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    Testing: SmartPlane Pro FPV Fixed-Wing RC

    The thrill of First Person View (FPV) flying is a big draw for many aspiring RC hobbyists. Everybody wants to experience the sensation of flying from their model's perspective. While there are lots of beginner-oriented FPV multi-rotors on the market, there are very few fixed-wing options. A new entry in the fixed-wing column is the SmartPlane Pro FPV from TobyRich ($300).

    I'll be honest. I didn't expect much from this model. The marketing material made it seem like something you might find in a Sky Mall catalog…plenty of cool factor, but no real substance. I've tested enough of those types of products to know that I shouldn't get my hopes up.

    You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that the SmartPlane Pro FPV (SPPF) is actually a great-flying little airplane. In fact, the entire package works much better than I expected. I've really been enjoying it. Keep reading to find out what makes the SPPF stand out. I'll also share some things that could use improvement.

    Hands-On with HoloPlayer One Display

    The inventors at Looking Glass Factory experiment with different ways we can interact with three-dimensional computer images, and their latest product is able to generate a convincing holographic display. Looking Glass's CEO Shawn Frayne stops by our office to demo the HoloPlayer One and chat with us about his dreams of making holograms.

    Google Play App Roundup: Graphice, Tower Fortress, and Faraway 2

    Another week is upon us, and that means it's time to check out the state of the Google Play Store. Your phone is only a shadow of itself without the best apps, so it's a good thing we're here to save the day. Just click on the app name to pull up the Google Play Store so you can try things out for yourself.


    What color is that in your photo? It can be hard to say, what with the variance in display calibration and our own woefully inaccurate eyeballs. Graphice is a new app in the Play Store that can tell you, objectively, what colors are in a photo. It's free to try, but there's also a paid upgrade with more features.

    Graphice looks and works a bit like your standard gallery app. Open it up, and you see all the images on your device. You can tap on any of the thumbnails to open in full-screen. At the bottom of the screen is a toolbar, which expands with a tap. It opens a full palette of colors from your image. Each one has a swatch and the hex value of the color. A long-press on any square copies the hex value, which you can then paste into other apps. As an aside, Google search understands hex values, so you can get more info on the color.

    The toolbar also includes a share button, but this isn't just a regular photo sharing feature. This button brings up the image along with your color palette. You can tap on as many hex values as you like, which are then included at the bottom of the image. This new JPEG is what's shared via Graphice. You can send it to any of the apps on your phone that plug into Android's share menu.

    So, that's neat, and it's all free. If you pay for the $2.49 pro license, the app gets substantially more useful. With the upgrade, you can specify areas of your photo to generate multiple palettes. These are all saved in the app, and you can do the same things with those palettes (eg. sharing and copying hex codes). The multi-palette options are grayed out if you don't pay the license fee.

    Graphice seems like a solid way to obsess about colors. The free version will be fun to play around with if you're not super-serious about design. There are no ads, either.

    The Art of Custom Mechanical Keyboard Keycaps

    We meet a 3D artist who models and 3D prints custom keycaps for mechanical keyboards! Robert, who runs Clackeys, explains to us how he designs unique keycaps inspired by video games and pop culture, treating the surface of a key as his canvas. We about talk his approach to printing these designs and the amount of complexity he can get from an SLA print.

    Hobby RC: Testing High-Voltage LiPo Batteries

    Lithium Polymer (LiPo) batteries are presently the standard power source for most hobby-grade RC vehicles. These batteries have seen steady improvement since they were first introduced to the hobby around the turn of this century. Most of that progress has been related to increasing their fast discharge and charge capabilities. During the last year or so, we have seen the emergence of LiPo cells that evolved in a slightly different direction. High-Voltage LiPo batteries (LiHV) look and perform much like contemporary LiPo cells, but have a tad more voltage.

    More voltage fed your electric motor equals more RPMs. That will give your RC toy a zippy performance boost, right? Well, maybe. There is more to consider than just voltage. I recently tested a LiHV battery to determine whether these types of cells are an overall advantage for me.

    What is LiHV?

    Standard LiPo batteries have 4.2 volts per cell when fully-charged. LiHV cells go up to 4.35 volts. That extra .15 volts may not seem like much, but it could make a significant difference in some applications. Most RC vehicles use two or more cells in series. So the extra voltage of a LiHV battery is multiplied by the number of cells.

    A regular LiPo is considered discharged when it drops to 3.2 volts per cell under load. This usually equates to about 3.7 volts at rest. LiHV cells have the same bottom end values. So, LiHV cells operate over a slightly broader voltage range than standard LiPo variants.

    LiHV batteries have slightly more voltage than LiPo cells. This presents potential performance benefits as well as new considerations.

    There are numerous LiHV options available on the market. From what I can tell, most of these batteries are very similar in size, weight, price, and discharge capabilities to their normal-voltage contemporaries. Yes, there are some differences. But I think most of those deltas would be insignificant to the average hobbyist.

