Skip to content

Archive for

3
Mar

Here are the flat-out craziest virtual reality demos we saw at Mobile World Congress


Why it matters to you

Virtual reality is a burgeoning field, and Mobile World Congress gave a (sometimes crazy) glimpse of the technology’s future.

mwc17-topics-banner-280x75.jpg

Virtual reality may not be the novelty it once was, but that doesn’t mean the excitement has died down. At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, VR products and demos were out in full force. Samsung announced the Gear VR Controller, an optional motion wand for its Gear VR headset, and reportedly showed off an untethered headset behind closed doors. Huawei used 5G wireless technology to deliver not only streaming 360-degree visuals to a headset, but tracked motion in real time. And Nokia showed footage captured by its high-end VR OZO camera.

But VR at Mobile World Congress got a little weird, too. Samsung brought insane motion simulators that rotated riders 360 degrees in the air as they watched footage from a Gear VR headset. South Korea’s KT Telecom brought a hamster wheel-like VR contraption featuring a Korean pop star, simulated wind effects, and footage of real-life roller coasters. And a Budapest-based company demoed a brainwave-reading headset that let VR viewers lift objects with their minds.

We checked out some of MWC’s wackiest VR experiments.

KT Telecom’s K-Pop Extravaganza

In terms of sheer weirdness, Korea Telecom’s VR demo took the cake. The carrier’s cartoonish showcase mixed skydiving and Korean pop music with the sights and sounds of Seoul, South Korea. But the highlight was the human-sized motorized wheel that rotated viewers (or victims, depending on your perspective) in sync with the footage.

It was an intense experience, to say the least. Once strapped into a seat belt and outfitted with a harness, viewers found themselves jumping out of a plane, rushing toward the bottom of a snowy mountain peak, traveling up and down the slopes of a roller coaster, and gliding over the dance floors of South Korean nightclubs.

The wheel’s movements made the motion all too real, which appeared to leave some riders more than a little queasy by the end. KT said the goal is to eventually use photographic images, but if a headset alone wasn’t enough to convey the feeling of careening down a ski slope and riding a roller coaster, chances are better graphics wouldn’t do the job.

Considering the shaky knees of most attendees afterwards, that’s probably a good thing.

MindControl VR

Emotiv EEG headset

MindControl VR isn’t a new virtual reality product, per se, but a merging of two technologies in one: HTC’s computer-tethered Vive headset and Emotiv’s EEG neuron-measuring headwear. Developed by Budapest-based ARWorks, it’s an experience that lets you channel your inner psychic.

Using software that ran on a computer, signals and patterns from Emotiv’s EEG headset were looped back into the MindControl VR system, which performed preprogrammed actions in the Vive’s virtual environment. Principally, they involved a C-vitamin molecule, a match, and a Rubik’s Cube — all Hungarian inventions, according to the company — and the goal was to use “psychokinetic powers” to manipulate them. After concentrating on the match, for example, it burst into flame, and focusing on the Rubik’s Cube caused it to solve itself.

It’s easier said than done. From what we saw, some attendees were able to light the match but had trouble solving the Rubik’s cube, while others weren’t able to manipulate either. “Some people get it the first time, [and] others need a little practice,” CEO Szabolcs Budahazy told Digital Trends.

Samsung’s Gear VR Experience

Samsung’s virtual reality experience was by far the largest — and most intense — of the demonstrations we saw. The smartphone maker constructed a gigantic rig full of motion simulators, a motorized dolly, and nearly 100 Gear VR headsets ready to tighten around the faces of eager attendees.

The recently unveiled Gyro 4D simulator simulator, a dizzying contraption capable of rotating riders 360 degrees, replicated the motions of a spaceship racing through unfamiliar galaxies. Another simulator sent thrill-seekers on a ride down a skeleton track at the Whistler ski resort in Canada. Other attendees experienced an airshow from a pilot’s perspective. And still others took boat ride down scenic rapids.

Huawei’s Zombie Invasion

Huawei’s virtual reality demo brought forth the undead with the help of an HTC Vive and a 5G connection, giving wearers the terrifying experience of withstanding an onslaught of realistic life-size zombies from all directions.

