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4
Aug

Motiv Ring review – one fitness ring to rule them all?


After complaining about a lack of innovation in the fitness tracking space, I’ve had the opportunity to review two unique products in this space. The first was the PowerWatch X, which never ran out of battery but its features and performance were ultimately disappointing. Now comes the Motiv: a fitness tracker ring that is worn on a single finger, rather than a wrist, and which only just announced official Android support. Can this diminutive device fare better? Let’s find out in our full Motiv Ring review.

Best fitness trackers | Best smartwatches

Concept and features

The idea here is simple: being able to track your steps taken, your calories burned, and your sleep is great, but wearing a huge device on your wrist 24/7 that gets sweaty, catches on things, and moves around a lot is less great. Conventional fitness bands also prevent you from wearing another watch without looking very over-blinged. They don’t work with all outfits, and they can even be a potential hazard during certain sports such as rock climbing.

Motiv Ring features, Motiv Ring review

Something like the Motiv Ring offers a tantalizing solution. This band fits like a wedding ring, but despite its diminutive size, it packs an optical heart-rate monitor, three-axis accelerometer, Bluetooth, three-day battery, and LED. Its use of space is pretty impressive — these tiny components must be packed in there pretty tightly. It’s even water-resistant up to 50m. iOS users have been enjoying this freedom for a while now, but now it’s our turn, as Motiv now supports a host of Android devices (Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, S8, S8 Plus, S9, S9 Plus, Note 5, and Note 8, and Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL).

Let’s get into the actual performance and practicality.

Design and comfort

There’s not a huge amount to say in regards to the design. The whole point of wearing a ring as a fitness tracker is that it isn’t a big ostentatious watch. It was designed to be subtle. It’s just a plain ring, available in either slate grey or rose gold, both of which look pretty nice. It’s made from matte titanium, and it feels pretty solid without being weighty. The only noticeable design element is a very faint line, which also houses an LED (which is off most of the time).

Motiv Ring side profile, Motiv Ring review

I can see your halo

This LED shows you when the device is charging and when it is syncing. Syncing can be prompted manually on the device by rotating it three times, which is pretty cool (though it occasionally refused to work). I would personally quite enjoy wearing a gadgety, biohacker type ring with lots of LEDs and things, but I understand why this subtler approach is probably more versatile.

The Motiv Ring has been designed with subtlety in mind.

While the ring itself is quite plain, there are some nice design touches throughout the entire experience where Motiv shows a little style. The box has a crisp and premium feel to it. Likewise, the charger is pretty clever. You actually get two, along with a magnetic housing to clip one to your keyring. These insert into a PC or powered charger, and then magnetically charge the ring which balances on top. It’s not terribly intuitive, but after the app walks you through it, it’s a rather smart solution. It’s great that the charger is just as svelte as the ring itself.

Motiv Ring review charging, Motiv Ring review

Comfort is really one of the big selling points of the Motiv Ring, and it’s something that will make or break the experience. As long you get the right size, the Motiv ring is perfectly comfortable. When you order a ring, you’ll first be sent a sizing kit (unless you can borrow one off of a friend — something Motiv incentivizes with a $20 discount). This kit is also pretty smartly designed, and it creates a little anticipation while you wait for your ring to arrive. The ring sizes don’t use the conventional measurement system of jewelry (I’m sure there’s a good reason why not) and Motiv encourages you to wear the samples for a while before making a choice, seeing as your finger typically changes size throughout the day. I found that there was only one size I could possibly wear — the others either didn’t fit on my finger at all or left far too much space.

Motiv Ring jewelry comparison, Motiv Ring review

Because of that, I was a little worried. However, since receiving my ring I’ve had zero complaints. It’s been very comfortable for the most part, with only a few caveats.

Experience

So, what is the Motiv Ring actually like to wear on a daily basis? Is it really that much more convenient than a watch? Yes and no.

Motiv Ring fitness tracker comparison, Motiv Ring review

The Motiv Ring next to a more conventional tracker, the Miifit Band 3

On one hand, a ring is easier to forget. I’m far less conscious of wearing a fitness tracker with it, which is an admirable feat. Sleeping wearing a ring is considerably more comfortable, which is ideal for sleep tracking. Likewise, as I mentioned, wearing a ring means you won’t have problems with other items of clothing or jewelry. A bulky watch always feels in the way when I’m typing as I rest my wrists on the keyboard — this isn’t a problem with the Motiv Ring.

However, there are also some downsides here.

For one, wearing a ring is less than ideal when you’re hitting the gym. Lifting weights will cause the device to scratch pretty severely, blemishing the matte finish. After a single workout using a barbell, my Motiv was very noticeably scratched on the underside. To avoid that you’ll have to take it off, meaning you aren’t tracking anything and are more likely to lose or forget it.

Motiv Ring scratches and durability, Motiv Ring review

These scratches are from the very first use of the Motiv Ring during a weightlifting workout

It hurt to do that to it as part of the Motiv Ring review, too. I know this probably isn’t primarily what the device is intended for, but if you’re tracking your calorie burn throughout the day, then you should be able to wear it during workouts. If you’re trying to burn more calories and working out is one of the primary ways you intend to do that, you’re essentially forced to remove your tracker when you need it most — or live with it scratched up.

Even if you don’t mind the scratches, wearing a ring isn’t ideal during a heavy deadlift as it actually gets in the way. I also found it to be less than ideal when punching a bag. It’s not advisable to wear it climbing, either. Practically any activity where you’ll need gloves or use your hands a lot can cause problems or discomfort.

Wearing Motiv Ring while boxing, Motiv Ring review

Wearing the Motiv ring under boxing gloves is painful!

If you want to see something really gruesome, google “degloving” (it’s really gross, don’t say I didn’t warn you). This is why rings and weight-lifting do not make great bedfellows.

The Motiv Ring has a tendency to move around a lot and can’t be worn during all activities.

This won’t be a problem for those who primarily workout by running, playing tennis, skipping, or otherwise using their legs, but I know a lot more people who lift weights than run. This is a reality many manufacturers seem unwilling to accept.

Another slight issue is that the ring has a tendency to move around a lot by rotating. This isn’t a huge problem, except it means the heart-rate monitor will often move away from the fleshy underside of your finger where you should maintain contact. This could potentially influence its accuracy.

Then there’s the light bleed, which I noticed multiple times during the Motiv Ring review period. When the heart-rate monitor is flashing away during the night, you’ll be able to see the green light creeping around the corners. This is a minor gripe, but even light you aren’t consciously aware of can increase cortisol, decrease melatonin, and ultimately lead to less restorative sleep. Kind of the opposite of what you want from a health tracker!

