Posts with «author_name|james trew» label

The Evercade VS captures the spirit of retro gaming

Between 2016 and 2019, retro gaming had a moment. I mean anothermoment. A very specific one where gaming’s greatest all released “mini” versions of their most iconic consoles. NES? Yep. SNES? Sure. Genesis? You bet and, of course, Sony, SNK, Konami and even Commodore (sorta) got in on the trend too.

Then there was Evercade in 2020 — a refreshingly different take on the new-but-old console idea. Instead of a “mini” version of vintage hardware, it was a new handheld that took cartridges. Each cartridge contained a collection of classic games from different developers. I enjoyed it when I reviewed it.

The idea of potentially unlimited games through actual cartridges was both clever and brave (retro gamers aren’t so known for paying for titles, especially the lesser-known “gems” that Evercade was able to license). Either way, the idea must have caught on as the company soon revealed plans for a more traditional home console version. It’s finally here and it brings a few interesting perks over its handheld sibling.

The Evercade VS (as the $99 system is called) shares the same cartridge format as the handheld, so you won’t need to re-buy anything. In fact, you can play on one, save your game and pick it up on the other (just like you’d hope, to be fair). It’s worth mentioning that two titles (both Namco collections) are only compatible with the handheld due to licensing issues.

James Trew / Engadget

There are other perks to the home-based console, too. Most notably support for multiplayer (up to four players where games support it), WiFi for over-the-air updates and a jazzy new interface. Oh, and the VS can hold two cartridges at a time, meaning you can be working on one game and leave it there while you play another, or simply just have more games to choose from on your home screen at any one time — handy given that every single cartridge Evercade offers is a multicart. The carts are even hot-swappable so you don’t need to restart the system, just slot a new one right in and away you go.

As is tradition with this new wave of retro home consoles, the VS is small and light. So light, you’ll definitely want to make sure your HDMI cable has some slack in it, else it’ll lift the VS off the ground or pull it back behind your TV. The good news is that almost any USB port will power it. My not-very-good seven year-old LG TV can easily power the VS through its USB ports meaning I don’t have to occupy another outlet.

The VS looks like a direct relative of the original Evercade with the same vintage white and red decals with a dash of gray here and there for buttons. One nice little touch is the NES-style “flap” that covers the cartridge slots. This does mean you don’t get the old-school vibes of having a cartridge poking out the top, but at least your games are safely hidden from the elements. But homages to old consoles like that seem to matter to fans of the classics. It weirdly matters a lot. Even if that’s the laborious ritual of having to get off the couch to change the games or power it down. Nostalgia isn’t always about the good things.

Fire the VS up and you’ll be presented with a Netflix-like menu of all the titles on whatever cartridges are inserted. The handheld, with its limited screen size, had you flip through each title one by one. Here, they’re laid out in rows with full cover art. Click through and you’ll be presented a little more info about the game and its controls along with the option to play it (naturally) or pick up where you left off with your most recent save.

Blaze

Evercade has tried to strike a balance between modern features and retro authenticity. Save states are one modern concession but most other things — such as cheat codes or in-game recording — are absent. The same goes for the visual look and feel. Under the settings menu, you have three display options: Original Ratio, Pixel Perfect and Full Screen. It’s always nice to have options as modern TVs are very different to what you might have plugged the original hardware into.

You can, of course, add scanlines (if you must). There are also some options for different themes and backgrounds etc. But all-told the menu is simple and clear and all the better for it.

When the handheld launched, the library of cartridges and games was decent but modest. There were collections from mainstays like Atari, Namco and Interplay. These held some classics like Pac-Man, Earthworm Jim and Crystal Castles. Then there were bundles from newer developers that have scooped up various IPs over the years. These tend to hold more “hidden gems” like Piko’s Dragon View (a solid RPG first published by Kemco). In fact the VS comes bundled with two of these collections to get you going (one from Data East and one from Technos).

Along with these well-known and lesser-known golden oldies are some collections of new 8- and 16-bit games. The net result is that the Evercade had the foundations to become something of an all-inclusive retro experience with new and old titles side-by-side. Now, with the Evercade VS, the company has added a new line of arcade-first collections denoted by their purple (rather than red) packaging. Here you’ll find button-mashers like Double Dragon 2 and Bad Dudes vs DragonNinja to further round out the library.

James Trew / Engadget

One intriguing option in the menu is “Secret.” Here you’ll be asked to enter a code. What the code/s is/are is, well, a secret, but one can presume it unlocks some extra games or content. Along the same theme, there are hidden games on the console itself a-la Snail Maze on the Sega Master System.

And… there are more things to unlock, too. Evercade has hinted that certain cartridge combinations, when inserted together, will unlock hidden titles. I was able to find two such secret games with the cartridges I have here, and there are definitely more. I won’t spoil things by saying exactly how you find them, but the UI will let you know. It’s subtle though.

Each cartridge says how many games are in the collection on the front, so if both have 10, the UI might say 21. Then you might have to check the back of the box to find which game that’s now in your list isn’t officially mentioned on either cartridge’s box. Thanks to the VS’s WiFi connection, this is theoretically something that can be expanded over time, too. A nice, fun touch nonetheless — especially for collectors.

James Trew / Engadget

One minor nitpick might be the controller: Your mileage may vary due to different physiology, but it isn’t my favorite. The general design is fine and comfortable, but it doesn’t feel quite as ergonomic as the handheld or other controllers to me. Also the in-game menu button doubles as the pause button, which can be a little confusing if, like me, you find yourself reaching for Start.

On the plus side, there are now four shoulder buttons instead of the handheld’s two and the cables are plenty long enough to reach across most living rooms. You can, of course, use the handheld as an extra controller, but it needs a specific cable — I tried the USB cable that came in the box and, no dice. That cable is about $10, while an additional controller is about $20, so it’s worth weighing up the benefit before deciding which way to go. The VS also supports basically any standard USB controller, so if you have one laying around that you like, you can use that at the expense of retro authenticity.

All in all, the Evercade VS is a pleasant surprise. The cartridge-based model will always be appealing to some and a deterrent to others. But for those that love rarities and a good dollop of nostalgia, the Evercade ecosystem is shaping up to be more than just a gimmick. With the recent wave of new indie games also making it to the platform it could find itself being a vibrant platform for new games, too. One where indie developers can not only enjoy seeing their games have a physical release, but find new audiences, and that’s never a bad thing.

NVIDIA Broadcast is kinda underrated

What if I told you that a graphics card could be the quickest way to improve your livestream or podcast audio? It sounds counterintuitive, but think about it: A GPU often has an extreme amount of processing power sitting idle, so why not use that redundant hardware for other things?

Fortunately, NVIDIA is way ahead of us, and has already harnessed the potential of its own GPUs to do things beyond, well, graphics. For example, you might remember RTX Voice, which as the name implies, is a tool for upping your microphone game. Then, it quietly released Broadcast — a more comprehensive tool aimed squarely at streamers and content creators. Both offer great audio enhancement features, but we’ll focus on Broadcast here as that has effectively (though not entirely) replaced RTX Voice.

Right up the top, I should set some expectations. While Broadcast offers some helpful tools for all streamers, the real benefit is for those with more entry-level gear. For example, if you have something like a Blue Yeti and an older webcam you’re going to get more out of this tool than someone with a Shure SM7B and a Sony A7.

Broadcast specifically “uses Tensor Cores on NVIDIA RTX GPUs to accelerate AI calculations so you can game, livestream and run AI networks at the same time.” It’s compatible with any RTX GPU — “GeForce RTX 2060, Quadro RTX 3000, or higher” — according to a company spokesperson.

If you don’t already own a compatible GPU, now isn’t exactly the best time to be looking for one, thanks to the ongoing chip shortage, but things do seem to be slowly easing up. If you do have a supported card then you can simply download the Broadcast app and get cracking. The better news is, if you have a Logitech headset or Blue mic, as of today, Broadcast is natively supported so you won’t even need to dive into the app.

Supported models at launch are Logitech's G733, Pro X and Pro X Wireless headsets, and Blue's Yeti X, Yeti Classic and Yeti Nano microphones. While that’s only a fraction of the companies’ offerings, it still represents a lot of headsets and microphones that today have new, untapped potential.

NVIDIA / James Trew

The Logitech partnership, to date, only works with some products and only with some of the features on offer in NVIDIA Broadcast. Those looking for the full audio-visual featureset will still need to download the standalone app. Once you’re in Broadcast you’ll see three main tabs: Microphone, Speaker and Camera. We’ll focus mainly on the microphone section, but the other two are just as useful and it all combines into one hub for tweaking your stream, be it video, audio or both.

Under the Microphone tab you’ll find a drop down on the left to select your input source and a space below for adding effects. The area on the right is given over to a tool for testing these effects before you commit to them.

Right now, there are only two effects to choose from. But both are useful and there’s no novelty chaffe (get your robot voices elsewhere!). Broadcast is focused on shaping up your stream, not bending it into something else. And importantly, all in realtime, unlike something like iZotope RX which is incredibly good at repairing sound, but aimed at post production.

Audio tools

The first effect is Room echo removal. For anyone who has a space with less than favorable acoustics, this is going to help you dial down that dreaded “cave” sound you have probably been battling with. Reverb reduction is actually quite a science, given that you’re trying to remove elements of a sound that are… well, very very similar to the source. So you can’t just hack out the errant frequencies and be done with it, you need to leave the original signal intact.

