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    Tested: Eero Wi-Fi Router and Extender

    We test a new router system that attempts to eliminate the worry of Wi-Fi dead spots by building a mesh network of hotspots that work together as one seamless wireless network. The Eero does what it promises, but may be too simple for power users who need to heavily configure their network settings.

    Testing: ProDRENALIN Video Stabilization

    Shaky video is a fact of life when you work with small cameras. Whether you're using a handheld camcorder or an action camera mounted to some sort of vehicle, getting a steady picture is often challenging. Even using a brushless gimbal will not guarantee smooth video. While it certainly pays to make your raw footage as stable as possible, there are also ways to iron out rough spots in post-processing. I recently spent some time evaluating ProDRENALIN ($50), a budget software package with video stabilization features.

    ProDRENALIN (PD) is not a full-blown video editing program. Rather, it provides a few different methods to optimize your raw footage before importing it into your usual video editor. The primary functions of PD are image stabilization and fisheye removal. There are also basic features for image orientation and color correction. PD is available for PC or Mac (using Wine virtual machine). I performed my testing on an aging Sony Vaio laptop (1.6GHz i7 CPU, 6GB RAM, integrated video) running Windows 7.

    ProDRENALIN does a great job of removing camera shake from many types of video footage.

    Using ProDRENALIN

    With only a handful of specialized functions, PD is not a complex program to use. I watched a 15-minute tutorial video and it covered everything I've needed thus far. It is very straightforward. For instance, stabilization is either on or off. There are no adjustments to futz with. If your only goal is to stabilize a complete video, you simply load the video (drag and drop), enable stabilization, and then export the result.

    There are options to work with only a selected time portion of a video if you want to chop up the raw footage into smaller clips or apply different effects to varied sections. As you're working with a video, you can choose to view the raw file, the modified file, or a split screen that allows you to compare both files. The split screen option can be divided vertically or horizontally.

    Tested Visits the Shenzhen Electronics Market!

    Our very own Simone Giertz recently went on a trip to China, and reports on her visit from the famous Shenzhen electronics market! Simone explains what she found interesting about the marketplace, and shows off some of her finds from the trip!

    Google Play App Roundup: Quote, Toby: The Secret Mine, and Velociraptor

    Grab your phone and prepare to shoot some new apps and games over to it from the Google cloud. It's time for the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what's new and cool in the Play Store. Just click the links to head to each app's page to check it out for yourself.

    Quote

    The number of RSS readers ballooned a few years ago when Google announce it was retiring Reader. People who had never really used an RSS reader before thought Reader sounded like a good idea, and developers were there to provide alternatives. Many of them plug into one service or another, so what you're really looking for is a good front end. The newly released Quote (from the developer of Fenix for Twitter) has a clean design with support for popular feed aggregator services.

    You can log into Quote with Feedly or Inoreader accounts. The pro upgrade includes the ability to have multiple accounts as well. The main screen shows you your overall counts at the top, collections in the middle, and individual subscriptions at the bottom. The layout is much less dense than some apps, and if you have a huge list of subscriptions, it might seem sub-optimal. For most people, it's a much more friendly and easy UI to get used to.

    Whenever you tap through to a different list, you can always swipe back to return to the previous screen. Swipe gestures are used throughout Quote to keep the UI clean and avoid the cluttered toolbars and menus you get with many other RSS readers. There's also a neat swipe gesture to mark items as read or unread.

    The reading interface is one of the best I've seen in an RSS reader, and this is just the first public release. It's full screen, so the status bar hides when you scroll down. At the bottom is a toolbar that also hides, including buttons to skip to the next/previous feed item, star a post, and change your reading mode. Most sites limit the RSS feed to just snippets, so Quote lets you open in the browser, or more interestingly open "readability" mode. That just grabs the full text and renders it in the Quote UI. It feels completely native.

    Like any self-respecting RSS reader, Quote has support for syncing your subscriptions for offline reading. This can be triggered automatically in the background or only when you open the app. However, you can choose to exclude images from that or only allow them to be downloaded on WiFi.

    The free version of Quote has two themes to choose from, as well as some ads. For $2.49 you get the pro version with two more themes (the sepia looks great) and no ads. You should check out the free version and see if it's right for you. This is great for a first release.

