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    Show and Tell: Electric Objects EO1 Digital Picture Frame

    For this week's Show and Tell, we take a look at a new digital picture frame made by startup Electric Objects. The EO1 is a 23-inch 1080p display with a small computer built into it for downloading and displaying images and animated GIFs from the internet. One way it distinguishes itself from other digital photo frames is that its makers have intentionally not included slideshow functionality.

    Tested In-Depth: Google OnHub Router

    We test and review the Google OnHub, a $200 home router with a unique barebones cylindrical design. We talk about how its antenna configuration is supposed to make it a good access point, and the merits of an app-based router interface. Here's how Google's router performs alongside other 802.11ac routers!

    Bits to Atoms: Ultimaker 2 3D Printer Review

    We spent a month with the Ultimaker 2, a high-end FDM 3D printer and it was a positive experience all around. Ultimaker is a Netherlands based company that introduced the Ultimaker printer kit in 2011 - a standard at Maker Faire along with the MakerBot Thing-O-Matic, introduced in 2010. Aside from the many RepRap kits available at the time, Ultimaker and MakerBot were the ones people like myself were looking at. Both kits had a similar look with lasercut plywood bodies, but the Ultimaker used a different approach to how the filament was fed through the extruder and how the larger print bed operated. From the start, Ultimaker was know (and still is) for very nice, high resolution prints. The only thing that kept me from buying the Ultimaker over the Thing-O-Matic (which I loved) was the fact that MakerBot was located right in my neighborhood, Brooklyn, and Ultimaker was way over in the Netherlands with no real US-based support at the time.

    Photo credit: Ultimaker

    The Ultimaker 2

    Ultimaker Original+ Kit CREDIT: ULTIMAKER

    Things have changed quite a lot since then, with MakerBot being bought by Stratasys and becoming a household name and Ultimaker expanding across Europe. Ultimaker has now secured a U.S. partner, Fbrc8, which assembles, distributes and supports printers domestically. Currently Ultimaker offers the Go, 2 and Extended models as well as the Orginal +, an updated version of the first kit!

    All of the printers use 2.85mm PLA filament with a .1mm (100 micron) standard layer resolution, down to an amazing .04mm (40 micron) fine resolution. On many FDM printers .1mm is the 'high' setting. All printers have a removable, glass printbed for easy print removal and clean up. The $2500 Ultimaker 2 has a 22.3cm x 22.3cm x 20.5cm heated print bed which expands the printable materials. The Extended is identical to the 2 but adds 10cm to the printable height and runs $3000. The tiny Go has a 12cm x 12cm x 11.5cm build volume and does not have a heated print bed, so is restricted to PLA filament--it runs $1300.

    Tested In-Depth: Apple iOS 9 for iPhone and iPad

    Apple's latest mobile operating system is out, and even if you've already installed it, you may not know about all its features and changes. We sit down to review what's new and notable in iOS 9, showing off multi-tasking on the iPad Air 2, the new Siri, and important changes in default apps like Safari. Here's what we think about the pace of iOS changes.

    Testing: DxO One Compact Camera

    The camera on your iPhone or Android smartphone is pretty good. Good enough, and definitely convenient enough, to make most point-and-shoots obsolete. But those cameras will for the forseeable future be limited by their convenience--the need to fit the sensor and lens into a smartphone body (and god forbid, not bulge out from the back) constrains the type of camera hardware that can be used on a smartphone. That's why I think the smartphone is a great complement--not replacement--for a DSLR or large-sensor compact camera. You can buy lens attachments for a smartphone, but not swap out its sensor for a larger or more capable one. Yet.

    The DxO One camera is a neat piece of technology that wants to give you the convenience of smartphone photography with the quality of a higher-end camera. It does this by cramming a big 1-inch type sensor and accompanying aspherical lens system into a really compact formfactor--something that weights just 108 grams and is about the size of a GoPro. And it can do that by not incorporating any sort of viewfinder or LCD display. That idea isn't new--Sony has its QX "lens-style" cameras that use a smartphone as the brains and viewfinder, but those cameras transmitted a video signal over Wi-Fi. The DxO One, which only works with iOS devices, sends its data back and forth over an Apple Lightning connection. Low latency, high bandwidth, resulting in a much more seamless and responsive camera experience.

