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4
Jan

BlackBerry announces the ‘Mercury’ without actually confirming anything, including its name


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Every company takes to launching phones a bit differently.

BlackBerry chose the massive CES trade show to make an official announcement of its long-rumored new Android smartphone with a hardware keyboard. But in a rather awkward situation, it’s keeping many of the details associated with the phone a secret for a while longer.

So even though we’re now seeing the phone, and know that it will be released to consumers relatively soon, we don’t know its specs, price or new features. The funniest bit about the whole announcement is that BlackBerry isn’t even revealing the name of the phone at this time — instead simply referring to it as “the phone everyone has been calling Mercury.”

The so-called Mercury, as BlackBerry and general Android fans will know, is an anticipated follow-up to the BlackBerry Priv that replaces the slider mechanism with a fixed physical keyboard and smaller display. It’s also the first phone to launch since new parent company TCL completely took over BlackBerry’s handset operations.

Can you even call this an announcement? Barely.

So here’s what we know, based on a brief period using the device. This is a solid metal phone, in a standard portrait layout with the bottom portion of the display replaced with a BlackBerry-style hardware keyboard. The keyboard has the full set of functions available on the Priv, but also has the addition of a fingerprint sensor in the space bar. The back of the phone is adorned with a very nice soft touch material, and you’ll find a big camera pod at the top. It charges over USB-C and, yes, it has a headphone jack.

In terms of software, the most that BlackBerry would reveal is that it’s running Android 7.0 Nougat at this point. It wouldn’t commit to whether the phone would eventually launch with 7.0 or 7.1, but it was clear that the software was designed similarly to what you can find on BlackBerry’s Marshmallow phones like the DTEK60 and Priv.

We’ll know more in about six weeks.

In its official announcement (if you can call it that) of the yet-to-be-named phone, TCL is effectively using this as a jumping-off point of the new evolution of the BlackBerry brand in North America. But that means we’re going to be waiting for a while to learn the details behind the Mercury, and all we have right now in terms of a time frame is that more information will be shared around Mobile World Congress — which starts on February 27.

Until then, you can feast your eyes on pretty pictures of the BlackBerry Mercury in our hands-on with the phone. And now, we play the waiting game.

Press release:

TCL COMMUNICATION (TCT) UNVEILS THE FUTURE OF THE NEW BLACKBERRY MOBILE AS PART THE COMPANY’S PRODUCT PORTFOLIO EVOLUTION UNVEILED AT CES 2017

Expanded TCL Communication portfolio takes an industry-first approach to addressing the new mobility market

LAS VEGAS – January 4, 2017 – At CES 2017, TCL Communication Technology Holdings Limited (TCT), the fourth-largest handset manufacturer in North America1, is today sharing plans for an industry-first brand portfolio business model, which now enables the company to offer an entire suite of mobility products, including new BlackBerry smartphones. This brand pillar approach focuses on multiple facets of the company’s product portfolio: the entry-consumer, best-in-class enterprise, connected (IoT) and emerging segments – all leveraging the success of the TCL Communication manufacturing, R&D and operations along with the legacy of some of the industry’s most iconic brands, including Alcatel and BlackBerry.

“Our industry is in the midst of an evolution, where consumers are now demanding greater functionality and value from their mobile devices than ever before,” said Steve Cistulli, President and General Manager for TCL Communication (TCT), North America. “To meet these growing demands, both carriers and retailers need a more diverse product offering, requiring portfolio efficiencies that were previously unavailable from a single manufacturer – until now. We’re boldly evolving our business, offering end-to-end efficiencies from sales, through R&D, manufacturing and logistics. This business evolution will provide greater value to our customers in the premium post- paid and affordable no-contract tiers.”

Offering carriers and retailers exceptional quality and value, backed by TCL’s world-class R&D and manufacturing capabilities, the TCL Communication portfolio will be anchored by the Alcatel and BlackBerry handset brands while continuing to evolve in 2017. This will include additional mobility offerings to be announced in the first half of the year that will allow the company to further address consumer demands. Among the first products in this portfolio is the latest BlackBerry smartphone, focused on three core features: security, productivity and reliability. Previewed at CES, the smartphone draws on unparalleled mobile security and software expertise to offer the most complete end-to-end smartphone security available on Android.

“We look forward to unveiling details around this distinctly different and impressively designed BlackBerry smartphone around the Mobile World Congress timeframe next month,” continued Cistulli.

For more information about TCL Communication (TCT), please visit http://www.TCTUSA.com.