    How To Choose Your PC Processor

    Choosing the right PC processor lies at the intersection of what you need, what you can afford, what you want to accomplish, and your self image.

    The focus here is on desktop processors — in particular, desktop systems you plan on building youreself. Since laptop CPUs ship inside complete systems, that's a topic for another day. Note also that these are my rules of thumb. You may see things differently. When I've written these articles for other publications, I try to be dispassionate, but this time it's all about my choices.

    Let's run down each of these intersecting elements, shall we?

    Need

    I used to believe understanding your need to be the most important factor. I'm not convinced that's true any longer, mostly because even relatively low-end processors offer outstanding performance these days. Entry-level quad-core AMD processors can be had for under $100, while Intel's lowest-cost quad-core CPUs cost just a bit under $190, going back to Ivy Bridge, now three generations back. I'd steer away from dual-core desktop processors these days, since even web browsers now spawn multiple threads.

    Watch Oculus' Social VR Demo

    UploadVR filmed this great social VR demo given at Facebook's F8 conference going on this week. The demo, which is reminiscent of the Oculus Toybox experience used to show off the Oculus Touch controllers, had two developers chatting and interacting in shared 360-degree spherical panoramas, teleporting to different spaces, and using tools like drawing avatar accessories in the VR space. It was also the first Oculus demo showing light Facebook integration, as the devs took a virtual selfie (not unlike what you can do in Selfie Tennis) and sent that image capture to a Facebook post. This is just the tip of the iceberg for the potential of social VR experiences. Bonus: check out what the other end of the VR call looked like, 35 miles away at Facebook HQ.

    Tested: Blade Mach 25 FPV Racing Quad

    At this time last year, it looked like 250mm quads would be the dominant airframes used for multi-rotor FPV racing. Now we're seeing lots of smaller, lighter designs in competition. But don't throw out your 250mm racer just yet. They're still popular, fast, and fun.

    My first 250-class racing quad was built with parts sourced from several different vendors. I'm dealing with a prebuilt model this time around, the Blade Mach 25 ($350). The Mach 25 is a Bind-N-Fly-Basic model. This means that it includes everything except a radio transmitter (the receiver is compatible with Spektrum brand radios) and FPV goggles (or monitor).

    Overview

    The Mach 25 is certainly different from the mainstream. Its most obvious unique feature is the painted polycarbonate shell with Speed Racer-inspired styling. The body is held in place with rubber grommets that fit over posts attached to the frame. It's a simple yet secure system

    Another unique feature of the Mach 25 is the integrated FPV camera and 5.8GHz video transmitter (VTX). This tiny device is mounted to a vibration-damped plate near the front of the quad. Even though the VTX only transmits at 25 milliwatts of power, an amateur radio license is required to operate it.

    The Blade Mach 25 is a prebuilt quad racer with a unique appearance and some interesting features.

    The main frame is built with 2mm carbon fiber plates, while the motor arms are aluminum tubes. These tubes are held in place with aluminum clamps that are also spacers for the plates. The motors are tilted forward at a 10-degree angle. One of my motors had a visibly different tilt angle than the others. I loosened the relevant clamp and twisted the tube to get it aligned.

    Tested: Driving the Tesla Model X with Autopilot

    We take the newly-released Tesla Model X for a test drive, courtesy of a friend of Tested. Here's how the Model X compares with the Model S, how the gull wing doors work, and what it's like to drive with Tesla's Autopilot mode on the freeway. It's exciting and terrifying at the same time!

    I Can't Stop Thinking about Tesla's Autopilot

    In covering technology news and reviewing consumer devices, there have been a few times when we've used a new technology that gives us a glimpse of the future. The first time I pinched to zoom a photo on the first iPhone. Successfully printing a test cube on the original MakerBot. Putting a Phantom 2 quadcopter into the sky to shoot stabilized 1080p video. Turning my head around to look behind me while wearing the Oculus DK1. Each of those rare moments are a confluence of complex technologies coming together to pull off a incredible feat that "just works". They're the kind of things that stick with you for a while. Or even show up in your dreams. And this past week, I've been having dreams about Tesla's autopilot.

