At Photokina, camera makers carve out their territory
Let this sink in: Since 2010, digital camera sales have fallen from around 120 million to 40 million units. The main reason, obviously, is that consumers can fulfill most of their photography needs with a smartphone. That leaves manufacturers a small but profitable high-end market. Judging by what I saw at Photokina, however, Canon, Nikon, Fujifilm, Olympus, Sony and Panasonic are all targeting that niche in different ways.
Canon is still popular, judging by the throngs clamoring to try the new 5D Mark VI (and our Twitter poll). The company just released the EOS M5, easily its best mirrorless camera to date. The model has some nice features, like 7 fps shooting and a fast Dual Pixel contrast autofocus system that tracks moving subjects for video. The fact that it jumped into the mirrorless game late is starting to show, though.
It’s lagging behind competitors, especially considering the $980 price (body only). For the same sum, you can get a Sony A6300 mirrorless camera with a similar sensor that shoots 4K instead of 1080p and has better low-light capability and superior (11 fps) burst shooting.
Canon’s bread and butter is still DSLRs, but as mirrorless cameras improve, folks are going to switch. Personally, I don’t want to lug around my Canon DSLR anymore when a Fujifilm or Sony model is just as good and weighs half as much. In other words, Canon’s next mirrorless model had better be at least on par with its rivals.
Nikon is doing even less than Canon in mirrorless as rumors swirl around the future of the Nikon 1 series. While still leaning on its pro DSLR market, the Japanese company is now banking on a whole new category: virtual reality. Nikon announced two new KeyMission action cameras (the 270 and 85), plus an October release date and $500 price for its impressive-looking 4K KeyMission 360 camera. Though known for its optics, Nikon has nailed the stitching software on the KeyMission 360, judging by a (very short) demo.
It is again targeting its bread-and-butter pro market by pitching the KeyMission 360 to DSLR photographers as a way to capture VR video during photo shoots. (It even has a hot-shoe mount that lets you stick it on top of a D700 or D5.) But this is a side project for Nikon right now; like Canon, it really needs to make headway in the mirrorless market.
Is Olympus held back by its smallish Micro Four Thirds sensor, compared with Sony’s, Canon’s and Fujifilm’s APS-C models? The new OMD-EM1 Mark II flagship will test that theory. It seemingly has everything a pro photographer would need: 18 fps shooting speed with AF and exposure tracking (up to 60 fps with AF locked), 4K video, a stellar EVF and a body that’s as lovely to hold as it is to look at. The company also revealed a new 25mm f/1.2 25mm lens, allowing the bokeh and light sensitivity that pros expect.
Judging by several conversations with colleagues at the show, however, many won’t even consider it with that sensor. We don’t know the price yet, but if the OMD-EM1 II is the same as the first model ($1,500), buyers will be more tempted by, say, Sony’s $1,600 (body only) Alpha A7 II, which has a full-frame sensor — twice as large as that on the Olympus model.
Panasonic again emphasized video at Photokina. The three cameras it introduced at the show all feature 4K, and the freshly unveiled GH5 (due in 2017) adds internal 10-bit, 4:2:2, 60 fps recording, making it a truly professional-grade product. Even the photo features are video-oriented. Panasonic touted “4K Photo” and upcoming “6K Photo” as features that let you take 18-megapixel stills at 30 fps. That way, photographers can choose the perfect image from an action sequence.
Like Olympus, Panasonic is hindered by the Micro Four Thirds format. The small sensor is an advantage for video, though, striking the right balance between too much and too little depth of field. However, other competitors, particularly Sony, could step on Panasonic’s turf by including 10-bit or even 6K video in future models.
Speaking of the sort, Sony not only makes the sensors used by most other manufacturers but has an excellent, well-rounded camera lineup of its own. Its latest mirrorless E-mount models, in both the APS-C and full-frame categories, have generally received raves. At Photokina, it reminded us that it also makes Alpha mount SLT (single-lens translucent mirror) by launching the flagship Alpha A99 II.
The A99 II has the specs you’d expect from a $3,600 DSLR. That includes a high-res 42.4-megapixel sensor, 5-axis image stabilization and 12 fps RAW burst speeds. It’s not messing around with video either, as the A99 II does 4K at 4:2:2 quality and, provided you use the cropped Super-35 mode, no pixel-binning. Sony’s lineup has few weaknesses, except perhaps one: Its full-frame lens selection is limited and expensive.
