Monthly Archives: September 2017

2016-2017 Yamaha Smax Review

Building scooters is a somewhat funny business. You have overseas licensing conventions that force engine sizes into certain size brackets, and the displacement usually eases right up against the upper limits. (Ex: 149 cc in the 150 cc-or-lower bracket.) Things are a bit different in the U.S. market where the main consideration is whether the scoot is freeway/interstate legal or not, which requires that engine displacement be greater than 150 cc. Introducing the SMAX in 2016, Yamaha gave us the then newest freeway-legal scooter in its stable. An unusual engine size of 155 cc places the displacement just over the line making it legal to hit the interstate. Whichever the case, the SMAX serves as Yamaha’s current minimal-displacement highway commuter, second now in size to the new Xmax.

Design

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“Last year, passenger comfort got a boost over the previous year’s model with increased padding in the pillion seat.”

Scooter design has been well defined for many years now, and the Tuning Fork company toed the category line when setting up the SMAX. A fairly full front fairing shunts the wind aside to protect the rider’s legs, and the windshield extends that protection to the rider’s chest. The step-through frame makes for easy mounting and dismounting, and serves as something of a light cargo deck to supplement the eight-gallon underseat storage for grocery-getting missions. Alternately, the storage compartment will hold a full-face helmet plus a fistful of possibles. Last year, passenger comfort got a boost over the previous year’s model with increased padding in the pillion seat, and new LED marker lights on the front fairing improve safety by increasing front-on visibility.

Chassis

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“Too little legroom for tall riders, and too wide for really short ones, I feel like the SMAX will only really fit a small percentage of the market Yamaha is trying to reach.”

At 79.9-inches long and 28.1-inches wide, the SMAX falls within accepted norms for scooter size, but the 31.3-inch seat height coupled with the width can make it difficult for shorter riders to find the ground with both feet. Even though the company claims to provide “plenty of foot space,” taller riders will likely feel a bit bound up behind the fairing, and the offset for the pillion prevents the rider from just scooting back a bit for more legroom. Too little legroom for tall riders, and too wide for really short ones, I feel like the SMAX will only really fit a small percentage of the market Yamaha is trying to reach.

The telescopic fork front end is set with 26 degrees of rake, leaving us with 3.2 inches of trail for nimble parking lot maneuvers. A coil-over monoshock lays horizontally in the guts of the scoot, leaving more room in the under-seat storage. Wheel travel is unremarkable, with 3.1 inches up front and 3.7 inches in the rear, but let’s be honest, you shouldn’t be jumping the train tracks on any scooter, so front- and rear-wheel travel is sufficient for its intended purpose.

Cast rims mount wide 13-inch hoops, and hydraulic brake calipers bind the wheels via a 267 mm front, and 245 mm rear brake discs. I’ve got to say that it’s nice to see some larger-diameter brakes making an appearance, and thank goodness Yamaha avoided drum brakes altogether. (Unless you are going for a certain look, there is no excuse for running drum brakes.) No ABS or combined brakes to complicate the system, which is fine with me, though I expect that we will begin to see ABS on everything in the foreseeable future.

Suspension / Front: Telescopic fork; 3.1-inch travel
Suspension / Rear: Mid-ship, horizontal-positioned rear shock; 3.7-inch travel
Brakes / Front: Hydraulic disc, 267 mm
Brakes / Rear: Hydraulic disc, 245 mm
Tires / Front: 120/70-13
Tires / Rear: 130/70-13

Drivetrain

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“With 81 mpg and performance that allows for Interstate use, the SMAX is a viable option as a commuter.”

The engine comes nearly square with a 58 mm bore and 58.7 mm stroke that adds up to 155 cc, total. As usual, the engine, tranny and rear wheel come as a unit, and mate to the bike in the typical swing-mount fashion. The one-banger, water-cooled mill runs with fuel injection and transistor-controlled ignition, and provides a decent 81 mpg, depending on load, riding style and altitude, of course. A constantly-variable transmission (CVT) provides twist-it-and-forget-it operation with no need for a clutch.

Performance is rather important, given that this scoot is meant for commutes that include freeway travel. The SMAX will manage 80 mph at sea level, slightly less at altitude, and up to 85 with a good tailwind, plenty enough to prevent getting run over when you hit the superslab.

Engine Type: 155 cc liquid-cooled Four-stroke, SOHC single cylinder; Four valves
Bore x Stroke: 58.0 mm x 58.7 mm
Compression Ratio: 11.0:1
Transmission: Automatic CVT

Price

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“Offered in the same color and price as last year.”

Base MSRP starts at $3,699 — same as last year. For 2016, you could get the SMAX in Gun Metal Gray or Candy Red color, though for 2017 and 2018, your only choice is Raven. Yamaha gives you a 12-year limited factory warranty on your new scooter.

Warranty: One-Year Limited Factory Warranty
Colors:
2016: Gun Metal Gray, Candy Red
2017, 2018: Raven
Price:
2016: $3,690
2017, 2018: $3,699

Competitor

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” The big difference between the two occurs in the chassis layout. While the SMAX has a rather traditional step-through, the PCX150 is rather crowded right there, actually it’s not really a step-through since you have to hike your leg quite a bit to mount it. ”

The PCX150 from Honda seems a likely candidate for a head-to-head comparison given the overall design with full front fairings and wind deflector. Right off the bat, I have to admit that the two scoots fill slightly different market niches, but only slightly. The main detail here is engine displacement; Honda rolls out with a 150 cc motor to fit licensing laws, while the 155 cc Yamaha puts it just over that line. Both mills run liquid cooling and fuel injection, so in the U.S., both are suitable for highway use and so there is little to choose between the two, engine-wise.

At 3.9 inches of travel, the Honda has a more plush front suspension, but it gives up 0.7 inch to the Yamaha with a flat 3 inches in back. Again, no jumping the tracks on one of these, and at the end of the day the suspension travel numbers more or less average out.

A big difference between the two occurs in the chassis layout. While the SMAX has a rather traditional step-through, the PCX150 is rather crowded right there, actually it’s not really a step-through since you have to hike your leg quite a bit to mount it. Admittedly, this gives the Honda more of a big-bike panache, but if that’s what you are into, perhaps you shouldn’t be looking for a scooter. The more traditional step-through on the SMAX gives you the ability to use it as a between-your-feet cargo deck.

Honda claims 100 mpg, depending on riding style and such, 19 mpg more than the Yamaha, but really anything over 70 mpg is good enough to be considered cheap transportation. Honda comes in a little less expensive at $3,499, beating Yamaha by a mere two bills. No matter how budget-conscious a buyer is, that $200 will likely not be a deal breaker. If anything, the (lack of) usable legroom on the SMAX will be more of a concern. Bottom line is; check the fit before making any serious commitments.

He Said

“On paper, 80 to 85 mph looks doable, but to be perfectly honest I would be extremely hesitant to get on the interstate with only a 155 cc mill under me. Heck, I am not thrilled about hitting the slab on 883 cc, but you gotta run what you brung, right? That aside, this scoot will be appropriate for many areas in the U.S. and it deserves a look if you want a small-displacement ride.”

She Said

My wife and fellow writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “I think if I were going on the freeway, I’d be more comfortable on the Tmax instead of the SMAX. That 530 cc engine wouldn’t be at its absolute limit at highway speeds. I feel safer at cruising speed knowing the machine still has more to give me in case I need it. However, around town or popping back and forth to the campus, the SMAX is not a bad ride.”

Specifications

Engine:
Engine Type: 155 cc liquid-cooled Four-stroke, SOHC single cylinder; Four valves
Bore x Stroke: 58.0 mm x 58.7 mm
Compression Ratio: 11.0:1
Fuel Delivery: Fuel Injection
Ignition: TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition
Transmission: Automatic CVT
Final Drive: V-Belt
Chassis:
Suspension / Front: Telescopic fork; 3.1-inch travel
Suspension / Rear: Mid-ship, horizontal-positioned rear shock; 3.7-inch travel
Brakes / Front: Hydraulic disc, 267 mm
Brakes / Rear: Hydraulic disc, 245 mm
Tires / Front: 120/70-13
Tires / Rear: 130/70-13
Dimensions:
L x W x H: 79.9 inches x 28.1 inches x 51.0 inches
Seat Height: 31.3 inches
Wheelbase: 55.3 inches
Rake (Caster Angle) : 26.0 degrees
Trail: 3.2 inches
Ground Clearance: n/a
Fuel Capacity: 2.0 gallons
Fuel Economy: 81 mpg
Wet Weight: 328 Pounds
Warranty: One-Year Limited Factory Warranty
Colors:
2016: Gun Metal Gray, Candy Red
2017, 2018: Raven
Price:
2016: $3,690
2017, 2018: $3,699

(topspeed.com, https://goo.gl/sXm8ya)

Which is the best movie streaming box for you? New Fire TV vs Apple TV 4K vs Chromecast and more

A lot of TVs nowadays have some variation of streaming service built in, but there are still plenty of us that still have “dumb” TVs. And in that case, if you want to access streaming services, you’ll need a streaming box.

With such a vast range of streaming services on offer, and a wide range of set-top-boxes that support a combination of them, choosing the right one can be tricky.

Lucky for you, we’ve consolidated all the major options into one place, in price categories, to help you decide which box is for you and your budget.

These are the contenders you should consider.

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  • Dimensions: 85.9 x 30 x 12.6mm
  • Main apps: Amazon Video, Netflix, BBC iPlayer
  • Connections: HDMI
  • Maximum resolution: 1080p
  • Price: See current price on Amazon UK – See current price on Amazon US

Coming in the form of a dongle you plug directly into your TV, the Amazon Fire TV Stick is mainly centred on the Amazon Prime experience, with Prime Video, Amazon Music and a link-up to images stored on the Amazon Cloud being at the forefront.

That doesn’t mean it is solely for Amazon content streaming though, with Netflix and many other streaming apps available on Amazon’s extensive app store. BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, My5, Plex – for those with home stored content they want to stream – and many games and other experiences are available too.

The latest model comes with an Alexa Voice Remote, so you can quickly find Amazon or Netflix content using just your voice. It also does pretty much everything an Amazon Echo speaker does too, with the ability to find out the weather or latest news headlines by simply asking or even control your smart home.

The Fire TV Stick doesn’t have the 4K support of the more powerful Fire TV box (below), but does offer a smooth, speedy experience and excellent Full HD pictures and surround sound, thanks to its 1080p output and 7.1 Dolby Digital audio.

You can even take it on holiday with you as Amazon has added a cunning way for you to input room and log-in details for connection to hotel Wi-Fi.

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  • Dimensions: 13.49 x 51.81 x 51.81
  • Main apps: Netflix, Now TV, Google Play, BBC iPlayer, YouTube
  • Connections: HDMI, Micro USB for power
  • Maximum resolution: 1080p
  • Price: See current price on Currys – See current price on BestBuy

Like the Amazon Fire TV Stick, the Google Chromecast device is a dongle that plugs directly into a HDMI port on your TV. However, it more resembles a small hockey puck.

It’s not quite a movie and TV show streaming solution like many of the others listed here. Instead, it works with compatible apps you have on your smartphone or tablet and plays their video or music content on a larger screen.

Unlike Apple TV though, which does similar over Airplay, that’s not done by mirroring a device, using the processing power of the phone or tablet. Instead, the Chromecast pulls the content from the internet itself. It effectively turns your mobile device into a remote control.

It is capable of playing Netflix, YouTube and any Google Play movies, TV shows or music you might have bought. Android, iPhone and iPad apps that have also added support include BBC iPlayer, My5, BT Sport, Now TV, Blinkbox, Wuaki.tv, Deezer and there are plenty of others too. Spotify is part of the mix too.

Plex support also means you can stream your own content through a computer too.

Gaming is available on the latest model, with certain games having the ability to Cast the action to the device and then onto the big screen. The list of titles is small, to be honest, but Angry Birds Go is one of the biggest name games already featuring support.

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  • Dimensions: 78 x 28 x 12mm
  • Main apps: Netflix, Amazon Video, Now TV, BBC iPlayer, Google Play
  • Connections: HDMI
  • Maximum resolution: 1080p
  • Price: See current price on Amazon UK – See current price on Amazon US

The Roku Streaming Stick gives access to the vast library of applications on the Roku store, most of which are free to download. It resembles the Fire TV Stick in shape and size. Rather than a set-top-box, it is a dongle-like device that fits into a HDMI port and therefore out of sight.

It also comes with a remote control (that’s actually bigger than the device itself), although it’s not the wireless motion controller the Roku 3 (below) uses. It still uses wireless technology other than IR though – after all, with it tucked behind a telly, you don’t get line of sight.

Like all Roku devices, the Streaming Stick has access to hundreds of apps (channels), including the solid line-up of main movie and streaming services.

You get access to Amazon Video, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4, My5 and the others mentioned for the device’s stablemate above. Without the games control aspect of the remote though, it is not compatible with the games titles, such as Angry Birds.

Its stealth design means that a flatscreen can be turned into a smart TV without the need for extra wires or fuss.

It is capable of outputting up to 1080p video and has dual-band Wi-Fi connectivity like its larger cousin (although there is no wired internet connection, so you’ll need to be in range of a decent wireless signal).

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  • Dimensions: 25 x 89 x 89mm
  • Main apps: Now TV, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, My5
  • Connections: HDMI, Ethernet, microSD, USB
  • Maximum resolution: 1080p
  • Price: See current price on Amazon UK – Sign up to a 14 day free trial

The latest Now TV box is made by Roku and is therefore similar in size and style to that manufacturer’s own-branded devices. Its purpose is to present Sky’s Now TV content in as easy a way as possible for those who don’t already own a home entertainment device capable of accessing the service.

It accesses all of the Now TV movies, TV channels, kids channels and sport, but since its original launch, it has effectively become a basic version of the Roku box service, although the user interface is completely different. A number of key apps and services are included on the box as well as Sky’s own channels and catch-up.

Naturally, the Now TV box’s raison d’être is to provide access to Now TV – Sky’s streaming service that offers separate contract-free subscription or pay models for movies, entertainment, kids and sports.

However, there is also access to BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4, My5, Vimeo, YouTube, Flixster and other streaming services. And you can use the Sky Store to rent or buy modern day-and-date films as they are released on Blu-ray and DVD. All of these you can access and use, even if you don’t subscribe to any of the Now TV packages.

While the box is capable of outputting video at 1080p, Now TV content is only in 720p.

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  • Dimensions: 20.5 x 165 x 165mm
  • Main apps: Now TV, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, My5
  • Connections: HDMI, Ethernet, USB, microSD
  • Maximum resolution: 1080p
  • Price: See current price on Amazon UK – Sign up to a 14 day free trial

The Now TV Smart Box offers the same access to Now TV services and other streaming apps, but adds a digital TV tuner so you can use it as your main TV provider to access Freeview channels too. All of the 60 standard and 12 high definition Freeview channels are available, with complete integration into the user experience.

It is slightly smoother in operation too, thanks to a quad-core processor over the standard Now TV box’s dual-core equivalent.

Like the Now TV box, the main reason for the Now TV Smart Box is to provide access to the different, contract-free passes offered by Sky. However, it also has the terrestrial catch-up apps and other services.

The interesting part is the ability to pause and rewind live TV, as broadcast through the digital TV tuner. You cannot record onto the device, however.

If you have an old TV without a Freeview tuner this is a no brainer as it will also offer smart, connected functionality for a reasonable price.

You might also favour all your viewing from the same source, so the box works nicely as you don’t have to switch from service to service on your TV.

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  • Dimensions: 65 x 65 x 15mm
  • Main apps: Amazon Video, Netflix, BBC iPlayer
  • Connections: HDMI, Ethernet (through optional adapter), microSD (for power)
  • Maximum resolution: 4K (2160p) + HDR
  • Price: See current price on Amazon UK – See current price on Amazon US

As part of a device refresh for 2017, Amazon has reimagined its Fire TV. It has ditched the set-top-box form in favour of a dongle that plugs directly into your TV through an attached, short HDMI lead. This is in addition to the Amazon Fire TV Stick above.

Where this new device differs is that it supports 4K video and in HDR, and can play Ultra HD content at up to 60 frames per second. That might become important somewhere down the line. And thanks to the cable being built-in, you don’t have to worry about whether your existing HDMI cables are high-spec enough.

The new Amazon Fire TV also supports Dolby Atmos surround sound, something Netflix has said will be added to its platform soon. We expect Amazon Video to follow now it has a device that is compatible.

Like the Fire TV Stick, the Amazon Fire TV now comes with an Alexa Voice Remote, which opens up the world of the voice assistant to use on your TV. And Amazon recently said that it is working with partners, including Netflix, to add voice control to their apps too.

The Amazon Fire TV immediately offers Amazon-based content as soon as you fire it up. Content includes music, movies, TV shows – some to buy and some to rent – and the box is intrinsically linked with Amazon Prime, the company’s subscription service.

However, other, rival services are also available, including the aforementioned Netflix, Sky News and YouTube, with content being integrated in the new design almost as much as Amazon’s own. BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and My5 are also available as catch-up services in the UK.

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  • Dimensions: 25.4 x 88.9 x 88.9mm
  • Main apps: Netflix, Now TV, Amazon Video, BBC iPlayer, Google Play
  • Connections: HDMI, Ethernet, USB, microSD
  • Maximum resolution: 1080p
  • Price: See current price on Amazon UK – See current price on Amazon US

The Roku 3 is Roku’s top-end streaming box, but if you can make do with fewer features there is also the Roku 2 box for around £60.

Like the entry-level Apple TV, it offers 1080p output through HDMI, but has access to a much larger library of applications, some very useful, many very niche.

The Roku 3 comes with a wireless remote control that is not IR dependant so can be used anywhere and at any angle. It also has motion sensors like a Wii console remote and can double as a basic gamepad.

There are almost 2,000 apps (called channels) available through Roku’s Channel Store, many free but some will cost – especially games. BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4 and My5 are present, completing the catch-up foursome. There are also apps for Netflix and Amazon Video.

Because BSkyB is one of Roku’s investors, Now TV has a fully-functioning application on the box that gives you access to the entertainment, movie and sports packages. The Sky Store app adds access to day-and-date releases for purchase or rental. Or, if you are a regular Android user, you can access your Google Play account on Roku boxes to stream bought or rented movies and TV shows. Even if you are not, you can still sign up for an account.

Roku also gives access to YouTube, Vimeo and Flixster for the more casual video watcher. The latter gives access to your UltraViolet digital film library if you’ve been collecting vouchers from Blu-rays.

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  • Dimensions: 13.7 x 58.2 x 58.2mm
  • Main apps: Netflix, Now TV, Google Play, BBC iPlayer
  • Connections: HDMI, Micro USB, power adapter Ethernet port
  • Maximum resolution: 4K (2160p) + HDR
  • Price: See current price on Currys – See current price on BestBuy

The flagship of the Chromecast family is Google’s first device with 4K Ultra HD streaming capabilities. The Chromecast Ultra supports Dolby Vision and HDR for those with compatible TVs. And an Ethernet connection means you can hard wire it to ensure your video streaming remains smooth and stable.

It is also a dongle like the conventional Chromecast (above), with a similar form factor. And again, you use a smartphone or computer to control it, with the Ultra streaming video over the internet based on what you “Cast” to the device.

The exact same app line-up for the standard Chromecast is supported here. The main difference however, is that the Chromecast Ultra is capable of streaming 4K video from relevant services, such as Netflix and YouTube.

Netflix, for example, is capable of streaming 4K Dolby Vision (or HDR) video to compatible televisions. You can also stream from terrestrial apps, like BBC iPlayer, All 4 and Now TV, although they do not currently support 4K.

If you have a 4K TV and want the best video quality it is worth paying a bit extra for the more capable Chromecast. Its Dolby Vision support is welcome and not found on many rival devices.

The faster internet connectivity, needed for 4K video streaming, also ensures than non Ultra HD video is presented at its best too.

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  • Dimensions: 35 x 98 x 98mm
  • Main apps: Netflix, Now TV, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Video coming soon
  • Connections: HDMI, Ethernet
  • Maximum resolution: 1080p
  • Price: See current price on Currys – See current price on BestBuy

The fourth generation Apple TV box was launched in 2015 and is still available, even though a 4K version has now been launched too (see below).

It has a touchscreen remote control with Siri voice recognition, and access to its own App Store to purchase and download tvOS apps based on their iOS equivalents.

It provides access to movies, TV shows and music bought or rented through iTunes, plus the Apple Music streaming service. And it can search for content across multiple services through the one search bar, bringing up results no matter the source.

There is an impressive line-up of applications and games to download and enjoy – many of them free.

More importantly though, in video streaming terms, Netflix and Now TV apps are available. TVPlayer and iBox TV UK are present to watch British TV channels through the device. And there are several home media streaming apps, including Plex and Infuse. Amazon Video is also coming to the platform soon.

While there is a BBC iPlayer app on the platform, we’re still awaiting ITV Hub, My5 and All 4 – although content from a couple of them will be available through the dedicated Apple TV app soon. In the meantime, you can always stream content through the iPad or iPhone equivalent apps to the box thanks to Airplay, and even mirror your iOS device’s screen.

Like Amazon Fire TV and the Nvidia Shield Android TV, another major aspect to the Apple TV is that it doubles as a great casual games console too. There are plenty of titles already available, some of which almost identical to their dedicated console counterparts, such as Skylanders Superchargers and Guitar Hero Live.

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  • Dimensions: 35 x 98 x 98mm
  • Main apps: Netflix, Now TV, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Video coming soon
  • Connections: HDMI, Ethernet
  • Maximum resolution: 4K (2160p) + HDR
  • Price: £179 (32GB), £199 (64GB)

Although it will continue to sell the HD version of Apple TV for the foreseeable future, for just a little more you can upgrade to a 4K version, which also supports high dynamic range (HDR) visuals in both the HDR10 and Dolby Vision formats.

That means streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Video (to launch on the platform soon) both offer up to Ultra HD content in HDR – the best format possible. In addition, Apple offers 4K HDR versions of movies through iTunes to rent or buy.

A bold and welcome step that Apple has taken is that 4K versions of films cost the same as the current HD versions. And any compatible HD movie in your library is automatically upgraded to the 4K version for free.

iTunes-streamed 4K films will also be shown in HDR where possible. You’ll need a compatible TV, of course, but Apple plans to expand its 4K offering rapidly, so now is probably the best time to invest in one if you don’t already.

Everything else about the Apple TV 4K is similar to the HD model, except it has a considerably faster A10X Fusion processor – the older model uses the A8 processor. This ensures the new box runs twice as quickly and with four times the graphics power.

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  • Dimensions: 25 x 160 x 99mm
  • Main apps: Netflix, Google Play, Amazon Video
  • Connections: HDMI, 2x USB, Ethernet
  • Maximum resolution: 4K (2160p) + HDR
  • Price: See current price on Amazon UK – See current price on Amazon US

The second generation Shield TV box is more than a media streamer – it’s a capable games machine too. It has a load of firepower under the hood so is significantly more powerful than most on the market. It is also capable of outputting 4K video in 60 frames per second and HDR.

In addition, it utilises an Nvidia chipset that is very capable with gaming, so has a stack of optimisation abilities for games that none of the other rival boxes can match. And you can choose to buy one version with an included, dedicated games controller or opt to knock a bit off the price with a version with just the Bluetooth remote.

As an Android TV box, the Nvidia Shield TV has access to Google Play content, including its app store, a dedicated app for video and one for music. Google’s YouTube service is also represented too, which is important as it’s one of the sources for 4K content.

It also comes with Plex and Netflix pre-installed, with the latter capable of Ultra HD streaming in HDR. You can subsequently download Amazon Video, which also has 4K HDR programming.

There are Nvidia dedicated apps for its different game services, such as the enhanced versions of Android games that require the box’s beefier graphical specs to run, the ability to stream games from a local PC, and the firm’s own cloud gaming service, GeForce Now.

Thanks to the Google Play Store, hundreds of other apps are available too, including the much-loved free media streaming app Kobi. Disney’s streaming service Disney Life is also available, as is Twitch.

It can even double as a Google Chromecast, so you can use an Android or iOS device to send other content to it. And Google Assistant coming for the device, so you will be able to control other smart devices around the home.

(pocket-lint.com, https://goo.gl/5X6MPh)

Wearables that never were: From Nokia Moonraker to Pebble Time 2

If only you were with us

We see a lot of wearable devices around these parts, and sometimes it’s easy to forget how difficult it is to make and release a product. There are a number of factors to overcome before putting something out into the wild, and every once in a while it just doesn’t work out.

The wearables that never made it

Sometimes companies just miss the market opportunity, or they get bought, or maybe realize that what they have just isn’t good enough to invest in production.

These are the wearables that never were. They’re lost to time and left to live on in our imaginations, never to answer the question of what might have been.

Xbox smartwatch

If only: The wearables that never made it

As you can tell, Microsoft has been dabbling – and frankly failing – in the smartwatch game for quite a while. The latest revelation is this Xbox-branded smartwatch, which may have its origins as far back as before 2013.

We don’t know much about it other than it included a heart rate sensor, a square display and Xbox branding. It’s hard to tell how it might have worked with gaming, but we can speculate from the fact that members of the Kinect team worked on the device.

Perhaps the Xbox smartwatch would be a good complementary device to measure fitness during Kinect games and apps. It’s tough to remember now, but back in 2012 Microsoft was talking about Xbox as a multi-platform experience that pushed beyond games. This might have been a remnant of that now-abandoned strategy.

Pebble Time 2

If only: The wearables that never made it

Back when Fitbit acquired Pebble at the end of 2016, Pebble fans were rightly concerned about the future of Pebble products. Pebble had announced a slew of new devices that summer and only the Pebble 2 had begun shipping. Their fears were warranted as Pebble confirmed it was cancelling the Time 2 and refunding backers.

