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    PROJECTIONS, Episode 35: TPCast Wireless VR Review

    We review TPCast, the VR headset accessory that untethers the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift from your desktop computer. Jeremy and Norm discuss the setup, latency, and visual quality of the TPCast system, and why the increased freedom of movement can be a big deal for some games. Plus, we review L.A. Noir VR Case Files, the port of the popular Rockstar game that plays even better in virtual reality.

    Building a CNC Router and Plasma Machine!

    One of the newest tools in Frank's shop is a CNC Router Parts industrial-grade CNC cutting machine. This router and plasma cutter is actually a kit that you can put together, and we go through that process with the help of CNC Router Parts' Drew Cairns. During the assembly, we learn how this machine was designed and see its capabilities in the making of some cool furniture! Next up, plasma cutting!

    Testing: Fat Shark 101 Drone Training System

    Flying First Person View (FPV) racers isn't easy. Weaving through the small gates that define a FPV race course demands confidence and skills that must be earned. Those first baby steps of becoming an FPV pilot can be rough for some. While there is no single training path that is guaranteed to work for everyone, there are definitely high-yield, low-risk methods to becoming a competent pilot.

    Fat Shark recently announced a setup that combines several popular training tools into one box. Called "Fat Shark 101" ($250), this package includes simulator training as well as a flight-ready multi-rotor and goggles. The goal is to elevate you out of noob status and get you on the race course without leaving a trail of expletives and broken parts.

    About Fat Shark 101

    The 101 package is all-inclusive. I didn't have to add a thing to get it going. Even AA batteries for the transmitter are included. The core of the 101 set is a 105mm quadcopter. This quad uses brushed motors and is powered by a 2-cell 260mAh LiPo battery. Two batteries are provided in the kit, along with a USB charger for them.

    No assembly is required for the quad. You can decide for yourself whether the shark-like profile is cool. I happen to like it. From a practicality standpoint, the tail really improves in-flight orientation when flying by line-of-sight.

    The Fat Shark 101 kit is intended to provide all of the necessary tools to get rookie drone pilots race-ready.

    I've always preached about the practicality of using small, indoor-capable quads as training tools. The prime drawback with that approach is that most of the smaller, beginner-oriented quads include an undersized control transmitter. Some are ridiculously small. You are often forced to readjust to the feel of the control sticks when you transition to a full-size transmitter.

    Testing: Prusa i3 Multi-Material 3D Printing

    Most FDM 3D printers can print in one color at a time, and just a few can use two filaments at once. But the newest upgrade to the Prusa i3 printer gives us the ability to print with four colors! Jeremy and Sean test this upgrade and explain how multi-material printing works, along with its potential and pitfalls.

    3D-Printing the Star Wars Battlefront 2 Messenger Droid Helmet

    To wrap up our build of the Star Wars Battlefront II Sentinel cosplay, Frank walks us through how he and his team made all the hard parts of the costume, including the helmet. Using references from the game, the helmet was 3D-printed and finished. But making the dome was a bit trickier. (This video was sponsored by Electronic Arts. )

    Google Play App Roundup: Grammarly Keyboard, Ticket to Earth, and Dash Quest Heroes

    You probably want more apps, but more than that, you want the right ones. That's what we're here to deliver with the weekly Google Play App Roundup. This is where you'll find the best new and newly updated apps and games on Android. Just click the link to head right to Google Play.

    Grammarly Keyboard

    Thankfully, spell checking is now standard on most Android devices. However, spelling is only part of the problem. Grammar is much harder for computers to correct, and your phone mostly doesn't bother. Grammarly is a desktop tool that aims to improve all aspects of your writing. Now, it's available on Android as a keyboard app.

    Getting Grammarly up and running is the same as any other keyboard. Just enable it in the settings and switch your input method using the notification. At first glance, Grammarly looks like the Google Keyboard, which I assume is not an accident. The basic functionality is mostly the same, but there's no swipe input. That's a real bummer for me, but not everyone uses it so heavily. As you start typing, that's where things get interesting.

    As a keyboard, Grammarly can see all of the text you add to a field. Thus, it can offer corrections based on its understanding of the English language. Potential revisions appear in the space directly above the keyboard where most apps have suggestions. These boxes might suggest you add, change, or remove a word. It can also catch various punctuation problems. Just tap the box, and Grammarly will make the change in your text.