NVIDIA kept things nice and simple. Other pro tools (like iZotope’s RX) give you an bevvy of settings and controls. Broadcast? Just two: on/off and “strength” (amount of reverb to be removed). To test this, I used a condenser microphone as those are most prone to picking up reverb. In the recording below, I start with no effect applied before dialling in about 50 percent and then finally with strength set to maximum.

As you can hear, the effect is, well, effective. The acoustics in the room I recorded the samples in aren’t terrible, but they’re definitely not optimal. But the difference between the raw recording and then with the reverb removed is stark. The effect is most obvious in the first recording with the condenser mic. The raw signal is… fine, but things are much improved with the echo removal tool set to around half way. The recording feels much more present and there’s no distracting room echo. More, isn’t always better though. Once I dial the effect up to 100 percent, reverb might be eliminated, but at the expense of the original signal. In short, play around with the settings to find the best balance for your tastes and recording space.

You’ll notice in the second recording that there’s not really all that much reverb to remove. This is thanks to the dynamic microphone which does a pretty good job of that itself. You can hear a difference once I start adding the effect, but it might not be worth the risk of degrading your source audio for such a minor benefit.

Perhaps more impressive than the echo removal is the second effect on offer: Noise reduction. While reverb tends to be a constant, outside noises are unpredictable. Things might be quiet when you sit down to record, only for a loud motorbike or barking dog to invade your stream moments later. Not with noise removal applied though.

This effect is impressively adept at removing anything but your voice from your stream. Be that a jackhammer, a crying baby next door or even a song played loudly on a speaker right by your microphone. Honestly, listen to the below.

Notice how you can’t hear the song when the effect is applied? That’s coming from a speaker barely a foot behind the microphone. When I recorded it, it’s fully audible to my ears, but almost entirely inaudible on the recording. I say almost as those with sharp ears might notice the odd fragment popping through, but you really have to listen closely. I actually asked NVIDIA about this and was given this response:

“The AI networks are trained to recognize some patterns, and as such there will be gray areas where the AI can have doubts. [...] As such we wanted to give our users flexibility to run the effects in a comfortable range, or dial things up in case they needed help in extreme situations. For example, for audio effects we recommend running them at 75-90 percent, depending on how much background noise or room echo there is.”

As mentioned, Broadcast largely replaced RTX Voice, but NVIDIA decided to patch it with support for NVIDIA GeForce GTX GPUs meaning you can still get the noise reduction tools even if your GPU doesn’t support Broadcast. Though, the company says, experiences will vary on older cards.

As with the reverb removal, the strength setting will ultimately impact the quality of the output so trial and error is needed to find the sweet spot. You might also want to consider time of day. If, for example, you live near a noisy road, you could dial in a second pair of settings for when you have to record around rush hour.

The noise removal filter is impressive, but it’s not without limitations. For one, the “strength” slider doesn’t seem to fade out sounds like music, instead it falls off only once you apply the maximum amount. At least in my testing. I doubt you’re intentionally streaming with music only you want to hear, so that’s a minor thing to be aware of, but if you do need to keep the strength at maximum, be aware of that degradation in signal which will get worse the more noise Broadcast is eliminating.

As a companion to the vocal effects, the middle tab in Broadcast is “Speakers.” We can sum this section in one shot: It’s the same as Microphone, just for incoming audio. That’s to say, you can go ahead and remove room echo or background noise from people you are speaking with. If you’ve ever been on a Zoom call during these pandemic times and someone’s baby starts crying or has a really loud road nearby, then you can selfishly spare your ears here.

Camera tools

Conceptually, the effects for your camera work in a similar way to the ones for your microphone. NVIDIA’s AI cores are “looking” out for noise or, depending, your entire background. Yup, with Broadcast you can achieve a green screen effect without the actual screen. You might be thinking “well, Zoom/Meet/TikTok does that” and you’d be right, but those don't do it nearly as well. Below is an example of what background removal/replacement looks like in Broadcast

James Trew / Engadget

You can definitely see where the effect isn’t perfect around my hair, but in general it works really well. I did notice that it struggled with the headrest on my chair, with the image flickering around that area as I moved around, but again, it’s leagues above what you might hope for from a free chat app.

In total, there are five effects for cameras. Three for your background: Blur, removal and replace (images or videos work!). Then there is Auto Frame, which crops in and then keeps your face in the center. Last, but not least, is Video noise removal — this is apt for recording in low light and your camera starts to go all grainy. You can see some examples in the picture below. Two were taken using a GoPro and the other pair are from an old DSLR repurposed as a webcam.

If you have good lighting, you probably won’t need the noise removal tool. But if your camera struggles with anything other than an abundance of photons, this filter can help. Again, as with the audio tools, be aware that more is not always better. I found with the effect applied at 100 percent you get the tell-tale “smoothing” that will tell your viewers that you’re papering over the cracks.

James Trew / Engadget

The background tools, on the other hand, are a little more forgiving. The blur tool does a good job at obscuring the items behind you, but there’s a very unnatural contrast between you, in focus, and literally anything else in shot. This is similar to how iPhone “portrait” mode photos often appear. The background is blurred, but the subject looks unnatural as there’s almost no transition between foreground and background.

This is, of course, a benefit when you want to remove the background completely. With this filter, NVIDIA does a surprisingly good job of isolating you and deleting everything else. If you want to stream via OBS (or similar) with a game or video on screen while you play in the corner, this is the effect you want and no green screen required.

James Trew / Engadget

As seen above, NVIDIA does a much better job of removing the background than, say, Zoom or Google Meet does. There’s almost no bleed around hair or hands meaning your background rarely pokes through and spoils the green-screen illusion. Background replacement is essentially an extension of this effect with the option of choosing your own image or video to replace whatever happens to be behind you.

The last of the video effects is Auto-Frame which, as the name suggests, keeps you locked into the center of your shot. To do this, the video crops in a little bit and it uses the extra space to gently shift the video from left to right or vice versa as you move around. The movement isn’t jarring, it looks pretty smooth, and is a good way to make sure you don’t accidentally drift off to the side if you are a fidgeter (like me) and don’t keep still.

You can also combine these effects if you want. Auto-Frame can be stacked with either noise removal or one of the background effects for example, or you could use remove background with noise removal applied. Right now you can only stack two though, but that’s probably a good thing as all three at the same time might be a bit much.

The camera suite of effects is currently in beta, and NVIDIA has been adding new features and improving performance at a rapid pace. Version 1.2 in May integrated Broadcast into popular streaming apps like OBS, while the latest 1.3 version released in September added support for many virtual camera apps and made combining video effects much more viable by reducing their VRAM usage by 40 percent.

While performance and memory usage is never going to be an issue for those using Broadcast for their chats, one-PC streamers who are using the app while gaming will be grateful for the additional frames. Perhaps, one day, we can dare to dream about many other features such as multi-mic support (with different effects) live transcribing for closed captions and even smart detection of licensed music so your streams don’t flag a DMCA violation.

Urbanista's solar-powered headphones tease a charger-free future

81 percent. That’s the current battery level on the pair of Urbanista’s Los Angeles headphones sitting on my desk. When I took them out of the box about a week ago, the battery level was 75 percent. Number of charges? Zero. Hours of use? Around 10. In short, with some fairly typical listening and precisely no interaction with a charging cable, the headphones have more battery life than when I received them. Impressive, though not without some caveats.

First, let’s back up a little bit. If you missed the announcement, the Los Angeles’ main selling point was that they came with “Powerfoyle” solar charging cells in the headband for $200. The promise was simple: even indoors, these headphones will slowly charge when not in use. Go outside? They might even maintain their level while playing music; if it’s a particularly sunny day they could even gain battery life while you listen, even with ANC on.

The headphones themselves have a classic Scandinavian understated look. Acoustically, they don’t offer too many surprises. That’s to say, expect a slightly bottom-heavy EQ experience, but overall they deliver robust clear audio that won’t tire your ears. They are Bluetooth only, though, so no wired option here. More on that in a bit.

James Trew / Engadget

Of course, the real interest is that claim of a “nonstop audio experience.” As my intro suggests, the company’s claims are true. Or should I say, can be true? The headphones definitely charge themselves, even indoors, but it’s not time to throw away the (included) USB cable just yet.

If you plan on using these mostly indoors, then you will almost certainly be charging them. Even about as much as you might any other pair. That’s because while the claim about indoor charging is true, it’s barely a trickle and only really under direct light. If you place them near a window between uses you can expect a little more juice, but it’s still more of a modest top-off than a flow of free energy.

This I can say with relative confidence thanks to the companion app which kindly shows you power coming in versus power being used with a fancy little circular chart. When the photons are abundant, the chart turns a pale green and a reassuring “up” arrow lets you know the headphones are gaining power. Enter the shadows, however, and things turn red to let you know you’re draining the battery. You can even see the amount of energy coming in or being used at any one time.

James Trew / Engadget

With this info we can start to get an idea of how effectively the solar charging works. For example, just by turning the headphones on they will use about 2.6mA to maintain a connection to a phone. Play music, and this goes up to around 9mA. Add on either ANC or Ambient mode and this can creep up to around 13-15mA. Those are our numbers to “beat.”

In my testing, when laid flat on a table in a room without direct sunlight or any lights on during the day, they won’t charge at all. If I placed them directly under a lamp or bulb you might get between 0.2 and 1mA of charge. Place them near a window during the day and this can climb to about 3mA. Open that window and it’ll increase to maybe 4mA (indirect sunlight). So far, you’re only really slowing down their battery use by a tiny amount.

