Posts with «technology & electronics» label

ICYMI: The Apple Watch Series 7 makes the most of its bigger screen

This week, we’ve got our regular gadget reviews plus our thoughts on a forthcoming video game. Cherlynn Low strapped on the Apple Watch Series 7 to see how it compares to the previous version and to find out how much of a difference the larger screen makes. Igor Bonifacic tested the 2021 Motorola Edge smartphone and found it offers a lot of high-end features — including a 144Hz display — at a budget-friendly price. Terrence O’Brien played with the effects and inputs on the Roland SP-404MKII and reported that it makes chopping samples more fun. Finally, Jess Conditt sat in the virtual driver’s seat to play Forza Horizon 5, a game she declares a perfect getaway in a time of travel restrictions.

The Apple Watch Series 7 is bigger and better

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Cherlynn Low acknowledges that the main difference between the Apple Watch Series 7 and the previous model is the larger screen, but she’s adamant that even this small change makes a big impact. The Series 7’s display is 20 percent larger than that of the Series 6, and has significantly smaller bezels. It’s also the first Apple Watch to be IP6X certified for dust resistance, making it more durable. Cherlynn said the larger display made things easier to read and navigate, and the extra screen space made it easier to enter in the right keys and see more of messages.

Apple also debuted some additional watch faces and a full QWERTY keyboard on the Series 7. Cherlynn says the new faces are designed to display more information at once. The full QWERTY keyboard provided more flexibility, but since she only got roughly a 60-percent accuracy rate when tapping on the display, Cherlynn said she still preferred using dictation. Apple still doesn’t offer advanced sleep tracking, though this model will log your respiration rate while you sleep and report back the next morning. If sleep tracking isn’t your main reason for wanting a smartwatch, Cherlynn says the Series 7 will be a satisfying purchase.

The 2021 Motorola Edge is easier to recommend than its predecessor

Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

Of the various upgrades to the 2021 Motorola Edge, Igor Bonifacic thinks the 6.8-inch LCD 144Hz screen is the stand-out feature. The flat edges made it easier to hold and the improved refresh rate makes the Edge feel smooth and responsive. The screen is vibrant, bright and has support for HDR10, plus Igor says the 19.5:9 aspect ratio works well for scrolling through vertical apps. He also liked the move to a capacitive fingerprint scanner on the side-mounted power button because it made unlocking the phone while wearing a mask significantly easier.

However, there are some tradeoffs for the $550 smartphone, notably the LCD screen, which lacks the power efficiency and deep blacks that OLED can offer. The 144Hz display also produced some slight glitching. In addition, the device’s single speaker produced tinny sound, and he found the ultra-wide camera mediocre. But he did like the battery life, which lasted a whopping two days, and the extended 2-year software support. If you don’t mind a few compromises, Igor says the 2021 Edge is well worth checking out.

Roland’s SP-404MKII sampler is a pleasure to use

Terrence O'Brien / Engadget

Though the new SP-404MKII sampler physically resembles previous versions, Terrence O’Brien says the new OLED screen and 16-pad layout are huge upgrades. The new display can show the actual waveform as it’s being edited, which makes recording and editing samples easier and more fun. And the 16-pad set up is not only more standard, but it also offers users more samples and patterns to make beats. Terrence also preferred the refreshed color scheme of grey and black with muted orange and white accents.

The SP-404MKII has a few more minor upgrades: it’s the first sampler in the line to feature velocity sensitive pads and it has MIDI out as well as MIDI IN connectors. This means the 404 can get hooked up to a PC via USB-C, or be used with external gear. Terrence played around with both the input effects, courtesy of the ¼-inch audio input and headphone jacks, as well as the bus effects and found that chopping samples on the machine is actually enjoyable instead of a chore. The SP-404MKII is also fairly portable: Terrence says it can fit in a bag easily enough and it can be powered with six AA batteries. And it's affordable at $500, which makes it a reasonable purchase even for those who are just looking to dabble in sampling.

Forza Horizon 5 is an enjoyable escape

Playground Games

Since she couldn’t get behind the wheel of a real-life 2021 Ford Bronco, Jess Conditt did the next best thing: she drove it around the race tracks and lush environments of Forza Horizon 5. Though she only had access to a preview build, she reports back that Horizon 5 is a mellower version of the motorsport game, spread across a fictionalized Mexico and featuring tricked out vehicles including a 2020 Corvette Stingray Coupe and a 1989 Porsche 911 Desert Flyer.

Regardless of which vehicle you choose, Jess says they’re all magical to (virtually) drive. They get window cracks and door dents but are largely indestructible and always land tires-down. She also appreciated the layers of customization within the game, from accessories to creating characters to upgrading vehicles with designs. On the Xbox Series S, the game ran smoothly and looked lovely at 1080p/60fps. Jess says even without ray-tracing, Horizon 5’s distinct biomes, weather and environments were all a treat to view, making it a perfect virtual escape.

Smartphone shipments fell due to ongoing component shortages

From NVIDIA and AMD to automakers like GM, the global chip shortage has affected nearly every industry that depends on computer components, and now it’s even hurting smartphone manufacturers. According to Canalys, phone shipments dropped by six percent year-over-year in the third quarter of 2021. The firm says much of that is due to component shortages that made it impossible for those companies to meet consumer demand.

According to a preliminary estimate, Samsung shipped the most devices in Q3 2021, claiming a 23 percent share of the market. For the South Korean company, the good news is that it’s no worse off now than it was a year ago. Reclaiming the second spot, Apple managed to increase its share of the market by 3 percentage points year-over-year.

