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9
Sep

Dear Hollywood, we don’t need classics like ‘Terminator 2’ in 3D


Terminator 2: Judgement Day is one of the greatest films ever made. So what’s the point of adding a 3D veneer to bring it back to theaters? Not much, it turns out. In exchange for a slight touch of artificial depth, I found the remaster darker and occasionally blurrier than normal. But really, this isn’t anything new. I had a similar experience a few years ago with the re-release of Jurassic Park — another classic film that was brought back to theaters just for the novelty of seeing it in 3D. As I sat in the mostly empty Alamo Drafthouse theater this week, I couldn’t help but wonder: When will Hollywood realize these 3D re-releases are a huge waste of time?

I’m not against bringing back older films in theaters, especially when they’ve been cleaned up with a spiffy digital restoration. It’s a great way to let audiences experience classics on the big screen — the way they’re meant to be seen. But the 3D experience typically adds little to those movies. Since they’re not shot with 3D in mind, the additional depth is usually subtle. And in cases where it’s more pronounced, it tends to feel forced. These remasters are also stuck with the usual caveats for 3D presentation (more on that below). Ultimately, retrofitting 3D on older films simply feels like a naked grab for higher ticket prices.

I won’t say 3D is entirely useless in theaters. Some films like Avatar, Hugo and Gravity used the technology to deliver truly unique and immersive experiences that wouldn’t be possible with 2D alone. But most 3D films aren’t worth the effort of slipping on a pair of glasses. And you pay dearly in terms of quality too. The 3D shades block out light, just like sunglasses, which leads to a duller and less vibrant image. Many theaters also don’t run their projectors at the proper brightness (I’m looking at you, UA Court Street), which makes things even darker. All in all, with 3D you often end up paying more for something that looks significantly worse than a standard 2D screening.

And there are other issues with 3D, too. If you wear glasses, you have to balance another pair of specs on your nose. You can make a film look blurry or out of focus just by resting your head the wrong way. And there are some people who can’t even see 3D images properly, and instead see a blurrier overall image. While Hollywood isn’t exactly slowing down with 3D films, some big companies like IMAX (which ironically helped to kick off the whole 3D trend), are ready to move past it. You can still enjoy an immersive cinematic experience, like I did with Dunkirk on IMAX, without going 3D. All you need is a bright and sharp image, along with great sound design.

When it comes to Terminator 2, the 3D was most pronounced in the big action set-pieces, and in scenes involving its iconic villain, the liquid metal T-1000. But, this being a film I’ve seen dozens of times, some of the uses of 3D simply felt distracting instead of immersive. Sometimes objects in the foreground were blurred out to shift the focus to the main characters deeper in the frame, but it just felt like there was something blocking my view of the characters. And, as usual, the overall image was darker than I would have liked. That was particularly surprising because the Alamo Drafthouse is dedicated to delivering the best movie presentation possible. It’s not their fault the image was dark — it was the fact I was watching it in 3D.

The best aspects of the T2 remaster didn’t involve 3D at all. The film looked cleaner than my current Blu-ray, and night scenes looked sharper with less grain. But of course, those are improvements we could have had with a standard remaster job. Instead of wasting time and resources on a T2 3D tune-up, I would have rather seen a remaster of The Abyss and True Lies, two other James Cameron classics that aren’t even available on Blu-ray today. (Cameron assures us they’re coming eventually.)

T2+cap+1.JPG

Studio Canal/Carolco

Terminator 2: 3D has made just over $1 million in theaters since it debuted on August 25th, according to Box Office Mojo. In Hollywood terms, that’s a disappointing showing, especially since T2 ended up being the highest grossing movie ever in its time, taking in over $520 million globally. Jurassic Park 3D, meanwhile, earned $65 million during its theatrical run in 2014, helping to bring the film’s overall take since its original release to more than $1 billion. While that was undoubtedly a success, you could attribute much of those sales to an audience who just really wanted to see more Jurassic Park. (2015’s so-so Jurassic World also had a solid global run, earning over $1.6 billion.)

Instead of paying for an expensive 3D conversion, Hollywood studios would be better off investing in standard 4K remasters of classic films. Sure, that’s not as high a resolution as 35mm film, but it still looks great when projected in modern theaters. It also gives them new versions of films that they can easily resell on 4K Blu-ray, standard Blu-ray and VOD easily. Ultimately, the path forward is simple: Just let us see classic films in the best quality, without wearing shades.

9
Sep

Recommended Reading: Hollywood is really mad at Rotten Tomatoes


Attacked by Rotten Tomatoes
Brooks Barnes,
The New York Times

The film scores tallied by Rotten Tomatoes are what many moviegoers use to decide how to spend their money. As you might expect, this doesn’t make some folks in Hollywood too happy. In fact, they’re pretty darn upset. Some claim low scores on Rotten Tomatoes cost big name films like Baywatch and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword millions this summer. The New York Times takes a look at the rift the movie ratings site has created with its Tomatometer. I’d argue studios should stop blaming a website and just start making better movies, but what do I know.

How Apple Finally Made Siri Sound More Human
David Pierce, Wired

Siri will sound a bit different when iOS 11 rolls out this fall. Wired sat down with the man who oversees the tech to find out exactly what’s changed.

Facebook’s Role in Trump’s Win Is Clear. No Matter What Mark Zuckerberg Says.
Margaret Sullivan,
The Washington Post

Facebook revealed Russian accounts had purchased $100,000 in ads during the 2016 election this week. After its CEO claimed there’s no way the site played a role in electing Trump, the facts say otherwise.