    I went for a test drive of the new Tesla Model X last Thursday, courtesy of Tested reader Christian (who also let us test drive his Model S a few years back). The Model X is the crossover version of the Model S, incorporating all of the updates that have come since the S launched over three years ago. It has AWD, a 250 mile max range, and even Tesla's ludicrous speed option , which slams your breath to the back of your throat while going from 0 to 60 in 3.3 seconds. We'll have a full video this week covering the other features of the car, but the thing I was really curious to try was Tesla autopilot, an optional feature on the newest Model S's and the X.

    We took Christian's Model X onto the freeway south of San Francisco, right at the end of rush hour. With Christian behind the wheel, he explained how autopilot is flipped on in two stages: first by enabling adaptive cruise control, and then flipping the same lever again to enable automatic steering. ACC is a pretty standard feature on new cars; it uses radar systems to adjust your car speed to maintain a set distance from cars in front of you (typically measured in car lengths, and dependent on speed). Autopilot takes that one step further with optical cameras that can see lane markers and keep the car centered in your lane while going at full speed.

    And it works. I took my turn in the driver's seat, taking my feet off the pedals and hands off the steering wheel while we sped down the freeway, the car automatically and comfortably maneuvering the gentle curves of the road at 75 miles per hour. No amount of rational reinforcement beforehand could've prepared my brain for the surreal feeling sitting in the driver's seat and watching the pedals depress and steering wheel turn on its own. My eyes were were still glued to the road and I was still doing doing all the situational awareness calculations I would be doing if I was the one doing the driving, but with that very same data about the distance of other cars were around me visualized right on the dashboard screen. The car had a sense of the distance of speed of other vehicles in the vicinity, showing me color-coded cars in front of me to illustrate their distance, even identifying motorcycles that passed by in between lanes. I could flip the signal light switch and the Model X would make the lane change automatically, speeding up to an open spot in the next lane. After about 15 minutes or so driving with autopilot, I felt at ease with it, comfortable enough to have a conversation with Christian in the passenger's seat without tensing up at every micromovement made by the car.

    Octopus-Inspired Robots Can Grasp, Crawl, and Swim

    Video of a robot developed by The BioRobotics Institute in Italy, which explores high-dexterity soft-bodied robots that mimic the movements of an Octopus. It's not just the form of the robot that takes inspiration from Octopuses, but also the way its limbs are controlled. From IEEE Spectrum: "Rather than relying on top-down instructions from the central nervous system, many of an octopus’s movements happen almost spontaneously–the result of the physical interplay between the animal’s body and its surrounding environment." Read more about this robot and its biomimicry lessons here.

    In Brief: Lytro Introduces Its Cinema Lightfield Camera

    Camera maker Lytro, which last year pivoted from making prosumer light field still cameras to digital cinema, has introduced its first production-ready studio camera. The Lytro Cinema applies light field sensor technology to video, capturing more than just color and light in each pixel, but light and environment data that allows directors to adjust focus, aperture, and even shutter speed after the shot has been taken. Lytro says that each frame taken (at up to 300FPS) has 755MP of RAW data, and the sensor has a dynamic range of 16 stops. Its sample footage--seen in the promo video below--shows how this data can be used in the post-production process to composite CG elements and make adjustments that previously would have been baked in to the plate. Lytro isn't going to be selling its cameras to studios, but offering it in a rental model, with packages that start at $125K.

    Norman
    Tested In-Depth: Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive

    We've now reviewed both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, but after spending more time with both virtual reality headsets, we're able to do more direct comparisons between them. Jeremy and Norm discuss in-depth the differences in lenses, display quality, ergonomics, tracking, and software. Do we have to pick a side?

    Google Play App Roundup: Scarlett for Chromecast, Pokémon TCG, and Chameleon Run

    Android devices do a lot of neat stuff out of the box, but you can always load it up with new apps to make if do more stuff. And maybe some games for good measure. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what's new on Android. Just hit the links to head to the Play Store.

    Scarlett for Chromecast

    Google's Cast screensaver is okay, but there's not much to it even after customizing with the Cast app's backdrops. Scarlett for Chromecast aims to make your Chromecast or Android TV a little more useful by turning it into a dashboard for information.

