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    First Look at Dell's Canvas 27-Inch Display

    We get up close to Dell's Canvas, a 27-inch touchscreen and Wacom-pen enabled display that's meant to be used in place of your desktop keyboard. Here's how Dell expects artists to use the device in Windows 10, how it works with their rotating dial, and why they think it's different than a Wacom Cintiq.

    Tested: Tactic Wrist Monitor for FPV Systems

    I love interesting gadgets and the Tactic FPV Wrist Monitor ($50) certainly qualifies. It looks like a smart watch, or maybe something Dick Tracy would wear. When you flip out the folding antenna, it's easy to imagine that you're a high-tech spy sending an urgent status update to your secret underground headquarters. The actual functionality of the wrist monitor isn't so clandestine. Its primary function is to receive and display video signals from RC models with a FPV system.

    The Tactic FPV Wrist Monitor integrates a 2" screen and 5.8GHz receiver into a tiny wearable package. What applications can you think of?

    What It Is

    The heart of the wrist monitor is a 2" (51mm) LCD screen. It displays in full color with a resolution of 480x240. Overall dimensions of the monitor housing are 2.2" x 1.9" x .5" (56 x 49 x 12mm). Weight with the wrist band is 2.2 ounces (61.5g).

    The unit has an integrated 5.8GHz receiver with the aforementioned folding antenna. Most FPV activities currently use 5.8GHz signals, so there are plenty of compatible video transmitters available. The receiver can pick up 32 different channels divided among 4 bands (A, B, E, and F). A button on the side of the monitor allows you to choose your desired band and channel. There is no provision to input a wired video signal. Nor can you record or export the receiver's feed.

    Its primary function is to receive and display video signals from RC models with a FPV system.

    A built-in 300mAh LiPo battery provides power for the monitor. A full charge will provide about an hour of operation. Unfortunately, there is no battery status indicator anywhere. You'll know the battery is dead when the monitor shuts itself off. The battery is charged via a micro-USB port.

    The included wrist band is a simple rubber unit with a metal buckle. Like the footprint of the monitor itself, the band is wide and beefy. The band is obviously sized for larger wrists. I think I'm an average guy I use one of the smallest settings on the band. Anyone with smaller wrists may have trouble getting a comfortable fit. Even if you poke extra holes in the band, the girth of the monitor could become a factor at some point.

    Show and Tell: SixKeyBoard Custom Keyboard

    For this week's Show and Tell, Patrick stops by (our old office!) to share this custom keyboard set by TechKeys. The SixKeyBoard is a programmable keyboard with yep, just six keys. But instead of requiring desktop software, macros and shortcuts can be saved right to the keyboard to work on any system.

    In Brief: Pebble Announces New Watches, Core Accessory

    Even though Apple reportedly corners half of the smart watch market, Pebble is pushing forward its lineup with new watches and an interesting accessory on the horizon. The Pebble 2 and Pebble Time 2 are the logical follow-ups to the low-power watches, adding heart-rate monitors, extending battery life, and expanding the screen size by 50% in the color model. But the more interesting product looks to be the $70 Pebble Core, a display-free pocketable puck that has GPS tracking, Spotify streaming, audio out (including Bluetooth), and even 3G sim card support. Steven Levy examines why the Core may be a smart move for Pebble on Backchannel. Pebble is also once again turning to Kickstarter for early bird pricing pre-orders--pay in 35 days and you'll get a new watch by the end of the year.

    Norman
    Tested: Mechanical Gaming Keyboards

    What makes a good mechanical keyboard? And why are peripheral companies releasing new gaming keyboards so frequently? Patrick and Norm discuss the state of this essential accessory, and how the switches in new keyboards from Corsair, Razer, and Logitech compare. Which type of switch do you prefer?

    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.

    Oculus Rift Virtual Pinball Cabinet Mod!

    Our virtual reality correspondent Jeremy Williams is also a huge pinball enthusiast. So when he first played Pinball FX 2 VR on the Oculus Rift, he knew he had to build a custom cabinet to play the game. Here's his "PinSim", a cabinet controller to play VR pinball with tactile controls and even an acclerometer-based nudge system!

    The State of Monitors in the Age of VR

    With all the hype surrounding virtual and augmented reality, we'll still be using monitors as our primary visual tool for using our PCs going forward. Given that, I thought a quick update on what's going on in the world of PC displays might be useful.

    First, the good news: IPS and other high quality panels (SVA, etc.) are getting less expensive by the day. You can find 25-inch, 2560 x 1440 pixel (WQHD) displays for under $300 now, if you're willing to forego amenities such as adjustable stands and VESA mounts. I picked up an Acer G257HU for $258 recently. While the stand is terrible, the display itself, complete with ultra-thin bezel, looks pretty good. Color rendition isn't all that accurate, but for an inexpensive display, it looks pretty good.