Inside Juicero’s Demise, From Prized Startup to Fire Sale
Olivia Zaleski, Ellen Huet and
Brad Stone, Bloomberg

Juicero tried to peddle a $699 WiFi-connected juice machine, but the company was doomed from the launch.

Inside Standards Manual, the NYC Bookstore Dedicated to Archiving Graphic Design History
Natt Garun, The Verge

The Verge steps inside a new bookstore in Brooklyn with shelves that are lined with Graphic Design history books and more.

9
Sep

Latest Leak Suggests Apple Will Announce ‘iPhone 8’, ‘iPhone 8 Plus’, and ‘iPhone X’ on Tuesday


Last night, the iOS 11 GM was leaked and we got a glimpse into numerous iPhone 8 features, including a look at a new edition of the Apple Watch, and even new “Animoji.” Now, developer Steve Troughton-Smith has dug up new info related to the official names of the iPhones being announced on Tuesday.

According to the developer, Apple will call the smartphones the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus (for the two LCD devices), and iPhone X (for the OLED model). These names will replace the iPhone 7s, iPhone 7s Plus, and iPhone 8 monikers that have been attached to each respective model over the past few months.

iPhone 8
iPhone 8 Plus
iPhone X pic.twitter.com/OVLfhLxTdT

— Steve T-S (@stroughtonsmith) September 9, 2017

In a separate Tweet, Troughton-Smith pointed out that this is still not an exact confirmation, but it is the closest we’ve gotten to an official name for the upcoming iPhones. “Maaaybe the DeviceTree is lying about the marketing name, maybe not,” he said. “But right now, D22 thinks it is iPhone X, so that’s good enough for me.”

Related Roundup: iPhone 8
Discuss this article in our forums

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9
Sep

When waters rise, these flood-proof houses rise right with them


It’s really no secret at this point: The oceans are rising. A recent scientific study published in Nature nearly doubled previous predictions for sea-level rise by 2500, and some experts now believe the oceans will rise by nearly six feet by the end of this century alone. That said, many cities are preparing for the inevitable. New York City is funding a $100-million flood protection plan after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, and the city is delivering a series of flood education programs. Countries like the Netherlands have built dams and dykes to withstand a 1-in-10,000 year storm.

Nearly 200 million people worldwide live in high-risk coastal flooding zones, and in the United States, more than 36 million people currently face the threat of flooding. As most recently illustrated by Hurricane Katrina, a sudden swell of the ocean can be catastrophic. Will flood-proof houses be the last line of defense? These innovative, buoyant homes look to withstand the tribulations of a turbulent future. Vietnamese firm H&P Architects recently completed the Blooming Bamboo Home, which is raised on stilts to deal with severe weather and floodwaters up to five feet high.

The pre-fabricated, flood-proof Float Home, designed by Morphosis Architects, is a home built to withstand a Katrina-scale event. In the event of a flood, the house’s foundation acts as a raft, rising along with the water level. Features like a rainwater catcher and solar panels make the house self-sustaining when the home — and the entire city — is off the grid. Thankfully, over the past decade since Katrina, our hurricane models have improved substantially, but unfortunately our infrastructure is still unready for a wetter world. As cities scramble to come up with flood plans, perhaps we’ll see more of these floating home designs in flood-prone areas.

Studio Peek Ancona Flood-Proof House

Location: Stinson Beach, California

This swanky beach house was designed to handle just about any swerve Mother Nature decides to send its way. The abode was created by San Francisco-based design firm Studio Peek Ancona and is located in Marin County, California and can withstand a storm surge or rising seas up to 12 feet high.

The home itself is a prefabricated metal unit set on a pair of concrete and steel columns, each of which is nestled securely in a rebar-reinforced foundation. Red cedar panels along the exterior add insulative properties to the home and also acts as a rain screen during severe weather.

In the event of a major flood, the garage on the ground floor has been constructed to break free from the foundation itself and float away. This works to prevent the garage from potentially risking the structural integrity of the columns and living area above. The stairways are cleverly set perpendicular to the ocean, allowing crashing tide or rising waters to channel through rather than against them.

Blooming Bamboo Home 

Location: Hanoi, Vietnam

Vietnamese firm H&P Architects has already completed the Blooming Bamboo Home to combat the severe weather and flooding in the region. Raised on stilts, the first-generation model is built to survive a flood with waters up to five feet high. H&P is working to ensure the next-gen model will be able to withstand floodwaters up to nearly 10 feet high.

The exterior is made of bamboo, fiberboard, and coconut leaves. These versatile and locally abundant materials make it easy to customize the Blooming Bamboo Home for a range of climates, both seasonal and regional. One of the walls can even fold down into an open-air deck, and the exterior is designed to accommodate a vertical garden, exemplifying the functionality of the structure. Similarly, a filtration system housed beneath the home collects rainwater from the roof and stores it for use on site.

Float House

The Float House is an ambitious, affordable housing project based in New Orleans. The city still hasn’t fully recovered from Hurricane Katrina, and these pre-fabricated, flood-proof homes designed by Morphosis Architects attempt to ensure the region can withstand the next Katrina-scale event.

During a flood, the foundation of the house acts as a raft, rising with the water. The FLOAT House has the ability to rise up to 12 feet on guide posts, which are secured via two concrete pile caps that extend 45 feet into the earth for added stability.

