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    Test Driving the BMW i3 Electric Car

    Will's on a quest to to find a new car, and is considering an all-electric vehicle. This week, he test drives the BMW i3, a unique hatchback that can run for 80 miles on a full charge. We take the i3 on the freeway, on San Francisco's steepest hill, and test its self-parking feature.

    Testing the New Apple Force Touch Trackpad

    Apple recently updated its MacBook Pro and MacBook Air laptops with a new trackpad system it's calling Force Touch. We've always maintained that Apple makes the best trackpads, but we were concerned about losing the ability to "click". So here's our test of the new Force Touch system, comparing it to the previous trackpad.

    Tested In-Depth: Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition

    Consumer-ready virtual reality is still at least half a year away, but Samsung's Gear VR Innovator Edition gives us a first glimpse at what the first apps and games for mobile VR could look like. We discuss the headset's hardware, Oculus-made interface software, and demo some of the first games being sold on this platform. Plus, weird Gear VR eyes! (Thank to B&H for providing the Note 4 for this review. Find out more about the phone here.)

    Show and Tell: Smooth-On's 3D Print Coating

    For this week's Show and Tell, Norm invites Jeremy Williams to the office to test a new epoxy coating for 3D printed parts. Most prints from extrusion-based printers have rough edges that we can finish with Bondo and sanding, but here's another option. We test Smooth-On's XTC-3D on several 3D prints of various complexity, and evaluate the results.

    Building a Home Server for Backups and Ripping Blu-Rays

    For the past few months, Will has been researching a build for a new home server for personal backups and media streaming. In addition to housing terrabytes of data, the server Will ended up building also doubles as an efficient DVD and Blu-ray ripping machine, automating heavy transcoding tasks. We discuss the build and give software and hardware recommendations for anyone looking to build their own! Read more about the project here.

    Tested In-Depth: Dell Venue 8 7000 Android Tablet

    Dell's new tablet isn't just one of the best-designed tablets we've used, it's our new favorite Android tablet. We discuss how the thin bezel and high-resolution OLED display affects content consumption, the differences between ARM and x86 on Android, and expected battery life for today's tablets.

    Show and Tell: R2-D2 Sixth Scale Figure

    For this week's Show and Tell, Norm shares a new figure created by Sideshow Collectibles in their Star Wars line of sixth scale replicas. This is one of the finest R2-D2 reproductions we've seen at this size, with articulating dome, touch-activated lights, magnetic panels, and plenty of accessories. All its missing is sound effects--you'll have to provide the beeps and boops yourself.

    Tested In-Depth: LG Ultra-Widescreen 21:9 Monitor

    Will reviews a new ultra widescreen computer monitor from LG--the first we've tested that's both a 21:9 display and also curved. We discuss what you can do with that extra screen real estate, software that helps manage your desktop, and what movies and games look like at that aspect ratio.

    Show and Tell: Seek Thermal Imaging Camera

    For this week's Show and Tell, Norm tests out a thermal imaging camera accessory for his Android phone. The Seek Thermal camera connects to a smartphone over microUSB to gauge the temperature of anything in its sights--like Predator vision! The image resolution is a little low, but we've been using it for laptops, tablet, and phone testing.

    Tested In-Depth: Sling TV Streaming Service

    Sling TV is a new live video streaming service from Dish, which may be interesting for people who want to cut their reliance on cable subscriptions. We discuss what you get in the basic $20 package, Sling's device compatibility, and the viewing experience. It's a step in the right direction, but also could use much improvement.

    Show and Tell: LEGO Mystery Build #11

    This week's Show and Tell is our first LEGO mystery build of the new year! And here's a kit that was sold out for a long time before LEGO recently reissued it--and it was worth the wait. As the time-lapse engages, place you best guess as to what Norm is building in the comments below!

    Show and Tell: Papercraft Skull Kit

    For this week's Show and Tell, Norm shares an awesome cardboard kit of a miniature human skull. Unlike previous papercraft kits we've built, this one is assembled by stacking laser-cut sheets of cardstock, almost like the layers of a 3D print. You can find it online here!

    What's New in the Windows 10 Technical Preview (Build 9926)

    When Microsoft releases Windows 10, it'll be a free upgrade to anyone currently using Windows 7 or 8. But is it something you'll want to install? The new Technical Preview gives us a glimpse into how Microsoft plans to reel back the Modern UI design and introduce new features like Cortana search and a Notifications pane. Here's what you should know about it!

    Tested: Soloshot 2 Robot Cameraman Review

    It is often said that the number one rule of photography is “Get the shot.” Sure, I understand the point that being at the right place with a camera in hand is more important than any technical or artistic aspect of the resulting photo. But whoever came up with that mantra never watched a cellphone video of an RC plane in flight, which often ends up looking like a housefly buzzing around a baby blue wall. Getting the shot isn't just about being at the right place, at the right time. Sometimes you need certain equipment and techniques to make the effort worthwhile.

    I do not claim to be an expert RC photographer by any stretch. But I have shot enough photos and videos of tiny aircraft to know that capturing consistently good media of RC aircraft is a two man job:

    1. A pilot who understands the lighting and positioning needs of the photographer, and has the willingness/ability to fly the model accordingly (usually low, slow, and with precision)

    2. A photographer who understands the performance limitations of the subject model and is also comfortable tracking a small object moving in three dimensions while composing flattering shots.

