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    Tested Builds: DIY Arcade Cabinet Kit, Part 1

    Time to start more weeks of builds! This week, we're joined by Jeremy Williams to assemble his new Porta-Pi DIY Arcade Cabinet Kit. the Porta-Pi is a desktop-sized arcade emulator that runs on either a Raspberry Pi or mini computer. Jeremy had built an earlier version, but the new model has a larger screen and more powerful computer inside. Let's get to building! (Follow along the rest of the week by joining the Tested Premium member community!)

    Building the Star Wars Rancor Costume, Part 1

    At this year's Comic-Con, we unveiled The Rancor Project: a huge foam-fabricated costume built by effects artist Frank Ippolito. The project was inspired by a test suit made by LucasFilm for Return of the Jedi, which never made it to the film. To show you how the Rancor was created, we visit Frank's workshop and walk through the design process, starting with a maquette sculpture and patterning by foam fabricator Ben Bayouth. Using these techniques, you can build your own creature costume! (Thanks to Model-Space.com for sponsoring this project!)

    Building a District 9 Alien Rifle Replica, Part 4

    Over the past month, Punished Props' Bill Doran built a 1:1 scale replica of the alien assault rifle from District 9 to unveil with us at Comic-Con. Bill's build logs and videos will walk through his design and fabrication process, and his finished piece was unviled with a surprise at SDCC. Place your questions for Bill in the comments below! Here are parts 1, 2, and 3.

    Here it is: the final part of the District 9 Gun Prop build! Fortunately, the molding process was fairly painless and yielded some very useful molds. When it comes to casting, having good molds can make or break a project, especially when you need 24 of something, as we did for this whacky alien gun.

    Dump Molds

    Most of the pieces for the gun were done with simple dump molds. This means all I had to do was mix up some Smooth-Cast 300 resin, tint it with a little SO-Strong black, and pour it into the molds we made. The only fancy business we did was to tap the mold around a bit to make sure no bubbles were trapped.

    This process was used for the top scope pieces, the barrel pieces, some of the side greeblies, and all 24 of the tubes that stick out the sides of the barrel length.

    The Best iPad Stylus Today

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com

    We spent 10 hours testing a total of 11 iPad styluses with a graphic designer and independently arrived at the same conclusion: The best stylus for most people is Adonit's newly redesigned Jot Pro ($30). The Jot Pro's unique clear plastic plastic tip allows for precise input; it doesn't block the iPad's screen like other rubber-tipped styluses so you can see what you're drawing as you draw. It's also comfortable to hold, and a number of small details, such as a spring-loaded tip that better mimics the feel of pen on paper, make the overall experience a pleasure.

    How We Decided

    You want a stylus with enough weight and glide to move freely, but with enough friction to be predictable. The idea is to replicate the feeling of pen on paper. We tested each stylus by navigating a maze, tracing the alphabet, sketching a variety of items, and tapping around a tablet. After our initial assessment, we started all over again, testing the pens in a different order to reduce any chance that becoming acclimated to a stylus might have skewed the results.

    How To Get Into Hobby RC: Preflight Tips and Tools

    The first flight of a new RC model is always an exciting event. Whether you've spent ten minutes or ten months getting your aircraft ready for this moment, you're bound to feel anxious – and probably a little nervous. The best cure for a case of the pre-flight jitters is having confidence in the mechanical, electronic, and aerodynamic soundness of your model. In this article, I will explain the baseline inspection steps that I execute before flying any new model.

    The steps shown here are primarily intended for multi-rotors and airplanes. Helicopters are a special case. The concerns are the same, but the techniques for addressing them are quite different. Even excluding helicopters, there are far too many variables among the different types of multi-rotors and airplanes to strive for a one-size-fits-all strategy. Rather, consider these steps as cornerstones of an individualized inspection routine that you can create for your specific model. It is often helpful to create a checklist to guide you through the process.

