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Posts tagged ‘News’

27
Jul

Apple patents stylus that doubles as a joystick, air mouse


A simple, high-quality pressure-sensitive stylus is all well and good for tablets, but can such a device really meet the needs of a desktop user? That seems to be the question Apple’s asking with its latest patent. The company’s latest technology patent dreams up a do-everything stylus capable of being a drawing device, air mouse and even a joystick.

Over 17 patent claims, Apple outlines a stylus packed with pressure sensitivity and six and nine-axis inertial sensors — and describes a peripheral that can stand in for any number of devices. Used on a touch surface, for instance, the stylus might function as a normal pen. Lifted off a surface, it could be used to perform gestures or mouse movements. Standing on its tip, one could use it as a joystick, or rotate it left and right to turn a dial or move an object on a nearby computer screen.

It definitely sounds like a more advanced stylus than we see with most tablets, or even with Apple’s own Pencil — but not all patents make it to market. Still, the attached art shows the prospective device being used with what looks like a Mac, so at the very least we know that Apple’s /thinking/ about new input devices for its desktop line. Check out the patent for yourself at the source link below.

Source: USPTO

27
Jul

Xiaomi unveils Redmi Pro with dual cameras, deca-core Helio X25 SoC


At a media event in China, Xiaomi unveiled the Redmi Pro, its latest offering in the budget segment. Featuring a 5.5-inch Full HD OLED display, the highlight of the phone is the dual camera setup at the back, with a main 13MP camera (Sony IMX 258) augmented by a 5MP secondary camera that adds depth information. The additional camera is joined by a depth of field image processor.

xiaomi-redmi-pro-live.jpg?itok=RcrucQar

The MediaTek Helio X20 SoC is intriguing, as it offers a total of ten cores in three clusters. There are two high-performance Cortex A72 cores clocked at 2.5GHz, joined by four Cortex A53 cores at 2.0GHz, and four additional Cortex A53 cores at 1.5GHz. Other specs on offer include 4GB of RAM, 128GB storage, 5MP camera at the front, dual-SIM, LTE with VoLTE, and a 4050mAh battery. The phone joins the Mi 5 in offering a fingerprint sensor at the front and USB-C connectivity.

redmi-pro-xiaomi.jpg?itok=n49nN3AK

The Redmi Pro will be available from ¥1,499, which comes out to the equivalent of $225. That’s for the base model with a Helio X20 SoC, 3GB of RAM and 32GB storage. The Helio X25 model with 3GB of RAM and 64GB storage will set customers back ¥1,699 ($255), and the high-end variant with Helio X25, 4GB of RAM and 128GB flash storage will debut for ¥1,999 ($300).

Sales will kick off in China from August 8, and the phone should make its way to other markets later this quarter. What do you guys make of the Redmi Pro?

27
Jul

Sony XD9305 4K TV review: Making a strong first impression


Brilliant though the TV world’s new high dynamic range (HDR) technology is, it’s also proving monumentally hard for current TV technologies to handle. Which is precisely why Sony has moved past “current TV technologies” and come up with something new for its XD9305 series: the Slim Backlight Drive.

The main trick of this new Drive is that it introduces unprecedented levels of local light control to the edge LED lighting systems favourited – for affordability reasons – by the majority of LCD TVs. Its trick is that it places two of the light guide plates required by edge LED TVs in sequence, rather than just sticking with the usual single plate.

This gives the XD93 twice as much potential for controlling the amount of light appearing in different parts of the picture. That’s a big deal at any time, but a potential deal-maker in these days of HDR, where the need for more localised light controls has shifted to a whole new level.

So how does it fare and is the XD93 (not to be confused with the full backlight array of its bigger brother, the XD94) the 4K TV to plump for?