In our short time with the Time 2, we were pleasantly surprised by its high-quality materials and hefty field. Plus, its narrowed bezels gave you 50% more viewing area to see the new high-resolution display. It’s a shame it was never to be, even though part of its DNA lives on in the Fitbit Ionic.

Nokia/Microsoft Moonraker

If only: The wearables that never made it

As Apple was working on the Watch, Nokia figured it had some ideas about smartwatches it could put to use. So it set out to build its own in around 2013 and 2014, which it referred to as Moonraker. It even went as far as showing it off at CES and developed marketing materials.

The smartwatch would include a lot of the features you expect from a smartwatch nowadays, but the two key things would be colorful design and gestures. Like other smartwatches, it would light up the display as you moved your hand up. These ideas feel dated now, but not back in about 2013 when it was being developed.

Ironically, Microsoft killed this design-focused watch for the Microsoft Band, which lacked design but excelled in healthcare features. If only it had found a way to combine both of them.

OnePlus’ fitness tracker

If only: The wearables that never made it

Startup Android smartphone maker OnePlus made a splash by offering high quality phones at affordable prices. It turns out it wanted to do something similar in the fitness tracker world.

Co-founder Carl Pei told TechRadar the company was planning on launching a fitness tracker and Bluetooth speaker, but decided to cancel both a month before launch. Pei also showed off some early sketches of the device, which had a circular face that you could pop off to switch bands. We don’t know for sure what software it would run or what features it would have, but it’s safe to say it would probably be Android Wear, given OnePlus’ penchant for Google’s smartphone OS.

So why did OnePlus cancel the device a month out? It came down to focus. Pei said the company realized it needed to focus on smartphones rather than jump into a new category where it might not be equipped to compete.

Microsoft Band 3

If only: The wearables that never made it

This one hurts. Microsoft’s first two fitness trackers were filled with great ideas, but both of them were let down by bad design and mediocre battery life. Third time could have been the charm though, especially since the feature set was about to get robust.

The Band 3 was reportedly set to feature blood pressure tracking and a built-in EKG alongside waterproofing. There also would have been RFID support. Microsoft was ambitious with the Band, packing on innovative ideas but not focusing on comfort and wearability. Shame.

HTC and Under Armour’s smartwatch

If only: The wearables that never made it

For a long while, HTC and Under Armour were collaborating on a fitness-focused smartwatch. We don’t know much about the watch, other than it had a heart rate sensor, the co-branding, and that a lot of images had leaked out over the past couple years. Oh, and that it was called the Halfbreak.

Eventually, HTC decided to can the watch. Chialin Chang, HTC’s president of smartphones and connected devices, said the company had not yet nailed the smartwatch experience and that there was too much uncertainty in the wearable market.

(wareable.com, https://goo.gl/wJ59Eb)

10 of the world’s most expensive stereo amplifiers

An amplifier is a key element of any hi-fi set-up, and so you don’t want to scrimp. There are limits, however – limits that these amps all breach quite decisively…

How much would you pay for an amplifier? £500/$650? A grand, even, if your system warrants it? The Onkyo A-9010 shows you can get a lovely performer for just £200/$260 – so you don’t have to spend big to get plenty out of your system.

But if you do want to splash out, you’ve come to the right place. These are the most expensive amps ever made, with one model nearly £2m/$2.6m – roughly 10,000 times more expensive than the A-9010.

Don’t worry if your budget doesn’t stretch that far, we’ve selected an amp that can be yours for as little as £200,000/$260,000. Bargain.

Pivetta Opera Only – $2.2m

Image via Beverely Hills Magazine

Italian designer Andrea Pivetta’s ludicrous amp stands a whopping 2.4m tall and weighs a colossal 1.5 tonnes – that’s as much as a caravan. Though this is sure to give you much better sound.

Pivetta Opera One – $650,000

Image via hjemmekino.no

Yes, Pivetta is at it again. Though this model is a mere 1.8m tall, and only weighs a tonne. Hence the knock-down price.

Ultrasound Otello – $600,000

Image via ultrasound-hifi.com

The Otello packs six transformers with adjustable polarisation, meaning zero feedback. Three engineers spent five years working on this – if they sell just one, it will have been worth it.

Rike Audio Edzard – $490,000

Image via monoandstereo.com

This four-piece, 50W amp weighs a total of 200kg. As you’d expect, the performance is suitably heavyweight.

Ether Audio Abbssolute Intuition – $406,000

Image via Ether Audio

This amp weighs a whopping 398kg and packs the biggest vacuum tube ever made for an audio application. Which makes it too important for the correct spelling of ‘Absolute’.

Ultrasound Parsec – $400,000

Image via ultrasound-hifi.com

In the Parsec, the signal only crosses three components – which Ultrasound claims produces unparalleled transparency, speed and harmonic structure. Weighing 70kg, it’s a relative lightweight in the world of insanely pricey stereo amplifiers.

Goldmund Telos 5000 – $375,000

Image via pinterest.co.uk

Five thousand watts? That’s not the only insane stat about this amp – it stands nearly one metre tall, and its frequency response runs up to 300,000Hz. Which is more than any sane person could ever need. Which is exactly why we love it.

Wavac SH-833 – $350,000

Image via highendaudio.nl

Direct-heated triodes combine with single-ended, class-A tube monoblock power to make this amp an absolute beast. There’s also a budget version that costs a mere $70,000, in case you’re a bit strapped for cash this month.

Audio Note Japan Ongaku – $250,000

Image via monoandstereo.com

Created in 1989 – like Taylor Swift – this uses pure silver for its conductors. But if you listen to Taylor Swift with it, it’s wasted on you.

FM Acoustics 2011 – $245,000

Image via pinterest.co.uk

FM Acoustics has some pedigree. Its units are handmade in Switzerland, with an attention to detail – and price – that rivals Swiss watchmakers.

(whathifi.com, https://goo.gl/X7JeSV)

Top 5 Selfie Smartphones 2017

Aside from the bezel-less hype that most smartphone manufacturers are hopping on, we also can’t help but notice that there’s another on-going trend as well and that would be the selfie smartphones. As the term suggests, it’s basically all about the selfie and some even went as far as integrating dual cameras at the front! Anyway, if you’re looking for one, here’s our Top 5 Selfie Smartphones in no particular ranking. Let’s get started!

ASUS ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro – The almost perfect selfie phone with extra wide angle

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We just recently reviewed this unit and it almost got a perfect score, reason being is that the secondary front camera which uses a 5MP wide-angle lens (120-degrees) could have been better as the resolution is a bit too low. However, the wide-angle lens really helps a lot especially for wefies and it is great for the outdoors, not so much for indoors, though.

Despite that, the main camera is the one that really shines thanks to the 24MP DuoPixel technology that helps the hidden 12MP dual pixel sensor to take in twice the number of light-capturing photodiodes, then processing the resolution to create a 24MP image digitally. Also, there’s a Selfie Master app on the device, allowing selfie lovers to arrange a photo collage and slideshows, and record 4K Selfie Video live stream through Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

Vivo V5 Plus – The one that started it

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Next on our list is the V5 Plus, as some of you might already know, vivo is probably the one responsible for the selfie craze in the Malaysia market, releasing not one but three V5 variants starting with the V5, V5 Plus and then the V5s as the last one. We choose the V5 Plus for two good reasons – it has dual front 20MP Sony IMX376 sensor (f/2.0, 5P lens) + 8MP (f/2.0) camera and a huge 5.5-inch full HD screen which Malaysians love.

The V5 Plus is also the first of its kind to feature a pair of cameras in front, both sensors are not separated like the aforementioned Selfie Pro so it works similarly to the Apple iPhone 7 Plus. The secondary 8MP sensor is mainly for creating the bokeh effect and can be adjusted to your preference.

Vivo V7+ – Bezel-less selfies

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Speaking of vivo, we are also looking forward to the company’s next selfie smartphone, the V7+which is coming soon on 26 September 2017. Although we haven’t officially tested it yet, the specs sheet speak for itself – a huge 24MP front camera and 5.99-inch FullView HD display without any home button.

The design looks great too and we have to say this is the best-looking smartphone from vivo at this moment. However, we are a bit curious to why it’s using a Snapdragon 450 processor when its predecessor used a 625 model. Hopefully, we will get the answer next week.

Huawei Nova 2 Plus – The Selfie Superstar

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Coming in next is the self-dubbed Selfie Superstar, Huawei Nova 2 Plus. This smartphone is no pushover as well because it has a few handy selfie features that greatly enhance your face. It imports everything that the P10 series has – a 3D facial recognition, Portrait mode, Softlight LCD screen flash, and a 10-grade beautification mode. Of course, the 20MP front camera is there too.

Not only that, this is the only selfie phone that has a dual camera at the back with 12MP + 8MP sensor in Graphite Black, Prestige Gold and Aurora Blue. Besides that, there is a rumour of a new selfie phone called the Nova 2i that’s coming soon next week so stay tuned from Huawei Malaysia.

Xiaomi Mi Note 3 – The one with the most advanced selfie feature

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Finally, Xiaomi also has its own selfie smartphone which is the Mi Note 3 that was recently announced not too long ago. On paper, the Mi Note 3 is the most powerful one out of the bunch running on 6GB + 64GB memory capacity, Snapdragon 660 processor and also the biggest battery with 3500mAh. However, the camera setup is normal since it’s only using a 16MP front camera, while the dual rear camera is a 12MP + 12MP combo.

So why is this on our list? Well, even though it’s just a bigger Mi 6 version, it’s the Beautify Mode that makes it unique because not only it gives you different levels of Beauty Mode, but also a digital makeup allowing you to make up on the phone itself! Say goodbye to those eye bags, put on that eyeshadow, the possibilities are endless. Also, there’s a special digital makeup mode for guys too.

(technave.com, https://goo.gl/o2ry89)

Origin Chronos (2017) Review: A Compact Gaming Desktop Done Right

Gaming desktops built for the living room are a tempting prospect, but almost always come with caveats. Some are powerful but not upgradable, while others are incredibly sleek but can’t compete with the guts of a big tower. That’s where the Origin Chronos comes in.

The console-shaped Chronos ($2,931 as reviewed, $1,200 starting) ticks every box you’d want from a gaming desktop — it’s powerful, it’s sleek and, unlike many of its competitors, it’s easy to open up once you’re ready to upgrade parts. Factor in some smart ergonomic features and a wealth of customization options, and the Chronos is one of the best machines you can buy for enjoying high-end PC gaming from the comfort of your couch.

Design

Few desktops are as good as impersonating consoles as the Origin Chronos is. This little black box is compact, sleek and filled with neat highlights, such as a side window that lets you drool over its GTX 1080 Ti graphics card in all its red-backlit glory.

The Chronos also packs lots of neat features that make it extra-adaptable to your living room setup. The PC comes with four rubber feet that attach magnetically, which makes it incredibly easy to switch from  horizontal to vertical. You can even rotate the front-facing Origin logo to have it match the PC’s orientation.

At 13.8 x 11.8 x 4 inches, the Chronos is notably chunkier than a PS4 or Xbox One as well as MSI’s console-shaped Trident (13.9 x 9.9 x 3.8 inches). But it’s more than sleek enough to sit under a TV, and unlike the small but cylindrical Corsair One or MSI Vortex, will actually slide into an entertainment center.

Key Specs

Origin Chornos
Original Configuration
Our Configuration
Price
$1,200 $2,931
Processor
AMD Ryzen 3 1200 AMD Ryzen 7 1800X
RAM
8GB 32GB
Storage
128GB SSD 500GB SSD, 4TB hard drive
Graphics
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
Size
13.8 x 11.8 x 4 inches 13.8 x 11.8 x 4 inches

Ports and Upgradability

The Chronos’ front-facing port selection is pretty standard, with two USB 3.0 ports and headphone and mic jacks for easily plugging and playing (though I would have loved to have seen a front-facing HDMI port for VR, like the Corsair One offers.

In the back, you’ll find three more USB 3.0 ports, a USB 2.0 port and a USB Type-C port for newer gadgets. There’s also a standard smattering of audio jacks, an Ethernet port and a PS/2 port for old-school mice and keyboards. The desktop’s Nvidia GTX 1080Ti has its usual HDMI port and three DisplayPorts, giving you plenty of options for monitors.

Unlike most compact gaming PCs we’ve tested, the Chronos is remarkably easy to open up if you want to tinker with the guts. After removing two hand screws, you can slide off the PC’s side panel and easily gain access to components such as the RAM slots and cooling system.

While getting inside the Chronos is easy, swapping out most parts, such as the graphics card, will take a screwdriver and a bit of extra legwork. (Origin noted that its support technicians will help users through the upgrade process.) The whole process isn’t as blissfully dummy-proof as it is on, say, the Alienware Aurora, but the Chronos’ upgradability is some of the best I’ve seen on a small PC.

Gaming and VR Performance

Sporting a beastly Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti GPU, the Chronos packs a huge amount of gaming power into its small frame.

The desktop tore through our Hitman benchmark (1080p at max settings), rendering the stealth action game at a blistering 127.6 frames per second. That’s just a frame behind the GTX 1080-powered Corsair One (129 fps) and well ahead of the MSI Vortex (98 fps, GTX 1080) and our 88 fps desktop average.

The Chronos continued to impress during the more demanding cinematic action of Rise of the Tomb Raider (1080p at max settings), in which Origin’s PC turned in an impressive 95.4 and topped the Vortex (82) and the Corsair One (72). The Chronos even mustered a playable 30fps at 4K with all settings cranked up, something few desktops we’ve tested have achieved.

Origin’s desktop is a miniature virtual-reality monster, maxing out the SteamVR Performance test at 11 just like the Vortex and One did. Our category average is 10.5.

The Chronos scored a strong 6,705 on the 3DMark Fire Strike Ultra benchmark, which measures 4K performance. That tops the Corsair One (5,032), the Vortex (4,503) and our 5,097 average.

Overall Performance

Thanks to its AMD Ryzen 7 1800X processor and whopping 32GB of RAM, the Chronos chewed through daily tasks with no slowdown. I fired up well over a dozen browser tabs while watching five Twitch streams and downloading games from Steam to try to tax the system, and it didn’t budge once.

Origin’s PC scored a 21,585 on the Geekbench 4 general performance test, topping the Corsair One (17,755, Core i7-7700K) as well as our 16,920 gaming PC average.

The Chronos’ speedy 500GB SSD copied about 5GB of files in just 6 seconds, for a blistering transfer rate of 828.3 megabytes per second. That beats the Corsair One’s 480GB SSD (236.6 MBps) and our 339.1 MBps average, while nearly tying the Vortex’s 512GB SSD (848.2 MBps)

Configurations

As with all Origin desktops, the Chronos is made to order and offers a ton of neat customization options. The base Ryzen version of the PC starts at $1,200 with an AMD Ryzen 3 1200 CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and an Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti.

From there, you can trick out the Chronos to your heart’s content, adding extras such as a slick metallic paint job ($250), glowing interior lights ($20) and colored accents (no extra cost). You have plenty of options for extra power, including up to an AMD Ryzen 7 processor ($434) and a beastly Nvidia Titan XP graphics card ($1,220).

Our $2,931 review unit is a good example of the kind of power you can pack into the Chronos, sporting a Ryzen 7 1800X CPU, 32GB of RAM, a 500GB SSD with a 4TB hard drive and an Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti GPU. Our system came in the Chronos’ default black color scheme, but with slick red accents.

Bottom Line

The Origin Chronos delivers excellent gaming performance in a compact chassis while making very few compromises. The system’s console-shaped design makes it ideal for the living room, while its support for AMD Ryzen 7 processors and Nvidia’s highest-end GPUs allows it to handle 4K and VR without a sweat. Just be ready to pay up if you want to take advantage of its cooler customization options.

There are plenty of other great gaming PCs for the living room. The Alienware Alpha is even smaller but not nearly as powerful, while the Corsair One and MSI Vortex have great designs but aren’t as upgradable or easy to slide under a TV. The Chronos finds a happy middle ground between size, power and flexibility, making it one of the best ways to play demanding PC games on your big living room TV.

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

Hisense 43H6D Review: Budget-Friendly 4K HDR

THE GOOD
  • 4K HDR support
  • Affordable price
  • Plenty of HDMI ports
  • Easy-to-use interface
THE BAD
  • Chunky design
  • Low brightness
  • Backlight isn’t uniform
  • Limited app selection
VERDICT

The Hisense 43H6D offers a sharp 4K picture with HDR support at a sweet low price, but display-quality issues and a meager app selection hold this set back.

The Hisense 43H6D is a 4K Ultra HD TV, but don’t assume it’s out of your price range. The 43-inch Hisense offers smart-TV functionality and HDR for less than $500 and is the sibling to the Hisense 43H7D that we included in our roundup of the best inexpensive 4K TVs. While this TV may not offer all the polish and features of more expensive 4K sets, it still delivers as a smart TV with 4K resolution and HDR support, and does so at a price that’s easy to stomach.

Design: Boxy, plenty of ports

The Hisense’s chassis measures 38.1 x 22.1 x 3.4 inches, with plastic construction and a boxy design. With the stand attached, the set actually measures 7.5 inches deep, but VESA mount-compatibility means you can hang this set on a wall just as easily as you can set it up on a table or shelf. It’s not as svelte and stylish as a premium set, like the Samsung Q7F, but the utilitarian design gets the job done.

On the back and left side of the set, you’ll find four HDMI ports, three USB ports (two USB 2.0, one USB 3.0), an Ethernet port, an RF connector for antenna, and both component and composite video. Even with a box for cable or satellite, a Blu-ray player and a game console, you should have ample connections available for anything else you want to connect to the set. With built-in Wi-Fi, you can get online for streaming content without running a networking cable across your living room.

Performance: Good on color, but uneven backlighting

The Hisense 43H6D 43-inch display uses an edge-lit LED panel with low (but tolerable) brightness, registering a maximum brightness level of 296 nits in our lab testing. Bright colors came through clearly, whether the set was playing back 4K content from a UHD Blu-ray or upscaling over-the-air channels from an antenna.

Animated M&M’s popped in a TV commercial, and the rainbow-hued suits of the Power Rangers looked good in 4K.

The set offers high dynamic range (HDR) processing, but the option is buried in the user settings and called Dynamic Backlight Control instead of the more standard terminology. The 43H6D supports both Dolby Vision and HDR10 formats, but with less than 300 nits of brightness, the effect was minimal.

However, the lack of uniform backlight illumination across the panel overshadowed the newer standard. Regardless of the material we viewed, unwanted shadows were frequently visible along the top and bottom edges of the screen, and the corners of the 43-inch panel were always dimmer than the rest of the picture. Conversely, the right and left edges of the screen were often over-illuminated, with noticeable flaring visible when displaying black backgrounds.

The 43H6D’s color accuracy is fairly good, as the set registered a Delta-E rating of 2.4 (closer to 0 is better), which is better than many budget 4K sets achieve. The Westinghouse Amazon Fire TV (5.5) and the LG 43UJ6300 (4.5) both fared worse, while the TCL Roku TV (2.2) was quite similar similar. The Hisense also produced 98.7 percent of the Rec. 709 color space; we consider anything close to 100 percent or higher to be quite good.

Black levels, on the other hand, frequently overwhelmed shadowy details. Black portions of Deadpool’s suit, for example, were inky-black, losing the fine folds and creases seen in other sets.

The 43H6D produced surprisingly good bass for a system without a subwoofer.

The 60-Hz refresh rate on this set is disappointing but expected, and Hisense’s use of Motion Rate 120 pushes this set to an effective refresh rate of 120 Hz. While we prefer true 120 Hz or higher, especially for watching sports, you aren’t likely to find that rate at this price. Still, there was none of the flickering that I saw on the similarly priced Hisense 43H7D or the Westinghouse Amazon Fire TV, even though I’m fairly sensitive to it.

There was a bit of a screen-door effect when some tightly patterned details moved across the screen, and images of a chain-link fence nearly shimmered when the camera panned across the scene. Turning on digital noise-reduction slightly improved the issue but didn’t solve it.

Audio: Surprisingly good

When I listened to the Foo Fighters’ “The Sky Is a Neighborhood,” the 43H6D produced surprisingly good bass for a system without a subwoofer. The 43H6D’s two 7-watt speakers produced enough volume to fill a living room, and song lyrics were mostly clear, though some sounds were a bit muddied. Preset sound profiles let you choose from among Standard, Theater, Music, Speech and Late Night modes.

The Hisense supports Dolby Digital surround sound, with a digital-optical output for 5.1 speaker systems. The 43H6D has no Bluetooth support, so you don’t have that option for wireless headphones or speakers.

Remote: Complicated

While many smart-TV manufacturers are simplifying the remotes for their function-filled sets with minimalist, wand-style designs, Hisense has made its remote bigger and crowded with number buttons, channel and volume controls. A square ring of arrow buttons lets you navigate through menus along with buttons for home, back and exit. Dedicated buttons for Netflix, Amazon, Vudu and YouTube let you jump straight into streaming apps. The remote has 44 buttons in all, as compared to seven on the remote for the Samsung Q7F.

More-esoteric features like voice search or gesture control are nowhere to be found, but the one missing feature that felt like an oversight was backlighting. If you’re going to give someone a remote with 44 buttons, then a bit of illumination – whether an LED backlight or just glow-in-the-dark labels – would be helpful. I could see myself frequently fumbling as I try to figure out which black button is which on the black, plastic remote, especially after dimming the lights to enjoy a movie.

Smart TV Features: Stripped down

Hisense uses the Opera TV operating system for the 43H6D, instead of a more popular interface, like Roku or Android TV. The menu layout is simple and easy to navigate, with a single row of menu items coming up when you hit the home button and a simple grid menu for things like input selection or apps. Getting around with the directional buttons on the remote is very straightforward.

You can choose from a handful of popular app options like Netflix, Amazon Video and YouTube, but there are fewer than 30 apps total. You won’t find many common streaming services, like Hulu, Crackle or Crunchyroll. Music apps are similarly hit-and-miss; you’ll get Pandora and iHeart Radio, but not Spotify.

Bottom Line

While it’s impressive that the Hisense 43H6D offers 4K HDR for less than $500, the affordable price comes with its share of caveats. Some are expected, like the bulky design or the fair but not fantastic audio quality. Others are unwelcome surprises, like backlighting that’s far from uniform and screen brightness that’s dim enough to blunt any benefit from HDR. And while this set does come with several popular apps preinstalled, other common services are nowhere to be found, leaving the Hisense 43H6D feeling a little dumber than most smart TVs. On the whole, it’s a bargain for a 4K set, but the caveats might put you off regardless of the price.
For a better budget Ultra HD TV, look to the Insignia Roku TV NS-55DR620NA18 or the TCL Roku TV 55P607, which both offer Roku’s richer app selection and require fewer compromises in display quality.

(tomsguide.com, https://goo.gl/x46hgK)

Apple Watch watchOS 4 review: Apple’s smartwatch gets more intuitive with the new update

With watchOS 4, the Apple Watch is slicker and more enjoyable to use than ever. Apple has found new ways to reduce the time you need to spend tapping, swiping and scrolling, which is a good thing. Some features, like GymKit, are still to come, but more concerning are the ones that won’t work on the original Apple Watch; there’s now a divide with the early adopters. But overall we’re glad with the changes Apple has made here. Now we just need some more apps.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho watchOS 4 review

Hit
  • Navigation is better
  • New Siri watch face
  • New workout features
Miss
  • Lack of essential apps
  • Siri voice detection needs to be better
  • Peer-to-peer payments, music, GymKit still missing

Kết quả hình ảnh cho watchOS 4

With the new Apple Watch Series 3 comes a fresh new operating system: watchOS 4. It’s bigger, it’s better, it makes a lot more sense.

And yes, it features the cast of Toy Story.

While not as radical a change as the jump between watchOS 2 and 3, it tweaks and improves the Apple Watch in ways that make it more enjoyable to use, and making more of that added cellular connection should you pick up the new smartwatch.

watchOS 4

Whichever version of the Apple Watch you’re using, you’ll be able to get the update, although the experience will vary a little. We’ve found the software runs faster on the Series 3 than Series 2, and if you’re still using the very first Apple Watch, you won’t be able to use the new heart rate monitoring features. Boo.

But with new faces, new apps, and new ways to get around, how dramatically does watchOS 4 improve the Apple Watch experience? Here’s the verdict.

Round round get around, I get around

Apple Watch watchOS 4 review

Let’s talk cosmetic upgrades, and navigation is a biggy; Apple has gradually but fundamentally changed the way we use the Watch since 2015. That side button has proven particularly tricky to figure out, beginning as a shortcut to the digital touch messaging feature (RIP) before Apple turned it into a dock of your favorite apps. In watchOS 4 it’s still a dock, but now orientated vertically to make scrolling with the digital crown feel more natural, as opposed to being horizontally aligned like before.

A tap of the crown will still take you to the honeycomb grid of all your apps, but you can now change this too. With a push of force touch you can now turn it to the grid view, which arranges all of your apps into an alphabetical list. Again this feels much better when scrolling with the crown, although some people may still prefer the way the honeycomb grid packs more apps on the screen at once.

watchOS 4 also adds a flashlight icon to the control center, illuminating your wrist with either a white or red light. If you’re rocking the new Series 3, you’ll also see the little antenna icon which lights up green when you’re using the cellular connection.

Not a lot has changed with notifications, but the Watch will now combine notifications from different apps together if they come in at the same time, which makes it less likely you’ll want to throw your Apple Watch at a passing car when the WhatsApp group chat heats up.

Apple Watch watchOS 4 review

There are three big new faces in watchOS 4. The most useful, and our favorite, is the new Siri face. It’s only got one complication slot, which is best used for quick access to Siri if you plan on using her.