As I already hinted at, things get a lot more interesting once you head outside. Walking in the shade in the street you can expect about 3-5mA of input. Again, you’re still in net loss. Head out directly into the sun, however, and everything springs to life. I was frequently able to achieve 24mA of “gain” while listening to music with ANC (for around 8-10mA of drain).

The short version is… that the Urbanistas will charge when there’s ambient light. A bit. But take them outside (and with good sunshine) and they will even charge while in use. All this to say that, if I used these like I do any other wireless headphones, I would expect the solar charging to maybe add a few hours to their battery life. If I only used them outdoors, they would live forever.

This is all good news though. What Urbanista has done here is set a benchmark. JBL tried something similar, but that project was tabled due to COVID travel restrictions making them unviable. Urbanista is actually shipping its version and it can only get better from here.

Perhaps the most understated achievement here is that the headphones don’t look like they have a solar panel attached. At least if you opt for the black pair. The cells in the head strap more or less blend into the design of the Los Angeles, just with the Powerfoyle logo on them (also in black so it’s fairly subtle). The headphones are also available in “sand gold” which is more of a cream/mushroom color. On those, the solar strip is painfully obvious but done in such a way it could be passed off as a style choice.

There are some other minor notes to consider. Most notably, for me, the volume. Urbanista says the pair I received for review are set at about 2dB below what the retail model will offer. But using them with an iPhone I have to almost always have them on full volume if I want to be immersed in a song. I found myself frequently mashing the volume button in vain when a banger came on and I wanted to get truly lost in sound but there was never anywhere left to go. I listen to a lot of bangers.

For people that don’t assault their ears, the volume is probably fine. It’s not hugely lower than, say, the AiAiAi TMA-2s I use. Connect things to a computer and, well, you can go a bit louder, so some of this, the company suggests, is down to your device’s chipset and regional limitations.

James Trew / Engadget

If there was a second bugbear, it’d be the buttons. The Los Angeles has three buttons on the right side for volume/play/pause and skipping tracks and power. Then there’s a lone button on the other side for switching between ANC, Ambient mode and “default” mode or activating your phone’s assistant. The problem is, the buttons on the right side — i.e. the ones you interact with most — are tiny and very close together. This means that swift volume changes are difficult. Instead, you have to sort of fondle around to “count” the buttons with your finger to find the first or third one.

I do also wish there was the option to use them with a 3.5mm cable. Not only does that give you an option for whenever the battery does run out (or you’re in an Airplane mode situation) it would ameliorate some of my volume woes for when I really do need to feel a drop right to the core of my amygdala. (DACs are wonderful things.)

As for other small positives, the app is a nice touch and opens up the door for possible firmware updates or new features. It was a little flakey in connecting sometimes. Or rather, once it had been connected and then left idle, I’d sometimes have to restart it, but for the amount of time you need it it’s not a major pain to swipe it away and open it again.

There’s also auto-pause when you take the headphones off. This is a subtle but welcome addition that gives things a slightly more premium feel.

All in all, the Los Angeles’ features and pricepoint come together to make a pleasing experience. The sound is very capable without being too aggressive in the lower frequencies. The battery life is obviously a selling point if you frequently find yourself without gas while on the go. And the small touches like Ambient mode/ANC, auto pause and so on just round them out to be a little more comprehensive than other options in this price range. If they were a smidge louder and had a 3.5mm port then these would be a solid pick for me, but even without those features, it’s hard not to admire what Urbanista has done here for $200.

GoPro addresses Hero 10 overheating issues with new firmware

GoPro is issuing a firmware update that includes new "video performance modes." These aren't new creative tools, rather they're designed to prevent cameras shutting down through overheating when recording in certain situations. The company is also unveiling a new "Enduro" battery that should improve performance in cold weather.

Soon after the launch of the Hero 10, some reviews complained that their cameras were overheating and turning off after around 20 minutes of continuous recording. The problem didn't seem to be universal, in our review I performed such a test (before hearing of said complaints) and was able to get over an hour of footage. Other detailed tests also didn't initially bump into the issue. But enough users were having the problem that the company clearly had to take note.

Today, GoPro has confirmed that a new firmware update is coming with the aforementioned Video Performance Modes — Maximum Video Performance, Extended Battery and Tripod/Stationary. The first in that list sounds much like the current mode. Extended Battery, as the name suggests, provides optimal settings for longer battery life. The latter assumes that the camera will not be moving and thus removes things like GPS and HyperSmooth stabilization to, presumably, ease the load on the new processor in situations where there's no motion or airflow to cool the camera down.

According to GoPro, with the new firmware, a 5.3K recording at 60fps will run for 47 percent longer (an average of 29 minutes per clip). Alternatively, at 4K/60fps you can enjoy a 154 percent increase to an hour and three minutes total.

GoPro

As for the new Enduro battery ($29.99) GoPro states it will extend recording times to an average of 56 minutes of 5.3K/60 video at 14F/-10C. When used at moderate temperatures, 5.3K/60 shots should see a boost of 28 percent in duration while 4K/120 videos will enjoy a 40 percent improvement in record time. The new cell will be compatible with both the Hero 9 Black and the Hero 10 Black and thankfully comes in a different color so that you won't mix it up with your standard batteries.

GoPro stops short of saying what the new battery is doing beyond using "revolutionary technology." Either way, whatever your use case for the Hero 10, by the end of the month you'll be able to update your firmware for the new modes or you can pick up the new battery in late November.

My quest for the perfect productivity mouse

When you buy a new PC, it’s easy to focus on the big three: Processor, graphics and RAM (sorry storage fans, that’s a close fourth). It’s the little things that are simple to overlook. I say that with the confidence of someone that just migrated over from a decade-old iMac to a part-picked PC. The rig I ended up with is solid, I had a nice keyboard already, but oh boy do I really need a new mouse.

Mice are not sexy computer peripherals. But if, like me, you spend at least eight hours a day with your hand on one, they’re more important than we give them credit for. My old Magic Mouse could have made the move from MacOS to Windows, but I was already negotiating some pretty bad RSI and the internal battery was starting to waiver. Not least of all, I wanted something that I could charge and use at the same time — the temerity, I know.

Not to mention, since the advent of devices such as the Stream Deck and the Loupedeck Live I have developed a taste for physical, assignable controls. Also, as a recent convert to the world of mechanical keyboards, I was hoping there was a similar world of boutique, bespoke options. It turns out that mice are still a largely off-the-shelf affair, but I was determined to get through some of the more promising options and find something I could live with, possibly for another decade.

My requirements? Fairly simple, but a little more than just something I can comfortably click links with. Top of the list: Ergonomics. The Magic Mouse is… fine, but a little low profile for my palming style. Given my RSI was exclusively in my mousing arm, I figured there’s a good chance ergonomics were to blame.

James Trew / Engadget

Second: I want something that is reasonably configurable. I don’t need to pull off several complex gaming moves; I just want to have things like volume control or the ability to switch between desktops at my fingertips. Thirdly, battery life. I am trying to lose as many cables as I can, so the longer I can go between charging/without a cable around, the better.

That’s kinda it. It’s not a big ask but I soon learned there was always some mental bargaining going on trying to find the best balance. I also wanted to see what a modern mouse can offer beyond those requirements as, who knows, maybe there’s something I never knew I wanted or I have the sudden urge to get into Dota 2. Enter, the story I thought I’d never write: An 11-way PC mouse shoot out.

The obvious candidates

Google around for “the best PC mouse” and you’ll find one answer: Logitech’s MX Master 3. You might see a few mentions of others — like the Razer Pro Click and Microsoft’s Surface Precision mouse — but the reviews are clear that the MX 3 Master is the one.

I looked at all three of these, and honestly, there’s not a lot in it. All of them cost $100 and all of them meet my basic requirements of decent ergonomics, configurable buttons and solid battery life. The latter is the hardest to quantify thanks to how each manufacturer likes to define “time.” For Logi’s MX 3 Master it’s “70 days.” Razer on the other hand touts the Pro Click as lasting between 200 and 400 hours depending on whether you use their USB dongle or Bluetooth respectively (that’s 8-16 “days” but it’s not clear if this is “in use”).

Microsoft’s Surface Precision is listed as “up to 3 months” which I somehow read with an implied shrug on their part. It’s hard to know whether those are active use or “the mouse is on and it’s on your desk.” The better news is that all of them can be charged while you use them. In practice, I found the MX Master 3 to last the longest, but also needing a charge way sooner than its 70 days claim (I’ve had it here barely a month and already had need to charge it).

Of this trio, the Pro Click offers the most configurable buttons (8). The MX Master 3 is a close second (7) but has the advantage of a second scroll wheel near the thumb. In reality, two of Razer’s “buttons” are side-clicks on the scroll wheel — typically these default to sideways scroll, the same as Logi’s thumb dial does. The net result is that I found the MX Master 3 slightly more configurable for my use cases. The thumbwheel is perfect for switching between desktops — something I do a lot, which would occupy two slots on the Razer meaning, effectively, the MX Master 3 has one more spare button in this setup.

James Trew / Engadget

Additionally, there’s a button on the MX master 3 located just under where your thumb rests. This can be used for almost anything, but by default, it activates something called “gesture control,” which lets you assign certain tasks to, you guessed it, different gestures. I gave the gesture controls a spin and they seemed pretty helpful, but the usefulness soon dissolved when I found I wasn’t always able to ace the gesture on the first attempt.

