Scientists have sent a message to a star system 70 trillion miles away, inviting any alien civilization living there to swipe right and send us a message back. Some people (basically anyone who’s seen Independence Day) are concerned that such a transmission may trigger an unpredictable response instead.
The project is known as METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) and it actively seeks to send greetings to any alien civilizations out there, as opposed to SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) which passively looks for signs of life beyond our solar system. It’s a controversial program, to say the least. Physicist Stephen Hawking, one of its most vociferous opponents, has famously warned against such an endeavor: “If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans.”
In an interview with Newsweek, the president of METI, Douglas Vakoch, tried to assuage the concerns raised about the program. “Any civilization that could travel to Earth to do us harm could already pick up our leakage television and radio signals,” he said. “So there’s no increased risk of alerting them of our existence.”
Dan Werthimer, a SETI researcher at Berkeley, told New Scientist: “It’s like shouting in a forest before you know if there are tigers, lions, and bears or other dangerous animals there.”
The system that’s the target of the message is a red dwarf designated GJ273, also known as Luyten’s Star in the Canis Minor constellation, with an exoplanet GJ273b that could possibly support life. It’s 12.4 light years away, and in the message researchers said they’d be looking for a response 25 years in the future.
Then there’s the question of exactly how we communicate with aliens. The Voyager missions famously carried a golden record that was filled with the sounds of Earth, as well as an interstellar map that might lead aliens back to our planet.
“Extraterrestrials won’t speak English or Spanish or Swahili,” said Vakoch. “Our message is written in the language of math and science. Over the centuries, scientists and mathematicians have repeatedly taken a vote on the most essential concepts needed to explain the nature of the universe.”
The message was beamed three times to the system, on October 16, 17, and 18. Each transmission took 11 minutes. The invite also includes a cosmic clock, indicating how much time has passed between transmissions. It’s hoped that the aliens can decipher the message and send back a reply. Another message is planned to the same star, which will include the date we’re expecting a reply.
So, set your calendars for June 21, 2043. It could be a big day for humanity.
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You’ve no doubt noticed that smartphone makers are now truly at war with the headphone jack. It’s a battle that few of us appreciate, as it takes away a useful port and offers nothing in return. The result? Many of us must now choose: Do we want to continue using our wired headphones (some of which are worth many hundreds of dollars, thank you very much) through a sad little dongle, or, do we bite the bullet and invest yet more money into a decent set of Bluetooth cans?
To this situation, a new Canadian startup is saying, “Just, no.” Instead, Montreal-based Bluewave Audio is offering the minimally-named Bluewave Get, a tiny, Bluetooth headphone amp, assembled in Canada, that aims to let you keep using your favorite cans and even improve how they sound, for $99. In our Bluewave Get review, we let you know just how high wireless sound can fly for under a Benjamin.
Getting it right
At first glance, most people who look at the Bluewave Get have the same reaction: Isn’t it just like every other Bluetooth audio receiver on the market? Can’t you buy these things on Amazon for $20? It’s a reaction Bluewave founders Stephane Lepage and Pierre Lelievre are used to, but they still cringe at it.
Lelievre, the engineering talent behind the Get, claims those others devices might be Bluetooth receivers, but they aren’t “true amplifiers.” This, he claims, puts the Get into a very small category of devices — currently occupied only by the excellent $150 Astell & Kern XB10 — in that it combines the latest Bluetooth 5.0 codecs including AptX HD, for full compatibility with 24-bit high-resolution audio formats like FLAC, WAV and DSD, and streaming AAC for iPhone users (who are still waiting for Apple to join the AptX bandwagon), with a dedicated amplifier. Lelievre also claims the Get outperforms the XB10 in two ways: The Get’s amp is four times more powerful, and it has a fully analog volume control, which allows for a magnitude of levels far exceeding the incremental steps of most button-based volume systems. Let’s not forget, it’s also $50 cheaper.
You definitely sense the “warmth” that’s often used to characterize the sound of a quality amp.
The Get’s internal 200 mAh Li-Po battery is good for six hours of continuous use, and takes two hours to fully charge from empty. It also sports a MEMS microphone for taking calls or interacting with voice assistants. Better yet, its micro USB port, which is typically used for charging the Get, can also be used with a PC or Mac as an external DAC.
Did we mention it’s tiny? Weighing just 30 grams and fitting somewhere between an iPod Shuffle and an iPod Nano in size, once you attach it to your shirt or backpack with the included clip, you’ll barely know it’s there. There are three physical buttons for play/pause/calling, skip forward, and skip back.
Bluewave likes to say that the Get will take any set of headphones and make them sound better. To test the claim, we listened to a variety of source material (both hi-res and some not-so-high-res) on a variety of devices, including an iPhone 6 and a Google Pixel XL. After plugging in everything from Apple EarPods to a pair of AudioTechnica ATH-M50x monitors, we can verify that this claim is true. But, of course, your mileage may vary.