Finally, there’s Fujifilm, which created the most Photokina buzz with its GFX 50S medium-format model. Due early next year, the 50.4-megapixel camera is the first in a brand-new system. It was launched with three new lenses, each capable of resolving at least 100 megapixels. The company told Engadget that its X-series models already stand up against rivals’ full-frame cameras, so it wanted to jump the category altogether.
Fujifilm packed the sensor into a relatively compact DSLR-size body. It’s not going to be cheap — less than $10,000 was all that the company would say. But it instantly becomes a top choice for medium-format photographers considering Pentax, Hasselblad or Phase One. It could even take a bite out of Nikon and Canon’s high-end DSLR market for fashion, architectural and other photographers who want as big a sensor as possible.
My takeaway from Photokina 2016 is that we’re living in a golden age of high-end digital cameras — a boon for consumers. Things are less warm and fuzzy for manufacturers, however. If overall sales continue to decline, Darwinism could take its toll on brands that don’t innovate fast enough. I’m looking at you, Canon and Nikon.
We’re live all week from Cologne, Germany, for Photokina 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.
Recommended Reading: A closer look at Nike’s self-lacing shoes
The Secret Lab Where
Nike Invented the
of Our Dreams
Nike announced this week that it’s self-lacing HyperAdapt shoes will go on sale November 28th. They’re sure to be crazy limited, but the company invited Wired in for a behind-the-scenes look at the shoe’s development. You might have a hard time grabbing a pair of your own, but at least you can take a closer look at the design process via some leisurely reading.
The Dark Web Is Mostly Full of Garbage
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How Samsung Botched Its Galaxy Note 7 Recall
Samsung’s mishandling the recall of its Note 7 comes down to one thing: communication.
Inside Googles’s Internet Justice League and Its AI-powered War on Trolls
Google’s Jigsaw subsidiary is using Conversation AI to identity online abuse via machine learning.
Can I upgrade my TV to HDR? – CNET
HDR, or High Dynamic Range , is the latest buzzword in the TV world. It promises big improvements in picture quality over non-HDR TVs.
“But what about my TV?,” you ask. It’s new enough, maybe as recent as last year. Is there a way, via a software update, to make a non-HDR TV into an HDR TV?
Before we get any further, no, I’m not talking about TVs that receive official manufacturer software upgrades to handle HDR. Sony, Samsung, LG and Vizio have all issued such upgrades in the recent past, and afterward their TVs are able to handle HDR. I’m talking about TVs that have yet to receive an official HDR patch. Can those be upgraded as well?
It’s a logical question, and one we’ve gotten a lot. The short answer is “no.” Here’s why.
Will you want HDR in your next TV, and what is HDR10 vs. Dolby Vision? (Open_Tab)
Televisions keep getting new and buzzy sounding features every year — and the latest of these is HDR. But what exactly is this? And is there already a format war that could create winners and losers like Blu-ray vs HD DVD? CNET’s David Katzmaier explains HDR with Jeff Bakalar, and Mike Sorrentino brings in your questions in this excerpt from Open_Tab.
by David Katzmaier
If you read anything about HDR (and I recommend starting here), one of the most common descriptions is that it’s like local dimming on steroids. Many TVs have local dimming, so it’s logical to assume that since they have the hardware and software to control local dimming, then adding in a few lines of code to read the HDR signal and apply that shouldn’t be too hard.
And then there’s the color. Part of HDR is Wide Color Gamut , or WCG. Richer colors with more shades make for more lifelike images. Nearly every TV on the market today is capable of deeper colors than what’s in the HDTV signal.
So is it possible to add some new firmware that lets the TV read HDR and let the light and color run free, getting the older TV as close to HDR as it possibly can?
Like many TVs, the 2015 Vizio M series has many of the building blocks for HDR. But it probably won’t get an HDR upgrade.
Sarah Tew / CNET
Sorry, but it’s not possible. Well, it’s possible sure, but it won’t happen unless your TV was made to do HDR from the factory (or at least, “HDR ready”).
Problem no. 1: You can’t input the signal
HDR generally requires HDMI 2.0a hardware. You can’t (with a few exceptions) upgrade the HDMI 1.4 chips inside the TV to handle HDMI 2.0a. Without 2.0a, your TV can’t read the HDR signal and without the HDR signal…no HDR.
