Quantcast
Latest StoriesTech
    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.

    CES 2015: Test Riding the Acton RocketSkates

    Here's something we didn't expect to test at CES. Acton's RocketSkates was a Kickstarted invention to put electric motorized wheels on your shoes. Will puts on a pair of these futuristic skates to try to learn how to move around in them, and then chats with its inventor to learn how this idea came about. (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    The Best External Blu-Ray Drive

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com

    The $80 Samsung SE-506CB is the best external Blu-ray drive for most people—if you need one at all. It’s the best Blu-ray drive you can get for the least amount of money, and it’s the quietest one we tested. The Samsung is well-liked by Amazon buyers, and it’s conveniently thin, light, and compact.

    Who needs this?

    If you have a laptop without a disc drive and want to back up music and movies from discs to your computer, or need a disc drive for work, you should pick up one of our recommendations. If you're trying to backup or transfer files from your computer, you should use a USB hard drive or flash drive instead.

    You shouldn’t buy one of these for a desktop computer that has room for an internal drive, because internal drives are generally faster and cheaper than portable ones. You also shouldn’t buy an external drive to use with a tablet.

    What makes a good Blu-ray drive?

    We surveyed hundreds of Wirecutter readers to find out what people care most about in an external Blu-ray player. Using this information, we came up with a set of criteria to decide which drive is best for most people.

    For starters, it must read and write dual-layer DVDs and Blu-rays. Seventy-four percent of those surveyed use their external drive only at home, but size and weight are still important. A lighter, more compact drive is easier to store when you’re not using it.

    Some older laptops don’t provide enough juice to power the Blu-ray drive. It’s not necessary for most people, but for these older machines you’ll need a Y-cable that plugs into two USB ports.

    The Rescued Film Project: Developing 31 Rolls of WWII Film

    Levi Bettwieser of The Rescued Film Project talks about the developing of 31 rolls of film shot by an American soldier in World War II. While the images that come from this discovery are striking and beautiful, it's also fascinating to hear about the painstaking film developing and restoration process. Bettwieser explains why film is so fragile, all the ways it can be damaged, and how it must be handled in this laborious process.

    In Brief: Disney Research's Beach Bot Makes Sandy Sketches

    One of the areas of research at Disney's R&D labs in Zurich is entertainment robotics. Disney was a pioneer in audioanimatronics, and the latest robots being employed at its theme parks are mostly more advanced versions of the pre-programmed robo actors. They're elaborate automata, but locked in the confines of a scripted ride. Beach Bot, a new Disney Research project, is autonomous, and may be deployed to Disney's vacation resorts. As Wired reports, this adorable sand scrawler can draw elaborate images onto beaches shores, traversing sandy terrain and relatively protected from the elements. Its large-scale drawings look cool, but the act of drawing is a kind of performance too. I'd love to see a dozen of these roam the shores of local beaches.

    Norman
    Google Play App Roundup: Lightroom Mobile, Sky Gamblers: Storm Raiders, and Manual Camera

    Apps move quickly on Android. No sooner have you found an app you can get cozy with, a better alternative has come along. We're here to make sure you're ahead of the curve -- that you're always on the bleeding edge. That's what the Google Play App Roundup is for. Just click on the links to head to Google Play and get the best new apps and games for your device.

    This week you can take better pics, edit them more skilfully, and shot down some unrelated planes.

    Lightroom Mobile

    Adobe launched a version of its popular Lightroom photo processing app on iOS last year, but now its finally on Android too. You'll need a Creative Cloud subscription to use it past 30 days, but you can give it a shot for free. I can't claim this app is everything we might have wanted--I will get to its shortcomings soon.

    Lightroom is the de facto way to process and tweak photos on the desktop. The mobile version isn't as robust, even on iOS, but it's a cool additional perk for Creative Cloud subscribers. In the desktop client, you can check off one or more collections to automatically sync to the mobile app. This lets you make changes to photos on the go, which then sync back to the full-resolution files on the desktop.

