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28
Sep

Honeywell Lyric T5 Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET


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Honeywell’s new Lyric T5 thermostat is scheduled to hit stores in October.

Honeywell

Honeywell has been in the thermostat game since the introduction of its T-86 Round model in 1953.

Today, the heating and cooling giant sells dozens of thermostats, ranging from very affordable to the $199 Lyric — a Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat with geofencing capabilities that also works with the Apple HomeKit and Amazon Alexa platforms.

Honeywell’s $149 Lyric T5, announced today, is the brand’s next iteration of the smart thermostat.

How to install the Honeywell Lyric Thermostat

Follow these simple steps to setup your Honeywell Lyric thermostat.

by Megan Wollerton

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Similar to the round Honeywell Lyric thermostat, which will continue to retail for $199, the Lyric T5 will supposedly work with both HomeKit and Alexa when it officially launches in October. That means you should be able to say things like, “Siri/Alexa, set Away temperature to 68,” “Siri/Alexa, lower Living Room by 3 degrees,” “Siri/Alexa, set the temperature to 72 degrees.”

Here are some additional features of the Honeywell Lyric T5:

  • New design: The T5 has a glossy black finish, a gray trim and is “touch-sensitive,” according to Honeywell
  • Related app: The Lyric T5 will be accessible via the Lyric app for Android and iPhone
  • Geofencing: Use the app to set custom Home and Away distances so your phone can make the changes automatically
  • Auto changeover: Program the T5 to decide for you if your thermostat should be set to heat or air conditioning
  • Smart response: The T5 is supposed to learn your routines and set the heat or A/C to the exact temperature you want
  • Smart alerts: You can opt in to alerts based on needing to change a filter and extreme temperatures

All of the above features sound pretty standard for smart thermostats today. The Nest Learning Thermostat and the Ecobee3 Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat also track your whereabouts to keep your house at the right temperature 24-7. They also integrate with broader smart-home platforms; specifically, both Nest and Ecobee3 work with Amazon’s Alexa and the Ecobee3 is HomeKit-enabled.

At the same time, the Nest and the Ecobee3 cost $249. Given that the Honeywell Lyric T5 seems to offer similar features for 100 bucks less, the T5 is poised to compete well against its smart thermostat competition. We plan to test it out for ourselves as soon as we can.

More thermostat coverage:
  • Same great Nest thermostat, now with even better looks
  • This round thermostat has a few rough edges
  • Ecobee’s smart thermostat closes in on Nest
  • Thermostat buying guide
  • These smart thermostats steal the heating and cooling spotlight
  • How to find a great thermostat for just 30 bucks

Honeywell’s $149 Lyric T5 Wi-Fi Thermostat will be available for sale in the United States starting in October. The team will also release a new version of the Lyric app next month, as well as the Lyric T6 Pro Wi-Fi Thermostat, a model exclusive to HVAC contractors.

28
Sep

Wink Hub 2 Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET


download.png Wink

Hubs aren’t dead yet. Wink — the brand initially launched as an app for GE + Quirky products — unveiled the second edition of its hub today. With a slimmer design and a faster processor, the Wink Hub 2 also has more memory and locally stored automations for quicker smart home reactions.

Available starting in late October at Home Depot, Walmart, Amazon and on Wink’s site, the Wink Hub 2 will sell for $100 (£75 or AU$130 converted). If you’d rather, you can still buy the original Wink Hub for $70 (or about £120 in the UK), and I’m glad to hear the company isn’t phasing it out.

Second-gen home hubs don’t have a good track record. The Lowe’s Iris smart home system ran into glitches — and angry customers — when it pushed everyone from its first-gen system to its second. Wink will let customers make the transition when they’re ready, though the updated app that coincides with the new hub will have a tool to help you make the shift if you’re already invested in the Wink system.

The second SmartThings hub also disappointed with its confusing app and performance issues. With its primary competitors faltering, Wink could seize control of the hub market if its second hub avoids similar issues — if there’s any hub market remaining. The idea of controlling a smart home from a single platform is still enticing, but Apple, Google and Amazon are all making plays to do just that without a hub.

Still, the Wink Hub 2 is checking the right boxes. It includes antennas to respond to just about any smart home device.

Features

  • Wi-Fi radio that supports 2.4 and 5GHz networks
  • Ethernet port
  • Bluetooth Low Energy radio
  • Thread radio
  • Support for Kidde
  • Support for Lutron Clear Connect
  • Z-Wave antenna
  • Zigbee antenna

The Hub will also store schedules and product-to-product triggers you create on its hard drive, which will hopefully make your smart home more responsive. We’ll see if that’s enough to help Wink stand with tech giants like Google, Amazon and Apple as the race for smart home control heats up.

28
Sep

DJI Mavic Pro Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET


The DJI Mavic Pro may be the first prosumer camera drone with true mass appeal.

While there have been several kinder, gentler quadcopters this year — from the large PowerVision PowerEgg to the compact Yuneec Breeze — the Mavic Pro is really the only one to combine high performance in an ultracompact body. Add in DJI’s full assortment of safety and ease-of-use features and you’ve got a drone that anyone can take anywhere.