That’s mostly alright though, because the Siri watch face is proactive about what it’s doing. It shows you little of things that might be important to you. For example, it could show you your next calendar appointment or what time the sun is going to set. It could remind you to breathe or stand, or that you’ve got music playing. It’s very Google Now.

Flicking the Digital Crown will let you see even more about what’s going in the future. So you’ll get a news report in between a weather report. Or how that stock you’re keeping track of went down at the end of the day. All of this is useful, rivaling the classic Modular face for amount of things it can show you, but it definitely needs some time to tune. The more you use it, the better it is about showing you things that actually matter.

The other two faces are a little more fun. The Kaleidoscope face is pretty, tossing out trippy images that you can make from pictures in your photo library.

Apple Watch watchOS 4 review

Finally, there are the Toy Story faces. There are four variations of these, and they all come with one complication spot at the bottom. You’ll get to choose between Woody, Buzz and Jessie, or you can choose a mode that cycles through all of them. Unlike the Mickey and Minnie faces, these don’t talk, so sadly you won’t hear a “There’s a snake in my boot!” on command.

Overall, the new watch faces are good additions, but it’s that Siri face that most dramatically changes the Watch experience for the better. We reckon it’s going to be pretty popular.

Health and fitness that’s more personal

Apple Watch watchOS 4 review

Apple continues to build the Watch out as a better health and fitness device, and in watchOS 4 it’s introducing a smattering of new features. The big one here is the new heart rate monitoring as Apple is giving you more detailed insights into your heart rate through the day, displaying your resting heart rate, walking average heart rate and recovery heart rate.

These are important because resting heart rate is a good indicator of your overall fitness. Walking heart rate is an interesting new idea which, as you might have guessed, finds an average rate for times in the day you’re walking but not pushing yourself harder, so the needle should be a bit above your resting rate, which the watch calculates from sedentary moments through the day. Ideally you’d capture RHR at the very start of the day, but often people aren’t going to be wearing their Apple Watch then because chances are you’re charging it.

The final thing Apple has added here is an elevated heart rate warning. We’ve heard a few stories over the years of people who realized their heart rate was shooting up only because their wearable told them, and Apple wants to take advantage of this. In watchOS4 you can turn this feature on and set a minimum heart rate level, and should it go above it you’ll get a notification. If you suffer from a heart condition, this could be one of the watchOS 4’s more essential features.

Apple Watch watchOS 4 review

Workouts are improved now too. You can now quick-start all of the different workouts, and your most-frequented ones will default to the top of the list. But perhaps even better is the support for multiple types of workout in one session. You can now add a new exercise without having to manually stop your current workout; instead the app will just end your workout when the next begins. Again, it all just makes everything that little bit faster and means less time tapping the watch, more time working out.

We’re also really digging the auto sets for swimming, giving you information on distance and pace for each stroke, and has so far it’s detected our stroke types with 100% accuracy. Less good is the fact you still can’t view your workouts on the watch; it feels like the Apple Watch should let us do this, like Garmin’s do.

Another thing watchOS 4 introduces is GymKit, letting you pair the Watch to select gym equipment, although as of right now this isn’t available. When it is, and once connected via NFC, you’ll be able to see stats from the Watch on the equipment’s display instead, while additional workout data will be sent from the equipment to the Watch and saved in your workout. Apple’s wrangled a lot of big gym equipment providers to support this feature, though it might take some time for it all to roll out. Expect GymKit to arrive soon.

As for the day-to-day activity tracking, this doesn’t change dramatically, but Apple’s added more notifications to nudge you off your butt and get you moving. Don’t worry, all of these can be turned off in the app, but you’ll now get personalized reminders to help you push past those goals.

Now in the mornings, you’ll get a notification to tell you how much activity you need to meet the prior day’s amount, and will let you know if you’re close to earning an achievement. You’ll also get an update towards the end of the day to tell you exactly how much further you need to push yourself. Having a specific number thrown at me is more encouraging, but we’ve found that some of the reminders, like Breathe reminders, we quickly switched off.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho watchOS 4 review

Running watchOS 4 on OG Apple Watch

Apple is usually pretty good about supporting legacy devices with new software updates. For instance, if you’ve got an Apple Watch Series 2 or 1, you can take part in pretty much all of the new watchOS 4 features.

That’s not the case with the OG Apple Watch, which existed before the Series 1 (remember, the Series 1 was basically a Series 2 without GPS and waterproofing; they house the same specs otherwise, like processor).

Thus far, watchOS 4 on an OG Apple Watch has been… mostly fine, and enough to just about make you forget that you’re running a smartwatch that’s creeping toward three years old. Every once in a while though, performance takes a hit. A lot of it happens when you’re gearing your Watch up after some inactive time, like opening up the News or Music apps after a couple hours. There’s just an extra second or two that gets you right to the border of frustrated. It’s not as bad as it used to be on watchOS 1, but it’s definitely a half-step behind watchOS 3.

Additionally, not having resting heart rate is a bit of a bummer. It’s not a make-or-break feature, but it definitely blunts the first Apple Watch’s ability to keep up with fitness tracking trends. Battery life mostly feels the same, but it’s hard to tell whether the watch we’ve been testing on is losing battery capacity after a couple years or whether watchOS 4 is draining it a little too much. The most likely scenario is probably somewhere in between, as back on watchOS 3 it was quite easy to clear the day with 50% battery life. Now, it’s around 25%

Music and news apps

Apple Watch watchOS 4 review

A good ecosystem is made out of apps, and not many companies are better at building ecosystems than Apple because not many companies have the power of the iPhone and App Store to lean on.

So how’s the app situation on watchOS 4? Well, it’s certainly better than a lot of competing platforms like Android Wear, but it’s still not what you’d call great, especially when you consider the new Watch Series 3 with LTE. There are still too many apps that heavily rely on the iPhone, which means there aren’t many standalone apps built for when that tether is cut.

That will likely change over time as more people get their hands on an LTE-connected watch and developers start building standalone apps that can take advantage of both that and the newer, faster processor.

In the meantime, Apple has taken measures to improve its own app experiences. The two big ones here are Music and News. Music is now a lot less rigid, and instead of just syncing over playlists you can now sync over albums and individual songs. Your recently added section will also sync over, as will music considered on “Heavy Rotation.” You still can’t listen and scroll through your entire library, but that’ll arrive in watchOS 4.1. The promised revamped Music app will allow you to stream your Apple Music or iCloud Music libraries directly from your watch. There’ll also be a new Radio app that allows you to more easily stream content from Beats 1.

Apple Watch watchOS 4 review

Because Music is still rigid, it can get a little frustrating to use. You have to remember to sync things over from the phone, and if you don’t you’re stuck with whatever you recently added to your library. It works, but it feels like a temporary solution. The one cool thing that Music does now is when you’re listening to something – and this includes podcasts, despite watchOS not having a podcast app yet – taking a glance at your watch will cause the controls to automatically pop up. This way, you can easily change tracks and lower and raise the volume without trying to get into your Music app.

The other massive new app of convenience is the News app. This syncs with your News app settings on your phone, and it’ll constantly send you breaking news items. The great thing about the News app is it means you don’t have to worry about installing and setting up notifications for news from individual publications. You can pool news from a variety of sources in a variety of topics.

The notifications are also fairly rich. When you click on one, you’ll get some nice imagery, a bolded intro giving you an overall idea of what’s going on and then a second sentence of text that expands that information a little. If you like it, save the entire article for later. If not, then you dismiss it. The actual app is much like these rich notifications, except that there are five of them you can swipe through. The app is also constantly updating, so every time you look at it there’s something new happening. Plus, there’s a very good complication that keeps rotating new stories. If you’re a news junkie with an Apple Watch, there is no better news app.

(wareable.com, https://goo.gl/Dbv63G)

Meike 85mm f/2.8 Macro Review

Pros
  • High sharpness
  • Low CA
  • Low distortion
  • Accurate macro focusing
  • 1.5x macro magnification
  • Quality of manufacture
Cons
  • No weather sealing
  • Short throw of focusing over 1m

85mm f/2.8 Macro

Meike is one of the relatively new breed of independent lens manufacturers, continuing to provide low-cost, innovative designs, and, sometimes, unusual specifications. This new 85mm f/2.8 macro lens is unusual in that it focuses down to 1.5x life size. Most macro lenses stop at life-size, some older designs even at half life-size. If performance is up to standard, then the extra magnification could be a winning feature, so let’s have a closer look.

Handling and Features

Meike 85mm F2 8 Macro On Nikon D810

This is a full frame lens, available in Nikon and Canon mounts. Balance on the Nikon D810 used for this review is slightly front heavy but in terms of size and handling the lens fits very well. It is manual focus only. 85mm is a fairly unusual focal length for a macro lens, most short telephoto macros are 90mm or 100mm, but it is the classic portrait lens, so there may well be potential there as well. It is substantially made using metal and weighs in at a solid 500g despite its fairly compact size.

Starting at the front of the lens, we have a very well engineered bayonet fit lens hood with locking catch. This surrounds a 55mm filter thread. Looking through the front element, we see the 12 bladed diaphragm, manually set by the ring just behind. This produces a very effective round aperture, which bodes well for the quality of the bokeh. The lens is multi-coated, using nanotechnology.

Meike 85mm F2,8 Macro Top View At Infinity
Meike 85mm f/2.8 Macro – At Infinity

There are two focus rings. The first, closest to the front, use internal focusing and operates down to 0.25m, giving a magnification of 1:1. That is, an object 1cm long will be recorded 1cm long on the sensor. When set to the closest setting, the second ring can be used to continue down to a magnification of 1.5:1, meaning a 1cm long object will now be recorded as 1.5cm long on the sensor. This is a significant difference and a fairly unique feature.

The first focusing ring concentrates its function very firmly on the closer distances. The amount of rotation between infinity and 1m is very, very small, meaning that hitting the exact point of focus for more distant subjects is quite tricky. As we move closer, the amount of rotation needed dramatically increases, so closer focus is very precise. Arguably this is a good thing for a macro lens. As well as distances, magnification ratios are also marked, which adds to the functionality as a macro lens.

The second focusing ring has an equally long travel to focus, and at distances offering between 1.5:1 and 1:1 magnification this is very critical. This means a solid tripod and use of the self-timer to avoid any camera shake are vital, as well as a patient approach to finding the point of focus. Being a short telephoto, finding the focus is made easier, but it is still essential for it to be spot on for best results. This second ring does alter the length of the lens, so it may be necessary to move the lens backwards a little when working at the highest magnifications. Effectively this acts like a zoom at this point, as we approach 1.5x magnification so we need to back the lens off to 0.26m. For small items, focusing can sometimes be easier by moving the camera or the subject rather than by operating the ring. Traditionally, a tripod mounted focus rail would be employed to move the camera smoothly and precisely for just this purpose.

 

Meike 85mm F2,8 Macro Top View At Maximum Magnification
At Maximum Magnification

Lens construction is 11 elements in 8 groups, suggesting that optical corrections have been made without recourse to aspheric elements or exotic glasses. This should still be capable of producing excellent results.

Handling of the lens is trouble-free. It is well made, all the controls operate smoothly and the focusing snaps in and out with good clarity. It is clearly designed from the outset as a macro lens, all the features enable that, rather than a standard short telephoto that focuses closer. Hence the emphasis on the accuracy of close focusing rather than the longer distances over 1m. Of course, its usefulness is extended in that it can also be used as a short telephoto for portraits and landscapes when required.

Meike 85mm F2 8 Macro Rear Oblique View

Performance

When looking at the sharpness results we need to bear in mind that at test target distances the lens is not being used at the distances it is primarily designed for, that is macro shooting. The manual focusing ring is also not accurate at the test distances. This means that several runs of measurements were needed to ensure that the point of focus for the test chart were as precise as possible.

In terms of sharpness, both centre and edge match each other almost perfectly. The figures are amongst the closest I have ever measured. So, both centre and edge, sharpness is at the upper end of the very good category from f/2.8 to f/5.6, moves into the excellent range at f/8 and is again very good from f/11 to f/16. Diffraction does reduce sharpness at f/22, but it is still of a good standard.

Looking subjectively at macro distances, sharpness is still very even at f/2.8 and certainly, results are sharp, slightly reducing at the corners. However, at f/8 the sharpness becomes visibly crisper and more even from corner to corner. For even flat subjects, f/8 at macro distances will produce excellent results with well-controlled field curvature.

MTF Charts

Chromatic Aberration Charts

Flare is very low and shots against the sky do not reveal any artefacts or undue reduction in contrast.

Bokeh was expected to be smooth, with the short telephoto tendency to throw backgrounds out of focus and a round aperture. The gradation and softness of the bokeh is very pleasing and should enhance any subject that we wish to isolate from the background.

Sample Photos

Industrial Landscape And Flare Test | 1/320 sec | 85.0 mm | ISO 200

Macro Stamens At F8 | 1/50 sec | f/8 | 85.0 mm | ISO 100

Portrait 1 At F2,8 | 1/160 sec | f/2.8 | 85.0 mm | ISO 100

Meike 85mm F2,8 Autumn Fungi At F11 | 1/6 sec | f/2.0 | 105.0 mm | ISO 200

Meike 85mm F2,8 Autumn Leaves At F8 | 1/13 sec | f/2.0 | 105.0 mm | ISO 100

Meike 85mm F2,8 Berries At F8 | 1/13 sec | f/2.0 | 105.0 mm | ISO 200

Meike 85mm F2,8 Derelict Chapel At F8 | 1/15 sec | f/2.0 | 105.0 mm | ISO 100

Aperture range

Bokeh At F2.8 | 1/400 sec | f/2.8 | 85.0 mm | ISO 100

Bokeh At F4 | 1/250 sec | f/4 | 85.0 mm | ISO 100

Bokeh At F5.6 | 1/125 sec | f/5.6 | 85.0 mm | ISO 100

Bokeh At F8 | 1/50 sec | f/8 | 85.0 mm | ISO 100

Bokeh At F11 | 1/20 sec | f/11 | 85.0 mm | ISO 100

Bokeh At F22 | 1/10 sec | f/22 | 85.0 mm | ISO 100

Specifications

Manufacturer MEIKE
General
Lens Mounts
  • Nikon F
  • Canon EF
  • Sony E Mount
  • Sony FE Mount
Lens
Focal Length 85mm
Angle of View No Data
Max Aperture f/2.8
Min Aperture f/22
Filter Size 55mm
Stabilised No
35mm equivalent No Data
Internal focusing No Data
Maximum magnification 1.5x
Focusing
Min Focus 25cm
Construction
Blades 12
Elements 11
Groups 8
Box Contents
Box Contents No Data
Dimensions
Weight 500g
Height 90mm

Verdict

As a general purpose short telephoto for portraits, landscapes, etc., it may be that the loss of AF will be an inconvenience. However, in the arena of macro shooting, this lens comes into its own, being what it is clearly designed for. Very often MF is the method of choice for macro shooting anyway. All the accuracy of the focusing is concentrated in the macro range and the image snaps clearly into focus in the viewfinder or on the monitor screen.

The Meike 85mm f/2.8 Macro lens is a well made, well-priced lens that will do the job efficiently and to an excellent standard.

(ephotozine.com, https://goo.gl/iQ1P3h)

 

Meizu M6 Review: What Should Bring Most Selling Smartphones?

We have learned Meizu is going to launch a new wallet-friendly smartphone on September 20 long ago. It is not difficult to guess that device would belong to the much-popular Blue Charm family. The aforementioned date has come and the company unveiled a new smartphone dubbed as the Meizu M6. This is the smaller and lightened variant of the Meizu M6 Note we reviewed recently. But we are more interested in the key features of THIS device because it’s priced at 699 yuan ($105) only. However, people are not concerned about the price. They want to see improvements in comparison to the previous model, Meizu M5.

Meizu M6

This statement is due to the fact cheap smartphones are sold the most. Looking at the statistics provided by Taobao, we can say the smartphones priced 500-1000 yuan ($75-150) are demanded more than any smartphone from another price range. The devices costing 1000 – 1500 yuan ($150-226) have a high demand like the phones at 2000 – 3000 yuan ($301-451). But it’s another topic of conversation. Well, let’s see what features a smartphone from this price range should come with to provide high sell numbers. Finally, we should understand whether the Meizu M6 has any chances against the Xiaomi Redmi 5A.

Meizu M6 Appearance

There are two memory combinations and four color options of the Meizu M6. Thus you should choose from 8 models. We have already taken a glance at two variants of blue and black, but there are also a gold and silver versions. In this review, we will use the higher variant of the blue model.

Meizu M6

The packaging is identical to other Blue Charm series phones.

Meizu M6

It includes the phone itself, a charger, USB cable, charging head, warranty card, and a user manual.

In front, you can find a 5.2-inch LCD screen using the GFF (Glass Film Film) technology. The display is also covered with a 2.5D arc glass. The provided brightness is 450nit, while the same feature was 380nit at the M5. By the way, the aforementioned technology is used in the Meizu M5S as well.

Meizu M6

Above the screen, we can find the proximity sensor, front camera, and the speaker. Those color options that use a black front panel hide the sensors and the camera. However, they are clearly seen on the white-panel versions.

Meizu M6

The mTouch button is placed below the screen. It works properly at the highest speed of 0.2 seconds. This is the time it unlocks the phone. Moreover, it supports fingerprint payment.

Meizu M6

Do not forget we are dealing with a cheap phone. This means its housing should be made of plastic instead of metal. This is not Xiaomi. However, it comes at the highest quality, and a regular user won’t differentiate it from a metal.

Even the antenna ribbons are colored with silver to provide a feeling of a metal.

Meizu M6

There is also a 13MP Sony IMX278 sensor paired with a dual-color warm flash. The 3D laser carved Meizu logo below the camera makes us think we are dealing with a metal body.

Meizu M6

The 3.5mm audio jack is on the top. The USB port, speakers, and a microphone hole are on the bottom.

Meizu M6

The volume rocker and the power button are on the right hand-side. The left side carries on the SIM card slot. It supports dual SIM cards (dual-standby).

Meizu M6

Meizu M6 Performance

In terms of hardware, there are no changes in generations. The Meizu M6 sports the same MediaTek MT6750 processor found on the previous model. This is the same processor seen on the Meizu M3 and M3S. So we shouldn’t expect more from it. But many low-end smartphones are packed with it. So the manufacturer decided to use it in this model as well. Say, the Huawei Honor V9 Play launched recently also comes with it. By the way, Meizu thinks this phone is the closest rival to its representative.

To understand how this chip behaves in a real life, we tested it via several benchmarks.

AnTuTu benchmark has been used to understand the overall performance level of the phone. The Meizu M6 scores 39.625. In comparison to other models, this one yields in some aspects. Say the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5A provides better performance than our hero and the Honor V9 Play. But we should also remember it comes with a Snapdragon 435 chip.

We have used the GeekBench test to understand how the CPU cores behave at different conditions. As for results, the phone scored 609 points at a single-core test, and 2394 points at a multi-core test. Though the number of two other phones differ, we can state they have almost the same performance.

GFXBench is used for testing the phone’s 3D performance. Thus we use it when we want to know how the GPU works. The benchmark tests it for different scenarios to learn the specifications of the OpenGL ES graphics performance. In this sense, the Honor V9 Play provides performance identical to the Meizu M6.

PCMark is another great tool for testing the phone’s overall performance. The results show the Meizu M6 is at the same level with the Xiaomi Mi 4.

We use Androbench to test the phone’s storage performance referring to both external and internal storage. The test shows a reading speed of 260MB/s.

As for gaming, the Meizu M6 can play the ‘King of Glory’ at a 30fps or so.

Meizu M6 Camera

The phone sports an 8MP camera on the front. It comes with a large aperture of f/2.0. As this aperture gets more light, the dark conditions shooting is enhanced. The selfies are clearer as well due to the rainbow Beauty algorithm.

As for the back camera, it uses a 13MP Sony IMX278 sensor (RGBW). The latter comes with a single pixel size of 1.12?m and aperture of f/2.2. In addition to the usual red, green, and blue-filtered pixels the RGBW sensor has an unfiltered pixel element that will accept any wavelength of light. It is not used to determine color, but it will add sensitivity and brightness. This is good, much more accurate than taking the average from the RGB elements, and makes low-light photography significantly better. Sony proves this enhances the capturing performance by 17.5%.

Daytime photos

Nighttime photos

Selfies

(Before the algorithm is ON and after it)

Meizu M6 Battery

In comparison to the Meizu M5, there are no changes on battery and charging. The phone still comes with a 3070mAh battery and uses a 5V / 1.5A charging head. The only improvement may be considered the addition of OneMind acceleration.

We used PCMark to test the battery life. The screen brightness was set at 50%, sound at 20%, and the WiFi was ON.

The test shows 7 hours and 40 minutes. You may think it’s not satisfactory, but this is the same result as the 4000mAh-battery-packed Meizu M5 Note showed.

We also tested the device for video playback. When we started the test there was remaining a power of 53%. After on hour, the electricity was at 37%. Thus the Meizu M6 provides up to 6 hours of video playback.

When we started testing the phone for playing games, there was remaining a power of 37%. After 30 minutes of playing ‘King of Glory’, it showed 25% of remaining power. Thus it can provide up to 5 hours of playing heavy games.

At last, we tested the charging to understand how long it will take from the phone to get charged fully. It took 125 minutes.

Wrap Up

As we see, under-1000 yuan smartphones have become very powerful. The latest term we use carefully. But when looking at the Meizu M6, Xiaomi Redmi Note 5A, Huawei Honor V9 Play, and other models from the niche, we understand the performance they provide is enough for a regular user. Of course, if you want more from a smartphone, you should look for a more expensive device. But if you need a smartphone for daily tasks such as calling, texting, surfing the net, or listening to music, the Meizu M6 should be one of the best offers.

(xiaomitoday.com, https://goo.gl/PZF4ZM)

New meets old: 2007 Honda Civic Type-R FN2 and 2017 Type-R FK8

If you’re looking for a cool and unemotional comparison between two hot hatchbacks from the same company, you might wish to look away now.

New meets old: 2007 Honda Civic Type-R FN2 and 2017 Type-R FK8

The Type R franchise is long established, and has attracted such a huge fanboy following, that normal reviewing protocol occasionally goes out of the window, and we stroll into the good old-fashioned world of opinion, subjectivity and seat-of-the-pants snap judgments.

Honda Civic Type R old and new

Although I’m old enough to know better, I’m an unashamed Type R fanboy. The red Honda Civic Type R GT in the pictures above is mine, and was recently bought for an embarrassingly small amount of money. The blue car is the 2017 model, recently vanquished by the Ford Focus RS in CAR’s group test, and is probably the best front-wheel-drive hot hatch money can buy right now.

In reality, it’s not a straight comparison – the old car is a tenth of the price, and is 120bhp down on the new car. It’s also probably not the absolute best Civic Type R – the previous-generation EP3 ‘breadvan’ is lighter, and more focused dynamically. But it’s still true to Honda’s naturally aspirated Type-R heritage, sky-high 8500rpm redline and old-school control inputs.

Tell me more about the older FN2 Type R?

Launched in 2007, the FN2-generation Euro-only Honda Civic Type-R combined the brilliant 2.0-litre VTEC K20A engine with famously spaceship-like styling. With the benefit of a decade’s worth of maturing, it looks taut and modern – and unlike its replacement, not awkwardly overstyled. Only the slim headlamps stop it looking like a car born in 2017.

Honda Civic Type R 2007 interior

Many would say that with a Type R, you’re buying an amazing engine first, and it doesn’t matter all that much what its wrapping looks like. I’d agree. With 198bhp developed at a supercar-like 7800rpm, the VTEC was this car’s crowning glory. Even 10 years ago, this focus on natural aspiration swam against the turbocharged flow of the rest of the hot hatch pack.

Inside the 2017 Honda Civic Type R

Under the skin, the FN2 was a retrograde step back from the EP3 breadvan. How so? The rear suspension moved from a multi-link independent set-up in the older car to a more conventional beam axle. It weighed in at 1190kg versus 1310kg for the newer car – and given there’s no appreciable power difference between the two, you can easily write the performance script.

How does the 2007 Honda Civic Type R drive?

2017 FK8 is the most powerful Civic Type R yet

As a member of 2007’s hot hatch front pack, the FN2 isn’t exactly slow. Maximum speed is 146mph, and the 0-60mph time is 6.6 seconds. It might have been a nadge slower than the car it replaced, but as an overall driving experience, it’s a lot more refined. Okay, so its six-speeder is geared like a sprint racer, with top gear pulling slightly over 20mph per 1000rpm, but Honda’s 2.0-litre is so smooth, so happy to rev, that it doesn’t feel at all frenetic at motorway speeds. If anything it might be a little too refined.

Now wearing a bit of road dust, but still pulling strongly for the redline

Too civilised to deliver its hot hatch brief? Dynamically, no. Its on-paper figures don’t tell the full story. Unless you’re completely on it, and prepared to rev it into the eights on a regular basis, it never really feels quick. And that’s because the transition from off- to on-VTEC is quite marked – it howls like a hard-edged 1990s BTCC racer in the upper rev band, but sounds quite flat when out of it. And that’s why so many CTR critics moan about its lack of torque. In reality, there’s plenty. But it’s far more apparent, and interesting, in the VTEC zone.

Honda Civic Type R 2007

Aside from its lack of drama at anything less than nine-tenths, it’s disarmingly entertaining to drive, and a reminder of how much heft cars have gained in the past decade. The steering is hyper-sensitive, leading to sharp, almost aggressive turn-in, which is perfect for pushing on away from A-roads. What was described as a super-hard ride when new is now surprisingly well-damped and (almost) compliant – the main let-down is a disappointingly truculent gearchange.