    If you want something a bit larger, you can find 27-inch WQHD IPS, MVA, or SVA panels for under $500. So unless you're on a super-tight budget, you can avoid those terrible TN panels.

    PC gaming monitors continue a trend towards higher refresh rate, but remain locked in a war between Nvidia's G-Sync and AMD's FreeSync. The VESA standards body adopted FreeSync as an optional feature for DisplayPort, but until a universal standard exists, users will need to commit to one brand of video card to exploit the full capabilities of these high-refresh rate displays. G-Sync and FreeSync aren't just about higher refresh rates, but instead adapts the refresh rate of the display rate to the frame rate of the game. They also incorporate techniques to minimize frame collision, reducing stutter. This standards battle also comes with another problem: most of these displays are pretty pricey compared to standard 60Hz panels, commanding a 25-100% price premium, depending on manufacturer.

    However, if the displays EDID (extended display identification data) exposes the higher refresh rate, you can at least get that higher refresh rate, even if your graphics card can't take advantage of the more advanced features.

    Behind the Scenes: How We Light Our Videos!

    Tested producers Joey and Adam Isaak give you a behind-the-scenes look at our lighting setup in the Tested studio and on location. Here's how our videos are lit using a combination of fluorescent, tungsten, and LED sources. Plus, Joey and Adam discuss the Fotodiox Pro FlapJack, a new bi-color studio light that we've been liking a lot!

    Tested: Avegant Glyph Personal Theater Headset

    Norm reviews the Avegant Glyph, a headset that uses tiny DLP projectors to put a personal video theater on your face. It's not a virtual reality headset, but has sensors for head-tracking for 3D and 360-degree video from your phone. But the best use of it may be with camera-equipped quadcopters.

    In Brief: The Science of Making Keyboards Feel Great

    When we test gear, we look beyond the specifications listed by manufacturers to compare a product with its competitors. Each product has both quantitative and qualitative attributes that require testing--some which are not clearly apparent and others that are difficult to measure. "Squishiness" and "clickyness" aren't the most scientific of terms. Popular Mechanics posted this great exploration into the measurable attributes of keyboard feel. Attributes like travel and snap are clearly important, but there's also discoverability, pitch, and dish of the keys.

    Norman 1
    Meet Dell's New 30-Inch OLED Monitor

    We meet up with Patrick Norton while at CES to check out Dell's new 30-inch OLED monitor. This is only of the most beautiful desktop displays we've ever seen--a prestige product priced at a whopping $5000. Plus, we quickly check out Dell's new 2-in-1 Core-M notebook.

    In Brief: Google Announces $200 OnHub Router

    A few bits of Google news this week, including one product launch. First, Google announced that Android 6.0 is officially named Marshmallow. The final SDK for this 'M' release will be out soon for developers to get their apps working on it--we're crossing fingers for a Nexus phone release as well (rumored to be by LG). You'll have to wait longer for Google's Ara phones, as that project is now pushed back to at least 2016. And finally, Google launched a home router, made in partnership with TP-Link. The premise is that this OnHub is a router that's meant to be kept in the open, not stuck in a closet. Managed and controlled with an app, it supports Bluetooth 4.0 and a few smart home and IOT protocols (Thread and Zigbee). Looking at it makes me think of Amazon's Echo, and OnHub even has a speaker. The only thing it's missing is a microphone system, but Google probably wants you to communicate with it with your phone or its app. I think that underestimates the usefulness of a built-in microphone and the ability to send hands-free voice commands to a central connected smart home hub without having to fumble with devices. OnHub will cost $200, and is available for pre-order now. Here's Google's promo video for the router, which borderlines a as-seen-on-tv commercial.

    Norman 1
    The Best Bluetooth Keyboard

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

    After testing 20 Bluetooth keyboards with a four-person panel, and using our favorites for months of daily work, we found the Logitech Bluetooth Easy-Switch Keyboard K810/K811 (Windows/Mac) is the best Bluetooth keyboard for most. The Easy-Switch has a rechargeable battery that lasts a few weeks to several months, and is able to instantly switch between three devices, a feature the competition universally lacked. At $100 it's expensive for a keyboard, but no other Bluetooth option comes close to matching the Easy Switch's versatility, comfort, and features.

    The Logitech's concave keys comfortably cup your fingers.

    Who is this for?

    A Bluetooth keyboard is a great option if you need a keyboard that can connect to any device—desktop, laptop, tablet, phone, television. If you have a keyboard that you're happy with, and you only need to use it with a computer, or don't mind sacrificing a USB port, then you don't need to upgrade.