Sony KD-65XD9305 review: Design

Despite using two light plates instead of one, the slim backlight drive has also been created to deliver one of those ultra-skinny designs everyone seems to want these days. The 65-inch XD9305, reviewed here, is just 36mm deep at its thickest point, and for at least half of its rear it’s actually far slimmer than that; not much deeper than your average 2016 mobile phone, in fact.

Sony

The build quality of what little there is of the TV frame is exceptional. Sony has even managed to find the space for a bit of showboating in the form of an injection of gold that runs through the centre of the XD9305’s outer edges.

Even the desktop stand is classier than most with its tasteful aluminium sheet finish and graceful angles, while the new wall-mount option (included in the box) cunningly adds almost no depth at all to the TV.

Connections on the XD9305 are as you’d expect of a high-end TV in 2016: four HDMIs, for instance, can handle both 4K up to 60 frames a second and HDR content, while multimedia support comes via a trio of USB ports and both wired and wireless network connections.

Sony XD9305 TV review: Android and YouView

These network connections can stream multimedia from your DLNA-enabled devices, or bring you into contact with the huge world of apps Sony TVs now provide courtesy of their implementation of the Android TV smart platform.

It must be said, however, that Android TV is hardly the perfect smart TV system. Its full-screen interface feels clunky, and it doesn’t provide as many customisation options as the best rivals. It also doesn’t feel very focused compared with the finest smart interfaces, seeming to mistakenly believe that quantity usurps quality where smart TV interfaces are concerned.

Android TV also boasts one significant content weakness for all its hundreds of (largely pointless) game, video and information apps: its lack of UK catch-up TV services. Fortunately, Sony has got round this by also fitting the 65XD9305 with the YouView platform, which not only brings to the table all of the big four UK catch-up TV platforms, but also lets you access their on-demand content via a brilliantly simple electronic programme guide (EPG).

Sony KD-65XD9305 4K TV review: Picture quality

Turning to the 65XD9305’s picture technology, the Slim Backlight Drive is not the only trick the XD9305 has up its sleeve. Also likely key to its success – especially in the HDR era – is its combination of a wide colour spectrum panel and proprietary Triluminos colour processing.

Plus there’s Sony’s previously impressive X1 processing chipset, which combines powerful control of all the key elements of picture quality with a vast database of picture source scenarios to help the TV first identify and then apply appropriate rules to whatever source type it happens to be receiving. This database covers and optimises the appearance of everything from the ropiest of YouTube feeds to the most pristine of Ultra HD Blu-rays.

Sony

To say the 65XD9305’s pictures make a strong first impression would be an epic understatement. Pushing the TV to its maximum capabilities with a selection of 4K, HDR, wide colour gamut Ultra HD Blu-rays, there are times where the 65XD9305 delivers the best pictures yet seen on an edge-lit LCD TV, and arguably the best pictures yet seen on any LCD TV.

Colours look ravishing for starters, as Sony’s Triluminos technology helps the screen serve up a truly dazzling combination of wide colour gamut vibrancy/saturations and mesmerising tonal subtleties that leave you in no doubt whatsoever that you’re watching the next generation of picture quality unfolding before your eyes.

Sony XD9305 review: High Dynamic Range

The irresistible dynamism of the screen’s colours also owes a big debt of gratitude to the impressive brightness Sony has managed to get from the 65XD9305. Its peak brightness just sneaks past the 1000-nit level recommended by the AV industry’s Ultra HD Premium specification, and this brightness adds volume and punch as well as subtlety to the colours on show.

Sony

The 65XD9305’s brightness in conjunction with the Slim Backlight Drive also creates a startlingly expansive dynamic range. This is particularly obvious at the brightest end of the HDR spectrum as Sony’s TV throws up peak whites and colours that glimmer and shine with an intensity old standard dynamic range video can’t even get close to.

The 65XD9305 is less emphatic in its handling of HDR’s extremes at the darkest end of the light spectrum, as you might expect of an LCD TV. But there’s certainly a big increase in the overall light range available to the TV for delivering enhanced shadow detailing in dark scenes, as well as that much more lifelike general look to images that is really HDR’s main raison d’etre.

