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20
Jan

Facebook Messenger: A New Review (review)


There’s a cool app available on the Play Store. It was born as an off-shoot of another popular app, a data-based chat app that allows the user of the parent app to communicate privately, one-on-one.
It has since become its own standalone app, and quickly became one of the most popular apps of all-time. It has also become its own platform, capable of allowing other developers to create functions, capabilities, and bots (!).

That app is…………Facebook Messenger.

I know, I know; not exactly a new or emerging app the likes of which we usually review. But it’s also an app that has grown in it’s popularity and capabilities in such a short time, we feel that it deserves a new look at it.
Please note; I am not Facebook’s biggest fan, and I actually do have some issues with the way they operate sometimes. That said I do have an account, and do use Messenger quite often. Even with my qualms about the service, it does have some pretty nice features that do obviously make it quite attractive to users world-wide. Let’s take a quick spin through [what I consider] some of the most useful.

Setup

It’s likely you’ve at least tried Messenger before, so this step shouldn’t need much messenger-sign-up-android (1)explanation. If you don’t use Facebook or just aren’t a fan, good news: you don’t need to even have a Facebook account to use Messenger. Just your mobile phone number will suffice. You download the app from the Play Store. Then either connect with your Facebook account or mobile number, and you’re in.

Features

Boy, where to start with this one. The list is long and rapidly growing longer, so let’s go through (what I consider) the biggest features one-by-one:

Integrated SMS

This feature made some pretty serious headlines earlier this year. Messenger can now be messenger_smsused as both your data-based messenging app and cellular SMS texting interface. No, it doesn’t physically take over cellular-based texting, but it reigns in all your incoming and outgoing texts into it’s interface, giving you a single app to open, no matter the message’s medium.
Conventional wisdom may object to this migration, knowing Facebook’s inherit desire to be know all the details of your web activity….Facebook itself has claimed that they pull no data regarding your texts back its servers; it’s only offering this feature [essentially] so you use or stay on the Messenger app that much longer. I guess it’s up to you whether you’re comfortable with that notion.

Integrated Photo & Video Capture

This one’s not a real novel feature, but it’s functionality it top-notch. While in the app, you can launch either your device’s front or rear camera to easily capture media for sharing purposes.

Video Chat

Nowadays not as much breaking-news, but again it works really, really smoothly (though note: this doesn’t work with SMS integration). Just by pressing the blue icon. I say ‘blue’, because it may be gray….this tells you that person isn’t available to take a video call at that time. Neat!

games-facebook_messengerIn-App Games

When in a conversation, just click on the little game controller icon and pick your battle. The list of games is pretty long, and Facebook states it will get longer in the short-term. While gaming has had a limited existence within Messenger in the past, Facebook has just this week released the hounds on the full-boat game offerings.
You can read more about this new feature here.

Contact Codesscreenshot_20161203-221714

Similar to Snapchat, Messenger offers a tile with a scan-able code along with your immediate & pertinent contact info.

Show Location

If you’re wandering around town and are trying to meet up with some friends, Messenger’s location-sharing feature may come in handy.

A Personalized Greeting (if you have a messenger-location-sharing3business/page).

If you have a commercial account or page, Messenger allows you include a greeting, to show up when someone opens the app to send you a message. This is a great feature to setting the tone a customer (or potential one) experiences when interfacing with your brand.

Send Audio Clips (eliminate voicemail!)

I’m pretty surprised this one isn’t more popular than it is. Instead of leaving a phone message (and messenger_audiomaking your friend go through the arduous task of navigating cellular voice mail), you can simply hit the microphone button and leave a voice message right in the app. So instead of having to “dial-in”, the receiver can get a notification and press “play”.  Ahhh…it works so damn well.

Well-Composed Group Chats.

Unlike traditional SMS (where my experience has shown it to be a total mess), Messenger handles group chats with relative aplomb. The main way they accomplish this is giving group chats their own tab, sorting them together instead of mixed amongst all your other conversations (particularly with individuals who also show up in the group chats).

Stand-Alone Desktop App

messenger_desktopOK, this isn’t mobile-based, but I personally use it and it works well. Messenger.com will bring up a streamlined interface that works just like the mobile app; so you don’t have to keep going to your phone while at your desk during the work day (provided your employer is generally cool with this, of course).

Call an Uber. Or a Lyft.

uber_facebook_messengerRight in the app is a menu option to “request a ride”. From here you can choose Uber or Lyft as your service of choice, and off you go….without leaving Messenger.

Pin a Conversation

Within group chats, you can pin a specific thread to the top of your list, so it’s easy to find!

Mute notifications

If you’re trying to get some work done, or have another obligation & don’t want to get sidetracked with a Messenger conversation, you can choose to ‘mute’ notifications from a particular thread for your choice of time (15 minutes, 1 hour, etc.).

Send & receive money

…and Facebook doesn’t even charge for the service. While in a conversation, click on the “$” icon, select the amount you want to send to the person you’re chatting with, and enter your credit card info. Done.

Send your location (though not using Google Maps)messenger-location-sharing-coverphoto

While you may not need this very often, if you do find your and your friends having trouble finding each other while out & about it may come in pretty handy. Simply click on your location, and your friend(s) will be able to view a click-able map to see exactly where you are.

Conclusion

Love it or hate it, Facebook has built a great feature set into a very well-performing app in Messenger. And combined with the crazy-big user base, it’s getting harder every day to justify not using it (or at least having it installed).
Hopefully you found some previously-unknown feature that will come in useful for you. Or, maybe, you may have found your threshold reason to give it a try. Let us know if you have any other must-try features in Messenger!