About TCL Communication

TCL Communication Technology Holdings Limited (TCT) with its North America headquarters based in Irvine, California, is a wholly owned company of TCL Corporation, a global consumer electronics brand with products currently sold in over 160 countries throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. With a mobile handset product portfolio that includes devices from Alcatel and BlackBerry, TCT is currently the fourth largest handset manufacturer in North America. The company also operates nine R&D centers worldwide and employs over 13,500 people globally. For more information, please visit http://www.TCTUSA.com.

TCL is a registered trademark of TCL Corporation. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Alcatel is a trademark of Alcatel-Lucent used under license by TCL Communication.

BlackBerry and related trademarks, names and logos are the property of BlackBerry Limited and are registered and/or used in the U.S. and countries around the world. All other marks are the property of their respective owners. BlackBerry is not responsible for any third-party products or services.

4
Jan

BlackBerry ‘Mercury’ hands-on: Riding into 2017 on a phone with no name


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The BlackBerry brand continues to get much-needed TLC from its new owner TCL.

Under the new direction of TCL, BlackBerry’s smartphone business is poised for a relative revival. It’s no big revelation to say that BlackBerry’s market share and mind share are nowhere near what they were in its prime, but at CES 2017 BlackBerry is hoping to kickstart a new direction by announcing a new phone.

And even though the company won’t actually tell us the specs, price, features, launch date or even the official name, many will recognize this smartphone as the rumored BlackBerry “Mercury.” So in lieu of a proper name, that’s what we’re calling it. The Mercury is real, that much has been established now — it’s a solid metal phone that fits the overall size mold of a modern slab smartphone, but manages to fit in a full hardware keyboard on the bottom without a Priv-like slider.

The incorporation of the fixed keyboard leaves a somewhat-awkward aspect ratio to the screen since it has to be a little shorter in order to make room — but if it wasn’t, the phone would be absurdly tall, like a Priv with its keyboard out. As it stands the Mercury is nearly the same height as the BlackBerry DTEK60, though notably narrower. The Mercury itself isn’t very thin, though the solid metal build with a nicely textured soft touch back are far more important than the actual thickness of the phone.

There’s a full hardware keyboard, but the phone isn’t particularly big or tall because of it.

As a welcomed sight for the BlackBerry faithful who may have been put off by the all-screen DTEK60, the Mercury has a full-featured and gorgeous hardware keyboard. And not only is it good for typing, but it also retains the great capacitive swiping gestures we saw in the Priv — you can swipe on the keyboard to navigate the interface, and swipe up on it during typing to help with word corrections and suggestions. Above the keyboard you’ll notice BlackBerry chose to move back to fixed capacitive navigation keys, which is a tad odd after going with software keys on the Priv and DTEK60.

The rest of the phone hardware really rounds out in a typical layout as if the keyboard wasn’t even there. You get a volume rocker and programmable key on the right edge, a power button the left edge, a headphone jack on the top and USB-C port on the bottom centered between two speaker grilles. Again we don’t know details like the battery capacity, but I was able to confirm that there won’t be wireless charging under that soft touch back.

The biggest thing that stands out about the Mercury is how decidedly BlackBerry the whole design is. After seeing somewhat simple repurposed hardware designs in the DTEK50 and DTEK60, it’s refreshing to see an altogether fresh — yet entirely familiar to BlackBerry fans — hardware design. The phone has a proper heft to it, the keyboard has a trademark clickiness and when you see it on a table you couldn’t mistake it for a phone from any other company.

This is the first BlackBerry with Nougat, and it carries on smoothly from Marshmallow.

The Mercury holds the distinction of being the first BlackBerry to be running Android 7.0 Nougat, though the pre-production software version I was able to see wasn’t final and the company couldn’t commit to much on that front. From what I was able to use it looked very similar to Marshmallow you’ll find today on a modern BlackBerry, including the messaging Hub, DTEK security suite, and productivity-focused launcher tweaks.

So where does this leave us? Well, we’re all going right back into a holding pattern to rely on leaks and speculation about the final details of the BlackBerry Mercury. TCL says that more information will be coming around the same time as Mobile World Congress, which kicks off February 27, but until then you can simply look at the photos and try to decide where this phone will fit in the big world of Android. At the very least, it has us excited about BlackBerry in 2017.

4
Jan

Mercury gives us reasons to be hopeful about BlackBerry in 2017


It’s time to pay attention to BlackBerry — again.