New meets old: 2007 Honda Civic Type-R FN2 and 2017 Type-R FK8

How does the 2017 Civic Type R compare?

The new car follows the FN2 in that it’s been designed to stand out from the herd. It’s a striking-looking car, and far from handsome. In fact, it’s as far from cohesive as you could possibly imagine – the unhappy result of the brief for a ‘world car’, that needs to suit the tastes of the Americas, Europe and Asia. In reality, it probably doesn’t have a happy home anywhere. However, like the 2007 car, the questionable set of clothes hide a great engine.

And what an engine it is. With 320bhp, this is a fast car. Again, forget the on-paper figures, which would suggest these two cars aren’t that far apart in performance. They are. The 2017 car sprints from 0-62mph in 5.7sec and tops out at 169mph, but in any given situation, the old car wouldn’t see which way this went. Because Honda bowed to reality and turbocharged the CTR, its performance is much more readily accessible – you’re rarely waiting for boost to build or revs to rise. It just goes, and goes hard.

Honda Civic Type R 2017

Absurdly hard, actually. Yet despite being probably too quick for UK roads, it never feels anything less than composed – so much so that in the pursuit of Ford Focus RS-chasing performance, it’s lost some of the feel and communication of the 2007 car. We’ll say the same about the engine note, which after the high-rev howl of the naturally aspirated version is little more than an angry drone. There’s not even any turbo whistle to amuse. Shame, because otherwise it’s a brilliant modern hot hatch.

So, the new car is loads better then?

The 2017 car is on a different planet to the 2007 CTR – in so much as it’s faster, more composed, easier to drive, and will no doubt use far less fuel. And yet, because the earlier car comes with its unique soundtrack, it feels the more special – more Honda – car of the pair.

If you’re a Type R fanboy, there’s enough spirit in the new car to satisfy you and dissuade you from changing sides and buying a Focus RS. But in gaining a turbo, I’d say it’s difficult not to conclude that in producing the best front-wheel drive hot hatch money can buy, a little bit of Honda’s hardcore Type R soul has been lost in the process.

(carmagazine.co.uk, https://goo.gl/Lj3mZR)

Intel Core i5-8250U vs Core i5-7300HQ – 8th gen ULV vs 7th gen HQ

Although the Intel Core i5-8250U is barely available on the market, it seems to strike quite a lot of attention and performance seems quite promising. We compared the chip to its direct predecessor the Core i5-7200U and as you can imagine the comparison turned out like expected – the quad-core design really helps performance.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho Intel Core i5-8250U vs Core i5-7300HQ – 8th gen ULV vs 7th gen HQ

The other day we also mentioned that the Core i5-8250U has surpassed even the Core i5-7300HQ in our Top Laptop CPU Ranking. This is why we want to make a detailed comparison between the two chips. It seems like a rather unfair battle – a high-performance chip vs an ultra-low voltage one – but leave a place for surprises.

Kết quả hình ảnh cho Intel Core i5-8250U vs Core i5-7300HQ – 8th gen ULV vs 7th gen HQKết quả hình ảnh cho Intel Core i5-8250U vs Core i5-7300HQ – 8th gen ULV vs 7th gen HQ

For the purpose of this comparison, we are using the recently released 15-inch version of the Acer Swift 3 and the excellent budget gaming option the Lenovo Legion Y520. You can check their full specs and prices in our Laptops Specssystem:

Lenovo Legion Y520
  • Intel Core i5-7300HQ
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti (4GB GDDR5)
  • 256GB SSD
  • 8GB RAM

VS

Acer Swift 3 (SF315-51)
  • Intel Core i5-8250U
  • Intel UHD Graphics 620
  • 256GB SSD
  • 8GB RAM

Specs comparison

There are a lot of differences in the specifications sheets of these two chips but there are also a few important similarities. One similarity is that they are both quad-core processors, however, only the Core i5-8250U supports Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology. The core count here is not so important. What really makes the difference is the fact that while the Core i5-7300HQ needs 45W to power its four cores, the Core i5-8250U does the same with Hyper-Threading in mind with just 15W. That’s three times less power consumption.

Of course, this is not magic and corners had to be cut to run so many threads with so little power – the base clock of the Core i5-8250U is very low – 1.60GHz it is like a Celeron or Pentium processor while the Core i5-7300HQ is clocked at the reasonable 2.50GHz. Nonetheless, the engineers at Intel have found their way around and the Core i5-8250U can deliver high performance by boosting up to 3.40GHz when needed. This frequency is still 100MHz lower than the Turbo clock of the Core i5-7300HQ.

The Core i5-7300HQ has some perks compared to the Core i5-8250U. It can support double the amount of system memory – 64GB. It also features a better GPU – the HD Graphics 630 which opposed to the UHD Graphics 620 on the Core i5-8250U have a 50MHz higher base frequency (350MHz vs 300MHz) but 100MHz lower maximum frequency (1.0GHz vs 1.1GHz). However, the UHD Graphics 620 is merely a rebranded HD Graphics 620 so the HD 630 should be a tad better.

Benchmarks

In the charts and graphs below, you can see that both chips are fairly equal. In fact, the Core i5-8250U is slightly better and for some reason a lot better in NovaBench 3. It seems that the higher number of threads thanks to the Hyper-Threading technology make up for the overall lower clock speeds and manage to pull out an even higher performance than the Core i5-7300HQ at least on paper.

The difference between the performance of the two chips should be practically unnoticeable but what’s important is that one of the CPUs is rated at 45W and the other at 15W.

 Cinebench 11 Cinebench 15  NovaBench 3  Photoshop Fritz 
Core i5-8250U  5.95 (+2%) 531 (+3%) 878 (+67%) 10.70s (-18%)  10449 (+7%)
Core i5-7300HQ 5.82 516 527 13s  9775
  • Cinebench 11 – Results are from the Cinebench 11 test (higher the score, the better)
Laptop Results Result
difference
Acer Swift 3 (SF315-51) Intel Core i5-8250U (4-cores, 1.60 – 3.40 GHz) 5.95
Lenovo Legion Y520 Intel Core i5-7300HQ (4-cores, 2.5 – 3.5 GHz) 5.82 -2.18%
  • NovaBench CPU  – Results are from the NovaBench CPU test (higher the score, the better)
Laptop Results Result
difference
Acer Swift 3 (SF315-51) Intel Core i5-8250U (4-cores, 1.60 – 3.40 GHz) 878
Lenovo Legion Y520 Intel Core i5-7300HQ (4-cores, 2.5 – 3.5 GHz) 527 -39.98%
  • Photoshop – Results are from the Photoshop test (lower the score, the better)
Laptop Results Result
difference
Acer Swift 3 (SF315-51) Intel Core i5-8250U (4-cores, 1.60 – 3.40 GHz) 10.70
Lenovo Legion Y520 Intel Core i5-7300HQ (4-cores, 2.5 – 3.5 GHz) 13 +21.5%

Conclusion

Overall, both chips are equally powerful. In our case, the Core i5-8250U is a bit better than the Core i5-7300HQ but this could have a lot to do with the cooling systems and other aspects of the two notebooks. That’s why to be fair we will rate them as equals.

With that said, it seems like the Core i5-8250U loses some of the uniqueness that we emphasized before. To make things clear, both chips are equal in performance but better than each other in different cases. Overall, the Core i5-8250U is a champion for its high performance with only 15W of power which as we said before can spark a new series of powerful yet efficient notebooks.

On the other hand, the Core i5-7300HQ has some perks that put it a step forward of the Core i5-8250U. It supports up to 64GB of RAM instead of only 32GB and it features a better iGPU – the HD Graphics 630. It is also $47 cheaper on Intel’s official site so we can expect notebooks equipped with it to be more affordable for the next few months.

The choice is up to you and your preferences but maybe the Core i5-8250U is the better choice as it is newer and less power-hungry which will improve the battery life problem with a lot of notebooks. Stay tuned for our Core i7-8550U comparisons!

All laptops with Intel Core i5-8250U

Acer Swift 3 (SF315-51)
  • Intel Core i5-8250U
  • Intel UHD Graphics 620
  • 256GB SSD
  • 8GB RAM
Acer Swift 3 (SF314-52)
  • Intel Core i5-8250U
  • NVIDIA GeForce MX150 (2GB GDDR5)
  • 256GB SSD
  • 8GB RAM
Lenovo IdeaPad 320S (15.6″)
  • Intel Core i5-8250U
  • NVIDIA GeForce 1040
  • 256GB SSD
  • 8GB RAM

All laptops with Intel Core i5-7300HQ

Dell Inspiron 15 5577
  • Intel Core i5-7300HQ
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 (4GB GDDR5)
  • 1000GB HDD
  • 8GB RAM
MSI GL62M (7TH GEN)
  • Intel Core i5-7300HQ
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 (2GB GDDR5)
  • 256GB SSD
  • 8GB RAM
Dell Inspiron 15 5577
  • Intel Core i5-7300HQ
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 (4GB GDDR5)
  • 256GB SSD
  • 8GB RAM

(laptomedia.com, https://goo.gl/HzXL7u)

Pro-Ject Debut Carbon review

OUR VERDICT

The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is the perfect starter turntable for audiophiles. It’s easy to setup and use, and lets you upgrade parts over time. The Carbon sounds excellent with the included 2M Red cartridge and offers stellar damping for the price. You can’t go wrong with Pro-Ject, especially at this price point.

FOR

  • Gorgeous design
  • Well damped against vibration
  • Easy to set up
  • Full sound with dynamic range

AGAINST

  • Manual speed change

If you’re wondering what’s the difference between a cheap, inexpensive turntable and ones exalted by audiophiles, it comes down to design, damping, materials and the phono cartridge. A $99 turntable will play records just fine, but you’ll want to spend more if sound quality is your goal.

$400 (£349, AU$550) may sound like a lot to spend on a turntable, but entry-level hi-fi turntables like the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon are actually a bargain.

In the case of the Debut Carbon, the turntable comes with the excellent Ortofon 2M Red phono cartridge as well as a lightweight and rigid carbon fiber tonearm – parts that separate the Pro-Ject from its competitors and the benefits pay off in sonic performance.

Said simply, if you’re serious about record collecting, the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is one of the best entry-level hi-fi turntables you can buy. For the money, you’re getting a beautiful, well-built turntable that sounds excellent. It’s easy to setup and use, even for absolute beginners.

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Design

Our Pro-ject Debut Carbon came in piano black but Pro-ject offers a few variants of the Debut Carbon in white, gray, yellow, red, green, blue and purple. It’s nice to see a legit turntable manufacturer offer colors that aren’t black or silver to show off your personality.

The turntable platter is made out of medium density fiberboard (MDF), which offers good damping for noise isolation from footsteps and vibrations from speakers. The turntable rests on non-adjustable rubberized feet that also aid in damping the turntable from vibration.

Take a look at the motor and you’ll find that it’s decoupled from the turntable via a rubber suspension system. This design ensures that the vibration of the motor doesn’t transfer through the platter, your record and to the needle.

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Speaking of the platter, it’s heavy made of metal, topped with a thin, felt mat. The platter is shockingly heavy but that’s a good thing as it is one more way Pro-Ject fights noise and vibration. The only downside is that you’ll have to pick up the heavy platter every time you need to switch from 33 ⅓ and 45 rpm. Switching speeds requires moving the belt between the upper and lower pulley, which is an annoyance but not a deal breaker.

The defining feature that separates the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon from the competition is its single-piece carbon fiber tonearm. Beyond simply looking good, carbon fiber helps fight resonance with its stiff construction and natural damping abilities. It’s also lightweight and helps with tracking records smoothly.

Lastly, the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon comes with a clear acrylic dust cover. It’s attached to the turntable via two metal rods and doesn’t affect the sound quality of the turntable, though you will hear the thud of the cover when you close it when a record is playing, but that’s normal.

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Setup

There’s nothing worse than buying a new record player and having no clue where to start. Thankfully, setting up the Debut Carbon is simple, even for beginners just getting into the hobby. This is due in no small part to the included manual which simply and clearly explains where everything goes.

The most difficult part of the setup was balancing the tonearm, which simply requires you to make sure the tonearm is level before setting the tracking force.

Setting anti-skate is a bit different with the Pro-Ject, as it uses a small weight on fishing line to fight the needle’s natural movement to go toward the center of the record while it plays. It’s not as easy to use as a dial but you won’t be fiddling with your anti-skate much unless you’re constantly switching phono cartridges.

Around the back of the turntable, you’ll find RCA outputs and a ground peg, which means it’s super simple to replace worn cables in the future. Pro-Ject includes a beautiful cable in the box for you to connect to your phono preamp. Note that the Debut Carbon doesn’t include a phono preamp so you’ll have to pick one up on your own.

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There’s no need to align the cartridge as the included Ortofon 2M Red comes mounted to the tonearm out of the box. This is great for beginners as aligning a phono cartridge can be the most difficult part of setting up a turntable.

If you do decide to switch cartridges sometime down the road, however, Pro-Ject includes a simple protractor in the box.

Performance

If you’re spending $400/£349 on a turntable, it had better sound good and we’re happy to report that the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon sounds spectacular.

Every little attention to detail for damping has paid off as the Pro-Ject doesn’t pick up any noise from the motor and does an amicable job of neutralizing footsteps. However, you’ll want to make sure you place the turntable on a solid surface or buy an isolation rack to completely eliminate the sound of footsteps.

The included Ortofon 2M Red does a good job of pulling detail out of records. It tracks nicely and has good dynamic range. Whereas cheaper turntables like the Denon DP-300F make cymbals sound splashy and harsh, the 2M Red makes them sound smoother and more life-like. While you won’t get the micro-details and expansive air that more expensive phono cartridges are capable of, the 2M Red is a perfectly good starting point on your audio journey.

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In terms of tonal balance, the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon and Ortofon 2M Red combination sounds neutral with crystalline highs and velvety mid-range. Bass is adequate but may disappoint audiophiles who prefer a slightly warm tilt.

We talked a lot about Pro-Ject’s attention to detail when to comes to damping and it pays off in sonic performance. The turntable is extremely quiet, which lets you hear more of the record itself instead of the hum of a motor or the subtle vibration of an a poorly damped turntable.

The carbon tonearm definitely helps cut down resonance, allowing you to hear more of the record and less of the equipment that it’s playing on.

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Verdict

The Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is well built, beautifully designed and just sounds awesome. It’s not the most resolving turntable but you wouldn’t expect it to be at this price range. When looking at the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon as a package, it’s hard to think of another turntable in this price range that can top it.

While it’s still incredibly easy to use (especially for anyone used to setting up more complicated players), you are giving up conveniences like auto start/stop, an anti-skate dial and a built-in phono preamp but for audiophiles, none of these downsides matter as the turntable’s sonic performance vastly outweighs its minor trade offs.

For those who want a set-it-and-forget-it experience, check out the Denon DP-300F. It doesn’t sound nearly as good, but it’s the simplest way to start listening to records with its automatic tonearm and built-in preamp.

While it’s not the cheapest record player on the shelf, the Pro-Ject Debut Carbon is still an incredible value. We can’t recommend this turntable enough.

(techradar.com, https://goo.gl/qNa2oM)

 

myPhone Hammer Axe Pro review

OUR VERDICT

If you like the myPhone Hammer Axe Pro, you’ll probably like the Nomu S30 even more – it’s the same phone with a different logo and a 52% price cut. That said, as a mid-range ruggedized device, the Axe Pro shines thanks to a refreshing design and a good choice of components.

FOR

  • Attractive design
  • Dual SIM and microSD, plus NFC
  • Big battery
  • No bloatware

AGAINST

  • Price
  • No notification lights

We reviewed the Hammer Axe Pro from myPhone earlier this year. Well, not the exact model here, but the ODM (original design manufacturer) version from a Hong-Kong based vendor called Nomu. The S30, as it is known, impressed us back then thanks to a balanced combination of grunt and keen pricing (you can see the two phones next to each other in the following two screenshots below) .

With a retail price of just over £173 ($230) at the time of writing (purchased from Geekbuying and including delivery but not local taxes), the Nomu S30 is indeed a bargain.

fYqzQuHZem7AMXNMhRJnAE-650-80

However, there are instances when buying from a non-European country may not be a particularly enticing option, because of issues such as value added taxes, business support, the need for localization or other similar restrictions.

That’s probably why Polish-based company myPhone chose to build its business model on “localizing” smartphones like the S30, thereby mitigating the business risks associated with buying a ruggedized smartphone from somewhere like China.

(That said, you can buy the Nomu S30 for as little as £219.99 – $295 – fulfilled by Amazon).

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Design

The Hammer Axe Pro is a chunky smartphone – measuring 162 x 83 x 13.35mm, and weighing 270g – but this handset is different in its look and feel from most of the competition. It eschews the traditional rubbery, utilitarian look of many of its rivals for something more subtle.

The manufacturer opted for a more stylish design with a textured back – polycarbonate plastic is the dominant material used in its chassis which has a titanium alloy structure.

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The biggest selling point of the Hammer Axe Pro is that it is IP68-rated; this means that it should withstand being immersed in 1.5m of water for up to 30 minutes. Nomu claims that the S30 should be able to survive underwater for two hours to depths of up to 5m – and that’s likely to be the case for the Axe Pro as well.

The audio connector is located at the top of the Axe Pro and the microUSB port at the other end, with both being covered by flaps which are cumbersome to remove every time you have to charge your phone or connect a pair of headphones. We’d prefer to have both located at the same end of the device, ideally.

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Note that the USB port doesn’t requires a USB cable with a longer-than-usual connector as is the case with many of its competitors.

There’s one speaker located at the bottom of the Hammer Axe Pro. A programmable SOS key can be found on one side of the phone while the other hosts the power button and a volume rocker switch which can be used as a camera button. There are no notification lights, though.

The front of the phone plays host to three capacitive buttons and there’s no fingerprint reader. Check out the original Nomu S30 review for a more detailed look at the design.

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Hardware

Back in January, the S30 was the most powerful rugged smartphone on the market. Since then, however, Blackview’s BV8000 Pro, the Doogee S60 and the AGM X1 have surpassed it in terms of raw performance and functionality.

That’s not to say that it is a run-of-the-mill handset. The Mediatek P10 system-on-a-chip is still a very capable model, clocked at 2GHz with eight cores. 4GB of system memory (LPDDR3) and 64GB of eMMC 5.1 storage means that it will easily run the latest version of Android.

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The 5.5-inch Full HD IPS display is covered by a Gorilla Glass 3 overlay and delivers vibrant colors even in bright sunlight outside. Two microSIM slots and one microSD card slot can be found under a cover at the back; you can use all three at the same time unlike many rivals

Connectivity-wise, you’ve got Bluetooth 4 and 802.11n Wi-Fi, and even NFC. The front-facing camera is a 5-megapixel shooter (Omnivision OV5648) while the one at the back is a 13-megapixel affair (Sony IMX214) that can record in Full HD. The phone is powered by a massive 5,000mAh battery and supports fast charging thanks to a 6V,2A charger.

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In use

We couldn’t get the Hammer Axe Pro to install the latest firmware – the smartphone would crash and spew some gibberish text, which was a bit problematic.

The Hammer Axe Pro runs Android 7.0 – surprisingly, Nomu itself has yet to confirm when Android 7.0 will ship for the S30.

The screen is a fingerprint-magnet thanks to the lack of an oleophobic layer. Fortunately, this doesn’t apply to the rest of the chassis.

We didn’t detect any noticeable lag when operating the smartphone. myPhone (and Nomu) has kept the phone remarkably bloatware-free, aside from myPhone’s own registration app. This is in stark contrast to most of the rugged smartphones we’ve tested until now.

Performance is more than acceptable on the nine benchmarks we tested with. The Hammer Axe Pro is a capable mid-range smartphone, that much is clear.

Final verdict

The Hammer Axe Pro costs £364 ($490) from Amazon, which is about twice the price of the Nomu S30, a 110% margin to be more precise. You don’t get a lot more for that premium, however, and as a result you’ll definitely be better off buying the Nomu S30 (or indeed two of them for the money).

If you can live with the quirks of the original S30 and the risk associated with importing a product without local insurance, then it is an absolute no-brainer bargain. However, if you want the peace of mind associated with a local company that can give you a VAT refund, then the Axe Pro might be a better option.

(techradar.com, https://goo.gl/D7t6it)

Hands on: Marshall Stanmore Multi-room Speaker review

OUR EARLY VERDICT

Do you need wireless music this loud? Probably not, but this easy to use and iconically designed speaker copes well with lossless tunes via AirPlay, ChromeCast and Spotify Connect.

FOR

  • AirPlay, ChromeCast, Bluetooth & Spotify Connect
  • Attractive black vinyl design with brass buttons
  • Punch, bassy … and loud!

AGAINST

  • Big, heavy build
  • No remote control
  • High price

Editor’s note: As of the time of writing we have been unable to test the multi-room features of the Marshall Stanmore, and as such this hands on review has been compiled on the basis of its Bluetooth and Wi-Fi performance. This review will be upgraded to a full review (complete with final score) once we have received a second speaker to pair it with. 

Review continues below…

Have you ever been to a gig that doesn’t have a Marshall speaker somewhere on the stage? Renowned for its guitar amps it may be, but the Marshall brand is here used to sell multi-room music under the auspices of Zound Industries.

And the result is a classic rock sound. Wireless Bluetooth speakers may be all the rage, but Zound recently upgraded all of its Marshall speakers by adding WiFi, instantly bringing into play must-have lossless streaming features like AirPlay, ChromeCast and Spotify Connect. However, Bluetooth remains on all Marshall speakers, too.

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Not that you’ll be taking the upgraded Stanmore speaker anywhere but into your living room or kitchen for a permanent stay. The middle-sized of Marshall’s three refreshed multi-room speakers, the Stanmore boasts a chunky, amp-like design, as does the even bigger Woburn speaker, with only the smaller Acton designed for mobility.

Crucially, none of them come with a remote control, instead relying solely on the free Marshall Multi-Room app. There are people who would never pay $450 (£399 / AU$573) for a music system without a dedicated remote control, but it’s completely understandable given that the Stanmore’s standout features all rely on its phone-based capabilities.

Design

At 350x185x185mm and 4.7kg, the Stanmore is a beast. It may be small for a guitar amp, but as far as Bluetooth and multi-room speakers go it’s incredibly large. The Stanmore is all about the big sound, and we get that. This is a Marshall product, after all.

Made from wood, and covered in black vinyl just like an amp, the Stanmore has familiar rounded corners, a flexible speaker grille with gold edging, and intensely retro brass knobs on the top. It may lack a remote control, but the Stanmore’s volume, bass, treble and source knobs are a stylistic stand-out.

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The iconic Marshall brass knobs are a great design touch.

Nearby are two tiny track-skip buttons and a 3.5 mm aux. input for attaching a phone, laptop or a turntable. There’s also a button for toggling between its multi-room and single source modes. On the back, there’s a right and left-channel RCA audio inputs, intended for a turntable. So despite its plethora of connections – more than a Sonos Play:5, for sure – the Stanmore cuts a streamlined, if retro look.

Features

Design-wise it might be from the 1970s, but on the inside the Stanmore is all about connectivity, with WiFi the big addition alongside the existing Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity.

Chromecast, Spotify Connect and AirPlay compatible, the Stanmore has Internet radio, too; all of that is configured via the Marshall Multi-Room app. Inside the Stanmore are a 50W class D amplifier for the woofer and two 15W class D amplifiers for the tweeters. That’s 80W in total; we’re expecting some big noise.

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Set-up

If you want get the Stanmore up and running immediately, it’s to Bluetooth you should head. A quick flick to Bluetooth mode on the top dial, easy pairing, and you’re away. As it successfully pairs, an audible guitar riff plays through the Stanmore’s speaker. It’s a bit naff, but it’s short.

Connecting via AirPlay took a little longer, but eventually we linked it to WiFi over a 2.4 GHz connection. Once that was done it was all about the app. You can choose which mode you put it into via the app, but critical for proper personalisation are the seven presets where you can store shortcuts to specific Internet radio stations, podcasts, or Spotify playlists.

That does make it a lot easier to navigate and use quickly, particularly since you can toggle between them on the source dial on top of the Stanmore as well as via the app. There’s also a simple equaliser section within the app where you can change the volume, bass and treble levels of the Stanmore.

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The companion app can be used to set up specific audio profiles.

Performance

For all its iconic design riffs, the Stanmore is all about sound quality. The advantage of using WiFi is, of course, lossless sound quality, and it’s here that the Stanmore really excels.

While Bluetooth music lacks depth and width, tunes streamed to the Stanmore first via AirPlay and then via Spotify from an iPhone were exceptionally full, with vocals detailed and bass-lines given a tremendous lift.

We especially liked the way the bass and treble knobs bring only a slight tweak to the overall sound, showing the maker’s well-placed confidence in its overall balance. Left about half-way they lend the sound field a lot of accuracy no matter what you’re listening to.

Ditto for volume, which goes extremely loud. Far too loud, in fact, for any room in your house – though there’s zero distortion. A tiny criticism is that AirPlay tracks take a second or two to start on the Stanmore, and we also noticed the occasional double-start (but that could have been our WiFi network).

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A 3.5mm jack is included if you’d like to hardwire your music source.

Early verdict

What we most like about the Stanmore is its sound quality. Okay, so it comes at the cost of having to house a rather big, bulky speaker on your bookshelf, but that’s a small price to pay for some well-rounded, detailed, but most of all, bassy and loud tunes we’ve ever streamed from phone. We also loved the styling, especially the brass knobs, which make it easy to control when your phone is otherwise disposed – or it’s being controlled by someone else’s phone.

That said, its lack of remote control is going to bother some people, especially those that use the Stanmore as a single speaker, with a turntable attached. And while we’re not saying that the Marshall isn’t worth that high price – it sounds great and the build quality is excellent – does anyone really want to pay that much for a Wi-fi Hi-Fi?