A Huawei rep told Digital Trends that the demo was intended to illustrate the potential of 5G technology. Thanks to low latency and high bandwidth, the wireless connection was able to not only deliver streaming 360-degree visuals to the headset, but also track motion in real time. Huawei contrasted that capacity with the networks of today, which by and large max out at the comparatively low resolutions of Google’s Daydream or Samsung’s Gear VR.

3
Mar

Here are the flat-out craziest virtual reality demos we saw at Mobile World Congress


Why it matters to you

Virtual reality is a burgeoning field, and Mobile World Congress gave a (sometimes crazy) glimpse of the technology’s future.

mwc17-topics-banner-280x75.jpg

Virtual reality may not be the novelty it once was, but that doesn’t mean the excitement has died down. At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, VR products and demos were out in full force. Samsung announced the Gear VR Controller, an optional motion wand for its Gear VR headset, and reportedly showed off an untethered headset behind closed doors. Huawei used 5G wireless technology to deliver not only streaming 360-degree visuals to a headset, but tracked motion in real time. And Nokia showed footage captured by its high-end VR OZO camera.

But VR at Mobile World Congress got a little weird, too. Samsung brought insane motion simulators that rotated riders 360 degrees in the air as they watched footage from a Gear VR headset. South Korea’s KT Telecom brought a hamster wheel-like VR contraption featuring a Korean pop star, simulated wind effects, and footage of real-life roller coasters. And a Budapest-based company demoed a brainwave-reading headset that let VR viewers lift objects with their minds.

We checked out some of MWC’s wackiest VR experiments.

KT Telecom’s K-Pop Extravaganza

In terms of sheer weirdness, Korea Telecom’s VR demo took the cake. The carrier’s cartoonish showcase mixed skydiving and Korean pop music with the sights and sounds of Seoul, South Korea. But the highlight was the human-sized motorized wheel that rotated viewers (or victims, depending on your perspective) in sync with the footage.

It was an intense experience, to say the least. Once strapped into a seat belt and outfitted with a harness, viewers found themselves jumping out of a plane, rushing toward the bottom of a snowy mountain peak, traveling up and down the slopes of a roller coaster, and gliding over the dance floors of South Korean nightclubs.

The wheel’s movements made the motion all too real, which appeared to leave some riders more than a little queasy by the end. KT said the goal is to eventually use photographic images, but if a headset alone wasn’t enough to convey the feeling of careening down a ski slope and riding a roller coaster, chances are better graphics wouldn’t do the job.

Considering the shaky knees of most attendees afterwards, that’s probably a good thing.

MindControl VR

Emotiv EEG headset

MindControl VR isn’t a new virtual reality product, per se, but a merging of two technologies in one: HTC’s computer-tethered Vive headset and Emotiv’s EEG neuron-measuring headwear. Developed by Budapest-based ARWorks, it’s an experience that lets you channel your inner psychic.

Using software that ran on a computer, signals and patterns from Emotiv’s EEG headset were looped back into the MindControl VR system, which performed preprogrammed actions in the Vive’s virtual environment. Principally, they involved a C-vitamin molecule, a match, and a Rubik’s Cube — all Hungarian inventions, according to the company — and the goal was to use “psychokinetic powers” to manipulate them. After concentrating on the match, for example, it burst into flame, and focusing on the Rubik’s Cube caused it to solve itself.

It’s easier said than done. From what we saw, some attendees were able to light the match but had trouble solving the Rubik’s cube, while others weren’t able to manipulate either. “Some people get it the first time, [and] others need a little practice,” CEO Szabolcs Budahazy told Digital Trends.

Samsung’s Gear VR Experience

Samsung’s virtual reality experience was by far the largest — and most intense — of the demonstrations we saw. The smartphone maker constructed a gigantic rig full of motion simulators, a motorized dolly, and nearly 100 Gear VR headsets ready to tighten around the faces of eager attendees.

The recently unveiled Gyro 4D simulator simulator, a dizzying contraption capable of rotating riders 360 degrees, replicated the motions of a spaceship racing through unfamiliar galaxies. Another simulator sent thrill-seekers on a ride down a skeleton track at the Whistler ski resort in Canada. Other attendees experienced an airshow from a pilot’s perspective. And still others took boat ride down scenic rapids.