    You'll be asked to log into the app when you set it up, but that's optional. However, you should consider doing so if you use Grammarly on other platforms. If you have a premium subscription, you definitely want to sign in. Premium users get access to the full suite of Grammarly corrections just like on the desktop. It can pick up on things like passive voice and sentence structure.

    The correction features seem mostly accurate to me, but machines still have problems with some elements of language. Grammarly is better than most, though. My only issue is with the keyboard part of the keyboard. It'd be nice to see more features like themes, swipe input, and additional layouts. I'm looking forward to seeing what we get in future updates.

    PROJECTIONS, Episode 34: Doom VFR + Doom 3 BFG VR

    We review Bethesda's Doom VFR, a version of the most recent Doom game built from the ground up with virtual reality controls in mind. From the locomotion mechanics to the combat pace to weapon feel, we discuss what presence brings to Doom, and the state of VR action shooters. Plus, we examine another interpretation of the classic action game in VR, the Doom 3 BFG VR mod.

    Testing: Kyosho Ultima RB6.6 RC Off-Road Racer

    Not long ago, I reviewed Kyosho's re-release of the Optima 4-wheel-drive off-road RC racer. I was pretty excited to do that review because I had always pined for an Optima as a kid. This time around, I'll be looking at another off-roader from Kyosho: the 2-wheel-drive Ultima RB6.6. I'm feeling a little nostalgic here as well because an Ultima was the car that I did get as a kid.

    The RB6.6 is not a re-release of the vintage Ultima. Rather, this is the latest iteration in a long line of variants dating back to 1987. The design has evolved to stay competitive while keeping pace with ever-changing technology and racing trends. A cursory glance reveals that this car shares only its name with my former Ultima.

    About the Ultima RB6.6

    Kyosho offers the latest Ultima in two forms. The kit version ($400) is intended for hard-core racers, while the Readyset ($250) is better-suited for beginning racers and backyard bashers. This review covers the Readyset variant.

    The core design of both cars is the same. The kit version includes higher-end racing hardware such as aluminum-bodied shocks, a ball differential, and even several different transmission configurations. You must assemble the kit (not a bad thing) and provide all of the electronics. One advantage of the Readyset option is that it includes a 2.4GHz radio system and the onboard electronics. The only things you have to add are a battery, charger, and four AA cells for the transmitter.

    The Readyset arrives factory-assembled. You could literally open the box and be driving the Ultima a few minutes later. A positive aspect of this situation is that rookie RC mechanics need not worry about knowing the correct way to install a given component--it's already done. The flip side is that they will eventually need these skills. Maintenance and repair is an important aspect of owning an RC car. Thankfully, the hefty manual dedicates many pages to proper maintenance steps.

    Google Play App Roundup: Underburn, Turretz: Planetz, and Reigns: Her Majesty

    I don't know if you could say there are too many apps out there, but there are certainly enough that it can be hard to find the ones worth your time. This is the problem that Google Play App Roundup is seeking to solve. Every week we tell you about the best new and newly updated apps in the Play Store. Just click the app name to head right to the Play Store and check things out for yourself.

    Underburn

    Smartphones have allowed billions of people to access the whole of human knowledge at any moment, communicate openly in the blink of an eye, and avoid going to sleep as they stare at the warm glow of the internet in their hand. On that last count, screen brightness is a constant issue. Even when you think you've set a nice dark theme on your device, something bright can pop up and scorch your retinas. No more with Underburn. This app monitors the colors displayed on your screen and intelligently modifies the brightness to save your eyes from the light.

    To make this work, Underburn does need to ask for some rather serious permissions. It needs access to your system settings and the ability to record your screen. It'll ask for the screen permission every time you start it, though. It's not just going to start watching you in the background, and the developer removed the internet access permission to further put your mind at peace.

    The reason Underburn needs this sort of access is that it's actually taking a screenshot every quarter of a second. Those images are checked to see how many bright colors are displayed. When it seems the content getting brighter, Underburn lowers the brightness of your screen to compensate. I haven't noticed any performance impacts from running Underburn in the background, but you might want to watch carefully if your phone is already a bit slow. This could make it worse.

    This app makes the most sense when you're using a dark system UI or app theme. Then, whenever an image or message appears that's mostly white, the screen dims to save your eyes. I also find it very useful for checking the notifications, which are much lighter than most of the apps I'm using.

    Underburn takes a fraction of a second to adjust the brightness, and there's an optional floating button that can tweak the brightness setting. Before you activate Underburn, you can also change what the light and dark cutoffs are, as well as how much it will adjust the brightness in automatic mode. It does require a persistent notification, but that makes sense considering the nature of the app. I also like that you can plug Underburn into Tasker for full automation.

