedreviews.com, https://goo.gl/ceySUT)

Dali Spektor 6 review

When Dali first announced a new budget range of speakers, we immediately wondered if this was the death knell for the much-admired Zensor series.

But the Spektor range isn’t here to replace the long-standing Zensors; they offer a new, slightly lower-priced entry point to the Danish loudspeaker company’s range.

We’ve got the flagship and only floorstanders of the range here, and expectations are high: the £500 Spektor 6s promise to offer big wallops of exciting sound for an affordable price.

Build

One look at the wood-pulp drivers and the mix of cabinet textures (vinyl wrap and leather effect) and you won’t mistake these Spektors for anything but a Dali.

These are two-way speakers with the 25mm soft-dome tweeter joined by two 16.5cm mid/bass units. Around the back you’ll find two bass reflex ports, which help to augment the floorstanders’ low frequency output.

The build quality is good rather than great. While these speakers don’t quite have the luxury feel of rivals such as the Q Acoustics 3050s, they remain solid and smartly finished. There are two vinyl finish options – black ash and classic walnut.

Since they’re positioned as entry-level floorstanders, the materials used are a step down from the Zensors. The wood-fibre cones aren’t the same ones used in the Zensors, for instance, but they have the same inherent resonance-reducing properties.

Just because Dali has to use more cost-effective materials doesn’t mean it’s ignored one of speaker company’s core principles: wide dispersion.

It means that the Spektors – just like other Dali speakers – should be placed straight on, not toed in. Their dispersion characteristics make for a broad sweet spot, which means you can get the full blast of the 6’s sound across a wider range of listening positions.

Sound

Sure enough, the most prominent feature of the Spektor 6s is how big and effortless they sound. The floorstanders easily fill a room with their large-scale, open sound.

They can go pretty loud, too.

There’s plenty of body to the presentation. It’s upfront, with a bouncy low end that keeps us tapping along to The White Stripes’ brooding bassline in Seven Nation Army. The guitars crash and whine with crunchy textures, and the Spektors handle the changing dynamics with plenty of gusto.

And unlike some other Dalis we’ve heard, the top end does a better job of blending in with the rest of the frequencies, too. It’s a well-balanced sound.

The Spektors have an easy going character that bodes well for any genre, regardless of the recording quality, that you throw at them.

This unfussy nature does mean they’re not the most transparent of speakers – you won’t hear the Spektors trying too hard to differentiate the tone between a Tom Waits song and an Of Monsters and Men song. But they’re fun and easy to listen to.

The Spektors are neither particularly analytical, nor precision masters; they’re just happy playing music in the most crowd-pleasing way possible.

That approach does come with its caveats. We’d like a more substantial and insightful midrange, for instance. Voices can sometimes sound a touch vague, with not enough solidity driving Stevie Nicks’ singing in Rumours – it loses a bit of edge and power because of that.

Switch to the Q Acoustics 3050, and you can hear more nuances and better organisation. The beats land more precisely, too, and the speakers handle every rhythmic and dynamic shift with an elegance and maturity that the Dalis can’t quite match.

Verdict

If the Dali Spektor 6s were priced a bit more competitively, we’d happily overlook their shortcomings in light of that big, easy and even-toned performance.

The Spektors 6s may not be the budget bargain they sought out to be (and the Zensors have nothing to worry about), but we can imagine many liking – even preferring – their big and cheery character.

(whathifi.com, https://goo.gl/Y7zubI)

 

 

10 of the Oldest Cars in the World

Have you ever wondered what the oldest cars in the world are? A quick answer may be the Ford Model T. That is understandable, since one of the few pieces of car history taught in American schools is Henry Ford’s contributions to the mass production of the automobile. Unless you have the desire to delve deep into automotive history, you may not even realize that the internal combustion engine is bit of a johnny-come-lately addition to the automobile, putting the Model T fairly far down the list of oldest cars in the world.

Part of becoming a fan of car history is to realize that the oldest cars in the world were powered by steam. The oldest gasoline powered car was not built until 1885, when Karl Benz produced the Benz Patent-Motorwagen. Eventually diesel and gasoline powered internal combustion engines proved to be easier to produce. The engines also proved to be more predictable and reliable to use as well as being more economical to operate. Those qualities have allowed the internal combustion engine to dominate car history. However, that may change as alternative fuels become more attractive to a wider customer base.

Vintage 1915 Ford Model T convertible

Vintage 1915 Ford Model T convertible | iStock.com/baileystock

There were literally thousands of automobiles built before Henry Ford sold his first Model T. So, how do you narrow what could become a very long list? First, we limited our list to vehicles that actually traveled across terrain. We are using the word ”terrain” because streets were limited to large towns and there was no highway system when the first cars and trucks were built. Second, we restricted ourselves to vehicles that there is an existing example of. Third, the vehicle had to be capable of carrying a passenger. That eliminates the earliest electric units that were either small-scale models only or just traveled on a track without an operator. Lastly, we eliminated trains, motorcycles, steamboats, etc… in order to focus on cars and trucks. With all of those factors in mind, these are ten of the oldest cars in the world.

1. Cugnot Fardier

A 1796 Cugnot Fardier, the oldest truck in car history, on display.

A Cugnot Fardier | Musee des Arts et Metiers

At the request of French military officials, French inventor and fortifications expert Nicholas Cugnot designed and built the first self-propelled carriage. The first prototype was built in 1769. Designed to tow artillery to the battlefront, its speed was set at three miles per hour so that soldiers could keep pace with it. It could pull a load of five tons and could operate for one hour and fifteen minutes before stopping. The only known example, pictured above, is on display at the Musee des Arts et Metiers in Paris, France.

2. Hancock Omnibus

A group of people look at one of the oldest cars in the world, the Hancock Omnibus.

A Hancock Omnibus | Wikimedia

The Hancock Omnibus was built by English inventor Walter Hancock and can be considered the first commercially successful steam-powered vehicle in the world. Where Cugnot’s fardier was a military triumph, Hancock’s Omnibus ran a successful passenger route between London and Paddington. The nine carriages that were built carried an estimated 4,000 passengers between 1832 and 1834.

3. Grenvile Steam Carriage

The Grenvile Steam Carriage from early in car history.

The Grenvile Steam Carriage | Hemmings

In 1875, Robert Neville Grenville of Butleigh, Glastonbury, Somerset, United Kingdom began designing his steam carriage. It was an era when most cars were built by hand and were extremely expensive to operate. Grenvile’s carriage looks more like a locomotive than a car, but is only capable of carrying seven passengers. One of the passengers had to feed the steam engine to maintain speed — sometimes you have to pay a price to catch a ride! Incredibly, the vehicle ran as recently as 2009.

4. La Marquise

La Marquise on display

La Marquise | Hemmings

Built in 1884 by De Dion-Bouton et Trepardoux for the Count De Dion, La Marquise is a De Dion et Trepardoux Dos-A-Dos Steam Runabout. It has a claim to fame as having won the first automobile race in 1887. De Dion built its competitor as well. It also has the distinction of being the oldest known running automobile. La Marquise was last sold in 2011, setting an auction record for an early automobile when the gavel fell at $4.6 million. The Sotheby’s listing makes quite an interesting read.

5. 1886 Benz Patent-Motorwagen

The 1886 Benz Patent Moterwagen, known in car history as the oldest gasoline powered automobile, on display

An 1886 Benz Patent Moterwagen | Foter

The Benz Patent Motorwagen is generally acknowledged in car history as the first gasoline powered car. Actually built in 1885, it was not patented until 1886. It was powered by a 954 cubic centimeter single-cylinder engine that created two-thirds of a horsepower. Fuel was supplied to the engine through evaporation initially, but Benz added a rudimentary carburetor in later models. He went so far as to add leather brake shoes in 1887.

6. Hammelvognen

The Hammelvognen displayed in a museum.

The Hammelvognen | Wikimedia

Built in 1886, the Hammelvognen was the first car built in Denmark. It was powered by a two-cylinder engine capable of three horsepower. It was quite innovative for the time. The Hammelvognen is one of the oldest cars in the world to offer brakes and a reverse gear. It had an estimated top speed of six miles per hour. Can you imagine going that fast over unpaved cobblestone without a suspension system? The original sits in the Danmarke Tekniske Museum.

7. 1889 Daimler-Maybach Stahlradwagen

One of the oldest cars in the world, the Daimler-Maybach Stahlradwagen, in a display case in a museum.

A Daimler-Maybach Stahlradwagen | Wikimedia

Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach were both early pioneers of automobiles powered by the internal combustion engine. Daimler was more concerned with the powerplant, while Maybach viewed the automobile as a whole. This split vision can be seen in the opulence in every Maybach badged Mercedes-Benz marketed today. The duo were lifelong friends and continued to work together until Daimler’s death. The Stahlradwagen was powered by a single-cylinder engine that sat under the driver.

8. De Dion-Bouton Quadricycle

The De Dion-Bouton quadricycle.

A De Dion-Bouton quadricycle | Louwman Museum

The success of the De Dion-Bouton tricycle mentioned earlier allowed the builders to move forward with internal combustion engines. De Dion-Bouton engines were so durable that many automobile builders of the day sourced their engines from the company. By 1891, De Dion-Bouton had moved to quadricycles. Some were advanced enough to incorporate an engine cover (also known as a hood or bonnet), rudimentary passenger cabins, running boards, and fenders. Unfortunately, none equipped like that have survived. The model pictured above was built in 1900 and had a top speed of 31 miles per hour. It is on display at the Louwman Museum in The Hague, Netherlands.

9. Duryea Car

People looking at The Duryea on display

A Duryea | Foter

Brothers Charles Duryea and Frank Duryea are credited as being the first gasoline powered commercial car manufacturers in the United States. They drove their first car through the streets of Springfield, Massachusetts in September 1893. It was powered by a single-cylinder four-stroke gasoline engine that was water-cooled. An 1893 Duryea is on display at the Smithsonian Institute.

10. 1894 Balzer

A black and white photograph of The Balzer, the oldest car in the world with a rotary mounted engine.

The Balzer car | Smithsonian Institute

Another American-built car was the Balzer. Built in 1894 by New York inventor Stephen Balzer, it was powered by a very lightweight three-cylinder rotary mounted engine. The engine was mounted around a stationary crankshaft that turned a short shaft that fed into the driving gears. The Smithsonian Institute has displayed the Balzer pictured above at various times.

Further reading

We didn’t even make to 1900 and still had to skip dozens of cars. If you’re interested in reading further about car history, there are numerous books on the subject. Automobiles Of The World by Albert L. Lewis and Walter A. Musciano was used as a reference base for the vehicles listed in this article. Another is The Encyclopedia of Classic Cars by David Lillywhite. This compendium features over 1,000 vehicles from around the globe.

(cheatsheet.com, https://goo.gl/r9vdcA)

KEF Q350 review

The Good: The relatively affordable KEF Q350 speaker sounds good with almost everything, and offers an excellent sense of depth and space in decent recordings. Fit and finish are superb.

The Bad: The Q350 doesn’t come with grill covers, but KEF will sell you a pair for extra cost. Competitors such as Klipsch and Elac sound more exciting.

The Bottom Line: The KEF Q350 bookshelf speaker looks exquisite, and sounds bigger and more expensive than it really is.

kef-q350-01

If the amazing Elac Uni-Fi UB5 is the flashy lead actor in “Affordable Audiophile Speakers: The Movie,” think of the KEF Q350 as the reliable character actor who can turn its hand to anything.

The Q350’s performance may not be as arresting as the UB5, but if you buy this speaker you won’t have to be as careful about picking a powerful receiver or the “right” music. A forward-sounding system like the Elacs sound best with a beefy amp and steady diet of well-produced recordings. But with a pair of the KEF Q350s in your system you can also enjoy Sebadoh, Katy Perry or Metallica without being reminded of their less-than-stellar production quality. There’s no pomp, no artifice, just the music the speakers are given.

kef-q350-02

With simultaneously understated-yet-striking looks, rock-solid sound quality and an affordable price, the KEF’s are an attractive package. If you want to just enjoy your time with your favorite movie or song and not have to think too hard about it, the KEF Q350 is your ideal partner.

The KEF Q350 is available now for $650 or £529 for a pair. Australian pricing and availability are TBA, but we expect them to cost upwards of AU$1,200.

Design and features

kef-q350-04.jpg

Even before you hear it, you’ll know the KEF Q350 isn’t just another bookshelf speaker. That cool looking single 6.5-inch Uni-Q driver is the tip-off, with its concentric 1-inch aluminum tweeter and sci-fi-styled protective grill.

Audiophile readers might note the Q350’s resemblance to KEF’s highly regarded LS50 monitor speaker ($1,500 a pair). Though the speakers look similar they are a little different: The Q350s go a little lower than the LS50, are a touch more sensitive and have both a larger cabinet and a larger driver (6.5- versus 5.5-inch).

The Q350 offers a choice of colors — black with a black driver, or white with a silver driver. The models we received came in black with an ash wrap. We prefer this finish to the cheaper-looking vinyl wrap on the Elac Uni-Fis.

kef-q350-08.jpg

With a bass port on its rear panel, don’t plan on shoving these speakers up against the wall or into a corner. A foot or more clearance would be a good starting point. We had the speakers on tall metal floor stands, well out from the front wall of the CNET listening room.

Once you get the speakers out of the box you may find yourself shaking the packaging looking for the grills. Well, there aren’t any. That formidable tweeter cage should ward off most incidents, but if you want, KEF can sell you a pair of magnetic grills for an extra $20.

Listening

kef-q350-03

The Q350 sounds more expensive than it really is. In our listening tests, paired with either the Sony STR-DN-1080 receiver or a NAD C 338 integrated amplifier, the KEF neither over-hyped the treble nor pumped up the bass. Instead, it let the music speak for itself.

That was certainly the case with the just-released “Bach Trios” set with Yo-Yo Ma on cello, Chris Thile on mandolin and Edgar Meyer on stand-up bass. The three musicians play as one with a palpable presence to their sound, and the Q350 preserved the natural tonality of the three instruments. Stereo imaging was big, deep and broad.

To put the Q350’s sound in perspective we brought out our ELAC Uni-Fi UB5 speakers, which use a combined midrange/tweeter driver that’s not so different in principle to the Q350’s Uni-Q driver. While the Uni-fi UB5 is a three-way design with a separate woofer, the Q350 is a two-way.

kef-q350-05.jpg

When we played Frank Sinatra doing “Fly Me To The Moon” with the Uni-Fi UB5s, Sinatra’s vocal sounded fuller-bodied and more natural than the Q350, but his big band was restrained compared with what we heard from the more nimble Q350. We attribute some of the difference to the fact that the Uni-Fi UB5s crave power, and while the STR-DN1080 receiver and C 338 amp were both excellent, neither was powerful enough to let the Uni-Fi UB5s fully strut their stuff. The Q350 was a better match with both the receiver and amp.

With David Bowie’s final album “Blackstar,” we compared the Q350 with a set of Klipsch RP-160Mbookshelf speakers ($549 a pair). The Q350’s low-end bass definition and more neutral midrange were way ahead of the RP-160M’s, but that speaker was more viscerally alive and exciting than the Q350. The RP-160M is a great rock speaker, so Bowie’s rhythm section kicked harder than what we heard from either the Q350 or the Uni-Fi UB5 speakers.

We finished up our testing with Roger Waters’ 2015 movie “The Wall” on Blu-ray. The sound mix is more dynamic than most CDs or files, and the stereo Q350s easily belted out the music, and bass was plentiful enough that we doubt too many buyers will need to add a subwoofer for movies.

kef-q350-09

Should you buy them?

The KEF Q350 may be tuned for the audiophile ear, but that doesn’t mean it won’t also please anyone searching for good-sounding speakers. Like most things in audio, clear winners that would please every ear are rare. The best speakers all sound different, so it’s up to you to find one that fits your taste, size and price requirements. That said, it’s likely that like us you’ll find the KEF Q350 a likable and versatile speaker.

If you’re trying to choose between this and its closest competitor, the B&W 685 S2, sadly we weren’t able to listen to them against each other. But with our knowledge of the B&W, we can say that the KEF offers a stronger bass performance, which is better suited to fans of rock and dance.

(cnet.com, https://goo.gl/6tkUUR)

Garmin Dash Cam 55 review

PROS

  • 1440p resolution
  • Excellent image detail
  • Many additional safety features

CONS

  • Smartphone app provides limited control
  • A little pricey
  • Car power adapter can’t be removed from cable

KEY FEATURES

  • CMOS sensor with 3.7 megapixels
  • 2560 x 1440 maximum resolution
  • 2-inch LCD panel
  • G-sensor for detecting incidents
  • GPS for tracking location with video
  • Wi-Fi with smartphone app
  • Manufacturer: Garmin
  • Review Price: £149.99/$224.99

WHAT IS THE GARMIN DASH CAM 55?

The Dash Cam 55 is a compact dashboard camera from Garmin. Since such devices tend to be left in the car all the time, the smaller they are, the better. The Dash Cam 55 is more diminutive than a GoPro, yet it shoots 1,440p and has Wi-Fi built in. Does this compact camera punch above its 59.5g weight?

garmin-dash-cam-55

GARMIN DASH CAM 55 – SPECIFICATION AND WINDSCREEN MOUNTING

The Dash Cam 55 measures just W56.2 x D35.3 x H40.5mm, although the lens sticks out quite a lot from the body of the unit, almost doubling the depth. Inside is a CMOS of unspecified dimensions that boasts 3.7 megapixels. The top resolution goes well beyond Full HD to 1440p, offering 2560 x 1440 pixels at 30 frames per second, which is also known as 2.5K. This takes the full complement of CMOS pixels.

It’s also possible to record Full HD (1920 x 1080) at 60 frames per second or 30 frames per second with or without HDR. There’s 720p at 30 frames per second as well, if you want to conserve storage space. Video is recorded to microSD, with an 8GB module pre-installed. At the top 1440p resolution, the data rate is 19Mbits/sec, so the 8GB card will be enough for 56 minutes of footage before looping begins.

Garmin has erred on the side of discretion with its mounting system. The windscreen mount is even smaller – relative to other dash cam mounts – than the camera itself. It’s too small for a suction cup to be effective, so an adhesive pad is used instead. There’s a second pad included in the box in case you get the positioning wrong, or need to move the camera.

Garmin Dash Cam 55

At first, this seems like a hindrance because there’s no obvious quick-release on the dash cam itself. However, the adhesive pad is magnetically attached to the mount, so the unit can easily be removed with the mount if you don’t want to leave it in the car when the device isn’t in use. This is a very neat and convenient system.

The usual extremely long cable is supplied for attaching to power in your car, although the adapter at the end is fixed so you’ll need to find an alternative method if you want to power a satnav or phone at the same time. A second USB cable is supplied in the box for hooking up to a computer, after which you can use the Garmin Express software to install updates.