For its part, Microsoft’s Surface Precision mouse offers six buttons and includes left/right clicks on the scroll wheel, putting it about on par with Razer and a shade under the MX Master 3 for configuration dorks like me.

All three companies offer companion software — Microsoft’s is built right-in to Windows. It’s worth noting that Logitech makes a distinction between its office mice and its gaming mice which I’ll get to later (basically, different software with different configuration options). The short version is each gets its own software and what you can do there differs which will be a key factor if considering a variety of their models..

I found Logitech’s Options software the most straightforward with a deep selection of Windows commands, media controls, shortcuts and navigation tools on offer. You can also assign keystroke combinations if something you need isn’t listed. On top of that there are options for app-specific buttons which means you can, for example, have right-click do one thing in Photoshop but something totally different in Chrome. Logitech doesn’t offer full macros in Options though, so more complex commands are off the table via the native software.

James Trew / Engadget

Razer’s Synapse also offers app-specific controls alongside a wealth of predefined media and OS shortcuts, but perhaps less comprehensive than those found in Options. That said, you do also have full macro support: Simply hit record and whatever you do next can be converted into a single click of the mouse. There’s even “HyperShift” which means you can add a second layer of commands while holding down an allocated button.

Microsoft’s Mouse and Keyboard Center is no slouch either with some decent shortcuts on offer and support for both macros and app-specific controls. Though, overall, it’s perhaps less in-depth than both Logitech and Razer’s companion apps.

On a more minor note. During my time with MacOS I joined the dark side of “natural scroll.” It’s not a deal-breaker for me, as I don’t mind regular scroll, but Logitech and Microsoft both offer reverse scrolling as a setting, Razer doesn’t appear to — though you can work around this in other ways of course.

All the above mice offer the flexibility of both Bluetooth and 2.4Ghz wireless connectivity, can be used while cabled and support multi-device (at the same time) modes, if that’s your thing.

Winner: Tie between MX Master 3 and Pro Click.

Buy MX Master 3 at Amazon - $100Buy Razer Pro Click at Amazon - $100Buy Surface Precision mouse at Amazon - $100

Gaming mice for everyday use

Just because a mouse has a gaming focus, it doesn’t mean it’s no good for productivity. That was my reasoning when I looked at things like the Logitech G502 Lightspeed and the G Pro X Superlight. From Razer, the Viper Ultimate looked like another strong option.

There are a few things that change once you go gamer it seems. First: Things get much much lighter. The heaviest I tried was the G502 which, at 114g is a hair heavier than the Razer Pro Click (106g). But 26g lighter than the MX Master 3. The G Pro X Superlight and the Viper Ultra are much more svelte however, weighing in at 63g and 74g respectively. This puts the G Pro X at under half the weight of its Logitech productivity sibling.

James Trew / Engadget

The next thing to consider is the form factor. Gaming mice are much more likely to have either a neutral or ambidextrous design. This isn’t a no-no for my RSI concerns (especially when offset against the lighter weight) but it was something I was cautious about. Of the ones I am testing here, the G502 Lightspeed is the most “ergonomic.”

Lastly, gamers want speed and even 2.4GHz is a bit too laggy for some, so Bluetooth connectivity is rare to find in this category. That’s not a deal-breaker for me, but worth knowing in case it is for you.

I actually had high hopes for the G502 Lightspeed. Not only is it lighter and a similar form factor to the MX Master 3, it offers a whopping 11 configurable buttons. What’s more you’re able to assign full macros along with a slew of deep keyboard commands to those buttons. From a customization standpoint, it’s pretty comprehensive. The G502’s office-bound rival has most of what you need, but macros aren’t there and the keyboard commands on offer aren’t as extensive as in Logitech’s gamer-focused G Hub software.

I should mention the G Pro X Superlight here, too, given it uses the same software as the G502. The G Pro X is semi ambidextrous (you can palm it with either hand, but the extra buttons are only on one side). There are only five buttons total, too.

The issue for me was really all in the handling. I liked that both of these were lighter, that’s a solid plus. But the wealth of buttons on the G502 meant things were a little more cramped. For example, there are two right alongside the left-click button and then another two just above where your thumb rests. They aren’t hard to locate without looking, but overall not as naturally placed as those on the MX Master 3, at least in my opinion. Also, the scroll wheel on both the G502 and the G Pro X protrudes more than any of the other mice on this list which, again, takes some getting used to. Neither was as fluid or comfortable to me as those in the MX Master 3 or Razer Pro click.

Moreover, the G502 has a button to switch between smooth and ratchet scroll (fast, free gliding versus clicky slow, basically). The MX Master 3 offers both types of scrolling but with a setting where ratchet mode will seamlessly become smooth mode which is much more apt for browsing and navigating lists. I found scrolling on the G502 a bit annoying. Much bigger “clicks” and finding the button to switch to smooth seemed to kill my flow. I am guessing it’s better for gamers though.

The G Pro X, for its part, is a really nice option if you want something light with a couple of extra buttons. But with just two additional ones over the standard two-plus-clickwheel it wasn’t quite up to my requirements.

James Trew / Engadget

Razer’s Viper Ultimate, literally on the other hand, is a surprisingly competent all-purpose mouse. For one, as alluded to, it’s truly ambidextrous. At 74g it glides across the desk making it a pleasure to use for extended periods. With a 70 hour battery life it was joint first with the G Pro X for longevity in this category (the G502 offers around 50 hours).

The main nitpick for me with the Viper is that the two buttons near your ring finger and pinkie take a little getting used to if you palm a mouse like I do. I had to train myself to click with the side of my finger rather than the tip. The net result is that I was surprised to find myself gravitating toward the Viper Ultimate most out of this category, despite the G502 being closer to what I had in mind when setting out on this test.

Thanks to gamery specs that I’m not going to make use of, such as 20,000+ DPI sensors and 1000Hz polling rates, all of the gaming mice do cost more than the “productivity” options. In fact all three cost the same: $150.

Winner: Razer Viper Ultimate

Buy G502 Lightspeed at Amazon - $150Buy G Pro X Superlight at Amazon - $150Buy Viper Ultimate at Amazon - $150

Mobile mice

Let’s be clear, there’s almost no chance any of the mobile mice on offer would make a great full-time desktop replacement. That said, it’s also one of the more interesting categories thanks to being free from the burden of having to do everything. A mobile mouse can get a little wackier and do one or two things really well.

There’s also the fact that many of us are working at home on the company laptop, so pairing that with a mouse can make the transition back to the office a little smoother (and not everyone is a fan of trackpads anyway). As such, a straight head-to-head feels less appropriate, but here’s a rundown of five contenders.

James Trew / Engadget

Logitech Pebble

Logitech’s Pebble is a mobile mouse in the purest form. At 100g it’s not the lightest on this list, but that does give it a reassuring feel in use. There are only three buttons: The standard left click, right click and click wheel. You also have the choice between Bluetooth and 2.4GHz dongle connectivity. A nice touch is that you can stow the USB dongle under the top plate as that’s also where you’ll change the (AA) battery.

The Pebble has a slight angle to it which felt like my hand was arching forward when in use. The ambidextrous design is welcome but I do have my concerns about how comfortable it is for extended use. The two aces up the Pebble’s sleeve, however, are its epic battery life: A claimed 18 months (though this will obviously depend on what batteries you use) and the $25 price tag, making it the cheapest on this list.

Buy Logitech Pebble at Amazon - $30

Logitech MX Anywhere 3

As the name suggests, the MX Anywhere 3 is the mobile version of the MX Master 3. Unlike its bigger brother, the Anywhere has a semi-ambidextrous design. It’s perhaps a shade too small to cut it as desktop replacement, but in the mobile realm it feels premium, complete with the auto-switching between ratchet and free-flowing scroll wheel — which at $80, it should.

With six buttons, it’s pretty configurable for something so small and at 99g it won’t overstay its welcome under your palm. Though for the life of me I cannot understand why there is no option to stow the USB dongle inside the mouse somewhere. Given its mobile nature this seems like a no-brainer. You can, of course, just use Bluetooth if, like me, USB dongles seem to vanish into thin air unless they have a home.

Buy MX Anywhere 3 at Amazon - $80

Razer Orochi V2

The winner of the most forgettable-looking option in this nest of mice goes to the Orochi V2. Or maybe it’s just understated? Especially for a Razer product. Looks aside, the Orochi V2 is a very capable mobile mouse with six buttons, Bluetooth or dongle connectivity and it works with Razer’s Synapse software, so any macros you might already have can be assigned here (or make your own!).

James Trew / Engadget

At 425 (2.4Ghz) or 950 hours (BLE) you get a decent amount of time out of each battery and you can use either a single AA or AAA. It weighs just 60g, so it’s also pretty nimble. At $70, it’s edging into full-desktop mouse territory, but given that it’s big enough to actually use this full time, that seems less surprising. Especially given that you can stow the dongle under the top cover, which is more than can be said for the MX Anywhere 3 (or even the MX Master 3).

Buy Razer Orochi V2 at Amazon - $70

Microsoft Surface Arc

Who was betting on Microsoft having the most stylish mouse on this list? The Surface Arc is a delight with a “transforming” design that pops into shape (an “arc” no less). Once you’re done simply snap it flat again for easy storage in a pocket of your laptop bag. You don’t even need to turn it on as “snapping” it also acts as a power switch. Oh, and did I mention that the touchpad area does double duty as left/right click and vertical or sideways scroll (Magic Mouse style)? There’s even the option for a “triple” click to give the Surface Arc an extra, assignable button. All that, and it’s only around $55.