    I've been testing the DxO One for the past week, and brought it with me on a recent trip to Portland. We'll have a full in-depth video review soon, but here are my early thoughts on its strengths, weaknesses, and potential.

    Testing: HeliMax Voltage 500 Aerobatic Quadrotor

    Many people think of multi-rotors as beasts of burden. Whether that means carrying cameras or performing some other helpful task, the utilitarian focus is the same. It is easy to forget that multi-rotors can actually be fun to fly all by themselves. The Voltage 500 is a new ship from HeliMax that promotes quad flying in its purest sense. No camera gimbals, no GPS waypoints, no 3D terrain mapping--just flying for the sake of flying. [Full disclosure: I added a camera for a few flights, but just a little one. I swear.]

    You may recall that we took a look at a pair of aerobatic quads last year; the Stingray 500 and the Invertix 400. Those two quads take very different approaches to achieve sustained inverted flight. The Stingray uses a constant speed motor to drive propellers with variable pitch. The Voltage 500 follows in the footsteps of the Invertix by utilizing fixed-pitch propellers on motors that can reverse in flight.

    What You Get

    The Voltage 500 ($430) is a 500mm class quad (diagonal measurement from a front motor shaft to the opposite rear motor shaft), which is rather large as quads go. This ship has a double-deck fiberglass main frame and arms made of large diameter carbon fiber tube. At the end of each arm is a red-anodized aluminum mount holding a 1400kV brushless motor. The Voltage has a very wide stance with plastic landing gear legs located below the motors.

    The quad's 500mm size and contrasting colors improve visibility and reduce the pilot's workload.

    Most of the assembly is complete out of the box. All of the hardware, except for the props are bolted into place. The onboard electronics include a power distribution board, flight controller (FC) and four Electronic Speed Controls. These parts are all wired up and anchored into place.

    A painted Lexan shell covers the main frame. The Voltage has a clean look even when naked, but the shell really tidies things up. More importantly, the contrasting colors on the shell and the props provide visual cues for orientation of the quad in flight. It always helps to know which way your aircraft is pointing.

    Tested: Logitech UE Boom 2 Bluetooth Speaker

    Logitech's Ultimate Ears Boom and UE Mini Boom portable speakers have been two of our favorite bluetooth speakers, and their new follow-ups are just as impressive. Will's been testing the UE Boom 2, which sounds better than the original and is also waterproof. The UE Mini Boom is now the UE Roll, which is a great travel speaker to keep in your day pack.

    Show and Tell: Jaybird X2 Wireless Earbuds

    Will's been testing the Jaybird X2, one of the few wireless earbuds available today. Will discusses the X2's audio quality, improvements to its design, and the usefulness of interchangeable earbud tips. And even though the earbuds are small, its battery performance was good!

    Tested In-Depth: OnePlus 2 Android Smartphone

    We test and review the new OnePlus 2 Android smartphone! The first OnePlus phone was notable for its high-end hardware and low off-contract price, but was also released in very limited quantities. Its follow-up, the OnePlus 2, distinguishes itself with the use of USB-C, a fingerprint scanner, and a hardware notification switch. We discuss the usefulness of those features and the phone's performance compared to other flagships.

    Show and Tell: Pebble Time Steel Smartwatch

    For this week's Show and Tell, Will and Norm give an update on the testing of the Pebble Time smartwatch. Since our review, Pebble has updated the watch software to fix several of the issues we had with it, and also released the Pebble Time Steel. Here's what changed in hardware and software since our first review.

    Testing: Pro Boat Shockwave 26 RC Boat

    Last year, I presented an introduction to RC boats that focused on smaller models. This time around, I'll be stepping up in size and power. The boats featured in the previous article (Aquacraft Reef Racer 2 and Minimono) measure about 17" long. The 26" Pro Boat Shockwave 26 ($230) I'm reviewing today is significantly larger. The greater size allows for additional capabilities and performance tuning while also introducing more maintenance overhead.

    The Pro Boat Shockwave 26 is a fast, brushless powered boat that provides a logical step up from smaller, beginner-oriented designs.

    Shockwave 26

    The Shockwave 26 is only available as a Ready-To-Run (RTR) package that includes the fully-assembled boat and a pistol-grip transmitter. You have to provide a 2-cell or 3-cell LiPo battery and a charger. I think that I fall right into the target demographic for this boat: sport boaters who are ready to step up in size and power from beginner models.

