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    Testing: Ares Quadcopter Accessories

    A few weeks back, I presented an overview of a few quads from the Ares brand. Overall, I was quite impressed with the quality and flying traits of the Ares birds. Since performing my testing, I have acquired some of the accessory items that can be utilized with the Ethos QX 130 or the larger Ethos HD. I'll show you how these add-ons work and why they might even help your flying skills.

    There are five accessory units to choose from: a camera ($29.99), winch ($12.99), rocket launcher ($12.99), water blaster ($12.99), and bubble machine ($12.99). I had already experimented with the camera during my initial review of the QX 130. I found it to be consistent with all of the other tiny cameras that are mounted on some mini-quads – not very good. This time around, I'll focus on the remaining four options and see how they measure up.

    Mounting

    Each of the accessory units features a simple clip-on mount that secures it to the bottom of the quad. They also have a wire pigtail that must be connected to the quad's control board. When connecting to the QX 130, the body must be removed to expose the plug sockets on the top side of the control board. With the Ethos HD, the control board is oriented with the sockets on the bottom side. While the body can stay in place, the plugs are more difficult to access. I used a small plastic flat-blade screwdriver to push the plugs into their sockets and also to pry them out.

    This view of the Ethos QX 130 control board illustrates where the accessory units must be plugged in (bottom edge). The layout is similar for the Ethos HD, but the board is inverted and access is slightly obscured.

    Every accessory package also includes a set of helicopter-like skids with carbon fiber legs. When added to the QX 130, these parts raise the ground stance of the quad so that the underslung add-ons stay out of the dirt. It isn't necessary to raise the Ethos HD to clear any of the accessories.

    The accessories are operated using one or two of the four buttons located on the lower-right face of the transmitter. This works okay except that you have to release one of the control sticks to press the desired button. It would be nice if the accessory buttons were located on the rear of the transmitter so they could be actuated without releasing any of the controls. I've considered hacking one of my Ares transmitters to install rear-mounted buttons, but it hasn't happened yet.

    Show and Tell: Mpow Streambot Bluetooth FM Transmitter

    For this week's Show and Tell, Norm shares a car accessory that has been essential in numerous road trips this year. If you don't have bluetooth or a line-in jack for media in your car, the Mpow Streambot FM transmitter is an easy way to play podcasts and music over your stereo system. The Wirecutter recently selected it as a great Bluetooth car stereo pick for music streaming! (Thanks to B&H for providing the One Man Crew system for this video. Find out more about it here!)

    Testing: Duet Display for iPad and Mac OS

    For the past few days, I've been testing an iOS tool called Duet Display. Eric Cheng of DJI clued me in on the $15 app, and it's one of the more interesting and useful iPad utilities I've used so far. Simply, it allows you to use any iPad--whether it's an old 30-pin or current Lightning cable model--as a second screen for your Mac or PC. Yep, it's platform agnostic, and the desktop client is free. Using a 9.7-inch or 7.9-inch tablet as your secondary monitor may not sound like a great idea, and it's not something I would use on a regular basis. But since I keep both a laptop and my iPad in my backpack for most places I go, this is something that may have a lot of utility for frequent work travel.

    The ability to use an iPad as a second display isn't new--iOS apps like Air Display have granted that ability for years. But those apps rely on a tethered or shared Wi-Fi connection, which limits the quality and responsiveness of the extended display image. The host computer is essentially sending compressed video over to the iPad, and that requires a lot of bandwidth. Duet Display uses a wired connection, so the only limiting factor is the host computer's ability to render and compress a desktop to send over the cable (Duet Display is admittedly a bit of a CPU and power hog, if you're running on laptop power). I was impressed by how good the desktop on my iPad Mini looked, and how responsive the cursor was as I moved windows between screens. It's not exactly zero lag, but darn close.

    Tested In-Depth: PCIe Solid State Storage

    How fast do you need your desktop storage device to be? We sit down this week to discuss the state of PCIe solid state drives, like Intel's new 750 Series with the NVMe controller. This 1.2TB drive delivered incredible bandwidth and benchmark performance, but you should know a few things about this technology before thinking about upgrading.

    Show and Tell: Favorite Helping Hands Set

    For this week's Show and Tell, Will shares with us his new favorite set of helping hands for the workshop. We've all see those small third-hand tools sold at electronics and craft stores, but the best set is the one we've used at Adam's shop. This precision tool is made for jewelers, and are great for big soldering projects too. (Thanks to B&H for providing the One Man Crew system for this video. Find out more about it here!)

    Tested In-Depth: Connected LED Light Bulbs

    The cost of switching your incandescent or CFL bulbs to LED ones is lower than ever, and new technology is making it more practical to buy connected bulbs. We sit down to discuss the state of the "smart home," review several connected LED bulbs, and talk about the potential benefits of using smart locks. What are your thoughts on connected home devices?