20
Jan

New Sonos CEO wants integrations with Google Assistant, Alexa


Ok, Google, crank up the tunes on Sonos.

Patrick Spence took the reins at Sonos weeks ago, and a memo obtained by The Verge he sent out to the company when he did makes it no secret where he wants Sonos to expand in the face of increased competition: digital assistant integration.

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Many digital assistants like Google Home and Amazon Alexa directly compete with Sonos, and it’s not hard to see them chipping away at the company’s market share. But rather than try to fight them head-on, Sonos wants to play nice with digital assistants in the hope that users will buy Sonos for better home speakers that will integrate easily with their chosen assistant.

Sonos doesn’t want to play favorites.

Even better, Spence doesn’t want to choose sides in the digital assistant dogfight: he wants Sonos to get along with all of the major assistants, “partnering and competing with global leaders like Amazon, Google and (likely) Apple.” It’s worth noting that Sonos is already in the process of integrating Alexa support for Sonos, and they public beta should open up sometime this year.

The letter goes on to encourage more action and innovation from Sonos employees, reminding them of the innovation that got the company to where it is today, but the commitment to finding a new place alongside the digital assistants that blindsided Sonos the last two years is a good start. Whether or not they can accomplishment remains to be be seen.

20
Jan

We have a free NVIDIA Shield Android TV for an Android Central reader!


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The new NVIDIA Shield Android TV is awesome, so why not enter to win one to satisfy all of your entertainment needs?

The second iteration of the Shield Android TV is a proper successor that shows NVIDIA knows just how to iterate on this platform. In an Android TV space that still lacks a robust number of choices — and even fewer good choices — the Shield Android TV stands as the box to get if you want a no-compromise complete experience. When you buy a new Shield Android TV you’re not just getting a simple little box that you’ll plug in and then forget about a couple months in — you’re getting as close to a full entertainment system in a single box as you can reasonably expect. Awesome! So now that you want one, let’s give one away! Keep reading for the details!

THE PRIZE: One Android Central reader will be taking home a brand new updated NVIDIA Shield Android TV!

THE GIVEAWAY: Head down to the widget at the bottom of this page. There are multiple ways to enter, each with varying point values. Complete all of the tasks for maximum entries and your best shot at winning! Keep in mind that all winning entries are verified and if the task was not completed or cannot be verified, a new winner will be chosen. The giveaway is open until February 8th, and the winner will be announced right here shortly after the close date. Good luck!

We’re giving away the new NVIDIA Shield Android TV!

20
Jan

The Galaxy Note 7 had two separate battery defects 🔥


Samsung will reveal that the Note 7 went through two separate battery problems on its way to the dustbin.

According to the Wall Street Journal, which reportedly obtained the report Samsung will reveal and elaborate on at a press conference in Seoul this Monday (Sunday evening in North America), the Korean giant suffered two major yet separate issues with the batteries in the Galaxy Note 7.

The report, which was generated by three independent analysis firms, states that the problems with the initial batch of batteries, built by Samsung SDI, were physically too big for the Note 7 chassis, causing a small number of them to overheat and catch fire.

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The real absurdity in the story comes from the findings with the second batch, which were built by Amperex, another supplier of Samsung’s batteries. Those cells were found to have an unspecified manufacturing defect caused by ramping up a production line that wasn’t ready to scale. In other words, different cause, same problem.

In all, Samsung reportedly lost about $5 billion from the Note 7 recall, which didn’t hinder its ability to earn record profits in the fourth quarter. But the question of the company’s long-term reputation is still very much in the air, especially since it will come to light through this report that corners were cut in expediting the first recall.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

  • Galaxy Note 7 fires, recall and cancellation: Everything you need to know
  • Survey results: Samsung users stay loyal after Note 7 recall
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20
Jan

These completely wireless Bluetooth headphones are just $36 right now!


If you want to ditch all the wires and go completely wireless with your headphones, you’re going to want to check this deal on Axgio’s Bluetooth headphones. Right now you can pick up a pair for just $36 with coupon code 4UEOAIDP, a savings of $14 from their regular price. For a fraction of Apple’s AirPods you can still ditch the wires and have a great sound quality. You can use them both together as a pair, or individually if you prefer. You’ll need to charge them separately as well, and the included cable splits into to for easy charging.

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They should last for around 8 hours of usage time per charge, and come with three different silicon tips to help them fit comfortably in your ears. If you’re ready to completely ditch all the wires, you won’t want to miss this offer. Remember, you need coupon code 4UEOAIDP for the full savings.

See at Amazon

20
Jan

Common Galaxy S7 problems and how to fix them


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The Galaxy S7 is an awesome phone, but it’s not without its problems. Here are some of the most common issues and how to fix them.

Back in March of last year (has it been that long already?!), the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge launched to outstanding reviews and plenty of plaudits for both its hardware and software. But given that the phone is approaching its one-year anniversary, it’s not surprising that some issues — both hardware and software — have arisen in that time.

Samsung has been generally good about correcting the major ones through software updates, but there are some big issues that users can address on their own.

Battery life problems

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The Galaxy S7 suffers from battery issues more so than the larger Galaxy S7 edge — the former has a 3000mAh batter to the edge’s 3600mAh cell — but they’re both prone to getting beaten by the daily grind.