    Don't Harsh My Vibe, Man

    Vibration is bad news on RC models. It causes premature fatigue of mechanical and electronic components, distorts camera images and wastes onboard energy. For models with piston engines, some degree of vibration is unavoidable. You just have to isolate the fragile components the best that you can and live with it. On electric-powered models, however, there is no excuse to not find and eradicate all sources of vibration.

    The most common cause of vibration is an unbalanced propeller. Always assume that any new propeller is off-kilter. Most of the propellers I have ever used required some degree of tweaking to make them balanced. The good news is that balancing a propeller is usually a simple process.

    The key to eliminating vibration in electric powered multi-rotors and airplanes is to balance the propeller(s)…even brand new ones. This magnetic balancer works well with most RC propellers.

    The balancing device that I use in my shop is the Top Flite Power Point magnetic balancer. It suspends the prop magnetically, with the axis of rotation perfectly horizontal. This set-up allows you to detect very small balance deviations. This is especially helpful when working with small propellers.

    The Best Juicer You Can Buy Today

    This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a list of the best gear for your home. Read the full article at TheSweethome.com.

    After pushing almost 25 pounds of leafy, crunchy, pulpy produce through nine top machines, we think the Tribest Slowstar ($380) is the best and most versatile juicer for the home. Its single vertical auger turns at a slow 47 rpm, making it one of the slowest juicers available—key for getting maximum nutrients and enzymes from produce—and it still yielded more juice than nearly every other model we tested, meaning there's less going to waste. It comes with a 10-year warranty on parts and the motor, so you can crank it up every day without worry about wear and tear.

    How we picked and tested

    We put 10 juicers through two tests. We noted ease of use, yield, foam production, flavor, ease of cleaning, and amount of prep required. First, we tested their abilities with greens and soft fruit by making a kale-grape juice with 8 ounces each of curly kale and Thompson green grapes. We then tested each juicer for their ability to juice hard fruits and vegetables, using 8 ounces each of carrots and apples, 4 ounces of celery, and 1 ounce of ginger. All yields were measured by weight. For more detail on our research and testing methodology, check out our full guide at The Sweethome.

    The Best iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus Battery Case

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com.

    We've spent more than 140 hours testing 21 different battery cases (18 for the iPhone 6 and three for the iPhone 6 Plus), and we think the best battery case for most people is Anker's Ultra Slim Extended Battery Case. It provides an above-average 117 percent of a full charge to the iPhone 6—one full charge plus another 17 percent—and at only $40, it's by far the least expensive. The result is the highest ratio of charge percent per dollar and the lowest cost per full iPhone recharge out of all the models we looked at. It's also the lightest and thinnest battery case we tested.

    Anker's Ultra Slim Extended Battery Case.

    Why you might want a battery case

    Depending on how you use your iPhone, draining its battery during an average day can be easy. If you rely on your phone to last a full day, and you don't have the time (or physical access) to plop down next to a wall outlet, a battery case—which puts a moderate-capacity rechargeable battery inside a bulky iPhone case—can be a smart choice. In the best circumstances, a battery case can double the battery life of your iPhone and then some. And unlike with stand-alone battery packs, you don't need to bring a separate cable or figure out how to carry both devices together. You just slide or snap your iPhone into the battery case to get protection and power in a single unit. If you're looking only for some protection, we can also recommend a regular case.

    Building a District 9 Alien Rifle Replica, Part 3

    Over the course of this month, Punished Props' Bill Doran is building a 1:1 scale replica of the alien assault rifle from District 9 to unveil with us at Comic-Con. Bill's build logs and videos will walk through his design and fabrication process, and his finished piece will be paired with a surprise at SDCC. Place your questions for Bill in the comments below!

    In the previous part of this project, the molds we made were very simple. They were either one or two part box molds. The kinds you've seen Frank and Norm make in Tested videos. These types of molds made a lot of sense for the smaller pieces, but for the big body on the District 9 alien rifle, I decided to make a matrix mold.