    Hyperion provided two similar batteries for testing, one LiPo and one LiHV. The LiPo is their G5 3-cell (12.6 volts) 850mAh unit that is rated for 70C maximum discharge (59.5 amps). On the LiHV side is a G7 3-cell (13.05 volts) 900mAh battery rated for 60C discharge (54 amps). Before getting into my results from using these batteries, we should cover a few things to think about regarding LiHV cells.

    PROJECTIONS, Episode 30: Jedi Challenges AR Review

    Jeremy and Norm review Lenovo and Disney's Star Wars: Jedi Challenges, which is the first mass market consumer AR headset. We discuss its use of the Star Wars license, and what this implementation says about the early days of wearable AR technology. Plus, we share our impressions of the first few hours of the highly anticipated VR game From Other Suns!

    Google Play App Roundup: Files Go, Monument Valley 2, and South Park: Phone Destroyer

    It's that time of the week again. Time to shake off the weekend vibe and get back to work. But you can probably spare a few minutes to check out some new apps. This is the Tested Google Play App Roundup, which is where we tell you about the best new and newly updated apps on Android. Just follow the links to Google Play.

    Files Go

    Google announced a new budget phone initiative at I/O last year called Android Go. The "Go" build of Android is intended to run on lower-specced devices and will include a special suite of Google apps. One such app is apparently the newly launched Files Go. This app showed up in the Play Store recently, and Google has now opened it up to almost all devices. It's not a full file manager, but it includes several features that could help keep your device storage tidy.

    When the eventual Android Go phones launch, they will have a limited amount of internal storage. Thus, many of the features of Files Go have to do with clearing out old files that you no longer need. Even if your phone has plenty of internal storage, you may eventually run low. Files Go is a fine way to clear space on any phone.

    Upon opening the app, you are greeted with a number of suggested actions in a vertically scrollable list. They're all based on the actual files on your device, not just general actions. For example, you might have a card that suggests you clear temporary files from your app cache to save a certain amount of space. On my phone, that's 500MB. The app also detects duplicate files on your internal storage, allowing you to delete one of the copies. If you grant usage access in the system settings, Files Go can also alert you to unused apps that you can safely remove from your phone.

    That's all in the Storage tab, but moving over to the files tab reveals an entirely new set of features. You can tap on the various file type options to see a list of all matching files on your device. Again, this isn't a full file manager, but it offers essential tools to find out what's on your phone. There's also a built-in option to send files to other nearby devices with Files Go without using the internet. It uses Bluetooth, so it's not going to be fast. It's obviously more geared toward usage in places where mobile data is scarce or expensive, but you can use it simply as a convenience.

    This app is still in beta, so Google is liable to add features and improve the ones that are already there. If this is indicative of what we can expect from the other Android Go apps, it'll be a fascinating platform to watch.

    Quick Look at LG's 43-Inch 4K Monitor

    How big is too big for a desktop computer monitor? Norm lives with LG's 43-inch 4K monitor for a month, and shares his experience using it for daily web browsing, photo editing, and gaming. The extra screen real estate of the 43UD79-B takes getting used to, but there are some tradeoffs.

    Machination Studio's Mechanized Armored Walker!

    We're huge fans of Michael Sng, a toy designer who successfully launched his first mechanized scale model on Kickstarter a year ago. Michael visits our studio to show off his newest creation: the Schnauzer Armored Walker prototype that he hopes to bring to collectors. Its movement, detail, and paint finish are most impressive!

    A New Battery Option for RC Cars

    My inbox is often filled with press releases about the latest RC hobby products. I try to focus my attention on the truly unique and innovative stuff. That's why the ARRMA Granite Voltage ($140) caught my eye. On the surface, it appears to be a run-of-the-mill 1/10-scale monster truck. But this is no ordinary backyard basher. The Granite Voltage is equipped to use a power source that I've never before seen in an RC truck, cylindrical Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) batteries. I'm a battery nerd, so I had to take a closer look.

    The 18650-sized (18mm diameter, 65mm long) Li-Ion batteries used by the Granite Voltage are not new. Derivatives of these cells have been around for more than 20 years. They've always been a popular choice for small electronic devices because of their high energy density, convenient size, and robust housing. However, these cells never really captured the interest of RC hobbyists. The issue was that Li-Ion cells couldn't discharge rapidly enough to meet the high-current demands of most RC vehicles. Simply put, Li-Ion batteries were great at storing energy, but not so great at expending that energy quickly. Most hobbyists adopted a different flavor of Lithium-Ion technology with more favorable discharge characteristics, the soft, flat Lithium-Polymer (LiPo) cells that now dominate RC applications.

    Recent developments with cylindrical Li-Ion batteries have finally made them contenders for hobbyists. The latest generation of 18650 cells have high discharge capabilities, giving backyard drivers another battery option. I also found it interesting that Tesla and the vaping community have also embraced the allure of modern 18650 Li-Ion batteries.

    The Best Unlocked and Carrier Android Smartphone (November 2017)

    There have been a ton of phone releases in the last few weeks, so it's even harder than usual to figure out which phone is the best purchase. While LG's phones have been getting better, Samsung is reaching new heights with the Note 8. Meanwhile, OnePlus has something big planned for the near future, and Google has encountered some push-back with its Pixel 2 launch. What's an Android fan to do?