But let’s say your TV does have HDMI 2.0a. Surely then…
- How HDR works
- HDR for photography vs. HDR for TVs: What’s the difference?
- Ultra HDTV Color: Wide Color Gamut and beyond
- Dolby Vision vs HDR10
Problem no. 2: Your TV can’t process the signal
TVs are only as smart as they have to be. Most are slow and stupid. There’s no need for a non-HDR TV to be able to process a 10-bit HDR signal, so it can’t. The processing bits inside the TV can handle only the 8-bits required by the current HD (and non-HDR 4K) standards.
Even if the TV was marketed as a “10-bit” LCD panel (many were), there is going to be some segment in the signal path (i.e. from the HDMI input to your eyeballs) that is 8-bit. So that means it’s all 8-bit. You can’t get back what you’ve taken out/lost.
This would be like forcing a banana through a straw. Sure, what you get out the other side is still banana, but you’re not going to get it to look like a banana again, you know?
But let’s say a TV is HDMI 2.0a, and it can somehow can be upgraded via firmware to process a 10-bit signal, there’s still a much bigger problem. The coup de grâce…
Problema Ultimo: No company will do it
Even if we ignore the hardware issues, creating software isn’t free. No company is likely to devote significant resources (such as people and money) to add features to a TV you’ve already bought. Especially not an upgrade as complex as this. Not only is there no return on that investment, there’s actually negative return since it might mean you don’t buy a new TV, or you could have to call customer service about problems you might encounter as a result of the upgrade.
That’s why TVs that seem like they might be able to get an HDR upgrade, including many 4K models released as recently as last year, probably won’t. If a TV maker hasn’t announced an official upgrade, don’t hold your breath.
The 2015 Samsung UNJU7100 is one of a handful of TVs that have received an official upgrade to handle HDR.
Sarah Tew / CNET. Screen image copyright 1995 MacGillivray Freeman Films. Used with permission.
I absolutely understand where people are coming from when they ask this question. A lot of the pieces to make HDR work are in non-HDR TVs (bright local dimming, wider color gamut), but the hidden bits that make a TV work just aren’t flexible enough to allow a simple upgrade.
Sure it would be pretty cool, but unless the TV was built to handle HDR from the factory, you won’t be able to upgrade it.
New standards and features like HDMI 2.0a exist for a reason. They’re necessary to make other features possible. The original spec of HDMI couldn’t have handled what is now required of it just as the HDTVs of that era couldn’t do half of what today’s TVs can do (in terms of contrast ratio, brightness, and color).
Or to put it another way: sure, you like the 4G speeds on your new phone, but to get those speeds to work, cell tower hardware you’ve never seen had to be upgraded, too.
And on the TV side, manufacturers are trying to make products as cheaply as possible. It doesn’t make sense, financially, to overbuild a TV with faster-than-necessary hardware in the hope that maybe in a few years it might be capable of something cool. It would make the TV too expensive. They want you to be able to afford something now, and then in a few years, have enough cool, new tech to offer that you want to upgrade to a new TV.
So should you upgrade to an HDR TV? Not in my opinion. Not if you like the TV you have and it works. But then, I’ve always said don’t replace it unless it breaks (and I get endless amount of flak for saying that). That said, HDR is very cool and if you are in the market for a new TV, it’s definitely worth considering.
Got a question for Geoff? First, check out all the other articles he’s written on topics such as why all HDMI cables are the same, LED LCD vs. OLED, why 4K TVs aren’t worth it and more. Still have a question? Tweet at him @TechWriterGeoff then check out his travel photography on Instagram. He also thinks you should check out his sci-fi novel and its sequel.
Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12 review – CNET
There are so many Windows-powered tablets that connect to slim keyboard covers that we’ve taken to calling them Surface-alikes, after the flagship Microsoft hybrid. But while most of the competing options cost less than the current Surface Pro 4, those systems, from Samsung, Asus and others, cut corners by relying on low-power processors from Intel’s Atom and Core M lines.
Acer is taking a different approach with its new Switch Alpha 12, a 12-inch hybrid first announced at the company’s New York press preview on April 21. The Alpha 12 uses current-gen Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 CPUs (like the Surface Pro), and has a 2,160×1,440-pixel resolution, which isn’t as high as the Surface Pro, but is in the ballpark.