Huawei’s Zombie Invasion

Huawei’s virtual reality demo brought forth the undead with the help of an HTC Vive and a 5G connection, giving wearers the terrifying experience of withstanding an onslaught of realistic life-size zombies from all directions.

A Huawei rep told Digital Trends that the demo was intended to illustrate the potential of 5G technology. Thanks to low latency and high bandwidth, the wireless connection was able to not only deliver streaming 360-degree visuals to the headset, but also track motion in real time. Huawei contrasted that capacity with the networks of today, which by and large max out at the comparatively low resolutions of Google’s Daydream or Samsung’s Gear VR.

3
Mar

Google Photos just got even better with new auto white balance feature


Why it matters to you

Want more natural-looking photos? Thanks to Google Photos, you can now automatically correct the white balance on your snapshots.

Google Photos is only getting better. The much-loved service has been updated regularly since its release a few years ago, but the latest update may be one of the most helpful yet. That’s because Google Photos just got auto white balance adjustment, which is now added to the growing list of the settings that are tweaked in Photos’ Auto mode.

The new feature, which is arguably a long overdue update, will make its way to the Android version of Photos first, after which it will most likely make its way to iOS. It’s also now rolling out to the Google Photos web apps.

More: 8 easy ways to transfer photos off your Android smartphone

So what does auto white balance do? The white balance tool on a camera is used to render colors correctly. If you take a photo of something being lit by an orange light, then the photo can turn out to look a little orange. When the white balance is corrected, it can help the photos look much more natural.

google photos auto white balance before

Before Balance

google photos auto white balance after

After Balance

Other features that were recently added include the integration of a feature called “smart albums” and PhotoScan, which can be used to automatically create albums. Google Photos, however, is perhaps best known for using artificial intelligence to augment its search feature. Using search in Google Photos, you can look for photos based on things like date and time, but you can also search for specific objects.

Photos itself fast became one of Google’s most popular products. The service actually originated in Google+, and was one of the more liked features of the failed social media network — to the extent that Google eventually decided to spin it out as its own service. Now, the Google Photos app is a staple on many Android phones, and is highly downloaded on iOS, too.

3
Mar

When will every phone be water resistant? We asked an expert


ask-an-expert-280x75.png

If you’ve ever spilled a drink on your phone, dropped it in the pool, or heard that heart-sinking plop as it dives into the toilet bowl, then you’ll know how important water resistance is in a phone.

Water damage is the second biggest cause of smartphone failure today. Worldwide, nearly 900,000 smartphones get damaged by liquids every single day at an annual cost of more than $96.7 billion, according to IDC.

More: The best waterproof smartphone you can buy

Manufacturers and insurers cover some of that, but most of the cost is borne by regular folks. It comes as no surprise, then, that water resistance featured prominently in a recent YouGov poll of most wanted smartphone features in the U.S. market. It came third, ahead of the best camera and hands-free technology. In case you’re wondering, battery life and shatter-proof screens topped the list.

Origins of waterproof phones

“We think every phone should be water resistant,” Ady Moores, CEO of P2i told Digital Trends at Mobile World Congress.

P2i provides a special water repellant coating for smartphones that delivers an IPX2 rating. Treated smartphones can withstand rain showers, spills, and humidity, but not full immersion. The company was spun out of the U.K. military in 2004 to find ways to commercialize a product that had originally been developed between the Gulf wars to protect uniforms against chemical weapons.

It operated in the military market until 2010, when a breakthrough came in the form of hearing aids. P2i treats 60 percent of the hearing aids on the market, and that led onto smartphones and a partnership with Motorola. All the Moto phones released in the last few years have been treated with P2i’s coating. The company has also partnered with Huawei, treating its flagship P8 and every succeeding model in the series, including the newly announced P10.

New tech makes it possible

The idea of a water resistant phone is still relatively new. Cast your mind back just four years to 2013, when Sony unveiled the Xperia Z. That was the first time we had seen a flagship smartphone that boasted a high degree of water resistance and didn’t look like a rubberized brick. It scored an IPX7 rating, which means that it can withstand depths of up to 1 meter for 30 minutes.

