You can’t program Philips latest LED light bulb, but you can easily change the color it produces—and you won’t even need to whip out your smartphone. The SceneSwitch is a 60-watt-equivalent, white-only LED bulb that’s capable of producing three color temperatures at the flip of a switch: Turn the bulb on and you get 800 lumens of moderately soft 2700K light. Turn it off, then on again, and the bulb delivers 800 lumens but at a quite cold 5000K color temperature. Turn it off and on a third time and the bulb dims to 80 lumens of very warm 2200K light.
The SceneSwitch doesn’t work with a smartphone app, but as anyone who’s spent a long time fiddling with smart lighting knows, sometimes these apps are overkill. Once in a while you just want to flip a switch and have the lights come on.
Smart color light bulbs—LED-based bulbs that can be controlled by a smartphone and “tuned” to emit any hue in the rainbow—are no longer a new idea. What is new is how far this technology has come since its advent just a few years ago.
Color LED bulbs aren’t quite a commodity yet, but they are getting close to maturity as far as the market goes. Today’s bulbs are more compact, much brighter, have better color representation, and, for the most part, feature control apps that do more than ever, and are easier to set up. Prices have also come down, with some no-name color-tunable bulbs now available for less than $10 each. (Buyer beware: You get what you pay for.)
TP-Link has expanded its smart bulb offerings, which previously included only a series of dimmable and tunable white LED bulbs. The TP-Link LB130 is fully color-enabled, and like its white-only little brother, the LB120, it’s fully manageable via your Wi-Fi network. TP-Link is now one of only two vendors of significance producing Wi-Fi-connected, color-tunable bulbs today; yes, LIFX finally has some competition.
The LB130 feels heavy, but it’s compact enough to fit easily into any typical fixture. Setup is quite simple. As with the LB120, the LB130 is designed to work with TP-Link’s Kasa smart home management system, which remains a somewhat wonky yet mostly intuitive way to interact with your bulbs. To pair the bulb, you connect to the bulb’s temporary Wi-Fi network, and then use the app to switch it over to your own wireless LAN. The process took two tries in my testing; otherwise, setup was hiccup-free. Both color and white bulbs (and other TP-Link devices, such as smart plugs) can be managed through the Kasa system simultaneously.
It’s thinner, lighter, and smaller all around, but the new MacBook Pro makes a big impression. The trackpad on the 15-inch version is downright ridiculous—twice as large as the trackpad on the previous generation—but I didn’t look down and say, “Holy cow, that is a seriously huge trackpad,” until I’d been using it for a couple of minutes.
Because it’s really all about that gorgeous Touch Bar.
Apple doesn’t do touchscreen Macs, but the Touch Bar adds a strip of ultra-handy iOS-style contextual controls right where you need them, and the rest of the MacBook Pro got great updates too. After my limited hands-on time, I think it’s got the right mix of power, portability, and ports to satisfy users of previous MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models. Let’s dive right into my first impressions—we’ll follow up with a full review later.
No matter how many USB chargers I accumulate, I can never find one to charge my phone before I climb into bed. The LampChamp won’t fix that problem for me because have an atypical bedside lamp, but it might work for you. The LampChamp has a male E27 base on one end, a female E27 socket on the other, and a USB Type A socket on the side that puts out 2.0 amps of power to charge your phone, tablet, or e-reader.
If you have a newer phone or any other device that’s equipped with a USB Type C charging socket, you’ve probably already stopped reading. While it will work with a Type C cable that’s Type A at the other end, it won’t charge your phone as quickly as possible. And you probably have other devices—a tablet or an e-reader, for example—that wind up on your bedside table at night.
We gave the Roost Smart Battery high marks when it came to market late last year. Equipped with a removable Wi-Fi module and a tiny microphone, the battery will send an alert to you and as many “watchers” as you care to designate the instant your smoke detector sounds off. Now Roost has teamed with Universal Security Instruments to manufacture a pair of its own smoke alarms. The company sent its most capable model—the RSA-400—for us to review.