Despite the small size, you’ll get nearly the same or better performance as from the company’s top-of-the-line Phantom 4. The new OcuSync encrypted transmission system, for example, gives you control up to 4.3 miles (7 km) away with 1080p live streaming to Facebook Live, Periscope and YouTube through the DJI Go app. The Phantom 4 has a max range of 3.1 miles (5 km) and streams at 720p.

dji-drone-05.jpg Sarah Tew/CNET

Like the drone itself, the controller is very small, but still has a monochrome screen to give you important flight data. Want to see what you’re shooting? You can connect a phone and mount it just below the control sticks. Also, DJI added a switch to change from RC to a Wi-Fi mode, so you can quickly launch and control the Mavic with only your phone at distances up to 80 meters (262 feet) with a top speed of 4 meters per second (13 feet per second).

For the camera, DJI stripped away what it could of the body and the lens is smaller — a field of view of 78.8 degrees compared with the Phantom 4’s 94 degrees — but it has the same 1/2.3-inch size sensor. It can record 4K-resolution video at 30 frames per second or 1080p at up to 96fps and 12-megapixel photos in JPEG or Adobe raw. And it’s stabilized with the smallest three-axis gimbal DJI’s ever made.

You’ll be able to control the camera with buttons on the controller or with the mobile app. DJI plans to have full HD first-person-view goggles, too, that will give you a 85-degree view from the camera. You’ll be able to control camera tilt by looking up and down and turn your head to rotate the drone.

DJI Mavic Pro means never having to leave…
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DJI managed to not only retain the Phantom 4’s obstacle avoidance and intelligent flight capabilities, but updated them for the Mavic Pro. It can sense objects in front of it up to 49 feet (15 m) away while traveling at up to 22 mph (36 kph), while optical sensors on its belly help it fly indoors and keep it from hitting the ground even on a slope. In fact, a new Terrain Follow mode will keep it at the same height even if you head up a steep slope.

ActiveTrack, DJI’s name for its subject-tracking mode, can be used for people, animals and vehicles and will now allow the drone to follow from behind, in front or along side a subject as well as circle one. Selfie fans will appreciate the new Gesture mode, which lets you use hand motions to get the camera to focus on you and snap a photo.

The drone has a top regular speed of 24 mph (38.5 kph), but has a Sport mode which will let you take it up to 40 mph (64.8 kph). There’s a Tripod mode, too, that takes your top speed down to 2.2 mph (3.6 kph) so it’s easier to get the drone into just the right position for photos and video.

If all of that’s not enough, the Mavic Pro has a new Precision Landing system that uses the video and GPS information captured at takeoff to guide it back to land within an inch of where you launched from. So when you’ve reached the end of its 27-minute flight time, it will return right to you.

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The DJI Mavic Pro will start shipping October 15 priced at $999 (about AU$1,300 and £750) with the controller or $749 by itself. You can pick it up in Apple Stores in early November. You’ll be able to tack on DJI Care Refresh for $99, which gives you accidental damage insurance for aircraft, gimbal or camera during normal use for up to 12 months, and for an additional charge will get you up to two full replacements if you total it.

When it comes to consumer drones, in my experience, smaller is better. Take a big quad like the Yuneec Typhoon H out to a public park and you’ll get more looks and questions than you do with a Parrot Bebop. The Mavic Pro seems to be the perfect solution: a quad that’s as portable and easy to fly as a Bebop, but with the performance and image quality of a larger model.

28
Sep

Kenmore 81383 Dryer review – CNET


The Good The Kenmore 81383 dryer has plenty of special cycles and steam modes. The appliance’s controls are also straightforward and easy to operate. The dryer offers satisfying cycle speed, and you can stack it vertically or place it on a pedestal accessory.

The Bad While practical, the Kenmore 81383 dryer’s design is generic and unexciting. Instead of using a dedicated water line, you must fill the dryer’s water reservoir by hand. The Kenmore 81383’s 7.4-cubic-foot capacity is small compared with the drum size of other dryers.

The Bottom Line With its solid performance and extensive features, you won’t be disappointed by the capable Kenmore 81383 dryer, but this machine’s boring exterior won’t thrill anyone.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

The $1,050 Kenmore 81383 clothes dryer doesn’t flaunt a snazzy design or metal and glass like the $1,000 LG DLEY 1701V. It also lacks both the drying speed and the large capacity of its bigger sibling, the $1,100 Kenmore 69133 dryer. Still, this appliance does have some appeal, specifically to the logically minded who shop with their heads instead of their hearts.

What the Kenmore 81383 offers is a practical mix of useful features and satisfactory performance for its price. You can also purchase upgrades for this model which allow its owners to either place it on a pedestal or stack it vertically with companion washers. Of course, these add ons are common among front-load style laundry appliances and can’t entirely mitigate the Kenmore 81383’s forgettable exterior.

Kenmore’s 81383 dryer is practical, not packed…
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Design and features

With its subdued gray color scheme, which Kenmore calls “Metallic Silver”, and a generic profile, this dryer is by no means flashy. Indeed you could easily mistake it for one of countless other front-loading units on the market. It’s certainly no head-turner like the LG DLEY 1701V, which sports a design that’s simply beautiful.

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This Kenmore dryer’s generic design could be found on any number of machines.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Measuring 39 inches tall and 27 inches wide by 30 inches deep, the Kenmore 81383 is more compact than other dryers I’ve recently taken for a spin. Of course those appliances, such as the Electrolux EFME617S Perfect Steam (8 cubic feet), Kenmore 69133 (8.8 cu. ft.), and Kenmore Elite 81072 (9 cu. ft.) all have roomier drums and spacious capacity to match. They make the 7.4-cubic-foot capacity you’ll find on the Kenmore 81383 feel cramped by comparison.