    Underburn is $1.49 in the Play Store, but it solves a common problem. You might not even realize you had this problem until Underburn solves it for you.

    PROJECTIONS, Episode 33: Rift Core 2.0 + Front Defense: Heroes!

    We review Oculus' overhaul of their VR user interface, which was launched this week in beta. To learn more about the development and future of Rift Core 2.0, we visit Oculus' headquarters to chat with project manager Brandon Dillon and Nate Mitchell about this latest version of the Oculus platform. Plus, Jeremy and Norm play the 5v5 shooter Front Defense: Heroes on Vive.

    The Best Unlocked and Carrier Android Smartphone (December 2017)

    Most of us aren't running out to buy a new phone every time something new comes out. Thus, it's important to make the right call when the time to upgrade comes around. You'll probably have to live with that phone for at least a year or two, so making the wrong call will lead to plenty of frustration. There are plenty of choices, but we've got you covered. Samsung is still offering some great devices on all the major carriers, and Google has a new generation of Pixel phones. At the same time, OnePlus has refreshed its flagship phone yet again. Let's break it all down.

    Carrier phones: Samsung Galaxy S8 or Note 8

    If you want to get a phone directly from your carrier, Samsung's high-end phones are probably your best bet. If you're looking for something a on the less expensive end, 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.

    One of the main selling points for Samsung phones is the display, which cannot be beaten. The Galaxy S8 has a 5.8-inch curved display, whereas the Plus has a 6.2-inch curved panel. These screens are taller than old 16:9 panels with a resolution of 1440 x 2960. They're crisp, bright, and have fantastic colors. LG's OLEDs aren't bad, but the V30 just can't compare in the screen department, and it's priced as even higher than Samsung's phones. That's disqualifying in my eyes.

    I'm not personally a fan of glass phones, but that seems to be the trend lately. The GS8 is comfortable to use with the symmetrically curved front and back glass. It fits nicely in the hand, but it's slippery. If you drop it, the curved glass is vulnerable to breakage. Broken Galaxy S8s are apparently common, so a case is a good idea.

    The larger display on these phones meant Samsung had to ditch the physical nav buttons, which I'm quite happy about. The on-screen buttons can be reorganized to display in the right order. The home button is also pressure-sensitive. Hard-pressing on that area of the screen will always trigger the button, even if the phone is asleep. However, I'm not happy with the location of the fingerprint sensor (previously in the physical home button). It's on the back way up next to the camera. Even when you find the sensor after fumbling around and smudging your camera lens, it's not very accurate. A cheap phones like the Moto G5 Plus or OnePlus 5T have better sensors than this.

    Google Play App Roundup: Datally, Hoppenhelm, and Puzzle Fighter

    Your phone might be cool, but it could be a lot cooler with the right apps. So what? Spend like mad until you find the apps that suit your needs? Nah, just read the weekly Google Play App Roundup here on Tested. We strive to bring you the best new, and newly updated apps on Android. Just click the app name to head to the Play Store.

    Datally

    Many smartphone users try to keep their bills lower by sticking with capped data plans from carriers or MVNOs like Project Fi. Making sure you don't use too much data can be a pain, though. Android has some built-in data tracking tools, but they're not very user-friendly. Google's latest app lets you exert more control over your data usage by plugging into these system features. The app is called Datally, and it's available on virtually all devices.

    You might know Datally as Triangle, which was the name during Google's geo-limited testing period. Now the app is done and has a new name for its global rollout. Unlike most other data monitoring apps, Datally doesn't need to run for multiple days accumulating data before it's useful. It pulls in all the historic LTE usage info from your system-level features to help you figure out what's using the most data.

    Datally shows you how much cellular data has been used each day and by each app on your phone. Should your data usage get out of hand, Datally also includes a data saver feature. Again, this is similar to functionality already included in the settings of most phones, but it's implemented in a much clearer way.

    There are toggles throughout the app to turn on data saver, so Google seems to really want you to use it. This feature uses a VPN to control which apps can use data, but the app promises Google isn't examining your data. It's up to you to take Google at its word there. By default, no app can use data in the background when Data Saver is turned on. Only the apps you have up and are actively using can do that. In addition, there's a floating bubble on the screen to show you how much data the app has used in the current session.