    I have never made a matrix mold before, but I've seen so many of my mold maker friends adopt this technique for most of their big molding projects. There are many benefits to going this route vs a standard box mold. The most apparent upside is a drastic decrease in the amount of silicone used. Silicone isn't cheap and, especially with such a large mold, you're can save hundreds of dollars by going the matrix mold route.

    Diving into a new technique can be pretty scary, especially when it's such a large piece, but I didn't go into it alone. I had a ton of help from some of my mold maker friends. A huge thanks goes out to Thom from Sorenzo Props, Harrison from Volpin Props, and our friendly neighborhood Frank Ippolito!

    A Note on Print Coats

    For most of these molds, you'll see that I put down a "print coat" of Rebound 25 silicone before dumping in the Mold Star 15. It might be a little overkill, but I found that I was getting a bit of curing inhibition in the fine detail areas of other smaller molds using just the Mold Star. Not only did a brush on print coat of Rebound solve the problem, but it ensured that I captured all of the fine detail in the piece, perfectly and without trapping any bubbles.

    The Best Android Smartphone for Your Network (June 2015)

    There are a ton of Android phones available for purchase, and new ones are coming out all the time. You don't want to get the wrong thing and regret it on a daily basis. What's a phone nerd to do? Well, let's try to figure that out.

    This month is still a close call between the LG G4 and the Galaxy S6, but there are a few options beyond these two flagships for the discerning buyer.

    The Galaxy S6 and LG G4

    Both the Samsung Galaxy S6 and LG G4 are available on all four major US carriers, so I'm breaking these two out for a direct comparison. After laying all this out, we'll figure out an alternative for each carrier, just in case neither of these is the right fit for you.

    Samsung is using a new version of its Super AMOLED screen on the Galaxy S6 (and S6 Edge) and the company has reason to gloat a little. It's a stunningly beautiful screen. It gets very bright, very dim, the colors are good, and it's extremely crisp. It's really impossible to find fault with. Perhaps down the line it will develop some burn-in as AMOLEDs sometimes do, but Samsung has been working on that. It does consume a lot of power, but that's what you get with a 5-inch 1440p AMOLED.

    LG has stuck with an LCD for the G4 as its AMOLED efforts are still lacking compared to Samsung. The only unique thing about this panel is the slight top to bottom curve it has. I don't know that there's any usability advantage here, but there you go. It's 5.5-inches and 1440p in resolution. LG has bumped up the brightness and colors compared to the LCD on the G3, which is a good thing.

    How To Get Into Hobby RC: Telemetry Systems

    One of the fundamental challenges of flying RC aircraft is that you are separated from the machine you are controlling. You must assess the health and status of your vehicle from a distance using only limited visual and aural cues – rarely an easy thing to do. Sometimes the first symptom of a failing system is a trail of smoke that inevitably leads to the ground.

    RC telemetry systems provide the means to accurately gauge certain parameters of your model during flight. Think of it as a remote dashboard. Do you want to know how hot your motor is running? How about an alarm that can warn you when your model reaches an altitude of 400 feet? Telemetry devices can provide those things and more.

    What Telemetry Requires

    There are several different ways to receive telemetry data. Some telemetry systems are standalone units with a transmitter/sensor package in the model and a receiver on the ground. For FPV flyers, On-Screen-Display devices take the data from onboard sensors and overlay it on the real-time video feed. The result is something like a heads-up display found in many modern full-scale aircraft. An increasingly popular form of telemetry system is the type integrated into the model's radio system. The pilot's handheld transmitter sends flight commands to the aircraft while also receiving downlinked data. The same onboard receiver that interprets commands also transmits telemetry data. In this way, both the transmitter and receiver are actually transceivers.

    Telemetry data can be viewed in the transmitter screen, but you'll want to use the tactile and aural feedback options when flying.

    The majority of radio manufacturers offer telemetry-capable systems in their lineups. The example that I've chosen to highlight in this guide comes from Futaba. As of this writing, there are three Futaba aircraft transmitters that are telemetry-capable (10J, 14SG, and 18MZ) as well as a handful of receivers. With these systems, their telemetry features are embedded in the S.Bus2 circuitry of the components. That nuance begs a brief explanation of S.Bus2.