The RSA-400 looks like your ordinary, everyday smoke detector. The included Roost Smart Battery enables it to connect to your Wi-Fi network, and that’s how it sends alerts to your smartphone if the alarm goes off. But the battery provides only backup power; the Roost Smart Smoke Alarm must be hardwired to your electrical system to operate. That’s because it’s a 4-in-1 alarm capable of detecting smoke, carbon monoxide, the flames from a fast-moving fire, and the presence of natural gas. Most of its competition—including the Nest Protect—lack that last feature, but the presence of all four sensors is why it must be hardwired, according to Roost.
Just like that, five days are gone. I fell into quite a few “One More Turn” traps over the weekend, looked up more than once to realize it was past 3 A.M., and I come before you now having made my way through three Civilization VI campaigns.
I’ve got thoughts, both good and bad. But I’ll say this up front: Civilization VI ($60 on Steam or Amazon) is better than Civilization V was at launch.
All roads lead to nukes
A hell of a lot better, really. Oh, the honeymoon’s already worn off and people have started complaining that “Civilization VI isn’t as good as Civilization V with all its expansion packs.” The cycle continues, and I’m sure Firaxis will release at least two expansions (and then an all-encompassing Gold Edition) over the next couple years to fix some of Civ VI’s weaker points.
After months of focusing on the high end, Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 10-series is finally trickling down to the masses. The $109 GeForce GTX 1050 and its bigger brother, the $139 GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, are a pair of affordable new graphics cards designed to ease introductions into PC gaming.
At those prices, it’s clear that Nvidia’s aiming directly at the Radeon RX 460’s jugular—prompting AMD to launch preemptive price cuts. But the GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti are more than fresh foot soldiers in the never-ending war between AMD and Nvidia. While the older GTX 950 required the use of an extra six-pin power connector for most of its life, the GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti assume the mantle of the popular GTX 750 Ti by sipping a mere 75 watts of power, allowing them to draw all needed energy via your motherboard alone. That means you can slap Nvidia’s new cards into a prebuilt “big box” PC from the likes of HP and Dell to transform them into full-fledged gaming machines with minimal hassle—a trick that 2GB variants of the Radeon RX 460 can also perform.
A time will come when we stop referring to machines like the Origin EON17-X as “notebooks.” Instead, we’ll just call them what they are: ultra-compact desktops with built-in displays.
Sure, you can pick up these laptops and take them with you, assuming you have a dolly or a gym membership. But aside from the form factor, systems like the EON17-X are desktop-class from top to bottom: Companies making high-end gaming PCs were already stuffing their notebooks with desktop CPUs, and now that Nvidia’s Pascal “mobile” parts are essentially the same as their desktop counterparts, there’s nothing particularly notebook-y about these machines anymore. Heck, they’re not even a “desktop replacement” for most people, but more like a desktop upgrade.
Although DIY home security cameras can seem interchangeable, no model is suitable for every need. It’s a fact D-link has capitalized on by offering an array of models, from basic nanny cams to serious surveillance models to weatherproof cameras for outdoor monitoring. It recently expanded its offerings with the DCS-5030L HD Pan & Tilt Wi-Fi Camera, aimed at users with big rooms or active kids and pets to keep an eye on. It’s not the most attractive camera we’ve seen, but what it lacks on looks it makes up for in features.
What you get
With its bulky dome shape, circle of lights, and prominent antenna, the DCS-5030L resembles something out of a 1950s space-art poster. Its wide base allows you to set it on any flat surface without worrying it will tip over. You can also give it a more permanent spot on your ceiling with the included mounting bracket. In either case, it’s going to be pretty conspicuous; this isn’t a camera that blends easily with home decor.
With the arrival of Nvidia’s new Pascal-based mobile GPUs, we’re seeing an onslaught of high-end laptops that, for the first time, are able to give desktops a run for their money. We’re also witnessing the arrival of all-new features in gaming laptops, thanks to the prodigious power afforded by the high-end GTX 1080 chip. With more than twice the power of Nvidia’s previous flagship mobile GPU, the GTX 980M, the GTX 1080 paves the way for higher-res panels, higher refresh rates, and of course insane levels of performance.