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Talk about déjà vu: I just finished handling a pre-production version of the “Mercury” smartphone by BlackBerry. This thing is a definite blast from the past, though it doesn’t feel antiquated. Instead, it feels like the next generation of BlackBerry — essentially what we had hoped the Priv would be all along.

One thing is for certain: TCL is committed to reviving the BlackBerry brand in North America. In addition to giving us a peek at what’s on the horizon, the company’s president offered a road map of how it plans to proceed in reviving the brand over the next few years. I left the meeting feeling particularly optimistic about BlackBerry’s future — the first time in five years. Here’s why you might want to start paying attention again.

The next phone is truly a BlackBerry

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Although the Priv was an impressive attempt on BlackBerry’s part to establish itself as an Android brand, it didn’t feel like a BlackBerry precisely because it was trying to be something else entirely.

The Mercury feels like fan service to BlackBerry’s history.

Conversely, the Mercury feels like fan service to BlackBerry’s design language. Rather than bundle BlackBerry apps and services onto an Alcatel device — as was the case with the DTEK50 and DTEK60 — the Mercury is simply a BlackBerry in modern clothing.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get much time with the software installed on the Mercury because it wasn’t finalized. But BlackBerry is taking its Hub in a positive direction. And if it adds in a few software and app exclusives to pair with this modern take on its own design, it may just convince the old fans to come back.

Better carrier partnerships

Steve Cistulli, the president of TCL — which now operates BlackBerry’s smartphone hardware business in addition to building devices under the Alcatel name — walked us through his plans for the brand over the next few years. He believes that what TCL needs to do first and foremost is re-stabilize BlackBerry’s business. And to do so, it needs to re-establish its relationships with the North American carriers. “I think what [we did with] Alcatel is a testimony that we have the ability to put BlackBerry handsets in that upward direction,” he said. “We need to make sure the carriers understand what the [BlackBerry plan] looks like in the future years.”

Cistulli wouldn’t say which of the carriers the company is courting, but he did mention that this year would be primarily focused on “creating a portfolio for 2019.”

It’s still a major enterprise player

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There is an enterprise waiting to be rejuvenated.

BlackBerry’s biggest selling point during its hey-day (and to be fair, this enterprise management business is still strong) was its ability to play particularly well with company policies. TCL plans to leverage that past by building on it for the future. “We intend to use all that we’ve had with Alcatel to make BlackBerry a true competitor to Apple and Samsung,” said Cistulli. “If we can make an end solution in the industry that is best in class in all regards … and then take what we do so well and put that on top of it — which is the efficient creation, manufacturing, distribution, and after-market care of a device — then you have a true win-win situation. “

Plus, added Cistulli, since the enterprise refresh cycle is so much longer than the consumer cycle, there is already an “enterprise waiting to be rejuvenated.”

With the Mercury, the BlackBerry brand definitely has a phone it can ride into 2017 with that could spark that rejuvenation.

More: Hands-on with the BlackBerry ‘Mercury’

4
Jan

LG’s new webOS-powered refrigerator has Amazon Alexa voice control


This will henceforth be known as the point when Amazon brought Alexa to everything.

The battle over making average home appliances “smart” rages on, and LG just put an additional foot forward with its new InstaView smart refrigerator that integrates Amazon Alexa voice assistant control. The setup is simple: this is a big refrigerator with a huge portrait-oriented 29-inch display, and while the base operating system is webOS the smarts all come from Amazon’s Alexa.

The experience is entirely the same as using an Amazon Echo, so you don’t have any drop-off in features when you move the intelligence to the fridge. So you can simply ask your fridge to answer questions, tell you about the weather and yes even play music and audiobooks — though LG isn’t making any claims about how good the speaker system is on the refrigerator.

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And as you’d expect, the Alexa integration makes the most sense when it comes to shopping for food directly from your refrigerator. On top of the fact that you can manage food items using the screen, you can now simple ask Alexa to build a shopping list and even order individual items to be delivered right away.

After what was initially a slow start, Amazon has built Alexa into a super popular smart speaker platform and quickly moved right beyond it to add the technology to just about anyone that wants to partner with the company. And the fact that these partners get the complete Alexa experience is extremely important.