While the 65XD9305 looks at its most spectacular with the HDR/wide colour content it’s pretty much being designed to deliver, though, it’s also mesmerisingly good with the “old” standard dynamic range content we’ve been living with for so many decades. It’s able to rein in its colours to match those of SDR pretty much perfectly, while the subtlety of its tones reminds you that while HDR represents the irresistible future of TV, SDR really has always been capable of looking pretty darned beautiful when it’s done right.

Another great strength of the 65XD9305 is its handling of detail. With native 4K content its superb colour and – for the most part – light handling helps it deliver one of the most convincing and extreme displays of 4K’s superiority over Full HD we’ve seen to date, unlocking the full potential of all those pixels the screen has at its disposal.

Sony XD9305 4K TV review: Its one picture weakness

While the 65XD9305’s pictures look good enough to make a grown AV fan weep for much of the time, though, they also, sadly, have an Achilles Heel: the Slim Backlight Drive can’t completely solve the seemingly inherent problems edge LED TVs have with delivering light on a sufficiently localised level to handle HDR’s light extremes with absolute conviction.

Sony

The issue is this: while it’s beyond dispute that the Slim Backlight Drive can deliver deeper blacks in the darkest picture areas – even in localised areas in the image’s centre – than arguably any other edge-lit LCD TV to date, the way the Drive essentially separates the backlight into a series of individually controllable but large boxes can lead to some really quite abrupt and thus more distracting backlight divisions.

In other words, where very bright HDR objects sit against a very dark background you sometimes actually feel like you’re watching a series of differently lit blocks rather than a single organic picture. At times you even feel that a less localised backlight approach would actually have delivered a more immersive experience – even though this more typical edge LED arrangement would not, almost certainly, be capable of reaching the same black level depths that the 65XD9305 can.

To put it another way, while the Slim Backlight Drive is certainly a promising and well-intentioned innovation by Sony, right now there’s work to be done to make it a really effective HDR solution to LCD’s ongoing light control issues.

Sony XD9305 4K TV review: Sound is slim too

Sony’s new obsession with slimness has led to it ditching the huge magnetic fluid speakers that used to adorn the left and right sides of previous high-end Sony TVs.

Sony

This is a logical decision from an aesthetic and practical point of view – but unsurprisingly it’s not a positive move where sound quality is concerned. Unless, of course, you fork out some extra cash and buy a separate soundbar or speaker system.

These predecessor TVs were arguably the finest sounding mainstream TVs ever… and arguably the least attractive too. The 65XD9305, by comparison, sounds sadly pretty average.

Bass levels are fairly limited and slightly cramped, the mid-range is clean but pretty narrow, and while there’s a strong amount of treble detailing, this treble information can tip over into harshness when the going gets tough. Certainly consider that additional sound system, then.

Verdict

There are times when the 65XD9305 looks like the best TV ever made – both in design and picture quality terms. Its handling of bright HDR/wide colour 4K content is really that good.

However, high-contrast HDR content reveals that Sony’s well-intentioned bid to introduce a new level of edge-LED backlight control ultimately creates as many issues as it solves, leaving us with the feeling that this new Slim Backlight Drive technology is perhaps a transitional work-in-progress rather than the finished article.

Also the 65XD9305’s quest for slimness leaves its sound compromised not just against the efforts of Sony’s own previous equivalent models but also against the best audio efforts of its current rivals.

Put all this together and the 65XD9305 often looks nothing short of incredible, but isn’t always the image of perfection.

