Razer’s Blade Pro gaming laptop can now be had for $1,700 less
When Razer redesigned its Blade Pro laptop late last year, it finally had a flagship notebook that lived up to its name. The 17-inch Blade Pro had a gorgeous 4K display, a screaming fast processor, top of the line NVIDIA graphics and even somehow managed to fit a mechanical keyboard in a laptop chassis. The only problem was that it cost almost $4,000. Now, Razer is offering another option: a pared-down version of the Blade Pro that costs almost half as much.
The new lower-priced Blade Pro still isn’t cheap, but by removing some of the machine’s more luxurious features, Razer has managed to shave about $1,700 off of the total price. That means the new configuration will ship with a 1920 x 1080 Full HD non-touch display instead of a 4K screen and will use NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 graphics. The machine will have half as much memory too, shipping with 16GB compared to 32GB in the base model. Finally, the lower-end machine will forgo the Blade Pro’s fancy low-profile mechanical keyboard in favor of traditional membrane keys.
All in all, that basically means the lower-end Razer Blade Pro is just a 14-inch Razer Blade in a larger form factor. That means it’s still a pretty powerful machine too — with enough oomph to push a decent VR experience. The company is also releasing a larger Razer Rogue gaming laptop backapck specifically to carry the large notebook. It needs it, too. The Blade Pro may be luxuriously large on a desk, but it’s pretty hard to carry around in a standard size bag.
The new budget configuration of the Razer Blade Pro will be available for $2300 later this year.
Meet R2-D2 and BB-9E, Sphero’s new ‘Star Wars’ toys
It’s been nearly two years since Sphero introduced its app controlled BB-8, a replica of the cute rolling droid that first appeared in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That toy quickly became one of the most coveted by fans of Disney’s franchise, and it wasn’t long before the company followed it up with a Battle-Worn Edition, designed to look as rugged as the character does in film. And today, at IFA 2017, Sphero announced it is expanding its connected toy universe with two more Star Wars droids, R2-D2 and BB-9E. Naturally, Sphero worked closely alongside Lucasfilm to bring these to life, just as it did with BB-8. The idea, as you might expect, is to make them as close to the real thing as possible.
R2-D2 needs no introduction, but you’re probably wondering who this BB-9E character is. Well, it’s essentially an evil version of BB-8, the First Order’s very own rolling droid. It hasn’t been confirmed yet, but there’s a very good chance we’ll see BB-9E in the next Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, which is hitting theaters on December 15th. Like with Sphero’s BB-8, the new droids can be controlled using an iOS and Android app. With R2-D2, for instance, you can drive it around and have it make different sounds and moves — including falling on its head. Because that’s definitely a thing R2-D2 would do.
One of the main changes with R2-D2 is that, unlike the BB-8 models and BB-9E, it has a speaker built in. Sphero says it worked with audio experts with experience from “places like Bose” to make this happen, and the sounds you’ll hear from R2-D2 are straight from Star Wars: A New Hope. As much as we wish BB-9E would have the same feature, we’re told a speaker wouldn’t fit because of the smaller size of the toy’s shell. That said, you can still hear its sounds from your paired device, through the companion app. Not only that, but BB-9E’s head lights up, which isn’t the case for the BB-8 toy. This was made possible thanks to new inductive charging tech that passes electricity from BB-9E’s body to its head.
Speaking of, Sphero is also rolling out a new application called Sphero Droids, a hub for you to easily keep track and control all the models you own. Aside from that, the app offers interactive augmented reality modes, which let you do things like go inside the Millennium Falcon ship and virtually explore it with your R2-D2. Another nifty thing you’ll be able to do later this year is program R2-D2 and BB-9E using Sphero’s standalone Edu app, in case you or your kids want to get more creative. As part of the R2-D2 launch, Sphero is working with Apple on a Swift Playground, which will let users tinker with the droid using that coding platform.
If you’re already in love with either toy or both, you won’t have to wait long to get one. Sphero’s BB-9E and R2-D2 hit stores September 1st, aka Force Friday II, for $150 and $180, respectively. Be sure to act quick though, because we have a feeling these are going to sell pretty fast.
Follow all the latest news from IFA 2017 here!
Lenovo’s first augmented reality glasses are a Star Wars exclusive
Compared to virtual reality, augmented reality has been slow to take off. Sure, phone-based augmented reality is getting a bit of a boost right now — Apple and Google are certainly investing in it — but there’s still a dearth of commercially-available headsets. Devices like HoloLens and the Meta 2 are too expensive, and while there are startups that promise more affordable models, they’re still years away from being on store shelves. Lenovo, however, has come with a solution — and it’s partnered with Disney to bring it to the masses. The caveat? It only works with one game (at least for now) and that’s Star Wars: Jedi Challenges.
