Despite what you may have read, the Amazon Echo was never a do-anything smart home device. Sure it could tell you about the weather and maybe control your lights, but it lacked the under-the-hood hub capabilities that could make all your connected devices work together. The new Amazon Echo Plus offers just that. I'm not sure it's worth it, but that absolutely depends on you.
4K TVs are getting cheap as chips these days, and that means you should be getting hold of some 4K video to play on it. There's only one persistent problem with that -- 4K video files are massive, so you need some easy way of storing them en masse and playing them back on your TV conveniently. Enter a multi-bay network-attached storage (NAS) device like this one: Synology's over-sized DS918+ can handle all your house's file storage, PC backups and ultra HD media streaming and more.
Here's a fact rarely discussed outside of super nerdy gaming circles. The guts of your video game console actually matter. Once upon a time games were designed to run the same on every console and, in some cases (like the massive multiplayer first person shooter Destiny 2), games are still designed that way. But most games have what is called a "dynamic resolution" with the resolution shifting on a spectrum from as 720p to 4K depending on the scene.
Thus the more powerful the console the higher and more consistent the resolution of the game you are playing will be. Want something close to consistent 4K without spending a grand on a PC gaming rig? You need a powerful console.
The success of any AR game depends entirely on immersion: whether the player's having so much they forget how massively dorky they look with a cafeteria tray stuck to their their face. Disney's Star Wars: Jedi Challenges, a $399 standalone AR machine made in collaboration with Lenovo, succeeds at this in fits and spurts. Going toe-to-toe with Darth Maul in melee combat or commanding ground troops to retake ships is thrilling, but the package's clunky, cluttered setup presentation wastes too much time in drawing in players.
I'm a total gadget nerd, and it's been five years since a new smartphone made me nod to myself with the understanding that, "Yes, I need that thing more than I need air." But the buzz around the iPhone X has had me a little more hyped than usual.
Not just because the iPhone finally ditched the bezels and got an OLED display -- Samsung's Galaxy S8 lost its bezels in March -- but because the iPhone X is the line's first significant overhaul since the iPhone 4. I should know better than to fall for the hype, but after spending nearly a week with the device, I've actually convinced myself that spending $1579 on a phone seems like a good idea. If you hate me for saying that, that's OK, I hate me too.
Watching Coco, I couldn't stop thinking about Back to the Future. Both films are about young men who travel to an impossible place and have to solve an issue with their family. Both feature the travelling character fading out of existence, they both play the guitar, both films feature important musical performances -- and both hinge on a photo.
The iPhone X is a weird and wonderful device. Apple's new phone looks and behaves so differently to the iPhones we're used to, but it takes just a day or two to become familiar with it. Apple has been subtly training us for life without a home button over the past few iterations of iOS by emphasising swipe gestures, and the iPhone X benefits from this established muscle memory.
I've only had a few days to play with the iPhone X, so I can't reliably comment on things such as battery life, but here are my first impressions of Apple's tenth anniversary flagship phone.
As the folks at Razer would tell it, the plan was always to make a phone. No one at Razer was quite sure what that phone would look like, or precisely how it would be a "gamer" phone -- Razer's peripherals and laptops are built primarily for gamers -- but the phone was a distant dream. Now it's a distinct reality, and at $US699, the new gaming-focused Razer Phone could even be a solid alternative for people tired of slick glass-backed OLED phones like the iPhone X and Galaxy S8.
I'm not terribly fussy about how I read. I used an old Kindle Keyboard until a stray pen in my backpack broke its display, and I've long happily used a Paperwhite without so much as considering the fancier Kindles Amazon has released since I got it back in 2013. Hell, half the time I'm just reading on the Kindle smartphone app for a few minutes here and there between glances at my email. So the new Kindle Oasis, the company's most advanced reading gadget yet, is not designed for me. But goddamn, it's great.
The iPhone X's Face ID camera module has received a bit more press than Apple probably intended. The facial recognition security tech was the whiz-bang feature that caught everybody's eye during the Tim Cook and friends keynote -- and later it was repeatedly fingered as the culprit behind the long-rumoured iPhone X shortages and delays. So what's the deal with it?
There's a good reason many superheroes are also billionaires: because the fancy gadgets that Iron Man and Batman rely on cost untold millions. It makes fantasies like owning your very own Batmobile nearly unachievable, although with its new RC Ultimate Justice League Batmobile, Mattel might have a half-decent way to alleviate your superhero envy.
The Apple Watch might be the most popular smartwatch, but its controls and interface don't hold a candle to what you get on Samsung's watches. The problem is that because Samsung has been trying to start its own watch ecosystem with Tizen OS, its watches never received the rabid support that Apple's got from day one. But with new partnerships with some of the biggest workout app makers around and a tighter focus on fitness, it feels like Samsung and the new Gear Sport could be inching its way towards a critical mass.
It's rare to see a company make an almost perfect product. It's even rarer to see them improve an almost perfect product. And yet, here we are. Sony's already incredible MDR-1000X wireless, adaptive noise-cancelling headphones got an upgrade earlier this year. I've been testing the new model for a few weeks now, and let me tell you, they're so good you'll probably want to upgrade from your Bose.
Truly wireless in-ear headphones have only been in vogue for the last year or so, but we're starting to see some pretty excellent attempts pop up. B&O's E8s currently reign supreme in my heart, but Sony's new WF-1000X promises the same minute attention to sound quality -- with the addition of integrated noise cancelling. And the WF-1000X delivers on that promise; these are up there with the best of the best.
The original Amazon Echo was an ugly black tube -- a speaker meant to be set back in the corner, hidden from view. It was a cheap imitation of the computer from Star Trek. The new Amazon Echo is a much prettier device. It's not suddenly faster or smarter, and your old Echo will do the exact same thing as before, but this one actually looks pretty nice, sells for cheaper, and boy does that make a difference.
I had to change how I think because of Google's new $US1000 Pixelbook. This gorgeous 2-in-1 is some of my favourite hardware for the price, but it's loaded with Chrome OS, the worst operating system you could put on your computer. If you've grown up a power user of MacOS, Windows, or Linux than Chrome OS feels like getting cut off at the knees, and hardware can't possibly distract you from how hamstrung Chrome OS is compared to its more mature competitors.
So in order to not spend another Chromebook review complaining about the severe inadequacies of Chrome OS, I decided to think like an ideal Chrome OS user. It was worse than that time I tried to stop drinking sodas, but as painful as living a wholly different existence was it made one thing very obvious: If you are an ideal Chrome OS user this is the very best laptop you can buy.
I expected something wonderful. The Samsung Sound+ has eleven drivers, Wi-Fi audio capabilities similar to the Sonos Playbar, and a very attractive design. In short, I was hoping for a cheaper version of the Sonos Playbar, and in many ways that's very much what you get, particularly if you're using a Samsung TV, which it magically pairs with. Yet a slightly lower price tag than the competition comes at a significant ding to audio. This thing did not fill my home with music or explosions. Instead it just offered a decent upgrade to the dinky speakers on my TV.