James Trew / Engadget

As satisfying as it is to click into shape, the hollow area under the arc does mean that your thumb and little finger don’t have anywhere to naturally rest. I also found the curve of the arc led me more into a claw position over my usual palm, which might be okay for you but gave me pause about using this for longer periods. As a purely mobile mouse, though, it’s one of the more pleasing, especially if you like its semi-trackpad nature.

Buy Microsoft Surface Arc at Amazon - $50

Microsoft Modern Mobile mouse

The Modern Mobile mouse is Microsoft’s answer to the Pebble. Streamlined, lightweight and with a focus on the basics. There’s no 2.4GHz option here though; it’s Bluetooth only. At $35, compared to the Pebble’s $25 it might seem a foregone conclusion but there’s a lot to like about Microsoft’s take on a portable mouse.

For one, its build quality feels far superior. It also looks more stylish (if that matters). More importantly, it has a more neutral position that feels really comfortable for a smaller mouse and doesn’t feel like it’s craning my hand forward. Throw in the fact that you can still assign app-specific controls via Microsoft’s Mouse and Keyboard center and you end up with something that’s smarter than it first seems.

Buy Modern Mobile mouse at Amazon - $35

Conclusion

James Trew / Engadget

If nothing else, I was surprised by the diversity of options despite my initial concern to the contrary. Who knew that Microsoft had such style, at least in the mobile category? Likewise, Razer, it turns out, makes surprisingly adept productivity mice despite its true-green gamer aesthetic. Logitech, on the other hand, is a steady hand across all categories.

Predictably, the MX Master 3 does seem to do most of the things I want. BUT, only really thanks to that thumbwheel. It is particularly suited for what I need. That said, I find myself quite taken by the Pro Click, and despite lacking a second scroll wheel, it pretty much matches the MX Master 3 in every other manner. It’s also lighter which is a small positive in its favor.

For those that prefer lightweight options (something that became more appealing to me the more I tested), then the Viper Ultimate from Razer impressed me with its balance of function and form. If you don’t need as many buttons then Logitech’s Pro X Superlight lives up to its name. I could happily live with either of these mice full time.

Rode's PSA1+ boom arm works with small mics and cameras too

If you have a favorite streamer, chances are you've seen Rode's PSA1 hanging out in the corner of the frame. Or perhaps you are that streamer? Rode's boom arm has become a go-to for YouTubers, Twitch channels and podcasters alike. As handy as the PSA1 is, it isn't so good for lighter cameras and microphones — at least not without some DIY adjustments.

Enter the PSA1+ ($129). Unveiled today, it's a revised version of the ubiquitous mic arm that will handle devices as light as 94g / 3.3oz. That might not sound like much, but the original needed a lot more weight to keep its balance, effectively ruling out any microphone or camera under 700g / 24.7 oz. That excludes most webcams, all GoPros (which can now work as webcams) and a bevy of other more affordable mics. Sure, you can tighten the screws or meddle with counterweights, but that isn't always ideal or guaranteed to work.

Functionally, the PSA1+ feels a lot closer to something like Blue's Compass which holds itself in place even without weight thanks to a combination of hand-tightened friction hinges and its internal spring mechanism. Blue's offering might be better for lighter microphones and cameras but it doesn't adjust its position as accurately or smoothly as the PSA1 (although its cable management is better).

The extended device support on the PSA1+ isn't the only new feature. Rode claims the new arm is completely silent so you won't suffer errant squeaks or spring noises during your stream or recording. The company also states that part of this is thanks to a revised spring design along with the jazzy new neoprene cover (that kinda makes the PSA1+ look like it's headed to the gym). The cover makes for a more appealing design over the original's standard "desk lamp" aesthetic though. That said, there's some pretty strong branding printed on the side that'll likely catch your eye during videos. Sadly it doesn't seem like you can do much about that as the neoprene appears to be physically connected to the cable clips.

Those clips are a good thing though. As mentioned, cable management, which was functional but not pretty on the PSA1 (essentially it was velcro cable ties) now uses neater, sturdier plastic clasps which should be more reassuring. Now at least either your USB or XLR lead will mostly be out of sight.

The PSA1+ goes on sale tomorrow for $129.

Tenways’ e-bike debut blends value with style

In the age of electric mobility, the trusty bicycle has played a surprisingly low-key role; scooters seem to grab all the headlines (and app rental dollars). Instead, the e-bike has become the preserve of those that can afford one. A decent conventional bike already costs a bit, so adding a motor understandably only adds to that cost. Enter Tenways, a new player in the e-bike world that’s trying to buck that trend. Its debut model, the CGO 600, is currently available on Indiegogo for around $1,400 and despite its relative affordability, it doesn’t scrimp on features.

Now, the usual disclaimer: With Indiegogo and other crowdfunding platforms, there’s always an inherent risk. But Tenways states its production is already underway and given that the review model they sent appears to be full and final hardware we were somewhat assured that things are ready to go.

The CGO 600 is clearly a city bike with its thinner tires and classic diamond frame. It’s powered by a 250W battery which is discreetly hidden in the downtube, to the point where it’s almost impossible to tell that this bike is electric at all. The rear hub motor is visible, but also small enough to not catch the eye. That motor offers a max assistance speed of 15mph in Europe or 20mph in the US which are the maximum allowed in those territories. The claimed range is around 80 miles per charge (though this seems optimistic) and it’s all bundled into a package that weighs around 15 kilograms (around 33 pounds).

James Trew / Engadget

Beyond the key specs, the motor uses a torque sensor for fast, smooth acceleration with three levels of assistance. The bike has no gears, so the motor acts as either regular assist or can be used like gears when going uphill. The brakes are hydraulic for easier maintenance and the carbon belt transmission should mean no oily fingers or pit stops to set it back in place. The CGO 600 can be fully charged in about 2.5 hours, and there’s a small LCD display that acts as an onboard trip computer and power button.

I won’t lie, the specs were pretty impressive at this price point, but what initially drew me to the CGO 600 was the understated design. While it looks great in all the five colorways, there’s something about the black and green model that looks stealthy. The fact that it doesn’t scream “e-bike” makes it feel less of a lure for thieves and just all round makes for an attractive object. In many ways it reminds me of the Cowboy (€1,990 or roughly $2,198) but with a little less aggressively modern design.

Your first task will be putting the bike together, but it’s not too much of a challenge and I was all set and done in less than an hour with a tea break and work interruptions along the way. Once you have it together, you can download the companion app if you wish (it’s not essential unlike on the Cowboy) and get out there on the road.

There are two frame sizes on offer are 50cm (19 inch) and 54cm (21 inch) with no step-through option if that’s your preference or if the available sizes are too big for you. I’m a fairly average height and find the 50cm version I tested to be comfortable. The riding position is a little forward-leaning, but not in a way that bothered me.

James Trew / Engadget

The very first thing you’ll notice is both how fast to engage and how smooth the motor is. When at a standstill at stoplights, it only takes a fraction of a second for the assistance to kick in. It’s smooth enough that it’s not jarring but powerful enough for you to instantly feel the benefit. Once you’re up to speed, it sometimes feels like the assistance isn’t really helping as much, but you only have to turn it off and have the bike in manual mode for a few seconds before your thighs remind you you’re running on your own steam.

It’s when you’re going uphill that you’ll really feel the benefit. The torque sensor means that the amount of assistance immediately responds to the intensity of the ascent. I found that even on fairly steep inclines I didn’t need to get up off the saddle; just fire up the highest level of power and work the pedals.

The torque sensor is also magnetic rather than pressure-based, meaning you can happily ride the CGO 600 entirely on your own leg power without any resistance or burden from the motor. This is great if you’re worried about it being less useful if the battery runs out.

About that: Tenways’ claim of 80 miles of assistance per charge is hard to gauge. I certainly haven’t ridden 80 miles on it yet. But on one full charge I’ve covered just over 22 with 58-percent battery remaining. On a crude calculation, that means I am on track for about 45/50 miles on a single charge. That’s much less than the advertised 80, but I also really enjoy the full power assist, so if you only rode on level one, you’d likely eke more miles out of it. Either way, 50 miles or so would cover a 5-mile commute back and forth over a week without charging.

It’s worth mentioning that there’s no throttle mode here. That’s fairly typical of e-bikes in this style, but in case you were hoping for it, now you know. That said, if you press and hold the down button on the odometer, the bike will creep along on its motor, but it’s only about three miles an hour, so more of a gentle start or a lane splitter’s tool than anything like a motorbike mode.

James Trew / Engadget

In keeping with the stealthy looks, that motor makes nary a sound. It’s not entirely silent, but certainly you’re not going to hear it while riding around town. I love that the hub motor is barely visible and that the battery is so well hidden. Though, of course, that does mean there’s no option to buy spares/swap them out. But it also means you can breeze past serious cyclists on their racers while barely breaking a sweat and enjoy their curious glances as you do so.

One last comment on how it rides: It’s definitely not an off-road bike. That is fairly obvious from the design, but worth mentioning. The CGO 600 lives for asphalt. I took it over some less friendly terrains (potholes, gravel and a decked pathway) and while it handled it all fine, the suspension is pretty hard so you’ll feel every teeth-clattering bump.

The onboard computer is useful but simple. The default screen has everything you need to know at a glance (speed/battery/distance etc.). Then there are sub-screens that are accessible with a tap for more detailed information like average speed and range. This is also where you can add some security via a passcode for the motor. This obviously doesn’t prevent someone stealing your bike, but it’s a small deterrent perhaps?