  • The first thing you’re going to want to do is eliminate any errant battery-sucking apps that you’ve downloaded from the play store. Facebook and Facebook Messenger continue to be two that are repeatedly brought up by members of the AC community as being the worst battery offenders. Facebook can be accessed from the mobile web, and Facebook Messenger, well — just get WhatsApp and call it a day.

  • To check whether an app is using an unreasonable amount of battery, dive into Settings –> Battery –> Battery usage to isolate the misbehaving entity.

  • These potentially problematic apps extend to bloatware installed by your carrier. If you use a Verizon, T-Mobile or AT&T model, in particular, you’ll benefit from deleting or disabling some or all of the pre-installed apps on the phone.

  • You can also disable the always-on display by going to Settings –> Display –> Always-on display and turning everything off. The feature was added to the Galaxy S7 for its convenience, and because the phone uses an efficient SuperAMOLED panel, but just because it’s efficient doesn’t mean it doesn’t help to disable it.

How to fix Galaxy S7 battery life problems

  • Finally, if you’re running Nougat — and you soon should be, if you’re not already — you’ll notice that battery should improve just by doing the upgrade. Why? Because Samsung has made a change to the default resolution of the Galaxy S7 that uses less energy. It’s not magic, but you’ll probably benefit from a couple extra hours of uptime as a result. Win!

Slow performance

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This is a big category, and pretty hard to pin down, but we’ll go through some of the most common solutions. Obviously, slow performance can be indicative of an errant app that may also be sucking up battery life, so dealing with this may help the other. Phones are known to slow down over time as people add more and do more with them.

Free up internal storage

The Galaxy S7 has 32GB of internal storage, and once you fill that up, the phone may begin to chug. The system will alert you when you get really close to the edge, but even before then, deleting some of those larger apps and games may do the trick.

It may also be a good idea to upload your photos to Google Photos so you can delete them locally. Google Photos offers unlimited free high-quality backups, along with at least 15GB of full-quality backups, on any phone, including the Galaxy S7. It’s also likely pre-installed on your device — just look for it in the Google folder on your home screen, or in the app drawer.

How to use Google Photos on Android and the web

Change launchers

On the surface, changing launchers may not seem like it will do anything, but it does: Samsung’s TouchWIZ launcher is notoriously slow, especially with all the features enabled (like Flipboard Briefing, which you should probably turn off).

To fix that, you may want to change launchers to something a bit more lightweight and performant. May we suggest one of the following?

The best Android launchers

Factory reset your phone

There are myriad reasons your phone may be bogged down, and merely deleting apps, changing launchers or disabling some features may not do enough.

If you’re running into a virtual brick wall, back up everything in Google Drive, Google Photos, Dropbox, or wherever else you tend to store your virtual goods, and start over.

How do you do that on your Galaxy S7 or S7 edge?

Open Settings.
Scroll down to Backup and reset.
Scroll down and top on Factory data reset.
Tap on Reset Device.

Once you reset, you’ll have to log in again to your various accounts and apps, but your apps should download automatically once you log into your Google account.

Wi-Fi & Bluetooth issues

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Among the most common problems on a smartphone today, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth problems can be caused by a number of factors, many of which are outside of your control.

When troubleshooting these wireless connections, it’s important to establish whether the issue is indeed your phone or the object(s) you’re connecting to, and the fastest way to determine that is to use another phone or tablet to connect. If that other product has no connectivity issues, then it’s worth pursuing a fix on the Galaxy S7 or S7 edge itself.

Make sure you turn off Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, wait a few seconds and turn it back on. If that doesn’t fix the problem, head to the next step.
Restart your phone. Sometimes all that’s needed a quick kick to the reset button and you’re good to go.
If Wi-Fi problems persist, try forgetting the network by holding down on the SSID (name) and tapping Forget network. Then re-enter the password.
If Bluetooth problems persist, try unpairing the object from your phone and re-pairing. To do that, tap on the little cog icon next to the product’s name and hit Unpair. Put the speaker or whatever you’re connecting to in pairing mode and connect again.

How to fix Wi-Fi problems on the Galaxy S7

Random restarts and boot loops

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A common occurrence, especially in more recent months, has been Galaxy S7 units randomly freezing while in use, restarting, or what’s known as boot looping, which finds the phone stuck in a cycle where it attempts to boot into Android but somehow gets stuck and performs the process all over again.

Like with all the above issues, there are a number of potential issues causing this, from errant apps causing overheating to problems with an Android update to a corroded or damaged mainboard.

To troubleshoot, work from easiest solution to most difficult.

If your phone boots into Android but is randomly restarting, it may be overheating or have a problematic app. Follow the instructions above to isolate the malefactor.
If deleting all potentially problematic apps doesn’t work, reboot into the recovery and clear the cache partition.
If that doesn’t work, it may be time to reset the phone completely. If you can’t get into the phone, follow the instructions to factory reset the phone from the recovery menu.

Other issues

What are your main issues with the Galaxy S7 or S7 edge? We’ll keep this article updated as new information becomes available!

Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge

  • Galaxy S7 review
  • Galaxy S7 edge review
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  • Join our Galaxy S7 forums

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20
Jan

Maybe don’t pose like this at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial


Disrespectful? Tasteless? Clueless? It’s hard to find the right adjective for folks who take frivolous photos at The Berlin Holocaust Memorial, a monument to the suffering of millions of people. That’s why Jewish artist Shahak Shapira decided to use a sharper tool: satire. His Yolocaust project superimposes selfie images gleaned from Facebook, Instagram, Tinder and other sites against sobering historical images of the Holocaust.