The house is also designed to be as self-sufficient as it is flood-proof. Cisterns within the structure store rainwater collected from the roof, and the water is then filtered and stored until needed. Solar panels on the roof generate all of the house’s power. Electrical systems in the home store and convert this energy as needed.

The foundation or “chassis” also supports an array of customizable configurations, unlike many prefabricated homes. This allows The Float House to utilize a shotgun home model — one of the most prominent architectural styles in the Lower Ninth Ward. This allows the community to focus on the future viability of the region, without sacrificing its rich, cultural history.

Dutch Floating Homes

Location: Maasbommel, The Netherlands

More than half of the Netherlands is at or below sea level, meaning the nation’s entire existence is hinged on an intricate system of levees, dykes, floodgates, and canals. Ever since the disastrous North Sea Floods of 1953, the Dutch have touted the international gold standard in flood prevention. Smaller Dutch towns, such as Maasbommel, are still outside of this deterrent infrastructure.

In 2005, the Dutch Government gave the construction firm Dura Vermeer a grant to come up with flood preventative “adaptive building techniques.” This resulted in a series of amphibious floating homes along the Meuse River. Like several of these other designs, these Dutch homes utilize the buoyant foundation concept. The floating hulls allow the homes to rise from their foundations to a height of 13 feet. The homes are held in place via subterranean moorings and guide posts, and even when afloat, the they remain connected to electrical and sewer utilities through a flexible piping system.

These homes aren’t cheap, however. The 1,290-square-foot model costs between $322,000 and $386,000. That’s still a drop in the bucket — excuse the metaphor — when compared to the costs of rebuilding after a major flood.

Site-Specific Floating Home

Location: Ban Sang District, Thailand

Thailand has been one of the countries most affected by rampant flooding in recent years. In 2011 alone, 66 of Thailand’s 70 total provinces experienced major floods, leading to hundreds of deaths. With stronger storms and rising tides, these deadly floods will only increase in the coming decades.

In cooperation with Thailand’s National Housing Association, the firm Site-Specific Co. Ltd is working to bring affordable flood-proof homes to a region in dire need. The amphibious design utilizes the dry dock model, and a video shows a preliminary test where the home rises nearly three feet as the space beneath the house is flooded. Complete with electricity and flexible-pipe plumbing, the designers plan on anchoring the house to the lakeshore.

Amphibious House

Location: London, England

Designed by Baca Architects, the Amphibious House is the first such home in the United Kingdom. The top portion of the home is made from lightweight timber while the bottom is a buoyant, concrete hull that the architects describe as a “free-floating pontoon.”

The base of the house is settled in what is essentially a wet dock. As water fills the dock, the house rises with the water. The Amphibious House is guided on a series of fixed steel posts, allowing it to rise eight feet. A series of flexible pipes also ensures the utilities are not disconnected as the house rises.
Just a couple miles away, the firm is currently working on a second flood-proof house.

If preventive architectural design is your thing, you might also enjoy our coverage of this seismically resistant wooden skyscraper, and our list of the most “earthquake-proof” structures on the planet.




9
Sep

Frequent flyer? These are the best dual-SIM phones you can buy


Dual SIM phones aren’t particularly popular in the U.S. or the U.K. If you find yourself traveling overseas frequently, though, they can be very helpful.

Using a device with two SIM cards allows you to remain connected to two mobile networks at once and receive calls on both numbers, or maintain service if you move from one coverage zone to another. For that reason, dual-SIM capabilities are a selling point in mainland Europe and Asia — though as you might expect, few devices sold outside of those regions support the feature.

Still, there are a handful of devices out there that do, and that are available in many parts of the world. In this list, we’ll run through the best dual-SIM phones for customers who prioritize dual-SIM functionality.

OnePlus 5

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The OnePlus 5 is one of our favorite phones of the year, and certainly one of the best value propositions on the market right now. For well under $500, you can get a handset that qualifies as flagship in every sense of the word, with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, 6GB of RAM, and a 1080p AMOLED display coated in curved Gorilla Glass 5. And to make the deal even sweeter — for the purposes of this list, anyway — it’s got a dual-SIM tray.

The OnePlus 5 is exclusively sold unlocked on OnePlus’ own site, which means you have the freedom to choose a network (or two) that satisfies your needs.

Samsung Galaxy S8 (International Version)

First things first, let’s make this clear: The Galaxy S8 you purchase from a carrier or retailer based in the U.S. will not feature a dual-SIM tray. That’s a feature exclusive to international models. However, you can still order that version of Samsung’s flagship online through sites like Amazon, and it’s engineered to be as widely compatible with as many different regions and networks as possible.

There’s another key difference between this variant of the Galaxy S8 and its American counterpart. Whereas the phone is powered by a Snapdragon 835 chip in the States, overseas it carries Samsung’s own Exynos 8895 processor. Benchmarks have shown the Exynos 8895 to have a slight edge in terms of power and performance, but the 835 is plenty capable already, and the difference is negligible in typical use.

Honor 6X

Malarie Gokey/Digital Trends

Priced at just $200 unlocked, you wouldn’t expect the Honor 6X to be particularly well-equipped. Thankfully, that’s not the case. Inside, you’ll find one of parent company Huawei’s midrange chipsets — the Kirin 655 — which is comparable, though perhaps not quite as snappy as Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 625. The Honor 6X also features an impressive 3GB of RAM and even a dual-lens cameras around the back.

The midrange budget market is an incredibly competitive one, but Honor’s handset separates itself from the pack with a comprehensive spec sheet and dual-SIM functionality. It is only compatible with GSM carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile, however — so you won’t be able to bring it to Verizon and Sprint, as they operate on the CDMA standard.