    Testing: Electric Objects Digital Art Frame

    Last year, I backed the Electric Objects Kickstarter, a campaign to produce a digital picture frame built from a 23-inch 1080p panel and integrated ARM computer. It's something that, on paper, sounds like something you could just build yourself--you can buy a similarly-sized IPS panel for under $150 and attach it to a $35 Raspberry Pi. What Electric Objects is going for, however, seems to be an elegant and intentional design in both the hardware and software--a complete solution that works right out of the box. That box arrived earlier this month, and I've been using the Electric Objects EO1 frame for the past week. As a screenprint collector, here's what I think about it so far, and what it's trying to accomplish.

    On the hardware side, the display itself is a matte 23-inch 1080p panel with a 250 nit backlight--pretty standard for 16:9 monitor you can get from monitor makers like Dell. The custom stuff is all in the frame around that panel to make it look like a framed piece of art. The 3/4-inch bezel is in line with the frames I like for my 18x24 screenprints, is even on all sizes, and has a slightly angled taper toward the back. The "frame" itself isn't as thick as most monitors, but the computer hardware--a 1GHz dual-core Cortex-A9 system with built-in Wi-Fi and bluetooth--bulges from the back, so it does float a little bit off the wall. Mounting hardware is included.

    The quality of the screen is good, with all the perks of an IPS panel: good color reproduction, high contrast, and wide viewing angles. It being matte also helps a lot with visibility in daylight, though it will look washed out from certain reflective angles. Of course, the LCD has downsides as well, as images with black backgrounds don't look completely black in the dark (even with auto-brightness), and 250 nits isn't bright enough to make images pop in a fully day-lit room. I didn't notice any backlight bleed, though. With the intent of keeping the hardware as simple as possible, there's no OSD for calibrating the display--only a single button for putting the EO1 to sleep when you don't want it on.

    Other than the fact that this is an active backlit display, the most obvious difference between this and a piece of printed art is the image resolution. 1080p is sufficient for putting up photos or animated GIFs and appreciating them from afar, but get up close to the EO1 and you're going to notice the pixels. One of the things I love about screenprints is being able to scrutinize the minute details and nuances natural to the printing process. Even with fine digital prints, there's a physicality in the CMYK separations that lets you know how an artist intended the work to be seen when you put your eyeball up to the paper. You can't do that here--art on the EO1 is meant to be appreciated from at least a few feet away.

    But these limitations, in the eyes of EO1's creators, are features inherent to their vision of the digital canvas. Digital art is fundamentally different than printed art, and maybe you're supposed to experience and enjoy it differently. And the most notable "feature" of the Electric Objects display is its inability to run slideshows.

    The Best Voice Recorder

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

    After 36 hours of research, testing eight different devices in a number of real-world settings and then playing the audio we collected to a four-person blind listening panel to evaluate its sound quality, we've determined that the best audio recorder for taping meetings, lectures, and interviews is the $100 Sony ICD-UX533. It recorded the most intelligible and truest-to-life sound clips of all the recorders we tested. It's easily pocketable and its intuitive, easy-to-press function buttons combined with a legible, backlit screen gave it the best user interface out of all the models in our test group.

    Who is this for?

    If you want to record a lecture, meeting, or interview, this pick is for you. It's ideal for students, radio journalists, and anyone who needs to record meetings for future reference. On the other hand, if you're a musician, a professional podcaster, a radio journalist or if you belong to some other profession that requires the use of a high-quality audio recorder on a regular basis, this pick isn't for you.

    In Brief: For the Love of Clicky Keyboards

    What's the best computer keyboard ever made? For me, an old favorite was Microsoft's Natural Keyboard Pro, but the 30-year old IBM Model M is the only answer for some mechanical keyboard enthusiasts. Wired recently profiled Brandon Ermita, who restores the Model M and sells the five-pound keyboards to diehards. And while it's not peculiar to have a favorite keyboard, there are also users who covet rare vintage keys. The story of the Cherry Red Doubleshot Esc key follows that obsession. But for those of you who want the feel of a mechanical key without the clickiness, Cherry and Corsair announced the MX Silent switch last week.

    Norman
    Tested In-Depth: Pebble Time Smartwatch

    The second-generation Pebble smartwatch is here, and brings with it a color screen and microphone. We sit down and discuss how the new Pebble Time compares with the original, the Apple Watch, and Android Wear. All-week battery life is great, but this watch has many caveats, especially if you're an iPhone user.

    In Brief: Testing the Usability of Electronics in Water

    Craig Hockenberry's post about testing the waterproof claims of the Apple Watch is a good read even if you don't own a smartwatch. He dives into what affects electronics in water use, and how waterproofing works in modern touchscreen devices. There are some interesting UI implications for wearables in underwater use as well, which may inform how smartwatches adapt input and output for different environments in the future.

    Norman