    The Best Windows Ultrabook Today

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com.

    The $1,100 Dell XPS 13 is the best Windows ultrabook for most people because it has a big, beautiful screen, the longest battery life of any Windows ultrabook, a great keyboard, and a decent trackpad. Above all, it's the smallest, lightest, best-designed ultrabook we've tested. We came to this conclusion after 70 hours of research and testing with seven different ultrabooks.

    The Dell XPS 13 (non-touch) is the best Windows ultrabook for most people.

    Who is this product for?

    Ultrabooks are best for people who need a super-portable, long-lasting laptop and don't mind paying a premium for it. They're overkill if you just want something you can leave on a desk and use for a couple of hours after work. The ideal ultrabook has enough processing power to get work done and sufficient battery life to survive a cross-country flight, while still being slim and light enough to go anywhere.

    Building a District 9 Alien Rifle Replica, Part 2

    Over the course of this month, Punished Props' Bill Doran is building a 1:1 scale replica of the alien assault rifle from District 9 to unveil with us at Comic-Con. Bill's build logs and videos will walk through his design and fabrication process, and his finished piece will be paired with a surprise at SDCC. Place your questions for Bill in the comments below!

    Welcome to the second installment of the District 9 rifle prop build! The project is moving along at a good pace and I've made a lot of progress. While the main body of the gun was made mostly in flat layers, there are a bunch of cylindrical pieces and it would be a pain to build them from flat sheets of material. Instead, I opted to bust out my lathe.

    Working with Foam

    For these pieces, I used a urethane tooling foam called RenShape. It comes in several densities. I ended up using the most dense foam I had. This stuff is so dense that you would think it's made of rock.

    I was also made aware by my pal Harrison Krix that sometimes this kind of foam could cause curing inhibition in platinum cure silicones, so I performed a simple test. I took a small sample of each of the four densities I had on hand and dumped silicone over them all. Sure enough, the two least dense foams caused some inhibition, while the two most dense ones did not. Hence the decision to use the most dense stuff!

    The Best Portable USB Battery Pack for Daily Use

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com.

    Smartphone batteries don't always last through a busy day, but a pocket-size USB battery pack can give your handset enough of a boost to survive the evening. After 40 hours of research and 65 hours of testing, the one we like the most is Anker's 2nd Gen Astro 6400. It fits in any pocket or purse, and it charges phones and small tablets about as fast as any pocket-friendly pack out there. At 6,400 mAh, it has a larger capacity than most, too.

    The Anker 2nd Gen Astro 6400 can slide into a relaxed-fit pants pocket alongside a smartphone, though a jacket pocket or purse will be a more comfortable fit.

    The Anker 2nd Gen Astro 6400 can slide into a relaxed-fit pants pocket alongside a smartphone, though a jacket pocket or purse will be a more comfortable fit.

    How we decided

    We started by looking for packs that could slide into a relaxed-fit jeans pocket without bulging too much. We also wanted a pack that could fully charge power-hungry phones like the Apple iPhone 6, Motorola Moto X, and Samsung Galaxy S6 at least once, and at full speed. From there, we favored packs with the best cost-to-capacity and size-to-capacity ratios and higher-current power output (up to a point).

    How To Make a Handheld Camera Gimbal Mount

    There's no question that motorized gimbals do a fabulous job of hiding the bumps and bobbles when you're using an action camera. They're pretty much required equipment for multi-rotor flyers who want to capture decent footage from on high. Recent reviews of the DJI Inspire 1 Mount and the Feiyu-Tech G3 Ultra convinced me that I needed a gimbal for my ground-based video shoots as well.