    I’ve often had a difficult time finding people with the skills and disposition to fill either role. Factor in weather constraints and dynamic personal schedules and it’s a wonder that any of my RC photo shoots ever panned out. So when I saw an advertisement for the SOLOSHOT 2, I immediately recognized an opportunity to fill the photographer role with a robot. I’ve now been using SOLOSHOT 2 for about two months. Although it has not completely replaced my need for a warm-blooded cameraman, it has certainly lessened my dependence.

    What is a "Robot Cameraman?"

    SOLOSHOT 2 (SS2) is essentially a two-part system that starts at $400. On the camera end is a motorized two-axis gimbal called the “base” that pans and tilts the attached camera so that it is always pointed at the desired subject--wherever it moves. On the subject end is a device called the “tag”. The radio signals emitted by the tag are the key to keeping the subject under the camera’s unflinching eye.

    SS2 was created by surfers as a way to automatically film themselves. Like me, they often lacked someone who was able or willing to man the camera while they were out enjoying their hobby. Although the SS2 developers recognized the potential value of the system for other sports, filming RC aircraft was not on their radar. When I contacted SOLOSHOT, they told me that they were very surprised by the amount of interest they were receiving from RC flyers.

    SOLOSHOT 2 HAS TWO PRIMARY COMPONENTS: THE BASE WITH A 2-AXIS GIMBAL FOR THE CAMERA, AND THE TAG THAT STAYS WITH YOUR SUBJECT.

    Knowing full well that I intended to use the SS2 in ways that it was never intended, SOLOHOT provided a “Camera Bundle” for me to review and experiment with. The bundle includes the base and tag previously mentioned as well as a tripod, a Camera Controller, and a Sony CX240 video camera. The Camera Controller provides an interface between the camera itself and the SS2. This opens up additional features such as automatic zooming as the subject get further away and also the ability to start/stop recording remotely via the tag.

    Tested: Canon G7 X vs. Sony RX100 III

    Between your smartphone and a high-end DSLR is a new camera category: a compact camera with a high quality image sensor. Cameras like the Sony RX100 III and Canon PowerShot G7 X are fantastic for carrying around in jackets and day packs, and make for good concert cameras too. We compare their similarities and differences to pick our favorite of the two.

    Show and Tell: Ricoh Theta 360 Degree Camera

    For this week's show and tell, Norm shares a new gadget he's been testing: Ricoh's Theta 360 degree camera. Using two fisheye lenses on each side of this camera stick, you can take photos or videos that are automatically stitched into interactive panoramas. The camera's image quality may not be great, but the effect is very novel and has potential for VR imagery.

    Tested: Blade 350 QX3 AP Combo Quadcopter

    Note: Although, the 350 QX3 has numerous beginner-friendly features, I consider it an intermediate level aircraft. My recommendation is for aspiring multi-rotor pilots to start out with a mini quad and/or a simulator. Once you become competent and comfortable with the basics of piloting, your odds of success with an intermediate quad are much improved.

    It has only been a few months since I reviewed the Blade 350 QX2 AP Combo. I liked the flying qualities of the quad and the stabilizing effect of the 2-axis camera gimbal, but the included CGO1 camera wasn’t up to par. Well, the multi-rotor industry gathers no moss. A new version of this quad is already on the market, the 350 QX3 AP Combo. This new ship has a different (better) camera on a 3-axis gimbal and several other improvements that I didn’t even know it needed! I've been flying it for a while to test, and here are my thoughts on this $1000 RTF quad.

    What’s Included

    As before, the AP Combo includes everything you need to go flying: prebuilt quad, camera/gimbal unit, transmitter, battery, and charger. It also has a few extras not found in the previous version, such as an 8GB micro-SD card for the camera and a USB programming cable for configuring the onboard firmware. As before, you’ll also find a spare set of props in the box.

    Blade includes a quick start guide that covers the basics of operation. You’ll want to download the full manual to keep as a reference. I found the video tutorials on Blade’s YouTube channel to be especially helpful.

    What’s New

    The 350 QX3’s new camera is an eyeball-like unit called the CGO2. The camera is an integral part of a 3-axis gimbal. This gimbal stabilizes the camera in the pitch, roll, and yaw axes, but only the pitch (tilt) of the camera can be commanded by the pilot. The camera is capable of 16MP stills and 1080p video at 60fps, which is a significant boost over the CGO1’s 1080P frame rate of 30fps.

    THE CGO2 CAMERA IS INTEGRATED INITO A 3-AXIS GIMBAL WITH TILT CONTROL. IT CAN SHOOT 1080P/60FPS VIDEO AND 16MP STILL PHOTOS.

    Power for the camera is provided by the flight battery, so you don’t have to worry about managing a separate battery for the camera. Other than tilt of the gimbal, the camera functions can only be controlled via the CGO2 app on a smart phone or tablet with 5.8 GHz Wi-Fi.

    The only other obvious change to the 350 QX3 is the relocated GPS antenna. It is now on a flip-up mast on the top of the quad. This new location helps to isolate the antenna from electronic noise created by other components which could negatively impact GPS reception. Some Go-Pro Hero3 users have indicated that the camera’s wi-fi system can affect GPS reception on multi-rotors. Although the CGO2 negates the use of a GoPro on the AP Combo, other versions of the 350 QX3 will accept it. Time will tell if the hinged mast is a structural weak point.