More importantly, the Alpha 12 comes with its magnetic keyboard cover included in the box, whereas the Microsoft version is an extra $129, no matter which base model you buy. That’s especially important, as the Switch Alpha 12 starts at $599 in the US, presumably for a Core i3 configuration.
Up close with all the new gear Acer announced…
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It’s also very quiet, as this is a fanless design, something we usually only see in very low-power Core M systems. That’s accomplished by way of a small liquid-cooling component that pulls heat away from the CPU. Acer calls it the LiquidLoop Cooling System, and while it’s not as robust as the massive liquid cooling systems in some gaming PCs, it’s an interesting way to keep a slim tablet cool without fans.
In my brief hands-on time with the Alpha 12, I liked the U-shaped manual kickstand, which you deploy by simply pulling it out, unlike with some other hybrids which rely on twitchy buttons and latches. On the demo unit I tried, the magnetic connection between the keyboard cover and the tablet was also very strong. So much so that it was hard to pull them apart. That’s good for security, but can also be a hassle if you want to go tablet-only on the fly.
The Switch Alpha 12, which weighs 2.76 pounds (1,260 grams) all together or 1.98 pounds (900 grams) as a standalone tablet, will be available in June in the US, starting at $599. It will be available across Europe in May, at €699, which is about £545. There’s no word on Australian availability yet.
LG LDS5040ST Semi-Integrated Dishwasher review – CNET
The Good Since its racks have lots of fold-down tines, you can fit anything you want into the $700 LG LDS5040ST dishwasher, and if you’ve rinsed your dishes beforehand, it’s more than capable of doing the rest.
The Bad If you don’t rinse your dishes, expect to find redeposited chunks spread across your plates and bowls. This LG’s limited selection of cycles and options all take longer than normal and don’t justify the extra time spent with better cleaning. This dishwasher also lacks any notable features.
The Bottom Line Even though its competent, for the same price, you can find better options than the LG LDS5040ST.
If the stores near you don’t have many options, and if you need a dishwasher right away and want a competent one at a midrange price, you could settle for the $700 LG LDS5040ST. Make sure to rinse your dishes and it’ll treat you well enough. Nothing about it is exciting or exceptional, but it looks fine, and it’s pretty quiet.
But this is definitely a dishwasher to settle for, rather than one to seek out. At around the same price, we recently reviewed a trio of better options. The $600 GE GDF610PMJES is my pick if you’re looking for useful features. Go with the $700 Kenmore 13699 if you want great cleaning power, or the $650 Frigidaire FGID2466QF, which offers the best balance of cleaning and features of the trio. The LG LDS5040ST fails to make that group a quartet, as it doesn’t do anything well enough to carve out a niche of its own. It’s not a bad dishwasher, but I don’t recommend it unless you’re short on options.
LG’s modern dishwasher has a few old-school…
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The LG LDS5040ST differentiates itself from the three midrange models mentioned above in two key ways, both of which made me hopeful it could be the best of the bunch. First, it has a stainless steel tub, as opposed to the plastic tubs on its three competitors.
Better mid-range dishwashers
- GE GDF610PMJES
- Kenmore 13699
- Frigidaire FGID2466QF
The stainless tub should have helped it save energy, but it draws approximately 279 kWh per year according to its manufacturer rating. The GE GDF610PMJES and Kenmore 13699 both draw 270 kWh and the Frigidaire FGID2466QF is rated at 268 kWh.
Balancing out the benefits of the stainless tub in this LG is its hard food disposer — the other main difference between this model and the others we’ve tested in this price range. This LG basically has a disposal at the bottom of its tub. The other three fit the more modern trend with a mesh filter to remove large particles from the water.
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This LG has an old-fashioned food disposer.
The disposer uses a lot of energy, but LG does a good job keeping the dishwasher quiet despite it. The LDS5040ST has a sound rating of 50dB vs. 42dB, 50dB and 52dB from the GE, Kenmore and Frigidaire dishwashers, respectively.
Cycles and options
Along with its stainless tub and food disposer, the LG LDS5040ST has five cycles to choose from and three different options you can add on to each cycle. The mix ranges from Power Scrub to Delicate, though I would have liked if the 90-minute Quick cycle was a bit quicker.