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The Kenmore 81383 dryer places its controls front and center.

Chris Monroe/CNET

As a machine built to pair well with front-load style washers such as its companion, the Kenmore 41393 washing machine, the Kenmore 81383’s controls sit on its front face. Contained in a panel right above the drum, all the dryer’s buttons and keys are large and within easy reach. I also appreciate the big knob that turns without much effort and clicks softly into place when you select a dryer cycle.

Designed to handle different garment and fabric types, the dryer provides many cycles to choose from as well. Ten in all, they range from “Delicates” and “Casual” to “Heavy Duty” and “Bulky/Comforter,” just to name a few. The appliance is also equipped with steam modes to refresh, dewrinkle and even sanitize items. Instead of using a dedicated water line, however, the dryer relies on a small reservoir you must fill by hand periodically.

28
Sep

Acer Predator G1 review – CNET


The Good The Acer Predator G1 is a speedy, reasonably priced gaming desktop with a fun sense of design and an optional custom briefcase for on-the-go gaming.

The Bad Performance is slower than other similarly equipped gaming desktops; limited ports; requires two bulky external power bricks, and you’ve got to really like the sci-fi tank tread design.

The Bottom Line The Acer Predator G1 isn’t the fastest or even smallest VR-ready desktop, but it’s powerful enough for new games and VR headsets, and has a sense of fun missing from other gaming PCs.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

The compact Acer Predator G1 desktop isn’t the fastest or most powerful system in our roundup of gaming PCs with Nvidia’s new GeForce 1080 graphics cards. It’s also not the smallest, nor is it the least expensive or easiest to upgrade. But in testing and using it alongside many of its bigger and more powerful competitors, I found it had a better sense of — for lack of a technical term — fun. It’s a gaming desktop that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that’s a rare thing. Plus, it plays new 2D and VR games just fine, and is reasonably priced, making it easier to overlook any performance and design issues.

This is a newer, smaller version of the massive Predator G6 desktop we reviewed earlier in 2016. But that system was a floor-hogging monster that looked like a sci-fi movie prop, with its tank tread design and overblown online marketing copy which promised to “crush 4K gaming…and power-up for galactic domination.” While the Predator G6 was a very capable VR-ready desktop, and decently priced one, it was also too big and goofy to fit into most homes or apartments, especially if you have to consider the spousal approval factor for new hardware.

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The Predator G1 is similarly high-end, but boils the same armored-space-tank design into a more manageable form, about 14 inches tall and 5 inches wide. It’s still somewhat silly-looking, but less in-your-face than the larger G6 version.

At this point, certain features feel like a wink and a nod to the excessive design. There are not one, but two separate pull-out headphone holders — basically reinforced sticks that extend from the left and right sides of the system — and the front panel breathes and surges with glowing lights, framing a vertical optical drive that slides open from the center of panel.

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Note the headphone holders deployed from either side.

Sarah Tew/CNET

My generous interpretation was that this was a miniaturized tongue-in-cheek take on the stereotypical gaming PC look and feel. I showed the Predator G1 to my game-playing spouse (70-plus hours in Fallout 4), hoping she’d find it as kitschy and charming as I did. But alas, she said it was hideous and banned it from the living room media center.

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How do I know there’s a certain sly charm to the Predator G1? If you buy the special-edition bundle, which is what we have here, it comes with a custom rolling suitcase, designed specifically to fit the G1 and its accessories. It’s an aluminum case with the same armored/ribbed design as the desktop itself, but with a pullout handle and wheels, like an ordinary suitcase you’d see at the airport. Inside are custom foam cutouts for the desktop, its external power supply, and its keyboard and mouse. It’s hilarious, but also kind of awesome.

That bundle, which also includes a copy of the recent Ubisoft game The Division, is $2,299, and that also gets you an Intel Core i7-6700 CPU, 32GB of RAM, a single Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card and a 512GB SSD/2TB HDD storage combo. Acer says the suitcase alone is worth $265 (a stretch, but it’s not too shabby), so that’s a pretty good deal, and close to our VR-ready sweet spot of $2,000.

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As is often the case, the available configurations in other regions differ. Lower-spec versions of the G1 are for sale in the UK starting at £1,499 and in Australia starting at AU$2,299. Neither includes the suitcase. Sorry.

27
Sep

Snapchat Spectacles Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET


What would it take to get you to wear something on your face?

Smartglasses — or any sort of aggressive head-wearable eye tech — is still the final frontier for tech. Google Glass died as an awkward joke. Most smartglasses look like the sort of oddball things a normal person wouldn’t wear for more than a few seconds.

Enter Spectacles. Can camera-glasses become a thing at last?

Spectacles will arrive this fall, a surprise announcement by Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel alongside the launch of Snap, Inc. Snapchat is a popular social media app, but Snap, Inc. is positioned as a “camera company,” and Spectacles are its first product. They’re priced affordably. They have a camera inside. They record video. They look pretty bizarre. Or maybe they look fun. What do you think?

Can they redefine the concept of smart glasses? Here’s what we know so far from limited information on Snap’s Spectacles page, and a feature published in The Wall Street Journal. (We don’t have a pair…yet.)

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Going for big and bold.