    The hull of the Shockwave is made of molded ABS plastic. All of the running gear and radio equipment is located on an internal tray. There is a sealed hatch cover that keeps water from seeping in (mostly). Thumb screws are used to secure the hatch in place. On my model, the e-clips that make the thumb screws captive were prone to fall off. So I tacked them to the screws (carefully) with CA glue.

    Power for the Shockwave comes from a 2000kV (rpm/volt) brushless motor. The motor is regulated by a surprisingly small 30 amp ESC. Both of these components are water-cooled, using a pickup system located in the rudder. Sitting astride the ESC is a 2-channel 2.4GHz radio receiver. Further aft is a Spektrum S603 steering servo that actuates the rudder. The receiver and servo are waterproof units.

    Tested: DJI Phantom 3 Professional Quadcopter

    After flying and testing the Phantom 3 Professional for a few months, we review DJI's latest consumer quadcopter. The Phantom 3 is a worthwhile upgrade to last year's Vision+, improving on flight system, gimballed camera, and integrated wireless video transmission. But if you can't edit 4K video, we would get the Advanced model. Plus, plenty of sample footage!

    Testing: Pebble Time Steel Smartwatch

    Our testing and review of the Pebble Time left us a bit underwhelmed. The second-generation smartwatch, equipped with a new color display, felt half-baked. Functionality was fragmented between iOS and Android users. Promised features like voice notes didn't make it to launch. Battery life was a little worse than the original Pebble. And annoying flaws like an aggressive vibration motor and recessed screen made the Pebble Time difficult to recommend at its $200 price.

    Since our initial review, Pebble has released two significant software updates to its platform, as well as a new $250 Pebble Time Steel model. Together, they address the many of the problems I had with the Pebble Time. I've had the steel model for about a week, and wanted to share some thoughts now that both models are available to order.

    First, the software fixes. Pebble's 3.2 and 3.3 firmware updates--along with corresponding smartphone app updates--provide some stability and bug fixes as well as useful features. Notably, users can adjust the intensity and time-out duration of the backlight (medium works great for me), tweak system font size, and set the strength of the vibration motor to one of three settings. Putting the motor on low feels right for my wrist and doesn't rattle my side table in the morning when emails start flooding in. Additionally, notifications are now synced between Android phones and the Pebble, so any notifications dismissed on the phone go away on the watch as well. Good stuff.

    Testing: DJI Phantom 3 Pro Quadcopter Drone

    Earlier this year, DJI released its third-generation Phantom quadcopter. The Phantom line is perhaps the most well-known ready-to-fly quads you can buy, and the Phantom 3 Advanced and Phantom 3 Professional models are significant upgrades to the last generation. These quadcopters are amazing devices; they combine aerial, sensor, and imaging technologies to make a user-friendly remote-controlled flying camera that would not have been possible a decade ago. That ease-of-use is partly what makes these ready-to-fly quadcopters so compelling. While hobbyists have been building RC multi-rotors for fun and sport, the low barrier to entry offered by RTF quads has exploded the market for new products--not unlike the first years of the modern smartphone. And the rapid pace of DJI's product iterations, along with the proliferation of quadcopter-produced photos and videos--further bootstraps a fast growing community of new flyers.

    So to answer one frequently-asked question: yes, the Phantom 3 line is a significant and worthwhile upgrade to the Phantom 2. Our first Phantom was last year's Vision+, which amazed us by being easy to fly, incorporating a built-in stabilized gimballed HD camera system, and tying flight and sight together with an integrated FPV video feed. All three of these features are markedly improved in the Phantom 3. Let's go over the changes in depth.

    First, the new flight system. The Phantom 3 looks a lot like the Phantom 2, with only a slightly bigger airframe (it will fit in many existing Phantom 2 cases). But the brushless motors, DJI speed controllers, and 4S battery system that power it under the hood are new, and grant the quad more power. It's not that the Phantom 3 flies a lot faster than the Phantom 2 (16m/s max speed vs 15m/s max) or can ascend and descend quicker; that power manifests itself as improved stability and control during flight. Unlike DJI's Inspire 1, the Phantom 3 doesn't fly like a hovering tank--it feels nimble and responsive, even when taken to heights where the motors are fighting winds. And that's power you can take for granted--it wasn't until I switched back to the Phantom 2 for a day that I realized how rock solid the new quad is by comparison.