We saw a teaser of Star Wars: Jedi Challenges a few months ago at a Disney fan event, but now we know that it’s the name of both the game as well as the hardware kit required to play it. The bundle includes a headset called the Lenovo Mirage, the hilt of a lightsaber and a movement-tracking beacon that you put on the floor. The beacon requires two AA batteries while the lightsaber comes with a rechargeable 550 mAh battery.
To get started, you download the game onto your phone — it’s available on both Android and iOS — and then you slide the phone into a tray located inside the Mirage. As you start the game, it’ll offer you instructions on where to put the aforementioned beacon, which the headset’s two cameras use to track your location in the room. The cameras are also used for inside-out tracking — basically sensing where your head is — and for figuring out the position of that blue-tipped lightsaber.
I had a chance to try the headset at a recent Star Wars press event, and right off the bat, I marveled at how lightweight it felt on my head. It accommodated my glasses just fine, and I was strapped on within just a few seconds. As the Mirage is an AR headset, I could see the world around me through a clear lens, but with virtual elements floating in my line of sight. Since the headset uses the phone for its display — there are mirrors that reflect it — the quality of the image depends on the phone’s screen. The one in the demo was a Moto Z, and looked great to me, despite my short time with it. And unlike on HoloLens, the field of view on the Mirage is pretty big. It has a vertical field of view of 33 degrees, and a horizontal FOV of 60 degrees (By contrast, the HoloLens’ FOV is 17 degrees vertically and 30 degrees horizontally).
Mere seconds into my demo, I was launched right into a lightsaber battle with Kylo Ren. With a push of a button, the toy hilt I held in my hand came to life. A beam of blue light shot out of it, instantly transforming into a lightsaber. Magically appearing in the middle of the press demo area was Kylo Ren, who charged at me with a red lightsaber of his own. To block him, I was instructed to line up my saber with random yellow bars that appeared across the screen. And in order to attack, I simply had to step forward and strike him with the best sword-slicing moves I could muster. With the right combination of blocks and attacks, I eventually whittled Kylo’s health down to zero, and was ultimately triumphant.
It was a really fun and immersive experience, and I liked the haptic feedback I got whenever I blocked or took a hit. Plus, as I usually tend to get a little motion-sick when trying out VR headsets, I was really glad that I didn’t feel any nausea at all. What’s more, since I could see my surroundings, I didn’t have to worry about accidentally whacking someone in the head as I swung my lightsaber around.
Mike Goslin, a VP of Advanced Development at Disney, told me that there’s more to the game than just lightsaber challenges. “In our story, you’re training to be a Jedi. You come across an artifact that recognizes you have The Force.” The artifact in question is the aforementioned lightsaber hilt, of course. From there you’re brought to a map of the galaxy. Each planet has different challenges on it, and unlocking new planets will offer new challenges.
With the lightsaber duels, for example, you have to battle six increasingly difficult opponents, and you unlock new Force powers along the way to use against them. Another part of your Jedi training is to command troops on a battlefield. In this mode, you’re essentially playing a real-time strategy game by ordering around action-figure size troops in a room-scale environment. “You get to play out epic battles, like the Battle of Hoth,” said Goslin, as he showed me an AR video of tiny X-Wing fighters shooting at miniature AT-AT walkers.
And, last but not least, Jedi Challenges also includes training your mind with Holochess, the famous mind-bending game in the movies. Set your tracking beacon on the table, and you’ll see the virtual board and puzzle pieces come to life before your eyes.
So why AR, and not VR? “One of the great things about augmented reality is that you can see other people,” said Goslin. “In VR, you’re cut off from your surroundings. You can’t move around, and you’re kind of tethered.” This AR experience, on the other hand, has no wires encumbering your movement at all, since it relies on just your phone. “Plus with AR, I can see my friends, I can see my environment. I can move around and engage with society.”
“We like VR,” added Goslin. “But we think AR is very mass-market friendly. And that’s what we’re trying to do here.” Indeed, the Star Wars: Jedi Challenges pack (that includes the headset, the lightsaber hilt and the tracking beacon) will retail for only $199 at launch. Pre-orders start on September 1st on Best Buy and Lenovo.com. If you’d rather wait, it’ll be on store shelves starting in the first week of November.