The controls are on the front next to the scoop handle instead of integrated on the upper lip — another way this dishwasher bucks modern design trends. You also pick your cycle with physical buttons instead of touch controls.
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We run our tests on the Normal cycle with no options selected.
The lack of a start button threw me off, but it’s typical of the LG dishwashers we’ve tested so far. Pick your cycle, use the Option button to select if you want Sanitary, Extra Rinse, or Extra Dry. From there, just close the door and the dishwasher will whir into action. The countdown timer on the control panel stays illuminated throughout the run so you always have an estimate of how much time remains.
Searching for features
The dishwasher doesn’t have a third rack or anything particularly helpful on the inside. It doesn’t even have wine stem holders, but a lot of the tines fold down to help you fit bigger items wherever you’d like. You can even customize the angle of two columns of tines on the upper rack, or set every other tine down in certain rows on the bottom rack. All together, this LG has the capacity for 14 place settings.
Motorola Moto Z Play review – CNET
The Good The affordable Moto Z Play works with swappable modular accessories, retains its headphone jack (unlike the more upmarket Moto Z and Z Force) and has a battery that goes on and on.
The Bad The Z Play is the thickest and heaviest phone in the Moto Z series and its fingerprint sensor, annoyingly, can be mistaken for a home button.
The Bottom Line Even if you don’t give two licks about its cool modular capabilities, get the Motorola Moto Z for an affordable phone with an impressively enduring battery life.
Visit manufacturer site for details.
Motorola’s Moto Z is a premium phone that made waves with its magnetic snap-on accessories. Unlike the LG G5, which also had swappable components, Motorola’s take on modularity made a lot more sense and was easier to use.
With its Moto Z Play, the company trimmed down the hardware but beefed up the battery, retained the quirky Moto Mod feature and slapped on a cheaper price. And what can I say? I’m all for it. Affordable, reliable and boasting super-long battery life, the Z Play is an excellent midrange phone even without the Mods.
The device is available in the US on Verizon for $408, but an unlocked version that’s compatible with GSM networks will be available globally in October for $450 (or £347 and AU$590, converted). Compare that with the original Z and its other counterpart the Z Force, which costs an additional $200 or more, the Z Play offers you all the goodies from Motorola’s Z series, without breaking your wallet.
Moto Z Play: It keeps going, and going and…
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What makes this phone unique again?
The Z Play is a fully functioning handset, but on its back are two rows of magnetic bumps that let you attach and swap out accessories called Moto Mods. These Mods have a variety of uses and can be as simple as a decorative back cover (those covers come in a variety of patterns and textures) or as complex as an extra battery case, a snap-on speaker with kickstand or a projector. Motorola’s newest Mod, a point-and-shoot camera accessory with a 10x optical zoom, is called the Hasselblad True Zoom.
The Mods are incredibly easy to use. With the audio speaker, music automatically starts playing when attached,and the projector requires hardly any setup. Even the True Zoom takes only a few seconds to ramp up and start capturing pictures.
Connecting the point-and-shoot camera accessory with the Moto Z Play.
What’s the difference between this Z Play and the Moto Z and the Moto Z Force?
The Z Play looks like the Z and Z Force (they share that annoying fingerprint sensor on the front that can be mistaken too easily for the home button), but as the more affordable midrange option, its specs vary. For one, instead of ditching the 3.5mm headphone jack like the other two, the Z Play still has its jack. That means its USB Type-C port and headphone jack exist side by side, together and happy, and you don’t need a dongle adapter to listen to your music. You can also charge your phone while listening to beats. With even the Apple iPhone 7 losing its jack, maybe there’s hope for your wired headphones in this cruel post-headphone-jack world, after all.
Though Z Play’s 5.5-inch display is the same size as the other two, but it has a 1,080-pixel resolution compared with the others’ 1,440p, and it isn’t as durable as the Z Force’s ShatterShield display. The Z Play also has a less powerful processor and a bit less RAM and its 16-megapixel rear camera sits between the Z and the Z Force’s in terms of megapixels (compare all specs below). The camera lacks optical image stabilization too, so your photos might look blurrier if you have an unsteady hand.
From left to right: Motorola’s Moto Z Play, Z and Z Force.