Huawei Mate 9

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

If you love big-screen phones, Huawei’s Mate 9 packs a 5.9-inch display — perfect for users who would feel at home with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8, but couldn’t bear spending twice as much. That’s right, the Mate 9 runs just $500. It’s the only device Huawei sells in the U.S., but it’s a very well-rounded one, with a massive 4,000mAh battery, excellent dual cameras, co-designed with Leica, and a Kirin 960 processor with 4GB RAM. The Kirin silicon proved to be nearly on par with Snapdragon 821 in our testing — Qualcomm’s flagship system-on-chip from 2016.

That’s more than enough power, in a generous form factor, with dual-SIM support — something you won’t find in the Galaxy Note 8 sold on our shores. Huawei has taken extra steps with its dual-SIM tech to ensure that the second card doesn’t suffer worse connectivity or slower data, a common problem of devices with the feature. Like the Honor 6X, however, you’ll need to be on a GSM carrier to use the Mate 9.

Xiaomi Mi 6

Xiaomi’s phones aren’t officially sold in the U.S., but you can import them from third-party vendors. If you’re experienced with Android, and are prepared to solve technical issues on your own without corporate support, you’ll find this to be an aggressively priced, full-featured handset with the power to rival the best from Samsung, LG, and Apple.

The Mi 6 features a Snapdragon 835, just like the OnePlus 5, and starts with 6GB of memory and 64GB of internal storage. Actually, from a specs standpoint, the two devices are pretty similar. The main difference concerns the software. The Mi 6 utilizes Xiaomi’s MIUI skin, which is about as heavy a departure from stock Android as you’ll find. You can expect to pay about $490 for the base model.

Look past that, and it sounds pretty good, right? There’s one more thing you should be aware of though, and it’s something you’ll want to check with your local carrier before pulling the trigger. The Mi 6 is intended for use in China, and as such may not play nice with all the bands every network operates on. Still, it’s powerful, inexpensive, and can handle two SIM cards — and that earns it a spot on this list.




9
Sep

Thin and light cage fight: Dell XPS 13 vs. Microsoft Surface Laptop


If you’re in the market for a Windows 10 notebook with around a 13-inch display, then get ready to wade through some excellent choices. To make things easier, we took a look at the Dell XPS 13 vs. Microsoft Surface Laptop to see how one of our perennial favorites compares to a relative newcomer.

The Dell XPS 13 has earned its special place in our hearts for its solid build quality, thin design, excellent components and performance, and superior battery life. However, the Microsoft Surface Laptop is a notebook that stands out in a very crowded field. Which one is worth your hard-earned money? Read on to find out.

Specifications compared

Surface Laptop

Dell XPS 13

Dimensions
 12.13 × 8.79 × 0.57 (in)
11.98 × 7.88 × 0.60 (in)
Weight
 2.76 pounds Core m3, i5; 2.83 pounds Core i7
2.7 pounds non-touch display; 2.9 pounds touch display
Processor
7th-generation Intel Core i5 or i7
6th-generation Intel Core i5 or i7
RAM
 4, 8, or 16GB RAM
4, 8 or 16GB RAM
Display
 13.5-inch IPS PixelSense display
13.3-inch IPS display
Resolution
 2,256 × 1,504
Full HD (1,920 x 1,080)
QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800)
Storage
 128GB, 256GB, 512GB SSD, 1TB (coming)
256GB, 512GB, 1TB SSD
Touch
10-point touch display
10-point touch display optional
Ports
 USB Type-A 3.0, mini-DisplayPort, SurfaceConnect, 3.5mm headset
2x USB 3.0 Type-A, 1x USB 3.1 Type C with Thunderbolt 3, SD card reader, 3.5mm headset
Webcam
 720p HD with infrared camera for Windows Hello support
720p HD
Operating System
Windows 10 S (upgradable to Windows 10 Pro)
Windows 10 Home or Pro
Battery
 47 watt-hours
60 watt-hours
Price
$1000+ 
$800+
Review
3 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars

Design

Dell’s XPS 13 design was perfected a couple of years ago and the company hasn’t messed with it since. The machine marked a real turning point in the industry as well, being the first to utilize thin bezels to fit a 13.3-inch display into a much smaller chassis. Today, the insides have kept up with the times but the exterior continues to use a nice combination of aluminum chassis and carbon fiber keyboard deck. At 0.6 inches thin and weighing 2.9 pounds with a touch screen, the XPS 13 remains one of the thinnest lightest, most well-designed notebooks you can buy.

Microsoft chose to use an aluminum chassis for the Surface Laptop, with a twist. Alcantara fabric takes the place of metal for the entire keyboard deck, creating a very comfortable and luxurious surface. The Surface Laptop is also vibrant, with four colors to choose from — Platinum, Burgundy, Cobalt Blue, and Graphite Gold — and with matching accessories like the Surface Pen and Surface Mouse. The Surface Laptop is also incredibly thin at 0.57 inches and light at 2.83 pounds, in spite of packing in a larger 13.5-inch display, making it one of the thinner and lighter full-sized notebooks on the market.

As we’ll see throughout this comparison, these are two closely matched machines. Picking a winner in this category is certainly challenging, given that both machines exude quality and have their own distinctive charm. The Surface Laptop has one potential flaw in its overall design and build — the Alcantara fabric could very well be susceptible to staining over long-term use, and it will likely require some extra special care to keep it looking new. For that reason, we’re awarding the XPS 13 the narrowest of victories.

