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    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.

    Testing: Dell Venue 8 7000 Tablet

    Last week, I wrote about some of the products that we missed seeing at CES, but would get hands-on time with to test soon. One of them was Dell's new Venue 8 7000 tablet (terrible name, agreed), which attracted a lot of attention for its thin-bezel design and use of Intel's latest Atom processor to run Android. This tablet was actually released alongside CES, and I received mine late last week. While I'll be using and testing it for several more weeks before we shoot a video review, I wanted to share some initial thoughts, as well as get some feedback from you guys who also use Android tablets.

    So first, the design of this tablet. Ever since the very first iPhone was released in 2007, users and device designers have been trying to figure out what to make about the bezel around a touchscreen. It's generally considered that the narrower the bezel around a screen the better, though the absence of a sizeable bezel changes the way you can hold a phone or tablet. Case in point, the slimmer bezels on the iPad Mini change the practical ways to comfortably orient and grip that tablet as compared to the full-sized iPad. With the Venue 8 7000, Dell's designers have decided that an 8-inch tablet can work best without much bezel on three of its sizes, and an extended "chin" to pack hardware at the bottom. It's a striking design for sure.

    Compared to the iPad Mini, the Venue 8 7000 looks futuristic. The 8.4-inch 2560x1600 screen has a 16:10 aspect ratio, so it's actually less wide than the Mini's. Even including its left and right bezel, Dell's tablet almost fits within the confines of the Mini's screen. The "forehead" bezel of the Venue is the same width as the sides', and the uniformity of bezel space around the top of the tablet is very visually pleasing. While reading a Kindle book, flipping through photos, and browsing webpages, I felt a little more connected to the content on the Venue than on the iPad--the tablet feels more like a window for digital content than any other smartphone or tablet I've previously used. It's a peculiar distinction, but that's the psychological power of thin bezels.

    Ergonomically, the Venue 8 7000 is comfortable to use, too. I was afraid that the thick "chin" at the bottom would limit how I could hold this tablet--and it does, in that it's best used in portrait orientation with the fat bezel at the bottom. But its size and weight made holding the tablet with one hand or gripping with two at the bottom very usable. At 6mm thick and .66 pounds, it's very comparable to the iPad Mini--the slight thickness advantage isn't all that noticeable. The only complaint I have so far is that gripping the bottom of the tablet, as when for thumb typing, can obscure part of the speakers--which aren't great to begin with. The headphone jack is on the bottom left, which is what I used for most of my time with the tablet so far.

    Testing: Google Nexus 6 Smartphone

    For most of 2014 it looked like we weren't going to see a new Nexus phone at all, but the rumors turned out to be wrong and Google announced the Nexus 6 alongside the Nexus 9. The Nexus 6 is the most expensive Nexus flagship phone ever made, and it's also by far the largest. It marks Motorola's first attempt at a Nexus as well.

    With so many changes to the Nexus strategy, you're probably wondering how it all turned out. Well, let's dig in.

    Yes, It's a Very Large Phone

    The Nexus 6 packs a 5.96-inch AMOLED display clocking in at 2560x1440. This has become the new top-of-the-line for a premium smartphone, but it hasn't always turned out well. For example, the LG G3 has a 1440p LCD, but it's rather dim. The Nexus 6's screen compares favorably to the competition with average brightness and power consumption. The pixel density is a whopping 493 PPI, which is all you could ever need on a screen that size. As for burn-in, I'm not seeing any.

    Surrounding that huge screen are narrow bezels that keep the device itself from being as huge as it might have been. Don't get me wrong, it's a big phone, but Motorola has improved its industrial design lately and can manage slimmer bezels. It also helps that the screen glass curves down to meet the edge of the phone just like the new Moto X. You can hold the Nexus 6 in one hand, and even use it a little if you've got an average size mitt, but any prolonged use needs to be done with two hands.

    It actually does feel a lot like a blown-up Moto X--even the buttons on the right side are a dead ringer for the Moto X's buttons. The only difference here is that they've been moved down toward the middle of the device so they're easier to reach. One improvement from the Moto X is the inclusion of stereo front-facing speakers. The Moto X only has one.

    The back panel feels like the Moto X too. It's made of a soft, somewhat grippy plastic emblazoned with the traditional Nexus logo. I wasn't as in love with the larger dimple on the 2014 Moto X, but happily, the Nexus 6 has the smaller plastic dimple seen in the first-gen Moto X. It's in just the right place for your index finger to rest and helps to stabilize the device while you're holding it.

    Tested: Amazon Echo Speaker and Digital Assistant

    We've been testing the Amazon Echo, a home Bluetooth speaker that also connects to Amazon's new digital assistant. Using voice commands, we can ask it to perform some basic tasks, like checking the news or playing streaming music. We answer the most common questions people have about the Echo, and let you know whether it's worth the investment.

    Show and Tell: Hypnocube LED Cube

    The entire Tested team is at CES this week, but we still wanted to share a really neat project we recently built for a premium member video series. The Hypnocube is a 4x4x4 matrix of RGB LEDs that we soldered into a beautiful cube of floating lights. It's a fantastic kit that's also available fully assembled. If you haven't watched the build series yet, you can start with the first episode here.

    Testing: Dell P2715Q 4K Monitor

    The first generation of 4K monitors available for desktop use weren't great because they were TN displays that ran at 30Hz. Recently, Dell released a 4K monitor using an IPS panel, running at 60Hz. We review that display to see how it runs in Windows 8.1, test its image quality, and see if gaming is practical at 3840x2160.

    12 Days of Tested Christmas: Portal 2 Atlas + P-Body

    For the eleventh day of Tested Christmas, Norm shares a recent find: highly detailed articulated figures of Portal 2's Atlas and P-Body characters. These sixth scale figures were made by a collaboration between Valve and 3A, a maker of incredible collectibles. Time to set these figures and their Portal guns up for display in the office!