Motiv Ring optical heartrate, Motiv Ring review

The Motiv Ring is also still something of a visual statement. If you’re not the sort of person who wears rings, it might take a while to get used to the look. If you wear a lot of rings, then you’ll need to consider how it’s going to look alongside your other jewelry.

Still, despite these shortcomings, a ring is still significantly less of an imposition than a watch when worn 24/7. It’s probably a little healthier as well.

Performance and tracking

The Motiv Ring could be the most comfortable device in the world, but it still needs to do what it says on the tin. So how does it fare in terms of its ability to track your performance?

First, its features are fairly bare bones. Don’t come into this expecting Fitbit or Garmin levels of data. Instead, you’ll get a number for your “active minutes,” which represents a combination of movement (mainly steps as far as I can tell) combined with a higher heart rate. Just walking isn’t enough; you need to cross a threshold in order for them to become “active steps.” You’ll be given an active minute target, too (set at 21 minutes for me).

Motiv Ring in gym, Motiv Ring review

On top of that, you also get basic sleep tracking, which tells you how long you’ve been out, but doesn’t provide any detail in terms of deep, light, or REM sleep, among other things.

What you do get is a resting heart rate, which is a good indicator of overall cardio fitness, and stress to a lesser degree.

All this is conveyed through the app, which is similarly minimalist, though still nicely designed and easy to use. The main screen shows your activity for that day, presented as a series of cards. These cards tell you the main data points that have been collected (specific walks with active minutes tallied, sleep, resting heart rate).

Your resting heart rate is a good indicator of overall cardio fitness.

Tapping on any of these cards shows a little more data. You can see trends for your sleep and average sleep time. Mine is currently seven hours and two minutes, which isn’t bad. Tap walk and you’ll be able to see the steps and distance.

The main page also shows you the number of steps you’ve taken, miles you’ve covered, and calories you’ve burned.

Motiv Ring App screens, Motiv Ring review

This is pretty much all you get.

To see previous days, simply swipe left. Unfortunately, there’s no way to see a calendar month and select a day that way.

For me, the data was fairly accurate, with a few exceptions. Sleep tracking might not be that detailed, but it has been very accurate when identifying the times I dozed off and woke up (not something you can always rely on, even with bigger trackers). Likewise, the number of steps seems to tally fairly accurately with other trackers I used. Finally, there’s the ability to add friends to a “Circle,” as well as the option to add custom workouts.

The fact the Motiv Ring can auto-detect anything is amazing given its tiny size.

Furthering my gripe regarding the lack of functionality in the gym though, my workouts there weren’t tracked in any way whatsoever, and there’s no way to manually begin a workout. That said, it accurately detected a quick run and provided a fairly accurate breakdown showing my distance covered and max heartrate. However, there’s no GPS and you don’t get more detailed stats like pace or cadence, so I wouldn’t rely on this as your sole method of tracking a serious workout. Still, it’s cool.

Running with the Motiv Ring and the app, Motiv Ring review

The ring should also be able to track a number of other activities. It couldn’t detect my boxing, but swimming (minus heart rate), sports, and more should be fair game. This is fairly basic, but the fact it can auto-detect anything at all is amazing given its tiny size. It means if you engage in a bit of impromptu activity, it generally won’t be missed.

I had some issues with the battery however. While writing this Motiv Ring review, I had the ring run out of power during the day on at least two occasions. One of those days I did 15,000 steps and two workouts, so that was quite a loss. Unfortunately, the ring itself doesn’t tell you when it’s running low. The app will tell you, but if you’re out for a walk or training this is easy to miss. It also takes its time charging, so it’s not easy to top up quickly if you’re caught short.

Motiv Ring battery charging, Motiv Ring review

There’s also a slight oversight in the step-tracking department. If you have a day of walking that isn’t vigorous enough to trigger an”‘active minute” then you don’t get the card. Without the card, you can’t get to the page showing the breakdown of your steps that day. You can see your total steps, but you can’t see when those steps were taken throughout the day.

You’re also not going to get any MyFitnessPal synergy here, which is an unfortunate omission, though there is Google Fit integration.

Closing comments

Despite some of my concerns, I’m a fan of the Motiv Ring. I think it’s a well-made device, a feat of engineering, and a great idea.

Motiv Ring review

Unfortunately, it also has a host of drawbacks. Wearing something this small comes with compromises, and the idea itself doesn’t inherently solve every issue present with traditional wrist-worn trackers.

As a result, I can’t recommend this device for everyone. The quantity and accuracy of the data is simply insufficient for true fitness enthusiasts. Whether or not the design solves serious issues for you will depend almost entirely on your lifestyle and how you use your tracker. This isn’t a great solution for weightlifters, so you’ll have to consider your individual workout habits before deciding if the Motiv Ring is a good fit.

Think of it as more of a cheerleader or motivator on your finger and less of a coach.

The Motiv Ring seems pretty ideal for someone who just wants a bit of extra motivation to walk more, sleep better, and engage in the occasional bit of exercise. You can just forget about it and look at your trends over time, without getting bogged down in an excess of data. It’s a useful “better than nothing” option if you’re unsure about wearing a whole watch but still want at least some tracking. I often give up on wrist-worn trackers for months at a time, so I could easily see myself using the device more consistently than those (especially considering how no fitness tracker is perfectly accurate anyway). In fact, I probably will keep it on for now. It is still very early days for the device, especially on Android. Future updates could add further functionality. At the very least, I hope to see support for a broader range of devices going forward.

Motiv Ring on table, Motiv Ring review

If you think of it as more of a cheerleader than a coach, you may find the Motiv Ring meets your expectations. The clue is in the name, I guess!

Will you pick up the Motiv Ring? Sound off in the comments below!

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4
Aug

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact review


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Research Center:

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact

Like station wagons and iPod repairmen, small phones are a dying breed today. Phone screens continue to get bigger and bigger, and the International Data Corporation reports that “phablets” will overtake regular smartphone shipments by 2019. Smartphone manufacturers often reserve special features for large-screen phones too — the Google Pixel 2 has a duller design compared to the Pixel 2 XL; the Samsung Galaxy S9 doesn’t come with a dual-lens system, unlike the S9 Plus; and HTC launched the U12 Plus without a regular-size U12 at all.

But Sony hasn’t given up. While the Xperia XZ2 Compact doesn’t have the same vibration system or sleek design language of the Xperia XZ2, its differences make it a better phone. In fact, it’s one of the best options if you’re looking for a small phone today. Here’s why.