27
Jul

3D imaging helps map tiny connections in the brain


Mapping brain connections is tricky — chemicals can destroy the very structures you’re trying to map, and an electron microscope can only tell you so much. MIT researchers aren’t daunted, however. They’ve developed a new 3D imaging technique that lets you map the brain at multiple scales, including at resolutions that aren’t practical with light-based microscopes. The new approach expands on a conventional chemical-based method of preserving brain tissue samples. If you flood the tissue with acrylamide polymers, you form a super-dense gel that lets you expand the sample up to 5 times its original size without hurting its structure, making it easier to study minute details. Numerous microscopes can study neural structures like synapses at resolutions as fine as 60 nanometers, which beats the 200nm you might get through conventional light microscopes.

Moreover, you can reverse and repeat the process “many” times. If you need a broader view, you don’t need to collect a new sample. That makes it considerably easier to trace brain connections, as you aren’t locked into viewing one scale the entire time.

MIT is currently focused on speeding up the imaging process, so this technique won’t be in use for a while. However, the team’s Kwanghun Chung notes that the technique is both “really simple” and uses standard molecular markers — it’ll be easy to adopt when it’s ready. Assuming everything goes smoothly, scientists could have a deeper understanding of the brain that might lead to more effective treatments for diseases.

Source: MIT News

27
Jul

Xiaomi’s Redmi Pro does OLED and dual camera on a budget


Just because Xiaomi is selling Segways, drones, bicycles and rice cookers these days doesn’t mean that it’s forgotten what it started off with years ago: mobile phones. Today, the Chinese company announced the Redmi Pro which is the latest smartphone in its entry-level portfolio. As suggested by the name, this device packs some surprising features that make it stand out from its predecessors: This is the first time that Xiaomi’s featuring an OLED display plus a dual-camera setup on a device, which is a surprising move given that these are headed to the affordable Redmi line instead of the flagship Mi line. The price? From 1,499 yuan which is about $225.

The Redmi Pro comes in a gold- or silver-colored brushed metallic unibody — a real bonus at this price point — and packs a 5.5-inch 1080p OLED display (with full NTSC gamut), a fingerprint reader plus a 5-megapixel selfie camera on the front side. Flip it over and you’ll find a Mi 5-like curved back sans glass, along with a dual camera featuring a 13-megapixel Sony IMX258 main sensor plus a 5-megapixel Samsung assistive sensor for bokeh effects. Like many earlier dual-camera phones, here you can change the focus point on the image even after capturing; and there’s a dual-tone LED flash, too. There’s also a generous 4,050mAh battery inside — similar to the one in the very recent Redmi 3S — with fast charging via the USB Type-C port. Likewise, the Redmi Pro has the same IR blaster as the Redmi 3S which lets you control your TV and home appliances.

Given the base price point, it’s no surprise that the Redmi Pro is powered by a MediaTek chipset. The base spec starts with the 10-core Helio X20 plus 32GB of storage and 3GB of RAM (1,499 yuan/about $225), followed by the faster Helio X25, 64GB of storage plus 3GB of RAM (1,699 yuan/about $255), and capping with the same chipset, 128GB of storage plus 4GB of RAM (1,999 yuan/about $300). As with most Chinese and Indian smartphones these days, the Redmi Pro is a dual-SIM 4G+ device (VoLTE supported), though you can also use the second SIM slot to add a microSD card instead.

1.21 Redmi devices were sold every second over the past three years.

For those who aren’t familiar, Xiaomi launched the Redmi line back in 2013 to tap into the low-end market, i.e. the sub-1,000 yuan or $150 price point. This was achieved with minimal advertising plus cheaper components, but without sacrificing build quality (and hopefully reliability). Unsurprisingly, the sub-brand has done very well in terms of volume — a total of 110 million Redmi devices have been sold as of July 11th, meaning 1.21 units were sold every second over the past three years.

Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun with Redmi celebrity spokesperson Wu Xiubo take a selfie on the stage.