GARMIN DASH CAM 55 – MENU AND MANUAL SETTINGS

When you first turn on the camera, there are a few more stages to set up than usual with dash cams. You’re asked whether the camera is placed left, right or centrally on the screen, and you can also choose whether you are fixing the camera in a regular-sized car or a taller vehicle such as a van or lorry. You’re not asked to set the date and time, however, because this will be obtained from the GPS signal.

Garmin Dash Cam 55

Once you’re through setup, the menu is controlled via four buttons on the side of the device, with indications of what they do on the rear, although much of the rear of the device is taken up by the 2-inch LCD screen. The menu is simple to operate, with icons for the main functions, and then text-based options once you drill into the sections.

The device can also be controlled via voice. You can simply say “Okay Garmin” and then either save a video to the non-looped folder, take a picture, record audio, or turn on Travelapse – of which more later. As with other voice-controlled Garmin devices, the Dash Cam 55’s system works very well, so long as the background isn’t too noisy.

Garmin Dash Cam 55

The Dash Cam 55 also feature built-in Wi-Fi, which works in tandem with the VIRB mobile app that’s also used with Garmin’s action cameras such as the VIRB Ultra 30. Working out how to do this requires a flick-through of the manual, however, since turning on Wi-Fi is performed via the Share section in the Gallery menu, rather than having its own separate entry.

As this slightly convoluted method implies, the VIRB app is only used to browse recordings and images on the Dash Cam 55, and to transfer these to your phone. Unlike most smartphone apps for dash cams, there’s no control available over settings and no streaming preview of the video with ability to toggle recording, which is a bit of an omission in an otherwise feature-rich device. But at least the device’s own menu us easy to use.

GARMIN DASH CAM 55 – EXTRA SAFETY FEATURES

The Dash Cam 55 includes quite a host of additional safety features. There’s a GPS receiver built in, so it can capture location along with video. A G-sensor detects incidents, which will save video to a different location so that it isn’t overwritten as the video recordings loop once the storage is full.

There’s a Forward Collision Warning System, which detects if you’re coming up too close to the car in front. This has three sensitivity settings. The Lane Departure Warning System lets you know if you’re straying out of your lane on a motorway. When you’re stationary, Go Alert will notify you when the car in front has started moving, in case you’ve become bored and stopped concentrating.

Garmin Dash Cam 55

The Dash Cam 55 can also provide warnings of approaching red lights and speed cameras, but there’s only a sampler included in the box. You’ll need to buy a Cyclops subscription online and then use the Garmin Express software to transfer this to the dash cam. The UK and Ireland database subscription costs £16.99/$25.49, as do most single countries, while a single year of full European updates is £24.99/$37.49.

A novel feature that I haven’t seen on other dash cams is Travelapse. This works in parallel with the regular safety features, grabbing still images at a fixed interval as you travel and stitching these into a movie that will play like a fast-forward of your journey. This isn’t exactly a safety feature, but it’s a fun option to have. For example, you could put this alongside conventional camcorder footage from a driving holiday to add another dimension to a video of your trip.

GARMIN DASH CAM 55 – IMAGE QUALITY

Garmin’s action cameras have impressed us quite a lot over the years, but the company’s dash cams such as the Dash Cam 35 have been merely good. The Dash Cam 55, however, produces excellent footage, with plenty of detail. During my testing, it was very sunny, which caused some issues with windscreen glare. But it was still easy to make out text at a reasonable distance and when the car passed through shadier areas the quality was up there with the best dash cams I’ve tested.

SHOULD I BUY THE GARMIN DASH CAM 55?

The Garmin Dash Cam 55 is on the more expensive end of the scale for dash cams, but it’s worth the money. The 1,440p video footage is extremely sharp, and there are plenty of additional safety features to sweeten the deal. The slick magnetic mount and Travelapse option further help this product rise above the competition. The lack of complete control via Wi-Fi is the one significant chink in its armour, but otherwise this is a very capable dash cam.

VERDICT

The Garmin Dash Cam 55 is a little on the pricey side, but it’s a tiny and very capable dash cam.

(trustedreviews.com, https://goo.gl/3XX4Zw)

10 Cars That Are Much Faster Than They Look

As a whole, today’s cars are safer, more reliable, and faster than they’ve ever been before. So while we may roll our eyes at Toyota’s latest attempt to make the Camry sporty, or Dodge’s latest performance trim for the Journey, the truth is some of the most boring cars on the road today could roast the Ferraris, Corvettes, and Porsche 911s of 25 years ago.

Of course, that doesn’t make today’s boring cars any less boring. There are still plenty of models that you could lose in a parking lot. In a world where the 1,500-horsepower barrier has been broken, self-driving cars are almost a reality, and EVs are earning a place alongside gas-powered models, it turns out that most people just want more of what they’re used to.

Mercedes-Benz

That’s what makes these cars so surprising. From everyday commuters to opulent dream machines, these models are likely to surprise and thrill you once you stomp the gas. Here are ten cars that are way faster than you’d expect them to be.

10. Buick Regal GS

2016 Buick Regal GS

2016 Buick Regal GS | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Buick hasn’t had a true performance car since the Grand National left showrooms 30 years ago. But it’s quietly keeping the flame alive with the Regal GS, a bold little sport sedan that can almost compete with some of the best Germany has to offer. The GS puts its 259 horses and 295 pound-feet of torque to good use, taking the car from zero to 60 in 6.2 seconds, which complements its world-class handling. It may not set any speed records, and the six-speed manual transmission option unfortunately disappeared after 2016, but the quick and agile GS still makes for one lively commute.

9. Honda Accord EX-L V6 Coupe

Honda Accord EX-L V6 Coupe

Honda Accord EX-L V6 Coupe | Honda

At a time when companies tend play it safe with their midsize sedans, Honda still likes to inject a little sportiness into its strong-selling Accord line — especially in its coupe. With the optional 3.5-liter V6 under the hood, the Accord EX-L is a genuine sleeper car: 278 horsepower, 251 pound-feet of torque, an optional six-speed manual, and zero to 60 in six seconds flat.

8. Chevrolet SS

Chevrolet SS

Chevrolet SS | Chevrolet

To gearheads, the soon-to-be-departed Chevy SS is performance car royalty. But to everybody else, it looks a lot like an old rental-spec Impala. Underneath its dowdy exterior (which largely dates back to the Pontiac G8 of 2007), there’s a 6.2 liter V8 from the last-generation that Corvette mated to a standard six-speed manual transmission. This powertrain sends 415 horsepower and an equal amount of torque to the rear wheels, taking the big sedan from zero to 60 in just 4.5 seconds. With world-class handling thanks to the Magnetic Ride Control suspension system found in the Cadillac CTS-V, Corvette, and Camaro ZL-1, there’s good reason why Chevy markets the SS as a pure enthusiast’s car. Just don’t expect your neighbors to get it.

7. Rolls-Royce Phantom

Rolls-Royce Phantom

Rolls-Royce Phantom | Rolls-Royce

For decades, Rolls-Royce would officially say that performance in its cars was “adequate, and then 50% more.” Lucky for us, it’s been willing to dish the dirt in recent years. Its 19-foot long, 5,800-pound flagship (base price: $420,000) may look more like a Georgian mansion than a speed demon, but under the hood it packs a 6.75-liter turbocharged V12 that take the Phantom from zero to 60 in an impressive 5.7 seconds.

6. Kia K900

Kia K900

Kia K900 | Kia

When it launched the K900 in the U.S. for 2013, Kia committed to the idea of a formal flagship sedan: full-size, rear-wheel drive, and of course, a big V8 engine. The $60,000-plus entry point for the V8-powered car (the new V6 model starts just under $50,000) has largely kept the Korean upstart from making a big splash, but with 420 ponies on tap, zero to 60 comes in at a healthy 5.5 seconds.

5. Acura RLX SH-AWD

Acura RLX SH-AWD

Acura RLX SH-AWD | Acura

With fewer than 1,500 sold in 2016, you have a better shot at seeing a Porsche 911 on your next commute than a big, quiet, understated RLX. But Acura still has faith in its flagship CTS/E-Class/5 Series fighter. And in Sport Hybrid trim, it’s actually the quickest Acura you can buy — aside from the NSX, that is. Its V6 is paired with two electric motors, bumping power up to a healthy 377 horses; enough to take the big car from zero to 60 in a shockingly quick 5.3 seconds. Unfortunately, since Acura would rather compete with the Lexus GS than the BMW M5, the fastest RLX doesn’t offer many thrills to go along with that power.

4. Mercedes-Benz GL63 AMG

Mercedes-Benz GL63 AMG

Mercedes-Benz GL63 AMG | Mercedes-Benz

On the surface, Mercedes’ big three-row SUV looks like the European alternative to the Cadillac Escalade. But since Mercedes is focused on building performance versions of every model it sells, it offers the GL63 AMG, which replaces the standard 3.0-liter V6 with a hand-built 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 that’s good for 585 horsepower. That’s enough to take the two-and-a-half ton hauler from zero to 60 in 4.6 seconds. Starting at $124,000, we can think of a lot of cars we’d rather have for that kind of money, but then again, the GL63 could probably roast most of them in a drag race.

3. Ford Fusion Sport

View of blue Ford Fusion Sport sedan

2017 Ford Fusion Sport | Ford

Most automakers offer “Sport” models on a wide range of cars, but more often than not, they’re just empty trim options. Luckily, Ford didn’t follow that path with the Fusion. Order a Sport, and Ford’s popular midsize sedan becomes a true sleeper, with 325 horsepower and a whopping 380 pound-feet of torque going to all four wheels. Aside from a few exterior hints, there isn’t much to give away that this family car can scramble from zero to 60 in just 5.3 seconds — as fast as a Mustang EcoBoost.

2. BMW X6M

BMW X6M

BMW X6M | BMW

The BMW X6 is one of many BMW models that leaves fans of the brand scratching their heads. Its sloping roofline doesn’t make it the most practical SUV, and its tall, awkward ride height doesn’t do it any favors in the looks or handling departments. Frankly, there are about half a dozen BMWs currently on sale that we’d rather have. But once it gets to the mad geniuses at the company’s M-Division, it becomes a 575-horsepower beast that can scramble from zero to 60 in a clean four seconds. It may not be pretty, but the X6M sure is fast.

1. Tesla Model X P100D

Tesla Model X P100D

2017 Tesla Model X | Tesla

The Tesla Model X has had some serious and well-publicized teething issues since its rollout in September 2015. But those problems have largely been solved, and Tesla’s gull-winged crossover is finally living up to its potential. Thanks to a pair of electric motors, the range-topping P100D has a whopping 762 horsepower on tap, taking the 5,500 pound EV from zero to 60 in a mind-boggling 2.9 seconds. It may not look particularly imposing, but unless you’re in something like a Bugatti Chiron, we wouldn’t recommend trying to take on the next Tesla you see at a stoplight.

(cheatsheet.com, https://goo.gl/XpjERD)

Nest Cam IQ intros lossless zoom and facial recognition: Hands-on

Nest has a new home security camera, the Nest Cam IQ, and it’s promising to be the smartest, sleekest, and yes, most expensive model in the Alphabet company’s range. While it may look a lot like the Nest Cam Outdoor, it’s actually the first camera to use the company’s all-new platform. Two years in development, it’ll be the basis of a new, more intelligent take on home security.

Nest Cam IQ intros lossless zoom and facial recognition: Hands-on

As you might expect, video quality has improved. Where the existing Nest Cam Indoor captures at 700 kbps to 1.2 Mbps, for instance, the new Nest Cam IQ captures at up to 2 Mbps. However, there’s more to it than just more polished pixels.

The camera itself stands 4.9-inches high and weighs 12.6 ounces. It’s a clear relation to the Nest Cam Outdoor, with its cup-like body and black glass fascia, though it’s not designed to be used outdoors.

Nest’s attention to detail in the design is, frankly, exemplary. Like the Nest Cam Outdoor, it’s made of dense white plastic with a matte finish; it feels like warm ceramic. Cleverly, that material itself was specially selected for its thermal properties, acting as a passive heat-sink to keep the Nest Cam IQ cool.

Nest’s engineers are particularly proud of the hinge, I’m told. Supporting 160-degrees of forward/backward tilt, and 180-degrees of rotation, it not only strikes a perfect balance between being firm enough to hold the camera in place while being easy to reposition, but also somehow finds enough space to route the cabling through. Speaking of cables, Nest has a custom USB-C power adapter – with a 10 foot cord – that plugs in flush with the weighted base.

Gone is the standard wall mounting plate which Nest includes with the old camera: that simply wasn’t used, Nest tells me. Instead you get a regular tripod screw, for those few people who do want to mount it.

The biggest changes are inside, though, with Nest switching to a completely new platform. The Nest Cam IQ uses a 1/2.5-inch, 8-megapixel sensor that’s capable of 4K video, paired with a 130-degree lens. That’s surrounded by high-power 940 nm infrared LEDs for night vision, along with a glowing LED ring to show status. Two microphones are on the front, and a third underneath, allowing for echo cancellation and background noise suppression. The speaker on the back is a claimed seven times more powerful than what’s on the Nest Cam Pro. HD Talk and Listen means better quality streaming audio and, this summer, iOS and Android will get full-duplex audio rather than the push-to-talk system currently employed.

Connectivity has improved, too. There’s now WiFi 802.11ac 2×2 support (2.4/5GHz) for compatibility with faster, more power-efficient routers, though the 128-bit AES security is carried over to secure the stream. Bluetooth LE is also supported, and the Nest Cam IQ is Thread-ready, too.

Most importantly, there’s a new six-core processor, which gives the new camera significantly more onboard capabilities than any of its predecessors. On the one hand, it opens the door to lossless video zoom: while the sensor might capture in 4K, the Nest Cam IQ streams in 1080p Full HD. By cropping the 4K shot, it can zoom into the frame by up to 4x with no loss of quality. Factor in Nest’s clever – and surprisingly effective – enhancement algorithms, and you get a 12x digital zoom that doesn’t degrade into useless pixelation even when you’re up close.

It also allows the camera to do virtual panning. Nest calls it Supersight, and while the Nest Cam IQ doesn’t physically move, it can zoom into a moving subject and track them through the frame. Since it’s capturing the full scene simultaneously, you can switch between tracking and the full view whether you’re watching it live or recorded.

The extra grunt also allows Nest Cam IQ to do things that until now demanded the processing power – and Nest Aware subscription charge – of the cloud. Person alerts, where the camera can differentiate between the movement of trees or shadows versus someone walking into the frame, can now be triggered by the camera itself. The upshot is not only no requirement for a monthly subscription fee, but faster notifications too.

Factor in the three hours of snapshot history that you get without a subscription, and you could feasibly avoid paying Nest anything every month if your review needs are minimal. Nest Aware does add some tempting extras, however. Familiar Face Alerts can now spot and recognize people, prompting you to name them if you know them, and then subsequently flagging new sightings by that name in its notifications. Unfortunately, there’s no way currently to filter it so known people don’t trigger notifications while strangers do.

Even if Nest Cam IQ can’t see someone, it’ll still react. With a Nest Aware subscription you get intelligent audio alerts, which will ping out a notification if it hears someone talking or hears a dog barking. That’ll be added to Nest Cam Indoor and Nest Cam Outdoor users with paying for Nest Aware too; like them, subscribers with Nest Cam IQ will also get 10- or 30-day video history, clip and timelapse creation, and the ability to set activity zones in the frame.

Those existing cameras will remain on sale, too, at their current $199 price point. Nest Cam IQ goes up for preorder today, priced at $299 – or $498 for a two-pack – and is expected to begin shipping by the end of June.

(slashgear.com, https://goo.gl/aTLdBz)

Sky Q: everything you need to know

Sky Q is Sky’s next-generation TV platform, bringing Sky TV to multiple rooms, screens and devices for a “fluid viewing” experience – complete with 4K Ultra HD content. Here’s everything you need to know.

Sky Q aims to “reimagine TV”, merging live TV with catch-up and on-demand content, streaming video apps, wireless music and more. And it’s all accessible across a range of devices, wherever you want to access it.

So what exactly does Sky’s TV service offer? From the Sky Q boxes to all the features, the 4K content to the cost, and the interface to the Sky Q app – here’s everything you need to know about Sky Q.

What is Sky Q?

Sky Q is Sky’s next-generation TV service, which promises “a whole new way of watching TV”. Sky has created a new ecosystem of Sky products that can all communicate wirelessly, giving you access to all of Sky’s content, whenever and wherever you may want it.

That means both in the home, thanks to the Sky Q boxes (and a Sky Q Hub broadband router), and out and about, connecting to tablets and phones using the Sky Q app.

Not only does this give you access to live and on-demand Sky content across all your devices, it also means you can watch programmes recorded on your Sky box in other rooms and, for the first time, on the move.

Sky Q comes with a brand new interface and TV guide, a new touchpad remote and new features, including Apple AirPlay, Bluetooth and apps such as YouTube.

It doesn’t work with existing Sky products, so you can’t connect it to your existing Sky+ boxes. In fact, the Sky Q box is now the standard Sky box, signalling the end of the road for the Sky+HD box (at least for new customers).

Sky stated in January 2017 that Sky Q is in around 600,000 homes in the UK, while also revealing there will be a new box in 2018 that will allow access to Sky Q TV over broadband and without the need for a satellite dish – a first for Sky.

Sky Q comes with a brand new interface and TV guide, a new touchpad remote and new features.

What is Fluid Viewing?

If you’ve seen the Sky Q advert, then you’ll be aware of ‘Fluid Viewing’. But what does it actually mean? Essentially, it’s being able to watch whatever you want, whenever you want, wherever you want.

Sky Q frees up Sky’s content offering, doing away with the idea that it’s all about the Sky TV box. Sure, the Sky Q box is the engine of your home entertainment system, but you can now watch any Sky content on any other screen in the house, or on a tablet or phone. And not just on-demand programmes, but your Sky recordings too – stored on the main box, they’re accessible on any other Sky Q device.

You can start watching a programme on one TV, then pause the action, move to another room, and continue where you left off on a different TV. All using your wireless network. Mmm, fluid.

This feature also applies to mobile devices. Using the Sky Q app you can download Sky content for offline viewing on your phone or tablet – so fluid viewing extends outside of the home, too.

All of this is done over your home wi-fi network, with Sky referring to Sky Q as a “wireless home entertainment system”.

Using the Sky Q app you can download Sky content for offline viewing on your tablet.

Sky Q release date

Sky Q app on an iPad

Sky Q is available now in the UK and Ireland, having officially gone on sale on 9th February 2016. Installations started at the end of that month, with Sky broadband customers the first to get in on the action. Ultra HD on Sky Q launched on 13th August 2016.