Winner: Dell XPS 13

Performance

Both Dell and Microsoft chose solid processor and graphics components for their respective machines. The Surface Laptop can be equipped with either a seventh-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, with the high-end option topping out at the Core i7-7660U. Graphics duty is performed by either Intel HD 620 graphics or the somewhat faster Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640. The Xell XPS 13 processor options range from the seventh-generation Intel Core m3, i5, and i7 CPUs, with the Core i7-7560U at the high end. Graphics options are similar with the Intel HD 620 graphics or Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640.

In other words, the Surface Laptop and XPS 13 are likely to perform roughly identically, with the slightest nod to the Surface Laptop’s fastest CPU option. Both will perform just about any productivity task you can throw at them. Neither machine will be very good for all but casual gaming. Note that Dell has announced that eighth-generation Intel Core processors are coming to the XPS 13, so you’ll soon have a quad-core option in a very thin and light chassis.

One area where the XPS 13 takes a performance lead is in storage speeds. While both machines use a the faster PCIe solid-state drive (SSD) interface rather than the older SATA interface, Microsoft’s choice of SSD and its implementation resulted in significantly slower performance in our review tests. Both the XPS 13 and the Surface Laptop have fast enough storage for typical productivity use, but the Dell is going to provide better performance if you work with large files.

Winner: Dell XPS 13

Keyboard, mouse, and pen

The Dell XPS 13 sports a solid backlit keyboard with decent travel and a firm bottoming action. The machine enjoys a smaller chassis but the keyboard nevertheless provides plenty of space between keys. The touchpad has an excellent feel and supports Microsoft’s Precision Touchpad protocol, which means gesture support is complete and reliable. Finally, there’s a 10-point touch display option. Windows 10 Hello password-less login support is provided by an optional fingerprint sensor to the right of the touchpad.

The Surface Laptop also offers an excellent backlit keyboard with sufficient travel and a precise feel. We were a bit less impressed with the touchpad, which naturally supports Microsoft’s Precision Touchpad protocol, and was plenty large — but had a surface texture that wasn’t the most responsive. The 10-point touch display works well, and the infrared camera mounted up top performed Windows 10 Hello duties with aplomb. In addition, Microsoft built in support for the excellent Surface Pen,

Both machines, therefore, provide the expected modern notebook input mechanisms, and there’s not a lot to set them apart. Except for one thing —  Microsoft built in support for the excellent Surface Pen, meaning that you can write on the display as long as you’re willing to use the other hand to keep things steady.

Winner: Microsoft Surface Laptop

Connectivity

Dell’s XPS 13 makes good use of its minimal chassis in terms of connectivity. There are two USB Type-A ports, a USB Type-C port with Thunderbolt 3 support, an SD card reader, and a 3.5mm headset jack. In other words, you have some options when connecting legacy or futuristic peripherals, and Thunderbolt 3 support means peripheral performance can be maximized.

Microsoft maintained its stubborn refusal to adopt the USB Type-C format with the Surface Laptop, meaning that you’re limited to a single USB Type-A port, a mini-DisplayPort, a microSD card reader, and the usual SurfaceConnect port that doubles as a power connection. Microsoft may soon provide a SurfaceConnect to USB Type-C dongle, but that won’t provide the same level of support as the Thunderbolt 3 port on the XPS 13.

This is a clear win for Dell, and hopefully, Microsoft will fully embrace USB Type-C with future Surface machines. In the meantime, the XPS 13 scores another win.

Winner: Dell XPS 13

Display quality

The XPS 13 offers two very good display options, a Full HD (1,920 x 1,080, or 165PPI) panel and a QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800 or 276PPI) display. Both are good displays with acceptable contrast, strong color gamuts, and decent enough brightness. You won’t find the XPS 13’s display to be a detriment.

The Surface Laptop, on the other hand, benefits tremendously from Microsoft’s apparent obsession with choosing excellent displays. The 2,256 x 1,504 (201PPI) might not be quite as sharp as the Dell XPS 13’s QHD+ option, but as usual for Surface machines, it offers superior contrast and excellent color accuracy. It also utilizes a 3:2 aspect ratio, meaning that it’s a bit taller and so better for productivity work — with the downside being some letterboxing when watching a video.

You can’t go wrong with the Dell XPS 13’s display. But if you want one of the best displays available in a Windows 10 notebook, and one that challenges the excellent MacBook Pro 13’s display, then the Surface Laptop is a clear choice.

Winner: Microsoft Surface Laptop

Portability and battery life

As mentioned earlier, the Dell XPS 13 and Microsoft Surface Laptop are almost equally thin and light, at roughly 0.60 inches and 2.7 pounds. The Surface Laptop’s chassis is a bit wider and deeper to accommodate the larger 3:2 display, but the difference is minimal. Either can be tossed into a backpack and carried around without major discomfort.

In terms of battery capacity, the Surface Laptop fits in 47 watt-hours of power while the XPS 13 enjoys a significantly larger 60 watt-hours. When equipped with similar components, logic would dictate that the XPS 13 should enjoy longer battery life.

As it turns out, Microsoft worked some magic with the Surface Laptop. Simply put, it roughly matched the XPS 13’s longevity, which was quite good at over 12.5 hours in our video looping test, for example. That makes both the XPS 13 and Surface Laptop longer lasting than their primary competition, Apple’s MacBook Pro 13, and both can last a full workday. Note that if you choose the XPS 13’s high-resolution display, you give up on some battery life.