Spectacles.com

They’re sunglasses with a connected camera inside. Spectacles can record 10-second video clips that upload to Snapchat via an iPhone or Android phone paired through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Place them in the included case to recharge, AirPods-style.

Wearable camera-glasses aren’t new, but Spectacles are aiming to be the best. Companies like Pivothead made them years ago. Google Glass did something slightly similar (it could record video clips and photos, among other things). So understand that having a camera on your face has been a thing for a couple of years now, at least. But Spectacles are trying to look fun, and like something you’re wearing in public on purpose.

They’re bright and weird-creepy versus stealthy-creepy. Spectacles seem to have bright, Elton John-esque designs, and there’s a very prominent circular ring of LEDs that light up when video is being shot. That’s a different approach than Pivothead, which made black sunglasses that looked nearly normal, hiding the camera in the bridge of the glasses.

They’re priced like a novelty. Evan Spiegel calls them a “toy,” and at $130 they’re in that spontaneous-purchase novelty zone where Amazon Echo and Fitbit lurk (and the more expensive Apple Watch most certainly does not). Many pairs of sunglasses already cost that much. Maybe you buy one for a weekend at Coachella or Burning Man. Maybe you just do it because you want to try something new.

They shoot circular video that can be viewed in landscape and portrait. The 115-degree wide-angle camera captures video in a circle…so, if you view this video in the Snapchat app, you can look at it in horizontally, or vertically…or, by continuing to spin your phone around in any orientation. The video seems to be reframed as needed, meaning you might want to keep repositioning your phone for certain videos.

The camera built into Snapchat's "Spectacles" lets you shoot video that shows the world from your point of view.The camera built into Snapchat's "Spectacles" lets you shoot video that shows the world from your point of view.

They light up when recording, just so everyone else knows what you’re doing.

Spectacles.com

It only records 10 seconds of video at a time. Like quick-snaps for video, and much like what Snapchat already does. This isn’t a record-your-kid’s-whole-birthday-party set of camera glasses, unless you keep snapping 10 seconds at a time. To snap, you tap (the frames).

These won’t make everyone look like hamburger-cat-people (maybe). Snapchat’s insane set of filters that map onto photos or videos with uncanny precision are amazing…but these Spectacle glasses don’t do anything like augmented reality. They don’t have video displays. These are just camera glasses. However, there’s a possibility that videos recorded via Spectacles could have filters applied afterward in the Snapchat app. No details have emerged regarding this.

It looks like they’re designed to sync into one app: Snapchat. Welcome to the world of connected wearable app-cessories. Spectacles look like a one-purpose type of gadget that syncs into one app (as far as we currently know). But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Snap nailed a great app first (Snapchat) and then is releasing a product second. And anyway, most great connected products tend to work this way.

They’re selfie-challenged. These are outward-facing camera-glasses, not inward. They’re glasses for snapping others, and capturing action shots. In a selfie world, maybe that seems weird. But when it comes to mounted action cameras like GoPro, it’s pretty standard.

They seem to be going after GoPro more than augmented-reality smartglasses. Again, they’re glasses with an embedded camera, not any sort of deeper set of “smartglasses.” And that’s probably a great idea, because they’re going to be a lot less complicated. And now that everything in the world is being instantaneously livestreamed, Spectacles could be a simple type of hands-free way of snapping stuff on the go. Or, yes, while doing crazy things.

They’re either a dumb promotional stunt, a bold stab at the future of cameras, or both. And we may or may not be in the world where wearing video-capturing glasses is finally acceptable. But we are definitely in a place where everyone already shares everything from their phones. I still think Spectacles seem more like party favors than permanent lifestyle decisions, but if people end up wearing them and not being mocked, Snap might have a victory for wearable face-tech.

27
Sep

BeatsX Earphones Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET


The funky wireless AirPods got all the attention when Apple unveiled it alongside the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus on September 7, but it was only part of the company’s new headphones lineup. It also showcased three new wireless headphones from its Beats brand: the PowerBeats Wireless 3, the Solo3 Wireless and the BeatsX.

But only the BeatsX ($150, £130, AU$200) is a truly new headphone and the first one designed with the help of Apple’s design and engineering teams. (The PowerBeats Wireless 3 and Solo3 Wireless just updated the previous models in their respective lines with a new wireless chip.) You probably won’t see it in stores until November, but I got an early listen, and was impressed with both the fit and sound of Beats’ first neckband-style headphone.

The band itself, which Beats calls a Flex-Form cable, has two wires running through it that are made of nickel titanium alloy or nitinol, which was developed by the US Navy in the late 1950s and is very malleable, durable and lightweight. The key to it here is that it gives the band just enough rigidity and allows you to roll up the headphone so it fits it in an included compact carrying case. You can’t do that with an LG Tone headset.

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The headphones charge via a Lightning port and come with a Lightning cable.

David Carnoy/CNET

The magnetized buds adhere to each, so you can pin them together when they’re not in your ears and wear them like a pendant. The lightweight buds come with a few sizes of eartips and I got a tight seal with the medium tip (I usually take a large) and overall they fit my ears well. The buds house 8 mm drivers and after my short listing session, my initial impression was that the BeatsX sounded pretty natural for a Bluetooth headphone, with good detail and strong bass that wasn’t overpowering — an issue that plagued many an early Beats product.