The Berlin Holocaust Memorial, also known as “The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe,” consists of 2,711 concrete blocks of varying heights laid out over nearly 5 acres. Nearly 10,000 people pass through it each day, most of whom (you’d hope) take the time to reflect on the unimaginable horrors visited on Jews and others by Germany’s Nazi regime.

However, some folks pose for selfies there like they’re at Coney Island, which clearly grated Shapira. In the site’s equally satirical FAQ, he says “no historical event compares to the Holocaust. It’s up to you how to behave at a site that marks the death of six million people.” The subtext, however, is that if you take a tacky photo, then compound your ignorance by posting it on a social network, you may become part of his project.

The site isn’t the first to mock inappropriate selfies — “Selfies at Serious Places” and others have also done it — but it’s the first to add a highly effective Photoshop twist. Shapira does give subjects a way out, though, in a final flourish of wit: “Just send an email to undouche.me@yolocaust.de.”

Via: Engadget Spanish (translated)

Source: Yolocaust

20
Jan

LG 27UD88 Review: A Well-Rounded Ultra HD Display With USB-C


A few weeks ago, we took a look at LG’s new 27-inch UltraFine 5K display designed in partnership with Apple to pair with the new MacBook Pro. While it’s a high-quality screen that offers a sharp, spacious, Retina desktop, the overall design has generated mixed reactions, particularly in comparison to Apple’s design standards.

At a standard price of $1299 and even Apple’s discounted price of $974, the UltraFine 5K isn’t a cheap display. Its smaller sibling, the 21.5-inch UltraFine 4K, at its temporary price of $524 might be more appealing to users who are willing to give up some pixels and a few features, but there are several other Ultra HD and 4K options on the market, some of which we rounded up in mid-November.

Among these other options, one of the most popular Ultra HD (3840×2160) displays with USB-C connectivity has been LG’s 27-inch 27UD88, which offers a clean design, a matte screen finish to reduce glare, and a broader array of connectivity options than the UltraFine lineup. The 27UD88’s IPS display supports 99% coverage of the sRGB spectrum, 5 ms response time, and a 60 Hz refresh rate.

As with the UltraFine displays, one of the major advantages of USB-C connectivity on the 27UD88 is the ability to transfer data, video, and even power over a single cable, and the 27UD88 offers up to 60 watts of power over USB-C to power a notebook computer.

That’s enough to fully power a MacBook or 13-inch MacBook Pro with USB-C, but not enough for a 15-inch MacBook Pro, which can draw up to 85 watts depending on load. So while it might be enough to maintain or slowly charge your 15-inch MacBook Pro under light usage or while sleeping, if you’re working your machine at all hard, the battery may slowly drain. As a result, you’ll want to use your standard MacBook Pro power adapter connected to another USB-C port on the machine in order to power it.

Setup

Assembly of the 27UD88 isn’t quite as simple as the UltraFine’s “set it on your desk and plug it in” procedure, but it’s still very straightforward and similar to a number of other LG displays. It only requires you to snap an arm into the rear of the display panel (a plate for VESA support can alternatively be attached to the back, although the plate is not included) and then attach the curved foot to the bottom of the arm with a couple of screws that are easily tightened with a screwdriver, coin, or even by hand using the integrated grasping rings.

lg_27ud88_bottom
Once assembled, the display sits sturdily on a desk with very little wobbling, and height adjustment requires no tools, as you can simply grasp the panel by the top and bottom and slide it up or down over a range of 110 mm. Tilt is an easy one-hand adjustment and it allows you to set the panel anywhere between -3 degrees and +20 degrees. A small cable management clip attaches near the bottom of the display arm to help keep things looking neat.

Display Resolution

The 27UD88 works with macOS right out of the box, registering as an available display in System Preferences as soon as it is connected. As with other displays, Apple makes it easy to adjust the resolution depending on whether you prefer larger text and user interface elements or a larger usable space on your desktop.

lg_27ud88_resolutions
The default mode is a 1920×1080 Retina display running at 60 Hz with the new MacBook Pro, allowing for the crisp text and images users have become accustomed to on many recent Macs, but many users will likely find everything a bit too large in this mode considering this is a 27-inch display. If you prefer a higher resolution non-Retina desktop, scaled options at 2560×1440, 3008×1692, 3360×1890, and the full 3840×2160 are available. Holding down the option key while clicking the Scaled radio button in preferences brings many more options, including 3200×1800 and an array of low resolutions between 1680×945 and 1152×648.

For years, my main monitor has been an Apple Thunderbolt Display, which is a 27-inch display running at 2560×1440, so I’ve really become comfortable with that size of desktop. For that reason, the UltraFine 5K running at a Retina 2560×1440 fit into my setup perfectly. With the 27UD88 having a slightly larger pixel size, the 1920×1080 Retina resolution it offers ends up with a desktop that’s too large for my tastes, and I suspect that will be true for many other users.

ultrafine_5k_27ud88UltraFine 5K (left) and 27UD88 (right)
As a result, I’m finding this display set most comfortably at a scaled 2560×1440, matching the UltraFine 5K (and my old Apple Thunderbolt Display) in desktop size and thus making everything consistent across my displays as I’m testing both the UltraFine and the 27UD88 connected to my MacBook Pro. It means I don’t quite get the sharpness of a 1920×1080 Retina display on the 27UD88, but the smoothing is good enough that everything still looks acceptably sharp at my viewing distance.