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Here’s a great example of a wireless multi-room speaker that is excellent, but over-specified for most users. We love the fact that you can daisy-chain it to other products from Marshall, and the sound quality is consistently excellent. The recognisable and thoroughly iconic design is great, too, and will especially suit anyone with a musical heritage. Set-up was reasonably easy and the lossless sound quality impressive. The lack of a remote control may  bother some, but the brass buttons on the device itself are very pleasing to the eye, as well as being functional. We loved ’em.

However, the 80W Stanmore is expensive – not over-priced, but over-specified – because it will almost certainly be too powerful a speaker for your living room or kitchen. It’s for that reason that we would suggest you first try out the more affordable Marshall Acton, a 40W version of this multi-room speaker, before opting for the Stanmore. But if you want power and a unique look, the Stanmore is really hard to match for multi-room.

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

Ring Video Doorbell 2 review: A doorbell for the connected generation

Ring is the trend-setter and market leader in smart, connected video doorbells. Not only do such devices provide the ability to communicate with delivery drivers when you’re not at home, they’re relatively affordable motion-sensing security cameras.

The Ring Video Doorbell 2 looks a lot like the original device. However, there are a few very welcome additions and improvements to the sequel which ensure it remains competitive – despite Nest just having launched its own, more slim-line product.

  • Removable battery
  • Ships with two face plates (black/silver)
  • Angled mounts for tricky locations
  • Backplate for swapping out first-gen

The first-generation Ring Video Doorbell was a metal clad rectangle that, as doorbells go, was fairly large. In that regard, the second-generation is the same – it’s actually a tad bigger than the first.

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With that larger size comes a few key improvements in design and installation terms. The most important and necessary of which is the removable battery. Like the first model, you can install the bell to run on existing power from an older doorbell. But the most popular method of installation is wire-free, using power from an internal battery.

In the older model, you’d have to remove the entire doorbell from its backplate in order to charge it whenever the battery ran out every few months. With the second-gen model you don’t need to do that – instead, simply unscrew the faceplate from beneath the doorbell, push a level/catch that holds the battery in place, and the battery slides out.

There’s only one battery included as standard, so when charging you’ll still be without a functioning doorbell for the few hours it takes to rejuice. However, it is possible to buy a second battery for £20 – meaning you’ll not need to have any doorbell downtime. Simply swap out the empty for a full one, then leave it in place until that one depletes over a few months – yep, months – and swap them back over again.

Swappable faceplates is a new feature for the Ring Doorbell 2, too, with both a silver and matte black fascias to cover the bottom portion of the doorbell (where the button and its surrounding LED light right lives).

The Ring Video Doorbell 2 also ships with a couple of new mounting brackets, specifically designed to install it on tricky doors, or just to angle it in a particular way. One allows you to point the camera to the right or left at a slight angle, while the other lets you point it up or down slightly.

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If you’re a first-gen owner who is itching to upgrade, you’ll be glad to know that the second-gen ships with a mounting plate which will allow you to mount it where the first-gen model is. That means no drilling more holes into your exterior wall, or making new holes in your door frame.

For new owners, installation is pretty simple: just drill four well-placed holes where you want the doorbell to live, then use the included wall plugs and screws to fix it in place. It takes very little time.

  • Motion Sensing up to 30ft
  • Captures footage of motion
  • Chime Pro sold separately for in-home audio/ring

The initial setup process for the Ring doorbell is very similar to any other smart device connection setup. First, download the Ring app, then press the setup button on the front of the doorbell (this is hidden by the fascia after you’ve got it up and running) to get the doorbell speaking with your home Wi-Fi network.

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The rest of the process is just customising its features to suit your preferences. As an example, you can alter how sensitive you want the motion sensor to be, with a range of five to 30 feet. You can also switch off particular zones – which is useful if you have a wall running alongside on side of the camera’s view.

In real-life use the Ring Doorbell 2 works as reliably as the first-generation model. Whenever it detects body heat moving within its zones, it can send a notification to your phone (if you choose for to set it up that way), and then captures around 20-seconds of footage. This works in the day and the night, thanks to night vision capabilities.

However, as the device doesn’t have the ability to recognise an object as a person, it often triggers an alert if a vehicle drives down your road within view of the camera. This depends mostly on the heat signature given off by the vehicle. In our case, it rarely happened with cars, and only tended to trigger the alert if it was a large truck or van.

Thankfully, Ring does give you the option to schedule your motion sensor alerts. So, if you’re home a lot and not worried about being burgled in broad daylight, you can change the schedule to match when you’re at home. This undoubtedly helps the battery to last longer too.

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When someone presses the doorbell button, you can speak directly to them through the app on your phone, from anywhere in the world. Both Android and iPhone are supported natively, and there are also apps for PC and Mac.

However, the latest Ring Doorbell still exhibits a noticeable delay between motion detection or the doorbell button being pressed and when a notification makes it through to your connected device. It’s only a couple of seconds at most, but it’s much the same as it was with the first-gen device.

Also there’s no in-home audio, i.e. the doorbell doesn’t actually “ring”, unless you buy a Chime Pro (which also acts as a Wi-Fi extender).

  • New 1080p video resolution
  • Night vision camera improvements
  • Wide 160-degree viewing angle
  • £2.40/month or £24/year cloud storage subscription fee

Apart from the removable battery, the other main improvement in the Ring Video Doorbell 2 is the camera. Rather than stream in 720p, this new unit captures and streams 1080p resolution video. What’s more, we’ve noticed a huge improvement in colour saturation.

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The extra detail is clearly noticeable compared to the first-gen model. Which, while useful when talking to a delivery worker, is more vital if there’s an uninvited person at your door, or you need footage to help a police investigation.

As for the night vision camera, that’s supposedly been improved as well – although we found those gains hard to detect. It still works really well, however, just as it did in the first device – if someone comes close to the Ring Doorbell in the night, it’ll trigger the motion sensor and capture black and white footage.

As you’d expect, you don’t get the same level of detail as you would in the daytime. Especially if the person’s face is quite close to the camera. In these instances, the infrared tends to blow out the face exposure, so facial details aren’t as clear. A variable output based on proximity would be preferable, if plausible.

Video captured from the Ring Doorbell 2 is stored in the cloud which, naturally, means a monthly subscription to access this footage. For one camera it’s £2.40 per month, or £24 for 12 months. Footage is saved for 60 days, which is plenty of time to download anything notable.

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If you don’t wish to pay the subscription then you’ll still get access to the live camera feed, meaning you can still chat to your visitors remotely, but you can’t watch any captured footage after the fact.

With every new Ring Doorbell product a one-month free trial is included to help you decide whether you want/need the stored footage, or you just want to use it on a live-stream basis.

Verdict

The original Ring Doorbell was the market-leader in smart video doorbells. The second-generation looks to keep up this success by improving on a number of areas – a removable battery, 1080p capture and included mounts/fascias – but there’s no significant reason to upgrade if you own the original.

There are a couple of downsides too. Firstly, it’s quite a big unit – which may not suit those with limited space for installation. Secondly, its performance is reliant on a good Wi-Fi network, so if your front door is nowhere near your wireless router then it might struggle to connect. A Wi-Fi extender, mesh network system or buying Chime Pro will fix this problem.

The Ring Video Doorbell is an incredibly useful device – both a method to communicate with visitors when you’re not home, and as a security camera. It’s not perfect, but it’s convenient and can be a very useful tool to identify and catch burglars in the act.

(pocket-lint.com, https://goo.gl/p4YYBm)

Optoma UHD65 review

Two technologies have become vital for getting the most out of the latest movies and TV shows – 4K resolution, and High Dynamic Range (HDR).

But while there’s an increasing number of 4K HDR Blu-rays on the market, and similar content is widely available via streaming, getting compatible projectors – without venturing in to ‘money-no-object’ territory – is a wee bit more challenging.

Optoma’s latest projector, the UHD65, is up for that challenge. Even more impressively, it manages to pull it off – and in some style.

Features

Giving the UHD65 its 4K capability is one of Texas Instruments’ DLP chips with XPR technology. This chip isn’t native 4K, but rather has a resolution of 4.15m pixels – half that of Ultra HD.

However, through a form of pixel shifting, which rapidly fires two lower-resolution images at the screen, it produces a 4K image – or at least a picture manufacturers can claim to be 4K.

Alongside that, the projector can handle HDR, providing you with more subtlety in colours gradients than ‘normal’ Blu-rays.

While the other HDR formats – like Dolby Vision, or HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) for broadcast content – aren’t supported by this projector, it’s still a reasonables spec list.

Optoma has also added in a ‘SDR [Standard Dynamic Range] to HDR’ conversion setting it says provides enhanced contrast, detail and colours to SDR Blu-rays.

However, with this setting enabled the image looks overcooked – and any increase in detail is difficult to make out. As such, we wouldn’t recommend using it.

There are two HDMI ports on the back of the UHD65 – one is HDCP2.2-compatible, so will support 4K HDR content – and two VGA connections (for computers), an ethernet port, a USB for powering streaming sticks, and an array of other connections that can control the projector through a home network and make it simple for custom installers to, well, install.

You also get a couple of audio ports, including a 3.5mm analogue and digital optical.

The Optoma has two 4-watt speakers, but for a rather more enjoyable sound experience we would recommend pairing it with a good sound system. Sound is half of the home cinema experience, after all.

Setting up the UHD65 is straightforward. Its backlit remote is easy to use, with dedicated buttons for user configurations and quick access to the projector’s sources.

Our one criticism is there are too many buttons, in fact. The ‘3D’ and ‘Keystone’ buttons are useless to this projector, which is a little annoying.

Build

The UHD65 is smaller than you might expect for a 4K HDR projector, measuring around 50cm wide and around 30cm deep. The throw ratio comes out at 2.22:1, and the projector has a claimed 1,200,000:1 contrast ratio with 2200 lumens coming from its bulb.

Zooming and focusing the lens is all manual, and you access the controls for these by popping open on a flap on the top of the projector.

It’s not a particularly elegant design but, once installed, it’s unlikely to bother you again.

Peformance

We dim the lights and set up the projector using a THX Optimizer disc and our Panasonic DMP-UB900 Blu-ray player.

After making the usual adjustments regarding brightness and contrast so it looks its best in our room, we dive into the more advanced settings.

We move the sharpness up a couple of degrees to get the crispest detail out of the UHD65, and turn off the PureContrast, PureColour and UltraDetail settings.

We find the first two make the picture too intense, while UltraDetail brings unnatural sharpness and loses some of the nuance in the process.

We put PureMotion onto its lowest setting, though, to make movements a little smoother without looking unnaturally processed.

It’s also worth noting that, despite the UHD65 having a Rec.709 colour gamut, Optoma claims the HDR display mode preset actually has a wider colour range than that available on its other settings.

Consequently you’ll want to put it into that mode when watching HDR content ,while changing to its Reference mode (or a custom User setting) for SDR viewing. It’s a shame that the UHD65 doesn’t do that automatically.

Once set up, the UHD65 has an impressive handling of colour – and really comes into its own during bright scenes.

Play Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2 and the colourful red and green foliage of Ego’s planet (or Ego himself) pops nicely against the pastel landscape, but still contrasts well against the bright blue-white tendrils of light that catch our heroes’ ship as they land.

The difference between Ego and Starlord’s skin-tones and the backdrop of the alien world is carefully balanced, the UHD65 managing to look natural while capturing the vibrancy of the new planet.

There’s a good range of hues to Gamora’s green skin and Drax’s purple/red muscles too. It doesn’t skimp on detail either, providing an insightful rendition of Starlord’s hair and the glimmer of cosmic lights in his eyes as Ego tries to brainwash him at the climax of the film.

During their final fight scene, lobbing huge rocks at each other or crushing other characters into the dirt, the UHD65 captures the craggy textures and the granularity of earth with precision.

As hero and villain fly around the planet’s core, the projector manages to keep up with the rapid movement with surprisingly few alarms.

There is occasionally a small amount of noise in some areas, which is a touch distracting – though hardly enough to be a dealbreaker.

Compared to some more expensive 4K HDR projectors we’ve seen, the UHD65 doesn’t extract quite as much detail in dimly lit scenes.

It has difficulty making out the fabric of Yondu’s jacket or the minor details in the darker areas of the shot. But we haven’t seen another projector perform this well at this price before.

Changing to a Full HD Blu-ray of Pacific Rim, we’re pleased to see the same characteristics. While there’s an expected drop in the range and richness of colours, the UHD65 still provides an enjoyable and insightful image.

If you have a collection of DVDs the UHD65 will upscale it adequately, too. There’s significantly less noise on The Truman Show from this projector than we’ve seen from similarly-priced competitors – the image is perfectly watchable.

Verdict

Considering our current favourite projector at this price point, the Sony VPL-HW65ES, is neither 4K- nor HDR-compatible, those looking for a top-notch projector should give the Optoma UHD65 serious consideration.

It may not have all the bells and whistles of a high-end 4K projector, but it is future-proof and should keep you happy for years. At this price, the Optoma looks the one to beat.

(whathifi.com, https://goo.gl/whX4vo)

 

 

2017 Cadillac ATS Coupe review

THE GOOD: Cadillac’s 2.0-liter turbo engine delivers big power, while also returning respectable fuel economy. Handling capabilities match or surpass its German competition. Exterior design is distinctive, while cabin build quality is high.

THE BAD: The old CUE system continues to handle infotainment duties in the cabin with unresponsive captive-touch controls. Navigation system is very slow to start up and calculate routes. Rougher ride quality when equipped with optional performance suspension package.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Caddy’s ATS Coupe delivers style and world-class performance that more people really should take notice of.

The 2017 Cadillac ATS Coupe disappoints a couple of friends shortly after I take delivery for a week-long evaluation. “Oh, it’s not the ATS-V?” they both say. No, my test car isn’t General Motors’ 464-horsepower performance monster, it’s a base model with a turbocharged four-cylinder and an eight-speed automatic gearbox. They are unimpressed.

Still quite a performer

At first glance, writing off the ATS Coupe, as my two comrades did, may seem easy. But take a closer look at the drivetrain and you’ll see that this entry-level Caddy’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is nothing to sneeze at. With 272 hp and 295 pound-feet of torque, the ATS outmuscles same-sized turbo mills in the Mercedes-Benz C300 Coupe(241 hp, 273 pound-feet), BMW 430i (248 hp, 258 pound-feet) and Audi A5 (252 hp, 273 pound-feet).

Off the line, the ATS fires forward rapidly and with no turbo lag, delivering potent thrust all the way up to its engine’s 7,000-rpm redline. The deeper tone from my tester’s optional performance exhaust system adds to the experience. Shift performance from the eight-speed auto transmission is brisk, but not quite as quick and buttery as the ZF units in the Audi and BMW.

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Not only is the drivetrain peppy, it’s fairly efficient. EPA estimates call for 22 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.

Most impressive of all is the ATS’ handling, especially with the available V-Sport suspension that brings stiffer springs, dampers and Bridgestone Potenza RE050A summer tires to the party. Pairing the upgraded hardware with a rock-solid platform creates a coupe with superb grip and a keen sense of balance that encourages quick changes of direction.

The whole thing feels light on its feet because, well, the ATS is light compared to its trio of German rivals. At just over 3,400 pounds, the ATS weighs over 150 pounds less than BMW’s 430i, while being roughly 200 pounds trimmer than Audi’s A5 and Benz’s C300 Coupe.

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Hefty steering feel and respectable feedback adds to the ATS’ engaging drive experience, as does a strong brake package featuring four-piston front Brembo calipers. My test car’s binders have a bit more bite thanks to more aggressive pads clamping down on slotted rotors, a worthwhile option at $1,190.

Unfortunately, the ATS’ nimble handling does come with tradeoffs. Ride quality suffers with the low-profile performance run-flat tires and firmer suspension. You feel impacts from ruts and potholes in the cabin, and some tire noise is also noticeable.

A visual standout

Admittedly, I’m not a fan of Cadillac’s design language on its sedans. To my eye, the ATS sedan and CTS look soft and uninspiring. However, on the ATS coupe, sharper and more defined lines work, giving it a distinct appearance that helps set it apart from rounder German designs.

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With the accessory V-Series rear spoiler, various black chrome trim pieces and 18-inch wheels, the ATS is without a doubt a looker, but I still prefer the appearance of the 4 Series, A5 and especially Benz’s C-Class Coupe.

Inside the cabin, materials are of excellent quality with nice leather, stitched microfiber accents and carbon fiber trim. Front seats are comfortable and offer respectable side support to keep occupants happy. As for the backseat, that’s another matter entirely — limited head- and legroom means the second row is best for small children, if not shopping bags. In a pinch, folding up an adult or two in the back will work for short trips.

Tired infotainment but tons of safety tech

Cadillac User Interface, CUE, soldiers on in the ATS Coupe to handle infotainment functions with its 8-inch touchscreen and missing-in-action physical volume and tuning knobs. The aging interface’s navigation system still takes its sweet time to load up and calculate routes, and the capacitive-touch controls on smudge-prone piano-black surfaces still aren’t responsive enough to inputs. It’s a frustrating system to use.

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CUE still has some positives, of course. There’s Apple CarPlay and Android Autocompatibility and an OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot and Bose surround sound audio. There’s also a wireless charging pad locating in the compartment behind the center screen. It’s sized right for my Samsung Galaxy S6, but it’s too small to allow bigger phones like a Galaxy Note to lay flat.

A smorgasbord of available ATS safety technologies includes personal favorites such as Side Blind Zone Alert and Rear Vision Camera with Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning works well, gently nudging me back into the center of the lane a couple of times during my week of testing, and Forward Collision Alert triggers once when traffic comes to an abrupt halt. At no time do any of the ATS’ safety gadgets go off unwarranted, suggesting that tuning is on point.

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My ATS Coupe

For my ideal base ATS Coupe, I would start with a rear-wheel-drive Luxury model to get adaptive high-intensity discharge headlights, front and rear parking sensors and heated front seats and steering wheel, because I deal with Michigan winters.

In the name of driving entertainment, my ideal car would be fitted with a six-speed manual transmission, the $2,265 V-Sport suspension package and $1,650 exhaust system. For more heavily-bolstered Recaro seats and style, I’d also opt for the $2,950 Carbon Black package with sharper-looking wheels, black chrome exterior trim and rear spoiler on a car with Phantom Grey Metallic paint.

Since I’m a big fan of Side Blind Zone Alert, the $1,500 safety and security package would also be a requirement.

With all those options, my dream ATS Coupe’s $42,390 base price jumps up to $51,350, but that still comes in under the $54,445 MSRP of the car shown in these pictures (all prices include a $995 destination charge).

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Give it some respect

While respect for the ATS Coupe is in short supply from my friends, my admiration for this two-door only grows over my week of testing. Caddy’s focus on building engaging vehicles not only pays off in flagships like the ATS-V and CTS-V, but even in entry-level models such as this ATS Coupe. At no time did I find myself disappointed by its driving experience. Instead I walked away from each trip in the ATS Coupe thinking about how solid and well-sorted it is.

Sure, its shortcomings include a bumpier ride and lackluster CUE infotainment, but this Caddy is a strong package that is without doubt a worthy alternative to the A5, 4 Seriesand C-Class Coupe. Unfortunately, very slow sales for both the ATS coupe and sedan suggest that few people know just how good this car is, but more than likely, that just means that better deals are available for those who take the time to find out.

(cnet.com, https://goo.gl/oH7pp2)

GPD Pocket Ubuntu Editon Review

PROS

  • Terrific build quality and design
  • Generous RAM size
  • Bright, high-resolution screen for its size

CONS

  • Painful keyboard layout
  • Poor thermal management
  • No microSD card slot

Netbooks are often ridiculed as a solution looking for a problem but they are also regarded as the ancestors of present day Chromebooks and “cloudbooks”. With the resurgence of these more modern but still low-performance devices, it might seem that the netbook is due for a revival as well. Or so that seems to be the proposition GPD makes with its almost literal Pocket computer. But does that make more sense now than it did before, especially in an age of powerful smartphones? We take the Ubuntu Edition of the GPD Pocket for a good and thorough testing to find out.

Crowdfunding Drama

Unlike the netbooks that broke into the scene a few years back, the GPD Pocket didn’t arrive as a finished product. Like the GPD WIN before it, the Pocket is a product of crowdfunding, and a very successful one at that. GPD pitched the Pocket as its response to backers of the Windows-based, gaming-centric GPD WIN who appreciated the device’s small form factor but wanted a better typing experience than what the clamshell’s thumb keyboard offers. GPD was only too happy to oblige with a slightly larger screen and a larger keyboard. Whether it was able to deliver a better typing experience is, however, debatable.

But while the GPD is perhaps one of the most successfully funded campaigns on Indiegogo, its delivery wasn’t as stellar. Units went out over a month late, and the Ubuntu Edition units even much later. But even before backers could get their hands on the fruits of their investment, they saw the device pop up on some online retailers, ending up in a situation where non-backers are able to buy the GPD Pocket even before the backers. There has been no shortage of name-calling, mud-throwing, and even threats to call Indiegogo authorities but, eventually, most, but still not all, backers got their devices. The drama, however, doesn’t end there, as we’ll get to later.

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While GPD’s behavior, which sometimes included periods of silence, was definitely not ideal, one can’t discount the fact that crowdfunding always carries such risks. While a more established company, GPD is still a relatively small business operating in China. And despite the hiccups and bumps on the road, it was able to deliver for a second time. Hopefully they have learned their lessons already, if there will be a third.

Design and Build

In its pitch, GPD compared the Pocket to the MacBook in terms of design, and it wasn’t kidding. It might be a stretch to put it on the same level as a MacBook Air, but it definitely looks like a miniature MacBook. Unlike a MacBook, however, the GPD Pocket has no visible branding on its cover or even inside, something GPD promised and delivered to satisfaction.

For a never before seen device coming from China that costs $509, you might expect some cheap, mass-produced slab. The GPD WIN, which went on Indiegogo for $330, was, after all, mostly a plastic affair. Given that context, it’s almost shocking that GPD was able to pull off the quality of design and build of the GPD Pocket.

Much like the MacBook it was inspired from, the GPD Pocket’s body is all metal, giving it not just a sturdy structure but also some heft. At 480 grams, this is no lightweight computer, but it’s not a flimsy one either.

Despite its name, you’ll need very large pockets to slip in the GPD Pocket without looking ridiculous. At most, you can probably stow it away inside a jacket or coat pocket, but forget about tight jeans. At 180 x 106 x 18.5 mm, the mini laptop hits almost a sweet spot in terms of usability and portability. Forgot about typing with your thumbs, however, or even using it safely while standing up.

The overall design of the GPD Pocket is pleasantly clean. It has an industrial and utilitarian feel to it, much like a MacBook Pro. There are very few ports and holes on the GPD Pocket, and they are all happily located on the right side only. But while that does mean you won’t have cables running out from both sides of the device, it also means that you’ll have to ensure your connects don’t have overly wide connectors.

Not that there are many ports anyway. You have, in order, a full-sized USB 3.0 port, a headphone jack, a micro HDMI port, and a USB-C port for both charging and data. That’s pretty much it. Noticeable is the lack of a microSD card slot, which is one of backers’ biggest complaint about the device. GPD believes that 128 GB is enough for this kind of device.

At the end of those ports is a grille, not for the speakers, but for the Pocket’s always-on, mostly audible fan. You might want to ensure those holes aren’t blocked at all times. Where are the speakers, you ask? They’re actually behind the keyboard, hiding in between the keyboard and the display hinge. Just as amusing is the microphone location, which is hidden underneath the spacebar.

Specs

The GPD Pocket is labeled, derisively or otherwise, as a netbook because of two things: it’s diminutive size and is matching diminutive specs. The Pocket runs on an Intel Atom x7-Z8750, the highest model of the now deprecated processor series. The choice of processor isn’t exactly surprising, though still a bit disappointing. Despite having been practically abandoned by Intel, the Atom CPUs are still the most easily available and affordable low-power, fanless SoC small OEMs like GPD can put inside a mobile PC. The difference between an Atom and, say, a Core M in price and power consumption is just too great.

Sadly, the choice of the processor does severely limit some of the other hardware GPD can use. For example, that 128 GB of storage is of the slower and older eMMC type, not SSD as some might expect. Amusingly, while the Intel Atom is commonly adopted because of its fanless design, GPD opted to still use a fan in order to push the processor to its full capacity, with rather mixed results.

The rest of the GPD Pocket’s specs, however, are rather impressive. It has 8 GB of RAM, which is quite rare for small form devices such as this. It definitely helps in the multi-tasking part of its performance, truly marking the mini computer as a productivity device. Just as impressive is the screen, a bright and vibrant 7-inch panel with a resolution of 1920×1200. Most screens of this size usually default to 720p only, and those that do go Full HD tend to be more expensive. As a point of interest, the screen is actually designed for tablets meant to be used in portrait mode, which is why the display defaults to that orientation.

It’s not all roses, however. As mentioned, there is no storage expansion option on the Pocket, forcing users to plug in a USB flash or hard drive as the need arises. There is also no built-in 4G mode, which is becoming more common on laptops. That, however, would require far more costs and certifications than both GPD and its buyers might care to pay for. And finally, the 7,000 mAh battery is advertised to give 12 hours of use, which is the most optimistic, in fact unrealistic, estimate you’ll hear from a manufacturer.

Performance and Battery Life

That all looks great on paper and in photos, but the big question is whether it translates into the real world. This, unfortunately, is when the dream starts to break down a bit. The situation isn’t clear cut, however, especially without a more or less standard benchmarking tool for Linux like you would find for mobile or Windows.