Press release:

LG SMART INSTAVIEW REFRIGERATOR FEATURES VOICE CONTROL, WEBOS AND REMOTE VIEWING CAPABILITIES

Industry-Leading Technologies Offer Intuitive Control, Home Management, Bringing New Meaning to Kitchen as “Heart of the Home”

LAS VEGAS, Jan. 4, 2017 ― LG Electronics (LG) has introduced a new kind of refrigerator, called Smart InstaView™ that’s embedded with an array of convenient features provided by Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service and powered by LG’s own webOS smart platform.

Unveiled at CES 2017, LG’s new flagship Door-in-Door refrigerator features a 29-inch touch LCD display, which, thanks to its InstaView feature, instantly turns transparent with just two knocks of the screen and allows users to look inside the refrigerator without opening the door. Now with webOS, consumers can also explore a host of WiFi-enabled features directly on the refrigerator, creating a streamlined and powerful food management system all housed directly on the front of the fridge door.

Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service gives users access to an intelligent personal assistant that, in addition to searching recipes, can play music, place Prime-eligible orders from Amazon.com including groceries, add items to a shopping list and more. With over 6,000 skills available, Alexa can also control one’s smart home, request car service, set kitchen timers and check the weather – all hands-free by just using your voice. With Alexa, daily tasks in the kitchen – such as cooking or planning for the day – turn into a dynamic, entertaining experience.

In addition to the services provided by Amazon, the LG Smart InstaView refrigerator offers a variety of other convenience-enhancing features. The Smart Tag menu allows users to add stickers and tags on the screen to indicate which foods are stored as well as the ability to input the expiration date of each item, so the refrigerator can issue reminders when foods near expiration. Family members can set up memos for each other and create to-do lists that display on the screen. To check inside the refrigerator remotely, a 2.0 megapixel panoramic super-wide-lens camera captures images of the interior from a variety of different angles which are accessible via smartphone, a must-have feature for anyone who would like to see what’s at home while grocery shopping.

“By working with Amazon, we are able to broaden our smart refrigerator’s capabilities and further provide our customers with a pleasurable cooking and dining experience,” said Song Dae-Hyun, president of LG Electronics and Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Our Smart InstaView Door-in-Door refrigerator will allow users to enjoy their kitchen experience like never before.”

“For many families, the kitchen is one of the busiest rooms in the house, and a place where they often find their hands tied. Now consumers have even more convenience in their homes, all just by using their voice and Alexa,” said Mike George, vice president, Amazon Alexa. “In working with an innovative home appliance company like LG, we can truly showcase how much better life can be for consumers everywhere starting with updating one of the most important appliances in the home.”

CES attendees are welcome to see LG’s Smart InstaView Refrigerator and the company’s full 2017 product lineup at LG’s booth in the Las Vegas Convention Center (Central Hall #11100) from Jan. 5-8.

4
Jan

Get an Eyeful of the New BlackBerry with MrMobile


TCL has only kind of announced their new BlackBerry, as we don’t have a name or any information about when and how it can be acquired, but we do have one thing: MrMobile’s hands on preview. There’s not a lot of information yet, but what we do have we’re happy to share with you.

If you’re like us and very interested in what the new BlackBerry has to offer, you’ll want to check out this video. This short glimpse at what the future holds is sure to keep you engaged with the next step for BlackBerry.

Stay social, my friends

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4
Jan

Be resolute with these wallpapers!


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Happy New Year!

It’s the beginning of the year, and that means millions upon millions of resolutions have been made — and probably broken — this week. In an effort to help you better yourself and your home screen, we have a selection of wallpapers to help remind you to remain resolute.

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2016 was a year that could put anyone in a bad place, and a common resolution I’ve seen this year is a resolve to be calmer, happier, and more at peace. While not all of us can find the mental quiet of meditation, we can all use a little glimpse of peace, and if this wallpaper doesn’t make you feel peaceful, I’m really not sure how much more can be done for you.

You Come Here Alone by iamthemindfire

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So many people resolve to eat healthy in the new year. We resolve to cut down on the pizza and fast food. We resolve to eat more salads. But we all treat healthy food as unappealing, untasty punishments. We need a mindshift, because not only can healthy food be delicious, it can look even better than the most perfect desserts. Take this salad for example! It’s cantaloupe, microgreens, Buratta cheese, and prosciutto, which is Italian ham. Cheese and delicious ham? That sounds delicious! It just happens to be healthy, too!

Grilled Cantaloupe and Burrata Salad with Prosciutto

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Exercise is most frequently made resolution. It’s also the most frequently broken resolution because exercise requires almost constant motivation. Some turn to apps like Zombies! Run, but not all of us want to run as if plague-riddled undead are behind us. Instead, how about a simple reminder of why physical fitness can be a matter of life and death, beyond heart attacks and obesity.