Resolution options are more limited when used with the 2016 MacBook, still defaulting to a Retina 1920×1080 desktop but running at 30 Hz and with only a few other lower-resolution scaled options available to choose from. More ambitious users may be interested in looking into a hack that enables the MacBook to run 4K displays at 60 Hz, but the tweak is not something the average user will want to attempt.

Display Quality

The 27UD88 has a maximum brightness of 350 nits according to the specs, which is significantly lower than the 500 nits of Apple’s MacBook Pro and the UltraFine displays. Brightness level needs vary significantly based on user preference and ambient environment, but I generally prefer my displays fairly bright and thus it’s very obvious when I put this display next to my MacBook Pro, and particularly the UltraFine 5K. If you typically turn down your brightness a bit, the 27UD88 should be able to match nicely, but it’s definitely something to be aware of if you like things bright.

This is an IPS panel with 99% coverage of the sRGB spectrum and 10-bit color, so it doesn’t have the DCI-P3 wide gamut color space of the UltraFine displays and Apple’s latest Macs or the Adobe RGB support of other wide gamut displays. It means you might not notice quite as much “pop” in some of the colors as on a wide gamut display, but for general use it’s quite fine. Outside of professional users, sRGB remains the mainstream standard and this display offers accurate color representation within that standard.

Full disclosure here: I’m not a graphic design or video professional, so my perspective is more that of a general user interested in expanding my desktop and making it easy to connect various peripherals, and as far as that goes the display quality here is perfectly acceptable, with good color representation, uniform backlight, and solid black levels. Some users will likely find the default color temperature too cool, but calibration options help users customize things just the way they like, and I’ll cover that a bit more below.

Vertical Orientation

In addition to the standard horizontal display orientation, the 27UD88 also easily converts to vertical orientation for those who prefer that type of setup, a feature not offered by the UltraFine 5K display.

lg_27ud88_vertical
Again, no tools are needed and all you need to do is make sure the display is high enough to ensure clearance and rotate it 90 degrees. From there, it’s just a quick menu selection in Apple’s Displays preferences to switch over to the vertical display orientation.

Build Quality and Looks

Looks are a subjective quality, and we’ve seen a range of responses about the UltraFine 5K with its metal foot and matte black plastic enclosure with fairly substantial bezels. The 27UD88 goes in a bit of a different direction that’s more like some of the company’s other displays, with an all-plastic build highlighted by a silver arm and arc-shaped foot with a faux brushed aluminum look. The stand design certainly attracts attention, and it’s not unattractive despite being plastic while also offering solid stability.

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Around the edges of the display panel itself, the bezels are fairly thin on the top and sides at about 5/16 of an inch or so, and a bit larger along the bottom where a separate plastic chin bumps things out to just over 3/4 of an inch. A band of silver plastic along the outside edge of the bezels provides a bit of contrast and helps coordinate with the stand, but it makes the bezels stand out a fair amount, unlike the UltraFine displays where the all-black bezels tend to disappear even with their larger size.

lg_27ud88_rear
The rear sides of the display and support arm are a glossy, bright white plastic. It’s a design choice that again generates a wide spectrum of reactions from users, but many won’t ever see the back except for the rare occasions they’re plugging in or unplugging cables.

Overall build quality seems good, but this is an all-plastic enclosure and you’ll hear some creaks as you adjust it. The panel can wobble a bit from vibrations if your work surface is at all shaky, likely due in part to the hinge design that allows for vertical orientation, but on my hefty corner desk setup it’s pretty much rock solid.

Ports

Unlike the UltraFine displays that have only a single Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C input, the 27UD88 includes a number of ports on the rear for connectivity in addition to the USB-C port that allows for single-cable connectivity for video, audio, data, and up to 60 watts of power for the notebook. Beyond USB-C, the 27UD88 also includes one DisplayPort and two HDMI inputs, which are convenient for those interested in hooking up additional sources such as a cable box, Apple TV, or another device to use on alternate inputs.

lg_27ud88_portsArm attachment and ports on the rear of the display
On the downstream side, the 27UD88 acts as a small USB hub, offering a pair of USB Type A ports with up to 5V/1.5A of charging power so you can connect mobile devices, wired keyboards and mice, and other accessories. The USB-A ports are officially USB 3.0, but you’ll quickly discover that once you hook the display up to your computer and it begins using those USB 3.0 lanes to drive the display’s pixels, you’ll only get USB 2.0 speeds at best for your peripherals.

For example, connecting a USB 3.0 external 5400 rpm hard drive directly to the 2016 MacBook Pro, I saw read and write speeds slightly above 100 MB/s, about what you’d expect for a USB 3.0 drive considering overheard and other limitations. When connecting the same drive via the 27UD88, however, speeds drop to about 35 MB/s for both read and write, which is right around the usual range for real-world USB 2.0. It’s disappointing, but not entirely LG’s fault considering the amount of bandwidth the high-resolution display itself needs over USB-C.

27ud88_usb_hard_driveRead and write speeds connected via display (top) and directly to MacBook Pro (bottom)
Ultimately it means you’re not going to want to connect your external hard drives via the display if you want the fastest available performance, but it’s fine for other peripherals or for occasional storage device use where speed isn’t terribly important.