Samsung released the S4 Active the same year, which also scored an IPX7 rating, but it was a ruggedized version of the flagship S4. It would be a while before water resistant phones without flaps to seal the ports appeared on the scene.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Active review submerged

Last year’s iPhone 7 achieved an IPX7 rating and the Galaxy S7 scored an IPX8 rating. This year the LG G6 and Sony’s Xperia XZ Premium also scored an IPX8 rating. All are beautiful devices with open ports, but those IP ratings came at a cost.

“They have to put a milled aluminum frame, glue different openings, and engineer those devices very carefully,” explains Moores. “We estimate the manufacturing cost of a mechanically sealed IPX7 solution is somewhere between $8 and $15 per phone.”

By contrast, P2i’s coating is gas-based and can be applied at the end of the manufacturing line to the finished phone. It’s also a lot cheaper.

“Our technology is 50 to 60 cents per phone for IPX2 certification,” explains Moores. “But the real value of a coating versus a mechanical solution for manufacturers is not just that it brings the price down, it also gives you back the freedom of design.”

Manufacturers employing P2i’s coating don’t generally advertise it as a feature. They’re apparently content with improved reliability. Moores tells us that the coating has reduced average return rates for water damaged phones by between 40 and 50 percent.

Waterproofing will be standard

Whatever method is chosen, we’re thankful that water resistance is becoming a standard feature, for flagships, at least. Last year, of the smartphones sold that cost $600 or more, 95 percent were water resistant. That percentage falls rapidly with price. Only 25 percent of smartphones costing between $400 and $600, and 17 percent of mid-rangers in the $200 to $400 price bracket had any water protection.

That’s something P2i is working to change and the company has treated more than 175 million devices to date. A coating, versus a sealed solution, allows for replaceable batteries and easer repairs, but there are some other advantages, too.

“The difference between a P2i treated phone and a sealed phone is about two degrees Celsius,” explains Moores. “A coating allows you to keep the device open, so air can come in and out.”

It may be cheaper, easier to apply, and afford manufacturers more design freedom, but an IPX2 rated phone probably won’t survive a submersion, so the technology has a way to go yet.

“We are working on achieving the IPX7 rating with a coating,” Moores says. “We’d expect to see phones in the marketplace in late 2018 with that technology.”

As it becomes easier and cheaper for manufacturers to make their phones water resistant, we hope to see more and more of them do so.

“In the next two to four-year period every phone will be water resistant,” suggests Moores. “It will become an expectation.”

3
Mar

Google hardware boss confirms sky is blue, Pixel 2 will still be premium this year


The Pixel has been one hard phone to get these last few months, and nobody is more painfully aware of that than Google.

While speaking to AndroidPit at Mobile World Congress 2017, head of Hardware Development at Google, Rick Osterloh, about Pixels, present and future. None of the answers should surprise you, but it’s nice to see that Google acknowledges the obvious.

valentines-wall-wed-ariel-pixel.jpg?itok

Yes, the Pixel is hard to get

Osterloh acknowledged the perpetual ‘Out Of Stock’ listed for the company’s first premium flagship. While he wouldn’t say exactly what was holding up supply from meeting demand, he said that it’s the biggest problem from the Pixel they want to fix for the next model.

A new Pixel is coming in the fall

If we had an actual release date to share this early in the year, that… would be magnificent. Sadly, we don’t, but Osterloh did say this: “There is an annual rhythm in the industry. So, you can count on us to follow it… You can count on a successor this year, even if you don’t hear a date from me now.” So, if we’re going to follow that rhythm, then the Pixel 2 will be coming in the fall.

Oh, and if you were hoping Google would return to more affordable Nexus-style phones with the next Pixel, then Osterloh can rain on your Pixel parade right now: “Pixel stays premium.” This should surprise exactly no one, but if you’d been carrying a torch for a Google-branded phone in the $300-$400 range, you’re going have to carry that Nexus 5X a while longer.

Google Pixel + Pixel XL

  • Google Pixel and Pixel XL review
  • Google Pixel XL review: A U.S. perspective
  • Google Pixel FAQ: Should you upgrade?
  • Pixel + Pixel XL specs
  • Understanding Android 7.1 Nougat
  • Join the discussion in the forums!