Compact design and display

The highlight of this phone is in its name; it’s all about size. With a 5-inch screen, the XZ2 Compact will easily fit in every palm. The rear curves inwards at the sides, making it ergonomic and comfortable to hold, and there’s a nice weight to it that makes it feel like a solid, well-built phone. We especially love how little space the XZ2 Compact takes up in pant pockets.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The design isn’t as contemporary as the Compact’s bigger brother, the XZ2. The bezels on the front aren’t as svelte as most of the competition, but we’re happy with the varied color options, especially the Moss Green shown here. The rear doesn’t utilize glass, which means there’s no wireless charging, but the phone’s also a little more durable. It’s a simple look, with just a single-lens camera at the top, a fingerprint sensor below, and the Xperia logo at the bottom. There’s even an indicator for where the NFC antenna sits for services like Google Pay.

The fingerprint sensor is still a little too low, as it was on the XZ2, but it’s manageable thanks to the Compact’s smaller size, and quick to react.

We especially love how little space the XZ2 Compact takes up in pant pockets.

All the buttons are on the right edge, with a volume rocker up top, a power button in the middle, and a camera shutter button at the bottom. We’d have liked to see the power button a tad higher — it’s a little too centered for our grip — but adjusting the way we held the phone fixed this issue. Over on the bottom edge is a USB Type-C port for charging.

There are two front-facing speakers, and while the bass isn’t as punchy as we’d like, the audio gets plenty loud to hear even outdoors — handy if you want to watch a movie or YouTube video at the park. There’s no headphone jack, but Sony supports a wide-range of high-resolution audio formats, including AptX HD, ensuring your music sounds good over Bluetooth. There’s a USB Type-C to 3.5mm headphone jack converter in the box, too.

The 5-inch LCD screen is protected by Gorilla Glass 5, and it packs an 18:9 aspect ratio with 2,160 x 1,080 pixel resolution. It’s sharp, colorful, and gets bright enough to view outdoors on a sunny day. Blacks aren’t as dark as those you’d find on an OLED panel, but you won’t have any qualms about screen quality here.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact UI

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact UI

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact UI

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact UI

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact UI

We didn’t find ourselves using this phone to watch a lot of video content, at least compared to bigger phones, as the screen feels a little too cramped for it. The XZ2 Compact’s display does support HDR, though, so if you do spend some time on YouTube or Netflix, know that you’re getting excellent visuals. You’ll want to make sure the content you watch supports HDR — for example, Marvel’s Luke Cage season 2 looks great, though we kept the screen close to our face to make sure we could see everything.

The Xperia XZ2 Compact fits like a glove in the hand. All parts of the screen are easy to access, and if you increasingly find yourself turned off from large-screen phones, then Sony’s Compact should be on the top of your list.

Fast performance, dated-looking software

Like the Xperia XZ2, the Compact delivers incredibly speedy performance with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor and 4GB RAM. We didn’t run into any problems at all running graphics-intensive games like PUBG: Mobile and Alto’s Odyssey; the Compact was capable of handling everything we threw at it.

Here are a few benchmark results:

  • AnTuTu 3DBench: 244,847
  • Geekbench 4 CPU: 2,406 Single-core; 8,192 multi-core
  • 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme: 3,346 (Vulkan)

The Compact’s AnTuTu score is right below the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus, landing in the top ranks as one of our best performing phones based on benchmark tests. These tests aren’t necessarily a good measure of real-world performance, but it seems to ring true here. You won’t have any performance issues with the XZ2 Compact.

The phone comes with 64GB of internal storage, plus support MicroSD cards in case you need more space.

The rear 19-megapixel lens captures photos with good detail and great color accuracy.

The XZ2 Compact runs Android 8.0 Oreo, and you may be surprised to hear that our device is stuck on the February 1 security patch. There have been regular software updates rolling out consistently to XZ2 and XZ2 Compact units, including the July security patch and other bug fixes, but we’ve yet to see it on our phone. We spoke to a Sony customer service representative, and were told to simply wait for our unit to get the over-the-air update notification.

Otherwise, the software experience is average. There’s a good deal of bloatware, such as pre-installed Amazon apps that can’t be uninstalled, and a handful of Sony apps we never found particularly useful. One neat app is 3D Creator, which lets you create 3D models of anything with the phone’s camera — you can even send this 3D scan to a 3D printer — though this feature seems tailored for a niche audience.

Some parts of Sony’s Android skin look a tad dated, but it’s thankfully customizable, and it’s still simple to operate. We have seen a few apps force closing occasionally, but it never felt frustrating or disruptive to our day-to-day experience.

A more than capable camera

The camera on the XZ2 Compact doesn’t stand out from the strong competition. There’s no dual-camera system here — you’ll have to look at the newer XZ2 Premium for that — but that doesn’t mean the Compact can’t handle its own. The rear 19-megapixel lens captures photos with good detail and great color accuracy.


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Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Review | Sample Photos

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Review | Sample Photos

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Review | Sample Photos

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Review | Sample Photos

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Review | Sample Photos

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Review | Sample Photos

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Review | Sample Photos

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Review | Sample Photos

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Review | Sample Photos

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Review | Sample Photos

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Review | Sample Photos

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Review | Sample Photos

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Review | Sample Photos

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Review | Sample Photos

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Review | Sample Photos

We do have some gripes, such as how the camera app isn’t too fast. It takes a full two seconds or more to launch, and the camera shutter is a tad slow to react. Open a picture in the photo gallery and zoom in, and you’ll notice it always takes a few seconds to load.

The camera also takes some time to adjust the exposure in high-contrast scenarios. When there’s a bright sky and a dark foreground, the XZ2 Compact needs a few seconds to process the lighting, but sometimes HDR even feels like it’s non-existent.

The true-to-life colors in the XZ2’s 4K HDR video is astounding.

We’re quite satisfied with most of the photos the XZ2 Compact takes in low-light scenarios. Grain starts to creep in, but the camera still maintains good color accuracy, and detail is solid. Photos have a higher chance to look blurrier here, though, so you may need a few tries to get the right shot.

The bokeh mode, which adds a strong blur behind a subject, is hit or miss. We’ve found it sometimes likes to simply refuse to add a blur, but when it does, it has trouble detecting all the edges around a subject, specifically hair. It can work well — you just need to spend some time with it and get ready to make a few attempts.

Shooting video is one of the highlights on the XZ2 Compact. Sony said the Compact, along with the XZ2 and XZ2 Premium, are among the only phones that can capture 4K HDR content. This helps with bringing out more realistic colors in your videos, and manages contrast better. There is a warning that the camera will force close if the phone gets too warm, though your content will always save.

So how do videos look? The true-to-life colors are astounding, and the detail the camera captures looks good — but keep in mind you need a 4K HDR display to truly appreciate what you’ve captured. We’re not fans of the phone’s video stabilization, which can make the video look quite janky. We preferred shooting HDR in 1080p, rather than 4K. The camera app also does start to stutter a little if you record a little too long.