It’s hard to award a winner here, given that each machine is equally thin and light, and can last for close to as long away from a power source. Microsoft deserves some kudos for some serious optimization, while the XPS 13 is a slightly smaller machine overall. We have to call portability a tie.

Winner: Tie

Availability and Price

The Dell XPS 13 starts out $800 for a configuration sporting a seventh-generation Intel Core m3-7100U processor, 4GB of LPDDR3 RAM, a 128GB SSD, and Full HD non-touch display. It tops out at $2,200 for a Core i7-7560U, 16GB of LPDDR3 RAM, a 1TB SSD, and a QHD+ touch display. That provides a range of machines from relatively affordable all the way up premium levels. If you shop around, you can likely find discounts that can bring down the cost of your chosen configuration.

Microsoft’s Surface Laptop shifts the range upwards a bit. It starts at $1,000 for a Core i5-7200U, 4GB of LPDDR3 RAM, and a 128GB SSD, and runs all the way up to $2,700 for a Core i7-7660U, 16GB of LPDDR3 RAM, and a 1TB HDD. That makes the Surface Laptop either just a slightly premium or an extremely premium laptop. Note that Microsoft still isn’t shipping all of the available colors in all configurations, so you might have to wait to get just the right combination.

Dell wins here. You can max out the XPS 13 for $500 less, and buy the entry-level model for $200 less.

Winner: Dell XPS 13

Conclusion

To be honest, you can’t go wrong with either the Dell XPS 13 or the Microsoft Surface Laptop. They’re both excellent performers for just about any productivity task, they’re both easy to carry around, and they both will keep you working for a full workday.

With that said, the XPS 13 costs less, and offers significantly better connectivity. Also, the XPS 13 comes out of the box with Windows 10 Home or Pro installed, whereas the Surface Laptop defaults to the more limited and locked-down Windows 10 S. If you don’t want to live with those limitations, then you’ll want to take advantage of Microsoft’s free upgrade to full Windows 10 by its new expiration date of March 31, 2018.

Dell’s XPS 13 gets the nod here. The Surface Laptop is great, but provides less value overall.




9
Sep

A 114-year old Mercedes has more in common with a Tesla than you think


I’m extremely nervous to be behind the wheel of the 1902 model (built in 1903) Mercedes Simplex 40. The controls and open air sitting position remind me more of a John Deere tractor than the cars that currently fill our cities and interstates. After a quick tutorial, I got in, depressed the clutch, reached outside the cab to put the vehicle in first gear and nearly stalled an automobile that was the pinnacle of tech when it was built.

Many of the design decisions made for the Simplex have ended up permeating most of the automotive world even up until today — including putting the radiator up front, spark plugs and more importantly not looking like a horse carriage without a horse. The Simplex 40 also became the vehicle that set the automaker up as a sport luxury brand after the Simplex was entered in, and won, multiple races at the time of its launch.

It was a trend-setting car for its time and while driving it was complicated (two brake pedals and a brake lever to bring it to a stop, plus you have to double clutch it to switch gears) it was hard not to think about how the world of the Simplex parallels the next big change in transportation: The switch to electric and autonomy.

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For over 114 years cars have been powered by the internal combustion engine (ICE). The old adage of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” would work if it weren’t for the pollutants these cars spew into the air and that we’ll eventually run out of the fuel that’s powering these vehicles.

Now after decades of false starts, the electric (and to a lesser extent hydrogen fuel-cell) car is on the road. Like the first combustion engine automobiles, technology is ready to offer a new way to get around and it’s finally a viable alternative to ICE vehicles.

What pushed battery-powered cars to the foreground is Tesla. The company’s goal of selling high-end, fast cars to the well off with a goal to sell an affordable EV to the masses not only put that automaker on the map, it helped jump start an entire revolution. Currently, it’s hard to find an automaker that’s not introducing hybrids and pure electric cars or at least planning to.

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When the Simplex emerged on the scene all those years ago, like the Model S, it was a high-end fast car. One that inspired others to make a car for the general public (namely Henry Ford). The Model T was the first mass produced automobile that regular folks could actually afford.

Today it’s more than just the drivetrain that’s evolving, the fundamental way we drive (or don’t drive) is undergoing a complete transformation.

The introduction of the car was the introduction of freedom. The ability to travel far and wide without booking passage on an expensive boat or train. Horses are great, but they get tired and because they’re live animals can’t go 30 miles per-hour for a sustained period of time. Plus, if the whole family wanted to visit a distant relative, now you needed to invest in a wagon. That doesn’t even take into account the people living in a city that had nowhere to store a very large animal.

Autonomous cars are set to do the same thing for portions of the population. Public transportation is wonderful when it works. But it doesn’t always offer door-to-door service. That leaves the elderly and disabled with only half a solution. If a self-driving car built with a low load-in for wheel chairs and folks with walkers can pick someone up and take them directly to the store or to visit family, it’s a ticket to a life that’s no longer confined to their homes when mobility becomes difficult.

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While driving the Simplex I thought about the people that bought the car and vehicles that came after it and how those folks would experience the world completely different from their parents’ and grandparents’. We’re on the cusp of doing that again. Yes, a ton of work needs to be done to build out EV charging stations and publicly usable autonomous vehicles won’t be on the road for general use until the next decade, but getting around is going to get simpler and have less of an impact on the air we breath.