Google Store
Verizon

3
Mar

Yelp is tackling gender neutral bathroom discovery in its latest update


It’s a simple feature, but it will make a huge impact for some.

gender-neutral.jpg?itok=8Z9JfFHe

Yelp, the first big name in discovering restaurants near you that offer exactly what you’re craving, has made several significant moves in the name of inclusion and acceptance recently. It was one of the few apps that lets you know when a restaurant is wheelchair accessible or offers a military discount, and now there’s a feature for anyone in need of a gender neutral restroom.

From Rachel Williams, Yelp’s head of Diversity and Inclusion:

On desktop and mobile versions of Yelp, users will be able to see whether or not a business offers gender-neutral bathrooms to patrons. We will also be rolling out the ability to search for businesses on Yelp by the Gender Neutral Restrooms attribute in the weeks to come.

Yelp will collect this information from users and business owners in two ways. We will begin asking users who check into or review businesses like restaurants and retail shops if those establishments offer restrooms that are gender neutral. Additionally, businesses owners can edit the Gender Neutral Restrooms attribute from their business user account.

It’s a relatively small update to the Yelp service, but will make a significant difference in places where locating a gender neutral restaurant in states where “bathroom bills” have caused so many problems. This update has started rolling out to business already, and will be available for users in the Yelp app soon.

Image credit

3
Mar

Why Tim Schafer keeps remaking his classic games


Tim Schafer is smiling and shaking hands with a hovering crowd as I sit down next to him. A college student asks if she can talk with him later about his career. A fan thanks him for his work — a library of iconic video games that stretches back to the early ’90s. He takes the time to respond to each of them, encouraging the student and graciously accepting the fan’s gratitude before sitting down to walk me through a demo of Full Throttle Remastered, an HD remake of one of his first games. I ask him if it was strange to revisit a game he created over two decades ago. “It kind of reminds you of the lessons you learned, but forgot,” he said. “Like, put a bunch of explosions on the cover of your box. That did really well for this game. I keep forgetting to put more explosions on the covers.”

The question was cheap bait; a ploy to see if the seasoned game designer had any regrets about how Full Throttle turned out in light of the experience he’d gained since. He didn’t take it. If anything, he reveres the original version of game as something that needs to be preserved. “This is really important to me,” he said, prompting me to press the PlayStation 4 controller’s touchpad to switch from the game’s redrawn HD graphics to the original pixel art. “When I play the Special Edition of Monkey Island, for example, I really appreciated that the game existed if I wanted to see it, exactly as I remembered. I could play that version. Then I’d play for awhile and I’d want to see the pretty art, because it’s hurting my eyeballs.”

Schafer loves what the repainted animation does for Full Throttle’s cinematic sequences, but some things were better left unchanged. Not a single line of new dialogue was recorded for the game’s remaster. “The original voice actor, Roy Conrad, has passed away since we made this game,” he said. “We wanted to just kind of do the Blu-ray version, if you will. The nicest version of his voice.” Using the original reel-to-reel recordings, Double Fine remastered Conrad’s voiceover into a new stereo mix. “He’s irreplaceable, I think, as Ben Throttle.” Schafer even went through the effort of recreating a rare 1990s magazine pack-in demo for Full Throttle Remastered’s GDC debut, just to make sure all of Conrad’s voice work was heard. “Ben had some special lines he only said in the demo.”

“When I first pitched this, the management was a little worried. They were like, ‘Are they going to be selling drugs and killing people?’ and I was like, ‘What are you talking about?! Bikers don’t do that!” Schafer may have always had a love for motorcycles, but this idea of Biker culture was a little romanticized. After reading Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga, he decided to keep the game squarely in his idealized vision of biker gangs. “They’re not going to do everything the Hell’s Angels do,” he said, “but I did pull themes of, you know, how much authenticity matters to them and how they want to live, in a way, apart from society.” To build the world of Full Throttle, Schafer mixed truth from Thompson’s work with themes pulled from Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, The Road Warrior, Hellboy comics and more. He compares his version of bikers to like pirates, or cowboys. “All these things, trying to create this stoic hero in a wasteland.”