Luck favors the prepared. Run!

Exercise: Some Motivation Required

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Disney was a dreamer, but Disney was also a doer, and a lot of us sometimes forget the difference. We can dream and wish all we want, but it takes hard work and action to make those dreams reality. Whether you’re looking to get more work done, more chores done, or you simply need a push to get off your ass and outside more, Disney Style has inspirational quote wallpapers for you!

Disney Style Inspirational Quotes

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My own resolution is to try and cut down on the Coke with the goal of eliminating the delicious, bubbly beverage from my diet before my next Disney Parks trip. Sadly, I’ve been failing miserably so far, but maybe this wallpaper can help me a little. See, the best period I had in keeping off the cola was the few weeks I had an LG G4. The soda lock screen animation was bubbly and fun, and looking at it every time I opened my phone tamped down my desire for a bubbly drink. This bubbly wallpaper will hopefully tamp down that urge again.

Bubbly Water

Bonus: Put your resolution front and center with TouchCircle

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Having a wallpaper isn’t enough sometimes. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but words can help drive us to action when all these wonderful wallpapers fail. Thankfully, the Pro version of TouchCircle not only allows us to turn these static wallpapers into live wallpapers, the Motto circle allows us to put our resolution in words right on our home screen, where we’ll have to see it every day! You have no excuse for not following up on your resolution but your own weakness now.

TouchCircle Pro ($0.99)

4
Jan

Honor Magic hands-on: Huawei puts its design prowess on display


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This hardware is exciting, and you aren’t going to see it outside of China.

Honor launched the sleek new Honor Magic in China just a few weeks ago, and though there are no plans for it to arrive in North America we had an opportunity to look at this really interesting phone at CES 2017.

The Magic is a completely separate device than the rest of the range of recent Honor releases, and that’s immediately clear when you see it. The super-thin sculpted metal body with curved glass on both sides seems decidedly futuristic compared to its other designs. It initially gives the impression of a Galaxy S7 edge, but it’s even more impressively thin and compact.

The metal along the sides of the phone is so thin it just barely gives room for the thin power and volume buttons, relegating the SIM slot to the bottom of the phone. But despite its compact size the Magic still has a headphone jack on the bottom as well. And unlike the just-released budget Honor 6X the Magic has a proper USB-C port for charging.

Perhaps more interesting is the new software design.

Just as interesting as the hardware, perhaps, is that the Honor Magic is running a different branch of software from the EMUI you find on standard Huawei and Honor phones. It’s ostensibly focused on being an “artificial intelligence” software experience in that it takes in information on how you use it to customize the experience, but that doesn’t really translate well in a short demo period.

The idea is that the home screen can change dynamically in places, not unlike what other companies are already doing. The Magic also responds to sensors more intelligently, waking up and reacting when you lift up or put down the phone. Not necessarily entirely new ideas, but new for Huawei for sure.

But the real change you’ll notice is that this software is much cleaner than the likes of EMUI 4.1 and even 5.0. It has a new theme to the various icons and interface elements, and is extra sleek and particularly muted compared to what we usually expect out of Huawei. The software seems very tailored to match the Magic’s hardware, meaning it may not feel as integrated on any other Honor phone, but it’s actually quite nice to see some new software ideas. Match that up with this really neat hardware, and Honor has a great example of what it’s capable of today.

4
Jan

Panasonic’s GH5 flagship camera arrives in March for $2,000


After briefly teasing the Lumix GH5 a few months ago, Panasonic is finally ready to share definitive details about its flagship mirrorless camera. The system, geared toward photographers and videographers alike, features a 20.3-megapixel Live MOS sensor (with no low-pass filter), a new Venus Engine image processor, up to 25,600 ISO and in-body dual 5 axis image stabilization. Naturally, the GH5 is expected to shine in video mode, where it’ll offer 10-bit, 60fps shooting at 4K resolution. You’ll also get 6K photo burst at 30fps, a 3.2-inch LCD screen, 3.6-million-dot OLED viewfinder, as well as Bluetooth and WiFi for remote connectivity.

Panasonic says all of this makes it the “world’s first Digital Lens System Mirrorless that meets professional quality standards.” And yes, the GH5 does promise to be beast on paper, but it better be since it’s being priced at $2,000 body-only — that’s about $300 more than its predecessor cost when it was released. Thankfully for those of you who are interested in it, you won’t have to wait long to get it in your hands: Panasonic plans to start selling it only a couple months from now, in late March.