    Data Saver is completely configurable as well. If you want an app to have unrestricted background access in Data Saver, you can unlock it in the app. You can also completely disable cellular data in an app even if you open it. That's handy for apps that you know use a lot of data and you might open without realizing you're on cell data.

    Datally also offers a list of local WiFi hotspots if you need to get a lot of downloading done while you're out. This list includes shortcuts to Maps so you can get directions.

    This is a great app, and one that could actually save you money if you're on a limited or pre-paid data plan.

    Testing: My New 4K Home Theater

    When the first 4K HDTVs arrived a few years back, I stuck with my tried-and-true LG plasma display and it's seemingly obsolete 1080p resolution. I had several reasons. The industry delivered the first 4K displays using LCD technology, which has problems with black levels and viewing angles. The lack of availability of 4K content proved to be another roadblock. So I waited.

    LG delivered its first OLED TV in 2010, a puny 15-inch unit. OLED technology looked like the most promising technology, but scaling up resolution, cost, and limited lifetime of blue OLEDs proved daunting. The advent of "white OLED" – really a sandwich of red, green, and blue which use color filters and sub-pixel switching to generate colors – addressed both cost and lifetime issues. By 2016, LG OLED TVs had dropped from stratospheric pricing to merely very expensive. Sony and Panasonic began using LG OLED panels in their HDTVs.

    I still waited.

    By 2017, LG HDTVs had started dropping in price. The cost wasn't quite to the point where I would pull the trigger, but the trendline looked clear. So I began planning my 4K home theater pipeline.

    It's All About Content

    It's been interesting to see how 4K content has been slow in coming until the advent of HDR standards.

    Content has historically trailed technology. Color TVs arrived when most of the existing shows used black-and-white. Television remained at a 4:3 aspect ratio even as DVDs moved to support widescreen. HDTVs hit the market long before 1080p content became the default. If the technology is good enough, content hits an inflection point where the new features begin arriving rapidly.

    That time is now for 4K HDR (high dynamic range). All of Netflix's new shows are now available in 4K HDR. UltraHD Blu-ray is finally trickling in, with new movies shipping in the new format. It's been interesting to see how 4K content has been slow in coming until the advent of HDR standards. I'd argue that HDR offers a notable improvement in image quality and presence beyond simple resolution scaling. The combination of 4K with HDR can be stunning.

    It's this inflection point in content availability plus hardware costs dropping that finally made me jump on the 4K bandwagon.

    Garner Holt's Animatronic Abraham Lincoln!

    This incredibly lifelike animatronic Abraham Lincoln is the work of Garner Holt Productions, which has been making robots for theme parks, museums, and other attractions for 40 years. We get up close to this robot and chat with its creator, Garner Holt, about the state of animatronics you see in places like Disneyland and what's to come.

    Google Play App Roundup: Focus Go, Jump Drive, and Morphite

    Your phone or tablet might be cool, but it could be a lot cooler with the right apps. So what? Spend like mad until you find the apps that suit your needs? Nah, just read the weekly Google Play App Roundup here on Tested. We strive to bring you the best new, and newly updated apps on Android. Just click the app name to head to the Play Store.

    Focus Go

    All phones come with a gallery app of some sort, but they're often clunky and overflowing with features you don't want. Focus has long been one of my favorite replacement gallery apps, and now there's a faster, simpler version of the app called Focus Go. It's a quick way to review images without unnecessary features getting in your way.

    Focus Go is very stripped down, but that might appeal to some people. There's no folder structure or restricted directories. All the images on your device are shown in the main interface. It's just wall-to-wall photo thumbnails, but you can tap the grid button at the top to change the size of the thumbnails. The default setting is in the middle, so there's a more compact option and one with larger thumbnails. Also at the top of the app is a camera shortcut button.

    The image list is chronological and separated by month. Since it shows all the images on your device (photos, screenshots, etc.), it can get quite long. If you scroll down from the top, the action bar falls off the screen, and it's literally all photos. It's a neat look, actually. Of course, you can tap on any image to expand it in full-screen mode.

    In full-screen mode, you can zoom in for a better look at the photo. At the bottom of the screen are a few buttons. You can delete photos, share, set as wallpaper, and there's even integration with the Graphice app I covered recently (it's the same developer). I also like the info button, which pulls up EXIF data for the image in a small popup that doesn't take focus away from the photo.

    Focus Go is really a hint of what we can expect from the upcoming full rewrite of the Focus app. That complete gallery replacement has been lagging for a while, but it's going to be much more modern very soon. In the meantime, Focus Go is good for taking a quick peek at your pics.