Lastly, the Z Play is a tad thicker and heavier than the already weighty Z Force. This is because the former packs a slightly larger battery. Motorola says this is the “longest-lasting phone battery” on a Moto phone, which I’ll get to later. For a quick comparison, check out our chart below:
Motorola Moto Z series
|5.5-inch; 1,920X1,080 pixels||5.5-inch; 2,560×1,440 pixels||5.5-inch; 2,560×1,440 pixels|
|403 ppi||535 ppi||535 ppi|
|6.16x3x0.28 in||6.11×2.96×0.2 in||6.14×2.98×0.28 in|
|156.4×76.4×6.99 mm||155.3×75.3×5.19 mm||155.9×75.8×6.99 mm|
|5.82 oz; 165 g||4.79 oz; 136 g||5.75 oz; 163 g|
|Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow||Android 6.0 Marshmallow||Android 6.0 Marshmallow|
|2.0GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625||2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820||2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820|
|32GB||32, 64GB||32, 64GB|
|Up to 2TB||Up to 2TB||Up to 2TB|
|3,510 mAh (nonremovable)||2,600 mAh (nonremovable)||3,500 mAh (nonremovable)|
|Below screen||Below screen||Below screen|
|Headphone jack, Moto Mod snap-on accessories and dedicated accessory port on back||Moto Mod snap-on accessories and dedicated accessory port on back||Moto Mod snap-on accessories and dedicated accessory port on back|
|$450 unlocked||$699 unlocked||$720 (on Verizon)|
|£347 converted||£499||£555 converted|
|AU$590 converted||AU$905 converted||AU$944 converted|
How’s the camera?
The phone’s 16-megapixel camera took clear, decent photos and its shutter operated quickly. Though I didn’t have as a noticeably rough time with the camera’s white balance as I did with the Z and Z Force, some images I captured still had white hues that were slightly tinted blue. Dimmer environments understandably featured more graininess, but the camera was altogether satisfactory for quick, casual shots. For more about photo quality, check out the images below and click on them to view them at their full resolution.
Logitech Bluetooth Music Receiver review – CNET
The Good The Logitech Bluetooth Music Receiver streams audio from nearly any mobile device to any stereo or powered speakers with an open input. It’s easy to connect via either 3.5mm or RCA and you can link multiple devices to it at once. The wireless range extends up to 50 feet (15 meters) away and it holds a strong connection within reasonable distance.
The Bad The Chromecast Audio offers better sound quality and multiroom options via Wi-Fi, making it a better option for Android users.
The Bottom Line Forget the aux cord — this Logitech Bluetooth Music Receiver is the easiest way to stream audio from your smartphone or laptop.
Congratulations: you just bought a brand new iPhone 7 or 7 Plus. But it doesn’t have a standard headphone jack, and you already misplaced the dongle.
Yes, wireless speakers and headphones are cheaper and better than ever before. But if you want to retrofit an existing stereo system or old boom box to be wireless compatible, the Logitech Bluetooth Music Receiver is just the ticket. This little box makes anything with an auxiliary line-in — including any old set of PC speakers — Bluetooth compatible, so you can stream audio from pretty much any smartphone, tablet or Mac — any many PCs, too. Best of all it retails for as little as $30 (£30, AU$55).
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The Receiver has a small pairing button on top. Hold down to put it in pairing mode, then select it in your device’s Bluetooth menu to connect.
This model is the second generation of Logitech’s popular wireless streaming accessory. The new one is smaller than the first version so it’s easy to hide behind a receiver or a speaker, since Bluetooth doesn’t need line of sight with the source to operate. Like the original, the device draws power from a wall adapter that plugs into the back.
- 11 wireless earbud headphones that aren’t the Apple AirPods
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The rear also has a 3.5mm port and RCA jacks to output audio, and the box includes a 3.5mm-to-RCA cable so you can run it in whichever direction you want depending on the audio source in use. The convenience of this system is its flexibility — you can hook it up to anything with a free input, including a stereo, AV receiver, TV or PC speakers.
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The back of the unit has a power port, an RCA jack and a 3.5mm jack for output.
Once you wire the adapter to an input, all you have to do is link it to your Bluetooth-enabled device via the pairing button on top. Press it once to put it in pairing mode, then simply click on the adapter in your device’s Bluetooth settings menu to connect. Your speakers should emit an audible jingle to let you know the pairing is successful, and that’s it. You can even connect two devices at once so you don’t have to keep switching them on and off, but only one source will play audio at a time.