It can be tough to quantify and qualify sound improvements at the best of times, but we think most people will hear a difference when swapping their preferred headphones between their normal device, and that device paired with the Get. On a set of inexpensive buds like Apple’s AirPods, the difference will be subtle — a slight increase in fullness of the sound, and a reduction in harshness as you hit the higher volume levels.
Move up to a set of full-size, over-ear cans like the ATH-M50x, however, and you start to appreciate more nuance — individual instruments have greater separation, tonality is improved across the board, and you definitely sense that “warmth” which is so often used to characterize audio that has been piped through a quality amp.
We don’t want to over-promise — these improvements, though noticeable, are not night-and-day. The fact is, your smartphone is never going to sound as good as your dedicated home audio gear, and the Bluewave Get can’t magically make it so. However, we think that for its price, you won’t find a device on the market that can do what the Get can do, in such a small, and versatile form factor.
Yes, you can use the Bluewave Get as an external DAC for your PC or Mac, via the included micro USB cable. Unfortunately, the benefits of doing so are limited: The Get can only deliver two-channel, 16-bit conversion at 48 kHz, which means if you don’t hear an improvement in sound thanks to the Get’s amp, you may as well stick with your computer’s existing headphone output.
Unlike some other Bluetooth audio receivers, the Get can be used while charging. It also lets you know via the small LED indicator what kind of connection you’re using: Green for USB/charging, blue for a regular Bluetooth connection, purple for an AptX HD connection, and red for low battery.
The small metal clip is removable, and can be replaced or swapped with a slightly beefier clip designed to mount the Get directly to the side of a large set of headphones for a tangle free setup. This larger clip ($12) also comes with a shorty headphone cord for use with cans that have detachable cords.
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This is probably not what it feels like to be Dragonborn.
From the moment Bethesda announced the seemingly immortal Skyrim would be getting a VR version, there have been a lot of questions. Building a game for VR and building a game for 2D screens require a lot of very different tools and design concepts, but the folks at Bethesda are no strangers to VR concepts. This is the first of several huge VR titles planned over the next couple of months, and with the addition of multiple DLC from the original game included in this version the amount of time players could spend in this game is orders of magnitude greater than your average VR game.
So is it better to have a ton of content to play with or flawless immersion in VR? This is an important question to ask yourself when considering Skyrim VR for your library, because in this situation you are not going to get both.
Read more at VRHeads!
It’s always a tough balance between listening to customers and having a central vision.
OnePlus held its first ever in-person launch event in New York City this past week. The OnePlus 5T clearly wasn’t a groundbreaking product deserving of a launch event in itself, but OnePlus used this gathering more so as an opportunity to talk directly to fans and curious onlookers alike. Presenters took an inordinate amount of time talking about things the company had already done. Talking about the history of how OnePlus phones are made, and how OxygenOS was born out of user feedback. The core of the presentation focused on the philosophy inside OnePlus that the customer comes first — not just in how they’re treated when buying the phone, but how the phones are made from the start.
If OnePlus wants to grow beyond the enthusiast community, does it have to start being a bit more opinionated?
OnePlus says that development of OxygenOS begins and ends with community engagement, coming up with new features that are fed to beta testers who give feedback that is directly integrated into the future builds. Tweaks and changes to amazingly mundane things like interface colors, animations and boot sequences all have hundreds of community members chiming in with strong opinions. The name “OxygenOS” itself was chosen as a suggestion from a OnePlus forum member. And OnePlus isn’t shy about the fact that it listens to the same community when it comes to making hardware decisions on its phones. It’s the reason why the OnePlus 5T has 8GB of RAM, a headphone jack, a physical mute switch and the like.
For an enthusiast-driven company like OnePlus, it makes sense to lean on the very fanatics buying your phones for input on what those products should be. The feedback loop can be powerful, and it almost guarantees sales up to a certain point. But the question is, if OnePlus wants to grow beyond this enthusiast group, does it need to start being a bit more opinionated again?
OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei said that the company learned a big lesson with the OnePlus 2. After seeing wonderful success with the OnePlus One, the company “got cocky” according to Pei — this led to some questionable decisions, like the ever-frustrating set of hoops to jump through to get the phone, and odd hardware choices like the removal of something as simple as NFC. OnePlus has certainly swung back in the other direction now, with wide open sales, much-improved customer service, and phones that don’t skimp on the necessities.
OnePlus has completely changed how it treats users, but now it needs to move forward.
Now with that equilibrium achieved, I think it’s time for OnePlus to take the reins once again. Looking at the progression from OnePlus 3 to the OnePlus 5T, I just don’t see enough innovation happening. Some 85% (or thereabouts) of the phone experience is identical over the course of 18 months. That’s a nod to how good of a phone the OnePlus 3 still is today, but also a point of realization that OnePlus needs to step up the innovation a bit. The OnePlus 5T is a good, solid phone for a really great price in a world of ever-more-expensive flagships — but it sure isn’t innovative, new, exciting or important in the market in any respect.