While driving along a golf course in Mountain View, I remarked how connected I felt to the Simplex. It was more like riding a motorcycle than a modern car. You feel and hear the engine change even during slight adjustments. It’s exhilarating and a bit nerve-racking. It’s a piece of art on wheels, there are very few of them on the road and I never mastered that clutch.

My first ride in a fully autonomous EV production car will be no less exciting and nerve-racking. It’s tough to give up control to robots, but after a few miles, I’m sure I’ll relax and think about how we’ve changed transportation forever. Again.

9
Sep

The Morning After: Weekend Edition


Hey, good morning! You look fabulous.

Welcome to the weekend. We’re looking back at some of the week’s big stories — remember that time Equifax coughed up millions of social security numbers? — plus the latest news, like word of a new Futurama episode.

Things aren’t adding up.Equifax tries to explain its response to a massive security breach

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We still don’t know who stole personally identifiable information about 143 million consumers, but we do have some advice if you’re one of them. Locking down your accounts with all credit bureaus could help deter scammers, and we have a response for those concerned that checking their status will involve waiving their right to sue.

Avert your eyes if a melted Canon lens terrifies you.Behold the cameras destroyed by the solar eclipse

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It will probably be a few years before you have another opportunity to photograph a solar eclipse, but we have a warning for you. Lensrentals collected pics of its damaged equipment to prove how dangerous the event can be, so take heed, and don’t ruin your camera.

And great expectations.Engadget Podcast Episode 41: High Hopes

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Chris Velazco and Dana Wollman cover the Galaxy Note 8 review, next week’s big iPhone reveal and a few things in between on this episode of the Engadget Podcast.

Fresh from Elon’s Instagram.Here’s a full-length look at SpaceX’s spacesuit

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Very fashion forward.

Intriguing.RED reveals more about its holographic smartphone display

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RED CEO Jim Jannard confirmed his company is partnering with a company called Leia to create a “holographic” smartphone display. Now that we know who is making it, we can dig into what Leia’s “light field” technology is and what you can expect from its multilayer LCD.

But wait, there’s more…

  • Bad Password: Facebook’s widening role in electing Trump
  • Alexa and Siri are vulnerable to ‘silent’ ultrasonic commands
  • AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon team up to (hopefully) fix passwords and end phishing
  • Google redesigns its privacy dashboard (again)
  • Leaked Apple warranty guide shows what it will and won’t repair
  • Good news everyone: ‘Futurama’ returns for a one-off, 42-minute podcast episode

The Morning After is a new daily newsletter from Engadget designed to help you fight off FOMO. Who knows what you’ll miss if you don’t subscribe.

9
Sep

Can wireless audio quality finally match wired? We tested the latest, AptX HD


Listening to music with Bluetooth headphones connected to your phone is convenient, but wireless headphones can never compete with a great set of wired headphones for sound quality, right? Until recently, the answer would have been no. That’s changing. A new Bluetooth audio codec called AptX HD promises a better-than-CD listening experience, crucial to enjoying higher resolution music streaming apps like Tidal.

To test this claim, we’ve put the new AptX HD products up against a dedicated headphone amp/digital-to-analog converter (DAC) — the Chord Mojo — matched with a selection of awesome headphones, to see if you should cut those cables to your phone for good.

What is AptX HD?

AptX HD is a Qualcomm developed audio protocol that claims to support Bluetooth streaming at 24bit/48kHz resolution, which is higher than the 16bit/44.1kHz resolution of a CD, which is the resolution at which Tidal music is streamed. Even if you’re not fully onboard with higher resolution, uncompressed music yet, AptX HD also supposedly enhances MP3-quality, compressed audio too.

AptX HD is only available in a handful of Android smartphones.

AptX HD is only available in a handful of Android smartphones, but Google will build it into Android O, meaning we’ll see more of it in the future. To get AptX HD you need a compatible smartphone, and a compatible pair of Bluetooth headphones, plus — preferably — lossless (i.e., uncompressed) audio files. At the time of writing, the LG G6 and the OnePlus 5 are the only two current smartphones that support the tech, but the older LG G5 and OnePlus 3/3T also have the feature. Outside of phones, various Astell & Kern music players also support it. For headphones, you’ll need options like Audio-Technica’s ATH-DSR9BT/ATH-DSR7BT over-ear cans, or the LG Tone Active+ halo-style in-ear headset.

Bluetooth like you’ve never heard before

With a fully charged LG G6 in hand, a pair of Audio-Technica ATH-DSR9BT, and a subscription to Tidal Hi-Fi all paid up, we settled down for a quick AptX HD test. Fifteen minutes turned into three hours, and we’d inadvertently spent the entire evening saying “just one more track” as we scrolled through Tidal’s app. The Audio-Technica headphones, without any doubt, provide the best Bluetooth listening experience this author ever had. It’s not a solo effort either. The LG G6 sounds incredible, and gives a stronger musical performance than the OnePlus 5.

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Yes, AptX HD is that good, but’s It’s no surprise the Audio-Technica’s sound astonishing. A set of specially developed 45mm drivers are in each earcup, each with a quad-core voice coil, to which a digital signal is sent using its Pure Digital Drive technology, which does away with a digital-to-analog converter. Comparing the same track with the same headphones played through the OnePlus 5 was a lesser experience. The phone couldn’t reproduce the wide soundstage, punch, or wonderfully full sound generated by the G6.