In addition to the GH5, the company also announced the Lumix FZ80 and the Lumix GX850, a set of mid-tier cameras that will cost $400 and $550, respectively. Hopefully we’ll get to try the GH5 here at CES 2017, so stay tuned for updates from the show floor.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2017.

4
Jan

Technics has a new high-end hifi setup, and it won’t be cheap


Last year Panasonic resurrected the Technics brand and its legendary SL-1200 turntable. Now, the company wants to be your one-stop solution for all things hifi with a new model of the SL-1200, a pair of speakers and an integrated amplifier.

Let’s start up top, shall we? The new SL-1200GR (“Grand Class”) takes bits from last year’s model and tweaks them for higher performance. The new direct-drive motor is a “single-rotor, surface-facing coreless direct-drive motor” that the company says eliminates cogging — added noise during playback due to motor instability. There’s newly-tuned circuitry therein as well.

The turntable platter’s gotten a few improvements too, with some extra weight and new resonance-deadening rubber on its underside. Technics says that these adjustments help make the deck’s damping abilities “more than twice as good” compared to the SL-1200MK5 from 2002.

You’re going to need speakers for that turntable, and that’s what the Grand Class (notice a theme here?) SB-G90 are for. The gloss black floor-standing air-movers pack in dual 6.5-inch woofers, a 6.5-inch midrange cone and a 1-inch dome tweeter to hit a frequency response range of 27Hz to 100kHz at -16Db and four ohms.

There are plenty of other details to like, too, like all kinds of vibration reduction methods, aluminum dome diaphragms, high-linearity-drive-underhung voice coils and 16cm low distortion long stroke woofers. Oh, and they’re just over 44 inches tall in case you were wondering.

But wait, there’s even more. A turntable and speakers won’t do much good without an amp to power them. The reference-class SU-G700 should fit that bill, assuming you have the cash to spare for it. The case is all aluminum, features a pair of analog needle meters and the unit’s volume knob is a chunk of aluminum as well.

This all should give it a decidedly solid look and feel, but Panasonic hopes its digital internals — with a High-speed Silent Hybrid Power Supply and Load Adaptive Phase Calibration, among other accoutrements — will get the audiophiles salivating.

Around back a pair each of digital coaxial inputs, digital optical inputs and RCA jacks are rounded out by a USB-B slot and a powered phono input. That’s enough to hook in a CD player, turntable, Chromecast Audio and still have a few inputs left over. In terms of power output, the amp tops out at 140W at four ohms and 70W at eight ohms.

Here’s the thing: Technics’ 2015 model (SU-C700) cost over $1,500 and was derided by critics for being overpriced and outclassed by cheaper amps. Let’s hope the follow-up fares better. What’s more, the company hasn’t given any pricing details for any of this gear yet. All of the press materials were rife with highfalutin words about construction materials and their impact on sound quality, though, which should be pretty telling.

Need further proof? Last year’s SL-1200G cost $4,000. None of the kit will likely be affordable for mere mortals — especially not the hip-hop DJs and aficionados who made the brand what it was.

Billy Steele and Richard Lawler contributed to this report.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2017.

4
Jan

Panasonic unveils an Android-powered car infotainment system


Panasonic and Qualcomm have launched an Android-based in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) platform, but as with a similar offering from Google and Fiat Chrysler, it isn’t Android Auto. Rather, the companies are aiming create a smartphone-like Android Nougat system with high-end specs, including a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820Am automotive processor with Adreno 530 graphics, 680 DSP and a high speed LTE modem. Automakers can them customize it to their own specs and install it as a factory OEM system.

The goal was to create future-proof hardware that so that consumers won’t have a comically dated in-dash system in a few years. “We expect it [to] include features beyond that of the next two in-vehicle infotainment generations ahead,” says Panasonic Automotive President Tom Gebhardt. The system can also accommodate various applications and screens, letting automakers or OEM manufacturers customize it for different vehicles.

The companies aren’t making an end-run around Android Auto, as Google is involved with this venture too. That seems to signal a shift in its strategy, where the automotive segment as just another part of the Android ecosystem. “Android has evolved into a turn-key automotive platform that enables automakers and suppliers to build next-gen IVI systems,” Android Engineering Director Patrick Brady says. It’s still not clear how that’s different from Android Auto, but hopefully we’ll hear more about Google’s plans over the coming days.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2017.

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