    When you're working with Lightroom on Android, its not actually making changes to a RAW file. Adobe does some behind-the-scenes magic to generate a smaller image based on a .DNG file. Manipulating a real RAW file on a mobile device would be pretty slow. Of course, it would be nice to have the option. You can't drop RAW files from your phone into the Lightroom app directly. That's really only a problem for Lollipop phones that can spit out RAW files directly, but you could still move those to your computer to sync. You get better results with RAW files synced from the desktop Lightroom, but you can import JPEGs from the phone locally as well.

    Another weird issue with Lightroom is that you can't install it on tablets. Yeah, that's a big lolwut for me. If anything, it seems backward. It works on almost any phone, and you can actually sideload the APK on a tablet. However, the app's UI isn't really designed for a tablet. It works, but doesn't make good use of the screen space.

    When you select a photo from one of your collections, Lightroom shows three (unlabeled) icons at the bottom--adjustments, filters, and cropping. Each icon pulls up a row of controls at the bottom in the screen. You can tap with two fingers to see image metadata and three to see what the image looked like before you started making changes.

    The draw of Lightroom is simply that it tends to offer very good results. If you shoot RAW, it can help you produce some great images. Even if you're editing JPEGs with it, the filters are very high-quality. You shouldn't think of this as an app that you need to pay $10 per month for photo editing on the go. It's an accessory for those using Lightroom and Photoshop on the desktop. Both programs are included with the basic $10 Photographer's plan, but the more expensive plans for the full suite of Adobe apps give you access to Lightroom Mobile too.

    CES 2015: Razer Forge TV and Turret for Couch Gaming

    Had enough of set top boxes for your living room setup yet? We're going to see a bunch of Android TV devices this year, including Razer's Forge TV box. We chat with Razer's reps about what Forge TV can do, how it streams PC games, and what the gaming company thinks will solve the challenge of mouse and keyboard use on the couch. (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    CES 2015: Ultimaker 2 Family of 3D Printers

    It's awesome to see how far 3D printer makers have come since the days of laser-cut wood kits. We check in with Ultimaker at CES 2015 to learn about their new family of 3D printers, the Ultimaker 2 series. (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    CES 2015: Hands-On with Sony's SmartEyeGlass Prototype

    Google Glass may no longer be available to buy, but Sony is working on an augmented reality accessory that may have similar features. We get to put on the SmartEyeGlass Attach prototype at this year's CES, at least to see how its display looks over your field of view. Too bad the representative that we were allowed to speak to on camera wasn't able to give us many concrete details...(This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    CES 2015: Test Riding the InMotion Electric Unicycle

    One of the weirder pieces of tech we saw at CES was a gyroscopically balanced electric unicycle. We were allowed to test the InMotion v3 unicycle out, but had to be able to get on it first. The entire tested team made their attempts... (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    Hacking a Nintendo Power Glove for Stop-Motion Animation

    Dillon Markey, a stop-motion animator for Robot Chicken, employs a hacked version of the Nintendo Power Glove to assist his animation process. Using a custom control board and Bluetooth connection, he can push use the directional pad and buttons on the glove to control Dragonframe animation software--which typically employs the keyboard's numpad (or wired numpad accessory) for frame stepping and capture controls. It may not be the most graceful solution to his problem, but it looks badass. I love it. (h/t Ron Erickson)

    In Brief: Adobe Releases Lightroom Mobile for Android

    Last year's release of Lightroom mobile for iPads and iPhones was a big deal for me. I called it a killer app for photographers--because it let me perform essential photo tweaks and sorting while away from a desktop or laptop (eg. on the plane ride back from a comic book convention) as well as seamlessly push photos taken on the iPhone to my home computer for desktop editing. The only thing missing was an Android compatible version. That was announced and released last night. It has the same functionality as its iOS counterpart, and still requires a Creative Cloud subscription--even if you have a standalone copy of Lightroom 5. The only thing it doesn't do is sync RAW photos taken with Android phone back to the desktop--just rull-res JPEGs. Hope that's coming in a future update!