In addition to display and data ports, the 27UD88 includes a headphone jack and a DC-in port for the display’s power adapter, which is a fairly large external power brick. A Kensington lock slot is included on the rear of the monitor for those looking to physically secure the display to a desk or other large or fixed object.

LG includes an HDMI cable, a DisplayPort cable, a USB-C to USB-C cable, and a USB-C to USB-A cable in the box to support a variety of connection configurations. The USB cables are only one meter in length, however, so depending on your desk setup this may not be long enough. If you need to get a longer one, make sure it can handle USB 3 data. Apple’s USB-C cable included with the MacBook Pro, for example, is intended only for charging and slower USB 2.0 data transfers, and thus won’t work for connecting to the display.

Joystick Button

Like many of LG’s displays, the 27UD88 has only a single joystick button for controlling the display’s menus and power. Moving the joystick right or left adjusts the volume if you have wired headphones or external speakers connected to the display, while a short press on the button allows access to the display’s settings or initially powers the display on. Once in settings, nudging the button forward, backward, or to the sides navigates through the hierarchy of menu options, while a press on the button registers your selection.

lg_27ud88_joystickBottom view showing lighted joystick button and vents
A long press on the button will turn the display off, although there is an automatic power-saving mode that will put the display to sleep if no input is detected. The button itself is lighted, and a menu option lets you set the light to be always on or off while the display is active. Setting it to on could be helpful if you need a little bit of light cast under your display to help find things in a dark room, but I left it off.

The light also pulses when the display is in sleep mode and it is bright enough to be distracting if you’re in a dark room trying to sleep, for example. Unfortunately, there appears to be no way to disable or dim this sleep light, so I make sure to power the display down at night if someone is going to be sleeping in my home office, which doubles as a guest room.

Menu Options

The main menu offers quick access to several features, including input selection, a Game Mode picture setting, and deeper setting options. The Game Mode option provides quick access to several picture modes optimized for FPS (first-person shooter) and RTS (real-time strategy) games by tweaking such adjustments as FreeSync, response time, and black stabilization.

lg_27ud88_main_menuMain menu accessed with quick press of the joystick button
Within the deeper menus, a “Quick Settings” section provides easy access to brightness, contrast, headphone volume, input, and display ratio settings, while a “PBP” (Picture by Picture) section lets you display two inputs side-by-side on the display at once with appropriate settings for swapping sides of the display or which input’s audio is being routed to the headphone jack.

lg_27ud88_pbpPBP mode with MacBook Pro via USB-C and Apple TV via HDMI displayed side-by-side
A “Picture” section offers a broad array of preset optimized picture modes, as well as plenty of manual adjiustments for sharpness, black level, gamma, color temperature, and more to let you custom calibrate the display.

lg_27ud88_calibrationVarious picture calibration menus
Within the manual calibration options, you’ll see a variety of standard settings including granular 0–100 scales for sharpness, black stabilization, and RGB balance, as well as a few options for gamma, color temperature, and response time. Other options include Super Resolution+ (LG’s technology for optimizing upscaled images), Ultra HD Deep Color, FreeSync synchronization for AMD graphics cards, and more.

Finally in the main menu, a “General” section addresses settings related to language, automatic energy saving and standby, and more.

OnScreen Control App

LG’s OnScreen Control app, available for Mac and Windows, offers a variety of ways to manage multiple LG monitors and multiple windows within a single monitor. It’s similar to the LG Screen Manager app discussed in our UltraFine 5K coverage in that it offers a Screen Split feature that lets you divide the screen into multiple sections where apps will automatically move and resize as you drag a window from one section to another.

lg_onscreen_control_27ud88OnScreen Control app with display settings
OnScreen Control also lets you control a host of display settings for the 27UD88, including volume, brightness, contrast, display ratio, picture mode, energy saving, response time, and more, settings which aren’t available for the UltraFine displays. The app will even let you set up specific picture modes depending on which app is active.

lg_27ud88_display_presetsPer-app display modes can be set using OnScreen Control

Wrap-up

The 27UD88 is a solid display if you’re looking for something in the Ultra HD or 4K range, but its 27-inch size makes it something of a tweener in pixel density. Everything is a bit too large on a Retina 1920×1080 desktop, and while scaling works okay for higher-resolution options, you do still lose some of the sharpness you’d get with Retina.

This is an attractive display, with the arc-shaped foot providing a clean, modern look even with the faux aluminum finish on the plastic. The bezels are thankfully thin around the top and sides, and even the bottom bezel is fairly minimal. Some users will appreciate the matte screen that minimizes distracting reflections, but others will undoubtedly prefer the glossy screens found on some other options for their accuracy.

Given the number of devices I juggle on a regular basis, I appreciate the multiple inputs on the 27UD88. I can hook up my MacBook Pro via USB-C and both third- and fourth-generation Apple TVs via HDMI and easily switch between them on the fly as needed. The USB-A ports are also great for keeping Lightning and Apple Watch docks at the ready on my desk.

The main point of a large external display is to have a quality screen, however, and when putting the 27UD88 side-by-side with the UltraFine 5K, there is a clear winner on that count. The UltraFine’s extra pixels, brightness, and wide color make it clearly superior to the 27UD88 in that regard. Throw in the lack of speakers for beefier sound than a computer can directly provide and the fact that the 27UD88 doesn’t push enough power over USB-C to fuel my 15-inch MacBook Pro, and the choice for me is clear: UltraFine all the way.