OnePlus has worked out the kinks, got things running smoothly and most importantly shaken (most of) the bad blood the public has from past poor decisions. So now, I’m looking for OnePlus to do something truly new, fresh and exciting. There’s a fine line between consistency and complacency, and that’s precisely where OnePlus is walking right now.
And with that, a few more lingering thoughts on the week:
- In reviewing the OnePlus 5T, I’ve taken a break from writing about the Pixel Buds. Rest assured a proper “review” will be landing soon, though.
- Google got many things right with the Pixel Buds, including the comfort, battery life, and sound quality. But they’re very expensive, and the advanced features leave something to be desired.
- I’m initially quite satisfied with the Pixel 2 XL’s display after the latest software update to improve the tuning via a “saturated” display mode.
- It still isn’t a drop-dead gorgeous panel, but it sure is above average. The display stands in the way of the Pixel 2 XL being a truly great phone, but I don’t find it a big enough issue to stop me from recommending it at this point.
- You’ll notice that after initially pausing our recommendation of the Pixel 2 XL in our review, we’ve moved back to recommending it as originally found in the first testing period.
- All that being said, I still like the smaller Pixel 2 more. I’m a sucker for a “small” phone, and it’s just a much more compelling device with its much lower price.
Have a great week, everyone — particularly those of us in the U.S. who are likely to spend some time with family for the long Thanksgiving weekend.
OnePlus 5T and OnePlus 5
- OnePlus 5T hands-on preview: Relentless iteration
- OnePlus 5T specs
- All of the latest OnePlus 5T news
- Join the discussion in the forums
Stream your favorite shows and play your favorite games all with one device.
The Nvidia Shield TV with game controller is down to $169.99 on Amazon. This price matches a deal we saw more than a week ago during Best Buy’s early Black Friday sales, and you can find this price at Best Buy this time, too.
In fact, if you don’t want the game controller (you should, but that’s none of my business), you can get the Nvidia Shield TV with just the remote for $150 at Best Buy.
The Nvidia Shield TV has improved over previous iterations. Heck, this one gives you access to Amazon Prime Video, which is a step-up by itself. Sure, the Shield is more expensive than a Roku but the Shield is a gaming console, too, and a decent one at that.
- Connected Google Life – Access all your Google content and smart home features with Google Assistant, share your Google Photos in 4K, and cast your favorite apps to your TV with Chromecast 4K.
- 4K HDR Powerhouse – Watch Netflix and Amazon Video in crisp 4K HDR, and YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, and VUDU in 4K. Apps like HBO Now, Spotify, and ESPN meet all your entertainment needs.
- NVIDIA-Powered Gaming – Cast games from your GeForce-powered PC to your TV in 4K HDR at 60 FPS. Get NVIDIA-powered cloud gaming on demand with GeForce NOW. And enjoy exclusive Android games only on SHIELD.
- Smart Home Ready – Google Assistant lets you control your entertainment and smart home with your voice. Add SmartThings Link to wirelessly connect lights, speakers, thermostats, and much more.
- Get YouTube Red for 3 months free – $29.97 in value. Explore uninterrupted music, ad-free videos, and exclusive original movies and shows from your favorite YouTube creators. Limited-time offer ends 12/31.
The Nvidia Shield has 4.3 stars based on 927 user reviews.
See at Amazon
Tesla had quite the week. Not only did the upstart carmaker get to show off its new semi and roadster, it also unveiled its multi-station Supercharger rest stop and managed to get itself onto the receiving end of a class-action lawsuit alleging pervasive racism throughout its ranks. Numbers, because how else will you know how many times this week your supervisors have greeted you with an n-bomb?
1.9 seconds: That’s how quickly Telsa’s new roadster will get to 60 MPH from a standing start — the only production car on the planet to do it under 2 seconds — once it debuts in 2020. Suck on that, Porsche 918 Spyders.
500 miles: That’s how far Tesla’s new fully-electric, semi-autonomous tractor will travel on a single charge. Rather disappointed it doesn’t include the gullwing doors, though.
2: That’s how many of Tesla’s Supercharger rest stops have opened for business — one between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the other between LA and Las Vegas. But what are you supposed to do for the 30 minutes while your battery recharges?
100: That’s how many Tesla employees need to sign on to Marcus Vaughn’s racial harassment lawsuit in order for the courts to treat it as a class action.
1,101.2 miles: That’s how far Mercedes’ all-electric “Citaro” busses will be able to travel between chargings once they enter service by the end of next year. What, you thought Tesla was the only electric vehicle game in town?