James Trew / Engadget

At only 15kg, the CGO 600 is definitely one of the lighter e-bikes in this style. Lighter than both the Cowboy (16kg) and the VanMoof Electrified S2 (19kg, $2,298). This makes it a more manageable option if you need to lug it up stairs or, like me, man-handle it into an elevator each time you want to head out. It also makes manual mode a little easier on the legs should you prefer to go on human power (or if the battery runs out).

On a more practical note, Tenways included an integrated front light that's bright enough for those darker sections of your nighttime city commute. How it fares in more rural settings is likely a different matter. There’s also a rear light included, but it’s an accessory you attach with its own battery, so something you’ll need to check regularly if you don’t want to get caught out.

The humble city e-bike has evolved greatly in the last few years, but still needs a little push to bring it into the mainstream as a viable commuting option. Companies like Cowboy, VanMoof and Brompton have been chipping away at the remaining resistance points and now Tenways is here to show you can take most of the features from those models and package them in a more pocket-friendly way. The $1,400 price will likely go up once the Indiegogo campaign ends, but expect it to remain competitive even at retail prices.

GoPro Hero 10 Black review: A big, invisible upgrade

Almost exactly 10 years go, we reviewed the GoPro HD Hero 2. It wasn’t the first flagship camera from the company, but I’d argue it was instrumental in bringing the GoPro to the attention of the general public. Back then, the maximum resolution was 1080p, photos topped out at 5-megapixel and it came shrouded in that iconic waterproof housing.

A decade later, the Hero 10 Black (revealed today) offers a whopping 5.3K max video resolution, 23-megapixel photos, no longer needs a waterproof housing (for most uses) and has a slew of fancy shooting modes that we couldn’t even have imagined three presidents ago.

Before we get to the review part, though, you likely want to know what else has changed. The headline feature is clearly the new GP2 processor. GoPro started using its homegrown chip, the GP1, a few years ago. Now, the second iteration is here and brings with it a boost in frame-rates across the board (5.3K at 60; 4K at 120 and 2.7K at 240 to name a few).

Even the front-facing display benefits from an increased frame rate, which should make your previews smoother. GoPro also states that the GP2 brings with it an image processor (ISP) that promises improved quality photos and videos. We’ll be the judge of that, of course.

James Trew / Engadget

You may have noticed that the max resolution for video is now a shade higher than last year at 5.3K (up from 5). We’re told the sensor is actually the same as before, but that the new chip running the show can eke out more use of it.

The camera itself is, thankfully, the same dimensions as the Hero 9 which means if you have a media mod or Hero 9-specific accessory it’ll likely work with the new model just fine. In fact, the only visible differences between last year’s model and the Hero 10 is… the number 10 and the color of the text branding — it’s now GoPro blue rather than gray.

GP2 times the power

The GP1, GoPro’s first custom processor, made its debut with the Hero 6 Black. It allowed the company to tightly integrate the brains of the camera with the rest of the hardware and yield more control over key features. With the GP2, the promise is “twice the performance.” The company hasn’t shared specifics about the chip itself, but the rewards are evidenced in the increased frame rates across the board. I already mentioned that the upper-most resolution is now .3 megapixels higher than last time and available at 60fps. Twice the frames of the equivalent on the Hero 9 Black.

There are other benefits to the new chip beyond FPS, though. Not least, it’s paired with that ISP which we’ll go into in more detail next. The GP2 also powers the updated HyperSmooth 4.0, and promises a slicker user interface and faster offloading of media (again, each of these will get its own section).

Image quality

While GoPro is touting the new framerate modes as one of the key upgrades this time around, I feel the image quality is worth tackling first — this is a camera after all. The good news is that it’s markedly better than the Hero 9. It’s tempting to assume that the higher resolution for both video and photos is to thank here, but there’s some other processing grunt going on in the background.

James Trew / Engadget

According to GoPro, new algorithms for tone mapping and noise reduction are also responsible for the bump in quality. All I know is that both videos and photos look better, and in a meaningful way. When I was reviewing my comparison footage, color reproduction was a lot more faithful without looking flat. Somehow natural and inorganic tones (say, buildings and trees) look deeper. On top of that is the fidelity. When I viewed images at 100-percent crop, the difference in detail was instantly obvious. Where some textures, like road surface or leaves, on the Hero 9 can smooth out when they’re not the primary subject of the video, on the Hero 10 you can spot features that aren’t present in last year’s camera.

Higher resolutions

On top of the general improvement in image quality is the added flexibility that comes with the new resolution and framerate combinations. The Hero 9 topped out at either 5K/30fps in 16:9 or 4K/30 at 4:3. Not bad. But the Hero 10 offers a pretty substantial increase with 5.3K/30fps or 4K/60 at 4:3 and 5.3K/60 when shooting in 16:9. That’s a lot of jargon, but essentially it means you have a lot more headroom for both 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratios. And given that 4:3 is great for POV shots, a staple of the action world, that’s good news for your videos.

It’s easy to wonder why you might even want 5.3K video, given there’s not a lot you can natively play it back on. But more pixels is never a bad thing and you can scale something down to a more “conventional” resolution later or crop to 4K without losing quality. You now even have something close to slow-mo at 4K (60fps) in the 4:3 aspect ratio which is a first for a GoPro.

James Trew / Engadget

Then, of course, there’s that increase in photo resolution that we already mentioned. Three whole megapixels is a decent improvement from last time around and if you pull stills from video on the regular you’ll enjoy higher resolution there, too (the change varies depending on your video settings, but it’s an increase across the board).

More frames

Finally we can get to one of the marquee upgrades: Frame rates. With GP2 onboard, 4K video is now available at 120fps, giving the Hero 10 a respectable slow-mo mode for the first time at UHD. Last year’s camera could eke out 60fps at 4K, but 2X isn’t really enough to show off your laser flips in all their mind-boggling glory. The new 4X slow-mo at this high resolution is going to really show off your best moves. The new 120fps mode is available with almost all the field-of-view options, which GoPro calls “lenses,” bar SuperView which tops out at 60fps. 2.7K also gets a boost from 120fps to 240 — the max the camera can do, making this a great balance of resolution and framerate for action.

Of course, a high frame rate isn’t only about slow-mo, that’s just a common application for it on an action camera. A higher FPS also helps keep your videos looking smooth at normal speed, especially if there’s a lot of activity going on — which, again, seems quite likely with a GoPro. For example, I shot some videos on a bike ride at 4K/30fps and then some more later at 60fps and the sense of motion at the higher frame rate is noticeably much smoother even when played back at normal speed.

In short, frame rate is another tool in the box when it comes to lining up your shot so it’s great to see far more options here. It also means you don’t have to make a choice between FPS or high resolution nearly as much as you did in the past.

HyperSmooth 4.0

In a darker age, GoPros had no onboard stabilization. It meant handheld footage had to be shot with extreme care, and every twitch, pothole or wobble was recorded in great clarity. That was fine for some activities, but often it just meant you ended up with unusable footage or a spell in post to try and salvage things.

Since the Hero 7, we’ve lived in a lighter, brighter world where HyperSmooth would work its magic and make even the most jarring pursuit look slick and smooth on video without having to use a pricey, fragile gimbal. With the Hero 10 we’re now on the fourth revision of GoPro’s onboard stabilizing and it continues to work wonders.

James Trew / Engadget

Perhaps the most notable change here is the increased power of horizon levelling. Before, it would keep videos “flat” to the skyline up to about 27 degrees. After that, it’d gently tilt your video to match the angle of the camera. Now, you can hit a curve or ride a corner at 45-degrees and your video will steadfastly lock to the horizon.

As with all things, just because you can, doesn’t mean you (always) should. I like using horizon levelling with mounts, selfie sticks or anything that can easily go off-level while holding. In contrast, you could use it while mounted to handlebars, for example, but any tight turns or dramatic leans will get neatly ironed out. You’ll have a smooth video for sure, but it loses a little of the action dynamic. Fortunately, you can decouple horizon levelling from HyperSmooth right on the home screen of the camera so it’s right there when you need it (or don’t).

Front screen

All new on the Hero 9 was the addition of a front screen for framing yourself when looking at the camera. DJI came out of the gate with one on its Osmo Action, beating GoPro to market by weeks. Nonetheless, it’s now a mainstay feature and thus, subject to upgrades, too.

The one on the Hero 10 is the same size as last year, but with a small increase in frame rate — from 20fps to 30. It’s nice to see the company updating all aspects of the camera, but I personally don’t notice much difference, certainly not at arm's length, which is most of the time I find myself needing that second display. Either way, if you found the screen a little lacking in this regard, just know that there’s likely a better experience for you this time around.

James Trew / Engadget

Not so much a feature of the front screen, but it relates to the front, so here is the time to mention it: The Hero 10 now has an “hydrophobic” coating on the lens. If you’ve ever taken a GoPro into the water, you’ll know that drops on the lens are the fastest way to ruin your footage. They normally sit just where the action is taking place, too.

I haven’t been able to give this camera the full water test yet, but simply getting it wet, you can tell that water doesn’t gather in the large, subject-blurring drips as it did before. It’s not entirely water repellant, but big drops are a thing of the past, instead the worst you get is a collection of smaller droplets. These are still undesirable, but they seem to have less impact on what you’re shooting, so I’ll take it.