The other big video feature is super slow motion at 960 frames per second, which is captured in 1080p — a higher resolution than the super slow motion feature on the Galaxy S9. It’s a fun feature, but it really requires lots light to look good, and you need to be accurate when you press the slow-mo button to make sure you can capture the moment at the perfect time.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Compared To

land rover explore prd

Land Rover Explore

motorola moto e4 prod2

Motorola Moto E4

google pixel product

Google Pixel

fairphone 2 fairphone2 product image

Fairphone 2

lg v10

LG V10

htc one a9 press

HTC One A9

huawei p8 lite

Huawei P8 lite

motorola moto g 2015

Motorola Moto G (2015)

yotaphone 2

YotaPhone 2

mlais m9 press image

Mlais M9

zte blade s6 press image

ZTE Blade S6

Asus PadFone X

Asus PadFone X

Sprint Vital

Sony Xperia ZL

samsung galaxy s4 google

Samsung Galaxy S4

The 5-megapixel camera takes decent selfies, but it’s nothing to write home about. The screen lights up as a flash in dark environments, which is helpful.

The XZ2 Compact has a camera that takes great photos in almost all environments, though it doesn’t necessarily excel in one particular area.

Day-long battery

We’ve found the Xperia XZ2 Compact offers a full day of battery life, based on medium to heavy usage, due to its 2,870mAh battery capacity. Starting around 7:30 a.m. off the charger, with plenty of gaming, video and music streaming, and browsing social media, our device ended up with 32 percent around 5:30 p.m. This would often stretch to 15 percent by midnight or so, with minimal use at home.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Typically though, we arrived home around 6 p.m. with a little under 50 percent remaining — that’s with medium to light usage, using the phone mostly to browse the web and take some photos. On weekends, when we didn’t use our phone much, we found about 54 percent remaining by 9 p.m.

The Compact supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 technology, and it sure does charge up quickly. We plugged it in at 10:54 p.m. with 33 percent remaining, and it hit 90 percent by 11:50 p.m. Unlike the XZ2, the Compact does not support wireless charging.

Price, availability, and warranty information

The Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact initially cost $650 at launch, but you can grab it for $600 at Best Buy, Amazon, BuyDig, and Focus. It won’t work on Sprint, Boost Mobile, and Virgin Mobile, but it will be perfectly fine on Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile.

Sony offers a one-year limited warranty that protects the device from manufacturer defects.

Our Take

The perfectly sized Xperia XZ2 Compact will fit in any pocket, and it comes with excellent performance, a good camera, and day-long battery life.

Is there a better alternative?

Yes, the Google Pixel 2 is one of the closest phones in size that you’ll find to the Xperia XZ2 Compact. Its camera is better, though the Compact excels in performance thanks to its newer processor. The Galaxy S9 is another option that has similar performance and a great camera, though it’s a tad more expensive. You can check out our guide to the best small phones for more.

How long will it last?

The Xperia XZ2 Compact will likely last you a little more than three years. It will continue to receive software updates for the next two years, and its life will probably continue for a little while after. It’s protected by a Gorilla Glass 5 screen on the front, but you might still want to grab a case. Thankfully, it’s IP65/68 water-resistant, so it can handle a drop in the pool.

Should you buy it?

Yes. If you’re in the market for a small smartphone, this is one of your best choices right now.

4
Aug

Here’s what we’re reading, watching, playing, and listening to this week


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How we’re spending our leisure time.

Everyone has a bit of quiet downtime once in a while. Whether you’re sitting quietly at home or trying to relax on a plane or just giving your busy mind and hands a break, it’s important to relax.

A good way to do that is to read a book, listen to some music or watch a movie or show. See what’s caught our attention for the week of August 4th.

Ara Wagoner

Boruto: Naruto Next Generations started back in the spring of 2017, but this summer brought us the first big payoff from the sequel series — as well as one of the most well-paced boss battles I’ve seen in years. Episode 65 — titled Father and Child — is a battle from start to finish, with brief cooldowns and rallies every couple of minutes as the fight shifts between the 5 Kages, Naruto and Sasuke, the Kages again, and Boruto stepping in to defend his father and help win the day.

This fight is a turning point for the show and its titular characters; Naruto sees who his son really is and how far he’s come as a shinobi, and Boruto finds his destiny, receiving the powerful-yet-mysterious Karma Seal from his defeated foe that will dominate the show’s next arc. It’s also an excellent time to jump on the Boruto bandwagon, as the simulcasted subtitled episodes enter a new arc and Viz prepares the first episodes for their English dub debut at the end of September on Toonami.

You can find Boruto — as well as Naruto and Shippuden — on Crunchyroll and Hulu.

Tom Westrick

the-flash-projector.jpg?itok=OYKe0gHq

I’m nearing the end of season eight of Cheers, and I’m taking a bit of a break from it right now. I’ve enjoyed it, but a break for another series is a good way to keep it from feeling like a chore. I’m taking that break by watching Season 4 of The Flash. I’m about halfway through the season, and other than being annoyed that the Speed Force is more and more the Plot Force, I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s cool to see Team Flash fight a villain who isn’t a speedster, and I’m curious to see just how they defeat the Thinker.

Essa Kidwell

It’s a good week for music for me. With the Dystopia Rising: PA game kicking off this weekend I’ve been on a writing overdrive. So between making sure there are plenty of Zombie stories to keep the larpers entertained for a whole weekend, and getting prepped for all the fun new things coming in August with gaming… I’m pretty stoked! So this calls for nothing less than some Postmodern Jukebox and a whole lot of relaxing. Perhaps naps as well. Shoot me a Tweet and tell me your favorite larp, Postmodern song or what game you’re most excited about!

The world may never know.

Quentyn Kennemer

Orange is the new Black is back! I actually didn’t even realize the new season was out until Netflix sent me a notification about it a day late. That’s OK. I’ve been bingeing it all the same. In case you haven’t seen it, OitnB (as it’s affectionately abbreviated) takes a look inside the lives of women stuck in prison.

The show strikes that nice balance between comedy, violence, and serious moments, and this latest season is the biggest yet. I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical in Jenji Kohan’s ability to drive a show home after the train wreck that was Weeds, but with a proper budget, creative control, and no fear that the show will be canceled in the blink of an eye, I will happily admit that she has shut me up.

Your turn

What are YOU reading, watching, or listening to this week? Let us know in the comments!

Update, August 4th, 2018: This is a bi-weekly series where we tell you what we’re into, so check back every other weekend!