Remixing his lifelong obsessions into new and unique worlds has always been key to Schafer’s style. Any visitor to his San Francisco office can plainly see the collection of heavy metal albums that helped inspire Brutal Legend. “I feel like if you’re doing something new, you pull from all these things,” he said. “Your brain retains all this. Not necessarily whole works of art that you’ve taken in before, but the feelings you get from them and wanting to create that feeling again, by breaking it down to its elements.” His love of engines turned into over-the-top vehicles in Full Throttle, Brutal Legend and even Grim Fandango. “I love hot rods and loud engine roars,” he added. “And it’s fun for the sound designers!”

Not all of his interests coalesce into game ideas, of course. “There’s also things I’ve been into that I’ve never done anything with,” he said. “For a long time I was really obsessed with like, hong-kong wire fu. Jet Li and Jackie Chan movies.” Schafer also says he’s been reading old science fiction and playing a lot of board games, but doesn’t seem convinced they would make good video games. “Would that be fun? Like, you don’t ever get to play the board game, you just have to play the people who are.” He thinks about it for a second longer. “Or you’re trying to get your family to play games with you, but they don’t want to. That’s the main puzzle!”

A adventure game about navigating the social structure of a family game night sounds like the perfect platform for Schafer’s quirky brand of humor, but he’s not serious. “I do go through these phases,” he said. “I was really into film noir, and that’s where Grim Fandango came from, but I really can’t say.” Tim Schafer is playing a lot of video games, reading old books and, as always, listening to heavy metal. If any of these new obsessions are influencing his next game, he’s not telling. “It’s all secret future stuff. It’s not formed yet! It’s not formed in my head!”

Click here to catch up on the latest news from GDC 2017!

3
Mar

‘Sleeping Dogs’ movie will star Donnie Yen


You can make a list of good video game movies on the back of a thumbtack, but that doesn’t stop Hollywood from producing them. The latest title to be fed into the sausage machine is Square Enix’s popular 2012 title Sleeping Dogs. Deadline Hollywood is reporting that Donnie Yen, star of Ip Man and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has been signed to play the lead.

Sleeping Dogs is an open-world adventure game set in Hong Kong, with the player controlling an undercover cop, Wei Shen. Shen is tasked with taking down the local Triads, with a combination of fighting, shooting and parkour. It’s not clear if Yen will play Shen, or another character, depending on how loose the adaptation is.

Yen’s inclusion doesn’t guarantee that the film will be any good, but may ensure that it makes back its budget. The star is well-loved in China, and will ensure that audiences there turn out in droves to see him. In the same way that Warcraft was a hit in the country, a video game movie starring Donnie Yen seems like a slam dunk. That should give the producers more time to ensure that the film is any good.

Source: Deadline Hollywood

3
Mar

NBC invested $500 million in Snap’s IPO


Yesterday, Snap Inc. (parent company of Snapchat) finally went public — and despite some controversy, it had a pretty good first day on the stock exchange. As it turns out, that’s due in part to a massive investment from NBC Universal, which put a whopping $500 million into the company. CNBC (which is obviously owned by NBC Universal) reports that the deal was a “strategic investment and partnership” and that it’s the only such investment from a US media company.

NBC has made similar investments on other digital media companies in recent years, including $400 million in Buzzfeed and $200 million in Vox Media. And the media giant has worked with Snap in the past. NBC, Buzzfeed and Snap all partnered for coverage during the Rio Olympics this past summer, and NBC has made Snapchat-ready versions of content from some of its most popular programs (including SNL and The Voice).

This deal appears to be the result of a year-long attempt from NBC to woo Snap CEO Evan Spiegel into a closer partnership. The question now is wheter Snap’s forays into media-created content will change thanks to this investment. A memo from NBC Universal Steve Burke (published by Recode) doesn’t provide much in the way of hints. He indicates that more Snapchat-formatted versions of NBC shows will come, and the companies will partner again for the Olympics, but we’ll have to wait and see exactly what sort of new, millenial-focused media this partnership produces.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: CNBC

3
Mar

The best portable hard drive


By Justin Krajeski

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. When readers choose to buy The Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

After spending 21 hours researching and testing and shuffling thousands of files across eight drives, we found that the best portable hard drive for most people is the 2 TB Seagate Backup Plus Slim.