    Norman
    CES 2015: FPV Racing with Phantom 2 Quadcopters

    While at CES, Will and Norm attend a quadcopter showcase event at a closed off outdoor range just outside Las Vegas. We put on FPV goggles and race a pair of DJI Phantom 2 quads! They're not quite as fast or maneuverable as custom built multi-rotors, but they're still thrilling to race. Who's going to win? (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!) Photo credit: Eric Cheng

    What You Should Know about Getting an FCC License for Flying FPV

    As much as we love to give you an inside look at all sorts of cool toys and gadgets, the job also includes a responsibility to educate you on the finer points of using those toys responsibly and lawfully. Such is the case with our recent videos featuring Carlos Puertolas (Charpu). Those videos have captured the attention of many readers who are now interested in First Person View (FPV) quad-rotor racing--including me. What you might not know is that one of the prerequisites for most types of FPV flying is obtaining an amateur radio license (aka “ham radio license”) from the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). Don’t let that fact quench your FPV ambitions. Getting a license is easy, and maybe even a little bit fun.

    Why Do I Need a License?

    Assuming that you are using a standard, off-the-shelf radio system, just flying a multi-rotor (or operating any other type of RC vehicle) with a line-of-sight perspective does not require a FCC license. That is because RC systems sold in the US go through a certification process with the FCC. The certification ensures that the system does not create interference with other equipment. The FCC also verifies that the radio works acceptably well in the presence of interference from other sources. As long as you do not modify any part of the system, you can be reasonably sure that an RC system will perform as intended, while not stepping on the signals of any other flyers or drivers.

    The license comes into play when you introduce an FPV system into the mix. Most video transmission systems used for FPV do NOT have a FCC certification. Therefore, the FCC places the burden of preventing and tolerating signal interference on the operator. The amateur radio license is the FCC’s way of determining that users of this equipment have demonstrated adequate training and proficiency to uphold that responsibility. It’s the same logic that’s behind getting a driver’s license.

    EVEN THOUGH SOME FPV EQUIPMENT IS RATHER SIMPLE, AS SEEN HERE WITH THE SET-UP ON MY DJI PHANTOM, IT IS BENEFICIAL TO UNDERSTAND HOW IT WORKS TO AVOID INTERFERENCE.

    As I write this, there are only a handful of FPV systems that do not require a license. Most of them are Wi-Fi-based systems such as those seen on the Phantom 2 Vision+ and Blade 350QX2. Wi-Fi video systems typically have limited range and measurable latency. This may be ok if your only goal is to cruise around shooting video. But the latency alone makes Wi-Fi systems inadequate for racing.

    I am only aware of one non-Wi-Fi FPV system that is FCC certified and can be used without a license. The operational range for this system is estimated to be about 600’. Of course, variables such as your flying altitude and any solid obstacles between the video receiver and the aircraft could impact that value. If this system meets your performance requirements, then you’re all set. Certainly, the future holds other FPV systems with FCC certification. Until then, your license-free options are limited. Unless a video transmitter has specific markings stating that it is compliant with FCC Part 15 requirements, you will need a license to operate it legally.

    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.

    CES 2015: Hands-On with Razer's OSVR Hacker Dev Kit

    We put on Razer's OSVR prototype, a headset that's part of an open-source initiative to promote virtual reality for PC gaming. Think of it as Android for VR, where not one company controls all the hardware and software. Will and Norm discuss what they learned about OSVR from chatting with Razer's representatives, and share their impressions on the hacker dev kit demo. (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    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.

    Living with Photography: My Favorite Photos Taken in 2014

    Oh shoot. I looked at the calendar and realize it's already the middle of January. We're back from CES, and as I was reviewing photos from the show, I remembered that I had ran out of time during the holidays to post my annual gallery of my favorite photos taken that year. In the past two years, I've called this series my Favorite Tested Photos, but I'm changing that this year to just my favorite photos in general, taken either for work or outside of it. Out of 11039 photos taken in 2014, these aren't necessarily my best (I don't know if even I took 100 "good" photos last year), but they are my favorite. Each is memorable to me for a different reason--the subject, composition, lighting, or connection to an event. I've tried to group them thematically to tell a story about the year as seen through my camera lens. The final 10 are the only ones in any particular order, counting down my absolute favorites. Here's to 2015 and many more shutters.