4
Aug

YouTube Music review: A mixtape full of promise


youtube-music-playback-bluedio-kylie-pix

Guess who’s back, back again. YouTube Music’s back. Tell a friend.

AC
Score
4


From the latest official music videos to bootlegged, out-of-print albums to concerts and cover videos, you can find just about any song you want to hear on YouTube, which hosts the biggest video library in the world and quite possibly the biggest music library, too. It’s no surprise that YouTube would seek to capitalize on that massive library to try and better market itself to music lovers, but the new YouTube Music — much like its 2015 predecessor — has had a few missteps in its first months.

But YouTube Music is in this for the long haul, and while there are still some rough spots in the app and service to be worked out, YouTube Music can definitely rock you right now.

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Jump right in — YouTube already knows what you like

For most music services, when you sign up and start using it, you have to suffer through a setup process. You pick a few genres or artists that you like, and then the service will generate suggestions based on your choices. YouTube Music will let you tell it what artists you like if you want to, but honestly, if you already have a Google account — and thus a YouTube account — YouTube Music probably already knows what you like.

When you open YouTube Music for the first time, the only thing it’ll ask you off the bat — apart from if you want to subscribe to YouTube Music Premium — is if it can access your location. That’s it. No tedious onboarding, no patronizing walkthrough of how to play a song; just give it your permissions and it will take you straight to the Home feed.

The constantly shifting recommendation carousels on the Home feed are based on your location, history, and time of day. Some of these recommendations can be really useful — especially when you’re building up a traditional “library” — but some music video recommendations just aren’t as helpful.

If you’re looking to build up your library and you want to be scared by how well YouTube Music really knows you, start Your Mixtape.

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If you want to know just how dead-on YouTube Music knows you, this is the best way to tell.

Your Mixtape is an endless mix of songs and videos YouTube compiles based on your library and history, and for newer users, the feature usually appears after a couple of hours of listening and liking songs. My first time firing up Your Mixtape, I hit the thumbs down and next track buttons 5-6 times in the course of an hour. Two days in with the new YouTube Music, I wasn’t reaching for my phone to change the songs anymore, but to thumb songs up and add them to my library.

Almost three months in now, and Your Mixtape has become the default when I open YouTube Music. Not only does Your Mixtape learn your tastes faster than Spotify, it has way, way more music to serve up, thanks to a library that has just about every song you could ever search for.

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YouTube Music truly has everything: mainstream music, 500 kinds of covers, and more pirates than Disneyland

YouTube is one of the most-used sites on the internet, and as such, it is home to an ungodly amount of uploaded music. Some music has been uploaded by the legal owners and record labels, like Ariana Grande and Daughtry. Some music has been remixed 12 ways to Sunday or covered by an up-and-coming musician. And then there’s a lot of pirated music that was uploaded without copyright consent.

YouTube Music serves all of them up in the same app and in the same search results.

YouTube Music is great because it knows what I like, and has all the obscure stuff I go to YouTube for anyway.

To its credit, YouTube does the best it can to comply with international copyright and media laws. It has cooperated extensively with record labels in recent months and years to improve the legal music offerings on the platform, and continues to expand its official album/single offerings.

In YouTube Music, official albums and song have square album art instead of a landscape video thumbnail. This makes YouTube Music look and behave a little more like a traditional music player, and it also makes label-uploaded music easier to distinguish from the pirates and the posers as it sits in the Song and Album categories rather than the free-for-all that is Videos.

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The only safe, reliable place to look for this music is YouTube.

That said, there’s a vast, vast amount of music which either can’t be uploaded by the labels or has not been commercially released — unreleased demos, tracks stuck in a vault or lost when a label folded, soundtracks from the Disney Parks firework shows. It’s the kind of music that’s usually only available in some seedy fileshare site or in hard-to-find, hard-to-infiltrate swap groups.

This kind of music being included in YouTube Music is priceless. It allows normal users to try and patch the holes in YouTube’s library — much like the music locker on Google Play Music — and it allows users to mix that music they won’t find anywhere else with the latest songs from their favorite artists in one place and in one library.

Everything ties to YouTube, for better or worse

YouTube Music gives YouTube a pollution problem.

Speaking of one place, YouTube Music is fed by — and feeds back to — your YouTube account. Just as YouTube Music pulled on your YouTube history to attain its stunning recommendations, everything you listen to in YouTube Music goes onto that same YouTube history. Now, in back at launch, YouTube Music completely overtook many users watch histories and playlist library, but YouTube has segregated YouTube Music watch history and albums from the main YouTube app, just as non-music YouTube videos won’t show up in YouTube Music playlists and recommendations.

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Every playlist you make or save to library from YouTube’s recommendations is still added to your Playlists in the main YouTube app. For many users, this is good news, as it means that you can access your playlists and albums from either app or website, should you only have access to YouTube but not YouTube Music on a device. For others, this just means their playlists tab in YouTube got much more difficult to navigate. Artists you subscribe you in YouTube Music show up in the Subscriptions tab on the main YouTube app, too — for now, at least.

YouTube Music’s management team is working to make sure YouTube Music and YouTube compliment each other without polluting users’ experiences on the other app. It’s still a work-in-progress, but it’s far better than it was at launch already.

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YouTube Music (Key) Beta 2.0

Regardless of the hype around YouTube Music right now, the service is still very, very clearly unfinished. Not all albums are populating in search results properly, even when they’re in the system. Not all albums for an artist are appearing on their page, even if songs from those albums are appearing in their song lists. Downloaded music still streams if you play it outside the Downloads section — and downloaded music is completely deleted and redownloaded regularly. This can spell trouble for users on data-capped home internet and can strand users without music if it starts to re-download its music and then loses Wi-Fi.

Casting from YouTube Music is a bit of a roulette game right now. Your playback queue can change order (and even content) when it begins casting, and shuffle and repeat vanish from your playback controls while casting. Some of the casting quirks date back to the previous versions of YouTube Music, but they need fixing now more than ever.

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That said, almost every single UI change that comes with the new YouTube Music is an improvement. The options menu that pops up for songs is more robust — even if it has a tendency to scroll when to try to hit an option — and YouTube Music’s Last Played section of the Library tab is a godsend, especially when trying to start back up a station or playlist you stumbled upon days ago. Tapping a playlist opens it to view rather than autoplaying it, a welcome change.

Download controls are easier to find and use for albums and playlists, and the Downloads section is the first category in your Library so that you can switch to offline tunes quicker when you’re on the go. Offline mixtape is a delight: a playlist that regenerates and re-downloads itself every day based on Your mixtape and your daily listening.

Of course, Downloads are only available to YouTube Music Premium subscribers…

What is YouTube Music Premium and why do I want it?