    To use Scarlett, you'll need to have a Chromecast or Android TV (obviously). Just open the app on your phone and tap the Cast button to select the target. You'll immediately get a feed of information dictated by your settings. Scarlett offers to set all this up on your first run, but you can edit the settings later.

    The feed includes content from YouTube, Twitter, Reddit and more. Facebook and Pinterest are apparently coming soon. The bulk of the interface is taken up with the current item in the feed list. If it's a video, you can play it on the TV and control via the app. Other content cycles through automatically every 30 seconds. The app can also advance through feed items with a swipe. You can also open any of the content on your phone from the app. After logging in, your Twitter timeline and YouTube playlists will be accessible in Scarlett, which is pretty cool.

    The dashboard is accessible in the second tab of Scarlett. Selecting that will kick the TV over into that mode. It's a bit less interactive, consisting of weather, a clock, and images from 500px cycling through. It's more like the standard Cast screen with a few more features. The last tab is for search, which is handled by voice input. That allows you to look for specific content and have it appear on the TV screen inside Scarlett.

    Scarlett for Chromecast is still in the early stages of development, but it's a really solid idea with lots of room to add functionality. It's free too. You should check it out if you've got a Google Cast device connected to your TV.

    Tested Builds: Perfect Grade Gundam, Part 1

    Welcome to another week of builds! We're tackling a new type of kit this week: gunpla! And for our first Gundam build, we're going big with a Perfect Grade Zeta Gundam at 1/60 scale. Norm is joined by Sean Charlesworth, Frank Ippolito, and special guest Danica Johnson to work together and build this mecha! (This first video is available for everyone--watch the rest of the build by signing up with the Tested Premium member community!)

    Inside the Electronics of the 3D-Printed Ghost Trap

    Thanks to Dremel's support and use of their 3D Idea Builder printer and a host of great tools, we were able to build a working, 3D printed, Ghostbusters Ghost Trap. Last time, we took a look at the modeling and design of my 3D printed Ghost Trap, this time we're going to delve inside and see how it works. As we were developing the Ghost Trap project I proposed making a fully functional trap that could open and close with lights and sound. While I am handy with a soldering iron and can generally pick out components for a project, I am no electronics expert and have no experience programming microcontrollers. It's something that has been on my to-do list for a long time so originally I planned on learning the Arduino as part of the Trap build.

    The many parts of the Ghost Trap

    While designing the first iteration of the door mechanism, the amount of work I had to do started to sink in - fully model the trap and pedal, make sure it all fits together while making room for electronics, source hardware and obscure parts, design a door mechanism, figure out a system for smoke, sound, lights and get all the files ready for public release. Oh, and learn how to program the Arduino and make it run the whole thing. I was in over my head and simply did not have the time to do everything and it really bugged me. I like knowing how to do things and I wanted to learn how to program the Arduino, but I had to be realistic about it. Luckily, Jeremy Williams came to the rescue with his electronics and programming expertise--he's tackled zombies before, so ghosts were not a problem.

    The guts of the Ghost Trap.

    I compiled a wish list of functions for Jeremy consisting of a 'must-have' and 'dream' list. At the very least the trap had to open, lights come on, sound effects play. The ultimate dream-build was open and close, lights, sound, smoke and vibration - all controlled via the foot pedal. It took a while for me to communicate to Jeremy what I did and did not know, so he could figure out exactly how much he had to do. I knew I could physically wire everything up but I didn't know how it should be wired. Jeremy and I sat down with all the components, figured out where we needed resistors, how much power we needed, what should get hooked up where, etc. and then it was my turn to wire as much as possible. A habit I've picked up from 3D modeling is to label everything and organize it, so you can turn a scene over to someone else and they can navigate the project with relative ease. I kept this in mind when wiring the trap and made sure to label all the wires and dress them so I could deliver a tidy setup to Jeremy.

    Tested: Amazon Echo Dot Review

    One of our favorite devices from last year was Amazon's Echo, a Bluetooth speaker with Amazon's Alexa digital assistant. At half the price of the Echo, the Dot offers the best of Alexa at a fraction of the size and cost. Here's why we think this is an essential gadget if you have connected hubs like Nest, SmartThings, or Hue.