If you do want to get on board then it’s worth noting Sky Q installations require a small upgrade to your Sky dish. This shouldn’t be an issue if you have your own dish, but if you use a communal dish, it could take a little extra time.

The new service sits alongside existing Sky TV products, including Sky+ and Now TV, but won’t work with Sky+ hardware.

The new Sky Q platform may completely replace Sky+ in time but we’d hazard that won’t be any time soon. 

What are the key Sky Q features?

AirPlay on Sky Q

  • Sky Q aims to give you access to your content everywhere. Live, on-demand and, crucially, recorded content, can all be accessed via all of the Sky Q boxes, and on Android and Apple tablets and smartphones using the Sky Q app.
  • You can pause a programme on one screen and pick up where you left off on another. From living-room to bedroom to your tablet, for example.
  • You can watch up to five programmes on up to five screens at the same time: your main Sky Q box, up to two Sky Q Mini boxes and up to two tablets/smartphones.
  • Sky Q allows you to record up to four programmes simultaneously – two more than Sky+ currently allows. And you can do this while watching a fifth channel, thanks to the 12 tuners in the 2TB Sky Q box. Sky will soon let customers record up to six programmes at once while watching a seventh – this feature will land this year, though Sky hasn’t said exactly when.
  • You can stream music from an AirPlay or Bluetooth device to your Sky Q system.
  • It comes preloaded with apps including video sites YouTube and Vevo, and editorial offerings from GQ and Wired. Sky’s own Sky Sports News HQ app allows you to catch up on key sporting highlights by using a picture-in-picture approach to show content on the same TV screen.
  • All Sky Q boxes have integrated Powerline AV1.1, which is only compatible with other Sky Q devices.
  • You can boost your wireless network with every additional Sky Q box. All the Sky Q boxes are wi-fi hotspots, boosting the signal in each room. This only works with the Sky Q Hub (and therefore a Sky broadband connection), though.
  • You can watch Ultra HD content, with sport, movies and entertainment on demand.
  • It also comes with a touchpad remote which includes a mic for voice search. The new remote replaces the directional push buttons with a touch-sensitive pad, although a traditional push-button remote is also in the box.

Catch-up apps from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five are already on Sky but there’s no sign of either Netflix or Spotify – though you can stream Spotify, or any other music app, from your phone to a Q box using AirPlay or Bluetooth.

Sky is adamant it wants to deliver the best, most complete content offering, so isn’t ruling out adding Netflix one day, though naturally it would rather you invested in its own library of on-demand films. Sky Store looks set to become the number one digital film retailer by the end of 2017.

New features are already scheduled for launch later in 2017, including better personalisation, and Dolby Atmos-encoded audio for UHD movies.

What Sky Q boxes are available?

Sky Q 2TB box

There are three Sky Q boxes, and the broadband hub. The two main boxes are the premium Sky Q 2TB (formerly Sky Q Silver) and Sky Q 1TB. The key difference is you need the 2TB box for 4K Ultra HD.

The Sky Q Mini is for bedrooms and second rooms, and piggy-backs off your main Q box. All the boxes follow the same slimline design – the Mini and Hub look nigh-on identical. So, what are the differences?

Sky Q 2TB box (formerly Sky Q Silver box)

  • Ultra HD ready
  • 2TB storage (1.7TB for customer use)
  • 12 tuners (three are dormant for now); can record four live shows while watching a fifth
  • 2 x HDMI 1.4b out (to be updated for Ultra HD), 2 x USB 2.0, optical audio, ethernet, wireless
  • Wireless, Bluetooth
  • Dolby Digital over HDMI or optical
  • Supports simultaneous viewing on two tablets
  • Supports simultaneous viewing on up to two Q Mini boxes
  • Powerline (only compatible with Sky products)
  • Matt black and mirror silver finishes

Sky Q 1TB box

  • HD
  • 1TB storage (over 700GB for customer use)
  • 8 tuners; can record three live shows while watching a fourth
  • 2 x HDMI 1.4b out, 2 x USB 2.0, optical audio, Ethernet
  • Wireless, Bluetooth
  • Dolby Digital over HDMI or optical
  • Supports simultaneous viewing on one tablet
  • Supports simultaneous viewing on one Q Mini box
  • Powerline (only compatible with Sky products)
  • Matt black and high-gloss black

Sky Q Mini box

  • HD
  • 1 x HDMI 1.4b out, 1 x USB, optical audio, Ethernet
  • Wireless, Bluetooth
  • Dolby Digital over HDMI or optical
  • Powerline (only compatible with Sky products)
  • Matt black and high-gloss black

Sky Q Hub

  • 2 x Ethernet, 1 x DSL
  • Dual band 2.4GHz and 5GHz
  • Powerline (only compatible with Sky products)
  • Matt black and high-gloss black

Sky Q price and bundles

Sky Q Mini

The big one: Sky Q price. At launch, If you were an existing Sky customer who already paid a fair amount, ie. you got, say, Sky Movies or Sky Sports in HD, then Sky Q wasn’t actually a lot more money. For new customers, however, or those on more affordable Sky TV bundles, it did seem more expensive.

But things have changed, as the Sky Q box has become the standard Sky machine. So all Sky bundles are Sky Q bundles. There are also some Sky Q deals to tempt you into splashing the cash, notably a free Samsung 32in TV or £100/$150 for your troubles.

The entry-level Sky Q bundle – ‘Original’ – is £22/$33 per month. This gets you the cheaper Sky Q 1TB box and the basic Sky TV channels. The cheaper box means you don’t get access to Sky 4K content. There are also Variety and Box Sets bundles, for £32/$48 per month and £38/$57 per month respectively.

You can then add Sky Multiscreen (£12/$18 extra per month), Sky Cinema (£18/$27 extra per month) or Sky Sports (£27.50/$42 extra per month).

You’ll need to add the Sky Q 2TB box to your package to get access to Sky 4K content. So how much will that cost?

Existing Multiscreen customers (i.e. those with Sky+) taking a Sky Q Multiscreen subscription will pay up to £49/$73 for a Sky Q 1TB box, or up to £99/$148 for a Sky Q 2TB box. Those existing customers who don’t have Multiscreen but who want to upgrade to it will pay up to £199/$298 for a Sky Q 1TB or 2TB box. Sky says the prices will be discounted to £70/$105 for the Sky Q 1TB box or £60 for the Sky Q 2TB box for existing customers without a current Multiscreen subscription. Yes, you read that right – the 2TB box is actually cheaper.

Want to upgrade to Sky Q without Multiscreen? The standard £199/$298 set-up fee applies whether you take the 1TB or 2TB box.

The good news is that Sky Ultra HD won’t cost you extra.

What about Sky Q 4K Ultra HD?

Sky Ultra HD launched on 13th August 2016. You will need the top Sky Q 2TB box to watch it.

Sky was adamant 4K was fairly low down most consumers’ wishlists, so was happy to wait in order to give them 4K. It now touts its service as “the UK’s most comprehensive Ultra High Definition service”, and we’re loathe to disagree.

Sky’s 4K programming features live sport, including Premier League football and Formula 1 (cricket will arrive in July 2017), plus 4K films, TV shows and documentaries. Ultra HD programming is available live and also on-demand and to rent via the Sky Store.

Sky Sports, Sky Cinema, Sky 1, Sky Atlantic and Sky Living all feature 4K content, with shows including The Blacklist, Ross Kemp Extreme World, Hammond in the Jungle, Fortitude and Jamestown

Sky showed 124 Premier League matches in Ultra HD throughout the 2016/17 football season. At launch, there were some 42 films available in Ultra HD on Sky Cinema (formerly known as Sky Movies). Sky is also showing all the 2017 Formula One season races in Ultra HD.

The first 4K BBC iPlayer demo was also made available on Sky Q, suggesting we can expect any full launch of 4K BBC content to make its way on to Sky via the service.

When it comes to other 4K broadcasters, BT’s rival Ultra HD YouView box has offered 4K since July 2015, with an average of one live sports event in UHD per week.

Virgin announced its V6 4K TV box in December 2016, offering access to 4K content from Netflix and YouTube.

Sky Q interface

The new Sky Q interface

The platform has a different interface to Sky+, and it appears on all the Sky Q products. The layout has the simple aim of making it easier for users to find the programmes they’re looking for – a key improvement requested by existing Sky customers.

Some features launched on the Sky Q interface have also now been rolled-out to HD customers.

The Q interface aims to blur the boundaries between live and on-demand content, serving up any and every available showing of each programme thanks to a redesigned search. The interface is a picture-led, tile layout, rather than the more text-heavy original Sky+ EPG.

There’s greater emphasis on recommended content, too, with My Q and Top Picks menus serving up programmes you might like based on your viewing habits. Interestingly this changes according to the time of day, second-guessing what you might want to watch at a given time.

Content types, such as Sports, Kids and Music, are broken down into sections, and combine Sky programmes with app content, such as YouTube.

You can slide around the EPG with the new touchpad remote, which also has some new one-touch buttons to key content areas, such as your recordings. There isn’t however a ‘backwards EPG’, which would allow you to scroll back through the TV guide – a notable feature of Virgin’s TiVo box and its more recent V6 box.

Since launch the Sky Q interface has also added Top Picks and Auto Play features, plus voice search.

New features are scheduled for launch later in 2017, including extra recording functionality, better personalisation and Dolby Atmos audio.

My Q and Top Picks promise programmes you might like based on your existing viewing habits.

Sky Q app

The Sky Q app is available for Android and Apple phones and tablets, giving the same look and feel as the interface on your TV.

You can access your Sky box’s recordings on the app, allowing you to stream recorded, as well as live, content anywhere else in the house on your mobile device. And that’s not all: for the first time, Sky Q brings the ability to download programmes for offline viewing.

Sky doesn’t have the rights for you to download everything – BBC content is absent, for example, as the Beeb would no doubt rather you use iPlayer – but for everything else you can save it to your device and take it with you to watch on the move, without streaming charges or even the need for a network signal.

(whathifi.com, https://goo.gl/4bTDLh)

Polar A370 First Look Review: Essential guide to the heart rate monitoring fitness tracker

The lowdown on the A360 successor that aims to ramp up HR accuracy

Polar has officially unveiled the A370, the fitness tracker sequel to the Polar A360 that aims to right the wrongs of its predecessor and throws some new features into the mix as well.

Set to rival the likes of the Fitbit Charge 2 and Garmin Vivosmart 3, Polar’s latest effort is going big on sleep monitoring and will still measure heart rate continuously throughout the day and night to better assess your fitness levels.

If you want to know what to expect from the Polar A370, read on for our breakdown of the key features, pricing and when you can get your hands on it.

Polar A370: Design

The wrist-worn wearable looks a lot like its predecessor with its interchangeable silicone wristband that’s available in small, medium and large and a similar slim glass colour touchscreen display. It’s waterproof as well, so you can take it for a swim and at 13.5mm thick, it’s as bulky as Fitbit and Garmin’s flagship fitness trackers.

That capacitive touchscreen display manages to squeeze in a not so impressive sounding 80 x 60 pixel screen resolution, but if it’s anything like the A360’s screen it’ll be suitable for glancing down at to review your stats.

Behind the display lies Polar’s own optical heart rate module, which operates like most other light-based sensors. We weren’t blown away by the heart rate tracking powers of the A360, but Polar does say it has improved performance particularly for high intensity activities. So now when more vigorous activity like running or walking is recognised by increased movement of the wrists, the ‘3D accelerometer’ will measure heart rate at a higher resolution. The idea is that this should hopefully lead to improved accuracy.

Polar A370: Activity tracking

Polar A370: Essential guide to the sleep coaching fitness tracker

It packs in all of the same tracking features as the A360 so that includes counting steps, measuring distance and recording active time. It also offers inactivity alerts to keep you moving during the day and a useful Activity Goal option showing you how you can hit your daily fitness target.

In terms of heart rate based features, there’s 24/7 heart rate monitoring taking resting heart rate readings at five minute intervals. There’s also support for dedicated heart rate based training, the ability to view HR max information and a heart rate based fitness test. The latter does require having a compatible Polar chest strap though.

Polar's A370 fitness tracker wants to be your personal sleep coach

The big new addition is Polar’s Sleep Plus intelligent sleep system that still harnesses accelerometer based tech to detect sleep duration, timing and quality of sleep based on position and wrist movements. The algorithm element of the system however uses polysomnography, a reference measurement, which is the test used to assess sleep in science and medicine.

The hope is that Sleep Plus can help provide much more accurate sleep detection. Users will be given a sleep continuity score on a scale of 1-5 to show how continuous their sleep was. You’ll also be able to rate your night’s sleep the following morning.

Polar A370: Dealing with data

When you need to review you data for the day you’ll need to download the Polar Flow app (iOS and Android) or you can go old school and sync to a PC or a Mac. There’s decent third party app support here as well letting you share data with Apple HealthKit, Google Fit, MyFitnessPal and MapMyFitness.

Data captured is synced to the Polar Flow app and combined with activity data and heart rate data aim to provide a more complete picture of your overall state of fitness. It will also provide further insights through Polar’s Smart Coaching to offer advice on how to improve sleep and overall fitness.

Polar A370: Other features

Polar A370: Essential guide to the sleep coaching fitness tracker

One of the A370’s nicest features is the ability to use the A370 as an external heart rate monitor for third party apps and other Bluetooth devices. You can also pair it with Polar’s Balance smart scale and it’ll work with Polar’s H10 heart rate chest strap if you’re yearning for more reliable HR accuracy.

You can still piggyback off your phone’s GPS to track runs and it also offers indoor run tracking using the onboard accelerometer to measure distance, a feature that also rolled out to Polar’s upcoming M430 sports watch. There’s smartphone notification support too giving you a buzz when someone is trying to get in touch.

Polar A370: Battery life

The A370 receives a very minor battery upgrade moving from a 100mAh to a 110mAh battery, which should be good for up to 3 days of activity tracking. That also factors in 1 hour of training per day taking advantage of the continuous heart rate monitoring.

We found that the A360 could manage around five days, so it sounds like a conservative estimate in terms of how long the A370 can stay powered up before you’re reaching for that micro USB charging cable. At least there’s no proprietary cradle that you have to keep close by when it does power down.

Polar A370 essential guide

Polar A370: Price and release date

The Polar A370 is going on sale in June and is available to pre-order now from the Polar website for $179.95. That’s around the same price as the A360 when it first launched and puts it firmly in Fitbit Charge 2 and Garmin Vivosmart 3 pricing territory. If you want to buy some additional bands, those will cost you an extra $24.95 per band.

The bigger push on sleep tracking is an interesting move from Polar, particularly when Fitbit has also made moves recently to improve the way its trackers record your bed time. What we really want to know is if those heart rate sensor problems have been resolved. There’s clearly plenty of room for improvement and we’re hoping that the A370 is a fitness tracker that delivers the goods this time.

(wareable.com, https://goo.gl/X5J1vJ)

Chuwi Lapbook 12.3 vs. Xiaomi Air 12 Laptop Comparisons Review

The Xiaomi Air 12 laptop may be a popular brand, but the new Chuwi Lapbook is a tough competitor. Here is a comparison between the Chuwi Lapbook 12.3 and Xiaomi Air 12 notebook.

Design

The Chuwi Lapbook 12.3 sports a magnesium aluminum alloy body built with anodizing and 3D sand-blasting procedure. It weighs 1.4 kg and its dimensions are 11.54 x 7.87 x 0.59 inches. On the other side, the Xiaomi Air 12 laptop with full metal body manufactured with borax anodized process. It measures 11.5 x 7.95 x 0.51 inches and its weigh is 1.07 kg.

Hardware

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The Chuwi Lapbook 12.3 features a 12.3-inch screen that offers a resolution of 2,736 x 1,824 pixels resolution whereas the Xiaomi Air 12 laptop has a slightly bigger screen of 12.5 inches and it offers a lower resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. The Xiaomi notebook offer users with slim bezels.

The Chuwi device is powered by Intel N3450 Celeron CPU that features a 1.1 GHz quad-core processor with a highest speed of up to 2.2 GHz. It is coupled with 6 GB of RAM and offers a 64 GB internal storage. It features Intel HD graphics 500. It is packed with a massive 8,000 mAh battery with fast charging support.

The Xiaomi laptop is a more powerful device as it features Intel Core m3-7Y30 dual core processor that works at 1 GHz. It can deliver a max processing speed of 2.6 GHz. It features a 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. Xiaomi is providing Intel HD graphics 615 on it. It has a slightly smaller battery of 7,000mAh capacity.

Chuwi Lapbook 12.3

Features

Both the laptops come loaded with Windows 10 Home. Chuwi offers features like 0.3MP front camera, 2 x USB 3.0 ports, mini HDMI port, 3.5mm audio jack, v4.0 Bluetooth and 2.4G/5G dual-band Wi-Fi support. On the other side, the Xiaomi notebook includes 1 USB 3.0 port, a standard HDMI port, 3.5mm audio jack, 1 USB Type-C port, AKG custom dual speakers, v4.1 Bluetooth and 4G/5G dual-band Wi-Fi support

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Conclusion

Both the affordable laptops come with attractive features.  The aforementioned differences can help making a buying decision between the two laptops.

(igeekphone.com, https://goo.gl/4cuq0w)

The Essential Phone has been revealed, and it’s packing modules

Android creator Andy Rubin has been teasing his next project for some time, and now the Essential Phone has been unveiled.

A preview of the phone, published by The Verge and which arrived ahead of the official launch, shows the handset to be an impressive offering that might just give Samsung and Apple pause.

Among the striking features are an edge-to-edge display that goes even further than the Galaxy S8’s screen, and a modular design.

Essential Phone

Yes, the Essential Phone is betting on modular functionality, following some high profile failures in that space (LG’s G5 didn’t quite have the impact the company hoped).

The new phone brings with it a couple of accessories that can be attached to the handset via a magnetic connector and wireless data transfer.

Essential Phone

Those accessories inclue a 360-degree camera that attaches to the top of the phone via the pogo pins, with the company said to be working on a charging dock set to launch in the future.

All of which is great, but when it comes to the standard stuff, such as hardware and design, the Essential Phone seems to be a serious contender in the smartphone market.

First up, the handset comes with a titanium and ceramic build which will apparently hold up better during drops than handsets from the big manufacturers – at least, according to Andy Rubin.

The edge-to-edge display leaves minimal bezels on the side and top of the phone’s front, with a small bezel at the bottom and a cutout for the front facing camera at the top.

Essential Phone

That means the screen takes up more room on the front of the phone than on both the LG G6 and the Galaxy S8.

According to the report, the software will adapt itself around the front-facing camera cutout, never showing notification icons on that part of the screen.