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YouTube Music Premium has a short but highly important feature list:

  • Removes ads
  • Enables Background playback, allowing you to listen to music with the screen off
  • Enables Offline playback, allowing you to download music for listening on the go
  • Google Home integration allows you to play albums/stations/artists via Google Home and on Chromecast Audio. With a Free account, you can only cast to TVs

If you’re going to purchase YouTube Music Premium, stop right now and go get YouTube Premium instead. Why pay $10/month for premium in one app when you can pay $12/month for six apps’ premium experience?

Read more: YouTube Premium is Google’s bundle future — and its only great streaming deal

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Jump on this bandwagon, because it is going places

Many look at YouTube Music and wonder if it’s going to last. Listen to the app for one day and I can all but guarantee you’ll know that answer is ‘yes’. Even if YouTube Music’s recommendations weren’t uncannily accurate, even if its selection didn’t trounce any other music subscription on the market today, and even if it weren’t the streaming platform with a damn-near universal sharing option — a YouTube link — we know YouTube Music is a long-haul endeavor for Google.

4
out of 5


They’ve been building up the team and the contracts behind this for years, and Google intends to make it their only music service in a few short years. That’s right, Google Play Music — and its free, 50,000 song music locker — is going to be (eventually) migrated to YouTube Music.

Not only is YouTube Music going to have the best selection and the best algorithms, it’s going to have the best music locker service, too.

So does YouTube Music have some kinks to work out? Absolutely. Is it worth your time, attention, and your money? You bet your Bluetooth headphones, it is. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Disney parades to get carried away to.

See at YouTube

Updated August 2018: This review has been updated to reflect the summer’s progress with YouTube Music, including the rollout to 17 countries and library updates.

4
Aug

If A.I. doesn’t replace your job, it may make it much more pleasant


Getty

From The Matrix to Wargames and iRobot to Metropolis, movies and novels have threatened us with a revolution of AI and robots for decades, whether that’s through a violent uprising or just replacing us at our jobs. Today, those theoretical dystopian futures seem more realistic than ever.

With the growth of smart assistants and advanced machine learning, there is a growing concern that in the decades to come, there may be very little work for humans to do. But for just a moment, let’s set aside our apocalyptic tendencies and consider that working with AI could actually provide a better, more fulfilling workspace in the future.

A new industrial revolution

Humanity has gone through three distinctive industrial revolutions over the past few hundred years, from factory development, to mass production, and eventually computer digitization. Like the revolutions of the past, this one is about automation, but it’s very much a 21st century version.

As Jody Bailey, CTO at online tech-training company PluralSight explained to us though, the new industrial revolution we’re going through, is much broader and deeper than automation innovations of the past.

“There are so many flavors of [automation],” he told Digital Trends. “What I think we’re going to see in the future is that intelligence, whether it’s AI or knowledge, is going to become like electricity, where basically you just ‘plug in’ to it. If you think about the internet, it’s kind of like that already. If you think about augmenting people’s knowledge and think about your smartphone or Google, we no longer have those arguments about facts because someone just Google’s it. In the future I think we’re going to see more and more augmentation of knowledge for people.”

“Intelligence, whether it’s AI or knowledge, is going to become like electricity where basically you just ‘plug in’ to it.”

While the rise in fake news and filter bubbles might contend with Bailey’s somewhat rosy look at contemporary societies’ use of information online, his idea of making access to knowledge more intuitive in years to come seems likely to bear fruit. Today, search might be more curated to the user, but it’s faster and more accessible on a variety of devices than ever before. With augmented reality and ever evolving input technologies like voice commands, that seems like a trend that will continue in the years to come.

Bailey highlighted how such advancements have been taking place in some careers for years already. Take the responsibilities of an airline pilot, for example, which have changed drastically over the years. While he or she might have a broad range of knowledge and skills, they actually spend very little time in direct control of the aircraft, thanks to autopilot.

Jody Bailey, CTO at online tech-training company PluralSight

Drawing inspiration from science-fiction, Bailey thinks the most accurate look at the workplace of the future could be the one seen in Star Trek. Forgetting super-advanced technologies like teleportation and faster than light travel, he suggested that the way humans leverage AI to augment their own experiences, rather than replacing the human crew of Federation vessels, could be what the workplaces of tomorrow will look like. Intuitive voice command systems that let staff ask the ship’s computer to perform complex calculations is something that inspired Amazon in the creation of its Alexa hardware. In other words, we’ll work alongside AI, not be replaced by it.

So, what does that do to jobs?

Whether you’re a ‘Trek fan or not though, the important takeaway from automation, Bailey says, is that it won’t mean an end to jobs. Not all jobs at least. While some will be more impacted than others, for the most part, he sees the workplace of the future being augmented, rather than one run by robots and AI.

Citing an example in his own life of being walked through a house extension in virtual reality by an architect, he suggested that “it’s not replacing the drawings or the architect, it’s augmenting it.” The same would be true of most jobs, he said.

“If it doesn’t replace enough of the common issues then it’s not cost effective and turns out that people are cheaper.”

“Similar to how we created machines to dig trenches but we still need people to run the trench diggers and figure out where they’re going to go,” he told Digital Trends. “I think we’ll see augmentation in retail where maybe going into the store the people that work there understand what you’re interested in and can point you in the right direction. [They can] help you understand what does and doesn’t fit or maybe there’s a computer that provides an image of what it looks like on because you don’t want to try it on.”

While Bailey does admit that there may one day come a time where robots and artificial intelligence can do the majority of jobs, he doesn’t see that happening any time soon. In many ways, he sees it as a case of cost and efficiency. While there are certainly jobs that artificial intelligence can do better than humans, they can rarely do everything better than a human, and even in some of those cases, it may remain cheaper to hire a person instead for the foreseeable future.

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“Computers are really good at predictable [scenarios] and knowledge,” he said. “The things that we can’t predict or require intricate manual work that isn’t repetitive, there’s a cost with computers. That’s not scalable if it doesn’t replace enough of the common issues then it’s not cost effective and turns out that people are cheaper.”

But not everyone thinks like Bailey. There are entire sites devoted to calculating the chances of whether or not robots and automation will replace their jobs. According to sites like WillRobotsTakemyJob, food servers could be one of the first segments of society to be impacted by AI and automation. While that could mean just adjusting to augmentation more than most, it may mean contraction in the number of necessary employees in the long term.

On the other hand, the real-world application has supported a positive view of AI in the workplace. We’ve already seen it be implemented in certain restaurant locations, where robot assistants can flip burgers, or even craft them from scratch, but they work in tandem with human employees. Those people might not be doing the mundane task of burger flipping anymore, but they put a human face on the business, interact with customers, and continue to perform many of the necessary tasks that are still too complicated, or not cost efficient, for robots to take control of.