    Key to the Phantom's flight system is GPS-stabilization. In the Phantom 2, this allowed the quadcopter to calculate where it should be in positional space, automatically adjusting its motor power in real-time to compensate for external forces. We've demoed this before by dragging a flying Phantom by its landing struts to simulate wind and feeling the motors "fight back". Phantom 3 taps into both GPS and Russian GLONASS satellites for a wider range of coverage, though that accounts for faster satellite acquisition moreso than increased positional accuracy. More notable is the Phantom 3 Advanced and Professional's (I've been testing the latter) use of an ultrasonic and visual positioning system for low-altitude stabilization. This is the same system that was introduced in the Inspire 1--a combination of sonar and downward-facing camera to stabilize the quad when it's lower than 10 feet above ground. This is tech that other RTF quads simply don't have.

    Tested In-Depth: Nest Cam Security Camera

    We review Google's Nest Cam, their 1080p connected camera built for home or office monitoring. We compare its features to the previous Dropcam models, discuss the merits of home security subscription services, and try to figure out who this product is made for. Is this any more than just a pricey webcam?

    Testing: Electric Objects Digital Art Frame

    Last year, I backed the Electric Objects Kickstarter, a campaign to produce a digital picture frame built from a 23-inch 1080p panel and integrated ARM computer. It's something that, on paper, sounds like something you could just build yourself--you can buy a similarly-sized IPS panel for under $150 and attach it to a $35 Raspberry Pi. What Electric Objects is going for, however, seems to be an elegant and intentional design in both the hardware and software--a complete solution that works right out of the box. That box arrived earlier this month, and I've been using the Electric Objects EO1 frame for the past week. As a screenprint collector, here's what I think about it so far, and what it's trying to accomplish.

    On the hardware side, the display itself is a matte 23-inch 1080p panel with a 250 nit backlight--pretty standard for 16:9 monitor you can get from monitor makers like Dell. The custom stuff is all in the frame around that panel to make it look like a framed piece of art. The 3/4-inch bezel is in line with the frames I like for my 18x24 screenprints, is even on all sizes, and has a slightly angled taper toward the back. The "frame" itself isn't as thick as most monitors, but the computer hardware--a 1GHz dual-core Cortex-A9 system with built-in Wi-Fi and bluetooth--bulges from the back, so it does float a little bit off the wall. Mounting hardware is included.

    The quality of the screen is good, with all the perks of an IPS panel: good color reproduction, high contrast, and wide viewing angles. It being matte also helps a lot with visibility in daylight, though it will look washed out from certain reflective angles. Of course, the LCD has downsides as well, as images with black backgrounds don't look completely black in the dark (even with auto-brightness), and 250 nits isn't bright enough to make images pop in a fully day-lit room. I didn't notice any backlight bleed, though. With the intent of keeping the hardware as simple as possible, there's no OSD for calibrating the display--only a single button for putting the EO1 to sleep when you don't want it on.

    Other than the fact that this is an active backlit display, the most obvious difference between this and a piece of printed art is the image resolution. 1080p is sufficient for putting up photos or animated GIFs and appreciating them from afar, but get up close to the EO1 and you're going to notice the pixels. One of the things I love about screenprints is being able to scrutinize the minute details and nuances natural to the printing process. Even with fine digital prints, there's a physicality in the CMYK separations that lets you know how an artist intended the work to be seen when you put your eyeball up to the paper. You can't do that here--art on the EO1 is meant to be appreciated from at least a few feet away.

    But these limitations, in the eyes of EO1's creators, are features inherent to their vision of the digital canvas. Digital art is fundamentally different than printed art, and maybe you're supposed to experience and enjoy it differently. And the most notable "feature" of the Electric Objects display is its inability to run slideshows.

    Tested In-Depth: Ultimaker 2 3D Printer

    Interested in 3D printing? Our rapid prototyping expert Sean Charlesworth has been testing the Ultimaker 2, and sits down with Will to review this new printer. Its prints are really great! We discuss how the Ultimaker 2 compares with other FDM printers and what you should look for when researching and shopping for a 3D printer.

    Show and Tell: Remote Controlled Bionic Bird

    Remember the Tim Bird toy from way back? Its successor is the Bionic Bird, a remote-controlled ornithopter that flaps its wings to flight. This crowdfunded toy was created by the son of the original Tim Bird inventor, and works great indoors. It's kind of like a toy bat!