    Show and Tell: Convention Art Sculpts

    For this week's Show and Tell, Norm shares some of his favorite art sculpts that he's found while travelling to conventions this year. Shows like Monsterpalooza and WonderCon host awesome sculptors in their artist alleys, where you can find unique pieces hand casted and painted by the artist themselves. Here are two recent favorites! (Thanks to B&H for providing the One Man Crew system for this video. Find out more about it here!)

    Testing: Asus Zenbook UX305 Laptop

    Intel's Core-M laptop processor has been getting a lot of attention of late, and not under the best light. Even though these ultra-low power CPUs were released late last year in a bunch of Windows notebooks, the platform got a ton of attention when Apple put it in the controversial new MacBook line. As we've found in our tests, Core-M effective made the MacBook Apple's slowest Mac device--mid-range performance at a high-end price. And on the PC side, our experience with Core-M hasn't been much better. Performance throttling of Core-M on the Lenovo Yoga Pro 3 made it a step backward for that series of laptops. Manufacturers clearly get the appeal of a fanless laptop design, but they're putting Intel's chip in premium systems that tax it too far.

    It's not until the Asus Zenbook UX305 that I've finally found what looks like the most appropriate use of Core-M: a fantastic mid-range system that costs just $700. After using the UX305 for a few weeks, I'm convinced that this is the best laptop you can buy for the price.

    In discussing my testing of the UX305, I have to acknowledge that it was research into the MacBook that lead me to this laptop. Many Windows users in tech forums pointed to it as a counterpoint to Apple's new laptop, citing its use of Core-M. But aside from that shared CPU architecture, these are actually very different systems, made for very different users. In fact, the more apt comparison would be with Apple's 13-inch MacBook Air.

    Just look at the size and dimensions of the Zenbook. It's not a design that was whittled away to be as thin and light as possible--and that's totally OK. The generous bezel space around the screen and keyboard areas makes this more a traditionally designed ultrabook than a Dell XPS 13. And with its 13.3-inch screen, the Zenbook is still thinner and lighter than the 13-inch MacBook Air at half an inch (12.5mm) thick and 2.64 pounds. I've never lived with a 13-inch MacBook Air long-term, but the UX305 is a very comfortable size for a daily carry or walking around with at the office.

    Under the hood, the UX305 uses Intel's Core-M 5Y10 processor, which is actually clocked at .8GHz and turbo boosts to 2.0GHz when needed. The CPU is supported by the standard Intel HD5300 integrated graphics chip, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of SATA-based solid state storage. I'll talk about real-world performance in a bit, but want to note that the amount of stock SSD storage is exceptional for a laptop of this price. It's not a PCIe-based storage system, but that's totally fine for a laptop that's not meant for heavy photo or video work. Storage was also divided into two partitions, but it's easy to merge the two when first setting the Zenbook up.

    On the sides of the laptop are three USB 3.0 ports (one that supports fast charging for smartphones), headphone jack, power port, micro-HDMI, and an SD card reader. The USB ports were as fast as any I've tested, but the SD card reader transferred files from my Sandisk Extreme Pro card at around 40MB/s, which is on the low side of built-in readers.

    Tested In-Depth: Samsung Galaxy S6 Smartphone

    Samsung's new Galaxy S6 smartphone is a bit controversial, with its familiar design to the flagship's omission of a removable battery and microSD card slot. But its brilliant screen and camera make it very compelling. We sit down to run through all the important things about this phone and compare it to the iPhone 6. Here's why the Galaxy S6 is the best phone Norm has ever tested.

    Hands-On with DJI's Phantom 3 Quadcopters

    We take the new DJI Phantom 3 Advanced and Professional quadcopters out for some test flights! Eric Cheng of DJI joins us to discuss how these new quads differ from previous models in terms of their flight capability and cameras, bringing in features previously introduced in the Inspire 1. We then put these quadcopters up in the air to test the new stabilization systems and 4K video!

    Tested In-Depth: Apple 12-Inch MacBook (2015)

    We've been living with Apple's new MacBook for a few weeks, and sit down to discuss in-depth its technical merits and interesting design choices. Even if you're not interested in Macs, the use of Intel's Core-M chip and USB Type-C give insights into the future of mobile computing. Here's how the retina MacBook fits into Apple's laptop lineup, and how this pricey device compares to other Core M-based computers.

    Testing the Apple Watch: How it Works

    We're starting to test the new Apple Watch for our long-term use review. Today, we run through some common questions about its basic features, how app integration works, connectivity with our phones, and Siri functionality that you can't demo in stores. What questions do you have about the Apple Watch?

    Tested: Self-Balancing Electric Unicycle

    We've been testing the Focus Designs Self-Balancing Unicycle, which you may have seen Adam ride on an episode of Mythbusters. The latest V3 model can speed up to 12 miles per hour and ride uphills, all without any pedaling. Will's become proficient at riding the SBU, and shows us how it works!