Round the back, you’ll find a dual-camera setup whereby the second lens is used as a monochrome sensor – the same thing found on Huawei’s P9 and P10.

That monochrome sensor takes in more light than a traditional option, and combines with the 13-megapixel standard sensor to improve low-light performance.

The front-facing shooter is a modest 8-megapixel offering, but on the plus side, it is apparently capable of shooting 4K video.

Essential Phone

Internally, the company has packed the phone with the latest Qualcomm 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage – so it should be plenty fast and able to compete with the big phones of 2017.

And in what could be seen as a somewhat controversial move, Essential has opted to follow Apple and leave out the 3.5mm jack – though an adapter is said to be included with the phone.

The company will be launching its new handset over in the states for $699 (about £545) to begin with, according to the report, but if it proves popular, we could see the handset arriving in other markets in the future.

Andy Rubin will officially launch the phone tonight at the Code Conference, and is scheduled to hit the stage at 6PM PT/9PM ET – that’s 2am Wednesday morning in the UK.

(trustedreviews.com, https://goo.gl/ZjjEBN)

Soligor 400mm f/6.3 T2 Classic Lens Review

Pros
  • Well worth the £10/$15 paid
  • Easy to use with practice
  • Well made
Cons
  • Poor sharpness
  • High CA

Soligor 400mm F6,3 Outer Box

This is just so tempting – a boxed, as new 400mm telephoto lens in an auction, begging to be bought for just £10. T2 fit means that it can be adapted to almost any camera body, so here we have it coupled via an M42 screw thread adapter and a Pentax Adapter K to see how it might perform with the 36MP Pentax K-1 full frame body.

Handling and Features

Soligor 400mm F6,3 On Pentax K 1

Soligor distributed many lenses and was a major supplier throughout the 1960s and through to the 1980s. The lenses were inexpensive, many were excellent and they were made by various Japanese manufacturers. This 400mm f/6.3 was offered in several versions, this one being manufactured by Kino.

It is basically a long focus lens, as opposed to a telephoto which would be much shorter, and comprises a long tube with a cemented doublet at each end. That is, 4 elements in 2 groups. The lens is coated. There is a filterthread of 67mm diameter and a very useful built in lens hood.

Soligor 400mm F6,3 Close Up Detail

The diaphragm, running from f/6.3 to f/32, has a very generous 13 blades, consequently there is an expectation of nice smooth bokeh. Although to be fair, in the day of this optic, bokeh was not a term in regular use. This is a preset lens, a term that might need a bit of explanation. There are two aperture rings. The silver one is set to the aperture required. The black ring runs free and can be moved to either wide open or to the aperture selected. The technique is to focus wide open, then operate the black ring to set the preset aperture value.

With a modicum of practice this becomes second nature. Likewise the focusing, manual focus only of course, which becomes very easy when coupled with a helpful beep from the camera’s AF system. This works really well with the Pentax K-1 and no doubt with other cameras also.

Soligor 400mm F6,3 Front Element View

The fitting is a T2 mount, a screw thread similar to but not compatible with an M42 Pentax Screw fitting. A T2 mount is required with the fitting appropriate to the camera we wish to use. In this instance an M42 T2 adapter was fitted, so adding a Pentax Adapter K meant that the lens could be fitted to the K-1. The custom setting Using Aperture Ring is set to Permitted to allow use of the non-electronic mount.

The lens is long and thin, weighing a fair amount at 960g. There is a rotating tripod mount that seems secure. Using the lens is really pretty much hazard free, it is easy to focus and seems reasonably light in use, no doubt helped by its good balance with the modern DSLR. The real bugbear is the 6.5m (22 feet) minimum focus distance which shows us just how spoilt we have become with the modern zoom lens. This is clearly a long distance lens for sports and wildlife.

Soligor 400mm F6,3 T2 Screw Thread Mount And Pentax Adapter K

Soligor 400mm f/6.3 T2 Screw Thread Mount And Pentax Adapter K

Performance

So for £10/$15 and looking for all the world as though it has just been delivered from the factory, is the lens actually usable and does it deliver the quality we need?

There is no doubt that when bang on focus and with a simple contrasty subject, reasonably sharp images can be delivered. As for wildlife, getting that point of focus is a real problem. Following anything that isn’t totally stationary is well nigh impossible. We need a solid tripod, a still subject and also need to be prepared to sacrifice fine detail.

Compared to current lenses, on close examination the optic isn’t really all that sharp. It’s OK, but that’s about it. There is plenty of CA (Chromatic Aberration) as well, but this was not a problem when most photographers were shooting in black and white. The lens is also quite sensitive to backlight, and easily flares, losing sharpness and contrast as it does so.

Bokeh is perhaps a little busy, but with little depth of field a 400mm lens can easily put the background well out of focus.

Sample Photos

2017 BMW M3 GT2 S Hurricane by G-Power Review

Out of sight, out of mind. That’s a prevailing theme among forgettable cars in the auto industry. But every so often, a car captivates the business to no end that people have a hard time keeping them away from their memory palaces. The previous-generation BMW M3 counts as one of those vehicles. At one point, Automobile even described it in reverence on the level of how a four-year-old treats Santa Claus. It’s safe to say that the E92 BMW M3 will remain relevant for a long time and we can all look to the aftermarket tuning scene as a big contributor in keeping the last of the M3 coupes’ spirit alive. G-Power counts itself in this group and it even has a new tuning kit for the “old” M3 that pops the coupe’s power all the way up to a staggering 709 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque.

Officially, the German tuner calls its creation the M3 GT2 S Hurricane. It’s a nod to the old Hurricane programs that the E92 M3 was treated to when it was making hay as one of the best performance coupes in the world. It’s good to know then that even if the M3 coupe has been out of commission for three years now, owners of the model still have the opportunity to turn their prized M3s into certified rockets on four wheels. That’s exactly what this new Hurricane program is all about. It may not be for everybody, but for M3 owners who prefer to tap into the coupe’s full potential (with the aid of an engine swap), the GT2 S Hurricane program from G-Power is a good key that can help unlock it and more.

Exterior

bmw-m3-gt2-s-hurrica-6_400x266w

“The aesthetics of the E92 M3 didn’t depart too much from its 3 Series brethren, but it’s hard to make that out here because of G-Power’s new carbon fiber, wide-body kit.”

The current-generation F80 BMW M3 has shown itself to be a popular car in its own right, even with the loss of its coupe body to the M4. But back when the M4 – and the M2, for that matter – still didn’t exist, the M3 was the go-to sports coupe among fans of BMW’s M division. The aesthetics of the E92 M3 didn’t depart too much from its 3 Series brethren, but it’s hard to make that out here because of G-Power’s new carbon fiber, wide-body kit. There’s a heavy dose of the premium material on this program, as prominently shown by that incredibly large rear spoiler. The M3 also gets a new intake and cooling vents made out of carbon fiber. Likewise, the car’s hood and two doors are also made from the same material.

bmw-m3-gt2-s-hurrica-4_800x0w

“Finishing off the exterior upgrades is a new set of 19-inch lightweight forged competition-grade alloy wheels.”

Finishing off the exterior upgrades is a new set of 19-inch lightweight forged competition-grade alloy wheels. The same wheels are then wrapped in 295/30ZR19 and 325/30ZR19 tires in the front and rear, respectively. Backstopping these alloys is a new racing brake system that’s made up of ceramic brake discs that come with six-piston calipers in the front and four-piston calipers at the back.

The E92 M3 was a popular car among tuners

Let’s paint a picture on how popular the previous-generation M3 was. Jeremy Clarkson fawned over it when he was still at Top Gear. It was also called the “world’s single greatest car” by Motor Trend and the world’s “all-around best car for the money” by Car and Driver. Oh, and it was also the subject of hundreds of tuning programs in its lifetime. Obviously, I’m not going to run down the list of all the programs developed for the M3. What I did do was pick the most stand-out examples, starting with this subtle program from Hamann that brought out the M3’s aggressive personality. The kit itself wasn’t much as it only included a front spoiler, a rear skirt and spoiler, side skirts, and a nice rear spoiler. Where it lacked in quantity though was made up for with a good amount of aerodynamic balance.

On the other end of the cosmetic spectrum is the GTRS3 Candy Cane program from Vorsteiner. In terms of aesthetics, this was the BMW M3 in full aggressive bloom. Not only did it come with a hefty carbon fiber wide body kit, a vented carbon fiber race hood, and a VRS carbon fiber trunk lid, it also featured plenty red cosmetic treatments, none more egregious – or awesome depending on your preference – than replacing the blue elements on BMW’s logo with red.

These two exterior upgrade programs from Hamann and Vorsteiner are just two of many of their kind. Trust me when I tell you. If you still have a previous-generation BMW M3, you’re going to have to make tough decisions regarding a potential aftermarket tuning kit. There’s literally too many to choose from.

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note: side-by-side photo of the 2008 BMW M3 by Hamann and the 2011 BMW M3 GTRS3 Candy Cane by Vortsteiner.

Interior

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Contrary to some of G-Power’s more traditional tuning programs, the interior work for the M3 is arguably more significant than the exterior upgrades on the coupe. The most prominent change in the cabin can be found in the rear where the seats have been completely taken out. A full rollover cage now occupies a big section of the rear to help improve the coupe’s structural stiffness and overall safety. Make no mistake, the M3 GT2 S Hurricane is a car that’s built completely for the track. In keeping with the weight-savings theme of the interior, most of the metal panels in the cabin of the car have also been replaced with carbon fiber panels while the sound insulation materials were also sent packing. The tuner didn’t say how much weight it was able to strip out of the M3, but considering all the changes, an estimate of around 150 to 200 kilos (330 to 440 pounds) should be around the ballpark.

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“The most prominent change in the cabin can be found in the rear where the seats have been completely taken out.”

While performance may be at the heart of G-Power’s kit, it still provided the M3’s cabin with enough premium materials to keep it from going completely spartan. The Alcantara trim on the dashboard, sports seats, and headliner stand out, but there’s also a new digital multi-function display and G-Power’s own supplementary display to keep note of. The latter, in particular, should come in handy for the driver since it monitors all relevant information concerning the performance of coupe’s new engine.

A lot of M3s were track-tuned back in the day

Turning the previous-generation BMW M3 into track cars made tuners a lot of money so it’s no surprising that some of these companies followed a similar blueprint as the one G-Power used in developing the M3 GT2 S Hurricane. Back in 2011, CLP Automotive went into overdrive in turning the M3 into a perfect track machine. The exterior was heavy on upgrades, but the case was the same for the interior where the tuner installed its own body cage in the interior to go with Recaro sports seats and some doses of Alcantara trim.

While we’re on the theme of completely revamped interiors, this program from motorsports company RS Racingteam showed its wares back in 2013. I described it then as being a “cozy interior” but with the benefit of hindsight, I’d probably take it back. See, “cozy” isn’t the first thing people should think of when discussing RS Racingteam’s interior upgrade program for the M3. Like G-Power and CLP Automotive, the motorsports racing team installed its own race cage to go with front sport bucket seats with six-point harnesses, a new racing steering wheel, and racing brake pads, and of course, touches of carbon fiber installed in various parts of the cabin.

 2011-bmw-m3-gt-by-clp-aut-3_400x266w
 bmw-m3-rs-m3-by-rs-r-11_400x266w
2011 BMW M3 GT Interceptor by CLP Automotive BMW M3 RS-M3 by RS Racingteam.

Drivetrain

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There’s an art to building a tuning program that covers a wide swath of a car’s needs, or in this case, turn it into a full-fledged track racer that can lay waste to anybody that stands in its way. G-Power’s engine upgrade program for the E92 M3 involved a lot of work and a lot of putting new pieces in place to complete the whole process.

The first order of business was to disassemble the 4.0-liter V-8 engine and replace the lightweight forged pistons and connecting rods. The tuner also installed a long stroke forged crankshaft to increase the engine’s capacity from the stock 4.0 liters to 4.5 liters. From there, G-Power dropped its ASA T1-724 supercharger system into the mix and all together, the tuner was able to achieve an output of 720 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. Do a little mathematical gymnastics and the numbers add up to an increase of 300 horses and 184 pound-feet of twist.

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As intense as those figures are, the madness continues in the performance times where the M3 GT2 S Hurricane is now capable of sprinting to 124 mph in 9.8 seconds before peaking at a top speed of 205 mph. Imagine having those kinds of performance credentials on the drag strip or the race track. The M3 GT2 S Hurricane is going to turn a lot of heads in both environments.

A lot of variety as far as power and performance are concerned

Given the sheer number of engine upgrade programs that the previous-generation BMW M3 was subjected to, it’s perfectly normal for power figures to vary dramatically. Take CLP Automotive’s M3 GT Interceptor for example. It had the look of a full-fledged racer, complete with a full-body roll cage. But the tuner only managed to massage 30 extra horsepower out of the 4.0-liter V-8 engine, resulting in an output of 450 horses and 318 pound-feet of twist. The result is a dramatically slower car than the M3 GT2 S Hurricane that can hit 124 mph from an idle position in 14.7 seconds and a top speed of just 186 mph.

Meanwhile, RS Racingteam’s program for the E92 M3 has a lot more to offer than CLP Automotive’s own kit, but it’s still well short of what G-Power achieved. The racing team opted for a software upgraded with its kit, which largely explains the disparity in power to G-Power’s Hurricane kit. Still, that software upgrade was enough to boost the coupe’s output to 600 horsepower, a little over halfway between the power outputs generated by CLP Automotive and G-Power.

Other tuners like Precision Sports Industries and VF Engineering were able to achieve similar output numbers as the RS Racingteam. PSI, for example, got the M3’s V-8 engine to produce 600 horsepower and 427 pound-feet of torque while VF Engineering offered a number of programs of its own, including the VF650 kit that saw the coupe’s power numbers rise to 650 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque.

Then there’s Manhart Racing, which did a list replacing of its own. Instead of disassembling the M3’s V-8 engined and swapping stock parts for new, aftermarket ones, Manhart went the route of replacing the M3’s engine with a bigger S63 engine that was then found on the BMW X6 M SUV. A few ECU mods and a change in exhaust also contributed in Manhart generating an output of 724 horsepower and 641 pound-feet of torque out of the last-run M3.

Check out the table below to see the diverse engine upgrade programs that the E92 BMW M3 received to earn its status as one of the most tuner-friendly performance cars in the industry.

Tuner Horsepower Torque 0 to 60 MPH Top Speed
BMW M3 GT2 S Hurricane (G-Power) 720 horsepower 479 pound-feet 3.0 seconds* 205 mph
BMW M3 GT Interceptor (CLP Automotive ) 450 horsepower 318 pound-feet 5.7 seconds* 186 mph*
BMW M3 “RS-M3” (RS Racing Team) 600 horsepower 430 pound-feet* 4.0 seconds* 196 mph*
BMW M3 (Precision Sports Industries) 650 horsepower 427 pound-feet 3.5 seconds* 200 mph*
BMW M3 (Manhart Racing) 724 horsepower 641 pound-fee 3.0 seconds* 205 mph*

Suspension

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The BMW M3 GT2 S Hurricane is a track car so naturally, a lot of work was also put into improving its suspension. The most prominent of these upgrades is G-Power’s own coil-overs that come with a Nürburgring set-up, or specific tunes to the ride height and dampers that will allow the sports coupe to maximize its worth around the Nürburgring. In addition, G-Power also added a race pneumatic lift system, or simply known as air jacks. These should prove particularly useful when the car’s on the track and trying to go in and out of the pit lane to swap tires as quickly as possible.

Pricing

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G-Power is letting everyone know off the bat how much the BMW M3 GT2 S Hurricane is going to cost and it’s not cheap. According to the tuner, those interested in availing of the whole thing, car and program included, will have to shell out a logic-defying amount of €292,883. That converts to just under $330,000 based on current exchange rates. Like I said, prepare for your finances to bleed out should you decide to take G-Power up on its offer of turning the E92 M3 into a full-fledged rock star of an exotic.

Competition

BMW M3 By Velos Designwerks

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We can spend all day picking apart which tuning program from which tuner put out an impressive kit for the E92 BMW M3. Instead of doing that though, we’ll just go with two more tuners, beginning with Velos Designwerks. It doesn’t have same level of esteem as the likes of G-Power or Hamann, but back in 2012, it presented its program for the sports coupe that featured its own ESS VT625 supercharger kit. With the kit in place, Velos Designwerks was able to boost the output of the M3’s V-8 engine to 620 horsepower, good enough to sit in that sweet spot between the power gains achieved by the RS Racingteam and Precision Sports Industries.

BMW M3 By Alpha-N Performance

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By now, the name Alpha-N Performance is pretty recognizable for all of the significant programs it’s released in recent years for some of the world’s finest performance cars. It’s funny though that one of the most impressive programs the tuner developed in the last two years was actually for the previous-generation BMW M3. Introduced in 2015, the BT92 5.8L V10 Part 2 (yes, that’s its official name) was introduced and it was a doozy. Not only did it feature an aero kit and a new set of wheels, it also came with an engine swap. Gone was the M3’s stock 4.0-liter V-8 and in its place, Alpha-N put in a 5.8-liter engine with two extra cylinders, effectively turning it into a full-fledged V-10 mil. The result was impressive as the tuner was able to coax out 640 horsepower.

Conclusion

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What’s really left to say here other than “wow?” I can point out to so many aspects of this monumental creation and it still wouldn’t fully describe the kind of work G-Power put into making the M3 GT2 S Hurricane the way it is. So in the absence of that, let me just say that owners of the previous-generation BMW M3 who are looking to get creative with the coupe’s power and performance capabilities, G-Power is only a phone call away.

  • Leave it
    • Very expensive
    • Definitely not for everyone
    • Keep the E92 M3 as it is; it’s awesome enough on its own

(topspeed.com, https://goo.gl/ANVKn7)

BBEN AK13 Notebook Review – A 13.3″ Metal Beauty & A Beast

As the Chinese smartphones are gaining importance, so are the Chinese Notebooks such as Xiaomi Mi Air. Still, there are some brands from the Chinese land which are being ignored. BBen is such a high-end laptop manufacturer. Don’t believe us? Our protagonist ‘BBen AK13 Notebook’ will make you believe.

BBEN AK13 Notebook 13.3-inch - Keyboard

BBen AK13 is a 13-inch Notebook coupled with the ultra-thin premium body and breathtaking performance of an i7 CPU and 512SSD. Let’s get into the details of the notebook: BBEN AK13 Notebook Review – Is it Worth Spending $950?