The Redmi Pro marks a significant change for the sub-brand as it’s the first Xiaomi product to feature celebrity spokespersons (which obviously requires money) plus traditional advertisements across the country (I saw them at the bus stations and elevators in Beijing). Price bump aside, such move appears to be taking a page out of the books of local rivals Huawei, Oppo and Vivo — all of which beat Xiaomi in global shipment volumes earlier this year — who are well-versed in conventional marketing tactics plus offline retail in their home country. This works particularly well in the second- and third-tier Chinese cities, which are no doubt where the Redmi brand performs well.

Unfortunately, there’s no word on when to expect the Redmi Pro to hit the markets outside China, but we’re pretty sure it’ll eventually land in India plus other developing markets. Or you can just fly yourself to China for a quick shopping trip, if you don’t mind taking a break from Pokémon Go for a few days.

27
Jul

Nintendo’s lack of breakthrough games hits profits hard


Despite Nintendo’s attempts to lower expectations ahead of announcing its financial results, its latest quarterly earnings aren’t good. At all. Net sales are down 31 percent compared to the same quarter last year, down to 62 billion yen ($587 million), while it saw an operating loss of 5.1 billion yen (roughly $48 million). Nintendo managed to sell 220,000 Wii Us, nudging the total number of consoles sold over 13 million, while the aging 3DS sold just under an additional 1 million handhelds. Despite the company owning parts of Pokémon Go, it isn’t reflected in the earnings as the game was released after the quarter that ended in June. However, the company took to Twitter to announce that its curious Pokémon Go Plus accessory has been delayed two months until September.

The #pokemongo Plus accessory will now be released Sept 2016 instead of the originally expected end of July launch. https://t.co/QgjZf1aAV6

— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) July 27, 2016

The games maker is blaming a stronger yen that’s negatively affected its overseas sales, but what’s probably to blame is the lack of major game releases in the last quarter — no single game sold more than a million copies over the last three months. 36.9 million Amiibo figures have been sold so far, as well as over 30 million Amiibo cards — somehow.

When Nintendo launched Miitomo, its first smartphone title, huge initial demand fostered over 10 million users by the end of April 2016. However, income from smart devices (along with IP licensing) came to just $15.6 million last quarter. The company didn’t elaborate further.

Nintendo is very much back in the public eye following Pokémon Go’s explosive launch on smartphones — which Apple has said is the most downloaded app in one week ever. Then, there’s also the coalescing rumors of Nintendo console sequel, which may be neither a home console or portable, but something in between. The company revealed nothing new about the NX in its financial reports — or those incoming smartphone iterations of Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing.

In short, it’s still waiting on its next hit, whether that’s a new console, a smartphone game or the next Zelda title. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was initially expected to launch last year, but has already been pushed to 2017 — just like the NX. There may be more bad news to come for Nintendo.

Source: Nintendo

27
Jul

Xiaomi’s first laptop is the $750 Mi Notebook Air


It wouldn’t be a Xiaomi event if it was just announcing one product. In addition to the new Redmi Pro smartphone, the Chinese company threw in a huge surprise by launching its first-ever laptop line, the Mi Notebook Air, running on Windows 10. It comes in two sizes — the powerful 13.3-inch and the portable 12.5-inch — and both feature a slim body, a 1080p display with slim under-glass bezels (while still managing to fit in a 1-megapixel webcam), a backlit keyboard, a USB Type-C charging port plus a minimalistic metallic design — in gold or silver, naturally — with no logo on the outside. The best part of all? The flagship model costs just 4,999 yuan or about $750.

Don’t be misled by that seemingly too-good-to-be-true price tag. The 13.3-inch model comes in at just 14.8mm thick and 1.28kg heavy, which is pretty good given that you get an Intel Core i5-6200U processor (up to 2.7GHz) plus an NVIDIA GeForce 940MX GPU (with 1GB GDDR5 RAM). Of course, Xiaomi just had to point out that this is thinner and lighter than the 13-inch MacBook Air. You also get 8GB of DDR4 RAM, 256GB of SSD via PCIe and one free SATA slot for expansion (but only serviced by Xiaomi). The 40Wh battery should be good for up to 9.5 hours, and it can go from zero to 50 percent in just half an hour using the bundled USB-C charger.