Like Apple’s AirPods, the BeatsX also incorporates Apple’s new custom low-power Bluetooth chip, the W1, which allows for automatic pairing with Apple devices updated with the latest versions of its operating systems (iOS 10, MacOS Sierra and WatchOS 3). To pair, you just hold the BeatsX near your iPhone. That should also automatically pair the headphone to your Apple Watch, iPad and Mac — anything registered to you on your iCloud account.

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The headphones come in black or white and roll up to fit in a compact carry case.

David Carnoy/CNET

BeatsX also works with other Bluetooth devices, but you have to pair it the old-fashioned way, which is still pretty simple.

The headphone delivers up to 8 hours battery life, which is decent for this type of headphone, though not exceptionally good. On top of that, if you give the headphone a quick 5-minute charge via its Lightning port — yes, I said Lightning, not USB — you get 2 hours of usage. Beats calls this quick-charge feature Fast Fuel.

You also get a couple sets of wingtips to get a more secure fit if you’re going running or doing something else athletic with the headphone. The X is sweat-resistant, has an integrated microphone and Beats has redesigned the RemoteTalk button to make it more tactile and responsive.

Close up with the wireless BeatsX Earphones
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At $150, this headphone isn’t cheap, but it is the least expensive wireless headphone from Beats and costs slightly less than Apple’s AirPods, sounds better and delivers longer battery life. I’ve tried near-final versions of both headphones and the BeatsX has more bass and richer sound. Which set of earphones proves superior as a headset for making calls remains to be seen, however.

I’ll have a full review of the BeatsX Earphones as soon as I get a final review sample. But if you’re looking for this style of headphone that you can wear around all day, the BeatsX is definitely worth checking out. Although it doesn’t offer 12 hours of battery life like the new $200 Powerbeats3 Wireless, it may be the better choice for those people who can’t get the right fit from the Powerbeats.

Aside from Beats’ own products, the BeatsX has plenty of competition in this category. Bose’s highly rated SoundSport Wireless costs $150, £140 or AU$249 and its upcoming QuietControl 30, which features both wireless active noise-canceling, arrives in the US in October for $300 (£230 or AU$400 converted). And there’s the plethora of lower cost neckband-style headphones, including LG’s popular Tone headphones, the Jabra Halo Smart and Skullcandy Ink’d Wireless.

26
Sep

Stigo L1e Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET


The electric-powered Stigo may look like a bicycle, but take a closer look and you’ll see that it’s a foldable electric scooter. No need to balance upright — just perch on the saddle and coast along the pavement.

Despite its bulky appearance, this Estonian-built scooter is surprisingly light at 13.5 kg (or about 30 lbs), the weight of most foldable bicycles. Powered by a 250-watt motor, it easily hits a top speed of around 25 kph (15.5 mph). It comes in two variants, with a range of either 25 or 40 km (15.5 or 25 miles).

Stigo L1e e-scooter will take you places
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While testing the 25 km model, I was only able to clock around 20 km before I began to worry about running out of juice. That could have been because I was zooming at maximum speed for most of my journey.

A second trip of about 8 km at a slower pace left me with about 70 percent battery remaining, which made more sense. I tested the local distributor’s demo unit, so it’s possible the battery charge was already worn down by previous test drivers here in Singapore.

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The folded Stigo is so compact that you won’t need to feel guilty when you haul it onto your bus or train.

Aloysius Low/CNET

The Stigo rides more like a bicycle than a standing e-scooter. It’s easy to learn, but the front handle bars are a bit too low and aggressive. I would have preferred them to be set higher for a more comfortable ride, but I soon got used to the position. The throttle control is smooth — unlike some other e-scooters, you don’t go from barely any power to a full-speed charge with just a tiny twist of the throttle.

Key features

  • Top speed: 25 kmph (15.5 mph)
  • Range: 25 km (15.5 miles) or 40 km (25 miles)
  • Weight: 13.5kg (around 30 lbs)
  • Folds up for easy storage

Folding and unfolding the Stigo is ridiculously easy. It takes about two seconds to lock the front wheel into position and pull up the seat. Packing the scooter away is simple too, making this one of the quickest folding designs I’ve encountered. When folded, the Stigo is easy to roll around, thanks to two small trolley wheels at the base of the now-standing e-scooter. And you don’t need to worry about someone stealing it, as the vehicle is useless without the smart key you use to turn it on.

All in all, the Stigo makes for a fun ride, but only if you have the dough for it. It costs 1,700 euros, which converts to approximately $1,900, £1,450 and AU$2,500 respectively, or you can pay S$2,000 here in Singapore. There’s no distributor yet in the US or Australia, but Stigo will deliver to the UK.

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You’ll need to tap to unlock to use the Stigo.

Aloysius Low/CNET

26
Sep

Sony Xperia X Compact review


While we have seen a lot of “mini” iterations of popular flagship smartphones, these devices tend to fall in the mid-range category. Sony is the lone holdout in this regard, with their Compact devices only shrinking in size, while retaining the specifications and features of their flagship counterparts, which is the case with one of Sony’s latest offerings, the Xperia X Compact.

  • Sony Xperia X Performance review
  • Sony Xperia X Compact Hands on
  • Why Sony deserves some credit – but not too much
  • Sony Xperia XZ hands on review

Is there still a market for such compact smartphones, and what does this device have to offer? We find out, in this comprehensive Sony Xperia X Compact review!