    As I was browsing the selection of handheld gimbals, I ran across the Yuneec Steady Grip. Like the Inspire 1 Mount, the Steady Grip merely provides an alternate method to hold, power, and control a gimbal that would otherwise reside on a multi-rotor. The unique pistol-like form factor of the Steady Grip made me realize that I already had most of the parts that I needed to build my own handheld gimbal mount. So I abandoned the store-bought approach and went D-I-Y.

    The basic parts needed for this project are a complete gimbal assembly, a surplus pistol grip transmitter case and a servo driver.

    Gathering Parts

    My prime motivation for this project was the desire to easily swap one of my gimbals between its aerial mount and the handheld mount. Being able to utilize a gimbal I already owned presented a substantial cost savings. Adding a gimbal to the bill of materials for this project would likely make it more expensive than just buying a handheld gimbal system outright.

    I chose to use the GB200 2-axis gimbal from my Blade 350QX2 quad. The entire gimbal assembly can easily be removed from its mount on the quad by lifting a lock tab and sliding the base off of its rails. I had already upgraded the gimbal with the proper frame to hold a GoPro Hero 3 camera.

    To emulate the style of the Steady Grip, I plundered my stash of old RC systems. Among them are several pistol-grip transmitters that I haven't used in years. I located a well-used Futaba Magnum Sport that looked like it would do the trick. It didn't matter that the electronics of the radio were still in good shape. I really only needed the plastic shell. Finding a new use for one of my squirreled-away "treasures" has certainly done nothing to improve my hoarding tendencies!

    The GB200 gimbal used for this handheld mount is the same one that I use on my Blade 350QX2 multi-rotor. I can move the gimbal back and forth between the two mounts.

    I wanted to be able to control the pitch of the gimbal while it is in the hand mount. On the quad, this function is controlled by a channel of the radio. I used a servo driver (also called a "servo tester") to transfer this capability to the hand mount. I'll explain later just how that works.

    Different gimbals may require a wide variety of input voltages to operate. I wanted to be sure that I provided the correct voltage for the GB200, but I could not find any specs that defined what it should be. I measured the voltage output at the gimbal power pins on the Blade 350 at around 4.3 volts. With that value in hand, I felt comfortable buying a 5 volt voltage regulator for the hand mount.

    Everything You Need to Know about RAW Photography on Android

    Android camera hardware has gotten very good in the last few years, but the quality of the images you get are largely dependent on the processing technology that a device maker has chosen to implement. When most phones have very similar image sensors, this software can make a huge difference. Slowly but surely, the power to produce better images is being granted to the users with support for RAW image capture.

    If your phone can capture in RAW, you don't have to worry about substandard processing algorithms in the phone. You can take matters into your own hands. Here's how to make RAW photo capture work for you on Android.

    What is RAW and which phones support it?

    Most Android phones are only set up to spit out processed images that have been compressed into JPEGs. This is usually fine, but you're relying on the ability of the stock software to do the scene justice. A lot of data is thrown away in the process, and a RAW file gives you access to all of that. A JPEG from a high-resolution camera sensor might be 4-5MB on Android, but a RAW file could easily be upwards of 30MB.

    These files come with file extensions like .dng and .nef (Android uses .dng). They contain virtually all the data from the sensor, so they're not ready to be tweaked with a standard image editing program or posted on your favorite social network. You need to work with each file and make changes to the colors, white balance, exposure, and more. It can be a significant amount of work, but you're not doing this because it's easy.

    On Android, RAW image capture can be done in a few ways. Both LG and HTC have opted to add the ability for users to snap both JPEG and RAW with the stock camera app on the G4 and One M9. You don't need to do anything other than pop into the settings to make this work. When you press the shutter, the phone outputs a DNG to the internal storage (or microSD card in the case of the G4) along with the JPEG. Samsung is supposed to be adding RAW support to its stock camera app in Android 5.1 for the Galaxy S6, which should be out in a month or so.

    The Best Multi-Port USB Wall Charger

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com.