Design & Appearance

As the title says, BBen AK13 is an expensive high-end notebook. It occupies an area of 32.80 x 21.90 cm. The 21mm thickness and 1.6 kg weight allow it to be super-thin and lightweight at the same time. Although, it’s not as light as it should be. There are about thousands of notebooks weighing 1.0 kg to 1.3 kg and are also cheaper than AK13 at the same time. But what makes BBen AK13 unique is its premium metal chassis. Plus, the sleek design further exaggerates its beauty. We can understand why it’s a bit heavier than its competitors because BBen AK13 is all metal.

BBEN AK13 Notebook 13.3-inch - Top

The manufacturer has kept the notebook plain and straightforward. That’s why we don’t even find a logo neither on the top nor under the screen.

BBEN AK13 Notebook 13.3-inch - Thickness

The bottom of the notebook is also clean. The four rubber stands are fastened with the chassis to attain the perfect grip on any surface. The most surprising aspect of the notebook is that even with metal body and i7 CPU there’s no ventilation at all. Still, the laptop remains silent and cool during work.

Keyboard & Touchpad

The best apart we relish about the notebook is the keyboard layout. The spacing between the keys is excellent. It’s a typical 13-inch MacBook type of keyboard with white backlight. The black keyboard is a perfect contrast to the silver colored body. The absence numeric pad may serve as one of the cons, but it’s fine for a 13-inch notebook.

BBEN AK13 Notebook 13.3-inch - Keyboard

The touchpad is responsive and supports pointing devices and gestures. But, on a 13-incher it’s still restricted to a small area. We might not feel comfortable with long drags. Still, we don’t need to use that touchpad too often as the screen is capacitive. In short, the keyboard and touchpad are designed for the best business and productivity experience.

Screen & Display

BBen AK13 Notebook has a large 13.3-inch touch capacitive IPS screen and Full-HD resolution. IPS is already famous for its incredible viewing angles. But the color saturation and contrast are also credible here.

The brightness was up to the mark and no glare was seen on the screen. The laptop is perfect to use outdoors. But, the edges were dull, especially the top ones.

Hardware & Performance

Under the hood, we witness the selling point of AK13 which is Intel i7-5500U Dual-Core (5th Generation) Processor. The SoC is accompanied by a moderate 8GB DDR3L RAM and a lightening fast 512 GB SSD which also serves as the highlights of BBen AK 13 notebook. Energy efficient SoC and SSD could be the sole reason for no ventilation as it’s not needed. Sadly, the notebook comes with DOS, and you have to purchase and install Windows 10 by yourself.

However, the notebook is still limited in performance because there’s no dedicated GPU. There’s built-in Intel HD 4400 graphics. So heavy gaming is not possible and never even think of trying it as there’s no ventilation in the notebook. You can play old games like GTA San Andreas but not mid and high-enders like GTA 5, Battlefield 1.

Connectivity & Ports

The connectivity of the Chinese AK13 is divided into two sections:

  • Wired
  • Wireless

Speaking about the wired connectivity first, we have numerous ports available. On the left side, we have one standard USB 3.0, a TF card slot, 3.5mm audio jack and the power LED. Meanwhile, on the right side, DC charging port, RJ45 connector, USB 3.0 port, Micro HDMI port are situated. However, the traditional VGA port and Ethernet port is not present. Maybe it’s absence has to do something with the thickness of notebook. An RJ45 cable has also been given in the package.

Heading to the wireless section, AK13 features a dual-band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n along with Bluetooth 4.0. Now, BT 4.0 is fine as it’s the latest one in laptops, but still, the WiFi is still the outdated, not ‘ac.’ But, the option to replace is still there. There’s a 2MP camera at the top front and the image taken from it is satisfactory. In short, there are some drawbacks in the connectivity which are not ignorable under that price tag.

Battery & OS

A generous 7000mAh battery powers the BBen AK13 Notebook. With a U-series CPU and updated SSD, we can expect a good battery life around 6 to 7 hours. But the Full-HD IPS resolution nullifies this advantage and allows the notebook to run for 3-5 hours. Still, with the battery saver on, the user might expect 6 hours of battery life on a single charge. Even it takes 3 hours to top-up the battery.

BBEN AK13 Notebook 13.3-inch - Accesories

Pros:
  • Metal Housing
  • Sleek Built
  • Incredible Performance
  • Backlit Keyboard
  • Full-HD, IPS display
Cons:
  • No dedicated GPU
  • DOS
  • Expensive

Specification Sheet

Verdict

The BBen AK13 Notebook is best suited for business and productivity use. It delivers some incredible performance along with elegant appearance and metal touch. Although there are some cons but still you can’t desire for everything under this price tag. In short, BBen AK13 Notebook is a perfect example of: “A Beauty and a Beast“.

(xiaomitoday.com, https://goo.gl/j9gXWh)

Cobra Connect review: Getting into the swing of smart golf clubs

A glimpse at the future of golf

There are plenty of golf GPS watches, shot trackers and swing analyzers out there for even the most obsessed golf fanatic to get stuck into, but until now, getting data has required adding something to your arm, glove or club.

Enter Cobra Connect. This shot tracking technology has been added into three of the company’s latest drivers, and is designed to go about its business without any input while you play.

Cobra Connect review

It’s actually a partnership with Arccos, a company that makes sensors that attach to the top of golf clubs for shot tracking. We’ve used the system, and are big fans – more so than Game Golf, which requires you to physically tap a wearable belt clip before every shot.

But are Cobra’s connected clubs worth investing in? We spent a few rounds with the Cobra Connect King F7, which retails at $349 them to find out.

Cobra Connect: How it works

 Cobra Connect review: Getting into the swing of smart golf clubs

The principle is simple. A sensor in the handle is paired with the Arccos smartphone app before you play. When you swing your driver (be it a practice or actual shot), the sensor detects a golf shot being played and its GPS position is logged. The app then ‘listens’ for you next shot via your smartphone’s microphone and logs the position of that. You then have the distance, position and quality of every drive, and can start playing with the data.

So how does it work? Well, we have to say it’s pretty seamless.

We had zero issues pairing our club to the Arccos app, and once paired, the connection never dropped. You head to the Pair new club option in the app, select that you want to pair a driver, and you’re away.

The next thing to do is start a round in Arccos. It’s got the details of 40,000 courses built in, and you download the full mapping for each one. Once the round has started you can put your phone back in your pocket and forget about it. There are some in-game scoring, range-finding and mapping features that you can take advantage of if you don’t have a golf watch, but we preferred to keep things simple.

Cobra Connect: Accuracy

 Cobra Connect review: Getting into the swing of smart golf clubs

You’d think that leaving a single club and your phone’s microphone to track your shots on the course would be a recipe for disaster, but actually it’s pretty seamless. We tested with just the club and the wider Arccos sensor range, and came home with reasonable data to work with.

There were some shots not picked up by the microphone, so it’s not fool-proof. But if you’re using the driver without connecting any of the rest of your clubs then it’s actually not essential that 100% of drives are tracked. What you’re looking to do is build up a profile of shots over multiple rounds, and start to infer useful data. We’d suggest forgetting about the data for at least three rounds of golf, after which you should have something meaningful to work with.

Cobra Connect: The stats

 Cobra Connect review: Getting into the swing of smart golf clubs

So what’s tracked from your connected driver?

Well, for a driver the key data is your average distance and the percentage of fairways hit (including which side you missed them on). You can then start to work on these areas of your game, and if you have a coach, is great information to relay when working on elements of your technique. As you can see, 66% of our drives ended up to the left of the fairway, so there’s something concrete to work on there.

If you’re using other Arccos connected clubs then average distances come even more into play, and should help you to select irons based on data, rather than guesswork. That’s less important for users of the Cobra drivers, where distance and direction are more pressing issues. However, as you improve, you can see your driving distances creep up.

But we’d like to see more from the app. While it’s fairly good at discounting shots that are obviously wrong (thanks to shots that aren’t recognised, for whatever reason) it would be nice to prune these manually. What’s more, it would be nice if data was tracked over time. A graph showing distance and accuracy averages would be really neat, so you can quantify improvement over time. There are plenty of extra ways data could be sliced and diced, and it’s a little surprising that those haven’t been taken advantage of.

Cobra Connect: Is it worth it?

 Cobra Connect review: Getting into the swing of smart golf clubs

While we’re fans about what the Arccos system can offer your game, and the non-intrusive way it captures data, we wouldn’t rush out to buy a Cobra Connect driver just for the tech. By all means try the driver at the range, and if you’re enamoured with it, make a purchase. We’re not here to comment on the quality of the club, just the tech embedded within. But for our money the data generated from this single club probably isn’t worth financial outlay (you’re looking at a $50 premium over a non-connected driver), or the mental investment of tracking each round with the Arccos app.

The full Arccos system, which connects every club in the bag? Well, that’s a much more interesting proposition – and stay tuned for a full review in the coming weeks.

(wareable.com, https://goo.gl/IsxGWe)

Beyerdynamic DT 250 Review

With the constant flux of new and improved headphones, it’s not often that I get to revisit an older model.  And yet, today I’m playing around with the Beyerdynamic DT 250 – first released back in 2004 (!) and competitively priced at $199.  But can a 13 year-old headphone even compete with today’s models?

Note: for this review, I will be specifically testing and referring to the DT 250 80 ohm version.  

Beyerdynamic DT 250 Review

The DT 250 doesn’t boast a lot of accessories.  With just a headphone cable and a 1/4” stereo adapter, it’s obvious that this headphone follows a very utilitarian aesthetic.  Originally designed for studio and broadcast use, this headphone utilizes plenty of plastic and some aluminum, too.

Overall the build is sturdy, and the basic pleather padding still offers a surprising level of comfort.

The robust 10 ft (3 m) coiled cable holds up nicely to extended and rough treatment, thanks to a secure attachment.

Specs

Frequency Range: 10-30,000 Hz
Impedance:  80 ohms
Sound Pressure Level (SPL):  100 dB
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD):  <0.2%

As you can see from the specs, this headphone offers a fairly wide frequency range.  The 80-ohm impedance could be made to work with portable devices, but would also benefit from some amplification.  Sound Pressure Level seems a bit low – and it can pose a problem for under-powered devices that struggle with the Nominal Impedance.  However, once you work out any volume or power issues, you’re treated to a fairly clean sound – the DT 250 sports a pretty awesome <0.2% THD.

Low End

With good detail and strong bass, the low end remains fairly articulate while offering some real “oomph”.  Thanks to competent control, bleed is kept to a non-existent minimum.  There’s also zero compression or distortion; all-in-all, this is a very clean low end.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho Beyerdynamic DT 250

Mids

Like the lows, there’s no real compression or distortion in the mids.  Here the sound impresses as clean and articulate, with loads of detail in striking contrast.  There’s also a sense of layering here – present throughout the frequency range but most easily noticed in the mids.

Highs

Slightly bright at times, but more smooth than anything else, the high end houses plenty of detail while keeping things balanced.  There’s no piercing or uncomfortable threshold in this part of the frequency range, though one or two finer points may be missing due to the smoothed-out highs.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho Beyerdynamic DT 250

Soundstage

With TONS of depth, the DT 250 offers an intense sense of realism.  Placement could be better, but the soundstage is still present, overwhelming, and downright intoxicating – even without perfect placement.  All that depth, helped along by copious amounts of detail and a beautiful sense of separation…all of these things seem to compensate for that lackluster placement.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho Beyerdynamic DT 250

Other Observations

The Beyerdynamic DT 250 is a closed back headphone, but it sounds almost like an open-back.  There’s so much detail at play here, and some mind-boggling separation, too.  This listening experience reminds me of the AKG K553 – another closed-back model considered open-sounding.

I’m loving the design of this headphone the longer I go on using it.  Sure, it’s not flashy or stylish, but it’s sturdy, well-made, and thought-out.  That robust cable holds up against anything.  Also, the not-so-big earcups perfectly ensconce my so-big ears.  Well done, Beyerdynamic.  Well done.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho Beyerdynamic DT 250

Recommendations

Despite its age, the Beyerdynamic DT 250 offers clear benefit to critical listeners and studio professionals.  While there are more dynamic-sounding headphones out there of newer vintage (like the $249 Audio Technica MSR7), this headphone still offers a truly unique listening experience.

For detail and separation, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better model.  Bass, too, while not amplified or overpowered, still sounds natural and pleasing on the DT 250.  It’s a very clean-sounding headphone that lends itself to damn near any genre.

Final Analysis

Sporting a wealth of detail and some truly impressive depth, the Beyerdynamic DT 250 proves that older headphones can still compete with newer models.  While the old girl may not be as stylish or as gimmicky as some newer models, she’s still packing an amazing sound.

(majorhifi.com, https://goo.gl/S1xC4H)

2017 Lifan KPR 200 Review

Lifan, or Great Sail, is one of the heavy hitters of Chinese motorcycle manufacturing, and it’s looking to expand its footprint into the U.S. market with the 17-horsepower, King Power Racing 200. The bike brings with it an impressive racing pedigree that includes 17 CRCC championships since 2012, and you just can’t buy better press than what podium appearances provide. With so many manufacturers racing to the bottom of the displacement scale with the Big Four, European makers and even Harley-Davidsongetting in on the action, the time has never been better to bring an entry-level 200 cc sportbike with racetrack handling into the domestic market. Public demand is high, so all manufacturers have to do is bring a quality product. Does Lifan deliver? We are going to dig in and see what Lifan has to offer, but the real proof will be in the first quarterly earnings statement after the KPR 200 hits U.S. showrooms.

Design

2017-lifan-kpr-2_800x0w

The KPR 200 would blend right in with a lineup of the current small-displacement crotch rockets from the Japanese Big Four. A projector-type cyclops headlight leads the way at the point of the fairing bracketed by a pair of “Z”-shaped DRLs that frame the headlight and give the entry a nice, modern look. The fairing supports a narrow flyscreen and slender mirror stems, but not the standoff-style turn signals; they come mounted slightly lower on the cheek fairings.

Clip-on bars and jockey-mount footpegs place the rider in a fairly aggressive riding stance over the sculpted tank that comes with knee pockets that will fit the average rider quite well, though six-foot-plus pilots may start to feel a bit cramped. The saddle is actually pretty plush, and at only 30.5-inches tall, makes for a friendly bike to Fred Flintstone around a parking lot.

A short rise in the subframe gives the passenger an elevated seating position with the usual oh shit handles on each side that also doubles as a handy place to hang one’s bungee net for hauling some cargo. Below, an LED taillight terminates the subframe with tucked-under housing that tapers to the terminal point.

Standoff turn signals and a midguard-mount plate holder finish off the rear end, and I gotta say that Lifan missed an opportunity to clean the bike up a bit with its decision to set it up that way, but it isn’t out of line with some of the other bottom-tier, GP-style bikes.

Chassis

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A tubular-steel chassis supports the assembly with a rectangular cross-section, yoke-style swingarm to articulate the rear wheel. Cast-alloy rims mount 17-inch hoops with a 90/90 up front and 120/80 bringing up the rear, numbers that imply a certain amount of agility in the corners.

Standard front forks come with blackout sliders, but nothing in the way of adjustability; no big surprise for an entry-level ride. The rear shock comes with only the obligatory spring-preload adjustment, so yeah, the suspension is straight-up vanilla. Deal with it.

A four-pot caliper bites the large front disc, and since the bike weighs in at only 330 pounds wet, that single front disc is plenty. There’s no ABS to clutter up the works, just honest braking and feedback that will help build a burgeoning rider’s skillset. As a racebike, the KPR 200 is built to corner on its 52.4-inch wheelbase, so you can expect the handling to be quite nimble even if the top speed is less than awe inspiring.

Drivetrain

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Lifan pushes the KPR 200 with a 198 cc thumper. Water-cooling deals with the waste heat, and the water-jacket helps keep excess sound pollution from escaping the mill. A 65.5 mm bore and 58.8 mm stroke leaves the mill slightly oversquare, but the warm, 11-to-1 compression ratio will put you at the premium pump. Not to worry though, the claimed 107 mpg keeps it well into the commute-friendly range, and makes the KPR cheap to operate. Fuel injection meters the fuel to help the mill meet its incredible mileage claims, and improves the emissions to meet current standards.

What does all that add up to? Well, the plant produces 12.5 pounds of grunt at 6,500 rpm, and 17 horsepower at an even 8 grand; plenty to hurl oneself headlong out of the turns with less than 330 pounds, plus rider, to push around. A six-speed transmission keeps the mill in the usable powerband, and the top gear ratio gives the KPR a top speed around 75 mph. Now, that’s plenty for most urban riding, but I would be terrified to take such a bike on the superslab, so consider your route if you think you’d like to use one as a commuter.

Pricing

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Lifan’s customer front end doesn’t exactly make the price a huge selling point; in fact, it isn’t mentioned at all. After doing some digging around, I’m comfortable that the price will be something in the neighborhood of $2,899.

Competitors

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Rather than have one of the Big Four beat our Chinese friend up over here, I decided to take more of an apples-to-apples approach with the RC3 from CSC Motorcycles. The RC3 is another Chinese-made import, so fit-and-finish will be of a similar quality, which is to say a bit short of the Japanese Four, but admittedly far better than expected.

Both rides look like straight-up supersports with efficient-looking full cowlings that carry just enough flyscreen to tuck in behind, and panels that form large intake scoops then continue aft to cover much of the engine. Honestly, both are good-looking bikes, but I have to admit that the KPR comes off looking like it is built to appeal to the youngest street-legal riders, while the RC3 has more of a mature panache. Frame construction, suspension and brakes are all plain vanilla across the board with the exception of an ABS feature on the front wheel of the RC3.

Engine size sees a little offset with the RC3 on top at 250 cc over the KPR’s 198 cc. Naturally, this makes for a performance difference as well. The smaller Lifan mill cranks out 17 ponies and 12.5 pounds o’ grunt, but the extra 52 cc nets the CSC ride a claimed 24.8 ponies and 16 pounds for a decided advantage that will definitely register on the heinie dyno. That said, the 65 mpg efficiency rating of the RC3 shows that there is a price to be paid for that power, ’cause the KPR rolls with a total efficiency rating of 107 mpg, and that’s a difference you will feel in your wallet.

In another tradeoff, Lifan manages to wring only 75 mph out of its ride— not enough to be comfortable on the interstate— but the RC3 can get up to 90 mph for a more comfortable and safer interstate commuter. If you’re just looking for a carver to have some fun with, it should be worth reminding everyone that the KPR is an actual racebike that handles as such. In the end, I guess it depends on how you want to use it.

Price margins are razor thin with CSC beating Lifan out by a nose with a $2,499 closeout price on its remaining RC3 models. At $2,899, the Lifan is a bit prouder, but not prohibitively so, even for an entry-level ride.