Case in point is MSI’s new GT73 VR Titan. It pairs the new GTX 1080 mobile GPU with a 17.3-inch G-Sync panel that runs at 1920x1080 resolution at 120Hz, making it the first laptop we’ve laid our paws on that sports a high refresh-rate screen. As such, it should deliver crazy-smooth, high frame-rate gaming at an unprecedented level. (MSI also sells the notebook with an IPS 4K display at 60Hz, if you prefer a higher resolution over high frame rates, but it costs $300 more than this config.)
Oppo is making the same kind of splash in the wireless speaker market that it’s already done with disc players and headphones. In fact, you could call it a cannonball: The Sonica is one of the best-sounding wireless speakers in its price range.
It’s much more than a Bluetooth speaker.You can also connect to it via Wi-Fi and it supports Apple’s AirPlay music-streaming technology, too. The speaker’s rounded and tapered enclosure gives this unit a classic look, making it feel even smaller than it actually is. Those of us with a few grey hairs might flash back to the alarm clocks of yesteryear—all that’s missing is the clock face.
A single mute button and a and volume-control toggle are the only buttons on the unit, and you’ll use a combination of button presses to set the speaker up. It assumes you’ll want to connect via Wi-Fi, but holding both the mute button and the volume + button down quickly puts it into Bluetooth pairing mode. I did this to quickly pair it to a Pioneer XDP-100R high-res digital audio player.
“If history only remembers one in a thousand of us, then the future will be filled with stories of who we were and what we did. How we lived, how we fought, and how we died. When this is all over and the war is won, they will remember us.”
These solemn lines close out Battlefield 1’s campaign, and it’s as bittersweet a note as I can think to start this review on. (You can also watch the YouTube video below to see me play through the game’s first mission.)
Because the truth is we haven’t remembered. Not enough of us, anyway. To put a twist on a Churchill quote, “Never has so much been owed by so many to so many.” Be it because World War I is too distant a part of our past or because the horror was too great or simply because it was overshadowed by its follow-up twenty years later, the so-called “War to end all wars” doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves.
Google has been selling phones since the Nexus One landed almost seven years ago. In fact, there have been eight Nexus phones, one each year through 2014, and two last year. They have generally been good phones, especially in the last few years. But the Pixel is not a Nexus. It’s better.
With the Pixel, Google did more than partner with a phone maker to slap Android on an already-designed handset. It created its own hardware and software innovations on top of stock Android. The result is a phone that may displease Android purists, but should delight everyone else. This is Google’s first real attempt to push a phone to the mass market, and the Pixel competes directly with the iPhone as well as pricey flagships from Samsung and LG.
Lenovo’s Yoga Book is for people who have never been content with just a keyboard and mouse to express their ideas. People who prefer to scribble on notepads or napkins. Who draw pictures to illustrate ideas or create art. The $550 Yoga Book facilitates those practices by helping users produce and save that content digitally, taking fuller advantage of the stylus- and touch-friendly Windows 10 than any other device has. (There’s also an Android version with the same capabilities, but different pricing and apps.)
Stylus computing is nothing new, but the Yoga Book’s full commitment to it is. Its defining feature is a large, touch-sensitive surface that converts easily from a keyboard to a digital sketchpad. A proprietary pen, and a special way to use real paper with the digital sketchpad, turn the Yoga Book into a device where typing, drawing, and writing are equally welcome input methods. You can also write and draw on the touch display, of course, but we all know that holding one’s hand in the air isn’t as comfortable as working on a flat surface.
You can think of HP’s updated Omen 17 as that sleeper car that pulls up next to your tricked-out ride at a stoplight.
When the light turns green and you lay rubber, expecting to leave that tan sedan breathing your exhaust, you’re instead shocked to see it hanging right next to you.
That’s the HP Omen 17 in a nutshell. Sure, it carries the famous Omen brand and a couple of cues that it’s a gaming laptop, but next to just about all the other flashy gaming laptops, it’s downright bland.
HP’s Elite x3 smartphone has achieved at least one thing: It has triumphantly realized Microsoft’s dream of phones that could eventually replace your PC.
Microsoft’s vision was meaningless unless those phones could support the PC’s legacy apps. Microsoft’s Continuum feature already allows you to connect a mouse and keyboard, giving the phone the look and feel of a desktop PC. HP designed the Elite x3 to evolve that concept. Pick any Win32 app you’d like—Photoshop, AutoCAD, even Chrome—and HP’s new Workspace feature will allow it to be run via your phone. Combine that with stellar battery life, truly useful utilities, and an (almost) elite set of hardware specs, and you indeed have a PC in your pocket.