Buy the Sony Xperia X Compact now

Design

While the Xperia X Compact is technically a smaller version of the Xperia X that was announced back at MWC this year, it borrows its design language from the flagship Xperia XZ that was launched alongside it at IFA 2016. However, it doesn’t feature the premium build quality of its high-end counterpart, with the Xperia X Compact being made entirely of plastic.

The X Compact may not offer the same feel as other Sony devices that offer metal and glass builds, but the phone is surprisingly sturdy. It comes with a very glossy finish, that gives it a ceramic look that is really nice, but does make for a huge fingerprint magnet. The top and bottom of the phone are completely flat, which means that the device can stand on its own, and there are frosted matching color inserts that flow well with the rest of the design.

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The X Compact also features what Sony is calling a “loop” design, which is essentially a fancy way of explaining the tapers along the sides the make the transition from glass to plastic seamless, and makes the phone more comfortable to hold. Despite some aesthetic changes, the signature rectangular shape that Sony is known for is still seen here.

The best part about the Sony Xperia X Compact is how easy it is to use with one hand, which is obviously the point of a mini smartphone. With so many large display phones out there, it is quite refreshing to use a device that is this compact, with a screen that you can reach across very easily and without any hand gymnastics.

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Taking a look around the device, the headphone jack and USB Type C port are at the top and bottom respectively, on the left side is the slot for the SIM card and microSD card, and on the right are the power button, volume rocker, and a dedicated camera button. The physical camera shortcut key is extremely convenient, with it not only providing a quick and easy way to launch the camera, but also because it works as a shutter button.

However, having all these buttons on one side can make it feel a touch cluttered, and the volume rocker sits too far down to make it comfortable to reach with your thumb. The position of the volume keys do make sense when using them to adjust the digital zoom of the camera, but is not in the optimal position for controlling the volume, which is its primary purpose.

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The Xperia X Compact also comes with a fingerprint sensor that is embedded into the power button, but for reasons unknown, this isn’t available with the US version of the device, which is certainly an extremely odd choice. Unlike its flagship counterparts and previous Compact smartphones from Sony, the X Compact doesn’t come with dust and water resistance, which is another surprising omission, and could be a deal breaker for some.

Display

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The Xperia X Compact comes with a 4.6-inch IPS LCD display with 720p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 319 ppi. 720p may not be particularly impressive in the current scheme of things, but is certainly more than enough with a display of this size. The display is plenty sharp, and there have been no issues with reading text.

The display is pretty good, offering nice color reproduction and saturation, and good viewing angles. The screen also gets surprisingly bright, allowing for a comfortable viewing experience even in direct sunlight. Typing on the small screen isn’t much of an issue, but the media consumption experience isn’t going to be as good, not because of the quality of the display, but because of its size. It’s something that will take some getting used to, but is certainly not a deal breaker by any means.

Performance

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Under the hood, the Xperia X Compact retains the same processing package as its larger namesake, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 650 processor, backed by the Adreno 510 GPU and 3 GB of RAM. Even though it doesn’t feature top of the line specifications, performance hasn’t been an issue with the X Compact.

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Everything has been fast and responsive, and the device can even handle high-end games without struggling. Granted, the load times may be a little longer, but once a game loads, it runs very smoothly, with rarely any dropped frames to be seen. Overall, the performance has been quite impressive, and goes beyond what you would expect from a mid-range processor like the Snapdragon 650.

Hardware

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As far as storage goes, 32 GB is your only option, but expandable storage via microSD card allows you to add up to 256GB additional storage, which should take care of all your needs.

Above and below the display are two thin slits that house the dual front-facing stereo speakers. The overall volume is on the quieter side when compared to other front-facing setups, but the quality of the sound is actually quite good, with clean, clear sound, with no distortion.

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However, you will have a far better audio experience when plugging in a pair of headphones. The Xperia X Compact has built in support for Hi-Res Audio like FLAC, ALAC, DSD, and LPCM, but if you don’t have audio in these formats already, the device can also upscale any compressed audio files to give it a Hi-Res sound.

The Xperia X Compact comes with a 2,700 mAh battery, which allows for surprisingly good battery life, helped along by the relatively lower resolution display that it has to power. The battery comfortably provides a full day of use, and even with heavy usage that involved a lot of gaming and watching videos on Youtube, I rarely had to charge the device in the middle of the day.

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The device comes with Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 support, and given the capacity of the battery, it doesn’t take long to get back to a full charge at all. However, one thing to remember is that Sony doesn’t include a QC 3.0 charger in the box, so you will have to pick up a third-party one to take advantage of the phone’s fast charging capabilities.

Camera

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Sony is also making a big deal about the camera of the Xperia X Compact. The front 5 MP shooter is a fairly standard wide angle lens camera, and gets the job done when it comes to taking selfies. On the back is a 23 MP camera, which is the same sensor that is found with Sony’s higher-end offerings like the Xperia XZ.

To improve the camera, Sony has added a new laser auto focus system to help with sensing distance and taking better shots in low light situations, and there is also a new color sensor to help you get much better white balance. The real kicker here is that the X Compact has 5 axis image stabilization for both the front and rear cameras when recording video, but there is no physical hardware inside to make this stabilization happen, with all the stabilization being software based.

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Before you get too excited though, the 5 axis stabilization is utilized only when recording “macro” shots, so unless you see the word macro pop up in the corner of the viewfinder, you only get 3 axis stabilization, which does work well to keep the footage stable and without any warping or distortion. It is somewhat strange that Sony hyped a feature that is used only in limited situations, since macro video isn’t something a lot of people typically use their smartphones to record.