According to Logitech, the range of the Bluetooth connection is 50 feet (15 meters). I was actually able to walk a little farther than that in my apartment without dropping the connection, but your mileage may vary depending on other devices you have in the same room, the thickness of your walls and so forth. But like nearly any Bluetooth device, you’ll still get occasional wireless hiccups and dropouts.
Android and chill: Nougat and the root question
Android is safer than ever for the people who want (and need) it to be safe. We should be happy about that.
There’s some talk about Pixel phones and root — specifically that it’s not working with any of the existing methods. All the nuts and bolts are at XDA — excellent job on that Mishaal — for those who want to dig deeper into the how and why, but I want to just talk about what it means for us.
And why it’s a really good thing. Before you grab your torches and teach me a lesson for thinking it’s good that we can’t root a Pixel phone, hear me out. I think you’ll agree when we’re finished.
This isn;t about a Pixel phone, it’s about Android 7.0 and new security methods.
Let’s start at the beginning — this isn’t about the Pixel phones, it’s about Android 7.0. There’s a very good chance this will apply to the LG V20 (nobody outside of Korea has seen the production version yet), too. It’s because of the new security methods Google has placed in Android starting with 7.0.
When Nougat boots, it checks to see if anything in the system partition has been tampered with. Google calls this Verified Boot and it’s something they also use on Chromebooks and OnHub routers. We also knew it was coming, along with a handful of other big changes on the security front. The short version of how it works — the system partitions (this is tied in tightly with Seamless Updates and Direct Boot) are verified and given a hash file. Any changes to the partition will change the crypto hash. When you boot the phone up, this hash is checked against the known “right” value, and if they don’t match your phone won’t boot. The public crypto key is stored on the boot partition and when the people who made your phone want to update (which changes the hash file) they have to verify things with their own private key to change the software. This will create a new hash file and the phone can boot. These changes also include the ramdisk (which is where systemless root worked) so modifying it is out of the picture, too. And yes, this is the short version.
What this means is new hardware designed for Android 7.0 isn’t going to boot if we try to change any files to give us root. If we change even one bit on either system partition or the ramdisk it will fail the verified boot check. There are no known root methods that will ever work with this system. Period. Very smart people will try, and if somehow they find a way Google will patch it within 30 days. And this is not an accident.
Google is always trying to beef up the security in Android. They do a pretty good job and Android, as it comes directly from the source code, is really secure. But since anyone can change any of it to their liking, much of that gets undone. One of the things this change does is fix things so that no matter what you download or what it tries to do, if it tries to inject anything that gives it elevated permissions your phone won’t start up. I love that idea, and you should, too.
Every phone that’s sold should be damn near impossible to root without custom firmware.
This means that those drive-by root exploits — both the intentional ones as well as the malware ones — all stop working if the people who made your phone update it to 7.0 or you buy a new one with Nougat installed. That means everyone who just bought their phone to chat with friends, pay for stuff at Walgreens, or even clash against other clans or catch ’em all have a lot less to worry about. The factory software (and this is the important part) is secure.
The rest of us who like to root and do “stuff” can’t do it while running the factory software, but we can still do it. With a new boot image, things can be altered so we can do whatever we want to do. Everything needed to create the Android boot image is open source and builds with no changes and little effort. Unless the Pixel phones come with a locked bootloader — and nobody thinks they will or is saying as much — you can still install your own modified software with all the root you can eat. Google truly does not care if we root the phones we bought and paid for, but they do care if we try to modify their software and make it less secure. They should, that’s the way every OEM should think. I’m sorry if that means you might have to learn how to set up fastboot or won’t be able to get an OTA, but you (and I mean the collective you which includes me, too) are not more important than anyone else who should be able to expect that the phone they bought is safe from random dumb shit they downloaded from somewhere. Get over it.