He Said

“It seems that the “Made-in-China” stigma doesn’t necessarily always hold true, and this is certainly a good example of that. Some have recognized that in order to be successful in the U.S. market, certain quality issues needed to be addressed, and that awareness has begun to bear fruit. Perhaps it won’t be long before we see a Chinese company rivalling the Big Four? We’ll see, but bikes like this bode well for the future of Chinese bikes, and do much to improve the reputation of their origins.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “This small cc range is just blowing up nowadays, which gives us a lot more to look at than before. Some of these small or lesser known manufacturers — at least here in the States — have been making these small cc bikes for overseas markets for ages, and now they have a new customer base here. The trend to go bigger was hot for a while, but this trend to go small is very welcome. I wouldn’t be comfortable taking the KPR 200 on the interstate where the speed limit is 70 mph and doesn’t leave much for roll-on, but as a commuter on the highway and around town, it would be awesome. And let’s face it, going all-out on a slow bike is a whole lot more fun than staying within sight of the speed limit on a fast bike, yeah? We’ll see more of Lifan at the AIMExpo in September. It should prove interesting.”

Specifications

Engine Type: 198ml water-cooled single cylinder four-stroke
Bore and Stroke: 65.5mm x 58.8mm
Compression Ratio: 11:1
Valve Train: SOHC, 2 valves per cylinder
Max Power: 17hp/8000 RPM
Max Torque: 12.5ft/6500 RPM
Start: Electric
Transmission: Six-speed, hand clutch
Brakes: Disk/disk
Wheel: Al-alloy
Front Tire: 90/90-17
Rear Tire: 120/80-17
Dimensions: 81.1″ x 29.9″ x 43.5″
Wheelbase: 52.4 inches
Net Weight: 330 lbs
Seat Height: 30.5 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.7 Gals
Max Speed: 75 mph
Fuel Consumption: 107mpg

(topspeed.com, https://goo.gl/ROUiYX)

Hands on: MSI GT75VR Titan review

OUR EARLY VERDICT

The MSI GT75 VR looks like a solid desktop replacement, but it’s too early to call it without a closer look at the screen, and at just how far we can really push the system.

FOR

  • Overclockable CPU and GPU
  • Tactile mechanical keyboard

AGAINST

  • Thick as heck

The GT75VR Titan is the first MSI gaming laptop to see a mechanical keyboard truly designed for a notebook. “Actually, the MSI GT80 Titan was the first,” you might well exclaim – but that was a 18.4-inch beast with a keyboard meant for a desktop.

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By comparison, the MSI GT75VR Titan is an almost portable 17-inch laptop with a low-pile and tactile keyboard. It’s still a monster of a machine, with an overclockable Intel HK-series processor and up to an Nvidia GTX 1080. However, without any pricing details, it’s too early to call it a winning rig.

Design

The centerpiece of the MSI GT75VR Titan really is the newly developed SteelSeries rapid RGB mechanical keyboard. And there’s no way to miss it really, especially if the keys have been programmed to sparkle with a rainbow of colors.

Despite this not being a desktop-grade keyboard, the new rapid RBG mechanical keys offer a satisfying amount of key travel and click – they feel awfully familiar to the ones on the Razer Blade Pro.

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Aside from the keyboard, though, the MSI GT75VR Titan looks almost identical to the GT73VR Titan. The only real stand-out difference between the two models – aside from the keyboard – is the new ‘pleather’ palm rest that has a peculiar diamond-shaped cut around the offset arrow keys.

The soft material is much more comfortable than the basic plastic frame your wrists are left to hang on with most gaming laptops.

Specs and configurations

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The MSI GT75VR can be specced up with the best mobile hardware on the market, including an Intel Core i7-7820HK processor and Nvidia GTX 1080. MSI hasn’t said if the HK-processor will be the CPU in the base model, but there are multiple graphics options, including the Nvidia GTX 1080 previously mentioned, as well as the Nvidia GTX 1070 in SLI and single-card configurations.

Users can also choose between three 17.3-inch screens, the first of which is a Full HD, TN display with an 120Hz refresh rate that MSI claims can render HDR-like colors. From our initial impressions, the TN screen renders colors brightly, although we can’t yet say if they’re accurate.

That said, if you’re really concerned about color accuracy there’s also a Full HD IPS panel option, and an UHD (3,840 x 2,160) monitor with 100% Adobe RBG coverage.

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Otherwise, the MSI GT75VR Titan is designed to be a full-on desktop replacement with space for up to 64GB of DDR4 RAM, one 2.5-inch HDD and two NVMe M.2 SSDs.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the GT75VR is the Cooler Boost 5 Titan Technology, which allows the laptop’s CPU to overclock all the way to 4GHz. This system essentially combines two Whirlwind Blade fans with seven heat pipes and four ventilation points.

Unfortunately, MSI has yet to say how much any of these hardware configurations will cost.

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Early verdict

If you’re looking for a gaming laptop with serious hardware and a mechanical keyboard, the MSI GT75VR Titan makes a lot more sense than the MSI GT83VR Titan ever did. However, this system is also coming into a space with plenty of competition, and it’ll be hard to pick this thick gaming laptop over thinner systems like the Alienware 17 and Razer Blade Pro.

After the announcement of Max-Q, it’s hard to consider a traditional desktop replacement when the Asus ROG Zephyrus and Acer Predator Triton 700 could offer the same experience in much more compact packages.

(techradar.com, https://goo.gl/zcvAvl)

 

2018 Kymco Spade 150 Review – First Ride

Asheville, North Carolina has been the scene of several Kymco product launches, and why not? It’s an oddball little city deep in the heart of Dixie that boasts world-class food, fun and roads. It’s kind of an underdog, just like the 54-year-old Taiwanese motor company. Kymco is known (when it is known) for durable, workmanlike products that deliver reliability and value… but not necessarily leading-edge style or wacky arrest-me fun. That changes with this here Spade 150, and Kymco let me ride and abuse the new model so I could lay a brief riding impression on ya’ll (the North Carolina is sticking).

Kymco has clearly decided to get all niche-y on us, with what it claims is “the world’s first production retro-mini motorcycle.” The Spade gets a gutsy lil’ critter of a motor, an air-cooled 149.4cc Single with a four-valve, SOHC head and EFI. Kymco claims it’ll make 11.8 horsepower, which should give you real-world numbers close to (or even better than) the 8-ish numbers we saw from competition like Honda’s Grom and Kawi’s Z125. My butt-dyno indicates it could be so, meaning a top speed of around 60 mph.

The Spade’s good fit, finish and performance is a little offset by the hideous exhaust system.

The Spade’s good fit, finish and performance is a little offset by the hideous exhaust system.

The rest of the bike is just as tried-and-true: tube-steel frame, twin shocks and a 1.6-gallon steel tank. The seat is low at 28 inches, claimed wet weight is 266 pounds, and the package is so narrow that if you don’t feel confident riding this bike you should consider training wheels.

At $2,999 it’s the best-priced retro-mini, and cheaper than the Honda Grom or KawasakiZ125 – but $1,000 more than Kymco’s own K-Pipe 125. That extra grand gets you fuel injection, much more power, a little hidden stashbox at the back of the seat, 12-volt outlet under the speedo/tachometer as well as styling so good I assumed Kymco had hired a fancy design firm – Kymco’s peeps assured me it was all in-house.

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The Spade looks very good up close and personal. Build quality as well as material quality was better than I remember on prior Kymco models. All the controls operate smoothly, and the paint and graphics looked good as well. The saddle is nicely padded and supportive, and there were little touches – like the cool race-style footpegs – that surprised me. A nit I’d pick is the exhaust system, with its big welds and ugly brackets, but this is otherwise a great-looking little bike.

Calling the Spade “easy to ride” is like saying “marshmallows are delicious.”

Calling the Spade “easy to ride” is like saying “marshmallows are delicious.”

And now the part where I ride, and you know I’m going to like it, no? Of course I do. People are programmed to adore miniature things, and we really like miniature things that we can abuse. The Spade turns the most mild amongst us into hooligans. You won’t break all the speed limits, but there are other laws you will want to break, including North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 20, sec. 160 (driving on sidewalks), sec. 140 (reckless driving), or, if your friends have also purchased Spades, 141.3 (racing on public roads).

I am pleased to report that the new crop of young motojournalists will, given the correct circumstances, behave like jackasses just like the older kids, and the Spade is a willing accomplice. As with the Grom, Z125, and other motorcycles with small wheels and Graco-length wheelbases, the Spade likes stoppies, burnouts, hackies, slides and even wheelies if you try hard enough, plus it’ll do other things you are probably not insured for.

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But it can be civil. The EFI coaxes the bike to life and it assumes a soft, chuffing idle, instantly ready to go. The wide, high bar, low seat and light weight make it easy to move around town. Clutch pull is light, and shifting is easy, if not quite refined. It feels slow, with a flat powerband, but you can rev it to over 10,000 rpm for every last advantage in your endless stoplight drag races with pickup trucks and delivery vans. The seat is wide and supportive, and there’s room for a middle-aged guy and his teenage daughter, although there will be complaining.

Customizers MNNTHBX agree when it comes to the exhaust, and offer this tasty stainless system, along with a ton of other cool cafe dress-up parts.

Customizers MNNTHBX agree when it comes to the exhaust, and offer this tasty stainless system, along with a ton of other cool cafe dress-up parts.

If you’ve read this far, you probably want one, and I don’t think you could go wrong. It’s affordable fun, and it already has aftermarket support. Customizers MNNTHBX (for “man in the box;” they’re Alice in Chains fans) have developed a full line of café-racer accessories: exhaust, rear-fender eliminator, rearsets, bar-end mirrors, clip-ons and more. It may not have the refinement of the Grom or Z125, but it’s still a lot of fun and has the look you want. It’ll be at your local Kymco dealer at the end of August in white, matte black, blue or brown.

(motorcycle.com, https://goo.gl/ssY6P7)

Essential Phone vs Pixel XL vs Pixel: How does the newbie compare?

Andy Rubin, one of the original creators of Android, is back with a bang. The Essential Phone looks to give you as much as possible from a device without bogging you down with technology that gets in the way.

It’s minimalist, durable and has an amazing looking screen. But how does it compare to the current crop of purist Android phones? Let’s find out.

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  • Essential Phone is the smallest
  • Pixel and Pixel XL are lighter
  • All three have USB Type-C

One of the Essential Phone’s biggest attractions is its build materials. Its frame is built from titanium, which is stronger and more durable than aluminium, and its ceramic back is built to outlast the usual glass or metal coverings. Essential is so confident in this fact, that it won’t even design or release a case for it. Its front is covered in the latest Corning Gorilla Glass 5.

It’s a striking looking phone, given that it is almost completely bezel-free. The screen fills the entire front of the phone, apart from the cutout for the front facing camera near the top, and the slim “chin” near the bottom of the phone. It measures in at 141.5 x 71.1 x 7.8mm, and weighs a fairly substantial 183g.

Both the Pixel and Pixel XL feature the same combination of metal and glass, with the former material taking up around two thirds of the back. There is an iconic glass panel at the top of the back panel, with fairly large bezels surrounding the screen on the front.

Although the look of the two Pixel phones is the same, they obviously differ in size. The regular model measures 143.8 x 69.5 x 8.5mm and weighs 143g, while the Pixel XL is a more hefty 154.7 x 75.7 x 8.5mm, weighing 168g.

All three phones have very minimal camera and fingerprint sensor designs, with the sensors sitting right beneath the surface, rather than protruding out of the back. Where the Essential Phone differs is that there are a couple of magnetic pins on the back for where you can attach modules like the charging base or 360-degree camera.

And while the Pixel phone’s “G” logo on the back is among the most minimal of any branding we’ve seen, the Essential Phone takes it one step further. There’s no brand name or logo on it anywhere.

Of the three phones, the Essential Phone is the slimmest and shortest, which is all the more impressive considering its screen is bigger than both the Pixel XL and Pixel. It is slightly wider than the smaller Pixel, but only by 1.4mm, which is hardly enough to put anyone off. It is heavier than both the Google-made phones though.

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  • Essential Phone has largest display
  • Both Pixel phones use AMOLED
  • Bezel-free LCD panel on Essential Phone

The Essential Phone’s 5.7-inch display is incredibly interesting. It’s almost entirely bezel free and has an unusual 1312 x 2560 resolution, 19:10 resolution screen. That means a pixel density of around 504ppi. It has rounded corners and it’s LCD IPS, which means it should be very accurate, but not as saturated or high contrast as AMOLED screens.

It’s worth noting the top of the screen has a cutaway for the front facing camera, but you shouldn’t worry about missing anything here, it’s normally reserved for status bar icons/notifications, which can easily fit around it.

Neither the Pixel’s 5-inch or Pixel XL’s 5.5-inch display measures as big diagonally as the Essential Phone, but the Pixel XL’s 2560 x 1440 resolution means that it is a little sharper. It’s also likely to feature more vivid colours and deeper blacks, thanks to the AMOLED based panel.

The smaller Pixel has a full HD 1080 x 1920 panel, with a pixel density of 440 ppi, and is protected – like the XL – by Gorilla Glass 4.

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  • Essential Phone has a dual rear camera with two 13MP sensors
  • All three have 8MP selfie cams

Of the three phones, the Essential Phone is the only one to feature a dual camera system. Similar to Huawei phones, this setup is made up of one colour sensor and one black and white sensor.

Both are 13-megapixel sensors with f/1.9 aperture lenses, and combine to hopefully make lowlight shots much better. You can also use the monochrome sensor to take pure black and white shots. The camera system also has PDAF and laser autofocus.

Both Pixels has the same 12.3-megapixel sensor, f/2.0 cameras which can produce fantastic results with very little effort. They both also have phase detection and laser autofocus and a dual tone LED flash.

All three phones have 8-megapixel front facing cameras for selfie takers, although the Essential Phone’s is the only one that can shoot 4K resolution video.

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  • Essential Phone has Snapdragon 835
  • Pixel phones use Snapdragon 821
  • 4GB RAM in all three

Being a newer device, it’s no surprise to see the Essential Phone playing home to a more advanced processor. Specifically, it’s powered by the Snapdragon 835 chip paired with 4GB RAM and a generous 128GB built-in storage.

Both Pixel phones use the same internal processing and memory power. That’s to say you’ll find the previous generation Snapdragon 821 chip inside, paired with 4GB RAM and either 32 or 128 GB built-in storage.

As for battery power, the Essential Phone seemingly has a reduced capacity compared to the larger Pixel. With a 3,040mAh capacity non-removable battery, it’s considerably less capacious than the 3,450mAh Pixel XL battery, but bigger than the 2,770mAh Pixel battery.

Like the Pixel phones, it’s compatible with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge technology, so all three phones can top up in speedy fashion.

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  • Android Nougat on all three
  • Pure experiance on all

The software experience on all three phones should be very close to identical. There’s no added bloatware on the Essential Phone and it will run Android when it launches later this year.

The only difference might be that the Google Pixel phones will likely be upgraded to Android O when that launches.

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From a hardware perspective, there are clear benefits to the Essential Phone. It’s built from a stronger metal, and has a bigger screen than either Pixel built in to a body that’s much smaller overall than either. For those aching for a frame-free phone experience, the Essential Phone looks ideal.

There are no clear software advantages, but by the time the Essential Phone is actually available in the third quarter of 2017, the next versions of the Google Pixel phones will probably be released.

Still, with a price of $699 in the States, it’s just about as expensive as a Pixel, but with a huge, breathtaking screen design and 128GB storage, it’s probably worth it.

(pocket-lint.com, https://goo.gl/KcZi7r)

Volkswagen Golf GTI first drive: The hot hatch that transcends boundaries

Some cars are considered as class benchmarks. The Volkswagen Golf GTI is one such car. And with the German firm having just refreshed its best-selling small hatchback (see our regular, Mk 7.5 Golf TDi first drive) we took the opportunity to jump into the even hotter GTI, to see whether this Golf has benefitted from a raft of recent improvements.

In 2017 the GTI finds itself in an interesting space. It might be a class benchmark, but there are signs that in the here and now it has become a bit of a forgotten car. That’s because it’s faced with both stiff internal competition — in the form of the GTD (little slower in the real-world but much more tax friendly) and the R (a lot faster but little more expensive) and a host of rivals who have all upped the ante in the horsepower stakes. GTI sales have slipped far back from their historic highs.

In this context, the refreshed GTI gains some extra firepower. As before there are two versions: the regular car, which we’re testing here, whose power jumps from 220hp to 230hp as standard; and the performance pack car, whose power jumps from 230hp to 245hp. The latter version also gets a mechanical front differential as standard. So has the hot hatchback which defines its class now got what it takes to compete with the class best, in objective terms?

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In a world of performance hatches which are routinely running 300hp plus, some of which can feel like they’re trying to have a fight with you as you try to keep them on the road, the Golf GTI is a paragon of composition.

In isolation it feels quick, even in this standard 230hp form. The 2.0 TSi is a really nice engine to drive, which exhibits few vices. It’s tractable from very low revs, pulls really hard between 2-5000rpm and unlike some turbos it doesn’t feel strained or strangled over its last 1500rpm. It makes a nice burble too. We also know it’s quite happy to deliver between 30-40mpg if you’re gentle with it on a run, which considering the performance on offer is more than impressive.

In the example we drove, the 2.0 petrol engine was hooked up to Volkswagen’s 6-speed DSG automatic box. Like all DSGs this is a twin-clutch unit with the second clutch pre-selecting the next gear it thinks you’ll want. That means when gear changes happen, they’re done at lightning fast speed — and VW gives you small steering-wheel paddles as standard, so you’re not left wanting for control.

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It’s slightly jerky when manoeuvring though, and we’ve always found VW’s 7-speed DSG (which isn’t fitted here because it can’t handle the GTI’s torque) that bit slicker. Our general view, therefore, is that the DSG does dial out a level of involvement which runs counter to the GTI’s ethos. If your daily drive involves lots of traffic, go DSG, but if you want to have the most involving GTI then save the extra cash and stick with a manual gearbox.

Throughout our test drive, the 2.0 TSI engine continually impresses us. It’s quiet at cruise, nicely rorty when pushed, flexible and free revving, egging you on when you’re upping the pace. And if you never drove any of the competition or the performance pack version, then you’d probably be happy.

However, really push this GTI and you’ll find the reason that VW offers a higher-spec model: the handling, when pushed, edges to understeer sooner than we’d like. And with the (admittedly great looking) optional 19-inch wheels, but no adjustable dampers fitted to this car, the ride is firm with a capital F.

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Having driven a performance-pack GTI, that addition of the differential makes a difference to the handling — that Golf feels keener, it clings on longer in corners and allows you to get on the power out of corners far quicker than the regular car. So it’s the one that spirited drivers will always want to have it. We’d seriously recommend sticking to the regular 18-inch wheels too, because the Golf just flows better with a road. Particularly a UK road which is littered with craters.