The camera application offers what we’ve come to expect from Sony devices, and it doesn’t look like it has changed significantly over the years. You can swipe up or down on the viewfinder to switch between various modes, that include Superior Auto, manual, and video recording, along with the slew of camera effects that Sony always adds. It isn’t the most intuitive camera app, and HDR still only works when using the manual mode, but the overall camera shooting experience is fairly straightforward.

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It is easy to quickly launch the camera and take a shot using the dedicated camera shutter button, and the image quality is well above average. Images are extremely sharp and well detailed, and while there is a good amount of color and saturation to be had, shots do look more natural when compared to the oversaturated photos that are taken with some other smartphones.

The camera also has a predictive hybrid auto focus feature that can continuously track moving objects and capture them without motion blur. As long as the object isn’t moving ridiculously fast, this feature does work really well. In low light conditions, there is still a fair amount of detail to be had, and images generally tend to be noise free. However, the shutter speed can be really slow in such lighting situations, so very steady hands will be required to avoid blurry photos.

Software

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On the software side of things, the Xperia X Compact is running Android 6.0 Marshmallow with Sony’s custom skin on top. Calling it a custom skin is certainly a stretch however, considering how many stock Android elements are to be found throughout the user interface.

Sony has really scaled back on their own customizations, and has even gone as far as to add the Google Now homescreen to this launcher, which really makes the experience feel closer to stock. That said, it does come with a lot of bloatware, including pre-installed Sony apps and a few third-party ones, but all of these can be disabled and moved out of the way.

Overall, Sony has done a fantastic job with keeping the software experience clean and simple, which is also a contributing factor to the smooth performance that is available with the Xperia X Compact.

Specifications

Display 4.6” HD Triluminos IPS LCD
Processor Hexa-core, 64-bit Snapdragon 650 (2 x 1.8 GHZ, 4 x 1.2 GHz)
RAM 3 GB
Storage 32 GB + microSD
Dimensions 129 x 65 x 9.5 mm
Weight 135g
IP rating No
Main camera 23 MP, predictive hybrid auto-focus, triple image sensing technology, 5-axis stabilization
Front camera 5 MP
Battery 2,700 mAh, Quick Charge 3.0, Qnovo Adaptive Charging, USB Type-C
Fingerprint sensor Yes
Networks GSM GPRS/EDGE (2G), UMTS HSPA+ (3G), Cat. 6 LTE
Connectivity A-GNSS (GPS + GLONASS), Wi-Fi Miracast, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC

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Pricing and final thoughts

So there you have it for this in-depth look at the Sony Xperia X Compact! The unlocked version of the Xperia X compact is available in the US for $500, which is really steep for what is basically a mid-range smartphone, and its price point puts this phone in a rather awkward position.

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There are a lot of other options out there, like the Nexus 6P, that arguably offers a lot more value despite being a year old, for the same price or less, and if you are looking for something more current, great choices include the OnePlus 3, the ZTE Axon 7, or the Honor 8.

  • Sony Xperia X Performance review
  • Sony Xperia X Compact Hands on
  • Why Sony deserves some credit – but not too much
  • Sony Xperia XZ hands on review

The Xperia X Compact is a great phone, and if you choose to buy one, you certainly won’t be disappointed. However, without a fingerprint sensor (with the US version), or features like dust and water resistance, the $500 price tag is hard to accept, just for the convenience that its size offers. If you are looking for the best value for money, this phone isn’t the one to get, but if you just want a compact phone that doesn’t compromise a whole lot, that’s when you might find this device to be worth every penny.

Buy the Sony Xperia X Compact now

26
Sep

PlayStation 4 Slim review: Wait for the PS4 Pro if you can


After selling over 40 million consoles, Sony is refreshing the PlayStation 4. That starts with the PlayStation 4 Slim, available now for $299, along with the PlayStation VR headset (out next month) and the higher-powered PS4 Pro, which comes out in November. Sony has said that the PlayStation 4 Slim will become the new standard PS4, replacing the tried-and-true model that launched in 2013. So how does it compare?

Hardware

As its name suggests, the Slim is indeed a more compact version of what came before. The Slim drops over 2 pounds in weight, down to 4.63 pounds from 6.17, and it measures 10.43 x 11.34 x 1.54 inches, versus 10.83 x 12.01 x 2.09 inches on the older model. From the front, the PS4 has always looked like a sandwich cut at a funny angle. Both pieces of “bread” were an inch tall. That changes with the Slim. The bottom piece of “bread” is 7/8ths of an inch, and the top is 7/16ths of an inch. The Slim is 25 percent lighter, according to Sony, but it manages not to feel cheap or hollow. All of which is to say that the console is even more portable than its predecessor.

Much like the original PlayStation 3 and the PS3 Slim, the PS4 Slim retains the overall shape of the PS4 and drops its glossy black plastic in favor of a textured matte finish. This makes it much less prone to collecting dust, fingerprints and scratches. Meanwhile, sharp corners have given way to softer, rounded ones. It’s up front where you’ll notice the biggest changes.