2,000,000: That’s how many electric and hybrid cars are expected to be zipping along China’s roadways by the end of 2019. To account for this gasless trend, Toyota and Mazda have teamed up to build a $1.6 billion assembly plant here in the US that will eventually produce 300,000 EVs each year.
10 minutes: That’s how long a trip from Boulder to downtown Denver, Colorado will take aboard the city’s proposed Hyperloop-like transportation system, Arrivo.
In the summer of 1957, the Earth stood witness as a meteorite cratered in rural Pennsylvania, bringing with it a people-eating plague never seen: an alien amoeba with the taste for human flesh. While we had Steve McQueen around for the first invasion, humanity is now defended against microbial marauders from outer space by NASA and its international counterparts.
Biological contamination goes both ways, mind you. Just as important as keeping extraterrestrial organisms from reaching the surface (aka “backward contamination”) is ensuring that our planetary probes carry as few microbial hitchhikers from Earth as possible (“forward contamination”). To that end, in 1958, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) issued a decree urging “that scientists plan lunar and planetary studies with great care and deep concern so that initial operations do not compromise and make impossible forever after critical scientific experiments.”
The following year, the newly formed Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) argued “that all practical steps should be taken to ensure that Mars be not biologically contaminated” until an exhaustive search for life on the planet had been undertaken. These recommendations became law in 1967 when the US, the USSR and the UK all signed onto the United Nations Outer Space Treaty.
“Part of our thinking about planetary protection is that we want to make sure that we safeguard to any future human exploration,” Dr. Lucianne Walkowicz, an astronomer at Adler Planetarium and the Astrobiology Chair at the Library of Congress, told Engadget. “When we bring spacecraft to other worlds (or eventually human beings), we want to make sure that we understand that environment. That means being relatively cautious about contaminating it.”
However, not every extraterrestrial target of human interest requires the same degree of caution. Places like the Sun or Mercury, which are almost assuredly devoid of biological organisms, don’t require the same level of protection as, say, Mars or the Moon, which are just heavily irradiated and desperately cold. In fact, COSPAR has developed a 5-category system which space agencies must abide by when they’re developing their planetary probes:
Category I covers places with little chance of finding even basic forms of life, like Mercury.
Category II includes places that might be explored for the origins of life but where the chances of contamination by Earthly microbes is remote. Think Venus or the Moon.
Category III regulates flyby and orbiter missions where the chances of contamination are moderate, like Mars or Europa. This is why Cassini was thrown into Saturn: we couldn’t have it falling into Enceladus or Titan.
Category IV regulates lander or probe missions to the same places as category III, though it is further divided into a series of subclasses based on specific regions of the planet’s surface and what the lander is actually looking for.
Category V is what happens if there’s a good chance we’ll pick up a Blob in space. It demands “absolute prohibition of destructive impact upon return, containment of all returned hardware which directly contacted the target body, and containment of any unsterilized sample returned to Earth.”
“I think they’re good for us as a working framework,” Walkowicz said. “They certainly have served us well in the history of exploration and our solar system thus far.”
It’s extremely important that space agencies understand the categorical protection requirements of their mission, explains Dr. John Rummel, Senior Scientist at the SETI Institute and former NASA Planetary Protection Officer. “If you tell someone at the last minute they going to do something they had never been planning on, well, they may have to re-engineer entire spacecraft,” he told Engadget. “If, on the other hand, they anticipate these requirements from the beginning… then it’s not that big of a deal.”
This planetary protection scheme is designed to minimize the damage from both forward and backward contamination. “We really want to safeguard our own planet’s biosphere we have all these wonderful living things here,” Walkowicz said. “We want to make sure that we can explore and bring back the samples and use the benefits of our Earthly labs without endangering the world.”
Dr. Rummel, however, is not particularly concerned. “In my opinion, there is a reasonable possibility that nothing we could do with a sample return done robotically would bring back anything that’s alive,” he said.
Rummel argues that any microorganisms hitching a ride from Mars aboard a material sample would be woefully ill-equipped to handle the rigors of interplanetary flight. “We don’t know what those organisms require so the chance that we get lucky and bring them back alive is small.”
That said, Rummel acknowledges the value in assuming the worst. “The National Research Council and Space Studies Board have always maintained that we will contain [returned samples] as if they’re the most hazardous thing on Earth until we prove that it’s safe,” he continued. “There’s no upside in cutting corners.”
To ensure that outbound spacecraft remain sterile until they’re launched, the OPP has traditionally relied on a process known as Dry Heat Microbial Reduction (DHMR). This involves baking individual spacecraft components at temperatures of 110 degrees Celsius for 47 hours or 125C for 5 hours with zero relative humidity.
First utilized for the Viking missions, “it’s a very handy technology,” Walkowicz explained. “It’s very effective on surfaces, but also between surfaces or even within materials, which is why it has widespread adoption.”
There are limitations to this method, however. It cannot sterilize an entire spacecraft, for example, as everything from electronic components to structural adhesives and landing parachutes would be destroyed by the heat. As such, NASA has been researching alternative methods to augment the DHMR process, many of which hail from existing medical technologies.
Of particular interest for Mars exploration is supercritical carbon dioxide cleaning. Carbon dioxide is held under extremely low temperature and at extremely high pressure so it exhibits qualities of both a gas and a liquid. When mixed with peracetic acid (PAA), it can be used to sterilize materials. What’s more, Walkowicz said, given the planet’s high CO2 content “maybe there would be a way to develop technology that could use Mars’s atmosphere in some way to create a local bioburden reducing technology… and do that in situ.”
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab is also developing a technique dubbed vapor phase hydrogen peroxide (VHP) sterilization, which is generated from a solution of liquid H2O2 and water. When concentrated between 140 ppm and 1400 ppm, it acts as an antimicrobial agent. However, “the limitation there is that it’s never been used at a systemic level — like the whole spacecraft level — so you could do it on smaller components but not necessarily the entire craft,” Walkowicz said. There’s also the danger of it becoming too concentrated. If VHP levels reach 75 ppm, it becomes toxic to humans.
There is also work being done with ethylene oxide as a sterilizer, though Walkowicz points out that ethylene oxide is “kind of explosive.” Ionizing radiation techniques are also being explored. The parachute for the Beagle 2 mission, for example, could not withstand DHMR, so NASA scientists subjected it to radioactive sterilization instead. Beyond that, the NASA Mars Exploration Program has examined leveraging electron beam sterilization, which is already utilized in food processing, as a means of cleaning spacecraft.
Of course, there is also the chance that we’re overthinking this whole issue, at least as it applies to Mars exploration. Rummel hypothesizes that there was a natural interchange of biology between Mars and Earth some 4 billion years ago that potentially renders our efforts moot:
Imagine that life originated on Mars. Life was knocked off of Mars by a large impact event which made Mars rocks eventually come to Earth. The Earth, without any life, is seeded by Mars rocks and then all of a sudden you have all these Mars organisms living on the Earth… the natural response of Earth and Mars together would be the evolution of animals, plants and whatnot. So we could all be Martians and that is as bad as it gets, I think.
Whether we need the protection or not, there are a number of ways that future interplanetary explorers might avoid the biological pitfalls of Mars. “We tend to think of it as being robotic exploration or human exploration,” Walkowicz said. “In reality we see humans and robots cooperate all the time in exploration on Earth” such as the Fukushima power plant cleanup or subsea exploration in Antarctica.
“We often send robotic probes and I think that that’s something that we’re likely to see in some of those early explorations of Mars that involves a human component,” she continued. Essentially, astronauts would either remain in orbit or sequestered in a planet-side bunker and remotely control robotic rovers who would do the legwork on our behalf. “The other possibility is, instead of worrying about cleaning your spacecraft off afterwards, you construct it as cleanly as you possibly can” from the start.
In the end, Walkowicz argues, planetary protection requirements should not be viewed as a hindrance to space exploration, but rather, an asset. “If we want to answer some of those difficult questions about the origin of life, if we really want to understand Mars or Europa or any of these worlds as astrobiological resources, we have to fold planetary protection into our thinking,” she said. “It enables the science that we want to be able to do.”
Or, as Rummel points out, “To paraphrase Franklin Roosevelt, ‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’” Well, that and the space plague.
Images: United Nations (Outer Space Treaty signing); NASA (clean room and Carl Sagan with Voyager 1)
According to some digging into Apple’s “BridgeOS 2.0” code and macOS this weekend by Jonathan Levin, Steven Troughton-Smith, and Guilherme Rambo, the upcoming iMac Pro appears to feature an A10 Fusion chip with 512 MB of RAM. While the full functionality of the A10 chip isn’t yet known, it appears the chip will enable support for “Hey Siri” functionality, potentially even when the iMac Pro is turned off.
As noted by Troughton-Smith, the A10 will manage the booting process and security for the iMac Pro, and with hooks into system audio, he theorized that the chip might support always-on “Hey Siri.”
Confirmed: “Hey, Siri” is coming to the Mac pic.twitter.com/Dw9bRAzbxD
— Guilherme Rambo (@_inside) November 18, 2017
The “Hey Siri” theory was quickly confirmed by Rambo, who shared both a boot chime for BridgeOS and the setup process for “Hey Siri” discovered within macOS.
BridgeOS has a boot chime sound pic.twitter.com/ofupY9RZt8
— Guilherme Rambo (@_inside) November 18, 2017
Rumors of ARM-based chips being included in Macs have been circulating for some time, and with the T1 chip appearing in the MacBook Pro to drive the Touch Bar last year, the rumor began coming to fruition. The T1 was just the first step in the process, however, with Bloomberg reporting in February that a custom “T310” ARM-based Mac chip similar to the T1 could be included in future Macs and take on some additional functionality such as handling “Power Nap” low-power mode functionality.
In June, Pike’s Universum reported that the upcoming iMac Pro will include a Secure Enclave, suggesting the machine would indeed include an ARM-based coprocessor as on the MacBook Pro.
Unveiled at WWDC in June, the iMac Pro is scheduled to launch next month, but Apple has yet to give a specific launch date for the high-end desktop that will start at $4999.
Related Roundup: iMac Pro
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Razer has thrown a gauntlet down to the rest of the smartphone market with the Razer Phone. It’s a media-consuming beast of a device with stereo speakers, 8GB of RAM, and a buttery smooth display that has to be seen to be believed. But how does Razer’s monster stack up against the competition? LG’s V30 is a stylish, powerful Android smartphone with some serious video shooting skills. We took the LG V30 and the Razer Phone and pitted them against each other to see which phone came out on top.
158.5 x 77.7 x 8 mm (6.24 x 3.06 x 0.31 inches)
151.7 x 75.4 x 7.4 mm (5.97 x 2.97 x 0.29 inches)
197 grams (6.95 ounces)
158 grams (5.57 ounces)
5.7-inch 120 Hz Ultramotion IGZO IPS LCD display
6-inch P-OLED display
2,560 x 1,440 pixels (514 ppi)
2,880 x 1,440 pixels (537 pixels per inch)
Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Android 7.1.2 Nougat
64GB, 128GB (on the V30 Plus)
MicroSD card slot
Yes, up to 256 GB
Snapdragon 835 with Adreno 540
Snapdragon 835 with Adreno 540
GSM, UMTS, HSPA, TD-SCDMA, LTE, TDD LTE, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
GSM, CDMA, HSPA, EVDO, LTE, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
Dual 12 MP rear (f/1.75 wide angle & f/2.6 zoom), 8 MP front
Dual 16MP and 13MP wide angle rear, 5MP wide angle front
Up to 4K at 30 fps
Up to 4K at 30fps, 1080p at 30fps, 720p at 120fps
Yes, version 4.2
Yes, version 5.0
Dual front-facing speakers, no headphone jack
Bottom-firing speaker, headphone jack
Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
Accelerometer, compass, gyroscope, proximity
Yes, IP68 rated
Qualcomm QuickCharge 4.0+
Fast charging, wireless charging (Qi standard)
Google Play Store
Google Play Store
Cloud Silver, Moroccan Blue
Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile
4 out of 5 stars
You’re going to see a lot of similarities between these two phones in terms of processing power, as both the LG V30 and the Razer Phone come with the Snapdragon 835. We’ve seen this processor powering multiple flagship phones this year, including the Pixel 2, the Samsung Galaxy S8, and the Galaxy Note 8. It’s a very powerful chip, one of the best in the world, and we expect to see similar performance from the LG V30 and Razer Phone, with any real differences in processing power being negligible. It is notable that the Razer Phone contains a lot more RAM than the V30 — a staggering 8GB against the 4GB in the V30 — but as we like to remind you, the jury is still out on how much impact RAM has on on a smartphone’s performance, so while the extra RAM scores Razer some extra points, it’s not as big a deal as the numbers might suggest.
The LG V30 pulls ahead when we start to compare internal storage. Again, both have space for a MicroSD card, expanding available storage, but it’s nice regardless that LG offers the choice between a 64GB and a 128GB model (on the V30 Plus) for initial internal storage. The Razer Phone only comes with a 64GB option, which seems small for a phone aimed toward mobile gamers and avid media consumers.
The LG V30 gets more points for the inclusion of a headphone jack — which is missing on the Razer Phone. Puzzlingly, the Razer Phone also lacks the upgraded Bluetooth 5.0 you’ll find in the V30. Since the Razer Phone doesn’t include a 3.5mm jack, you’d expect Bluetooth 5.0’s improved signal strength and features to be a must-have to make up for the missing functionality, and the lack of it is strange. LG doubles down on audio quality with Quad DAC and AptX included in the V30, but the Razer Phone’s stereo speakers and DAC-enabled USB Type-C to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter put up a good fight.
It’s a tough call between the two, and with the extra RAM included, we expect that the Razer Phone will be the slightly superior performer. However, we also anticipate that the difference will be so slight as to not really be noticeable, and the V30’s headphone jack, upgraded Bluetooth, and better range of storage options hand LG the win here.
Winner: LG V30
Design and display
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
The trend for minimizing bezels has given us some of the most beautiful smartphones we’ve ever seen. LG is no stranger to this trend, and the LG V30 shows off a gorgeous 6-inch 18:9 screen with tiny bezels around the edges. A larger forehead and chin are present, but they’re so small that you’ll forget they’re there. The OLED display showcases LG’s usual great performance, with vibrant colors and dark, inky blacks. Flip over the phone and you’re greeted with more smooth glass, mounted on a metal frame. LG has put the V30’s glass through rigorous testing, but we still recommend a case to ensure it stays beautiful.
By contrast, the Razer Phone is a throwback to an earlier time. Chunkier bezels abound, and the design is close to that of a Sony Xperia, with hard, angular corners and straight lines. Still, we don’t mind a different design from time to time, and it does mean that the display is flanked by a pair of seriously impressive stereo speakers. The display itself is a 5.7-inch IPS LED, and it outputs a good-looking image, even if it’s never going to match the clarity and color of the OLED screen on the V30. But you need to see the Razer Phone in action to really understand its true strength — a 120Hz Ultramotion screen refreshes at twice the usual rate of smartphone screens, giving motion on the Razer Phone a smooth quality you don’t find in many devices (the iPad Pro may have been the last we saw). It adds an extra “wow” element to an already smooth phone, and really cements Razer’s drive for the mobile gaming market.
The rest of the Razer Phone is aluminum, and while it’s nice to handle that reassuring metal again, glass feels so much more premium in 2017. That said, you don’t have to worry so much about your phone’s body smashing during use, so at least the Razer Phone has that over the LG V30. But what it doesn’t have is water-resistance. There’s no water-resistance at all in the Razer Phone, which feels like a misstep when compared with the LG V30’s IP68 rating.
All in all, each of these phones has a lot to offer. While the Razer Phone’s 120Hz display is a stunning piece of technology, and we have a soft spot for the chunky look, it just can’t compete with the futuristic style of the LG V30. Pair the V30’s amazing looks with the stunning and massive 6-inch OLED display, as well as the water resistance, and you can forgive the fragile nature of the glass covering.
Winner: LG V30
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
This one’s a bit more clear cut. While the camera hardware on the Razer Phone is respectable — two 12-megapixel (MP) lenses, one with a 2x optical zoom, and the other a wide-angle lens — we have our doubts about the strength of the software, which is rather bare-bones. The front snapper is similarly standard — 8MP is a good selfie taker, but there’s nothing special about it. It’s clear that Razer’s focus isn’t on the strength of the camera. That said, Razer has promised updates to add features to the camera and make certain aspects clearer.
The LG V30, on the other hand, has a stunning pair of lenses mounted on the back of the phone — a 16-megapixel and a 13-megapixel lens. The 16-megapixel lens has an aperture size of f/1.6 (setting a smartphone record on release), giving a huge amount of light to the sensor, while the 13-megapixel lens is concerned with taking wide-angle shots of up to 120 degrees. It’s an incredible combination that we haven’t really seen from other manufacturers. Amazingly, LG’s focus isn’t even on still photos — it’s on video. The LG V30 has great capabilities as a camera, coming with 15 “Cine Effects,” which dynamically alter the color balance and look of the shot to match your chosen filter. We won’t go into greater detail here, but you can check out our LG V30 review if you’re interested in knowing more.
The answer here should be pretty clear — the LG V30 wins again.
Winner: LG V30
Battery life and charging
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
The Razer Phone comes with a huge 4,000mAh battery to fuel that incredible 120Hz display. But that display is a power hog, and while we haven’t done detailed tests yet, we expect that the Razer Phone will manage to make it through the day on a full charge. There’s no wireless charging here, thanks to the aluminum body, but the phone is the first to ship with Qualcomm’s QuickCharge 4.0+ technology, which Razer has said can charge the battery from zero to 50 percent within 35 minutes. Given the capacity of the battery, that’s quite an impressive feat.
The LG V30 is no slouch either, with a 3,300mAh battery. While it falls short of the pure numbers of the Razer Phone, the battery life on the V30 is very impressive. Tests during our LG V30 review showed the battery to be capable of well over a day’s worth of usage, consistently ending a work day with just under 50 percent battery life remaining. Wireless charging is available, and QuickCharge 3.0, while an older product than the upgraded version on the Razer Phone, is still capable of charging the phone with blinding speed.
The LG V30 has stronger battery life, as well as the option for wireless charging, and that scores it the win.
Winner: LG V30
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
The LG V30 is running Android 7.1.2 Nougat, overlaid with LG’s own customized skin. It’s not bad looking, but it’s never been one of our favorites. It’s got some fun additions to it that might catch your fancy, such as the ability to set Smart Settings that detect when you’re home and change the sound profile accordingly. You’ve been able to get this sort of functionality from third-party apps like IFTTT for a while, but it’s nice to see it baked into LG’s software. The “Floating Bar” is another of these — replacing the secondary display from earlier V-series phones. It’s not quite as good as the secondary display was, but it does give the option to quickly access apps that you don’t want on your home page. There’s no Android 8.0 Oreo update for the V30 yet, and LG hasn’t yet shared when it can be expected to arrive.
The Razer Phone is also running Android Nougat, and much of your initial experience will be of stock Android. There’s a reason for that — Razer has seen fit to not include any bloatware with its phone, trusting in stock Android to deliver the goods. It does — your experience is buttery smooth, as you’d expect. But there’s also a reason we said “initial experience” above — Razer has included Nova Launcher Prime as a part of the OS, giving the user the plethora of customization options offered by one of the best Android launchers on the market. It’s stunning how much flexibility Nova Launcher gives you, with the ability to mimic Android 8.0 Oreo from the Pixel 2, or set up your very own way of scrolling through your app drawer, or increasing the number of icons present on the home page. Like the V30, there’s no sign of Android 8.0 Oreo on the Razer Phone yet, though promises of early 2018 have been made.
Both phones have the ability to access virtual reality apps, though the V30 has the edge with Google Daydream integration. That said, we haven’t seen much from Daydream, so it doesn’t win LG many points.
We’ve got to hand it to the Razer Phone here. We love stock Android, and pairing it with the optional customization from Nova Launcher Prime is a dream come true.
Winner: Razer Phone
Price and availability
The Razer Phone is currently up for pre-order on Razer’s site for $700, and it will also be available from the Microsoft Store and Amazon when it releases November 17. It will be sold unlocked, so you’ll be able to put it on any supported network — though Sprint and Verizon customers will be disappointed by the lack of support for their networks.
The LG V30 starts at $800 for the 64GB, with prices increasing to $912 for the V30+ from Sprint, or $950 from Best Buy. You don’t need to worry about the phone not working on your network, as all the major carriers are offering it, but $950 for the V30+ is a very significant amount of cash, and one that could make you think twice about your purchase. Still, $800 for the 64GB model of the LG V30 is reasonable enough, and we think the V30 offers enough to justify the extra $100.
Winner: LG V30
Overall winner: LG V30
The Razer Phone is shaping up to be a great phone, with a super-smooth 120Hz display, an almost nostalgic design, some incredible speakers, and all the power you’d expect from a 2017 flagship. If you’re looking for a phone that will double as a media center, you could certainly do worse than Razer’s new beast.
But it’s a testament to how good of an all-rounder the LG V30 is that it beats the Razer Phone so thoroughly. LG has done an amazing job in making the V30 the phone it is, from the stunning OLED display, to the futuristic and gorgeous glass-and-metal design, to the excellent camera, which is one of our favorites for taking wide-angle images and video. LG has put together a staggeringly good phone, making it impossible for the Razer Phone to beat it pound for pound.
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Artist Trevor Paglen plans to launch “the first satellite to exist purely as an artistic gesture” into low-Earth orbit in 2018. The cosmic creation, called the Orbital Reflector, has no mission at all other than for people to look at it. It’s partially sponsored by the Nevada Museum of Art and will be visible from the surface of the Earth. “This is making a piece of abstract art on a rocket. By doing that you encourage people to look at it and think about the heavens,” Paglen told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Paglen is a geographer and artist who was awarded a 2017 MacArthur Foundation fellowship (a “genius grant”) and will have an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution next year. As he notes on his Kickstarter page for the project, “the Orbital Reflector is a satellite that will have no commercial, military, or scientific purpose. Instead, it will be a public sculpture, visible from the ground without a telescope — a satellite that belongs to everyone.”
The sculpture is created with thin, light, Mylar-like sheets, and it will be sent 350 miles into the heavens on top of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket aboard a small satellite known as a CubeSat. It’s tentatively scheduled for launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base next spring. Once deployed, the Orbital Reflector will inflate and circle the globe once every three hours until it dies a fiery death upon reentry into the atmosphere in approximately two months.
The balloon will reflect light back to Earth, making it visible with the naked eye. Paglen plans to partner with the sky-watching app Star Walk 2 to let observers know when it will be visible in their location. You’ll also be able to track the satellite as it passes overhead from their website at orbitalreflector.com.
The normally staid and analytical scientists working on the project are excited to participate in something so inspirational. “It’s different than anything I’ve ever worked on,” said aerospace engineer Mark Caviezel. “Being artistic, it’s a lot cooler than a lot of satellites, and it’s refreshing that in our uptight kind of way, we can sort of let our hair down on this.”
Paglen’s earlier space project was “The Last Pictures,” a collection of images from Earth launched into orbit in 2012. He said his inspiration for this latest endeavor goes back to Echo 1 and 2, NASA’s earliest communication satellites from the early 1960s launched in response to Sputnik. He hopes the Orbital Reflector causes people to gaze up to the heavens and consider their place in the universe.
“We humans have always looked to the sky as a sounding board for asking big questions about ourselves: Who are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going?”
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