The smaller 12.5-inch model is even slimmer and lighter at 12.9mm and 1.07kg, respectively, but you’ll have to make do with an Intel Core M3 CPU, no dedicated GPU, just 4GB of RAM and just a 128GB SSD via SATA — though there’s one free PCIe slot if you don’t mind letting Xiaomi do the upgrade for you later. And instead of two USB 3.0 ports, you only get one here; but you still have an HDMI port. The upside of this model is that you get two more hours of battery life. The price? 3,499 yuan or about $520.

Much likes its bicycles, rice cookers and drones, the Mi Notebook Air is a “Mi Ecosystem” product made by a partner — in this case, it’s Tianmi which literally means “field rice.” A Xiaomi rep reasoned that the company decided to tap into the laptop market as it identified a potential market to deliver the right balance between performance and portability, as well as to make it easier for young adults to afford a PC for productivity. While the Mi Notebook Air doesn’t run on MIUI (Xiaomi’s customized Android ROM), it does come with “Mi Sync” software (tentative name translated from Chinese) which should somewhat boost Mi Cloud usage. The laptop can also be automatically unlocked when your Mi Band is within a close proximity.

The Mi Notebook Air is launching in China on August 2nd. Again, there’s no info regarding global availability for it just yet, so stay tuned for future updates.

27
Jul

Google Play gives Android app developers more categories


Two months after giving VR its own category, Google Play will soon expand the list of Android app subcategories with additional general interest ones, allowing developers to more accurately slot theirs. Here’s the full list of new ones: Art & Design, Auto & Vehicles, Dating, Events, Food & Drink, House & Home and Parenting. Ideally, the increased specificity will improve the relevance of Google Play’s search results.

They’ve also renamed a few of the old subcategories to avoid confusion with the new, so ‘Transportation’ is now ‘Maps & Navigation’ while ‘Media & Video’ will now be ‘Video Players & Editors.’ The change will go into effect over the next 60 days.

Source: Android Developers Blog

27
Jul

Amazon launches one-hour Prime Now deliveries in Scotland


After spending the past year expanding its super-fast delivery service across England, Amazon’s finally taking Prime Now north of the border. The online retail giant announced today that it has begun offering one-hour deliveries on over 15,000 products to Prime subscribers in Glasgow, as well as free two-hour deliveries in Motherwell, Kilmarnock and Cumbernauld.

Although Glasgow is Scotland’s first Prime Now city, Glaswegians, along with customers in Edinburgh have enjoyed Amazon’s Prime Same Day service since November 2015. To mark the occasion, Amazon is offering £5 off everyone’s first Prime Now order with the code PRIMENOW5 and it’ll also throw in a 2-litre bottle of Irn-Bru Sugar Free. We’ve checked with Amazon UK’s Stereotype Dept. and there’s currently no word on whether battered Mars bars and haggis will also be included.

Source: Amazon UK

27
Jul

BBC adds subtitles to live iPlayer channels


In a bid to make its programming more accessible to deaf and hearing-impaired viewers, the BBC has launched a new trial that will bring subtitles to live channels on iPlayer. It’s the first time any major on-demand video service has embarked on such a trial. The BBC says that it will initially launch on PC and Mac, before rolling out to the broadcaster’s smartphone and tablet apps. Connected TVs will also get the feature but viewers will have to wait a bit longer.

The reason behind the move is clear: the BBC says almost two million programmes or 20 percent of all iPlayer viewings are done so with subtitles enabled. Right now, subtitles are only available on iPlayer programmes after they’ve aired but at launch, live subtitles will be available on BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Four, CBBC, CBeebies and BBC News and on some region-specific channels too. You can find the full list in the source below.

Source: BBC Media Centre

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