Faster navigation

Another light improvement is in the user interface and menu navigation. GoPro claims the touch screen is now more responsive and most tasks should be quicker. This definitely does appear to be the case. Older cameras sometimes need two (or even three) attempts for a press to be registered, but with the Hero 10 there were far fewer occasions where I found myself needing to tap more than once.

An even clearer example of the software side of things being more rapid is the amount of time it takes to process an HDR photo. While the exposure is instant, GoPro owners will be familiar with the swirling circles after an image is taken while the camera develops the photo. It’s not long, usually a couple of seconds, but with the Hero 10 that time is about cut in half. Between that and the general nippiness of the menus, the latest flagship definitely feels a little breezier to use.

One other small usability change that doesn’t technically fit here, but adds to the user experience is that the Hero 10 now allows for good old fashioned wired transfer. That is, simply connect the camera to your computer and it’ll show up as removable storage with direct access to your media. It’s kinda hard to believe that this wasn’t a thing before, but I double checked with my Hero 9 and, nope, nothing — you have to get handsy with the memory card and an adapter. Small graces, but we love to see it.

Battery life

Everything has been quite positive so far, so it’s time for a small spanner in the works. Battery life has never really been GoPro's strong suit, although it has generally improved over time. Alas, the Hero 10 feels like a small step backward. It’s not deal-breaking levels, but on a straight “click record and leave the camera” shoot out, the Hero 9 outlasted the Hero 10 by almost half an hour — clocking in at 1hr40 at 4K/30fps. When I did the same test (with the same actual battery) on the new camera, it only managed 1hr15.

James Trew / Engadget

GoPro, for its part, claims that most users are only shooting short videos and it’s optimized the camera (and its battery usage) for that scenario. That might be true, but one must presume that that hasn’t changed since the last camera. And regardless of your shooting habits, the physics of higher processing will always diminish your overall shooting time.

Things get even worse once you start flirting with those new higher frame rates. On my first day out testing I thought I might have a duff cell as it sunk to about 50-percent battery unusually quickly. It was only later that I confirmed that this is just the price to pay for smoother videos.

There’s not a lot more to add here, as this is somewhat to be expected: You’re asking a battery of the same capacity to do a lot more work. Let’s hope that future revisions and maybe even some software updates can claim back some of those precious lost minutes.

Price

Last year, GoPro tried something… different, when it came to pricing. If you bought the camera on its own, it cost $450. That was a little higher than the flagship it replaced (the Hero 8 sold for $399 at launch). BUT, and it was a big but, if you were willing to sign up for a GoPro subscription at the same time, the total price you paid was $350 — which suddenly felt like a solid deal.

The same deal is in place this time around, just it’s $50 more expensive. The camera and subscription bundle now costs $399 and the camera on its own is $499. Given how easy the company is making it for you to get that subscription though — if you have an active subscription already, you’ll get the subscription price — it’s fairly easy to get the lower price. In short, make sure you snag a subscription or already have one when you order.

Ultimately, the Hero 10 isn’t the cheapest flagship at launch, but neither is it the most expensive — that honor goes to the Hero 6 which cost $499 with no route to pay less. GoPro reduced that price to $400 though soon after launch. It might sting a little that it’s more cost than last year’s, especially if you’d been hoping to get the latest and greatest for the same price, but with general improvements the whole way round it’s likely not something you will dwell on for long — especially as the Hero 9 will retain that $350 price tag along side the Hero 10 as the now “mid-tier” option.

Wrap up

James Trew / Engadget

For a spell, it looked like DJI was going to maintain the pressure on GoPro with its Osmo Action line. But so far it seems like it’s taking its time when it comes to new models — although you can pick up the original for $200 now, which makes it attractive if price is your main concern. Likewise, Sony seems to have taken its foot off the gas when it comes to refreshing its own, quite popular, line of action cameras. There is, of course, also Insta360, which has gained a solid fan base thanks to its unique form-factors and modular model.

It’s a familiar ending here, then. The new camera takes everything that’s working and builds on it. Especially in the areas that matter: Image quality and shooting modes. That’s all we can really ask for. The fact that there are many other usability tweaks is just an added bonus. The apparent dip in battery life, while not ideal, will only really be an issue if you use those new frame rates as standard. As for the price, we’d love for it to have stayed the same as last year’s launch, but the increase isn’t into unrealistic territory.

Keychron's Q1 keyboard is its most customizable yet

The humble computer keyboard might feel utilitarian, but given it’s the part of your setup you interact with the most, it’s kinda wild that we don't often give it thought. Fortunately, there’s a vibrant scene of small (and not so small) companies that understand everyone’s needs are different and that getting the right size, shape and ergonomic layout can upgrade your working or gaming life in significant ways. Keychron is one such company.

Keychron has earned a reputation for making affordable yet feature-rich mechanical keyboards, and the Q1 (starting at $169) is the latest member of the family. The Q is a nod to QMK, a popular open-source firmware that lets you customize compatible keyboards to your liking. It’s Keychron’s most ambitious deck yet, and a direct competitor to something like the GMMK Pro or the KBDFans Bella, both of which cost north of $250 depending on your preferred configuration.

The Q1 is a 75-percent keyboard, which means there’s no number pad and the home cluster and arrow keys are placed a little more tightly compared to a tenkeyless deck (that gives those keys a little more space of their own). The Q1 is Mac- and Windows compatible and comes with an Aviator style USB-C cable so that people know you really mean business. Alas, there’s no Bluetooth option here if that’s something you wanted.

As customization is the key here (no pun intended), it’s no surprise that the switches are hot-swappable. Keychron already offers a decent range of keycaps, though you can of course grab your own if you have a preferred set already. If you already own switches you like, you can order the barebone deck and save $20. You can also choose from three aluminum case colors: black, navy and space gray. Both ANSI and ISO layouts are available depending on your preference (or, more likely, location).

James Trew / Engadget

One thing I love about all Keychron keyboards is that they not only come with a keycap puller tool and a switch remover tool (where applicable), but you’ll also get the keycaps for both Windows and MacOS layouts. This makes it easy for the company just to stock one SKU and possibly helps keep costs down. If, like me, you use both operating systems — you can then repurpose any of their keyboards without having to buy new caps later. Or worse, live with a CMD key when you want a Windows key or vice versa.

A fancy keyboard isn’t anything without RGB lighting, of course, and naturally, that’s included here too. Keychron opted for a more subtle “south-facing” integration, which pretty much means what you think: The lights are only visible from below. I don’t need or use RGB, so I tend to turn it off. The implementation here is subtle yet bright enough to still remain useful if it’s something you want.

For the more hardcore enthusiast, inside there’s a gasket-based design with a noise-reducing foam deck between that and the PCB. For those who really like to get into details, know that the stabilizers here are screw-in (rather than plate), which usually means the larger keys are steadier. There’s also the option for a customized metal “badge” where the Insert key would be. If you send Keychron a design, it’ll etch it onto that badge for you to make it truly personalized. There will also be an option to add a rotary dial here (much like on the GMMK Pro), or you can just switch it back to the Insert key if none of that tickles your fancy.

For all its changeable parts, arguably the most useful way to customize the Q1 is with the Via app, or with the aforementioned QMK. (Via is basically a graphical interface for the latter.) With Via you can reassign any key to pretty much anything else as well as design and assign macros to the function layer (i.e., press Fn and a target key to trigger more complex key combinations). More on this later.

James Trew / Engadget

With all this talk about gaskets and stabilizers, it might seem that the Q1 is designed for advanced users. And it certainly will appeal to those with specific requirements. But Keychron’s popularity, in my opinion, is born out of making the geeky and exotic accessible to the normies out there. The Q1, then, is perhaps marketed toward those who have dabbled with mechanical keyboards and want to dip a toe into deeper waters, while still offering enough for the avid keyboard tinkerers.

That said, the first thing you’ll want to do with the Q1 when you take it out of the box is… put it down. At 3.5 pounds (1.6kg) it’s definitely on the chunky side. For context, Keychron’s K2 wireless keyboard has a similar footprint but is a svelte 1.5 pounds (663g) — less than half the weight. The Q1 isn’t really designed for portability, though, so that extra heft just glues it to your desk and makes you feel more confident that this isn’t going to rattle itself apart as you bash out fanfic/code/school essays on it. The weight is also pretty standard for this category.

The model I was able to test came pre-installed with Gateron brown switches. Before then I had been using Gateron reds but I’m an instant convert. Of course, the very point of the Q1 is that you can put in whatever switches you like. Keychron also included a set of blue switches, which I used to test out how easy it was to swap ‘em out. Not only was that process pretty easy (once you get used to the very firm pull required to get them out), but I found myself fond enough of the blues for certain keys that I left them in. They’re generally a little too loud for my taste to have across the board, but being able to mix things up that way is the very spirit of customizable keyboards like these.

On that theme of noise… for me that was one of the bigger turn-offs for mechanical keyboards. Until I experimented myself, my main exposure to them was hearing someone across the office frantically clacking their way through an email. This is why I gravitated toward red switches at first. On the Q1, though, even something clicky like a blue switch isn’t too audible thanks to the gasket design and the foam insert on the Q1. Even the noisier switch flavors won’t alert your neighbors to your frantic typing during the small hours. If, like my former officemate, you are unencumbered by such worries, know that the same design makes for a keyboard with comfortable flex, giving it a much smoother action than plate-based designs.

James Trew / Engadget

As alluded to earlier, though, perhaps one of the more exciting features here for those looking to take their keyboard customization to the next level is the support for VIA/QMK firmware noodling. If you get tired of doing the same convoluted keyboard shortcuts for regular tasks (like Windows’ Ctrl+Win+Arrow combo to switch between desktops), this is for you.