Targeted augmentation over generic automation

This industrial revolution could very well turn out to be be like the ones of the past. Instead of killing off human jobs, factory machinery meant people were employed in running and managing those machines, rather than performing the arduous jobs those machines could then do in their stead.

That could well be the same with smart assistants and AI. The long-haul driver may act more like a pilot and supervise their autonomous truck, rather than driving every moment of the journey themselves. They can still provide manual control for tricky situations that arise, and communicate with workers at either end of the journey, but they don’t have to do all of the tedious driving in between.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • From picking to pollinating, agribots are pushing farming into the future
  • 50,000 Las Vegas workers set to strike, demand protection from robots
  • ‘Can I book a table for Thursday?’ Google Duplex duped me, but I didn’t mind
  • Why learn to use gadgets when they can just learn to help us? Exactly, says LG
  • School shooters leave clues. Could A.I. spot the next one before it’s too late?



4
Aug

How to use Bookmarks in the Twitter app for Android


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Need to save a tweet for later? Here’s what to do!

Twitter is a fantastic (and often maddening) social network where you can find everything from 14/10 good boys to world leaders nonsensically screaming about who knows what.

For all of the ranting and arguing that takes place, however, there are a few gems that pop up here and there when scrolling about your timeline. You can like these posts and then go back to the Liked tab on your profile to revisit them, but if you’re like me, you tap that heart button on just about everything that peaks your interest in just the slightest way — making it difficult to find a specific tweet at a later date.

This past February, Twitter rolled out a new feature to its Android app called “Bookmarks.” With this, you can save especially great tweets to the Bookmarks section and then view them whenever — meaning you no longer have to rely on liking or retweeting things just so you can find them later on.

To use Bookmarks, here’s what you need to do.

  • How to add a tweet to Bookmarks
  • How to view your Bookmarks page

How to add a tweet to Bookmarks

Find the Tweet you want to add.
Tap the Share button next to the heart.

Tap Add Tweet to Bookmarks.

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How to view your Bookmarks page

Tap your profile icon at the top left.

Tap Bookmarks.

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You’re all set!

With that said, you’re ready to start using Bookmarks on Twitter like a pro!

Twitter: Everything you need to know

Have any additional questions or concerns? Drop a line in the comments below.

4
Aug

Google ‘inadvertently’ added a government helpline number to contact lists of all Android phones in India


Google apologizes for coding a government agency’s number into all Android phones in India.

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Over the course of this week, several Android users in India took to Twitter over the mysterious appearance of a government helpline number on their devices. The number in question is the toll-free helpline (1-800-300-1947) for the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the government agency that oversees the Aadhaar biometric identity program.

The agency’s number seemingly popped up on all Android phones in the country, irrespective of manufacturer or platform version. The initial blame was put on UIDAI, which isn’t having the easiest time of late after several security vulnerabilities were found in the way it handled the Aadhaar database. The Aadhaar initiative launched as a way to provide a 12-digit unique identifier that relies on biometric data (retinal and fingerprint scans), but in recent months the program was plagued by security leaks that exposed data of hundreds of millions of users.

For its part, UIDAI denied any involvement in the appearance of its number on contact lists of Android users all over the country, and said that the particular toll-free number wasn’t even in use anymore. I noticed the number on my contacts list a few years ago, but I assumed it was added by my carrier (Airtel) as it showed up at the same time as the numbers for Airtel’s value-added services.

That isn’t the case here, as Google admitted that it was the one that coded UIDAI’s helpline number as well as a distress number (112) to the Android setup wizard back in 2014, which was subsequently released to EOMs. As a result, all users that set up their Android devices in the country had those numbers automatically added to their contact lists.

Google didn’t go into detail as to why it added those numbers in the first place, only stating that it was done so “inadvertently.” In a statement, Google has apologized for the issue, and said that it will roll out an updated setup wizard to device makers in the country that doesn’t include these numbers.

We would like to assure everyone that this is not a situation of an unauthorised access of their Android devices. Users can manually delete the number from their devices.

We will work towards fixing this in an upcoming release of SetUp wizard which will be made available to OEMs over the next few weeks.

4
Aug

MrMobile goes hands-on with Motorola’s “5G” smartphone


Before yesterday, I did not care one lick about the coming 5G smartphone revolution. After all, 4G speeds were plenty for my needs – and more importantly, I’d been there for the early days of 4G. Not LTE, mind you, but Sprint-served WiMAX: the wireless world’s worst case of over-promising and under-delivering. The notion of going through that mess again seemed deeply unappealing.

That’s probably a big part of why Motorola flew a bunch of press out to the company headquarters in Chicago this week. The company that essentially invented the cellular phone just announced the first “5G-upgradable” smartphone thanks to the magic of Moto Mods, and it wanted to drum up some excitement. With lab tours showcasing RF testing and guests from Verizon and Qualcomm answering in-depth tech questions, it had the desired effect on this geeky YouTuber: I’m much more excited for 5G than ever before.

That’s not to say I’m totally sold, though. The Moto Z3 that serves as the platform for the 5G Moto Mod is one of the most forgettable phones of 2018; the Moto Mod itself is big and bulky and won’t launch for another few months; and the 5G network that powers all this buzzworthy stuff is still in the very early stages of rollout. Add in some lingering disappointment about the launch event not quite living up to the hype that Motorola initially whipped up, and you’ll understand why my tone toward the tail end of the above video leans more conservative than usual.

Click on through to that video to go hands-on with the Moto Z3 and the first 5G Moto Mod, make sure you take in Daniel Bader’s in-depth take here at AC – and be sure you’re subscribed to theMrMobile on YouTube so you don’t miss the true 5G smartphone test when the time comes!

Stay social, my friends

  • YouTube
  • The Web
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Snapchat
  • Instagram

4
Aug

Surface Go has one of the lowest manual repair scores on the planet


Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

If you purchase Microsoft’s new Surface Go thinking you will be able to manually repair the device if something happens, think again. The iFixit website, which thrives on tearing apart devices and scoring their reparability, gives the Surface Go an extremely low 1 out of 10 rating. Simply put, you’re not going to repair this device without going postal.

If you’re not familiar with the Surface Go, it’s Microsoft’s latest tablet/detachable with a starting price of $400. It sports a 10-inch PixelSense screen with a decent 1,800 x 1,200 resolution powered by an Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y processor, integrated graphics, up to 8GB of system memory, and Windows 10 in S Mode.