Everyone from the EPA to the American Lung Association has stressed the importance of indoor air quality. Indoor pollutants don’t just impact personal comfort, they can often cause or exacerbate health conditions. Some researchers have even called for greater effort to monitor indoor air.
Fortuitous, then, that Neatmo has released the Healthy Home Coach ($100). This device monitors your indoor climate in real time to help you create the optimum environment whether you have particular health requirements, such as allergies or asthma, or just want greater comfort.
Toshiba/OCZ has struck again with its latest 2.5-inch SATA 6Gbps MLC SSD, the VX500. Released hot on heels of the RD400 (a fast M.2 NVMe drive), the mainstream VX500 delivers solid overall and sustained performance, and is featherlight—a boon for anyone looking to upgrade a laptop.
Capacity and price
The VX500 is available in four capacities: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB, with prices ranging from approximately $70 up to $350 (for the 1TB version on Newegg). You pay a slight premium for the 1TB drive, but it’s still just 35 cents per gigabyte. And we’re talking about MLC (Multi Level Cell/2-bit) NAND, not slower TLC (Triple Level Cell/3-bit), which requires cache to attain 6Gbps-like write performance. Drives using TLC write substantially slower when the cache is full. Writing three bits simply takes longer than two.
A mood light in every sense of the word, the Elgato Avea is a party bulb through and through. In fact, its approach doesn’t even pay lip service to utility—it’s here for fun, and it refuses to apologize for that.
The bulb sets up easily, using an integrated Bluetooth pairing system like the Flux Bluetooth bulb to quickly associate itself with your phone. Multiple bulbs can be quickly paired, and all will coordinate to work in sequence.
Flux is a budget bulb provider, and it actually has two different types of bulbs available, both color tunable. Reviewed here is the second generation of the Flux Bluetooth, a squat and somewhat weird-looking bulb with a black, opaque base that uses a Bluetooth 4.0 connection to link directly to your smart phone, no hub required. A Wi-Fi version of the bulb, along with some other novelty bulbs (including “vintage” A19 and ST21/ST64 styles with visible LED “filaments”) are also available.
Bluetooth bulbs represent the easiest setup of any smart bulb variety, and the Flux is no exception. You don’t even need to pair the bulb through your smartphone OS. Once you download the Flux app, it handles the pairing process for you.
The latest generation of ilumi’s Smartbulb has a considerably updated look that is now reminiscent of a high-tech ice cream cone, but its core technology remains largely the same. Most notably, the bulb still uses a Bluetooth connection to pair with your phone, and it’s still rated for 800 lumens (by far the brightest Bluetooth bulb of those we’ve seen lately).
What ilumi has done is taken steps to update its app, and in fact it’s in the process of beta-testing a new control app that is due to be formally released in November. Users today can use both the existing app and the new one (listed as “new ilumi” on the App Store) to control their bulbs, switching between the two at will.
Osram recently spun off its lamps division, branding it Ledvance. But little seems to have changed when it comes to the Lightify LED bulb product line, which has a diversity that looks a lot like it did last year. (Ledvance comes close to Philips in terms of its variety of smart LED form factors, offering indoor strips, landscape lighting, PAR, and candelabra.) The one big twist: The company has added a full-color tunable bulb to its lineup to complement the white-only bulb we reviewed last year. Firmware updates have also taught older products a few new tricks.
Ledvance Lightify bulbs are built to closely mimic standard incandescents in appearance, and they’re designed to work with the Lightify Gateway. The gateway is a small ZigBee device that plugs into any wall socket near where you have the bulbs installed, easily bridging the gap between lighting and your smartphone. It remains a far more elegant solution than the wired Philips Bridge, and Lightify now also works with most of the major smart-home hubs, including Wink, SmartThings, HomeKit, and Amazon Echo.
Arguably no company has done more to push forward the world of smart LEDs than Philips. Its latest bulb, the Hue White and Color Ambiance, is evidence as to why the company has been a major player in this space since day one.