That’s not to say the 27UD88 is a bad option by any means, depending on your needs and the machine you’d be pairing it with – it’s actually quite good for many users. It’s several hundred dollars cheaper than the UltraFine 5K and offers some additional flexibility for connectivity that some users may need, so if these factors are important for you, the 27UD88 is definitely worth considering.

It’s a well-rounded external display option if you can find it at a good price, particularly if you’re looking to pair it with a 13-inch MacBook Pro that the display can sufficiently power. It’s still one of the relatively few USB-C displays on the market, although many more are coming as adoption of the standard continues to rise.

Pricing

In comparing prices across vendors, the 27UD88 is the model number you’ll see most often, and it’s LG’s consumer offering that comes with a one-year warranty. LG also sells a 27MU88 model for business customers, and that model comes with a three-year warranty and is otherwise identical to the 27UD88, so keep the warranty difference in mind if you’re comparing prices across vendors and the two models.

The 27UD88 carries a list price of $699, but at the time of this writing supplies are very short with many retailers being completely out of stock, so keep an eye out and be ready to grab one if you’re in the market for it. LG tells us the supply shortages are temporary, so availability should improve.

Note: LG provided the 27UD88 display to MacRumors free of charge for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received.

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20
Jan

Leica M10 preview: The rangefinder refined


Leica doesn’t do things like other camera makers. The German brand has a cult-like following of photographers who appreciate the brand’s unflinching craftsmanship and pinnacle lens quality.

The champion Leica has always been its full-frame M-series rangefinder. Which, in 2017, returns in its M10 guise: a wilier, more advanced model that – ignoring its total shun of video capture (good riddance, eh?) – redefines the rangefinder’s modern appeal.

We handled one at Leica’s London base to get a feel whether this £5,600 body-only wedge of metal can continue to get Leica fans’ wallets to open. On this brief inspection we’re pretty sure that won’t be a problem.

Leica M10 preview: What’s new?

To look at the Leica M10 is visually similar to the M9, but has really taken on board usability. The rangefinder sits pride of place, of course, but it’s the rejigging of button positions that makes the camera feel different to before.

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The rear LCD screen in far larger, at 3-inches, with the accompanying d-pad no longer sitting quite so close to the screen in a better upward position for thumb placement. The left-side button arrangements are also limited to three rather than five – comprising LV (live view), Play, and Menu.

To the top of the camera is an ISO dial which juts out the side of the body. It’s next to impossible to move, however, and takes a good two-handed approach to yank it upwards into its adjustable position to select between auto, M, and ISO 100 – 12,800 sensitivities.

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At 33.7mm the camera is a lot thinner than the earlier M9, too. Indeed it mirrors the earlier M4 film model – short of the ISO dial on the back of that earlier film model the two cameras are like twins – to make for the smallest full-frame digital system camera on the market.

Leica M10 preview: What’s a rangefinder like?

Leica sticks to the classics in the M-series, with its manual-focus lenses a principal aspect of the system.

Looking through the M10’s circular viewfinder reveals outlined crop marks to identify the frame (these are dependent on your lens of choice), while the centre point is used to manually align the image into desired focus.

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No autofocus, no messing about here. Interestingly, however, you can use the live view function to see the image on the rear screen – which zooms into 100 per cent scale to assist with pinpoint focus acquisition.

Leica M10 preview: New sensor

A new era needs a new sensor, with the M10 adopting a higher-resolution 24MP sensor compared to the 18MP chip in the earlier M9.

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That’s paired with the same Maestro II processor that you’ll find in the Leica Q, including a 2GB buffer so that rapid shooting frame after frame won’t clog up the camera. Leica claims 100 successive JPEG fine images can be shot without slowdown (at 5fps; raw files max out at 30 frames total).

Native sensitivity has shifted too, with ISO 100 now available proper. That’s a full stop better than the ISO 200 starting point of the M9. At the upper end the M10 maxes out at 12,800 standard, or can be pushed to ISO 50,000 within the settings if you really want to push things in low light.

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We’ve not had a change to shoot with the camera in detail, so can’t comment on precise areas of image quality. Leica being Leica, however, we suspect it’ll be mighty fine.

First Impressions

The Leica M10 is one of those cameras that looks back to go forward. It doesn’t bring anything disruptive to the market, but it no doubt brings exactly what staunch Leica fans will want: more resolution, a slimmer build and better control.

It’s mad expensive, of course, but this is the Red Dot brand we’re talking about here. So while the £5,600 price tag sounds excruciating to mere photographic mortals, it won’t stop customers snapping up an M10.

20
Jan

Sammus is somewhere between nerdcore and afrofuturism


Enongo Lumumba-Kasongo used to get the same question every time she set down the mic and stepped off the stage. She came to expect it after performing in crowded bars, big music festivals or comic book stores, and the question usually came from a well-meaning stranger or new fan of her music.

“Who makes your beats for you?”

This would happen right after she’d screamed into the mic that she was Sammus, a producer and rapper, and that everything she just did on stage was her work. The question would come in different forms — “Where’s your boyfriend?” was another staple — but the sentiment was the same. People assumed Sammus didn’t produce her own music.

“That aspect has actually opened up a tremendous amount of insight to me, in terms of what other women might go through,” Sammus said. “It’s this kind of weird thing where your skill set is questioned. Even the ability to do certain things is questioned right away, even as the words are leaving your mouth that you have done this thing.”

Nowadays, Sammus is a big enough name in the world of nerdcore hip-hop that she doesn’t get that question as often. Still, she’s one of just a handful of high-profile women rappers in nerdcore, and she’s also one of the few high-profile black MCs working in the genre.

