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.
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.)
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.
This isn’t our official review of Duke Nukem 3D 20th Anniversary World Tour ($20 on Steam). That’ll come later—this is the busy season, and everybody (meaning me) is working overtime (meaning playing a million different games at once).
I did get the chance to boot it up and run through a few levels though, and my official recommendation: Buy the hell out of this remaster/re-render/whatever Gearbox wants to call it. Or at least buy it if you have any interest in Duke Nukem.
Duke 3D is a classic—a sometimes off-color, sometimes offensive classic. Like your creepy uncle who you constantly feel the need to apologize for, and yet you love just the same. The 20th Anniversary World Tour uses a different rendering technique (which you can toggle by hitting “C”) so all objects show up in true 3D instead of a stretched fish-eye effect, and throws in pretty lighting to boot. Here are some examples:
SpotCam is a relatively recent entrant in the DIY security sweepstakes, offering a trio of HD (720p) indoor and outdoor cameras. The $160 SpotCam HD Eva looks to muscle in—perhaps literally, given its bulky body—on the crowded Dropcam/Nestcam space with attractive features such as 24-hour continuous recording and motorized pan/tilt. A few peccadilloes, however, keep it from the top tier.
You can forget about hiding the SpotCam HD Eva in plain sight—there’s nothing inconspicuous about this camera; it’s easily the bulkiest we’ve reviewed so far. The head unit is bigger than a tennis ball—which is typically the largest comparative size we see on DIY security cams—and the base is nearly as big. In fact, it almost looks as if they stacked two of the same cone-shaped modules one on top of the other.
IDG CMO Perspectives provides insight into the state of Marketing across industries from leading business executives. Qabil Shah, Nutanix Marketing Lead – Western Europe and Emerging Markets, speaks to Josh London, CMO of IDG, and shares his thoughts on the importance of marketers being a storyteller, a data analyst, an architect, a designer and more.
IDG CMO Perspectives provides insight into the state of Marketing across industries from leading business executives. Kathy Schneider, Level 3’s SVP of Marketing and Product for EMEA, speaks to Josh London, CMO of IDG, and shares her thoughts on the importance of having dedicated resources for interpreting segmentation data, building brand awareness and more.
IDG CMO Perspectives provides insight into the state of Marketing across industries from leading business executives. Gareth Case, CSC’s Marketing Director for the UK, Ireland and Netherlands, speaks to Josh London, CMO of IDG, and shares his thoughts on the importance of coupling intent data with customer meetings to validate insights, as well as making it easy for Sales and Marketing teams to collaborate and more.
Sony is a respected brand in the mainstream headphone market, and deservedly so. But ask the average consumer about noise-cancelling headphones and they’re apt to mention a different brand: Bose. And deservedly so—even if only because of the company’s relentless marketing campaigns for its QuietComfort line (although to be fair, Bose founder Dr. Amar Bose was first to commercialize the concept).
Sony’s new MDR-1000X Bluetooth headphones aren’t the company’s first effort building noise-cancelling headphones, but they are a prime threat to knock Bose off its throne. They won’t convince everyone of their superiority, but they are pretty great cans.
We don’t really have auteur theory in the game industry, nor are there more than a handful of designers that have managed to become household names. But we do place a lot of importance on studios. Even when the people at those studios change, dozens of people cycling out between releases, there’s a feeling of continuity by seeing the same splash screen in front of a sequel as in front of its predecessor.
Which makes Gears of War 4 a perilous release. It’s the inflection point. It’s the first mainline Gears of War to be developed by The Coalition, and the first without the involvement of series creator Epic. It’s also first Gears game to hit the PC at the same time as consoles—and the only Gears game to hit PCs period besides the original.
If you like to travel light, compromise is a way of life. We’ve seen a bounty of ultraportable laptops this year, and everyone of them has had to give at least a little on weight, price, hardware, or build quality.
LG’s Gram 15 had that big screen and insanely low weight, but its keyboard and trackpad were mediocre. The excellent Dell XPS 13 tipped the scales just a bit more than some similar rivals. A slew of Surface clones offered cheaper or flashier alternatives to Microsoft’s 2-in-1, but some features like the OLED screen on Samsung’s TabPro S came with quirks.
When Intel’s Kaby Lake CPU arrived at our doorstep in the form of Dell’s XPS 13 laptop, it was wrapped in foreboding. Hardware fans have long been in denial about the inevitable end of Moore’s Law. With Kaby Lake, Intel’s abandoned its relentless “tick-tock” march in favor of a slower “process-architecture-optimize” stroll. Semiconductor doomsday seemed nigh.
Kaby Lake is the first CPU produced under Intel’s new plan. The plan started with a “tock”—a CPU shrink (22nm Haswell to 14nm Broadwell), then a “tick” of efficiency improvement (14nm Broadwell to 14nm Skylake). Intel wasn’t ready to produce another tock yet, though. Instead we got a second tick, an “optimized” 14nm Kaby Lake. The question is whether there really is much improvement from Skylake to Kaby Lake, or is Intel just stalling while it looks for a way to stretch Moore’s Law even further.
When I reviewed Event last month I said, “This might just be one of the most important indie games of the year.” And then along came Virginia.
Like Event, Virginia belongs to a growing subset of experimental games, ones focused on expanding the language of games as much as—or sometimes more than—commercial appeal or approachability.
Whether or not their individual experiments are successful, I feel these games are important to experience if you care about the growth of the medium—not least because you can expect their better ideas to be “borrowed” by the bigger-budget games of the future.
When we listen to music, there’s more often than not a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) in the signal path between the source, the amplifier, and the loudspeakers or headphones that ultimately deliver the sound to our ears. Those two components can make or break your audio experience.
When your source playback device is a computer, the quality of the DAC you’re using becomes even more important. Computers are great at lots of things, but audio reproduction isn’t their forte and computer manufacturers don’t invest significant sums into the computer’s DAC or headphone amplifier; most don’t even pay much attention to isolating the computer’s audio components from the electrically noisy environment inside the computer’s case. Installing a high-end sound card in a desktop machine is one option, but you can’t do that with a laptop. That’s where Optoma’s NuForce uDAC5 comes in.
The iPhone 7 Plus is the best iPhone money can buy, hands down. Like the iPhone 7, it’s not an essential upgrade if you have an iPhone 6s Plus that you’re happy with, or you want to hold out for the 2017 iPhone, which will be the 10th anniversary and, rumor has it, the big switch to OLED. But thanks to the iPhone 7 Plus’s beautiful screen, long battery life, and impressive dual-lens camera, it’s hard to find fault with it today.
Hard, but not impossible: The 7 Plus has the exact same issues that I complained about in my iPhone 7 review (to review: the new Home button and the missing headphone jack), so I won’t repeat myself here. Except, I will say that a couple weeks later, I’m still not used to the fused Home button, with its odd-feeling ka-thunk sensation when I tap it, instead of a crisper click of the old Home buttons.
Let’s be honest, all-in-one PCs have always been a pretty compromised lot, sacrificing performance for a sleek, compact form factor.
Sure, you get a clutter- and wire-free work area, but the internals are usually a disappointing collection of underpowered parts. And getting inside that AiO to service or upgrade it? It would be easier to stroll into the iPhone prototype room at Apple HQ wearing a Samsung shirt.
Origin PC’s Omni defies that stereotype. It’s so powerfully over-the-top and tinkerer-friendly that it’s the rare breed of AiO that enthusiasts can take seriously.