The bulbs have changed little in design since then. These latest ones—released at the end of August—are still shaped like a rounded-off tornado, but they now feature a white heatsink/base instead of a silver one. On the whole, the bulb remains quite demure in comparison to the competition. As a ZigBee solution, the bulbs are designed to work with a bridge that connects to your Wi-Fi router via an ethernet cable.
The Philips Bridge, which is smaller and more streamlined than the prior model, costs $60, but it’s included—along with three bulbs—in the $200 kit reviewed here become a standard in its own right and is now compatible with Lightify and GE bulbs. (The latter isn’t represented in this roundup because they only have white LED smart bulbs.) Hue lights also work with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant (and its Echo, Tap, and Echo Dot hardware), Apple’s HomeKit platform, and a number of other smart-home products.
LIFX was our runaway favorite bulb in 2015, and the company has hardly been resting on its laurels in the year and a half since. Today’s LIFX bulbs are smaller, cheaper, and brighter, but are just as easy to install and use as the earlier ones.
My biggest complaint last year was the gargantuan size of LIFX bulbs, which positively dwarfed other bulbs in its category—to the point where they were difficult to install into a standard lamp. This new LIFX bulb has the same shape but is 2mm thinner and a critical 20mm shorter than the original LIFX bulb, and it weighs nearly 2 ounces less. These are all significant and immediately noticeable when you’re working with the bulb hardware.
Listen: All the things you liked about this year’s Doom reboot? Yeah, Shadow Warrior did them first, back in 2013. Breakneck pacing, high-powered melee weapons that encouraged you to always stay moving, tons of gore, and uncompromising violence.
Oh, except Shadow Warrior did all that and included a veritable encyclopedia full of dick jokes.
So in a post-Doom world, there was maybe no game I anticipated more for 2016 than Shadow Warrior 2. I needed more over-the-top corridor shooting. I craved Wang.
It took a bit longer than I expected for Razer’s Stargazer to arrive. After its surprise reveal at CES 2016, I thought a new era of webcam technology would be upon us by summer at the latest. Instead it took eight long months—a fact I’d complain about, except the Stargazer also dropped $50 in price between announcement and release. Not bad.
Unfortunately for Razer, however, the Stargazer’s been met with a formidable foe. Logitech released its new C922 webcam at the same time, pitting tried-and-true against Razer’s upstart (and its Intel RealSense tech). Can the Stargazer hold its own?
After four years, Logitech has finally retired the C920 webcam. It had a long and distinguished run—one that saw Twitch.tv move from a small Justin.tv subsidiary to a billion-dollar chunk of Amazon, while YouTube continued to secure its dominance over the media landscape. The C920 rode that momentum, becoming a staple in most mid-to-high-end streaming rigs.
The new Logitech C922? Well, it’s the C920, but marginally improved. It also has some competition this time, in the form of Razer’s new Stargazer—a webcam that boasts Intel’s RealSense technology. Will the C922’s pedigree keep it on top for another generation?
Fitbit is on a roll this year, releasing four fitness trackers designed to appeal to just about everyone. The Blaze is a smartwatch designed to compete with the Apple Watch, the Alta is focused on style, and the Charge 2 is an upgraded version of the popular Charge. Fitbit just upgraded its Flex band, and the second-gen model is a lightweight, affordable activity tracker that easily handles the step-counting basics.
The Pearl RearVision backup camera lets you retrofit an older vehicle to provide a view from behind. Keith Shaw from Network World gives you this look at the solar-powered license plate bracket and smartphone system.
Aside from Its $30 price tag, the Roku Express feels like a streaming box from a bygone era. It’s reminiscent of a time when we didn’t demand much from our media streamers beyond a simple way to access Netflix or Hulu; when we were more willing to tolerate choppy performance and finicky remote controls.
That’s not to say the Roku Express serves no purpose, but it’s more about giving Roku “cheapest streaming box” bragging rights—a dubious distinction when you’re talking about a small handful of dollars—than about pushing the streaming experience forward. Several better options exist for just a little more money.
Give Roku credit, at least, for the Roku Express’ looks. Measuring just 3.3 inches long by 1.4 inches deep by 0.7 inches thick, it’s as if the Express was born by cutting an old Roku box in half on both axes.