Truth be told, the Intel Atom processor is largely underestimated. Throw in 8 GB of RAM and an active cooling system and you have the makings of a rather potent portable PC. Multiple browser tabs are no problem and so are multiple open applications. No, processing power isn’t your enemy here. Thermal throttling and management is.

The Intel Atom isn’t meant to be taxed to much, and, when it does, it crashes down hard. GPD applies a rather low thermal limit but when all cores are utilized and temperatures reach around 65C, you can find yourself looking at a completely frozen device with no other recourse but to hard reboot. Some have reported that disabling Intel’s Turbo Boost, which wold have let the CPUs go all the way from 1.6 GHz “safe” max to 2.4 GHz, resolves that. I’ve found it to be a hit or miss situation though. More adventurous users have opened up their GPD Pockets to replace the thermal paste with satisfactory results, but it’s not a path majority of owners will be willing to take.

Causes for temperatures to rise up can be pretty random. Sometimes it will happen when playing a YouTube video, sometimes when just changing some settings. Gaming is definitely one sure-fire way to hit those numbers. So while the hardware is quite capable of playing even 3D games in low settings, be prepared to always save a lot.

The fan is, ironically, always on. Unlike the GPD WIN, there is no hardware switch to turn it off. But also unlike the GPD WIN, the sound that the fan makes is quiet perceptible. It isn’t loud mind you, and it is easily drowned out by ambient noise. But it’s always there, like a mosquito buzzing around your ear. Given how audible it is, you’d hope it were powerful enough to keep the CPU always cool, which sadly isn’t the case.

Don’t expect the GPD Pocket to be a portable multimedia station either. At least not if you’re quite picky about sound. The tiny speakers produce tiny and tinny audio, with noticeable distortions at max volumes. On Linux, because of driver issues, there is also some crackling artifacts that could drive you nuts.

All in all, the GPD Pocket is a surprisingly powerful portable PC that will serve you well on common, non-intensive computing tasks when you’re out and about. It could even work as a portable media player, if your ears can take the somewhat low quality audio. And you might even be able to play a few rounds of a game in the lowest settings. Just be aware that, at any point in time, you might yourself wishing you had hit save on that document or game before the CPU crashed.

GPD claims the Pocket has a 12 hour battery life. Reality is that you’ll be lucky to hit 6 hours of continuous mixed use. Watching videos back to back will naturally drive that number down lower, if it doesn’t overheat first. The great thing about the Pocket, however, is that you can top it off an external battery pack any time, provided it has enough wattage to keep up with your use.

The Keyboard

The GPD Pocket keyboard gets its own section because, in truth, it is what defines the device. It is also what both makes and breaks it at the same time.

Unlike the keyboard on the GPD WIN, the Pocket’s keyboard was designed to be typed on like a laptop and for longer typing periods. But make no mistake, your hands will feel cramped after that long period thanks to the equally cramped keyboard size. The keys themselves are not that small, but when you add the space between them, you get a keyboard where your fingers will tend to hit the wrong key more often, or, in some cases, even hit your other fingers. That said, the keys have a surprisingly good travel to them.

The above is expected and almost forgivable. But what makes the keyboard a less than stellar typing experience is the unorthodox and honestly broken keyboard layout. Just look at the image below and try to play a game of “spot the difference”. The Delete key is below and bigger than the Backspace key, some keys, like Caps Lock and “A”, are lumped together that you’re sure to hit one instead of the other. Perhaps the one genius feature is that the power key, which sits so precariously close, has to be pressed harder than any other key, preventing accidentally triggering it.

It is, to some extent, somewhat understandable that GPD had to make compromises in order to fit the same number of keys on your laptop into a 7-inch diagonal space. There were suggestions on how to improve the layout before the campaign ended. Almost none of those seem to have made it through.

There is obviously no room for a trackpad here. Instead, GPD borrows from IBM/Lenovo the trackpoint, except place way at the bottom. To some extent, it works. You do miss out on scrolling gestures, but the screen is a touch screen after all. The one complaint I have is that the left and mouse buttons are also so close to the oddly split Spacebar, leaving a lot of opportunities for error.

Software

We’re taking the software last because it is the most variable aspect of the GPD Pocket, and also perhaps one of its biggest strengths as well. Officially, there are only two editions of the device, one with Windows 10 and one with Ubuntu 16.04 LTS. Those with the Windows 10 version, with a BIOS update, can also install Ubuntu, and those on Ubuntu with a valid Windows 10 product key can install Microsoft’s OS after the fact.

It doesn’t end there, however. Just like a regular PC, you can install any operating system on it, from your choice of Linux distribution to even versions of Android for the PC. For its part, GPD has complied with Linux’s open source license and has provided the source code of its kernel. And being an open source operating system, those with enough expertise can take a peek at how GPD’s version of Ubuntu differed from the pristine version.

Indeed, a rather active community of Linux users have already sprung up around the device, with ready-made custom versions of Linux to install or instructions and stories for installing other distributions. You are practically just limited by the drivers available for the device’s hardware, which aren’t exactly esoteric. This has quickly made the GPD Pocket one of the most popular portable computer for hackers, modders, and Linux power users, despite some of the flaws mentioned earlier.

Use Cases

So who is the GPD Pocket for anyway? GPD, somewhat comically, talks about a fashionable woman fashionably sipping coffee a shop while gracefully chatting with her girlfriends. Never mind the sexist stereotype, but most people, men or women, would probably do so better and more comfortably on their phone.

GPD also talks about a Linux engineer, also drinking coffee, of course, typing away on Vim to write programs. Those must be very short programs, otherwise their hands will quickly get sore.

Snarkasm aside, the GPD Pocket is actually a perfect fit for computer users, Windows or Linux, who think they will eventually need to use the computer on the go but don’t want to bring a full-sized laptop along. It’s for the social media manager who needs to be able to quickly post content faster than they can thumb type on a phone. It’s for the system administrator who has to remotely log into a server. It is for the every day computer user who wants a portable computer that actually offers all the bells and whistles that a regular desktop operating system has to offer.

And, yes, it might also be for the novelist writing bits and pieces of chapters here and there, the hip programmer sipping coffee while developing the next Facebook, or the tech journalist writing a lengthy product review. Just remember to give your poor fingers a break from time to time.

Wrap-up

So is the GPD Pocket, like the netbook, a solution in search of a problem? Quite so. But, at the same time, it is also an answer to the wishes of no fewer than 8,500 backers, even if the answer was delivered in a less than perfect package.

The GPD Pocket is definitely a curiosity. It is powerful enough for average computing needs, open enough to run almost any platform, small enough to almost fit your pocket, and, yet, also too small to be a comfortable every day, all day device.

As much as some of us may wish it to be so, the GPD Pocket isn’t going to be your primary computer. It’s more like that spare laptop you take when you have an unplanned trip. You could use it as your one and only computer, but, for the sake of your health, you’ll want to attach an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse. But at that point, the GPD WIN might make for a better mobile companion and makeshift desktop that can let you play games or type even without a table in front of you.

(slashgear.com, https://goo.gl/EShK4m)

 

 

GoPro HERO6 first-impressions: QuikStories, 4K and stabilization

GoPro’s HERO6 Black has arrived, and while it might not have the slick 360-degree features of the GoPro Fusion, 4K60 support is not to be ignored. Promising better digital stabilization, more involving colors and broader dynamic range, and a handy touch zoom, not to mention swifter wireless, you get a lot for your $499. I put on a helmet and got temporarily EXTREME to see how it holds up.

The camera itself looks virtually identical to the HERO5. On the front there’s a small monochrome LCD for basic status, plus the protruding lens; on the back, a full-color touchscreen. A button on the side handles power and switching modes; one on the top starts and stops recording. The battery and microSD card load at the bottom, while a mini HDMI port and USB Type-C port are on the side. With both hatches closed, the HERO6 is waterproof to 33 feet.

I’m not typically an EXTREME sports person, so GoPro decided to put me in a couple of unusual situations to put the HERO6 through its paces. To see how the new digital stabilization worked, I started out in an electric go-cart. GoPro is calling it the company’s most advanced system yet, and the results certainly look impressive. Compared to the stabilization on the HERO5 there’s noticeably less wobble and wiggle in the corners of the frame.

After that, I unceremoniously hoisted my exercise-shy body onto an e-bike and headed out from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. That was an opportunity to test the HERO6’s voice control – it can recognize commands across ten languages, including switching modes, and starting and stopping recording. Since I often have issues with voice recognition systems (particularly in cars, unless I adopt an unconvincing Valley Girl accent) I was curious to see how GoPro’s version would handle it.

Turns out, with the language set to UK English and a fairly loud shout, I had a reasonable success rate. That is, when I could remember the commands: say “GoPro start video” for instance and the camera will do nothing, since it’s listening out for “GoPro start recording” specifically. There’s a list of the supported commands available through the HERO6’s touchscreen, but it’s buried in the settings so doesn’t exactly lend itself to access while in the midst of an activity. It’d be great if, had the camera heard its “GoPro” trigger word but not recognized the specific instruction, it flashed up some suggestions of what you should actually be saying on the display.

Once you’ve got all that footage, then you need to transfer it off the camera. If you’re using a PC or Mac, you can plug in via the included USB Type-C cable and drag the files right out: however, it’s worth noting that some resolutions, notably the 4K, use the HEVC codec not H.264 and so you might encounter issues with playback. What GoPro is really pushing is its mobile app.

Rising video resolution and quality options has meant file sizes are soaring: there’s a reason the default minimum storage size in 4K-capable smartphones is increasingly becoming 64GB. You can of course switch out the HERO6’s microSD card if you need more capacity, but getting the footage over to a mobile device generally depends on wireless speed.

Happily, GoPro embraced 5GHz WiFi this time around, with the promise of roughly 3x faster file transfers to your iOS or Android phone. Of course, if you’re shooting at the maximum 4K60 resolution that speed bump is going to be offset by larger file sizes too. Shorter clips whip across in a matter of seconds, but there’s still some waiting involved if you have anything longer. You can, at least, leave the transfers running in the background as you do something else with your phone.

It’s worth the wait, though. While you can edit footage in your choice of app, GoPro’s QuikStories feature promises to do it all for you. It uses the new GP1 chip on the HERO6 itself, combining data from the accelerometer and other sensors with analysis of the content of your clips to figure out the best parts, like when faces are visible. It’ll even listen out for whoops or cheers – EXTREME sports people love whooping and cheering – and flag those sections as being extra-valuable.

That metadata is sent over with the footage itself, and Quik uses it to cook up a highlight reel. It’s not instantaneous, but once it’s complete you can choose between different themes – which each have their own effects and styles – and music. By default QuikStories are square, ideal for Instagram, but you can switch to a more typical wide-aspect; you can also switch from the default 720p to 1080p, and a 60fps frame rate.

There’s the option to manually adjust the clips used and the transitions, including dragging out any footage that you don’t want. The title text can be changed, and the overall length of the video that’s generated. Finally, you can upload to Instagram, YouTube, or other services directly from the Quik app, or save it to your phone.

The results are surprisingly good. In the video above I left all the transitions and clip lengths at the default that QuikStories selected, and to be honest there are a couple that I’d probably trim or remove were this not for demo purposes. Obviously the more video you have, the more GoPro has to choose from: the company suggested shooting plenty of little B-roll snippets because they add interest when they’re dropped into the mix.

Could you leave QuikStories to do all the heavy lifting? Probably not, though it would only take five or ten minutes work to smooth out any odd decisions by the algorithm. It’s impressive that you can do all that on a phone, too, without having to go anywhere near your desktop or laptop. There is, mind, a version of Quik for Windows a Mac, if you prefer.

What I’m really curious to see is how QuikStories handles the GoPro Fusion. The upcoming 360-degree camera not only captures an all-around view, but can crop out a regular 1080p widescreen section from any angle. In effect, you’re getting an infinite number of regular GoPro cameras, looking in every direction from where you mount the Fusion. Sadly that functionality – GoPro calls it OverCapture – won’t be available in the mobile app until early 2018.

Until then, it’s hard to argue with what the GoPro HERO6 offers. Yes, it’s not inexpensive at $499, but the dramatic increase in wireless transfer speed – not to mention the bump in video quality and the impressive digital stabilization – means the boost in productivity could well offset the cost for many. It’s available to order now.

(slashgear.com, https://goo.gl/A8taLr)

 

 

Sony Xperia XZ1 Review

Pros

  •  Smart, simple look
  •  High-end CPU
  •  Fast

Cons

  • Large for a 5.2in screen phone
  • So-so battery life
  • Much cheaper phones are as good
  • 3D face scanning useless for most people

Key Features

  • Review Price: £599/$599
  • 5.2-inch 1080p HDR display
  • Snapdragon 835, 4GB RAM
  • 64GB storage
  • 19MP camera w/ 960fps slow-mo video
  • 3D scanning

What is the Sony Xperia XZ1?

The Sony Xperia XZ1 is a high-end phone, but not in the same vein as the iPhone X or Samsung Galaxy Note 8. Although it has top specs, it actually seems a little ordinary next to some of the best from Samsung, LG and even Honor.

There isn’t much wrong with the Sony Xperia XZ1 beyond a few niggles. However, when phones such as the Honor 9 and OnePlus 5 offer similar quality for £200/$200 less, it’s hard to get excited about this handset – particularly when its newest feature is the fun but largely useless 3D face scanning.

Sony Xperia XZ1 – Design

The Sony Xperia XZ1 looks and feels pretty similar to the Xperia XZ. At arm’s length it would be impossible to tell the difference.

However, this is actually a higher-end phone, featuring elements of the even pricier Xperia XZ Premium. The Xperia XZ1’s back and sides are all-metal. The aluminium rear curves around to form the sides, with no seams or splits to be seen. While this might not appear something to boast about in a £600 phone, it’s a step up for the series.

The top and bottom ends of the handset are plastic. It took me a while to work out that they weren’t metal, because the material doesn’t feel like bog-standard plastic; it appears to be more like the glass-fibre reinforced plastic as seen on the Xperia XZ1 Compact.

While the XZ1 doesn’t quite have the wow factor of the shiny Honor 9 or curvy Samsung Galaxy S8, this is definitely a smart-looking phone. My issue with the design is that, like every other Xperia, it feels rather large for its screen size. Its overall dimensions are pretty similar to those of the OnePlus 5, which has a 5.5-inch screen. The Xperia XZ1 has a 5.2-inch display. It’s thinner than the Xperia XZ at 7.4mm thick, but it remains wide.

Parts to celebrate include Gorilla Glass 5 on top of the screen and IP58 water-resistance, which means it should survive an accidental dunk in the water. You also get 64GB storage and the option of a microSD card – there’s a slot under the pull-out flap on the Xperia XZ1’s side.

Sony Xperia XZ1 – Screen

As already mentioned, the Sony Xperia XZ1 has a 5.2-inch 1080p IPS LCD screen. It isn’t as sharp as the Samsung Galaxy S8, but the only image quality quibble I have is that close-up, there’s appear to be some ultra-fine ‘diagonal line’ patterns visible on blocks of white. This isn’t down to a lack of pixels, but another layer in the display. Perhaps the touch panel.

You also don’t quite get the perfect contrast of an OLED display. However, you’ll only notice if you’re using the XZ1 with the brightness ramped up in a dimly-lit room. Sony’s top LCDs do actually get pretty close to the perceptual benefits of OLED.

This is particularly true of colour saturation. If you like, it’s possible to make the Sony Xperia XZ1 look extremely saturated, with both turbo-charged colour and increased contrast.

The Sony Xperia XZ1 has three display modes: Super-vivid is too rich for my tastes; but both Standard and Professional look great. Professional is a strict sRGB mode. It will look a little undersaturated to most eyes, but is the best one to use to ensure photos look the same on the screen as they do on your laptop. Max brightness, too, is powerful. Outdoors visibility is fairly good.

 

The Auto Backlight mode is jittery, however. It flickers up and down rather than doing so smoothly. I’ve found it a little distracting when reading an article on the train. Go through a tunnel and the Xperia XZ1 looks like it’s having a breakdown. Let’s hope Sony fixes this with an update.

Like the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, the XZ1 also supports HDR content. This is video designed to make use of displays with very high contrast and a wide colour gamut. Using Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, you’ll see punchier colour in HDR video.

However, in ‘pitch black’ cinema conditions I’d still prefer to watch a non-HDR OLED than an HDR LCD. The unlikeliness of this is the reason I don’t put great stock in technology such as phone HDR as a top reason to buy.

When I watch a video on a phone for longer than a few minutes, it’s always in an image quality-compromised environment. Stuck on a train for four hours, I’d much rather watch a film on a good 6-inch screen than a great 5.2-inch one.

Sony Xperia XZ1 – Software

The Sony Xperia XZ1 is one of the first phones to launch with Android 8.0. There’s still a Sony interface layered on top, but there are a couple of new features that stand out.

First, there are notification dots. These are little coloured circles that pop-up over app icons when, for example, you receive an email. It makes your homescreen more of a ‘desktop’, providing a quick way to see what’s going on without pulling down the notifications dropdown.

The notifications bar also feels different here. Once there are more than a few notifications, you’ll see small icons at the bottom, indicating that there are others that don’t quite fit on the screen. These pop up properly as you flick up. Android 8.0’s notifications have more fun feel than before.

New Android features aside, the Sony Xperia XZ1’s software looks much like that of other recent Xperia phones. The apps menu is arranged as horizontally scrolling pages rather than a vertical feed, and Sony’s apps sit alongside the Google suite. There are apps for music, watching video and to hook up with PlayStation network. Sony has also preinstalled ebook store Kobo and the AVG virus scanner. You can’t delete them, but you can ‘disable’ them.

The Sony Xperia XZ1 also has a ‘recommendations’ section, accessed by swiping left-to-right from the apps menu. This is really just a list of app links to Google Play. Unless you’re a brand-new phone user, it’s unlikely to be of much use.

This part can be switched off, however.

Sony Xperia XZ1 – Performance

The Sony Xperia XZ1 is home to Qualcomm’s top-end Snapdragon 835 processor. It’s one of the main upgrades over the Xperia XZ, which has a Snapdragon 820.

The Snapdragon 835 is a super-powerful processor, particularly for a 1080p phone. It has the juice to effortlessly drive a much more pixel-packed device.

In Geekbench 4 it scores 6446 points, or 1802 per core. That’s just slightly lower than what we saw from the Samsung Galaxy S8, but not by a significant amount (roughly 200 points, multi-core).

More important, the Sony Xperia XZ1 feels great in general use. The interface flies along, with no obvious lag, and apps load quickly too.

The phone has 4GB of RAM – where some other handsets have 6GB or even 8GB – but then so does the Samsung Galaxy S8. Less RAM means the Sony Xperia XZ1 will have to offload app data more regularly. Once app cache has been flushed, the phone will have to properly reload the app rather than simply jumping back in. However, I haven’t noticed any shortfall here. Apps used recently still remain ‘open’.

Sony Xperia XZ1 – Camera

The Sony Xperia XZ1 has a large, very high-resolution camera sensor. At 19 megapixels and 1/2.3in, it’s larger than the Galaxy S8’s main sensor. This has been a Sony tactic for quite some time now – big sensor, lots of megapixels – but its Xperia cameras haven’t really challenged the best in recent years.

xz1-1

The Sony Xperia XZ1 makes some progress in improving the processing and image noise of older Xperias. However, aside from the core sensor numbers there isn’t all that much for photographers to become excited about.

There’s still no optical image stabilisation, for example; no secondary lens for “lossless” zooming or even shallow depth-of-field effects. I don’t find the increased resolution compared to rivals that compelling either, since close-up inspection of images shows that they aren’t as clean as those of other top-end phones.

As mentioned, Sony does appear to have improved its processing slightly – or the look has improved, thanks to the new sensor – but as in previous Xperias, the edge of the frame can look quite tatty and the fine details of far-away trees over-processed. I find the colour temperature is towards the cool side, too, making images look less immediately pleasing than those of an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S8.

However, the Sony Xperia XZ1 is still capable of taking some stunning pics, particularly after making tweaks after shooting to fix colour temperature skews and bring out some more shadow detail. While the software does a reasonable job of handling all sorts of lighting, other phones have better dynamics range enhancement.

The Sony Xperia XZ1 also plays it loose with colour saturation. It’s so keen to look saturated that a red flower will often ‘clip’ the red channel, making it appear almost a flat pane of colour – which isn’t ideal. However, it can be great for sunsets, which often look a bit weak even with the best phone cameras.

The other biggie is low-light performance. While the Sony Xperia XZ1 has amongst the best night photo quality I’ve seen from a non-OIS phone (the Pixel phones being the obvious higher performers), it still isn’t great. There’s still a significant drop in detail, resulting in blurry night shots. This is despite the use of EIS (electronic image stabilisation), which uses the gyroscope to time the exposure for best results.

Lots of colour makes this shot pop, but it took three attempts to get it this sharp, and there’s still some handshake blur and a general loss in detail 

The Xperia XZ1’s colour rendering is at times unrealistic

The Xperia XZ1 hasn’t blown out the image here, maintaining highlights – but the foreground looks even bleaker than it did in person

The Sony Xperia approach to colour can make clouds look dramatic (with digital zoom)

While low-light performance isn’t amazing, the Xperia XZ1 is great at brightening up very dark scenes. This was taken in Chislehurst caves, with barely any light

The high megapixel count is offset by so-so image quality down at pixel levelThere’s one brand-new camera feature, if somewhat weird. 3D Creator lets you use the camera to scan someone’s face, a piece of food or any object you like. You can then either just look at it or send it to a 3D printer – of course, you have a 3D printer… don’t you? This is a seriously niche feature.

Sony also misses out on some obvious ‘mainstream’ uses. You can’t make short video or GIF of someone’s face to share over WhatsApp. Try to do so and they’ll receive a ZIP file of the model: useless, unless they also own an Xperia XZ1.

You can set the model as a live wallpaper, but having a replicant version of your other half swivelling around as you flick through homescreens is about as creepy as wallpapers get.

Thankfully, the Sony Xperia XZ1 does have the great video camera extras introduced in the Xperia XZ Premium. You can shoot short clips at 960fps as well as the more standard 120fps. 960fps clips are limited to a quick snap, but when the result expands to 40x real-time, it’s a sensible limitation anyway.Predictably, the Sony Xperia XZ1 has to ramp up ISO sensitivity to cope with the ultra-fast exposures required for this mode, so quality isn’t fantastic. And the 1080p final file certainly isn’t 1080p quality. However, it’s fun to play around.

For everyday video capture it’s possible to shoot at up to 4K resolution at 30fps, and you have a choice of both 30fps and 60fps at 1080p. YouTubers and amateur videographers will prefer the iPhone X, whose higher-quality 240fps and 60fps at 4K are actually more useful. However, the Sony Xperia XZ1 is far cheaper than the iPhone too.

Around the front of the Sony Xperia XZ1 is a 13-megapixel 1/3-inch sensor with wide lens that’s great for selfies. In darker conditions it will fire-up the screen with a bright yellow/orange shade to help illuminate your face. In my opinion, this works better than many of the dedicated front LED flashes I’ve used, making it possible to snap a good selfie indoors or at night. Thanks to the high-res sensor, you’ll also achieve plenty of detail fora selfie.

Sony Xperia XZ1 – Battery Life

Most people list better battery life near the top of their smartphone wish list. It’s a little galling, then, that Sony has actually reduced battery capacity from the Xperia XZ to the Xperia XZ1, from 2900mAh to 2700mAh.

This may be a result of the Snapdragon 835 , which is reportedly slightly more power-efficient than the Snapdragon 820; plus, Android 8.0 adds power improvements too.

However, coming to the XZ1 after reviewing the Motorola Moto G5S Plus recently,  this is a clear step down in stamina. While the Sony Xperia XZ1 doesn’t fare too badly in simple one-task tests, it’s only passable in real life.

Light use will see it last a full day, but on a day when I played a few hours of podcasts in the morning, it was close to power-out by 7pm. Thirty minutes of Real Racing 3 consumes 15% of the battery, which is significantly worse than the 10% drain on the Moto G5S Plus

The Sony Xperia XZ1 does, however, feature fast-charging. This is Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0, which will power up most of the battery in under an hour.

One other feature of the handset that could do with an upgrade is the speaker. The Sony Xperia XZ1 has two drivers, above and below the display. Getting a stereo effect when playing a game is nice, but, compared to rival handsets, the sound just isn’t as powerful or full as the best-sounding single-driver speakers. Overall, though, it will be fine for gaming, or listening to the odd podcast or music stream.

The Sony Xperia XZ1 does have a few other neat audio features, too. DSXEE improves low-quality audio streams – but it won’t make a poor one sound good. And a ClearSound+ mode tweaks the soundstage and EQ for more overt clarity.

Should I buy the Sony Xperia XZ1?

The Sony Xperia XZ1 is a phone for Sony fans. You have to love Sony’s style – because, otherwise, there are just too many compelling alternatives to make it a front-runner.

It doesn’t have as many interesting features as the £100/$100-cheaper LG G6, and doesn’t impress like the Samsung Galaxy S8.

Those keen on getting the most phone for their money would be better off opting for the OnePlus 5 or Honor 9. They are £150-230 cheaper, and aren’t lacking anything major features-wise either.

For £600/$600, it’s definitely possible to get better for your money.

Verdict

A good phone, but not a particularly competitive one at this price.

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

Philips 43PUS6262 4K TV Review

Pros

  • Two-sided Ambilight
  • Netflix 4K HDR, Amazon 4K
  • Freeview Play with catch-up TV

Cons

  • UHD HDR images can lack brightness
  • You’ll definitely want to add a soundbar

Key Features

  • Review Price: £469/$703.5
  • 4K UHD with HDR10 support
  • Freeview Play tuner
  • Netflix 4K HDR, Amazon 4K

What is the Philips 43PUS6262?