    Tested In-Depth: Panasonic Lumix LX100

    This week, we test Panasonic's Lumix LX100, a fixed-lens camera that equipped with a micro four-thirds image sensor. It's smaller than other mirrorless cameras, but doesn't exactly fit in the compact camera category like the Sony RX100 or Canon G7X. Still, the photos we were able to take with this camera were pretty great.

    Testing: Samsung Galaxy S6 Smartphone

    The new Samsung Galaxy S6 released last Friday sure looks more like an iPhone than any of Samsung's Galaxy phones before it. Unibody aluminum construction, glass front and back, and nary a screw or chunky piece of plastic in sight. Is the design an egregious rip-off? That's for lawyers to argue. But it is absolutely a concession by Samsung that the design ethos we've seen from Apple since the iPhone 4 has merit: a beautiful unibody phone is worth the omission of "power-user" features like a user-replaceable battery and memory card slot. And in this case, I think the tradeoffs may be worth it. There's so much to like in the new GS6.

    I picked up my Galaxy S6 from Best Buy when it was released and have been using it for the past three days. That's not enough time for a thorough evaluation of its technical performance and nuances of long-term use, but enough to share some impressions of the attributes that stand out. Let's run through those, starting with the design.

    The GS6's Design is Beautiful

    Regardless of how Samsung came to the design of the Galaxy S6, they ended up with one of the best-looking and feeling Android phones I've used. It looks especially fetching in white, where the illuminated menu and back buttons fade into the glass of the front face. But it's less about the glass on the front and back of the phone than it is about the aluminum band wrapped around the phone. Yes, from the bottom, it looks very much like an iPhone 6, speaker grille, headphone jack, and all. But the aluminum on the long sides of the phone is a flat edge, making it much easier to grip than the fully-curved sides of the latest iPhones. The GS6 is light, thin, and doesn't make me worry that it'll slip out of my hands when typing single-handed.

    Using glass for the phone's back may be the most questionable design decision for this phone. Glass may be prettier than aluminum, but this is a phone that will shatter if you drop it on concrete. I'm not going to get a case for it, but I am definitely treating it more carefully than the OnePlus One and Moto X I was using before. And no, I'm not going to try to bend it to the point of breaking.

    Show and Tell: Nixie Tube Clock

    For this week's Show and Tell, Norm shares a recent purchase: a relatively inexpensive Nixie tube clock that makes for a beautiful desk display. This clock makes use of Russian IN-14 cold cathode tubes paired with a simple control board with RGB LEDs for color accents. The only thing not included is a cheap 12V power supply you can easily get online.

    Apple Watch Hands-On Demo Impressions

    The Apple Watch is finally available to try in person, so we book the very first appointment at our local store to get a demo and check out the hardware. Norm, Jeremy, and Gary share their impressions from trying on the different models and bands and discuss navigating the UI with the digital crown.

    Testing: Zoom Q8 HD Camera for Podcasting

    I've been looking for the right camera for our mobile podcasting setup ever since we started recording video podcasts away from our studio in 2012. When we first started Still Untitled, we used a GoPro HeroHD 2 to record the show. Over the years, we've upgraded those GoPros to newer models, but have remained pretty dissatisfied with the cameras--they just aren't meant to be used for long videos with lots of talking.

    The action cameras I've tested have a hard time maintaining a consistent clock over long videos, which isn't a problem when you're recording a ride down a mountainside or your first time skydiving, but when you need to sync separate audio and video tracks, it's a huge pain in the ass that involves stretching the duration on either the audio or the video. Most action cams also lack viewfinders, so it's difficult to reliably frame your shot, and all this is compounded by the fact that action cameras simply aren't designed for long shoots. The camera have overheated over 40 minutes of runtime, which causes lost or corrupted video. It isn't a great experience.

    We've tested pro cameras for podcast use before too, including the Panasonic cameras we use in the studio and the Sony PXW-X70 that Joey had on loan from B&H in January. Our aging Panasonics are tied to the proprietary P2 storage cards, which require a special (and very expensive) P2 deck to grab footage from. The Sony camera produced great video and integrated easily into my Premiere Pro-based workflow, but it is much more expensive than I was looking for and is frankly overkill for long, static shots.

    On paper, inexpensive point and shoot cameras seem like the perfect middle ground between inexpensive action cameras and fixed lens prosumer models. We've used Norm's Sony RX100 Mk III for the last half dozen or so episodes of Still Untitled with reasonably good results. However, it's not an ideal solution either. While it's capable of maintaining a constant clock (making A/V sync easy), most point and shoots lack line-level audio inputs and they are universally limited to 30 minute maximum record times, either due to sensor overheating issues (rare) or strange European tariffs (common).

    Enter the Zoom Q8. The Zoom Q8 was designed for exactly the situation we shoot Still Untitled in every week, longer fixed shots where audio is really important. Zoom specifically calls out podcasters, YouTubers and folks who want to record live music from the audience as potential users of this camera. While I can't speak to the latter, the two former use cases are spot on. I've used the Q8 to record three episodes of Still Untitled, and the results are exactly what I was looking for in this type of camera.