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The touch-sensitive power and eject buttons have been replaced with physical buttons. The power key is physically larger, while the eject button is a cute circle. Both are slightly recessed, but differentiating between them in the dark shouldn’t be a problem. The power button also acts as a replacement for the color-changing LED strip that adorned the top of the original PS4. Ten pin-size LEDs glow white when the system is powered on and orange when it’s in standby. They turn off completely when the system is powered off. I always thought the launch model’s strip was a little much; meanwhile, the new power button conveys the same information in a less obnoxious way. I’m a fan.

Above those buttons is a slot-loading Blu-ray drive. The system’s two USB 3.0 connections are now spaced roughly 6 inches apart, with one next to the optical drive and the other sitting next to the console’s right edge. Along the right side where the “meat” of the sandwich is, there’s a threaded hole halfway between the front and back where you can screw in a stand for setting up the console vertically. Around back are ports for the power cable, PlayStation Camera, an HDMI 2.0a socket and an Ethernet jack. If you have an older A/V receiver or are using certain types of gaming headphones, the lack of an optical audio port is going to sting quite a bit.

When I asked Sony about this omission, a spokesperson said the decision was based on “market trends and the needs of the audience we’re targeting with the new standard PS4.” Basically, Sony is saying that you should upgrade your other A/V gear to accommodate its cost-cutting measure.

There’s also a flimsy L-shape piece of plastic covering the hard-drive bay, granting easy access for future storage upgrades. Seemingly it’s an admission on Sony’s part that the pack-in 500GB hard drive is much too small. Usually, the underside of a video-game console doesn’t warrant any sort of attention (who even looks there?), but the Slim’s is kind of neat. The rubber feet at each corner are triangles, circles, squares and Xs in a nod to the platform’s face buttons, with a PlayStation logo in the center.

Any internal changes here should have minimal impact on day-to-day performance, but Sony says power consumption has been reduced an impressive 34 percent. That’s a significant change, yet you aren’t likely to notice any differences in performance. Load speeds on Doom and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End are still lethargic, but even with some of the more-demanding sequences from each, I didn’t hear the fan kick into overdrive the way it does on my launch model. And yep, I blow the dust out of that once a year, so this isn’t a case of my console overheating due to dirty innards.

One of my biggest gripes with the original PS4 was its reliance on aging wireless standards. Sony has addressed that with the Slim by stepping up to an 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. Finally. Connected to my 5GHz network, I’m getting similar download speeds on both WiFi and Ethernet, but as you’d expect uploads over 802.11ac still aren’t as fast as on a wired connection. That will matter if you’re planning to jump into Street Fighter V or maybe some Star Wars: Battlefront online, but if all you need to do is download a few games and aren’t physically near a router, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice much speed, if any.

The controller

The DualShock 4 is one of my favorite gamepads ever, but its battery life is absolutely awful. When images of a revamped controller started surfacing along with leaks of the Slim console itself, I hoped we’d get a more-power-efficient gamepad, or at least one with a bigger battery. The product label on the controller’s underside reveals that there’s an 800mAh battery tucked away, the same capacity as on the original. That’s a huge missed opportunity on Sony’s part, especially when you consider that with the Xbox One S, Microsoft retooled its standard gamepad to address shortcomings on the original controller.

That’s not to say there aren’t a few differences here, though — it’s just that they’re mostly cosmetic. The thumbstick pods feel a little smoother in motion, while the share and options buttons aren’t as stiff. The spaces where the face buttons and D-pad sit have changed, and have a matte, not glossy, finish. Oh, and all the touch-points, save for the touchpad and PlayStation/home button, are a carbon gray color versus monochrome black on the original.

Speaking of the touchpad, you can now see what color the controller’s lightbar is without flipping the gamepad over. That’s because the TV-facing distraction has been given a narrow window at the top edge of the touchpad. It’s subtle enough that in play it didn’t distract me from slaughtering hordes of demons in Doom. When the controller is turned off, you can’t even see where the top light would come through.

Perhaps the biggest change, though, is that the DualShock 4 will now transmit data over USB. For folks who count animation frames in Street Fighter or do competitive gaming, this is a big deal because it eliminates lag between the controller and the console. But if you’re casually playing single-player games like Darksiders 2 or Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, you probably won’t notice a difference.

The competition

At this point, it’s impossible not to compare the PS4 Slim to the Xbox One S. The revamped Xbox One went on sale last month starting at $299, with an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive and support for HDR gaming. In terms of pure specs, the Xbox One S is a much better value. That UHD drive future-proofs you, making it hard to dismiss even if you don’t currently have a 4K TV.

Movies are one thing, though — it’s the games that make or break a game console. If you want to play Gears of War, Forza Motorsport and Halo, or catch up on a raft of Xbox 360 backward-compatible titles, the Xbox One S is the console for you. But if Uncharted 4, Until Dawn, The Last Guardian or virtual reality are more your speed, then buy a PS4 Slim. That is, unless you’re waiting until next month for the PS4 Pro, which boasts 4K output (but no UHD Blu-ray drive), more power and HDR gaming. Just keep in mind that the Pro will set you back $399 versus $299 for the Slim.

Wrap-up

The PS4 Slim is a great console. It’s smaller, quieter and less obtrusive than the PS4 that launched in 2013. The addition of 5GHz WiFi is incredibly welcome, but no UHD Blu-ray drive makes it a tough sell against the comparably priced Xbox One S. The only reason to buy the Slim is if you need a new console right this minute and have a hard budget of $299. If you can hold out until November and sock away another $100 for the PS4 Pro, though, you absolutely should.

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