“We’re taking the AR concept to reality,” said Matt Bereda, Lenovo’s VP of Global Consumer Marketing. “We’re leveraging our hardware experience and teaming it up with Disney.” Bereda also says that, eventually, multiplayer mode would be available, so you’ll be able to play lightsaber duels with your friends.
As for whether you’ll be able to use the Mirage for anything other than Star Wars games, Bereda was cryptic. “We’ll see,” he said. “If everything goes well, maybe there’s a future to expand applications in a different direction.”
DJI Mavic Pro Platinum edition boasts longer battery life
DJI’s Mavic Pro drone already has fantastic battery life, but it’s still got nothing on its upgraded sibling. The dronemaker has revealed the Mavic Pro Platinum edition at this year’s IFA convention in Berlin, and it boasts 11 percent more battery life than the original version. If the basic variant of DJI’s foldable drone can last up to 27 minutes, this model can last up to around 30. Sure, the upgrade only adds a few minutes, but most drones, including known Mavic Pro rival GoPro Karma, only promise around 20 minutes of flight time. That’s made even more impressive by the fact that drone’s battery cell is tiny.
In addition to having a longer battery life, Platinum is also 60 percent quieter than its predecessor. DJI says it achieved an increase in flight time and significant noise reduction by using some new internal components and freshly designed propellers. The good news is that the current Mavic Pro model is also compatible with the new propellers, so even older users can lessen the noise their units make.
While DJI hasn’t revealed a new Phantom series model for professional aerial photography, it has announced a new Phantom 4 Pro color: obsidian. The new matte-gray drone has a magnesium shell with anti-fingerprint coating, as you can see below. Finally, the UAV-maker has revealed a new photo mode called “Sphere” for its gesture-controlled Spark drone. Once it rolls out with DJI’s upcoming software updates, you’ll be able to use the mode to capture panoramic photos with a fisheye lens effect.
The Mavic Pro Platinum edition is now available for pre-order from DJI’s website. It will set you back 1,119 GBP (around $1,440) and will start shipping in September. The Phantom 4 Pro Obsidian will also come out in September, though that one will cost you 1,589 GBP ($2,043).
Follow all the latest news from IFA 2017 here!
Source: DJI Mavic Pro Platinum, DJI Phantom 4 Pro
BlackBerry KEYone Black Edition first look: More of the same
When the BlackBerry KEYone was officially unveiled at Mobile World Congress this year, we were excited for its marriage of modern Android software with an old school keyboard. It appears lots of other people were eager for the phone, too. TCL, the company which bought the BlackBerry brand, says the KEYone “exceeded our expectations,” and that it is “very happy now to expand” the line. The black edition of the phone, which already launched in India, is now coming to the rest of the world, starting with the UK, Germany, France, Canada, Japan and the Middle East. It’s called the Black Edition and will cost €649 (£549 or approximately $700) when it arrives in mid-September. Yep, that’s more expensive than the original KEYone ($549).
You’re paying extra mostly for that fresh coat of paint, which looked surprisingly classy when we saw it at a demo here at IFA in Berlin. The buttons, frame and ring around the camera lens on the Black Edition are — you guessed it — black instead of the silver on the original. The new look is understated yet still attractive, like a little black dress to the original’s eye-catching silver outfit. The money also buys you a slight spec bump — you’ll get 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage on the Black Edition, up from 3GB and 32GB respectively on the original.
Despite the slightly more powerful internals, BlackBerry says there will be no noticeable difference in the KEYone’s estimated 26-plus-hours battery life. In fact, everything else about the two phones will be the same, down to the keyboard shortcuts and Android 7.1.2 software.
To be clear, TCL wasn’t really planning on making the Black Edition a successor or replacement for the original. The new color option was meant to be just that — another option. It’s for the people whom the company said have clamored for a black version. “We wouldn’t have done a black edition worldwide if the demand from consumers wasn’t that strong,” said TCL’s global head of sales Francois Mahieu.
We don’t know how much the Black Edition KEYone will cost in the US, or even if it will arrive stateside. In the meantime, those in the US who want an alternate version of the KEYone can get the recently announced Space Black color option, which is exclusive to AT&T. That variant will sport the exact RAM and storage as the existing KEYone — all that’s different is the shade. Since we don’t know how much the Black Edition KEYone will cost for America, it’s hard to say if the minimal spec bump is worth the investment. But if it costs as much as it does elsewhere, you should probably save your money for a newer, better phone.
Edgar Alvarez contributed to this report.
Follow all the latest news from IFA 2017 here!