Put the AptX HD headphones aside and try a set of regular, but still super, Bluetooth headphones — in this case, a pair of B&O Play H8 — and the difference is immediately, and strikingly, noticeable. There’s less presence, depth, and spaciousness from the music, specifically. Plus, the increased clarity with AptX HD gave the impression of more volume than standard Bluetooth. However, it was only noticeable when playing uncompressed music through Tidal. Both sounded very similar playing compressed MP3 files stored on the phone.

Hey, big spender

The Audio-Technica DSR9BT headphones cost $550, or 500 British pounds, which is a lot of money to spend. What if you want to spend less, and already have the right phone? LG comes to the rescue with the Tone Active+, a set of in-ear headphones worn halo-style that come not only with AptX HD but a wealth of other features, including fitness tracking and external stereo speakers.

Whatever you choose, AptX HD is a wireless audio revelation, and you won’t be disappointed.

They’re available for around $110, and the great news is they’re strong competitors for the Audio-Technica headphones. They don’t have quite the same presence though — the DSR9BT puts you center stage in a concert venue with remarkable clarity — but we’d argue they’re more suitable for mobile use anyway. The battery is long-lasting, they’re convenient to carry around, and are relatively inconspicuous.

There’s even a third option. Astell & Kern’s tiny $180 XB10 Bluetooth headphone DAC also has AptX HD onboard, and provided it’s connected to an AptX HD phone, will supercharge your preferred wired headphones without upgrading them. Digital Trends noted the XB10’s warmer lyrical tones and wide soundstage in our review.

Whatever you choose, AptX HD is a wireless audio revelation, and you won’t be disappointed.

Embrace the wire

Or will you?

Maybe you don’t mind wires. Maybe you don’t mind carrying something a little bulkier around, just to get the best sound quality possible. The G6, AptX HD, and a set of DSR9BT headphones sounds better than any Bluetooth setup this author has heard before; but how about up against a Chord Mojo DAC?

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The Chord Mojo, a $530 headphone amp/DAC, has a pair of 3.5mm headphone ports and requires a MicroUSB-to-USB Type-C cable to work with the G6 and OnePlus 5. It’s built like a tank, has 10-hours of battery life, and boasts sound enhancing technology usually found in audio processors that cost four times as much.

If all you’ve ever done is listen to your phone using bundled, or cheap, headphones, the Chord Mojo will be a life-changing experience, something like the chronically myopic putting on a pair of glasses for the first time. It’s utterly, mind-bendingly, stunningly fabulous. You have to assume Harry Potter has waved his wand over the Mojo and instilled it with some magic, it sounds so impossibly wonderful. The Mojo, combined with the LG G6, is simply mobile audio nirvana.

Yes, it’s superior to the AptX HD Bluetooth experience; but maybe not for the reason you think.

Headphone agnostic

The reason is because you can use almost any headphones with the Mojo and they’ll sound incredible. We repeatedly listened to three main pairs. The Brainwavz B200 $200 dual balanced armature in-ears are superb, with a dynamic sound that makes the vocals come alive, backed up by detailed, realistic mids and an intimate soundstage. Too much money? Denon’s new $100 C621R in-ears give the bass kick the B200’s lack, with a richer, less-shrill vocal response. Still more than you want to pay? Meters Music’s $65 M-Ears combine the best of both, enhancing the soundstage and bringing out more detail, with a stronger bass punch.

The point we’re making here is, the Mojo makes your headphones sound better than ever before, almost regardless of what they are, or how much they cost. It also made all our smartphones sound better, not just the G6. This versatility is what makes us tell you to go out and buy it now, if you really want to experience mobile audio in the best way possible.

However, carrying it around is a pain. Why? Cables. Lots of cables, which is why we’re so thankful AptX HD improves Bluetooth audio quality to the degree it does. Wireless audio is improving; but it still has a way to go before it can match the Mojo’s magical qualities. The solution to our dilemma of whether we should abandon our headphone cables is an expensive one. Yes, cut them when you’re out, but have the Mojo at home, ready and waiting. We promise you’re not going to be disappointed with either.

For the curious, we used five main test tracks repeatedly, all found on Tidal. Hans Zimmer’s Time from the Inception score, Perfume’s Tokyo Girl, The Eagles’ live version of Hotel California, The Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil, and CloZee’s Inner Peace.




9
Sep

iPhone 8 Camera Allows Users to Customize 3D Animated Emoji Using Facial Expressions


Following last night’s leak of the golden master version of iOS 11, further details of features Apple plans to announce next week continue to be unearthed, including more hints about the new 3D animated emoji for iMessage.

Based on information in the iOS 11 GM firmware, the new “Animoji”, as they’re called, appear to be a feature exclusive to Apple’s so-called iPhone 8 and the phone’s new 3D sensing capability, enabling users to create custom 3D animated emoji based on facial expressions picked up by the camera.

As noted by developer Steve Stroughton-Smith, several Animoji will be available for customization using the iPhone 8’s 3D sensing features, including chimps, robots, pigs, cats, poop, chickens, dogs, foxes, and several others unearthed in the software.

The range of expressions that the iPhone 8 will be able to detect are listed in a separate asset, showing off the level of detail the new camera feature is capable of reading on a human face. Animoji will be able to be customized using movement of the left and right eyebrows, cheeks, chin, eyes, jaw, lips, and mouth, with global detection for sad and happy faces.


Expect additional discoveries about the iPhone 8 and Apple Watch to be revealed soon as developers scour the iOS 11 GM code over the weekend. Apple will officially unveil the new devices at its Tuesday event set to be held at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time.

Related Roundups: iPhone 8, iOS 11
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