I already mentioned you can pretty much map any key to another. So if you wanted to swap Z and X around… you could. More usefully, you can also change which keys control media etcetera. Out of the box, the Q1 uses the standard “Fn+F10” combo to mute audio. My stubby fingers found this a little unnatural, so I used Via to remap it to Fn+Left Arrow. Much more manageable for my typing style.

Taking things a bit further, you can also enter much more complicated key combinations with macros. An explanation of this is beyond the scope of this article, but as an example, I was able to set up a simple key combo to launch one of my favorite chat apps. This was more of an experiment for someone who hasn’t done anything remotely like programming in a number of years. You’ll need to do some reading up to figure out how to tell a macro what to do, but once you have (and it’s really not that hard), you’ll find yourself thinking of evermore clever ideas.

James Trew / Engadget

Some keyboards, like the GMMK Pro, offer their own software for customization. You can generally expect these apps to be a little more tightly integrated with the makers’ products, but VIA is easy enough to use that you can get most things done without much hassle.

Support for VIA/QMK is far from unique to the Q1: The GMMK Pro and KDBFans Bella both offer it too, along with many other customizable keyboards. But considering the price of the Q1, it rounds out an impressive spec sheet making it both a very accessible yet technically capable choice.

Some potential buyers might lament the lack of wireless connectivity, or the fact you can’t adjust its height (it measures just shy of two inches/45mm at the back). But both of these things are fairly standard for barebones and customizable keyboards. The fact that you can configure pretty much anything else to your liking makes this a great entry into the world of barebones keyboards at a price that’s very competitive.

The Q1 is available now directly from Keychron starting at $1.69. The rotary dial add-on will come in the following weeks.

Four new games land on... the Atari Lynx

If you’re a retro gamer, it’s hard not to ignore the Atari Lynx. The first color hand-held it might have been, but its small library of games (under 100 official titles) and general mishandling by Atari itself earned it little more than a walk-on role in gaming history for most people. As such, the homebrew and indie scene for the Lynx is pretty thin compared to its contemporaries (the Game Boy and the Game Gear).

The system still has its fans, though, (me included) and a few dedicated folks still hold a candle for the chonky handheld, with new titles now more common than they were a decade ago. But the real rarity is the full, physical release. Here are four new games you can play on original hardware, complete with cartridge and box, just as nature intended.

For Lynx diehards, there’s one destination to gather: AtariAge. And user Fadest (real name, Frédéric Descharmes) is one of the long-standing members of the handheld’s forum there. He’s perhaps best known for his Yastuna series of puzzle games. His two new releases keep the puzzle trend, but with a shoot-em-up/adventure twist.

Descharmes began programming for the Lynx as a way to channel his enthusiasm for retro gaming while he soothed his son to sleep late at night. He came to the Lynx specifically for its technological limitations (although it was advanced for its time). “I like the NES and Game Boy, and even code for them, but in my beginner situation, the Lynx was probably the best choice when I started in 2004,” he told Engadget.

Raid on TriCity - Second Wave

Fadest

Raid on TriCity takes the classic Tetris format and introduces a shoot-em-up component. As the blocks fall, you can’t move them or rotate them, but you can shoot them away brick by brick. You score, as normal, by completing lines (and not by shooting), and some of the Tetrominoes contain power-ups or enemies/ways to die.

Descharmes already released a pay-what-you-want ROM-only version of Raid on TriCity. “Second Wave” is essentially the same game as a physical release with some new in-game perks. The two most important ones would be the addition of an EEPROM for storing progress/high scores (no retail Lynx games ever had batteries or memory like some Game Boy titles did) and a new story mode which injects some life into an otherwise pick-up-and play time killer.

As simple as the game may sound, the hybrid dynamic picks the best elements of both genres and blends them to great effect. As you see blocks falling you have to make a quick decision about whether you want to go for a complete line, or whether a power-up might be more appealing or perhaps you have to sacrifice one to get rid of a baddie behind it. Sometimes this can be a bit of a gamble if a power-up you want has blocks above it that might bring you closer to the upper threshold and thus the end of the game.

Likewise, as lines complete and bring any power-ups above it one row down, a helpful bomb can become a death sentence (bombs trigger when a line is completed taking anything one square around it along with it — including your spaceship if you’re not careful).

The story mode isn’t exactly its own adventure, more it serves as a way to break up the game play with some narrative interludes and an element of interactivity in choosing your “path” through a network of levels. The levels themselves are really just more of the same shoot-a-block business, but it makes it feel more like making progress, and thus a game with an end to reach (rather than a high score to beat).

Asteroid Chasers

Fadest

Fadest’s second new title is another puzzler, but this time it’s more about strategy and fortune. I say fortune, but it’s usually mis-fortune to be fair. The game looks like it’s going to be a retro space shooter at first glance, but is more akin to a card game. Each turn you’ll be presented with an item/card and can only place it one square away in any direction from your last move. But each item/card will either be a scoring opportunity or a penalty of some kind.

This simple premise is deceptively addictive. There are four main “cards” to place: A probe, an asteroid (two types!) a mine or a pirate ship. Your job is to surround the asteroids with four probes to earn points (hence the game’s name). However, the pirates have other ideas and will disable any probes adjacent to them. This not only robs you of points, but can also be fatal: mines are diffused by surrounding them with probes, and you can only have three “live” ones on the map at any time. This means an ill-placed pirate, or just a string of bad luck with many mine cards can end your mission in a snap.

The goal is simple, reach the end of the “deck” while scoring as many points as you can along the way. At first, the game feels frustrating, as if you are merely at the whim of whatever cards are in the pile. And while this is true, you soon learn some strategies to increase your chances of getting to the end and racking up some points to boot.

For me, the fun of the game is built right into that frustrating nature. Many times I was killed early on, which only stoked my desire to beat the game and make it to the end. Once you do, you find yourself wanting to then beat your own high score. As with Raid on TriCity, Asteroid Chasers can remember your high scores giving the game longer term appeal. There are also many achievements to unlock (fortunately, also remembered) which will reward you with different music and other goodies giving this relatively simple game a lot more longevity than it first suggests.

Songbird Productions

If you’ve paid any attention to Atari’s handheld or the Jaguar indie scene in the last 20 years, you’ll be familiar with Songbird Productions. Not only is it a popular retailer of rare and homebrew games, its founder, Carl Forhan, is responsible for a number of Lynx titles being saved from obscurity by finding unfinished IP and seeing them through to completion, along with some original titles of his own.

One such title is CyberVirus, a first person space shooter. “In CyberVirus, I had to redo all the missions, redo the health and powerup system, and add new features to the game which were not in the original prototype.” Forhan told Engadget. I also enjoy the purity of these older, smaller machines where you have to fight for RAM and CPU cycles to do everything. It's a fun challenge for my brain, I suppose.”

Cyber Virus - Lost Missions

James Trew / Engadget

This new title, as the name suggests, is a follow-up to the original CyberVirus. The first version was released almost 20 years ago and is one of the “unfinished” games that Songbird rescued. It’s also a rare first-person/3D shooter on the Lynx. Lost Missions is a collection of levels that were also in the original, developed initially by Beyond Games, and presented to Atari as a demo back in 1993.

The nine new missions see you take on a familiar cast of robotic foes as you seek to achieve your objective. This could be as simple as destroying some communication towers, but the number of enemies soon ramps up making each mission exponentially harder. You have a selection of weapons at your disposal and a semi-open 3D world to explore, not bad for a console released in 1989.

CV-TLM will appeal to fans of early first person shooters like Doom, but instead of a complex map you must navigate open terrain. Thank’s to the game’s origins, the graphics and gameplay are much nearer to those found in official releases (given that this nearly was one) compared to even some of the more ambitious homebrew titles that have emerged since the Lynx’s commercial demise.

The result is a fun, frantic shooter that deserved to make it onto shelves back in the '90s. Forhan’s given the game the next best thing in this release which comes with a slick, glossy box and a physical cartridge that’s indistinguishable from the originals (many homebrew releases, including the above are 3D printed).

Unnamed

The catalog of official releases for the Lynx tends to skew toward arcade titles, puzzlers and racing games. There’s a little bit of everything for sure, but adventure games and RPGs are generally lacking. Unnamed is a welcome salve, then, for fans of either of those genres. While the game is published by Songbird, it’s the work of Marcin Siwek who’s other Lynx title — Unseen — was a dark, choose your own adventure style game. Siwek’s second title is much more immersive with your onscreen character free to move around, find items and solve puzzles.

You awaken in a strange place with no memory of how you got there. Your task is to figure out why and how they find themselves in this strange world. Along your journey you find new rooms to explore and items to help you along the way. It’s a classic recipe, but one that lends itself particularly well to the handheld format.

Unnamed is refreshing, not just for its playstyle, but as a true indie game (rather than a rescued abandoned title) it has a surprising amount of depth and atmosphere. Within moments of playing, I knew that this is a game that I would truly want to “get into” and complete. As with Descharmes‘ titles, Unnamed features an EEPROM for saving progress meaning you can pick it up without having to start from scratch every time.

The graphics are a good blend of cute and sinister and the music strikes the perfect balance of ambiance without being a distraction. The challenges and puzzles to be solved are pitched just at the right level and there’s a genuine sense of wondering if you might have missed something — which might sound annoying, but I think is the hallmark of a good RPG.