The picture in 2017 GTI world is pretty rosy then. The upgraded Golf nets slightly neater styling, more power as standard and you could happily plonk yourself in one for the next three or four years and be a very happy driver. Sense a “but” coming?

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Well, it’s unavoidable to mention: the more powerful Golf R. We had a brief drive in the new version of this at launch, and in manual gearbox form were reminded just what a lot of fun the most powerful Golf can be. And how shockingly powerful a performer it is. It packs an 80hp advantage over this GTI, and you can feel it. It also comes with four-wheel drive as standard. Sure, the R costs £4k extra over the £28,520 of a 5-door, manual GTI, but that won’t amount to much extra a month in the context of a finance deal or lease. And so we would opt for the R over a GTI.

There are features to tempt you into the new GTI. Foremost among them is the raft of on-board technology that wasn’t in the previous version. The new GTI gets Volkswagen’s “Active Info Display” as standard, a 12.3-inch TFT digital cluster that replaces the analogue dials. What’s more, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink are standard, as is an 8-inch centre screen display and sat nav (our review car’s was upgraded to 9.2-inch and partly operable through gestures).

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However, consider a car’s cockpit interface as a whole, rather than individual parts, and we must admit that we struggled with this GTI setup. We’ve repeatedly praised Volkswagen for its easy-to-use interfaces, clear and logical labelling, fonts, graphics and language and held them up as the go-to people for in-car touchscreen standards. But in this form, when out on the road, we found the new GTI’s setup both distracting and harder to jump in and use than any previous Volkswagen.

What’s the issue? Well, the 9.2-inch screen relocates all the button shortcuts into a panel down the passenger side — these are digital buttons, as knobs and physical switches are banished altogether. So to adjust audio volume you’ve got to hit a digital switch which is a stretch away, rather than simply grabbing and twisting a knob. That’s harder to do, and your eyes are off the road longer than they would be if you were in the old car.

What’s more you lose the shortcuts of the smaller, 8-inch screen (nav, phone, media, radio, car) — instead getting a menu and a home button. The home screen presents a tiled, three panel setup which can be user configured to show the info you want. But how to make navigation (the dominant screen when we jumped in) switch places with radio channels (one of the small tiles) swap around so it’s easier to change stations, was something we had to be shown how to do. Once you know (double tap on the tile to make it go big), it’s fine. But should you need to be shown how to use a well-designed interface, or indeed get the manual out?

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Similarly, the cluster — which isn’t without visual appeal — is made harder to love partly because it can only do so much. You can change the display to have the centre section between speedo and revs show different info (sat nav map, driver assistance displays etc), and you can also configure the inner ring of speedo and rev to show info, such as digital speed, the eco-trainer, trip info. Once you’ve got it set to show the info you want, it’s fine. But it’s still visually busy — and there are so many options to choose from that it can be bewildering and frustrating to use on the move. What’s more, the cluster is controlled by steering wheel buttons, which sit very close to one another and others which control functions such as cruise control, audio volume. Inherently, you end up jabbing at the wrong one from time to time.

The centre screen’s gesture control is sensibly implemented — its only function is for swipe left or swipe right in certain menus (advance a track, skip to next radio station, move to next menu page). So it’s very understandable as a concept, because you don’t have to learn unusual movements. But sadly your hand needs to be in the right place to make it work — and when you’re driving that happens perhaps one in every three times you try.

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If our comments sound harsh, they need to be seen in the context of VW having set an extremely high bar for in-car tech standards up to this point. We still welcome many of the updates its brought in here, such as standard-fit Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. We just worry that the company has rushed to implement something flashier and more feature-loaded at the expense of ultimate usability.

When we come to review the GTI in full, after living with one, we’ll see whether these tech issues are ironed out after a period of dedicated use, due to muscle memory. Some of the ideas seem great, so we don’t want to dismiss them out of hand just yet. Perhaps it will genuinely represent progress when lived with over time.

First Impressions

It feels odd to write about a Golf GTI and spend half the text talking about in-car technology. But that is where the modern car industry is at — and both we and VW are acutely aware that it is in-car tech advances that is both pulling people into showrooms and (where it is badly implemented) also putting them off some brands. So it’s an important factor.

Ignoring our initial tech quibbles, the Golf GTI represents an extremely complete, slick car that many of us would be delighted to see on our driveway every morning. We’ve deliberately not written about aspects like space and the way the car looks, as part of the GTI’s appeal is that in this respect, it’s just the same — and as well judged — as the regular Golf.

Overall, the new GTI drives as well, if not better, than it ever has. It retains one quality that continues to elude its competitors — even internal ones, like more powerful brother the R — in that it’s a wonderfully “class-less” car. Its image is neither young nor old, poor nor rich. You could be seen it in, and anywhere, by anyone and in any context. It speaks not of excess nor does it shout that you’re going to drive everywhere like a lout. That, to us, remains core to its appeal — it is the hot hatch that transcends boundaries.

(pocket-lint.com, https://goo.gl/n09dPg)

Lenovo Thinkpad 13 Review (2017): Cheap and mostly cheerful

PROS

  • Ample ports
  • Durable construction
  • Classic ThinkPad design
  • Long battery life
  • Fingerprint reader

CONS

  • Thick bezels
  • Bulky for an ultrabook
  • Dim display

Lenovo has released the second-generation version of its ThinkPad 13, a business ultrabook with the same no-nonsense style we’ve come to know and love. Unlike some ultrabooks, the ThinkPad 13 packs a bunch of ports that (most likely can) cover all of your workday needs, tossing other features on top including a fingerprint sensor and customizable hardware. Is the latest version worth the upgrade? Read on to find out!

Hardware & Design

The latest ThinkPad 13 comes in two flavors: black and sliver. Our review model is silver, as you can see in the photos, though you can also get it in the traditional black ThinkPad style if you prefer. This model falls on the ‘budget’ end of the ThinkPad lineup with a starting price of about $440 USD on Lenovo’s website, making it attractive from a monetary point of view, and it helps boost its appeal by offering a bunch of ports and long battery life.

The ThinkPad 13 is designed for businesses, as well as anyone else who needs a durable, reliable laptop — students, teachers and similar. Lenovo boasts that its new laptop was tested across a dozen different military specifications, making it durable enough to handle your bumps and jostles while on the road or at the office.

The company explains that the second-generation version of the ThinkPad 13 passed more than 200 quality checks, and it helps round out that attractive feature by offering a battery capable of taking you through a full workday (and perhaps longer). The design itself is basic and highly usable, including a large trackpad, red trackpoint nub, three trackpad buttons, and a fingerprint reader.

The keyboard features a two-stage adjustable soft white backlight, which can be turned on and off by pressing Fn + Spacebar. All of this is joined by a 13.3-inch matte display with a Full HD resolution and IPS technology. The touchscreen is quite sensitive and accurate, and the viewing angles are excellent, though the screen still suffers from glares in bright environments despite its non-glossy nature.

MacBook Air 13-inch and ThinkPad 13 2nd-gen

The design is simplistic and fairly angular; as far as ultrabooks go, it’s also a bit beefy as shown above and heavy with a starting weight of 3.17lbs. That’s not surprising given the number of ports Lenovo packs into this machine, but it should be noted that there are thinner ThinkPad alternatives (like the X1 Carbon) if thinness is important to you.

TECH SPECS

Processor:
– Up to Intel® Core™ i5-7300U Processor (3MB Cache, up to 3.50GHz)
– Up to Intel® Celeron® 3865U Processor (2MB Cache, 1.80GHz)
Operating System:
– Windows 10 Home
– Windows 10 Pro – Lenovo recommends Windows 10 Pro
Display:
– 13.3″ HD (1366 x 768) TN Anti-Glare
– 13.3″ FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS Anti-Glare Multi-Touch
Storage:
– Up to 128GB SSD
– Up to 256GB SSD OPAL2.0
Memory: Up to 16GB DDR4 2133 MHz
Audio: HD Audio
Security:
– dTPM 2.0
– Swipe fingerprint reader
Camera: 720p HD camera with integrated dual array microphone
Graphics: Up to Intel® HD Graphics 610
Battery: Up to 11 hours
Ports:
– 2 x USB 3.0
– 1 x USB 3.0 (powered)
– 1 x USB-C
– 1 x HDMI
– OneLink+
– 4-in-1 card reader (SD, SD-HC, SD-XC, MMC)
– 1 x headphone / microphone combo jack
Connectivity: Intel® Dual Band Wireless AC (2×2) 8265 + Bluetooth® 4.1
Dimensions: 12.69″ x 8.77″ x 0.77″ / 322.4 mm x 222.8 mm x 19.8 mm
Weight: Starting at 3.17 lbs / 1.44 kg
Color: Silver

Software & Performance

One important element we hope to see in business laptops is the ability to get through a full work day on a single charge. While that may not be important for desk jockeys, anyone who travels with any sort of regularity knows the hassle of having to charge mid-way through the day. The ThinkPad 13 is able to meet this need, offering up to 11 hours of run time per charge depending on usage.

I was able to successfully use the next-gen ThinkPad 13 through a full 10ish hour workday with a bit of charge to spare, though the battery indicator was close to empty at this point. That’s perhaps skirting too closely to the charge point for some users, but I was pleased with the results.

Performance, meanwhile, was great during average usage — that is, web browsing, photo editing, and similar. Your experiences will vary based on your laptop’s own configuration, however; Lenovo offers up to a Core i5 or up to an Intel Celeron 3865U Processor, 16GB of RAM, and up to Intel HD Graphics 610. The laptop runs Windows 10 and includes some of Lenovo’s own software preinstalled.

Things we like

The ThinkPad 13 is the type of laptop I call utilitarian — it’s more about function than form, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s no single thing that stands out among competing products. Rather, the laptop as a whole brings a variety of items that will appeal to certain users: many ports, a matte display, touchscreen, relatively thin profile, excellent keyboard, and great audio quality.

Issues

While the ThinkPad 13 is mostly a great laptop, the screen was disappointing. I caught myself attempting to turn up the brightness a couple times, only to realize that it was still turned up to max brightness. It truly felt too dim in most environments with the exception of dark ones, and that was a problem for me. After using this ThinkPad model for a day, I felt that I was developing eye strain and had to resist the urge to use an external monitor. Your mileage may vary, but for me personally, the next-gen ThinkPad 13’s screen is lacking.

Wrap-up

If you’re in the market for a ThinkPad but you can’t drop several hundred on one of the higher-end models, Lenovo has a great compromise in the ThinkPad 13. While you’re not getting the thinnest ultrabook out there nor a bright 4K display, you will enjoy a combination of long battery life, multiple hardware options, a touchscreen, many ports (including USB-C), and a comfortable keyboard. If all that sounds perfect, you can pick up the ThinkPad 13 (2017) from Lenovo’s website starting at $439 USD.

(slashgear.com, https://goo.gl/gi0BBB)

Which Polar running watch is best for you?

A comprehensive roundup of the top Polar devices to buy now

Picking the top Polar running watch or activity tracker is no easy task. The Finnish sports tracking giant has launched an array of new wrist-based wearables in the last couple of years, looking to track your everyday activities, your workouts, your runs – while at the same time monitoring your heart rate and keeping you up to speed with your smartphone notifications.

The best Polar watch

There’s a huge difference, not just in terms of price, between the top-end Polar GPS running watch and the basic activity tracking models, so read on to find out what Polar device is best for you…

Best Polar running watch for serious runners: Polar V800

What Polar running watch should you buy?

The V800 launched back in 2014, but it still remains the go-to watch for hardcore runners, cyclists and triathletes looking to jump aboard the good ship Polar. This rugged multisport GPS watch delivers superb battery life (13 hours of training with GPS on and 50 hours in GPS low power mode), tracks an array of sports and there’s a host of smart coaching modes.

Pair it with a new H10 heart rate monitor and you can also unlock the V800’s zonal training smarts, to ensure you’re sweating it out enough to achieve the right effect. You can also hook it up to a shoe pod and it’ll give you cadence, stride length and other insights to help hone your running form.

It’s a bit of an ugly beast, and looks pretty dated now and its distinct heft will put off most from wanting to wear it all day and night but, for in-depth training, there is no better option from the Polar stable.

The Polar M430, a sequel to the M400 (below) rather than the V800 bridges the gap – in terms of design at least – until we see a genuine V800 successor.

Feature check: GPS, recovery status, activity tracking, cadence, route import, race pace, route guidance, cycling, swimming, notifications.

$499.95, polar.com | Amazon

Best Polar running watch for casual runners: Polar M400

What Polar running watch should you buy?

Also pretty date now and, as mentioned above, succeeded by the M430 now, the M400 remains a strong candidate for Team Polar. The M400 was also Polar’s first dip in the smartwatch waters (more on that in a bit), as it offered smartwatch notifications long before it arrived on any other Polar GPS running watch.

Unlike the V800 it doesn’t play nicely with quite as many accessories and cycling cadence sensors are not an option. However, on the plus side, the design is actually much better than its rather pricier stablemate. Then there’s the simple USB charging that does away with the need for a unique charging cable or dock. That’s always a winner.

In terms of running, the Back to the Start feature is very handy – it guides you home via the most direct route using a GPS marker stored at the start of each run. There’s also neat feedback on the overall training benefit from the run you’ve just done, which helps you determine whether you’ve been burning fat, improving cardio and what effect this has had on your body.

Feature check: GPS, recovery status, activity tracking, cadence, notifications.

$179.95, polar.com | Amazon

Best Polar smartwatch: Polar M600

What Polar running watch should you buy?

The M600 is very much a Polar running watch first and an Android Wear smartwatch second, so much so that it’s almost inaccurate to compare it to the current crop of Google smartwatches.

One push fires up the app on your phone, which is your gateway to tracking runs and workouts. GPS run tracking is on the money and the stats and metrics the excellent Flow app provide post-run make it the top smartwatch for runners.

However, what sets it apart from its Polar brethren is that Android Wear OS, which means an array of extra features and, of course, the opportunity to tap into Google’s rich array of third party apps, watch faces and widgets.

Feature check: Android Wear, GPS, activity tracking, third party apps, heart rate, multisport.

$329.95, polar.com | Amazon

Best Polar running watch on a budget: Polar M200

What Polar running watch should you buy?

The M200 is a scaled down, rounder version of the M400, which comes in a bit cheaper than its square-faced brother. Like the M400, it tracks pace, distance and altitude via built-in GPS, has that nifty Back to Start feature, and also has an optical heart rate monitor built in for bpm training.

While we found it to be capable running companion, which also works with Polar’s training programs, the smart notifications aren’t so good. So if that’s a big deal for you, you might find yourself swapping it for another watch once you’re done running.

Feature check: GPS, activity tracking, heart rate monitoring, notifications.

$149.95, polar.com | Amazon

Best Polar fitness tracker: Polar A370

best polar watch

Polar recently unveiled the A370, a fitness tracker sequel to the Polar A360 that’s big on sleep tracking. Polar’s Sleep Plus intelligent sleep system will harnesses accelerometer based tech to detect duration, timing and quality of sleep based on a user’s position and wrist movements. It uses polysomnography, a reference measurement, which is the test used to assess sleep in science and medicine.

It packs in all of the same tracking features as the A360, as well 24/7 heart rate monitoring taking resting heart rate readings at five minute intervals. There’s smartphone notification support too, giving you a buzz when there’s activity on your synced smartphone.

Feature check: Activity tracking, improved sleep tracking, heart rate monitoring, notifications.

$179.95, polar.com

(wareable.com, https://goo.gl/V0bF5w)

Meitu M8 Review: Selfie-Focused Phone With AI

Taking selfies is a fun job. Some think it’s a disaster, but the other are sure it’s a fashion trend. Regardless how you’re treating this we should think of it as a phenomenon we meet every day. The smartphone makers use this info to come in with products designed for this business especially. Of course, we know there are many smartphones with large front camera lens. The most popular of them is the Oppo R9S. This phone doesn’t need to talk about much. But there are many other smartphones packed with identical features as well. Today we are going about one of those selfie-centric smartphones announced recently. Today we are going to review the Meitu M8.

Meitu M8

Meitu is not popular as much as Xiaomi, Huawei or other Chinese brands. So many think it wouldn’t be able to sell more or enter the western market. However, these thoughts are not correct. The Meitu M8 is known to many foreign customers. Moreover, foreign media has already managed to praise this awesome smartphone.

Say, Tech Crunch has published an article focusing on its AI-powered beautification and dual-pixel front camera.

The Verge has come in with another interesting article.

iTechPost thinks this is the smartest selfie-phone in the world.

As you see, the Meitu M8 has been welcomed warmly. It’s not accidental. The phone comes not only with a large front camera but a few innovations such as selfie-timer based on AI. Plus, it has an interesting feature beautifying your selfies immediately after the shooting.

Lastly, the Meitu M8 comes with the double-V design like its sibling, the Meitu M8. So this handset comes with at least three selling points. But there are many other features we should get acquainted as well. So let’s take a closer look at this outstanding smartphone.

Meitu M8 Design: V-shaped Phone for Females and Not Only

We have been familiar with this shape starting the Meitu 2. Thus this ‘gen’ is in Meitu’s phones since the second generation and it has not been mutated. Many don’t like it, but those who want something new and fashionable, accept it. Though we are reviewing the pink variant, which should win ladies’ hearts only, the rest of color options look amazing and can be attractive for other customers as well. Lastly, a double-V-shaped body is not only a case of design but a structure as well. I mean it allows manufacturers to replace the placement of many components. You’ll be convinced in it soon.

The front panel comes with a 5.2-inch AMOLE screen at 1080p resolution and 423ppi pixel density. Thus everything is reproduced clearly on it, and you’ll everything in its true colors.

meitu M8

The proximity sensor and dual front camera are located above the screen.

meitu M8

The Home button is on its regular place. There is also a fingerprint reader integrated in it. This scanner supports AliPay as well as WePay. The return key accompanied with a multi-tasking key are on the right and left sides of the home key. They have backlit.

meitu M8

The back panel is made of glass. It’s curved in all 4 sides. This 2.5D arc glass makes the phone be very comfortable when holding in hand.

meitu M8

The Meitu M8 comes with a huge camera lens paired with two LED flashes that are located on both sides of the camera.

meitu M8

As we are dealing with a glass back panel, there are not ribbons for antenna. So the phone looks amazing and without any interruptions.

meitu M8

The SIM card slot and a noise reduction microphone are on the top.

meitu M8

Note: It supports only a single card.

meitu M8

The bottom carries a 3.5mm audio jack, speaker, USB Type-C port and another microphone hole.

meitu M8

The power button is on the right. A dedicated selfie button is a bit lower.

meitu M8

Meitu M8 AI: How It Works

One of the key features of the Meitu M8 is artificial intelligence support. We are familiar with it from the Meitu M8 unboxing article. But let’s explore how it works. According to Meitu CTO, Zhang Wei, AI used in this phone is divided into two parts – one of them refers to the facial recognition and landscaping, while the second one concerns background recognition and landscaping.