Aftershokz unveils its skinny Trekz Air open-ear headphones
When Aftershokz released its Trekz Titanium bone-conduction headphones, there was a marked change from the Bluez 2 line before it. The design shifted from a stiff plastic headband to a ruggedly flexible and sportier design. Today at IFA in Berlin, the company is launching the next step in the series called Trekz Air with a retail price of $150 and pre-orders beginning September 1st (in the US). The overall style and concept remain the same, except for the 17-percent lighter weight and visibly slimmer silhouette. I’ve been using the Titanium model on my bike rides for the past year and have enjoyed the more casual fit, but this new model that I tested for two days really raises the bar in terms of comfort. It’s worth noting, though, that in a side-by-side comparison, I found this slimmer package may have lost a tiny bit of oomph in terms audio output — but that slight tradeoff might be worth it.
Overall, aside from the exterior design of the Air, the specs remain nearly unchanged from the Titanium model. The frequency response of 20Hz ~ 20KHz and play/talk time of six hours are the same, but the new model does have Bluetooth 4.2 on board and the wireless range seems better than the 33-foot rating, at least in line-of-sight tests. Standby time, which has always been great, is doubled from 10 to 20 days, at least on the spec sheet, since I haven’t had time to let them sit nearly that long. There’s a built-in microphone so you can also use these to take calls, and the button on the left earpiece lets you control audio playback and accept or drop calls as needed. Additionally, the headset is IP55 water resistant, so you don’t have to worry about those rivulets of workout sweat hassling your gear.
The biggest benefit from bone-conduction headphones is situational awareness and safety, whether for cycling, running, hiking or walking around town. (They’re also pretty handy for mobile turn-by-turn directions if you don’t want to distract other people in the car while you’re driving.) Your ears always remain open to the sounds around you while music is sent directly to your inner ear through the cheek bones. That’s not to say that if you crank up the volume some sounds won’t be drowned out, but we can’t always have everything, now can we?
Now, volume-wise, I’ve always found the Trekz to be more than adequate on the occasions I use them, knowing that bars, subway commutes and other noisy venues don’t play well with this type of headphone. There is a distinct difference in sound when using bone conduction as opposed to earbuds or ear-covering models, but as I mentioned, you can’t have everything and once you get used to them and the benefits they offer, it’s easy to become a convert.
When I first tried the Trekz Air, for my bike commute, I was amazed at the new lightness in fit, with the design tailored more toward your ear and lightening the rear portion of the headband so it doesn’t need to droop down, making the Air designation well-earned. Also, shirt collars and low hoods no longer nudged the headphones’ position, which would happen sometimes with the lower-slung Titanium model. The audio quality was still great and all of the controls remained in familiar places.
After comparing the new Trekz Air side-by-side to see if the company’s software tweaks improved the bass quality of the audio as stated, it’s hard to tell, at least from a frequency standpoint. The Air seemed to have a more slightly crisper sound over the Titanium model, but the latter appeared to have more volume and tactile vibration.
The bottom line is that if you like the bone-conduction concept, either of these versions rank tops out of the models I’ve tried. If you desire an ultra-lightweight headset, the Trekz Air is a great option. If you want to make sure you get the loudest possible headset, the Titanium should still be a consideration, although you’ll only notice a slight difference if you test both. After the brief day or two of testing, I’m still up in the air as to which is the overall winner for sound quality, but the feel of the Trekz Air model definitely sways me. As long as you’re not fighting your surroundings for volume, you’d rarely notice a difference anyway.
Pre-orders for the Trekz Air (slate gray only) start September 1st in the US, priced at $149.95. Those in the UK and Europe will have to wait a bit, but the prices will be £149.95 (UK) and €169.95 respectively.
Follow all the latest news from IFA 2017 here!
Image: Aftershokz (Lifestyle running)
Microsoft’s Twitch rival gives mobile streamers a new option
If Microsoft has any hope of taking on Twitch with its Mixer (formerly Beam) game streaming service, it’s going to need strong mobile host software. Luckily, Mixer Create, which has been in beta for awhile, has been released to all. It lets you broadcast mobile games and yourself from a phone, with no extra software or equipment needed. You can also do something called Co-Streaming, which lets you combine up to four streams “into a single viewing experience,” Microsoft says.
As with the Mixer client, you have to sign in to your Microsoft account, but after a few setting adjustments, you’re ready to go. On Android, you can broadcast any game, app or browser you want, while on iPhone (because of iOS limitations), you can stream select titles that supports Apple’s ReplayKit.
On top of streaming, you can use Mixer Create to interact with viewers via the chat service, much as you can with Mixer on Xbox One or PC. You can also use a feature called “Chat Companion” to reply to questions or comments while you stream from a PC or Xbox One console.