    Carrier phones: Samsung Galaxy S8 or Note 8

    If you want to get a phone directly from your carrier, the latest offerings from Samsung are the way to go. If you don't want to spend as much, there are a lot of extremely compelling deals on the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. If price is no object, the Galaxy Note 8 is an even better phone.

    The Galaxy S8 has a 5.8-inch curved display, whereas the Plus has a 6.2-inch curved panel. They both have a resolution of 1440 x 2960 pixels, among the highest you can get on a smartphone. Despite the large screen sizes, the tall aspect ratio and small bezels make the phones easy to hold. They have an even higher screen-to-body ratio than the iPhone X. Samsung's AMOLED displays are still the best you can get with incredibly high brightness and (optional) accurate colors.

    This phone is very comfortable to use with the symmetrically curved front and back glass— there's nothing pointy or angular on the phone. Although, the curved glass is vulnerable to breakage when dropped. Broken Galaxy S8s are apparently common, and the glass back is very slippery.

    The Galaxy S8 was the first Samsung phone to move to on-screen navigation buttons. Thankfully, there's an option in the settings to change the order of buttons to the "correct" one used on most other phones. The home button is also accessible at any time thanks to a pressure-sensitive region on the screen. Even when the phone is asleep, simply pressing harder will trigger the home button—this is a great feature. I really like this feature, and I find myself missing it when I use a different phone.

    Google Play App Roundup: Notification History, Ahead, and Turn Undead

    A new week has dawned, and with it comes a new list of great things happening on Android. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what needs to be on your phone or tablet right now. Just click the links to head to Google Play and grab these apps for yourself.

    Notification History

    Android's notification system is usually a joy to use, but there's no way to recall notifications after they've been dismissed. Sometimes you regret swiping something away, but the system logs only basic information about the notification, and you can't even access that very easily. Notification History makes your past notifications more accessible and actionable, and you can give it a shot for free.

    This app requires just a little setup, but it's easier to get running than I expected. After opening, you have buttons at the bottom for the "advanced history" and "notification history." The notification history option isn't technically part of the app—it's just a link to the hidden settings menu in Android that logs the basic data from all your notifications. It's not very useful for actually doing anything with your old notifications, but you can see what apps have produced notifications and when.

    For the Advanced option, you'll have to grant the app access to your notifications. After that's done, the app will continuously log all the notifications that pop up on your phone. Since it's connected to the system-level feature, Notification History doesn't need to run a service of its own or a persistent notification to stay alive.

    Simply open the advanced history to see your notifications organized from most recent to oldest. It logs all the notifications too. That means even something like the Google Camera app that pops up a temporary notification when it's processing a photo will be included in the list. You can tap on any notification to open the app, pull up the app info, or open the Play Store page.

    If you want to clear the clutter a bit, the pro upgrade is going to appeal to you. For $1.49, the advanced history menu lets you swipe to remove notifications, blacklist apps from appearing, and removes all the ads in the app. It seems like a good deal.

    PROJECTIONS, Episode 29: New Games for PlayStation VR

    Sony announced a slate of new games for PlayStation VR this week, and we attend a preview event to go hands-on with a few of them. Some of the games we try make use of the PS Aim controller, like Doom VFR and Bravo Team, and we're particularly impressed by our time with the action shooter Blood and Truth!

    Quick Look at the Razer Phone

    We go hands-on with the brand new Razer Phone, the first smartphone from laptop and gaming accesory maker Razer. This monolithic Android phone stands out with a 120Hz screen--the first for a phone. We show how smooth and responsive this display is compared to other flagship hardware with our high-speed camera, but you can even see the differences in real-time.

    The Biggest Features to Look Forward to in Android Oreo

    Android 8.0 Oreo is only beginning to make its way out to devices. Pixel and Nexus devices from recent years have gotten their updates, and the Pixel 2 and 2 XL have launched with Oreo. Otherwise, there's not a lot of Android 8.0 around, and now version 8.1 is in testing.

    Not everything that's new in Google's version of Android will ever show up in the modified builds that hit other devices. When it does come to your phone, it'll bring with it several important features, not all of which are as obvious as the headlining features in past versions. Here are the most important things Oreo will bring to your phone (whenever you finally get it).

    The Autofill API

    Remembering your passwords is tough, especially if you're doing the smart thing and using complex, unique passwords on every site. That's why many of us have turned to password managers like LastPass and Google's own Chrome password manager. Android apps have used some messy hacks to make those passwords more accessible while you're using the phone, but Oreo finally makes password managers an officially supported feature.

    Deep in the language and input submenu of Oreo lurks the autofill app settings. Most of the major password managers are testing this feature in beta, and a few have rolled it out to the public version of their Android apps. If you have only been using Google's Chrome manager, that's also available as "Smart Lock" in the autofill settings.

    With an autofill app selected, apps with login fields should pop up an option to login via your chosen password service. Some will have extra layers of security like fingerprint authentication before they paste in your username and password. It's a great experience when it works right, but some of the beta apps are still very beta. Google's version is a safe bet for now.