Facial recognition is used to identify facial features, gender, age, skin color, contours and other factors and customize them in order to get a better photo. As for the background recognition, the AI identifies the background by giving them brighter color shade. This helps the phone to know the right edge between the background and a person.

Actually, the AI in the Meitu M8 does a lot of job to get an effect we want. So let’s see how it works.

Once the photo is taken, the Meitu M8 slits out the hair and the body of a person.

Then it uses a special technology to make the hair look more beautiful.

Next, it adds some gold shade to the hair making it shine.

Fourth, the AI uses another technology to position facial features. This helps the phone to makeup, zoom eyes, beautify the face and so on.

Finally, the Meitu M8 uses an image semantic segmentation technology for portrait and background separation. At the end, it combines all the effects.

Meitu M8 Camera: Great Lens Combined With AI

As this phone is designed mainly for females, it’s quite expected to see many features made for them as well. Say, this is a regular selfie-focused handset with a dual 12MP camera on the front. It sports a Sony IMX362 sensor with an f/1.8 aperture and supports OIS. As for the rear shooter, it is a 12MP sensor as well. But in comparison to the front one, this has a model number of IMX230, and its aperture is f/2.2.

Meitu M8 camera

The camera app is easy to use, as all the features are familiar to us.

Here is a great example how the front camera beautifies the face via AI described above.

To check the background blur effect, we took another photo.

Here is a photo showing how the camera can make a cover photo with one touch.

As the Meitu M8 comes with 12 different filters you can use any of them at a case.

HDR Mode On

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As for low light photos, we can see the color reproduction is not perfect. The red/pink color prevails. But the shooting performance is still acceptable.

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Meitu M8 Software: Not For Males

Meitu M8 comes with a custom-made MEIOS 3.6 UI based on Android 6.0. Though it is very easy to navigate and interact with the phone, M8’s MEIOS 3.6 looks made for ladies.

There are a few styles you can choose from. Say, the example on the right comes with irregular fonts.

As you see, the notification bar looks identical to other Android-based phones.

Meitu M8 offers an interesting way to schedule your day by adding notes and reminders.

Meitu M8 Performance: What Can Offer Helio X20

The phone comes with a MediaTek Helio X20 processor, specifically MT6797m, which is the lower version of this chip. It comes with two A72 cores, four A53 large cores and four A53 small cores. Thus we are dealing with a deca-core processor based on 20nm process technology. But all these numbers look great only on paper. Let’s take a glance at the benchmark scores.

AnTuTu

GeekBench 4

GFXBench GPU

AndroBench

Meitu M8 Battery: One Hour Charging = Up to 90% of Power

This handset comes with a 3000mAh battery supporting 18W fast charge technology.

To understand how it behaves in real life, we take a few tests. During the test we set some limitations:

  1. WiFi was turned off.
  2. No apps were running at background.
  3. Brightness was set at 50%.
  4. No SIM card was inserted.
  5. Remaining power was at 2%.

As you can see, the Meizu M8 shows incredible charging speed – it reaches up to 98% in 1 hour. Only at the end it slows down. It took only 73 minutes to charge fully.

As for discharging, the phone was tested via PCMark. The results are not satisfactory. During the whole test we played different videos, create docs, edited photos, and made other daily operations until there was remaining only 20% of power. It lasted 6 hours and 22 minutes.

Pros
  • Full HD AMOLED screen
  • Selfie-centric camera
  • Beautification based on AI
  • 18W fast charge support
  • Large Memory
  • Stylish look
Cons
  • Mid-end processor
  • Android 6.0

Final Words

We have reviewed too various selfi-centric smartphones including the Leagoo T1, iNew Pandora R9, and Oppo R9S. Each of them comes with features it could stand out. But none of them looks as stylish as this one. So when we talk about the Meitu M8 we should remember this is a phone differing from its rivals by design first. On the other hand, the Meitu M8 comes with AI component, which helps make great selfies. So those customers who want more from taking selfies, should take a look at this phone.

As for availability, the Meitu M8 costs 2599 yuan ($380), which is less than the Oppo R9S, but seems a mid-range handset shouldn’t require so much. On the other hand, we are dealing with an AI-powered smartphone.

(xiaomitoday.com, https://goo.gl/yFhFLE)

ASUS ZenBook Pro UX550 Quick Hands-on Review: Beauty Is A Beast

We go hands-on with the new ASUS ZenBook Pro 550!

ASUS refreshed their top-end ZenBook Pro at their Edge Of Beyond event yesterday along with ultra thin ZenBook Flip S and affordable VivoBook S. The ZenBook Pro hasn’t seen a full refresh since its introduction 2 years ago – sure it received a slight specs bump, but today the notebook line is getting revamped hardware along with a thinner and lighter chassis.

Initial Impressions: Beats its competitors handily in the specs department

The ZenBook Pro UX550 dons the same spun-aluminum chassis as its other brothers, but loses the gold color accents on the side. It’s not too dissimilar to the ZenBook Flip S in terms of design, though obviously the ZenBook Pro is significantly thicker to fit more powerful hardware.

The screen is a 15.6-inch 4K deal, though the notebook now has more power under the hood to properly run the display without running into bottlenecks. There’s two USB 3.0 plugs and two USB Type-C connectors that support Thunberbolt connectivity, which means you’ll be able to power up to two 4K displays with the new ZenBook Pro.

That 4K display has a 72-percent NTSC color gamut plus a smaller 7.3mm bezel, which reduces the overall size of the notebook substantially. Other improvements include a bigger battery that ASUS says is capable of powering the notebook for 12-14 hours on a single charge, plus a quick charging system that takes the notebook from 0 to 60 percent in just 40 minutes. There’s a Harman/Kardon certified audio system that’s embedded around the aluminum chassis of the notebook.

ASUS did have to ax a few things to make the ZenBook Pro as portable as it is. There’s no longer a numberpad on it to reduce the size of the chassis, and the notebook can only take microSD cards from here on out.

Just like any other notebook, you can have the ZenBook Pro in a number of configurations, which include either a Core i5-7300HQ or Core i7-7700HQ processors, up to 16GB of DDR4-2400 RAM, NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti discrete graphics and up to 1TB of PCIe x4 SSD storage. Pricing for the ZenBook Pro UX550 starts at $1,299 (Php 64.7K) and goes up as you put in better hardware.

(unbox.ph, https://goo.gl/yxiMMC)

Volkswagen Golf R-Line first drive: Leader of the pack

Given its status as the best-selling car in Europe and its leadership of the compact hatchback class, when Volkswagen updates the Golf, you take note. When we reviewed the then new Golf 7 back in 2013 it gained a coveted full-marks score.

“So why are you showing us the same old Golf 7 that’s been around over four years,” you’re probably thinking. Well, we’re not. Welcome to the facelift. This is Golf 7.5, if you will. It tides us over until the completely new Golf 8 arrives in a couple of years.

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Rather like Porsche with the 911, updating the Golf is very much about evolution, not revolution. So the reason you’re seeing very little difference in the photos top of page is that VW’s only changed the wheel design, added some new colours, upgraded the lighting technology and re-profiled the bumpers. Is that a bad thing? Not really, the Golf in its Mk7 format is a perfectly well resolved, pleasing piece of design which — whether you think it’s a dull default or not — it’s hard to criticise in objective design terms.

Instead, the company’s spent the money on upgrading the hardware. So the big news is some new engines, tweaked powertrains generally, and significant changes to the in-car tech. The one we want to have a go in — and which we’ll review at some point over the summer — is the new 1.5 turbo petrol. However, that car only comes on stream this month, so at launch we made do with this mid-level TDI, which most people will buy.

There are now over 70 individual model configurations of Golf, with the GTD actually being the best seller in absolute terms. But we’ve always harboured a sneaking suspicion this 150hp, regular TDI is the better car. Here’s what we had to make of it upon initial inspection.

Within minutes of setting off on our first drive in the TDI, it was like meeting up with a really good friend we’d not seen for a while.

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Beyond the electronic hand brake there’s nothing else to trip up the unaware in this facelift Golf. It’s slickly put together, easy to operate and has few apparent vices. Indeed, it’s almost foolproof. Toss any friend or family the keys and they’ll go happily on their way.

If there’s one area the Golf is starting to show its age, it’s in the cabin. The architecture with its high console feels quite old school. And the fascia panels don’t have Audi quality. An Audi A3 is a nicer place to sit. The Peugeot 3008 offers a modern minimalism. But the Golf is not cramped like a Ford Focus, it’s not got a hard-to-use interface like a Peugeot 308, it’s better to drive than an Astra. Having driven those three aforementioned cars recently, these points are objective fact.

The Golf drive is comfortable and slick too. The steering is well weighted, the ride on 17-inch wheels is cosseting, and if you up the pace then it responds keenly. The 6-speed manual gearbox slots home just so, while the 2.0 TDI still does that VW thing of delivering a big slug of mid-range oomph which sees you pass slower traffic without a second thought.

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Gripes? That diesel engine still sounds rough, which slightly spoils the refinement at times. But beyond that we’re struggling to think of anything to mark the new Golf down.

VW has gone big on the in-car tech. All Golfs now come with an 8-inch capacitive touch screen. The previous standard was 5.8-inch. And the increased size is very welcome.

Go for SE Navigation spec or above and the screen comes with a sat nav system as standard. It’s easy-to-use, but isn’t really a patch on Google Maps. The good news in that respect is that you’ll find the Golf comes standard with everything you expect these days — including App-Connect, which means MirrorLink, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard fit.

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What’s more, you can now splash out and upgrade the tech further with the Active Info Display — a 12-inch digital cluster that’s a £495/$742.5 option, but standard on GTE/GTD/GTI and R models.

While some of this tech upgrade is good news, we found that the user experience was slightly worse than before, because VW has exchanged the hard menu buttons flanking the screen for digital items that are an extension of the screen’s front glass panel. They’re simply not as easy to hit when you’re on the move. We also drove a GTI with the larger, optional 9.2-inch display with gesture control, which we have covered in more in our 2017 GTI first drive.

If you’re the owner of a current Golf 7 then there’s not much to push you to upgrade. Everything in the facelift feels maybe five per cent better. But when you’re making the best even just marginally better, it’s enough to remain top of the class.

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If you’re sticking with one of the existing engines, VW also hopes that the £680/$1020 price reduction (model-for-model) will prove tempting and overcome the market perception that the main reason most people don’t actually buy a Golf is because it’s “more expensive”.

In reality it’s not: at £25,720/$38,580 this R-Line model, which only really nets you some cosmetic extras, it’s likely the £23,325/$34,999 SE Nav spec model will be more popular. And when the new Ford Focus costs £23,500/$35,250, well, the Golf is sitting pretty.

First Impressions

If you’re in the market for a car like this, then there’s little to suggest you need to look elsewhere. As a small hatchback that’s easy to use, good to drive and imbued with a deep sense of quality, the Golf is still without equal.

Its real rivals are now cars which sit in different spaces. We can fully understand why many will think a Qashqai or even VW’s own Tiguan offers a lot more car and an entirely different experience, for roughly the same cash.

But if you’re looking for the gold standard in the family hatchback market, things remain much the same as they have ever been. The Golf leads the pack.

(pocket-lint.com, https://goo.gl/5Qwxa0)

LG UP970 review

There’s a quote, usually attributed to Albert Einstein, which goes: “Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak”.

That’s how we feel using LG’s new Blu-ray player, the UP970. While its video quality is pleasing, it could sound better and so, ultimately, isn’t as complete as we’d like.

Features

While some manufacturers like their kit to be smooth boxes of unblemished darkness (the Sony UDP-X800, for instance) others like a bit of personality and detail.

LG’s UP970 sits in the second camp, with four raised buttons on its front for power and playback. There’s also a neat USB 2.0 input on the right, for playing videos and music or connecting your Android phone.

Around the back you’ll find all the expected ports: an optical connection, two HDMI outputs and an ethernet port for a more stable network conection.

Setting up the player is simple enough. There are a couple of settings for adjusting picture quality and output resolution in the LG’s straightforward menu screen, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Unfortunately you don’t quite get the range of streaming services you do on some other players. Only Netflix and YouTube are available on the LG.

That shouldn’t be too much of an issue, though – most 4K HDR televisions have a great range of video services already installed.

One thing the UP970 does have is Dolby Vision integration – a proprietary HDR technology from Dolby.

Similar to HDR10, it differs in that it has ‘dynamic metadata’ which means it can adapt its image frame-by-frame, theoretically rendering each shot optimally.

While there are currently no Dolby Vision Blu-ray discs, Lionsgate, Sony, Universal and Warner Studios have promised releases later this year. But you can get Dolby Vision content on Netflix – including its Original Series programmes like Daredevil, The Ridiculous 6, and Marco Polo.

Sony, LG, and Loewe have all made Dolby Vision-compatible televisions, but if you don’t have a set from those companies, don’t worry – the UP970 will still play content in standard HDR10.

That said, we did have an issue playing HDR content when connecting the UP970 to our Samsung UE65KS9500. While the HDR pop-up appeared, indicating that it was playing, the picture was significantly less colourful than we expected.

We’re as yet unable to establish whether this is a shortcoming with the TV or the Blu-ray player, but there’s undoubtedly an issue that needs to be fixed.

Picture

Once it’s working, the picture from the UP970 is really pretty good. We play a Netflix stream of the naturally bright and punchy Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, and the UP970 is happy to put across the vibrant parody of camp life.

There’s an impressive range of hues in the clear water of the lake, contrasting nicely with the surrounding greenery. The skin-tones of the campers are balanced pretty well, highlighting the differences between the pale nerdy kids and the tanned, athletic jocks.

The dark scenes are done just as well as the bright, with enough detail and colour variation to keep you drawn in.

During Stranger Things, when Nancy Wheeler gets momentarily trapped in the ‘Upside Down’ – a slimy, shadowy world that’s home to at least one grotesque monster – there’s a good deal of detail to the fluffy collar on her jacket – and you can see both the gnarls and the ooze that lines the bark of the trees.

Even the near-silhouette of the monster, which is lit to look as indistinct and threatening as possible, has areas of lighter grey to its otherwise black body, revealing its ridges and hinting at its teeth.

These characteristics remain when you switch down to a standard Blu-ray of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and the player doesn’t struggle to render the deep purples and pastel blues of the morning sky.

The UP970’s upscaling abilities are decent as well, providing enough detail in Steve Roger’s costume. We take another step down in resolution with a DVD of Die Hard 2 and there’s an expected drop in detail, but it remains a watchable picture.

But regardless of format, when compared with the Sony UDP-X800 the UP970 comes second. Not by much, mind, but by a noticeable amount.

We play Planet Earth II and there’s a touch more detail to the Sony that means the fur of the snow leopards is more textured, the distinction between the foreground and background of the mountains clearer.

The colours are slightly more natural on the UDP-X800 too.

Sound

When it comes to sound performance, the UP970 falls short of its competition. There isn’t enough dynamism and drive from the LG to really deliver the energy in tense soundtracks.

During Hancock, as the superhero walks across the street as a reformed character, the proud trumpets and hefty drums signifying this transformation are a bit weaker than we’d like.

We change to Ghostbusters (2016),and when the spectral visage of Gertrude Altridge floats into the room, the high-pitched strings welcoming her entrance are smooth and without any harsh edges – but there isn’t the same texture to the squelching bass sounds you get from the X800 when the ghost vomits.

It’s not a bad sound, but it has some way to go before it matches the competition.

Verdict

The UP970 is a good player. Its picture is pleasing, and its audio quality (for all its flaws) is still decent.

But it’s up against some properly tough competition from the likes of Sony and Panasonic, and our money would go to one of these. There are still improvements to be made before we can wholeheartedly recommend this one.

(whathifi.com, https://goo.gl/PCW4Yt)

 

 

Asus ROG Zephyrus Hand-on Review

The Asus ROG Zephyrus is the first of a new breed of Nvidia’s Max-Q gaming laptops. You can find out more about what that means in my Max-Q explainer, but in brief, this is designed to be the ultimate gaming laptop for both efficiency and performance.

Asus ROG Zephyr

First, the design. And what a design it is. Closed, it’s 17.9mm thick, but when you open it the chassis actually gets thicker courtesy of a small vent that folds down as you open the laptop. The reason for this is to increase airflow, and the extra 6mm it affords allows enough air to make its way in to fully cool its GTX 1080 graphics chip while under full load.

Asus ROG Zephyr

The rest of the design is seriously impressive. Sharp edges, a creased lid and the pushed-forward keyboard all make for a unique proposition and one of the most distinctive gaming laptops I’ve ever seen.

Full specifications include a beefy quad-core Intel Core i7-7700HQ, the aforementioned 8GB GTX 1080, up to 24GB of 2400MHz DDR4 memory and ultra-quick NVMe-based PCIe SSDs. At 2.24, it’s not super light but considering its power, it’s brilliant and relatively easy chuck into a backpack (which is something I was tempted to do before leaving).

Asus ROG Zephyr

I did get to play a bit of Mass Effect. Even under maximum load, the laptop only puts out a maximum of 42dBA, which is a light whooshing that’s easily overcome if your room is slightly noisy or you have your speakers switched on. It gets even better: if you activate Nvidia’s new WhisperMode, the GPU software automatically tweaks your games’ performance, either by decreasing graphics quality or artificially decreasing frame rates. This keeps the GPU cooler and means the fans only spin up to a maximum 32dBA of noise. This isn’t silent, but it might as well be in any room with background noise. It’s seriously impressive.

The keyboard’s position will take some getting used to, but it has a light touch that some people will like, and others won’t. I found it quite nice to type on, and gaming felt responsive.

Asus ROG Zephyr

The 15.6-inch IPS screen runs at 120Hz, which makes gaming feel silky-smooth. It also uses Nvidia G-Sync for synced-up, smooth gameplay under all circumstances. It’s a great panel, displaying the full 100% of the sRGB colour gamut. It is only Full HD, though, so to get the most out of your laptop you’ll probably want a nice, big external monitor.

The touchpad doubles up as a number pad, which is lit up when you activate it.

No pricing has been announced yet, but I’ve been informed that it’ll be cheaper than the also-Max-Q-certified Acer Predator Triton 700 that’s expected to sell for £3400/$5100. When the price is announced, again, I’ll update this piece.

asus-rog-zephyr

EARLY IMPRESSIONS

As an example of a Max-Q laptop, the Zephyrus is brilliant. Its design is both attractive and clever, while performance isn’t compromised one bit. It’ll be a niche product, sure, but it’s mighty impressive all the same.

(trustedreviews.com, https://goo.gl/KYuhIN)