There are some limitations: You can co-stream with a friend when you’re on mobile, but you can’t send invitations, only accept them — send functionality is limited to PCs or Xbox Ones. However, Microsoft says that “in the coming months, you’ll also be able to initiate Co-Stream invites,” too. It’s aiming to make other change, and tells creators that “feedback is critical.”
Microsoft isn’t actually that far behind Twitch in mobile, which only recently added standalone streaming to its app. Though Microsoft’s Mixer has a long way to go before it can ever catch up to Twitch’s audience, at least it’s keeping up on the technology side.
Jabra’s latest wireless earphones promise 18 hours of sound
Wireless earphones are great until they run out of battery, which always seems to happen at the worst possible moment (like when the person next to you on the train pulls an apple out of their bag). But now you can listen for longer thanks to Jabra’s Elite 25e headphones, which boast an impressive 18-hour battery life. This means that in theory, a single charge could be enough to see you through a whole week.
Announced at IFA, the in-ear stereo neckband is wind and water resistant, and promises a better fit thanks to new EarGel technology. You can connect up to eight devices via Bluetooth, and two simultaneously thanks to its multiuse function. Switch seamlessly between them at the touch of a button, choosing to listen to music, take a call or even have a text message read back to you. The headphones also feature a dedicated voice control button giving one-touch access to Siri and Google Now. So you basically don’t have to take your phone out of your pocket ever again. They’re available now for $90/£70.
Follow all the latest news from IFA 2017 here!
Marshall’s updated speaker line packs Chromecast and multiroom audio
Marshall has been lending its signature guitar amp aesthetics to headphones and speakers for quite some time. However, there was one notable omission in the company’s feature set: multiroom audio. Today, Marshall is announcing an update to its wireless speaker line that gives its existing Action, Stanmore and Woburn models some current features.
First, the trio of speakers now offers multiroom audio thanks to Marshall’s Multi-Room app. The company’s existing wireless speaker line only works with Bluetooth, but these upgraded models tack on Wi-Fi connectivity. That means Chromecast built-in and Spotify Connect are now options, as is AirPlay, and the Bluetooth connection is still there should the need arise.
Each of these new Marshall speakers also have seven one-touch presets that you can program to instantly begin playing your favorite playlists, albums, internet radio stations and more. As you might expect, those presets are also managed through the Marshall companion app. That piece of mobile software will also help you tweak the EQ settings and adjust the intensity of the LED control dials.
The new options include the smaller Action, medium-sized Stanmore and the large Woburn speakers. As you step up from the first model, expect more power, bigger sound and larger overall size. Those devices are priced at $350 (€350/£319), $450 (€450/£399) and $600 (€600/£539) respectively. If the retooled speaker line sounds too good to pass up, all three models will be available for pre-order this Friday, September 1st, and are expected to hit shelves on September 21st. If you don’t really need the new features and prefer to stick Bluetooth, the existing models will remain available after these new speakers launch.
Follow all the latest news from IFA 2017 here!
Apple will unveil the next iPhone on September 12th at its new campus
To the surprise of almost no one, Apple has announced it’ll be holding its annual iPhone event on Tuesday, September 12th. It’ll be the first event hosted at Apple’s new “spaceship” campus in Cupertino, California. Sure, Apple didn’t say exactly what to expect, but given that the company has introduced a new iPhone around this timeframe for the last six years, it’s a pretty safe bet we’ll be seeing new mobile phones. That includes the “iPhone 8,” a device that’s expected to be radically different from its predecessors. Improvements rumored include an edge-to-edge OLED screen, face detection, wireless charging, a virtual home button and an updated dual-camera system.
Apple’s September event is usually its biggest of the year, at least from a hardware perspective. Beyond the new iPhone, we’re also expecting to hear about an iPhone 7S and 7S Plus, in keeping with Apple’s usual upgrade cycle. As for non-phone hardware, rumors are swirling about updates for both the Apple Watch and Apple TV. Finally, we could hear more about the HomePod speaker that was unveiled at WWDC this past June. If Apple wants to have it out on the market for this holiday season, the timing makes sense to get more details and even a price and release date.
From a software standpoint, Apple will almost certainly say when iOS 11, macOS High Sierra and WatchOS 4 will be ready for customers to download to their devices. While the Mac updates have typically taken a little longer, the new iOS and WatchOS should be out within a few weeks from the event. Given how much Apple is expected to reveal, we’re not expecting much Mac news at this event. But regardless of what’s in store, we’ll be there to cover the news live.