Who this is for

When was the last time you backed up all your important photos and documents? Everyone should back up their data, and an external drive is one important part of a good backup strategy.

A portable hard drive is for anyone who needs a drive they can keep in their bag and use to back up photos and other data while traveling. With this type of drive, you’ll be pay more per terabyte and sacrifice some speed, but portable drives are smaller and lighter than desktop drives and don’t need an additional power adapter.

How we picked and tested

We scoured the websites of major portable-drive manufacturers for any new models that were released since our last major update in May 2016. We came up with a list of 25 promising new contenders.

We winnowed the list down to eight portable drives that fit our price, speed, and capacity requirements and had good reviews from trusted sources like AnandTech, CNET’s Dong Ngo, StorageReview.com, or positive Amazon reviews. Then we tested the drives ourselves.

For each hard drive, we ran HD Tune Pro, a benchmarking program that tests transfer speeds, access time, burst rate, and CPU usage across the entire disk. We also timed a series of file transfers—a 7.07 GB folder of photos, a 19.7 GB music collection, and a 45.5 GB rip of a Blu-ray movie—from start to finish, running each transfer three times and determining the average to rule out performance hiccups. We explored each drive’s bundled software to find out how useful and user-friendly it is.

For solid-state drives, we used CrystalDiskMark and ATTO Disk Benchmark to test each drive’s sequential and random speeds, and we timed the same set of file transfers we use for hard drives. We ran all these tests on the Asus ROG G752VT-DH72, our best gaming laptop. Its PCIe solid-state drive was more than fast enough to avoid bottlenecking all the drives we tested.

Our pick

The 2 TB Seagate Backup Plus Slim is the best portable drive for most people. Photo: Kyle Fitzgerald

The 2 TB Seagate Backup Plus Slim is the best portable hard drive for most people because it’s reliable, and reliability is the most important factor for any data storage device. It’s also lighter and smaller than most of the other hard drives we tested, was consistently faster than the competition in our multifile music and photo transfer tests, and it’s one of the least expensive drives per terabyte we tested, too. The Slim comes with handy backup software and 200 GB of free OneDrive storage for two years.

The Slim has been our top pick since April 2014, except for a three-month period when it was superseded by its successor, the Seagate Backup Plus Ultra Slim. The Ultra Slim’s reported failure rate has skyrocketed since we began recommending it, so we’ve switched our pick back to the Slim.

In January 2017, we recorded 587 failure reports out of 8,948 user reviews for the Slim, giving the Slim a 6.5 percent reported failure rate—that’s especially good for a drive that’s been around for three years. (You can read more about how we calculate failure rates in our full guide.) The 2 TB model we recommend has an even lower failure rate at 5.9 percent. During our years of testing, we’ve found that anything below 10 percent isn’t cause for concern. This is far from a perfect measure, but it’s the best we have for now.

More storage, less portability

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The 4 TB Seagate Backup Plus Portable is the best option if you need a more capacious and cost-effective drive but don’t want a desktop hard drive. Photo: Daniela Gorny

If you need more storage—say, for a desktop computer—or if you simply don’t mind a thicker, heavier drive, you should get the 4 TB Seagate Backup Plus Portable. It costs less per terabyte than the 2 TB Backup Plus Slim, and it was a little faster in some of our tests, but it’s twice as thick, almost twice as heavy, and was slower in important multifile transfer tests. (Make sure not to buy the 4 TB Seagate Backup Plus Fast by mistake—we don’t recommend that one because its two drives give it a higher potential for failure.)

A solid-state upgrade

The Samsung T3 is the best portable solid-state drive so far. Photo: Kimber Streamsy

If you can tolerate paying a lot more for a smaller, lighter, and faster portable drive with hardware encryption, we recommend the Samsung Portable SSD T3. It’s more than five times faster than the Seagate Backup Plus Slim, and because it’s an SSD, it’s hardier too. However, it costs about 10 times more per gigabyte than the Seagate Backup Plus Slim does, so it isn’t affordable for most people.

This guide may have been updated by The Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Note from The Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.

%d bloggers like this: