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2
Mar

Best Galaxy S9 Cases


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Find a sleek and stylish case to keep your S9 protected.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 is almost here. Pre-orders have gone live and that means it’s time to ruminate over which accessories to buy.

We’ve already seen some pretty cool cases announced. Not all of them are available to purchase just yet but it never hurts to do some window shopping while you wait for your new phone to ship.

Here are the best cases we’ve found for the Galaxy S9… so far. We’ll be updating this article as more awesome options become available.

  • Samsung S-View Cover
  • Samsung Hyperknit Cover
  • Samsung Alcantara Cover
  • Lifeproof SLAM case
  • Speck Presidio case
  • BodyGuardz Ace Fly clear case
  • Spigen Rugged Armor case
  • SUPCASE Unicorn Beetle Series case
  • dbrand skins

Samsung S-View Cover

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We’ll start out with some of Samsung’s own cases, although they’re not yet available for purchase.

The first one is the perennially awesome S-View case. This folio-style flip case features a clear cover for the screen that keeps it protected from scratches while also letting you see notifications and accept calls with a swipe. It can also be folded up as a hands-free stand.

Samsung hasn’t listed a price, but the Note 8 S-View cover launched at $60 so we can probably expect similar pricing here.

See at Samsung

Samsung Hyperknit Cover

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Google seemed to start the fabric case trend, but we’re happy to see Samsung also embracing it.

Made of woven nylon, this case looks brilliant in red with a nice, soft finish. Everyone’s going to want to see your brand new phone, so why not add a bit of extra flash while keeping it safe? With extra protection in the corner and clean cutouts around the camera and fingerprint sensor on the back you’ll love the functional and stylish design on display here.

See at Samsung

Samsung Alcantara Cover

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First-party accessories are always on the more expensive side, so they really need to offer customers something unique. Samsung’s Alcantara covers have been recent standouts, offering a combination of sound protection and a cozy finish for your Galaxy devices.

The Alcantara case won us over with the Note 8, so we’re pretty happy to see it offered by Samsung for the S9. Made of Alcantara, a lightweight material that’s rugged and durable while keeping a slim form factor, you’ll get a stylish and grippy case that won’t add much bulk to the phone. It’s not yet available to buy but would be worth keeping an eye out for.

Samsung offered the Alcantara case for $50 for the Note 8, so we’d expect something similar for the S9.

See at Samsung

OtterBox Commuter Series

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Few names are as symonymous with phone cases as OtterBox. They’re built a reputation as a trusted brand by designing really rugged cases and backing their products with superior customer service.

We’d recommend the Commuter series case which is a pocket-friendly case that still delivers the rugged protection you’ve come to expect from an OtterBox case. It’s got one big cutout on the back for the camera and fingerprint sensor and includes port covers to keep dirt out.

We’ve highlighted the Commuter Series here, but OtterBox has over 10 different case styles available for the Galaxy S9 which you can check out on their site.

See at OtterBox

Lifeproof SLAM case

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When you’re dropping over $700 on a brand new phone, you want to protect it from everything life might throw at it, especially if you plan on spending a ton of time outside this summer.

Lifeproof cases typically offer protection from dirt and snow, but the SLAM case focuses exclusively on drop protection. Lifeproof says this case can survive drops from up to two meters (6.5 ft) thanks to the reinforced bumpers. It’s also got a rugged backplate that’s clear to show off the phone’s design and also compatible with wireless charging. While it’s not quite as Lifeproof as you’d expect, it’s also not as expensive as other Lifeproof cases at only $50. Plus, it looks pretty cool with the black and neon green, do you think?

Looking for the classic FRE Lifeproof case? You can sign up to be notified about when it becomes available.

See at Lifeproof

Speck Presidio

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Speck has a full line of cases available for the Galaxy S9, but we’ll focus on the Presidio case here because it’s a great place to start. It’s got a simple design with smart features where it counts like double protection in the corners and a slim profile that’s compatible with wireless charging. It’s been drop tested up to 10 feet and the matte finish is scratch resistant so it shouldn’t show wear.

This is just one of the many case styles Speck offers, so check them all out if you want something with a bit more flair.

See at Speck

BodyGuardz Ace Fly clear case

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Looking to show off your Galaxy S9 without leaving it prone to drop damage? BodyGuardz offers a clear case they say is built using the same impact gel used in padding and helmet technology for athletes.

Whether or not that marketing talk sways you, the Ace Fly clear case looks like a reliable clear case. BodyGuardz backs their products with a lifetime warranty and you have a 30-day money back guarantee so if you don’t love it you can simply return it.

Available for $35, these cases are also compatible with the Pure Arc Tempered Glass screen protector, so if you’ve used BodyGuardz screen protectors before and trust the brand this would be a good combo to keep your Galaxy S9 fully protected right out of the box.

See at BodyGuardz

Spigen Rugged Armor case

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The Spigen Rugged Armor case is my go-to phone case. It’s a sleek, one-piece case that adds good protection to your phone without much bulk. Thin enough to not impede wireless charging, this is a great minimalist case that still offers rugged protection.

More importantly, it always comes in at a great price. At just $12.99, it’s one of the cheapest options currently available from a brand we trust.

See at Amazon

Spigen Liquid Crystal clear case

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Looking for a clear case option under $20? Spigen’s got you covered there, too. Just like the Rugged Armor case, the Liquid Crystal is slim and pocket-friendly. Made of flexible TPU, it’s easy to slip on and will provide quality protection while still letting you show off your phone’s design.

You can get the Liquid Crystal for $12.99 or add a funky print or some sparkles for just $14.99.

See at Amazon

SUPCASE Unicorn Beetle Series case

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The Unicorn Beetle case is one of those phone cases that people buy with every new device. It’s got that classic rugged design with ridges to help with grip and it includes a built-in screen protector to keep your S9 in pristine condition.

Port plugs keep dust and pocket lint out of your charging port and headphone jack, and it also comes with an optional belt-clip holster. Rugged enough to keep your phone protected and yet thin enough to work with wireless charging, get your Unicorn Beetle Series case for just $19.99.

See at Amazon

dbrand Skins

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Dbrand Skins are a consistently popular option for phone enthusiasts who want to customize the look of their phone without adding any bulk. They of course offer an awesome level of customization for creating a skin for your Galaxy S9.

You can pick between nine different texture styles for the back, the minimal bezels on the top and bottom of the display, and even around the camera sensor! You can mix and match and create your dream skin. Didn’t get the phone color you wanted? Make it your own with dbrand!

See at dbrand

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+

  • Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+
  • Galaxy S9 and S9+: Everything you need to know!
  • Complete Galaxy S9 and S9+ specs
  • Galaxy S9 vs. iPhone X: Metal and glass sandwiches
  • Galaxy S9 vs. Google Pixel 2: Which should you buy?
  • Join our Galaxy S9 forums

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2
Mar

ESA hasn’t received an invite to discuss video games with Trump


Yesterday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders claimed that President Trump was planning to meet with “members of the video game industry” to discuss violence in video games and how it might play into the spat of school violence that has plagued the country for years now. But it seems Sanders may have gotten ahead of herself — the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), which represents the US video game industry, released a statement last night saying that neither it nor non of its members received an invitation to talk with the president.

Here’s the full statement:

ESA and our member companies have not received an invitation to meet with President Trump.

The same video games played in the US are played worldwide; however, the level of gun violence is exponentially higher in the US than in other countries. Numerous authorities have examined the scientific record and found there is no link between media content and real-life violence.

The US video game industry has a long history of partnering with parents and more than 20 years of rating video games through the Entertainment Software Rating Board. We take great steps to provide tools to help players and parents make informed entertainment decisions.

Members of the ESA include Nintendo, Sony’s PlayStation division, Microsoft, EA, Activision, Take Two and a number of other companies.

In a briefing this morning, Sanders said that invites went out on Thursday, so it’s possible that they just haven’t reached the right people yet. We’ve asked the ESA to update us if and when it or the companies the group represents receive invitations to the White House.

Sanders gaggled this morning with reporters. Said invites to WH/video game meeting went out Thursday.
“In terms of the details, we’re still finalizing what that’s going to look like.”

(FWIW, video game folks last night said they were not aware of any invites.)

— Tony Romm (@TonyRomm) March 2, 2018

2
Mar

‘Far Cry 5’ is deeper than you think


Far Cry 5 is the most socially relevant game in the series yet. This is the first time Ubisoft has brought the open world franchise to America — specifically, to the wilderness of Montana. But it’s more than just another free for all shooter. The game is really a statement on the increasing influence of violent religious extremism in the US, and the need for good people to take a stand against them. While we got a brief glimpse at the game’s partner mechanics at E3, we recently a had chance to play it for a few hours, and came away mostly impressed.

It puts you in the shoes of a rookie cop, who’s sent to arrest Joseph Seed, the head of a dangerous cult called The Project at Eden’s Gate. They’re heavily armed, fanatical about their devotion to their leader, also known as The Father, and are quickly taking over more territory. As you’d expect, your plans to arrest Seed quickly go off the rails. You end up becoming part of a resistance movement, whose goal is to take down the cult by going after Joseph Seed and the rest of his family.

“The thing that’s truly the genesis for [Far Cry 5] is just this feeling like we’re on the edge of something,” said Dan Hay, creative director for Far Cry 5, in an interview with Engadget. “There are moments in history where you can kind of look back and say, ‘Hey this is the moment where everything is changing.’ It feels like three years ago, we were heading into one of those. The game is about that. If you’re on the edge of something and it was that one time it was all going to go to shit, would you know it?”

Like every Far Cry game, you’ve got a huge world to explore, and you’re free to go about your objectives however you like. This time, though, there’s a “Resistance Meter,” which tracks your progress throughout the game’s several regions. You can build up the influence of the resistance by saving captured citizens, destroying Eden’s Gate structures, completing missions and liberating outposts from cultists.

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Ubisoft

You can also team up with allies throughout the game, each of which bring different skills to every fight. There’s even a dog named Boomer that can retrieve animals you hunt and attack enemies for you. (And yes, you can pet him on-demand.)

As is typical for a Far Cry title, the game looks gorgeous, with vast environments that capture Montana’s natural beauty. Thankfully, the developers at Ubisoft also made the gameplay more organic. Instead of climbing towers to find things to do, you actually have to seek out and talk to people. You can read into that what you will. Like the entire game, it seems like a metaphor for something all of America needs to do to move forward as a society.

During my playtime with the game, I got to explore the outdoor environment, and take down some stray enemies. With the help of an ally, I also cleared a huge cultist base. Doing so took several tries, but the beauty of Far Cry is that you’ve got multiple ways to solve every problem. For me, going stealthy with a bow and arrow was best.

Ubisoft also worked with Mia Donovan, an expert on cults and fringe groups, who helped add a layer of authenticity to Eden’s Gate. The game explores why seemingly normal people would be seduced by dangerous organizations, and at points you’ll get a first-hand look at how that process works.

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“I think games have come to a point now where it’s okay to explore certain topics,” Hay said. “We also understand that at first blush, people are going to look at the game and say you’re making a game about this …. And we say hold on, this [other topic] is what we’re actually doing. We take a global perspective about things.”

While Far Cry 5 is ultimately just a piece of pop culture entertainment, I’m fascinated by how much Ubisoft Montreal is leaning into such a socially relevant story. Of course, you could just play it like any other game in the series, but it’s hard to ignore the subtext. It’s a game about the resistance, fighting to save America.

2
Mar

The Rylo 360-degree video camera now works with Android


Rylo is one of a handful of 360-degree cameras that only requires an editing suite as big as your smartphone. Much like the cheaper Insta360 One and more expensive GoPro Fusion, Rylo’s companion mobile app lets you play editor and director. Users can set specific focal points or objects for the frame to follow within a 360-video after the fact, before sharing their masterpiece to Instagram or Facebook. With two 208-degree lenses, 4K video resolution and auto-stabilization tech, it’s a pretty neat little camera. Since launching last fall, though, it’s only worked with iPhones and iPads, but today, as promised, Android support has arrived.

It’s not quite that simple, though. While anyone can download the app, not every Android device is equipped to handle 360-degree video. But fret not, for Rylo has published a list of recommended devices with which the camera is fully compatible — pretty much just the latest Samsung Galaxys and Google Pixels. Also noted are a few handsets that are supported but can’t export 360-degree video, and a number of smartphones that simply don’t have the right hardware to play nice with Rylo. The list is relatively short, but you can assume if you have a newish top-tier device running Android 6.0 Marshmallow or later, it’s likely to be compatible.

Other than a different sync cable to get Rylo talking to your Android phone, you get the same camera and accessories in the box for the same $499 price. Now all an Android user needs is a life adventurous and exciting enough to justify the purchase.

2
Mar

Add a luxury Volvo to your list of monthly subscriptions


When Volvo introduced the smallest member of its SUV line, the XC40, it wasn’t the car that got all the attention. It was how the Swedish automaker planned on leasing it. With Care by Volvo, would-be XC40 drivers wouldn’t invest $35,200 to own the all-wheel-drive vehicle but rather pay a monthly subscription of $600 that includes insurance, routine maintenance, wear and tear, roadside assistance, and zero money down. So yeah, it’s a bit like a lease. But better.

“Better” has changed markets. The iPhone was like a Palm Treo or Blackberry smartphone but better. Netflix rented DVDs like Blockbuster but better. Laptops are just better desktop computers. What Volvo is doing is a better lease — and it has the potential to change how we look at car ownership.

Although we’re inching closer to a future in which autonomous cars are commonplace, the way we actually own cars hasn’t changed much. You either purchase a car or lease it. Care by Volvo adds a third option: a near frictionless subscription that includes pretty much everything but gas. When the $600-per-month payment is pitted against the cost of leasing other cars in the same price range, it actually makes financial sense for some.

Plus, it’s a flat rate. You pay $600 per month for 24 months for the Momentum version of the XC40 or $700 for the R-Design version with better wheels, stiffer suspension, more color options, active-bending lights and a few other upgrades.

As always, though, there are caveats. To qualify for Care by Volvo, you have to fit within certain insurance and credit parameters, as determined by Liberty Mutual. So if you have good credit but you have a few points on your driving record that put you outside what an underwriter finds acceptable, you’re out of luck. There’s no $650-per-month option for a bit higher insurance or to cover your bad credit. It’s all or nothing.

If you don’t qualify for Care by Volvo, the all-wheel-drive (AWD) car starts at $35,200 and you can purchase it as you normally would.

I asked about families and couples and how that affects the insurance and price of the car. A Volvo spokesperson said that if the drivers listed on the policy are all within Liberty Mutual’s acceptable range, the monthly cost of the car is the same as for a single driver.

If you are accepted, Volvo sweetens its subscription deal with the ability to upgrade (or downgrade) to another Volvo after 12 months. After 24 months with the same car, you can walk away at zero cost as long as you stay under 15,000 miles per year. After that, as with a regular lease, you’ll accrue a per-mile surcharge.

The XC40 packs many of the features found in the outstanding XC90 and XC60, except it has a more compact design intended for younger drivers (millennials), first-time Volvo buyers and folks who simply realize they don’t need all the space a larger SUV has to offer.

During a test drive in Austin, Texas, I found the XC40 to be a worthy addition to the XC line. Like the XC60 and XC90, its refined interior is one of the best in its class, with clean lines and controls placed exactly where you’d expect to find them. All told, it’s one of the easiest cars to master: You immediately know exactly where everything is.

The Sensus Connect infotainment system continues to be a favorite of mine. A 12.3-inch touchscreen is available in both the Momentum and R-Design versions of the vehicle I drove. The vertical layout with additional tabs makes for quick navigation while the plethora of options available at the top level of the three main screens means less time delving into submenus that could distract drivers from, well, driving.

Both versions of the XC40 are all-wheel drive and have a T5 turbo-charged four-cylinder engine with 248 horsepower and 258 foot-pounds of torque. A T4 front-wheel-drive version with 187 horsepower and 221 pounds of torque is expected in the United States this summer. (This car will not be available through the Care by Volvo program.) The T5 engine doesn’t get the pulse racing, but it does make dashing through the city and around corners at least somewhat entertaining. When the accelerator is floored, though, the engine makes a bit of a racket in the cabin.

The upcoming version of the XC40 with a smaller engine with front-wheel drive will be cheaper, starting at $33,200. Without driving it, I feel like saving $2,000 on the purchase price for a less capable vehicle seems like a mistake.

On the road, the XC40 suspension glides effortlessly on highway and city streets, showing off its luxury pedigree. Volvo also sent me down some rough back roads during my drive. The car performed admirably, mostly smoothing out ruts and potholes. Cornering is tight for a vehicle of its size with body roll kept to a minimum, making some of the more challenging corners during the drive a bit more spirited than expected.

While the XC40 is the smallest SUV in the Volvo lineup, it does offer some intriguing storage solutions. The center console is large enough for a small box of tissues with room to spare for a few phones. But just in front of it, the automaker has put a tiny trash bin with a self-closing lid. You know, for all those tissues. The driver’s seat has a pull-out drawer with enough room for a small iPad. Meanwhile, the speakers have been relocated from the doors to open up even more space. The compartment is wide enough for a dictionary. I stuck my laptop in there, and there was enough space such that on sharp turns, it actually moved back and forth.

The trunk also gets an upgrade with the floor doubling as a fold-up barrier that keeps packages from sliding around the storage area. It’s great for keeping your grocery bags from falling over and spilling their contents everywhere.

Combine these storage touches with a beautiful interior, striking design, a power train capable of making the commute at least somewhat exciting and suspension that reminds you that you’re riding in a luxury vehicle and it would be a mistake for anyone looking for a high-end compact to dismiss the XC40. All of that also makes it the perfect car for Volvo to introduce its Car by Volvo subscription service.

The crossover/SUV category continues to grow, and if you’re going to experiment with a new form of car ownership, this is the way to do it. The XC40 is at a price point that makes a subscription service financially viable for not only the automaker’s loyal customers but also folks new to the brand and the luxury market in general. Plus, some of these potential customers are used to a subscription model for other kinds of goods and services.

Beyond cars, the idea of ownership has changed dramatically over the past few decades. We’ve gone from owning CDs and MP3s to paying for monthly access to music via Spotify and Apple Music. DVDs and Blu-rays have given way to streaming services. We barely own our phones, with many of us swapping them out as soon as something shinier lands on the market.

With the speed of car-tech iteration accelerating almost as fast as our phones’, having a five-year-old vehicle will soon seem as ridiculous to some as having a five-year-old smartphone. The introduction of mass-produced, self-driving vehicles will only exacerbate the need for subscription-based vehicles. They’ll be too expensive to own outright.

Right now Volvo is pushing for a future in which ownership is fluid, and it seems to be resonating with people. According to the automaker, it’s already racked 20,000 global pre-sales for the XC40 through Care by Volvo. Ninety-one percent of those buyers are new to the Volvo brand. What’s more, the company’s upcoming V60 wagon will also be available via Car by Volvo, opening the door to bigger sales numbers.

Expect other automakers to keep an eye on Care by Volvo. Cadillac and Porsche already have subscriptions services for their top-of-the-line vehicles, but those start at $1,800 and don’t exactly speak to the average car buyer. The smartphone generation wants something without hassle that can be swapped fairly quickly; Care by Volvo offers that.

Volvo might not have the same luxury cachet of BMW and Mercedes, but if Care by Volvo takes off, expect that to change as people decide that swapping a car as often as a smartphone sounds like a better idea than the usual lease.

Source: Volvo

2
Mar

Trump’s Planned Tariffs on Imported Steel and Aluminum Would Likely Apply to Apple Products


U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday said he plans to impose tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on imported aluminum to protect domestic producers. Trump is expected to sign the formal order next week, and he promised that it will remain in effect for a “long period of time.”

The controversial plan would almost certainly apply to Apple products like iPhones, iPads, and Macs, which contain a significant amount of the metals. The latest 15-inch MacBook Pro contains 740 grams of aluminum, for example, while the iPhone X contains 58 grams of stainless steel for its frame.

The details of Trump’s plan aren’t fully clear yet, however, according to Bloomberg News. If the tariffs only apply to raw materials, for instance, then Apple would be largely unaffected since the majority of its devices are assembled in Asia and shipped to the United States as finished products.

If the duties do apply to finished products, analyst Gene Munster speculated Apple’s costs to make Macs and iPhones could rise as much as 0.2 percent, assuming the tax is a percentage of the steel and aluminum used in the devices.

Apple’s domestic manufacturing is limited to the Mac Pro, assembled in Austin, Texas. The high-end computer contains 3,660 grams of aluminum and steel imported from outside of the United States, making it subject to the proposed tariffs. However, the Mac Pro is only produced in limited quantities.

The biggest question is whether the impact on Apple’s profit margins would lead the company to raise the prices of Macs and iPhones, but given the company’s costs are only estimated see a marginal increase, it would seem unlikely.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Tag: Donald Trump
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2
Mar

Snapchat Reportedly Doubling Down on Spectacles With Two New Versions in the Works


In late 2016, Snapchat launched its first consumer product with the Spectacles, a pair of glasses that came equipped with a small camera that could record video clips from a first-person perspective and upload them to a Story on the iOS and Android Snapchat app. Although the company ultimately took a $40 million loss on the Spectacles, a new report from live news show Cheddar today claims that Snapchat is doubling down on the product and is working on two new versions of Spectacles.

Specifically, a second generation version of Spectacles is said to be coming as soon as this fall, and is “currently being manufactured,” according to people familiar with the company’s plans. This model will be water resistant, have bug fixes, performance improvements, and new color options, but otherwise won’t have any “dramatic changes.”

After that model debuts, Snapchat is planning “a more ambitious version” for 2019 that is described as featuring an all-new design, built-in GPS, two camera lenses, and more advanced camera technology within each lens to fuel “3D-like depth effects in videos.” While the first Spectacles ran for $130, the third generation pair could cost up to $300.

Notably, both versions could also feature augmented reality abilities and potentially compete with the “Apple Glasses,” if that product becomes reality.

Snap intends for future versions of Spectacles to incorporate AR capabilities, like integration with Snapchat’s virtual Bitmoji avatars and animated lenses. Nearly every major tech company, from Apple to Facebook, is working on similar AR eyewear.

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel has said publicly that selling hardware will be an important part of his business in roughly a decade. People familiar with his thinking said that he sees augmented reality, or the overlaying of virtual objects onto the physical world, as the next paradigm shift in personal computing.

In addition to the news of potential updates to Spectacles, Snapchat is also now rumored to be holding conversations with major glasses companies like Luxottica and Warby Parker. This could lead to Snapchat licensing out its Spectacles-based camera technology to other companies, so that users could buy more traditional looking glasses and still have access to frames that connect to their Snapchat.

Apple is rumored to be entering the smart glasses field, although the company’s product at this point in the rumor cycle is described as focusing mainly on augmented reality and not taking images or recording video. Still, the product is said to be in early experimental stages and could change as Apple tries to determine the “most compelling application.” In January, Apple representatives reportedly met with suppliers who make the type of parts required to power such AR “Apple Glasses,” which could launch by 2020.

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2
Mar

RED and Sharp team up on 8K monitor technology


Cinema camera company RED is working with Sharp on new 8K technology, according to Phil Holland, a cinematographer who works closely with RED. He has been testing an unreleased, prototype 70-inch 8K TV, and comparing it against a Sharp 4K model using 8K aerial footage he shot in LA. From seven feet away, “which is within the ideal viewing distance for a 70-inch screen based on THX’s numbers,” the difference is like “looking at a decent fine art print versus a really good one,” he said.

The footage is below, but you won’t be able to appreciate it in 8K unless you have a very fast computer (faster than mine) and a screen with 8K resolution. (WIth LG’s 5K monitor sold by Apple, you could at least appreciate the superiority of 8K over 4K, though.)

RED hasn’t confirmed the exact nature of the project with Sharp, or whether they’re actually working on a consumer 8K TV together. However, it makes a lot of sense for RED to be boosting 8K tech, as it sells the 8K Weapon camera with both Super 35 and Vista Vision sensors. It also plans to release cheaper 8K cameras in partnership with Foxconn, according to a rumor from Nikkei.

It’s pretty darn hard for filmmakers and post-production facilities to find, let alone buy, 8K televisions or monitors. Companies like Panasonic, Sony and LG have all flaunted 8K TVs, but none are coming to the US anytime soon. Sharp itself is now selling 70-inch 8K TVs in Asia, and will soon bring them to Europe, but has no plans to release them in the US anytime soon, as far as we know.

Holland told Engadget that the 8K prototype TV requires four HDMI cables, and that you need really good quality 8K footage to appreciate it. He notes that the 8K set can upscale 4K footage, but the difference between that and true 8K is “pretty clear.” He took closeup shots of both the 4K and 8K screens, with the latter appearing to have superior sharpness. The TV, he adds, is a “special project between RED and Sharp.”

There’s not even much 4K content yet, and most consumers still haven’t switched from HD, so 8K is far from going mainstream. You’ll likely see it in theaters well before it arrives to TVs, much like what happened with 4K. However, 8K is going to get a lot more attention in 2020 in Tokyo, because host broadcaster NHK plans to use the Olympics to showcase the new standard.

Source: Phil Holland (Facebook)

2
Mar

Toyota is forming a $2.8-billion company for self-driving research


Toyota’s autonomous vehicle dreams are too big to contain, so it’s establishing a new company to speed up its technology’s development. The automaker has teamed up with fellow Japanese entities Aisin Seiki Co., Ltd. and Denso Corporation to form the Toyota Research Institute-Advanced Development or TRI-AD. While they’re still figuring out how things will work in their joint venture, they have a clear goal in mind: to develop a “fully-integrated, production-quality software for automated driving.”

The partners will invest 300 billion yen or around $2.8 billion to achieve that goal and are already in the process of looking for the perfect location for their headquarters in Tokyo. Once that’s done, they plan to staff up the HQ with 1,000 employees, both newly hired and taken from their own personnel.

Dr. James Kuffner, the new company’s CEO, said in a statement:

“Building production-quality software is a critical success factor for Toyota’s automated driving program. This company’s mission is to accelerate software development in a more effective and disruptive way, by augmenting the Toyota Group’s capability through the hiring of world-class software engineers. We will recruit globally, and I am thrilled to lead this effort.”

The Toyota Research Institute (TRI) has been developing the automaker’s self-driving technology for quite some time and even debuted the level 3 version of its autonomous driving system at CES earlier this year. Level 3 means the system can already use sensors like LiDAR to monitor the environment, but a driver still has to sit behind the wheel and pay attention to the road. The joint venture will likely allow Toyota to go beyond that point and reach full automation much faster than it would on its own.

Source: Toyota

2
Mar

Dell XPS 13 review (2018): Still the best Windows laptop


There’s a reason we’ve heaped praise on Dell’s XPS notebooks over the past few years. They’ve always been gorgeous and capable machines, with near bezel-less screens that other computer makers quickly copied. Most importantly, they brought an air of refinement to the Windows laptop market — something you could previously only find from Apple. Dell’s latest XPS 13 continues that tradition of excellence, though there are some changes that might irk longtime fans of the lineup.

Hardware

As you’d expect, the XPS 13 still feels like a high-end machine, thanks to its sleek aluminum case and rock-solid build quality. This time around, Dell added a white interior to its rose-gold case to make it more fashionable. It might just be a taste issue, but many Engadget editors found the new styling to be a bit too cheap and garish for the XPS line.

The woven-glass-fiber palm rest feels comfortable, at least, and Dell claims it’s also stain-resistant. Unfortunately, its kryptonite is sunscreen and mustard, so definitely don’t bring it to a beach cookout. But, rest assured, you can still snag the XPS 13 with a silver case and black-carbon-fiber interior if you’d prefer to stick with the traditional style.

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Devindra Hardawar/AOL

This year’s XPS 13 comes in a slimmer and lighter package, weighing in at 2.7 pounds and measuring between 7.8 mm and 11.6 mm thick. In comparison, the previous XPS 13 was a bit heavier if you wanted a touchscreen, at 2.9 pounds. It’s light, but because the case looks so thin, it feels denser than you’d expect.

To make the newer case work, Dell had to drop USB-A ports and a full-size SD card slot. Instead, you’ve got three USB-C ports, two of which are compatible with Intel’s Thunderbolt 3 standard, as well as a micro-SD card slot. And yes, you can charge from any of the USB-C connections. Gamers will also appreciate the ability to hook up an external GPU to the Thunderbolt ports, something that wasn’t possible in previous models.

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Devindra Hardawar/AOL

And of course, there’s a gorgeous 13.3-inch screen available in 1080p or 4K at the high end. You can choose between standard and touchscreen options, and there’s HDR support, finally. That’ll let you see video that’s both brighter and darker than before. The “InfinityEdge” bezels are 23 percent thinner than before, according to Dell, though it’s not something I noticed at first. (Probably because they were already pretty slim to begin with.)

Another minor change: Dell moved the 720p webcam to the center instead of being off to the side. It’s still stuck at the bottom of the screen — which is a casualty of that InfinityEdge display — but at least it’s easier to align your face properly. There are also four far-field microphones in the XPS 13, which will make it easier for you to shout commands at Cortana, or clearly chat with friends over Skype.

Performance and battery life

Dell XPS 13 (2018, Core i7-8550U, Intel UHD 620) 6,438 4,918 E3,875 / P2,166 / X526 4,901 3.1 GB/s / 527 MB/s
Surface Book 2 (15-inch, 1.9Ghz – 4.2Ghz Core i7-8650U, 6GB NVIDIA GTX 1060) 6,195 4,882 E14,611 / P11,246 / X4,380 15,385 2.25 GB/s / 1.26 GB/s
Surface Book (2016, 2.6GHz Core i7-6600U, 2GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M) 5,452 4,041 E8,083 / P5,980 / X2,228 11,362 1.71 GB/s / 1.26 GB/s
Surface Pro (2017, Core i5, Intel HD 620) 5,731 4,475 E2,782 / P1,666 / X431 4,260 1.6 GB/s / 817 MB/s
Surface Laptop (Core i5, Intel HD 620) 5,075 4,279 E2,974 / P1,702 / X429 3,630 658 MB/s / 238 MB/s
ASUS ROG Zephyrus (2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ, NVIDIA GTX 1080) 6,030 7,137 E20,000 / P17,017 / X7,793 31,624 3.4 GB/s / 1.64 GB/s
Alienware 15 (2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ, NVIDIA GTX 1070) 6,847 7,100 E17,041 / P16,365 20,812 2.9 GB/s / 0.9 GB/s
Alienware 13 (2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ, NVIDIA GTX 1060) 4,692 4,583 E16,703 / P12,776 24,460 1.78 GB/s / 1.04 GB/s
Razer Blade Pro 2016 (2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ, NVIDIA GTX 1080) 6,884 6,995 E18,231 / P16,346 27,034 2.75 GB/s / 1.1 GB/s
ASUS ROG Strix GL502VS (2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ , NVIDIA GTX 1070) 5,132 6,757 E15,335 / P13,985 25,976 2.14 GB/s / 1.2 GB/s
HP Spectre x360 (2016, 2.7GHz Core i7-7500U, Intel HD 620) 5,515 4,354 E2,656 / P1,720 / X444 3,743 1.76 GB/s / 579 MB/s
Lenovo Yoga 910 (2.7GHz Core i7-7500U, 8GB, Intel HD 620) 5,822 4,108

E2,927 / P1,651 / X438

3,869 1.59 GB/s / 313 MB/s
Razer Blade (Fall 2016) (2.7GHz Intel Core-i7-7500U, Intel HD 620) 5,462 3,889 E3,022 / P1,768 4,008 1.05 GB/s / 281 MB/s
Razer Blade (Fall 2016) + Razer Core (2.7GHz Intel Core-i7-7500U, NVIDIA GTX 1080) 5,415 4,335 E11,513 / P11,490 16,763 1.05 GB/s / 281 MB/s
ASUS ZenBook 3 (2.7GHz Intel Core-i7-7500U, Intel HD 620) 5,448 3,911 E2,791 / P1,560 3,013 1.67 GB/s / 1.44 GB/s
Razer Blade Stealth (2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U, Intel HD 520) 5,131 3,445 E2,788 / P1,599 / X426 3,442 1.5 GB/s / 307 MB/s

There aren’t really any surprises with the XPS 13: It’s simply a solid and refined ultraportable. It’s plenty fast, thanks to Intel’s eighth-generation processors. It didn’t have any trouble keeping up with my daily workflow, which involves juggling dozens of browser tabs, Slack, Spotify, Evernote and a variety of other apps. Still, I was testing a model with an i7 CPU capable of reaching 4GHz with 8GB of RAM — the entry-level XPS 13s only have 4GB of memory and slower i5 chips.

I didn’t have a chance to hook up an external GPU to the XPS 13, but honestly, I never had much of a need to. I’ve never expected ultraportables like this to be capable gaming rigs. So far, Dell has only included integrated graphics in its 13-inch premium laptops. And while that’s gotten more capable over the years, it’s still never going to let you play high-end games. The larger XPS 15 offers dedicated graphics, but you’ll have to give up a bit of portability if you go that route. Of course, lugging around an external GPU box kinda cuts into the portability of the machine as well. But it still offers you a way to game seriously when you’re at home or at a LAN party.

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Devindra Hardawar/AOL

The 4K screen we tested was also impressive: It was bright, sharp and made everything pop. It even fared well in direct sunlight while I was wearing polarized sunglasses (something competitors like the Surface Laptop have trouble with). HDR is a welcome addition. While it’s far more essential in your home theater, it’s still to be able to enjoy Netflix to its fullest on the go.

Thankfully, Dell didn’t change the XPS 13’s input options much. The keyboard is still a joy to type on, thanks to its generous 1.3mm travel distance and overall responsiveness. It’s one of those keyboards where it feels like words just flow out of my fingers. The Precision touchpad is also as smooth and accurate, as we’ve come to expect.

Dell XPS 13 (2018) 9:50
Surface Book 2 15-inch 20:50
Surface Book with Performance Base (2016) 16:15
Surface Laptop 14:49
Surface Pro 13:40
ASUS ROG Zephyrus 1:50
Surface Book with Performance Base (2016) 16:15
Apple MacBook Pro 2016 (13-inch, no Touch Bar) 11:42
Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display (13-inch, 2015) 11:23
Apple MacBook Pro 2016 (15-inch) 11:00
HP Spectre x360 15t 10:17
Apple MacBook Pro 2016 (13-inch, Touch Bar) 9:55
ASUS ZenBook 3 9:45
Apple MacBook (2016) 8:45
Samsung Notebook 9 8:16
Alienware 13 7:32
HP Spectre 13 7:07
Razer Blade Stealth (Spring 2016) 5:48
Razer Blade Stealth (Fall 2016) 5:36
Dell XPS 15 (2016) 5:25 (7:40 with the mobile charger)
Alienware 15 4:31
Razer Blade Pro (2016) 3:48
ASUS ROG Strix GL502VS 3:03

In our battery test, it lasted 9 hours and 50 minutes, which is better than the XPS 2-in-1 and the Zenbook 3, but less than what we’ve seen from the Surface Laptop and other premium notebooks. The somewhat average performance can be chalked up to the 4K display, which takes more power to drive. The 1080p versions of the XPS 13 should get a few more hours worth of juice.

Pricing and the competition

The XPS 13 starts at $999 with an 8th gen Core i5 CPU, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. That’s decent, but we’d recommend bumping up to the $1,200 model at least, which has 8GB of RAM and a faster 256GB SSD. It’ll perform much better, and last longer without needing an upgrade, as well. Frankly, it’s about time PC makers started making 8GB of RAM standard. You might have been able to survive with 4GB a few years ago, but these days, Chrome alone could gobble that up quickly.

As for alternatives, Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1,300 with a seventh-gen chip, while the Surface Laptop starts at $800 (albeit with an underpowered processor). Just as we’ve seen for the past few years, the XPS 13 is a strong competitor both in terms of price and performance with other premium ultraportables.

Wrap-up

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Devindra Hardawar/AOL

Overall, the XPS 13 remains one of the best ultrabooks on the market. It’s fast, sturdy and sports a gorgeous screen. Dell didn’t make any big changes to the design, but then again, it didn’t really have to. When you’ve got something as good as the XPS 13 lineup, it’s better to stick with what works.

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