That goes for the phones that aren’t a Pixel and might not have a bootloader that can be unlocked. Yes, I mean the V20. With an unlocked bootloader rooting and everything that comes with will be trivial when all is said and done. But with a locked and encrypted bootloader, none of this applies. If the V20 ships with a dual partition setup and Verified Boot in place (and it should) with a locked-up bootloader, you might not ever be able to root it. That means LG cares about its customers more than they care about a handful of people who want to change their status bar or cheat at games or whatever we need root to do. The solution (and my advice) if you’re eyeing the V20 and will want to root it is to hold off until someone checks it out. A retail version should be in the right hands very soon. The same goes for every phone that ships with Android 7.0 or higher from now until forever.
The LG V20 should also be this secure. But will we be able to unlock the bootloader?
Getting worked up over any of it will do no good. There is no good reason why Google should make Android less secure, so us demanding it or moving to iOS (which has similar precautions in place) is silly. Adapt. If you want to root, buy phones with a bootloader that can be unlocked. Save your rage for something that deserves it, like selling phones with no headphone jack. Don’t even get me started, ’cause I’ll get stupid.
In the meantime, be good to each other. I’ll see ya next week.
ICYMI: Animals can communicate better than we’d realized
Today on In Case You Missed It: We are adding horses to the list of animals who can communicate via some form of symbolic language, now that researchers taught a group of horses how to understand three symbols related to whether they wanted a blanket covering on or not. With that, horses, primates, dolphins and birds can all communicate with us — and suddenly old masterpieces like Mister Ed and The Birds have a whole new significance.
Meanwhile Adidas is showcasing its new shoes made in a mostly robotic factory. That and the news about the purported Michelle Obama passport hacking would be great brunch conversation starters, though we also recommend reading up on the US government’s plan to address climate change with an open source, information sharing plan.
The study about fish singing at dawn is here, fyi. As always, please share any interesting tech or science videos you find by using the #ICYMI hashtag on Twitter for @mskerryd.
Samsung Galaxy S8 reportedly using powerful new GPU
ARM Mali-G71 could provide the power for a 4K display and enhanced VR.
Rumors of a 4K display in the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S8 have been swirling for some time, with a super-dense display offering a significantly upgraded VR experience in next year’s flagship. And now it’s reported that Samsung could use ARM’s most powerful GPU yet in its next Exynos processors.
SamMobile reports that the company will equip its Exynos 8895 processor with ARM’s Mali-G71 graphics chip. According to ARM’s own documentation, the chip offers “40% better performance density and 20% external memory bandwidth saving compared to Mali-T880.” The Galaxy S7 and Note 7 use a variant of that GPU, the Mali-T800 MP12.
SamMobile also claims the G71 will outperform the GPU used Qualcomm’s next gen chip, the Snapdragon 830.
The smaller Galaxy S8 could pack a whopping 864 pixels per inch.
The docs for Mali-G71 provide reference specs based on a 16nm FinFET process, but Samsung is likely to use a more efficient 10nm process in its 2017 Exynos chip — which potentially means it’ll be even faster than ARM’s reference numbers. Unusually, the news broke through the arrest of a Samsung employee in Seoul, who was accused of trying to sell details on Samsung’s 14nm and 10nm processes to Chinese rivals. The report from SBS states that Samsung will use a 10nm process for the chips in its next flagship phone.
All of that adds up to a serious improvement in graphical capabilities over the GS7 and Note 7 — a bump in pixel-pushing power that’ll surely be needed if the GS8 packs a VR-focused 4K display. With the next Galaxy S once again rumored to come in two sizes, that adds up to a whopping 864 pixels per inch — blowing past even 2015’s Sony Xperia Z5 Premium. The appeal of such a pixel-dense screen for VR is obvious, but as we discussed in an earlier article, Samsung might not opt to run its new display in 4K mode all the time.
If Samsung wanted to offset some of the performance and battery life headaches associated with 4K, it might take a leaf out of Sony’s book. With the Xperia Z5 Premium, the Japanese firm operated its 4K display in 1080p mode most of the time, except for a handful of applications — mainly video playback and photo-viewing apps.
Although this might sound counterproductive, running most apps at Quad HD on a 4K Galaxy S8 would be a smart way to ensure the hardware isn’t unnecessarily taxed running apps where you wouldn’t notice the difference anyway. Instead, the full resolution of the panel could be unlocked when you’re viewing native 4K content, or viewing photos in the Gallery app.
We’ll find out for sure when the Galaxy S8 breaks cover early next year. Following the damage caused by the Note 7 recall, several analysts are predicting an earlier launch for the phone.