Nerdcore is a contemporary brand of hip-hop whose songs focus on traditionally geeky things like programming, video games or Star Wars. These spaces are generally dominated by white men — and so is nerdcore. As a woman, it’s hard enough to break into the hip hop industry, let alone a niche offshoot genre overrun with technically savvy testosterone.

That’s one reason Sammus didn’t actively position herself as a nerdcore artist at the beginning of her music career. She simply wrote lyrics that drew on her own life experiences, and her songs happened to include a lot of geeky references and nerdy nostalgia bombs. It was natural: Both of her parents are professors, and she grew up playing video games, knowing she would one day earn a master’s degree, at the very least.

Her undergraduate thesis at Cornell University focused on digital music interfaces and gender, and today she’s a PhD student in the field of science and technology studies at Cornell.

Sammus was already producing her own songs by the time she was an undergrad, and Mega Ran, one of the top nerdcore MCs, took an early interest in her work. Mega Ran helped her build up a profile within nerdcore; they even collaborated on an album set in the Castlevania universe.

Today, Sammus proudly calls herself a nerdcore artist, but she’s not completely settled with this label that was slapped on her. She struggles to find her place within a genre that, on the surface, looks like the antithesis of her own experiences.

“I’ve had such a weird relationship with this term, nerdcore,” Sammus says. “Because I think, in some regards, it’s cool and does kind of capture some of what I’m doing. But in other ways, I feel like it doesn’t quite cover the full spectrum of what my music is about.”

Sammus is just as likely to rap about retro video games or Harry Potter as she is about racially driven police violence or female sexual liberation. She’s socially aware and delights in interweaving quirky, geeky references with heavy real-world issues. Her songs occupy a fuzzy space between nerdcore and afrofuturism, an artistic movement that places black people in science-fiction worlds in order to comment on past, present and future race issues.

“I want so badly for my work to be seen in this vein, and if that means that people see it as nerdcore as well, that’s dope,” Sammus says. “But I really want my work to be in line with this movement that talks about seeing black people in spaces we’ve never imagined.”

Sammus isn’t alone in this goal. Mega Ran, the veteran nerdcore MC who helped Sammus break into the genre, also raps about issues of race. As black rappers within nerdcore, Sammus and Mega Ran bring a unique perspective to the genre, but they also face specific challenges.

The common image of a “nerd” is a young white man. So, when artists like MC Frontalot or MC Lars rap about video games or programming, no one bats an eye. Often, when a black man does the same thing, his expertise is questioned. When a black woman does it, her very identity as a “nerd” is up for debate.

“The conceit coming from a lot of black folks who make nerdcore music is different from a lot of white folks who make nerdcore music, in that for us, for black folks, we’re fighting to be seen as nerds and geeks,” Sammus says. “It’s like, I can be this thing. I’m not just the other thing that you told me that I was.”

When Sammus first started learning about nerdcore, it seemed like a bunch of white men making parodies of gangster rap, co-opting the genre’s masculinity and flipping it to talk about silly things. Now she sees more of the nuance within nerdcore, but there’s still a disconnect between the things Sammus raps about and what white male artists rap about.

For example, she has a song called “Time Crisis” that discusses the realities of being a 30-year-old woman feeling pressured to have children and conform to other gender-specific norms.

“That’s not a thing, necessarily, that MC Frontalot is going to talk about,” Sammus says. “Not because he’s not a great rapper, not because he’s not a thoughtful person, but that’s just simply not a challenge that he’s facing in the way that I might be facing it.”

Don’t get it wrong: Sammus appreciates her place within nerdcore. She’s never felt slighted by other rappers, and she shares a common, geeky history with Mega Ran, MC Frontalot, MC Lars, MC Chris and all of the other nerdcore MCs. Sammus even participated in a light-hearted diss track aimed at Alex Trebek after he called nercdore fans “losers” on an episode of Jeopardy in October.

Nerdcore has provided Sammus a platform for her music and her message. It’s marketing shorthand that helps her book gigs at comic book stores, SXSW, PAX, MAGFest and other venues. And, she’s seeing progress that gives her hope for the future of diversity in nerdcore.

Sammus recently played MAGFest and noticed an encouraging trend: There were more women and people of color nerdcore MCs than she’d ever seen before. And, after her set, a handful of underrepresented people came up to her saying they were starting to write and produce their own songs too.

“I think it’s going to continue to shift to skew more in the direction of lots of people of color, women, non-binary folks, who love games and love cartoons and love geek, nerd stuff, but want to use it to talk about their unique experiences,” Sammus says.

Plus, Sammus is part of Mega Ran’s Nerdy People of Color Collective, which brings together creatives like Kadesh Flow, 1-UP, Shubzilla and WWE wrestler Xavier Woods for collaboration and support.

People still approach Sammus after her shows, but the conversations are a little different than when she started performing. Every time she plays a comic store or a convention nowadays, there’s always someone of color, a woman or a non-binary person who comes up and asks a simple question: “Can I have a hug?”

They’re appreciative that Sammus is on that stage, representing the diversity of geek culture. And Sammus is proud to be there. She revels in bringing up issues like the Black Lives Matter movement to new audiences just as much as she enjoys rapping about pixels to her peers.

“In that way, I don’t mind this label as much,” Sammus says. “It’s under the label, but it’s pushing it at every boundary.”

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