    After surveying more than 1,100 Wirecutter readers and using six iPads to test 18 top models, we can safely say that Anker's 36W 4-Port USB Wall Charger is the best USB wall charger for most people. At only $20, it's essentially the same price as Apple's single-port 12W USB Power Adapter, but the Anker model can push out three times as much power and charge four devices at once. In fact, it can simultaneously charge three full-size iPads at full speed while also charging a smartphone. Our readers said they prefer chargers that plug directly into an outlet, and this is the most powerful one we tested to do so. Additionally, Anker's charger allows connected devices to draw the advertised amount of power; some of the competition does not.

    How we decided

    A selection of the chargers we tested.

    We quickly whittled down an initial list of 45 chargers by knocking out those that had only one or two high-speed-charging ports (except for super-compact chargers, mentioned below); had no high-speed-charging ports at all; or had a mix of faster- and slower-charging ports, requiring you to figure out which one is the "right" port if you want to charge your tablet as fast as possible.

    How To Make the Most of Android 5.0 Lollipop's Lock Screen

    If you've picked up any modern Android device recently, you probably noticed the lock screen is all shiny and new on Lollipop. There are notifications, plenty of new security options, and a few features that didn't make the cut. Let's go over everything you can do with Android's updated lock screen.

    Notifications and sensitive content

    The Android lock screen has notifications on it now, which is a change from previous versions. While notifications were accessible by pulling down the shade (only on unsecured devices), now they're staring you in the face every time you turn on your phone. The lock screen has actually become the notification shade in a lot of ways. If you swipe something away on the lock screen, it's gone from the shade too. The quick settings from the notification shade can also be accessed from the lock screen as if you had the standard notification shade open.

    Now that you can see full notifications on the lock screen, you might be wondering about privacy. That's where notification priority scheme comes into play. A sensitive notification will not have the text visible on the lock screen of a secured device, but you need to set which apps count as "sensitive." Note, you have to choose to hide sensitive content on the lock screen when you set your PIN, pattern, or password lock.

    There are two ways to check the setting of your notifications. The standard way is to find the notification menu in your system settings. The location will vary by device, but you should find it if you want to tweak multiple apps. On stock Android it's in Sound & Notification > App Notifications. This menu lists all the apps you have installed, and when you tap one, you get the notification setting. This is where you can set something as sensitive.

    A quicker way to access the settings for a single app is to long-press on one of its notifications. Tap the "info" button that appears, and you'll be in the same notification setting menu as above where you can set it to sensitive mode.

    How To Make a Realistic Horror Skull Prop

    Time for another prop-making tutorial with effects artist Frank Ippolito! This week, we stop by Frank's shop to learn how to transform a cheap plastic skull into a gory horror prop using simple materials. By layering and sculpting cotton and latex, we can simulate gross charred flesh on the skull or any other body part. It's very effective! (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us by joining the Tested Premium community!)

    The Best Water-Resistant Bluetooth Speakers

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com.

    If you are looking for the best all-around value in a water-resistant Bluetooth speaker today, the best one to buy is the UE Megaboom. While there are lots of less expensive models, most that truly approach the Megaboom's performance cost about the same, and none that we've seen can offer its mix of sound quality, features and ruggedness. We came to this conclusion after narrowing down 50-some Bluetooth speakers to 13 water-resistant finalists and testing each of them with the Wirecutter AV team and a deep swimming pool. The $300 Megaboom is pricey, but if you have other budgetary or functional needs, we have a few other picks as well.

    Who should buy a water-resistant Bluetooth speaker?

    Water-resistant Bluetooth speakers are intended for outdoor or indoor use. This might seem like a feature everybody would want, but it can come with a price: Most water-resistant Bluetooth speakers don't sound as good as the best conventional portable Bluetooth speakers, which we tested in our Best Portable Bluetooth Speaker guide.

    In general, portable Bluetooth speakers are a great buy for people who own smartphones and tablets, so you can play music from them. The rechargeable battery built into the speakers lets you take them anywhere, and water resistance expands your options even further, especially in the summer months or on vacation near beaches and pools.