The 43PUS6262 is an ultra-cheap 4K LCD TV. Furthermore, it carries support for HDR – and it has a killer feature: Ambilight.

Given that the prices of 4K models are coming down pretty swiftly, TVs that enter the space now need something special to help them stand out from the crowd. For Philips this is its Ambilight mood-lighting feature. The technology is a perennial trump card for TP Vision, the company that makes Philips TVs, and it’s great to see it appearing further down the range. So if you are penny-wise, there’s a chance this model could be for you.

The model here is a 43-incher, which sells for less than £500/$750. Stablemates comprise the step-up 50-inch 50PUS6262 for £549/$823.5, 55-inch 55PUS6262 for £649/$973.5, and a jumbo 65-inch 65PUS6262 for £1199/$1798.5.

Philips 43PUS6262 – Design and features

Cosmetically, Philips flatters to deceive. Although the set’s thin pedestal sports a gunmetal look, it’s actually lightweight plastic. The bezel is at least an exact colour match. A metallic Philips logo resides on the bottom of the screen.

Connections include a trio of HDMI inputs, all of which are HDCP 2.2-compliant, allowing you to hook-up 4K sources such as a TV box, UHD Blu-ray player and games console. There’s also component AV for legacy kit, two USB ports, optical digital audio output, Ethernet to accompany Wi-Fi, and both terrestrial and satellite tuners.

This 43-inch set has everything the savvy modern TV buyer should be looking for. It’s a connected set with streaming services and a Freeview Play tuner – and, in addition to 2160p resolution, it boasts support for HDR.

The IR remote is quite clicky, but the set has a dual-core processor and responds quickly to commands. Menu navigation is intuitive.

Philips 6262The inclusion of Freeview Play ensures all the main catch-up services are available (BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, Demand 5), as well as UKTV Play and BBC News & Sport. The overall user experience is highly polished.

Philips’ own smart hub provides an alternative window on the same catch-up apps, as well as wide number of others including Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Video and Vimeo. Netflix streams in 4K HDR, while Amazon is (currently) 4K only. There’s also support for YouTube 4K streams.

The TV is DLNA-compliant and has no problems playing back music and video files from a networked NAS. It recognised our Twonky media server and played MKV downloads without issue.

If you want 3D, though, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Philips 6262

Philips 43PUS6262 – Performance

This flat panel offers a suitably sharp UHD picture, but it’s hardly the brightest TV on the show floor. As a result, I’d advise you to manage those HDR expectations right now. It looks crisp with Freeview HD and Sky Q 4K sources.

There’s no shortage of viewing options. Picture modes include Personal, Vivid, Natural, Standard, Movie and Game. With HDR content, these change to HDR Personal, HDR Vivid, HDR Natural, HDR Movie and HDR Game. Adjustable parameters include the usual suspects – colour, contrast, sharpness and brightness – but there’s also some deeper control over contrast and motion.

Contrast looks best on the ‘Optimised for Picture’ setting. Avoid ‘Optimised for Energy’ – because this is a TV, not a light bulb.

Tweaking brings only limited results. In terms of sharpness, it isn’t possible to completely eliminate ringing around fine details. Edge enhancement is seemingly baked into the picture engine. We found the best option was a sharpness setting of 2.

Motion handling is selectable through Movie, Sports, Standard, Smooth and Personal presets.

Philips 6262

On low-cost screens such as this, processing power is principally directed at smoothing pans and eliminating judder, with a consequence that images can look a little ‘soapy’ if the application is overly aggressive. When watching films, select Off or Movies from the Motion Style menu. Sports, Smooth and Standard all introduce motion artefacts – although, oddly, Standard and Smooth exhibit more smudgy artefacts than Sports.

The set has no problem delineating 4K detail, although restricted brightness can flatten ultra-fine detail. For example, the HDR Movie mode is very dull indeed, enough to eliminate gains in perceived resolution. If you want to see fine detail, HDR Vivid or HDR Natural are better options. And, of course, there’s the viewing distance to consider. On a small screen such as this, you simply won’t benefit from UHD resolution at typical viewing distances. So pull that chair up close.

Philips 6262Of course, offering HDR support isn’t the same as delivering solid HDR performance. This set simply isn’t bright enough to ping out spectral highlights. I measured peak HDR luminance with a 5% window at 358 nits. One consequence of running HDR10 video into such a screen is that the set can make content look surprisingly dark.

Eco fantasy Okja (Netflix, HDR) offers pretty of scope for high impact visuals. The early forest sequences with the titular super-pig reveal tremendous texture. The pig’s hide appears utterly realistic, but it isn’t dappled by sunlight with the same effectiveness as you’d see on a brighter HDR model.

Ultimately, I preferred the performance of this TV with SDR 4K content. It also looks tremendous with regular Blu-ray. Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar shines: when Matthew McConaughey attends game with his family (Chapter 3), the brightness of the day, the richness of the colours, is immediately satisfying. The sky is a scintillating blue; the pitch is green; sunlight beams.

Naturally, sound quality is largely unremarkable. There’s a variety of audio modes on offer – Personal, Original, Movie, Music, Game and News. But, to be honest, most are just a variation on ‘must get a soundbar’.

Philips 6262

Should I buy the Philips 43PUS6262?

If you want a brilliantly specified small-screen UHD TV for less than £500, then the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. The Philips 43PUS6262 has a great set of features, with a healthy slate of streaming services and catch-up TV, wall-splashing Ambilight and a decent picture. What’s more, you won’t need to upgrade your Blu-ray collection, because SDR HD looks fine! If you want HDR, however, you’ll want to look elsewhere, perhaps the Sony XE70 series.

Verdict

If you’re after a good 4K Ultra HD TV, this Philips TV offers ridiculously good value.

(trustedreviews.com, https://goo.gl/V4Kmjt)

 

Asus ROG Strix GL503 Review

The Pros

Sleek new lid design; Excellent display; Customizable RGB keyboard

The Cons

Frustratingly slow SSHD; Crunchy touchpad; Audio distortion at high volumes

Verdict

The Asus ROG Strix GL503 is a sleek entry-level gaming PC with a gorgeous display, but you’ll have to put up with slow storage and a janky touchpad.

Budget gaming laptops need a makeover, and Asus might be the company to give them one. The $1,099 Asus ROG Strix GL503 is one of the best-looking entry-level gaming notebooks you can get. The company smartly borrowed the looks from its more premium laptops and applied them here. It also has a bright, vivid display and an RGB keyboard with customizable backlighting, which is often reserved for more expensive machines. But while its Nvidia GTX 1050 GPU and Core i7 CPU are powerful, the hybrid SSHD is slow, and data transfers and reboots take a long time. (Luckily, it’s easy to upgrade.) If you’re looking for an entry-level gaming laptop in a premium rig’s clothes, the Strix will help you look the part.

Design

From afar, the Strix looks way more premium than you’d think. That’s because Asus took the lid from one of its flagship notebooks, the ROG Zephyrus, and copied it here. The black aluminum lid features a striking diagonal stripe and the ROG logo in a bronze color. Asus really needs to replace the ROG icon with something (anything!) more elegant, but even so, the overall design is pretty nice.

Asus ROG Strix GL503

When you open the lid, you’ll find the 15.6-inch, 1080p display surrounded by a thick bezel (with another ROG logo — at least Asus is consistent), a soft-touch deck and an island-style, sRGB backlit keyboard. The parts of the deck that aren’t coated in soft-touch material are just plastic.

At 5.6 pounds and 15.1 x 10.3 x 0.9 inches, the Strix GL503 is about the same size as its closest competition. Both the Dell Inspiron 15 5000 Gaming(5.4 pounds, 1 inch thick) and the Acer Aspire VX 15 (5.4 pounds, 1.1 inches thick) are slightly lighter and thicker, while the Lenovo Legion Y520(5.6 pounds, 1 inch thick) is about the same size.

Asus ROG Strix GL503

Have a mouse? A hard drive? An external webcam? A monitor? The Strix has ports for all of those and more. On the left side of the chassis are an Ethernet jack, Mini DisplayPort, HDMI output, a pair of USB 3.0 ports and a headphone jack. The right side is home to an SD card slot, a USB 3.0 port, USB 2.0 port and a Kensington lock slot.

If you want to upgrade, it’s easy to do so, as the RAM and SSHD are hidden behind just a single screw on the bottom of the unit.

Display

The 15.6-inch, 1080p display on the Strix is both bright and very colorful. I watched the trailer for “Tomb Raider” and was impressed by the lush, green foliage in a jungle, and I could make out every water droplet in a rainy scene on a boat. During a session of Battlefield 1, fighting off the Ottoman Empire with Lawrence of Arabia, I could see individual sand particles in a desert storm, and the orange clay on the ground popped against the bright-blue sky.

Asus ROG Strix GL503

Asus’ panel covers an excellent 113 percent of the sRGB color gamut. That’s more vivid than the mainstream notebook average (101 percent) and all of the competition: the Aspire (65 percent), Legion (68 percent) and Inspiron (69 percent).

And those colors will be nice and bright. The screen measured 297 nits on our light meter, outshining the category average (257 nits), the Aspire (247 nits), the Legion (220 nits) and the Inspiron (219 nits).

Keyboard and Touchpad

The Strix’s keyboard is merely adequate. While it offers a deep 1.9 millimeters of key travel and requires 68 grams of force to press, it feels soft and squishy and doesn’t pop up with the force I would like. Still, I typed at 108 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test (just above my usual 107 wpm) and maintained my standard 2-percent error rate.

Asus ROG Strix GL503

The keyboard does have a few touches I appreciate. For instance, it’s RGB backlit, with per-key customization in the ROG Aura Core. (Most low-end laptops do only red backlighting.) There are dedicated keys for adjusting volume, muting a headset and accessing the Gaming Center (but no macro keys), and the W key has a small dot to find the familiar WASD keys without looking, similar to the raised lines on the F and J keys for touch typists.

You’re probably going to use a gaming mouse with the Strix, which is good, because the 4.1 x 2.8-inch touchpad is unpleasant to use. Sure, it’s smooth and recognizes Windows gestures, but clicking on it is one of the worst feelings I’ve had using a device in a long time. Left-clicking caused a crunching sound that made me worry something was broken. This would often disappear after one click and then reappear later.

Audio

The Strix has distinct, balanced audio — at least at medium volumes. When I listened to Train’s “Drops of Jupiter,” the piano, drums and vocals were all clear, and it filled our lab with sound. At its highest volumes, though, the speakers produced a small but noticeable echo. You can make adjustments in Sonic Studio III, but I found that the preset options were solid.

The same issues popped up in gaming. When I played Battlefield 1, the narrator’s voice echoed with the volume turned up, but gunshots rang out loud and clear, making me recoil in my seat.

Gaming and Graphics

The Strix’s GTX 1050 GPU isn’t the most powerful graphics card on the market, but you’ll be able to run most games at more modest settings. When I played Battlefield 1, which is particularly well optimized for the GTX 1050, it ran between 42 and 53 fps on ultra settings at 1080p.

On our budget gaming test, the Strix ran Rise of the Tomb Raider at 1080p on high presets with SMAA anti-aliasing at 44 fps, beating the Inspiron and the Aspire (43 fps each) by a single frame and surpassing the mainstream average of 41 fps.

Performance

With a 2.8-GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSHD hybrid drive, the Strix will plow through everyday work. I had 30 tabs open in Google Chrome, including one streaming a 1080p episode of “Last Week Tonight” with nary a hiccup. My biggest issue was booting up the computer; as you’ll see below, that SSHD is quite slow.

On Geekbench 4, the Strix earned a score of 13,754, surpassing the mainstream average (10,291), Legion (12,971, Core i7-7700HQ), Inspiron (10,279, Core i5-7300HQ) and Aspire (10,145, Core i7-7700HQ) with ease.

But it took the Strix 2 minutes and 38 seconds to copy 4.97GB of files, for a rate of 32.2 MBps. That’s way slower than the average (239.9 MBps), and the competition was even swifter. The Aspire reached 103 MBps, the Inspiron measured 115.7 MBps and the Legion was the fastest, at a blazing 363.5 MBps.

On the OpenOffice spreadsheet benchmark, which pairs 20,000 names and addresses, the Strix took 3 minutes and 20 seconds. The average is 4:24, and the Strix completed the task faster than the Inspiron (3:44) and the Aspire (3:49). But the Legion Y520 was again the fastest, coming in 1 second ahead, at 3:19.

Battery Life

The Strix may be small enough to fit in a bag, but you’ll want to bring the charger, too. It lasted just 3 hours and 32 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which browses the web continuously over Wi-Fi. The averageis 6:13, though that includes laptops without gaming-focused GPUs.

The Inspiron was the worst, at 1:43; the Legion lasted just a few minutes longer than the Strix (3:39), and the Aspire lasted almost twice as long (7:08).

Heat

Under normal conditions, the Strix can beat the heat. After we streamed HD video from YouTube for 15 minutes, the laptop measured 87 degrees Fahrenheit on the bottom, 86 degrees between the G and H keys on the keyboard, and 79 degrees on the touchpad. All of those temps are well below our 95-degree comfort threshold.

Asus ROG Strix GL503

When I played Battlefield 1, the bottom of the laptop climbed to 112 degrees and the center of the keyboard measured 104 degrees, but the touchpad didn’t change.

Webcam

In my testing, I found that the 720p webcam on the Strix has a warm tint. While it was sharp enough for me to make out individual hairs on my head, the white spots on my shirt looked yellow, and the red seemed too strong.

Software and Warranty

Asus stuck strictly to gaming software on the Strix. The ROG Gaming Center is the hub, which shows you system specs, GPU and CPU memory and temperature, and fan speeds. It also links you to the other programs, like Sonic Studio, which displays audio options, and Sonic Radar, which shows which direction sound is coming from on-screen.

Otherwise, it’s Windows bloat as usual, including Drawboard PDF, Keeper, Plex, Candy Crush Soda Saga, March of Empires: War of Lords, and Skype.

Asus sells the ROG Strix GL503 with a one-year warranty.

Bottom Line

If the screen and design are your highest priorities, the Asus ROG Strix GL503 is the way to go. Its display is brighter and more vibrant than others in the category, and Asus borrowed its premium design and applied it to a low-end gaming notebook.

Asus ROG Strix GL503

But you can get similar specs for a lower cost. If price is the biggest factor for you, try the Acer Aspire VX 15, which starts at $799.99, or $1,049.99 configured similarly to the Strix. Otherwise, for just a bit more than the Strix, you can get the Lenovo Legion Y520 and upgrade to a GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU.

But if looks are important to you and you want the best screen in the price range, sticking to the Strix’s GTX 1050 GPU isn’t a bad choice. Just use a mouse instead of that unpleasant touchpad, and think about upgrading the storage drive.

(laptopmag.com, https://goo.gl/LqL6wS)

Affordable Flagship Smartphone Showdown: LG G6 vs. Nokia 8 vs. Huawei P10

Great flagship phones don’t have to be uber expensive

The Nokia brand’s comeback to the smartphone market via license holder HMD Oy has to be one of the biggest tech stories this year. Under the brand, HMD Oy released several solid entry level and mid-range phones to the Philippines a few months ago, and now we finally get the newest flagship under the Nokia brand: the Nokia 8. Armed with flagship level specs and aggressive pricing, the Nokia 8 is another solid flagship contender worth looking at. Its price puts it head-to-head with Huawei’s P10 and LG’s G6, so how does the Nokia 8 fare against these months-old flagship models? Let’s take a quick look at their specs:

Nokia 8 Specs
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 octa-core processor
  • Qualcomm Adreno 540 graphics unit
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 5.3-inch QHD IPS display, 2560 x 1440 resolution, with Corning Gorilla Glass 5
  • 64GB of expandable storage, up to 256GB via microSD
  • Dual 13-megapixel Carl Zeiss rear cameras (color + monochrome), f/2.0 aperture, 1.12µm pixels, with laser AF, OIS, dual-LED flash
  • 13-megapixel Carl Zeiss front camera, f/2.0 aperture, 1.12µm pixels, with PDAF
  • Fingerprint sensor, IP54 certification, Nokia OZO Audio
  • 3090mAh battery, with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0
  • Android 7.1.1 Nougat

LG G6 Specs
  • 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 quad-core processor
  • Qualcomm Adreno 530 GPU
  • 4GB RAM
  • 5.7-inch QHD+ FullVisison display, 2880×1440 resolution, Gorilla Glass 3 protection
  • 32GB expandable storage, via microSD
  • Twin 13-megapixel rear camera, f/1.8 aperture, OIS, LED flash
  • 5-megapixel front camera
  • Dual SIM
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, Fingerprint scanner, IP68 certification
  • 3300mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat

Huawei P10 specs
  • HiSilicon Kirin 960 octa-core processor
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 5.1-inch full HD display, 1920 x 1080 resolution
  • 64GB expandable storage via microSD
  • Leica co-developed cameras, 12-megapixel color sensor, 20-megapixel monochrome sensor, f/2.2 aperture, OIS
  • 8-megapixel front camera
  • Dual SIM
  • WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, Fingerprint scanner, fast charge
  • 3200mAh battery
  • Android 7.0 Nougat (EMUI 5.1)

Internals: Nokia has the best RAM + Processor combo

While the Huawei P10 and LG G6 offer great internals, it is dated when compared with what the Nokia 8 has. Being the newest phone out of the three, the Nokia 8 wins in this department hands-down with its Snapdragon 835 processor4GB RAM, and an ample 64GB of storage.

Display: LG’s FullVision display is definitely something

18:9 displays with skinny bezels are all the rage right now, and LG’s 5.7-inch Quad HD FullVision display takes the cake. However, those looking for a more compact flagship can go for the Huawei P10, which has a 5.1-inch Full HD display.

Camera: It’s Leica VS. Zeiss without a clear winner

HMD Oy has partnered with notable German optics brand Carl Zeiss for the Nokia 8’s cameras. The best part of the Nokia 8? It is equipped with THREE (!) 13-megapixel Carl Zeiss Lens (two in the back, one in the front), all sporting a f/2.0 aperture. But Huawei’s P10 is also a recipient of optics from another German camera legend Leica, and since we don’t have sample photos or head-to-head camera images from the three phones to compare, we can’t crown a winner just yet.

Battery: LG still has long legs

In spite of the LG G6 being the oldest flagship among the three, it still has the biggest battery at 3300mAh. Pair that with quick charging and various power management tech, and the G6 can last you for more than a day of heavy use.

Verdict: Nokia 8 has incredible specs for an incredible price

That being said, the Nokia 8 offers the best specs at a price that people could not resist. By staying below the Php 30K mark, expect Nokia brand’s comeback to be a great one with the Nokia 8.

(unbox.ph, https://goo.gl/JWKe1Q)

These Trucks Will Take Over the World by 2020

With advances in safety, performance, and computer assistance, the 2010s will likely be remembered for their great leap forward in automotive technology. But they might also be remembered as the era where the gap closed between trucks and cars. Don’t get us wrong. There are still a lot of differences between the two — usually about ¾ ton of hauling. But there used to be a big divide between cars and trucks when it came to economy and comfort. That gulf doesn’t really exist anymore.

Instead, we have a crop of some of the most advanced, powerful, and capable trucks ever made. And in the next few years they’re only going to get better. Some companies, such as Ford, are already talking about plans for next decade (hint: a hybrid F-150). But for the sake of keeping things simple, we’re focusing on all the changes projected to happen before 2020. Lucky for us, there’s a lot going on. Here are 10 up-and-coming truck models that will make the marketplace even more exciting in the next couple of years. 

1. Hyundai Santa Cruz

2015 Hyundai Santa Cruz concept

2015 Hyundai Santa Cruz concept | Hyundai

In its 50 years in the auto business, Hyundai has never offered a pickup truck. But that’s going to change very soon. In recent years, the brand has seen success with its SUV lineup. And in 2015, its Santa Cruz pickup concept was one of the stars of the Detroit Auto Show. In 2018, the Santa Cruz will become a reality, arriving as a 2019 model. Diving into the increasingly competitive midsize pickup segment, only time will tell whether the Korean automaker can hold its own.

Next: This workhorse is returning to the midsize pickup segment. 

2. Ford Ranger

2015 Ford Ranger Wildtrak

2015 Ford Ranger Wildtrak | Ford Australia

The compact, no-frills Ranger left the U.S. market after a 28-year run in 2011. Although that truck has a cult following today, the next-generation Ranger will likely be a different beast. Based on the T5 Ranger sold worldwide, we’ll be getting the same redesigned truck the rest of the world does. Expect it to hit dealerships in 2019 as a 2020 model.

Next: We’d love to get this luxury truck stateside. 

3. Mercedes X-Class

Mercedes-Benz X-Class

The Mercedes-Benz X-Class | Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes has sold quite a few go-anywhere trucks over its illustrious history. But unfortunately it has never really sold a dedicated pickup. That’s changed for 2018, but sadly the X-Class pickup won’t be sold in America. It’s a shame. We think with its available gas and diesel engines, and the choice of an automatic or six-speed manual transmission, Mercedes would have no trouble selling its new truck stateside.

Next: The future is already here for America’s best-selling vehicle. 

4. Ford F-150

Ford F-150

2018 Ford F-150 | Ford

The Ford F-150 has gotten a thorough refresh for 2018, and it’s already arriving at dealerships. On top of revised sheet metal from the doors forward, the base engine is now a 290-horsepower, 3.3-liter V6. The 2.7-liter V6, 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, and 5-liter V8 also gain more horsepower. But the real news here is the new 10-speed automatic transmission geared for towing and fuel economy.

Next: This is could be a make-or-break model for Ford. 

5. Ford Bronco

2020 Ford Bronco teaser image

2020 Ford Bronco teaser image | Ford

Based on the upcoming Ranger, the Bronco makes a return to one of Ford’s most beloved nameplates. Although we don’t know much about the Bronco yet, we know it will be closely related to the Ranger mechanically and will compete with the four-door Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Whether it has any of the mojo of the classic models is anyone’s guess.

Next: The oldest full-size pickup on the market gets some big changes. 

6. Ram 1500

2018 Ram 1500 Rebel

2018 Ram 1500 Rebel | Ram

The current Ram pickups haven’t been significantly updated since 2009, and that’s an eternity in the modern car market. For 2019, the popular trucks will be new, with greater use of lightweight aluminum and a more aerodynamic design. Expect Ram to unveil the new trucks in early 2018.

Next: Big changes are coming at Chevy. 

7. Chevrolet Silverado

2017 Chevrolet Silverado HD

2017 Chevrolet Silverado HD | Chevrolet

Like Ram, Chevy’s Silverado has been around for some time now. But for 2019, the strong-selling pickup will be new from the ground up. Not much is known about these new full-size trucks yet, but expect the use of a lot of aluminum to keep weight down. For fuel efficiency, expect the introduction of GM’s 10-speed automatic transmission. Ironically, it will be largely identical to the unit found in the rival F-150. GM and Ford developed the transmission in a joint partnership.

Next: A British icon makes a return. 

8. Land Rover Defender

2014 Land Rover Discovery

2014 Land Rover Discovery | Land Rover

Closely based on the original Land Rover of 1948, the Defender made headlines when production ended in 2016. But for 2019, the iconic nameplate is coming back with a ground-up redesign. With new safety amenities and modern powertrains, there’s a good chance this one will come to the U.S. (The Defender was last sold here in 1997.) But with its rumored unibody construction and use of the Range Rover platform, it looks like this new model is trading the classic model’s timelessness for contemporary amenities.

Next: This popular truck gets its first major updates in nearly 40 years. 

9. Mercedes G-Wagen

Mercedes-Benz G65 AMG

Mercedes-Benz G65 AMG | Mercedes-Benz

Like the Defender, Mercedes’ G-Wagen is a 4×4 icon, now in its 37th consecutive year in production. But for 2019, that military-based workhorse is out to pasture for a next-generation G-Class. Wider and more refined, the new model will be faster, more comfortable, and designed for on-road luxury. Fortunately, spy shots seem to indicate it won’t look much different from the iconic current model.

Next: This pickup is one of the most anticipated models of the decade. 

10. Jeep Scrambler

1982 Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler

1982 Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler | Jeep

After being without trucks since 1992, Jeep returns to the fray with the long-awaited Wrangler pickup. Likely called the Scrambler (after the cult favorite 1981 to 1986 pickup), the pickup will have four doors, a removable roof, and a number of engines available, including a diesel engine. Unfortunately, production delays have pushed the truck back to 2019, so we’ll still have to wait a while for this long-anticipated truck.

(cheatsheet.com, https://goo.gl/Tm4icb)

Amazon Echo Spot preview: Smart alarm clock or so much more?

Amazon has revealed its new Echo Spot as it makes a major refresh of its portfolio of Echo devices. Not only is there a new Echo and the enhanced Echo Plus, but the addition of the Echo Spot sees a diversification that takes Alexa into another room of the house.

While the Echo has found its natural place around the kitchen, bettered by the Echo Show that adds a useful display to the arrangement meaning you can do a whole lot more without whipping your phone out of your pocket, the prominence of those devices makes them a little overbearing for the bedroom.

Say hello to the Echo Spot.

Amazon-Echo-Spot-Gear-Patrol-Lead-Full-970x650

  • 2.5-inch circular display
  • About the size of a softball
  • Designed to sit on your bedside table

The ball-shaped device is about the size of a softball and designed to sit on your bedside table or even in the kitchen or elsewhere. It features a colour touchscreen 2.5-inches in diameter, a camera for video calling and speaker in the base. There’s Bluetooth and an audio line out for those wanting to hook-up to other devices. Like other Echo devices, the Spot has Alexa built-in and can be seen as a merging of the company’s Echo Show and Echo Dot for this all-new form.