As for ports and networking, the Surface Go includes one USB-C port, a Micro SD card reader, a headphone jack, a Surface Connect port and a Surface Type Cover port. You also get a front-facing camera that supports facial recognition (Windows Hello), another 5MP front-facing camera and an 8MP rear-facing camera. Wireless connectivity includes Bluetooth 4.1 and Wireless AC.

Now imagine trying to tear into all that to fix a specific component. The device itself is only 0.33 inches thick and requires heat to loosen the adhesive around the screen to pull it off the main body. iFixit uses the $13 iOpener kit that includes a heating pad, suction cups, and various other tools to pry the screen off the main Surface enclosure.

“To our great surprise, the Surface Go has an immediately disconnectable battery!” the report states after the site fully removes the screen. “With no need to fully remove the motherboard, repairability is looking up. Or is it?”

If you were looking to extend the Surface Go’s life by replacing a faulty battery, two giant pads of adhesive will be a massive roadblock. They are apparently hard to remove even when using the site’s $20 adhesive remover kit and plastic cards. iFixit notes that the battery is rather small in regard to longevity at 26.12WHr versus the similarly sized 32.9WHr battery packed into the iPad 6.

Meanwhile, actually removing the motherboard requires pulling out “seemingly endless layers” of shields, tape, and hidden screws. But in order to get to the actual components, you still need to remove additional shielding and fabric stickers. Underneath the surface you will see the Pentium processor, two memory chips, Qualcomm’s Wireless AC / Bluetooth chip, and more.

Despite all the hardware crammed into the 0.33-inch thick enclosure, there are no fans or heat pipes to keep the chips cool. Instead, the Surface Go removes heat using a thin copper shield and thermal paste. It’s a radically different design than the thick copper “tentacles” used to dissipate heat in the latest Surface Pro.

The bottom line with this teardown is that if you encounter a hardware problem with the Surface Go, making repairs is no simple feat outside Microsoft’s own facilities. Repairs will likely be “unnecessarily expensive” unless you have lots of patience, tolerance for extremely small parts and possibly a few stiff drinks on hand to dull the mental pain.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Surface Go vs. Surface Pro
  • The Surface Go tablet unofficially leaks online
  • Microsoft’s Surface Mobile Mouse is the ideal companion for your Surface Go
  • Microsoft Surface Go review
  • Microsoft Surface Laptop review



4
Aug

The Best DJI Spark Accessories


While most of DJI’s drone lineup is aimed at more experienced pilots, the DJI Spark is aimed squarely at amateurs and first-time fliers. But what happens after you’ve gotten the hang of your Spark and want more? Don’t go shopping for a bigger and badder drone just yet.

A fairly vibrant third-party accessory and modification community has sprung up around the Spark, giving owners the capability to improve what’s already an outstanding drone. While there’s a ton of options, there are a few in particular that are especially useful. We think these ten accessories are a great starting point to get the most out of your DJI Spark.

Improve Your Photos and Videos

Let’s be honest: the Spark’s biggest limitation is its camera. While the 1080p camera is by no means a slouch and is of pretty high quality, you can only film at 30 frames per second, which results in video that might look choppy to the eye because of the lack of what’s called “motion blur.” To get that cinematic look, the Spark needs a little bit of help.

We recommend picking up PolarPro’s 6-Pack of Standard Series Filters. While a bit pricey at $100, if your main use for drones is photography, these certainly are a must. Think of them as sunglasses for your Spark: each level of filter will reduce your shutter speed more and more. You get two types of filters in this package, either polarized or non-polarized, and they easily fit on your camera’s gimbal and have no negative effect on its operation.

For truly serious drone photographers, you might also want to consider picking up PolarPro’s UV Filter too ($25). While it won’t reduce shutter speed, a UV filter will help eliminate haze from your photos and also protect your lens.

Improve Your Landing and Take Off

Not all of us will have perfect conditions in which to fly, so picking up accessories that make it easier to fly in less than optimal conditions is a good idea. One of our favorites is the PGYTech Landing Pad ($17). This pad can be placed on top of the ground and secured by three plastic pegs to land your drone safely when a flat, smooth surface isn’t available. Measuring in at four feet across, it’s also an accessory that can be used with much larger drones too.

Even if you plan to always land your drone on a flat surface, you might also want to consider PolarTech’s DJI Spark Landing Gear ($25). By lifting the drone about 3/4″ off the ground, this accessory keeps your camera and gimbal out of dust, dirt, and sand. Plus, if the unfortunate hard landing occurs, these things will absorb the shock and lessen the possibility of damage to your drone.

Improve Your Flying

Are you still flying your Spark using only your phone? That’s unfortunate! What you really need to invest your money in is DJI’s Spark Controller ($119). While pricey, you’ll increase your flight range up to 1.2 miles thanks to its much better Wi-Fi. You’ll also gain the capability to use faster speeds in Sport mode — up to 31 miles per hour!

Once you have the controller though, to really do it right we recommend grabbing an old tablet and picking up PGYTech’s Tablet Holder ($25). The base fits into the phone holder of the Spark Controller (it’s also compatible with the Mavic Controller, too), and the adjustable clamp can hold tablets as big as the standard iPad. We typically fly with a tablet rather than a phone, and believe us: the experience is so much better.

Improve Your Safety

Drone flying is generally pretty safe as long as you’re careful about it. But accidents do happen, and many of these accidents occur as a result of the drone’s fast-moving blades. We suggest protecting yourself by purchasing DJI’s Propeller Guards ($19). Easy to attach, these protect both the drone and its surroundings — if for some reason it comes in contact with a person or object.

For even more protection, check out PGYTech’s Spark Hand Guards ($8). If you like to use the Spark’s palm landing feature, we think this is an inexpensive way to protect your fingers and palm during landing and takeoff, and is a definite must have.

Improve Your Experience

This last set of accessories is aimed at enhancing your overall flight experience. While they’re by no means cheap, for the truly drone-addicted, they’re pretty awesome. The first is DJI’s Goggles ($349), which truly change the way you’ll fly your Spark. You’ll be able to control the position of your Spark’s camera by merely turning your head. They’ve also got great battery life of six hours on a single charge, and intelligent flight modes and a touchpad to access key features make this well worth the high ticket price.

Finally, how are you going to carry all these brand new accessories in? We really like OnePlus’ Travel Backpack ($69). This bag has a hefty 20-liter capacity, with a special padded compartment big enough to hold and protect a 15″ laptop. By the way, there’s 11 other pockets on this sucker as well, so for the OCD types among us, you’ll be able to keep everything nice, orderly, and separate — and even have a room for a change of clothes.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • DJI Spark review
  • DJI Mavic Air review
  • The best drones of 2018
  • DJI partners up with Microsoft to give drones A.I. superpowers
  • The best drones under $500



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