142392-smart-home-review-amazon-spot-preview-image6-b7dj1o04n2

With a flattened bottom, which is where the speaker openings sit, the Echo Spot is very much like the 2009 Chumby. That device was ahead of its time, offering to pull in a load of information to keep you always informed. Like the Chumby, the Echo Spot wins on the cute factor, avoiding the harshness of the larger Echo devices, but giving you convenience of both Alexa and the visual display.

There’s a lot we currently don’t know about the Echo Spot because the version we saw on display was on a demo loop. However, from a design point of view we can certainly see the appeal: it can replace your dumb bedside clock, give you a whole range of connected features and avoid the need to immediately grab your phone when you wake up.

It’s also a device that makes the functionality of the Dot more interesting. Echo Dot is great, but that’s solely about voice control. Echo Spot is going to give you a little more to get excited about.

142392-smart-home-review-amazon-spot-preview-image3-gt0xa4cq3s

  • 12 clock faces
  • Video calling
  • Similar features to the Echo Show

Like the Echo Show, you’ll be able to use Echo Dot as an intelligent alarm clock and it will come with 12 different clock faces including a rather snazzy vinyl record one.

It’s not just about telling the time though. You’ll be able to watch video clips, check the weather, sports results, dial into a security camera elsewhere in your house, such as your Ring doorbell or Arlo system, or control smart devices around your house. This is where Alexa really comes into its own, as you’ll be able to talk to your Spot to turn on or off the lights, switch on your smart kettle or other tasks.

Thanks to that included camera, you’ll also be able to make video calls to other Echo Spots or Shows, use it as an intercom to talk to other Echo devices in the home, or place calls to other Alexa app or Echo users. This is where the Echo Spot is raising some eyebrows – do you really want a device like that sitting on your bedside table, with the potential to have video calls when you’re in bed? Maybe you do, maybe you don’t – it really depends what you get up to in your bedroom.

amazon-echo-spot-hero

The circular screen is clearly an interesting one, as it will crop video to that format, something we’ve seen with Snap’s Spectacles. For videos that means the software will automatically crop on what’s happening in the centre of the footage. That might work for a video call, but we aren’t sure if that’s going to work for a short video clip grabbed from somewhere else, but like a lot of things Echo, we’re not sure that matters.

Sadly, it doesn’t look like you can rotate the screen 90 degrees to see it without moving your head off the pillow.

Amazon says the unit will be able to access all the same information as the larger non-screened versions of Echo, however the unit we got to play with was on a demo loop so we’ve yet to see how well it works beyond what Amazon has shown off in its product presentations.

142392-smart-home-review-amazon-spot-preview-image7-xsmpa4q18i

First Impressions

In the flesh the Echo Dot looks really cool, although you could easily misinterpret the Spot. A number of companies have tried and failed in this area over the years, however Amazon has the very successful Alexa ecosystem which could mean that the Echo Spot is one device that sticks.

Our time with the Spot was brief, mainly because the device we had was in a demo loop, so the jury is still out. We look forward to playing more with the Spot when it becomes available later in the year.

The Echo Spot will cost $129 in the US and come out in December and the UK in early 2018.

(pocket-lint.com, https://goo.gl/8dmdgu)

The Most (and Least) Expensive Vehicles to Drive in America

Did you just get a great deal on a new car? Don’t answer yet — you won’t know for sure until you pay a vehicle’s operating costs for a few years. Those who got one of the most reliable vehicles on the road will save cash on repairs and other maintenance costs. However, you can’t forget about depreciation and fuel costs.

According to AAA’s annual driving costs study, all these factors contribute to the $8,469 it costs Americans to keep the average new car on the road in 2017. In addition to operating expenses, monthly payments, and insurance, AAA considered taxes, finance charges, and license/registration fees. Depending on the vehicle you drive, your costs could fluctuate as much as $3,700 per year after you drive off the lot.

Here’s how much it will take you to own and run a new vehicle for 15,000 miles in each of the nine auto segments. (Download the full report as a PDF here.) We ranked the classes from the least expensive to the most expensive vehicles to drive in America.

9. Small sedans

View of 2017 Elantra Sport in red

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport | Hyundai

You can find a new compact sedan for under $20,000, and you’ll get the cheapest type of vehicle to own and drive in the bargain. AAA pegged the annual cost of a small sedan at $6,354 for the year. These cars offer the lowest per-mile fuel and maintenance costs outside of electrified vehicles. If you want to keep it frugal with your next car purchase but can’t splurge for an EV or hybrid, compact cars are your best bet.

8. Small SUVs

White RAV4 followed by blue RAV4 hybrid

Toyota RAV4 ranks among the cheapest cars to drive. | Toyota

Without question, small SUVs are among the hottest auto segments in America. Through the first eight months of 2017, three of the top six vehicles on the sales charts came from this group. Those buyers earned themselves access to some of the cheapest cars to drive. AAA pegged the segment’s annual costs at $7,606. With models, such as Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, also ranking high in reliability, consumers looking for value can’t go wrong here.

7. Hybrids

Profile view of 2016 Prius Two Eco

2016 Toyota Prius Two Eco | Toyota

As far as operating costs go, good luck finding something more efficient than Toyota Prius Eco (56 mpg combined). This segment, which also includes the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Honda Accord Hybrid, only trails small SUVs due to higher upfront (i.e., purchase) costs. Over the course of a year, AAA said buyers would spend $7,687 for monthly payments and operating expenses for their hybrid. Pick up a used model, and you’ll see those costs really make sense in your budget.

6. Midsize sedans

The 2018 Toyota Camry

2018 Toyota Camry | Toyota

Though midsize sedans no longer dominate the U.S. market like they did in the past, you will still find Toyota Camry and Honda Accord in the top 10 on sales charts. These cars combine solid fuel economy (led by Kia Optima at 31 mpg) and strong reliability scores. Buy one new in 2017, and you’ll pay about $8,171 in costs for the year with a midsize sedan. If you baby a model, such as Camry, you might even see it make 300,000 miles.

5. Electric vehicles

2016 Nissan Leaf

2016 Nissan Leaf | Nissan

In terms of operating costs (maintenance and electricity), you can’t top EVs at 10 cents per mile. Because battery technology drives up the prices of these cars, ownership (especially depreciation) of electric cars ranks them near the top of the pack. However, because running an EV is so cheap, it will still only cost buyers $8,439 over the course of a year. To get the absolute cheapest car for your daily commute, skip the high MSRP in dealerships, and buy a used Nissan Leaf.

4. Minivans

2018 Honda Odyssey

2018 Honda Odyssey | Honda

Once you get to the minivan segment, you see vehicles that are both expensive to acquire ($6,332 in ownership costs) and pricey to operate (nearly 19 cents per mile). If you bought a new Honda Odyssey or Nissan Quest, AAA calculates it would cost owners $9,146 in annual costs for 2017. On the bright side, owners who take care of their minivans have a shot at reaching high-mileage goals. Odyssey placed 11th on the list of used cars that hit 200,000 miles in a 2017 study by iSeeCars.com.

3. Large sedans

2016 Toyota Avalon

2016 Toyota Avalon | Toyota

Prices get steep once you start shopping for a new large sedan. In addition to $6,462 in ownership costs, consumers find themselves spending close to $3,000 in maintenance and fuel costs in a year. Large sedans give families space to ride in comfort, but that size comes with a thirst for gasoline. (Toyota Avalon, the most economical model in the class, averages 23 mpg.) The total bill runs owners about $9,399 in annual costs.

2. Mid-to-large SUVs

2017 Honda Pilot Elite

2017 Honda Pilot Elite | Honda

While AAA did not round up the cost of the biggest SUVs such as Chevy Suburban, the organization did crunch the numbers on popular models, including Honda Pilot, Ford Escape, and Jeep Grand Cherokee. The segment’s ownership costs were nearly in line with large sedans, but operating costs were higher at 20.03 cents per mile. Larger SUVs’ thirst for gas vaulted annual operating expenses over $3,000, pushing the total to $9,451 per year. If you’re shopping this segment, pick a model with lower depreciation costs.

1. Pickup trucks

Ford F-150

2018 Ford F-150 | Ford

Anyone who uses a full-size pickup truck to work knows these vehicles cost money to operate. At 22.22 cents per mile for fuel and maintenance, they cost more than double an electric car to operate and even 10% more than larger SUVs. Throw in the ownership costs of a new four-wheel drive crew cab model ($6,722), and you’re talking about a hefty annual bill. AAA estimates pickup owners will spend $10,054 in annual costs on these trucks. With costs this high, be sure to avoid the overpriced pickups on the market.

(cheatsheet.com, https://goo.gl/k26yC3)

MSI GE63VR Raider review

OUR VERDICT

The MSI GE63VR is a gamer through and through, with all the racing stripes, chromatic keys and pixels you want. But, unlike most gaming laptops, it’s quiet, light and cool.

FOR

  • Deceptively quiet
  • Ace thermal management
  • Per-key customization
  • Relatively light weight

AGAINST

  • Poor performance for price
  • What battery?

The MSI GE63VR’s nickname is ‘Raider’, but it should be ‘Porsche’. The twin red racing stripes on the chassis tell you everything: it’s fun, comfortable and stylish – and, a whole lot of luxury. The Raider does live up its name in one sense though: it will take all your money.

The gamer who wants a smooth, quiet ride as they blow up hell demons will love the GE63VR. The gamer who wants their hell demons blowing up at 120 frames per second (fps) forever and without fail may not. In the pennies-for-pixels (and battery) trade, the Raider is no Alienware 15 R3.

That said, the GE63VR is still powerful – certainly more powerful than competing models, like the Origin EVO 15-S – but it’s costly, and that makes its flaws that much more noticeable.

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Price and availability

The memory-rich GE63VR we tested comes in at $2,249 (about £1,747, AU$2,836), though models with half the RAM (16GB) or a weaker GPU (GTX 1060) are available for between $1,799 and $1,999 in the US. The Kaby Lake Core i7 is standard across all models, as is the FHD display, and 1TB hard drive.

The Alienware 15 R3 and Origin EVO15-S’s 16GB RAM models are priced at $2,050 (£2,737, AU$2,999) and $2,317 (£1,847, AU$2,834), respectively. The EVO15-S offers an extra terabyte of storage, but a weaker GTX 1060 graphics card; the R13 has similar specs to the Raider.

Red cool

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We’ve already mentioned the GE63VR’s sports car motif: red racing stripes adorn the brushed, black aluminum of its chassis. Stark red light pours out of the Raider’s three USB ports; inside, a thin, red ridge encircles the touchpad. It’s a design that screams “Let’s Go!”

The Raider, being a gaming laptop, is unsurprisingly heavy,. Hold off on the squats, though – the GE63VR’s 4.85 pounds are much easier on the knees than the Alienware R13’s 7 pounds. Like the EVO15-S and Razer Blade, the Raider hits the gym. Its relatively slim profile is half of what makes this laptop interesting.

The other half is the cooling system. The GE63VR employs two fans, seven pipes, and four ventilation points to keep its temperature from ever going full Mojave Desert.

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And, it works. Neither web browsing nor long term gaming seems to tax it. Sure, it gets warm, but not so warm where you’d have to start wondering about the flash point of your jeans (or Ikea table).

Despite its double fan cooling setup, the GE63VR isn’t an ear killer. Sounds like a jet taking off is the popular refrain when it comes to describing a gaming laptop under load, but you won’t find it in this review. The Raider is so quiet, you can actually hear the in-game audio.

And, it would be a shame if you couldn’t, as the Raider’s speakers are actually pretty impressive: the bass is strong, and the high ends are clear. Headphones are not required with this gaming laptop.

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Chroma keys for days

The GE63VR’s keyboard is fully per-key programmable, both for color and function, through a downloadable utility, SteelSeries Engine 3. Multiple layouts can be saved and cycled through via a button on the right side of the body, or a phone app.

The keys themselves have fairly deep travel, 1.9mm, but suffer from a slight mushiness that is noticeable during long sessions of typing. Fortunately, they are well-spaced, even though a numpad takes up a large amount of the body’s real estate. The left-hand Control and Shift keys are a little larger than their right-hand compatriots (smart), and a small LED lights up when Caps Lock is engaged (also smart).

One quirk: the brightness and volume buttons are located in the arrow keys – a tad unintuitive, but certainly not a deal breaker.

The Raider’s touchpad lacks ‘click’ feedback, but is otherwise responsive. Distinct left and right mouse buttons ensure you won’t miss whatever you’re trying to press. The whole thing is justified left on the body. And, that’s all you need to know, because you’re gaming laptop needs a gaming mouse, period, FIN.

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A refreshing display

The Raider’s resolution isn’t impressive by today’s UHD standards, but the its 1080p FHD display is still plenty for a 15-inch screen. Besides, the real MVP is its refresh rate. At 120Hz, the GE63VR’s display is silky smooth – perfect for twitch gameplay.

The laptop’s matte screen easily handles glare: nothing spoils its deep color contrast. Games run, and look, beautiful on the GE63VR.

As the benchmarks show, the GE63VR is more than a competent gaming laptop. It spat out 87 fps on Ultra settings during Total War: Warhammer, and 180 fps on Low. Only Deus Ex: Mankind Divided tripped it up: 15 fps on Ultra.

An unplayable frame rate for sure, though that’s not a knock against the Raider: all the gaming laptops we’ve tested have had trouble with Eidos’s shooter on high settings.

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Interestingly, the Raider did not best the rival Alienware 15 R3 on our benchmark tests, despite having double the system memory. Both laptops share a Kaby Lake Core i7 processor and GTX 1070 GPU, yet the 15 R3 outscores the GE63VR on all of our 3DMark tests (albeit by a slim margin), as well as the PCMark 8 Home test (by 600 points).

On top of that, the 15 R3 model we tested is $200 cheaper than the GE63VR. That’s the cost of four games. The GE63VR may be lighter and quieter than the 15 R3, but it’s not faster, and that hurts its value.

Battery life

Battery death is more like it. Gaming laptops are not known for their batteries, but the Raider’s sub 3 hours of unplugged time is poor even in this juice-less paradigm.

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On our movie test (in which a movie is played on a loop at 50% volume and brightness), the 15 R3 and EVO 15-S both lasted a full hour longer.

The GE63VR doesn’t do much better on the PCMark 8 Battery test either. The 15 R3 leads the pack at 3 hours and 13 minutes, but the EVO 15-S, at 2 hours and 52 minutes, and the Raider, at 2 hours and 53 minutes of battery life, stumble across the finish line together.

We liked

MSI’s GE63VR is class-busting in a lot of ways: it’s quiet, it’s cool and it’s got a beach body. Its Core i7 processor and GTX 1070 GPU are pretty dreamy, too. It may look like a straight gamer, but the Raider is one of those uncommon gaming devices that does nearly everything well.

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We disliked

Again, the Raider does nearly everything well, but it’s not the best where it counts: pure performance. It’s a wallet-buster that doesn’t bust through the pixel wall. The rival 15 R3 beats it out on most of our benchmarks tests, even though the GE63VR we tested has double the memory.

Battery life. It’s probably the least interesting part of a gaming laptop (outside of the touchpad) but the device has to at least show some ability to go cordless – not the Raider. It just chills on the longboat, chugging mead, eternally thirsty.

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Final verdict

So many gaming laptops are really mini gaming desktops: they’re heavy, they’re hot, and they’re loud. They’re portable only in the sense that you don’t have to get on your hands and knees to move them. However, in recent years, manufacturers have begun making gaming laptops with both power and portability: the GE63VR is the latest, and maybe greatest, example of this philosophy.

The quiet, cool gameplay the Raider pulls off is a homerun. The typical bells and whistles you’d find on a gaming laptop – the programmable chroma keys, smooth display and punchy hardware – are all here and done well, too. But there’s a burr in the GE63VR’s saddle, and that’s its price-to-performance ratio.

The Raider isn’t cheap, and because it isn’t cheap, users are going to expect top-of-the-line performance. And, the Raider does deliver – just not as well as Alienware’s cheaper 15 R3.

The bottom line on the GE63VR is simple: if you really value comfort in your portable gaming experience, then this laptop is for you. But, if it’s performance above all else, then there are cheaper options out there that are at least as powerful as the Raider, if not more so.

(techradar.com, https://goo.gl/n6UQE1)

 

Here’s Everything You Need to Know About the 2018 Nissan Leaf

Pop quiz: What’s the best-selling electric car of all time? If you guessed the Tesla Model S, you’d be wrong. With over 250,000 sold worldwide (including over 100,000 in the U.S.), that title goes to the Nissan Leaf. The Leaf was launched in 2010, and back then it ticked all the right boxes when it came to the nascent EV market. It had no grille, gimmicky blue and green interior lights, and lots of shiny, hard plastics.

It probably goes without saying, but the world is a very different place now. Tesla’s Models S and X have all but normalized EVs in the American market. Ford, Chevy, and Ram are expected to release hybrid pickups before decade’s end. And General Motors has even gotten into the pure electric game with the Chevy Bolt. The Leaf needs to adapt to survive in a changing market. And for 2018, it looks like it has.

Nissan has finally pulled the wraps off of its second-generation electric car, and it looks like it’s suited to stay competitive well into the future. But how good is it? Does it have what it takes to beat the Bolt and the upcoming Tesla Model 3 at its own game? Here’s everything we know about the new Leaf. 

1. It’s a lot cheaper

Nissan Leaf

Nissan Leaf | Nissan

In 2010, the current Leaf started at around $34,000 before state and federal tax credits. Granted, that price has lowered to just under $31,000 as the car has aged. But the new model will still start at below that $31,000 mark before tax credits. Why? Because Nissan is eager to field a competitive electric car for less than its two more visible rivals, namely the Tesla Model 3 and Chevy Bolt.

Next: Nissan is thinking inside the box, too. 

2. It’s a car, not an electric car

2018 Nissan Leaf

2018 Nissan Leaf | Nissan

A big part of what made Nissan focus on keeping costs down is the company’s effort on destigmatizing the Leaf. With a sticker price in the low-30s, the EV falls below the average cost of a typical new car. And again, that’s before state and federal tax credits. So don’t think of it as an EV. Think of it as an average five-door hatch.

Next: Average car or not, it’s still revolutionary. 

3. It goes a lot farther

2018 Nissan Leaf

2018 Nissan Leaf | Nissan

Helping the Leaf’s average car cred is its notably increased range. While the outgoing car could only muster 107 miles of range (it started out offering just 74), the new model will be able to average 150 on a single charge. For most drivers, that should be more than enough to combat the dreaded EV “range anxiety.”

Next: It could introduce a new way to drive. 

4. Get ready for the e-Pedal

2018 Nissan Leaf

2018 Nissan Leaf | Nissan

Despite Nissan’s “average car” posturing, the automaker claims that the new Leaf could revolutionize the way people drive. Thanks to its e-Pedal accelerator, you can now drive virtually anywhere with just one pedal. Switch the function on, push the accelerator, and your car goes. Let off of it, and the regenerative brakes kick in, recharging the batteries while you come to a stop. It might take some getting used to, but we like this idea for EVs — especially if these stronger regenerative brakes mean greater charging power.

Next: It’s incredibly advanced for its price point. 

5. It’s semi-autonomous

2018 Nissan Leaf

2018 Nissan Leaf | Nissan

On top of the e-Pedal, Nissan is also offering its ProPilot Assist system in the Leaf. Like a simpler version of Tesla’s Autopilot, ProPilot utilizes four cameras, 12 sensors, and front wave radar to control speed, following distance, and stopping. You can’t quite take your hands off the wheel yet, but Nissan’s tech should make the Leaf about as close as you can get to autonomous driving in the $30,000 range.

Next: Don’t you hate parking your car? 

6. Never park again

2018 Nissan Leaf

2018 Nissan Leaf | Nissan

When ProPilot Assist isn’t being put to use on the highway, drivers will be able to use it to let their Leafs park themselves. As ProPilot Park, the system can scan a parking lot for empty spaces and pull in and out by itself.

Next: This is a surprising change for the Leaf. 

7. It looks like a Nissan

2018 Nissan Leaf

2018 Nissan Leaf | Nissan

Gone are the days when automakers tried to make their EVs look like nondescript blobs. The public has spoken, and they want their electric cars to look like, well, cars. As a result, the new Leaf proudly wears Nissan’s “V-motion” grille up front. But instead of any mesh surfaces, the familiar shape is filled with a deep blue insert that shines in the sunlight. It’s cool enough to set the Leaf apart but not wild enough to drive more conservative buyers away.

Next: The goodies continue inside. 

8. It’s new inside

2018 Nissan Leaf

2018 Nissan Leaf | Nissan

Inside, the new Leaf looks more like a modern five-passenger hatchback, too, albeit a modern one. There are still swaths of hard plastic and plenty of empty spaces, but it’s handsomely designed and looks modern without telegraphing that it’s an electric car. In other words, it’s the perfect EV for buyers who don’t want to telegraph that they’ve bought an EV.

Next: Here’s the downside. 

9. There are still trade-offs

2018 Nissan Leaf

2018 Nissan Leaf | Nissan

The Leaf may be cheaper than rivals, such as the Model 3 and Chevy Bolt, but there are some drawbacks. For starters, both cars can break the 200-mile mark on a single charge. And despite the sales edge, the current EV universe centers on Tesla. For buyers sick of waiting for a Model 3, or for those who find it too flashy, the Leaf should be a worthwhile alternative. But it will need to appeal to a wider audience if it wants to successfully compete against its rivals.

Next: There’s another catch. 

10. It’ll be a while

2018 Nissan Leaf

2018 Nissan Leaf | Nissan

On top of the mileage limitations, the 2018 Leaf won’t hit dealerships until early 2018, which could erase any head start it might have had against the entry-level Tesla. Still, it’s an attractive and nicely evolved EV. We’re hoping it can hold its own against its rivals and make the roads that much more interesting.

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

Purism Librem 15 review

OUR VERDICT

This is a highly compelling notebook which boasts a neat design, impressive attention to detail, and some great security and privacy features.

FOR

  • Privacy and security features
  • Competitive performance levels
  • Free software all the way down the stack

AGAINST

  • Not cheap

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People who want a laptop pre-installed with GNU/Linux are a niche market (sadly), and people who want that GNU/Linux to be entirely free – no binary blobs in the kernel – are a small percentage of that niche. But people who care about security and privacy? That’s a large and growing number of regular computer users – thanks to Vault 7 and other news about the extent to which we’re all monitored online.

The Purism Librem 15 (and other laptop models) are high-end devices built from the ground up with security and privacy in mind. Worried about someone remotely activating the camera and mic on your child’s laptop? The Librem has hardware kill switches to power off these devices.

We got to spend a couple of days with a Librem 15 – which starts from $1,449 in the US, and £1,110 in the UK, plus 20% customs duty – while members of the Purism team were in the UK for GUADEC. Here’s how we fared with it.

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Design

First impressions are very good: a lovely slim wedge of black anodised aluminium that opens with good resistance from the hinges. There’s a good collection of ports around the outside, including USB Type-C, but no RJ45 – wired is considered legacy nowadays, and if you need it you’ll have to get a USB adaptor.

The keyboard – despite looking like a flimsy ‘chiclet’ type – is a bit of a surprise. Feedback has a nice feel rare in this type of keyboard, and touch-typing is far easier than on a MacBook Pro, for example. It’s not your ThinkPad mechanical keyboard, but it’s pleasantly tactile with enough travel to make touch-typing feel natural – once the user adjusts to the slightly shorter key travel, everything feels just right.

Typing all day is as it should be – something done without a great deal of conscious thought about the mechanical process. The space bar even has a pleasant amount of mechanical noise, so the feel of an old-school keyboard is not entirely lost. These are not trivial matters to anyone who spends eight or more hours typing and rarely uses a mouse.

As far as the touchpad goes, some of us will never be fans of such pointing devices, but for its kind it’s at the relatively painless end of the spectrum – with multi-touch working well for scrolling, swiping and, where supported by apps, pinch zoom/rotate. At least it comes with middle-click, and the whole thing can be turned off simply via Fn+F1, for avoiding accidentally moving your cursor position during extended typing sessions.

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Function keys also control the usual shortcuts to sleep (which also works with the lid closed, as it should), mute, adjust screen brightness, wireless and such. What marks the Librem laptops out is the presence of hardware kill switches (HKS).

Camera and microphone, as well as Wi-Fi, are all controlled by HKS – slide the switch and you cut the power, giving the Librem user protection from any software switching on the microphone, camera or Wi-Fi, whether for corporate data gathering, government surveillance or more personally malicious purposes. Little wonder many people are choosing to buy these devices for their children.

Evolutionary improvements over earlier models are certainly noticeable given that we couldn’t find any of the problems mentioned in older reviews during our brief time with the laptop. Construction quality is good, and the access to memory and storage via Phillips screws is welcome. You can also buy the Librems without any storage, and put in your own. There are some replaceable parts – Purism is gradually building up inventory.

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Performance

The dual-core Skylake Intel Core i7 is fast enough, but more cores would be nice since compilers and other apps take advantage of them. Performance is certainly on a par with rivals, and battery life is decent but not the best – no surprise given the slim form factor, and large and lovely screen. We experienced about six hours of real-world use, although you could stretch it out towards the claimed ‘6 to 9 hours’ scale with a dimmer screen.

If GNOME 3 isn’t your current desktop of choice, PureOS could be a pleasant surprise. Every recent GNOME release has added polish, as well as security improvements (such as Flatpak), and with PureOS being all about both security and convenience, it does deliver one of the best out-of-the-box GNOME experiences. If you do purchase this notebook in the UK, don’t forget as we mentioned before, there’s a 20% duty charge to take into account.

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Final verdict

If you’re in the market for a high-end laptop that will last, Purism’s engineering excellence and attention to detail will put this on your shortlist. If you want a user-friendly desktop on a system that has real credibility when it comes to digital rights, this should be at the top of your list.

(techradar.com, https://goo.gl/7rnHBd)