🌐📱Q321 smartphones down 6%

👉 Vendors struggled to meet demand for devices amid component shortages.
👉 #Samsung - 23% share.
👉 #Apple - 15% share
👉 #Xiaomi - 14% share
👉 #vivo and #OPPO took 10% eachhttps://t.co/iWSEvOk4PY

— Canalys (@Canalys) October 15, 2021

Rounding out the top five are a trio of Chinese manufacturers: Xiaomi, Vivo and Oppo. Together, they claimed a 34 percent slice of the market. One thing to note about the way Canalys does things is that it includes OnePlus shipments under Oppo, but doesn’t group Oppo with sister company Vivo. All three are owned by Chinese conglomerate BBK Electronics. When you think about things that way, it’s usually only second to Samsung as the largest smartphone manufacturer in the world.

Still, Apple’s performance is impressive when you consider its Q3 numbers only include about one week of iPhone 13 sales. Canalys didn’t speak to the company’s numbers specifically, but it’s likely the strength of Apple’s supply chain helped it thrive in a challenging market. The company is one of TSMC’s most important customers, commanding a sizeable portion of its chip output.

“The chipset famine has truly arrived,” said Canalys Principal Analyst Ben Stanton. “The smartphone industry is striving to maximize production of devices as best it can.” The problem is that the supply shortage is expected to continue well into 2022.

Apple hires a new HomePod software lead amid speaker market struggles

Amid struggles to make headway in the smart speaker market, Apple has hired a new HomePod software head, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. The company has reportedly brought onboard Afrooz Family, who co-founded the high-end audio startup Syng with former Apple designer Christopher Stringer.

Apple's $349 HomePod arrived in 2018 to very mixed reviews, and was discontinued early this year. The company has noticeably failed to compete with smart speaker rivals, particularly Amazon's Alexa-powered Echo devices and Google's Assistant speaker family. 

Family worked for Apple between 2012 and 2016 and was on the original HomePod team before starting Syng. That company aimed to develop a "revolutionary" speaker to produce immersive audio, but eventually developed a rather niche, $1,800 speaker. The previous HomePod software head, Jason Harrison, left Apple for Airbnb last year. 

Apple's latest speaker product is the $99 HomePod mini, which we described in our Engadget review as an "acceptable Echo alternative." That device has reportedly helped sales a bit, but hasn't put much of a dent in a market dominated by Amazon and Google, according to Bloomberg.

The biggest problem with Apple's smart speakers may be Siri and HomeKit, which aren't as widely supported as Alexa and Google Assistant. The original HomePod was also pretty expensive at launch. To make inroads, Apple may need to change its approach and continue to improve integration — as it recently did with a HomePod mini update that made it work with Apple TV. Apple's primary goal is to merge its HomePod and Apple TV hardware, according to Gurman. 

Apple is holding its Unleashed event on Monday, where it's expected to launch new MacBooks and possibly AirPods, but there's no rumors of a new HomePod product coming any time soon. 

The Apple TV 4K drops to $160, plus the rest of the week's best tech deals

Yes, we know it's October, but the holiday shopping season (apparently) knows no bounds. We're already starting to see early Black Friday deals pop up across the web, so it's not too early to start crossing things off your gift list. The Apple TV 4K remains on sale for $160 while the AirPods Pro and a couple of MacBooks are also discounted. A pair of our favorite Bose earbuds are down to a record low while the Echo Show 8 is still on sale for $100. Here are the best tech deals from this week that you can still get today.

Apple TV 4K

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

The latest Apple TV 4K is down to $160 on Amazon, which is close to an all-time-low price. It's the best high-end streaming device you can get and we gave it a score of 90 for its speedy performance, Dolby Vision and Atmos support and much improved Siri remote.

Buy Apple TV 4K at Amazon - $160

AirPods Pro

Billy Steele / Engadget

The AirPods Pro, Apple's best sounding wireless earbuds, are back down to $179. That's $70 off their normal price and close to a record low. These buds earned a score of 87 from us for their IPX4 design, improved audio and solid ANC.

Buy AirPods Pro at Amazon - $179

AirPods Max

Billy Steele/Engadget

Apple's AirPods Max are on sale for $449, or $100 off their normal price. We gave these expensive headphones a score of 84 for their stellar sound quality, good ANC and solid onboard controls.

Buy AirPods Max at Amazon - $449

11-inch iPad Pro

Apple

Amazon knocked $100 off most 11-inch iPad Pro models, bringing the 256GB WiFi version down to an all-time low of $800. We gave the larger version of the tablet a score of 87 for its powerful performance, lovely display and new Center Stage feature.

Buy 11-inch iPad Pro (256GB) at Amazon - $800

MacBook Air M1

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

The 512GB MacBook Air M1 has been discounted to $1,099. This is arguably the best Apple laptop for most people and it earned a score of 94 from us for its impressive performance, excellent battery life, lack of fan noise and good keyboard and trackpad.

Buy MacBook Air M1 (512GB) at Amazon - $1,099

Mac Mini M1

Engadget

Apple's Mac Mini M1 is on sale for as low as $600 right now thanks to a few automatically applied coupons. The best deal is arguably on the 512GB version, which is $150 off and down to $750. The design of the small desktop hasn't changed much, but the big improvements come from the M1 chipset inside.

Buy Mac Mini M1 (256GB) at Amazon - $600Buy Mac Mini M1 (512GB) at Amazon - $750

Bose QuietComfort earbuds

Billy Steele/Engadget

The Bose QuietComfort earbuds are down to an all-time low fo $199 right now. We gave these buds a score of 87 for their stellar noise cancellation, great sound quality and good battery life.

Buy QuietComfort earbuds at Amazon - $199

Echo Show 8

Engadget

The mid-sized Echo Show 8 smart display is down to $100, which is close to the record-low price that we saw during Prime Day in June. We gave it a score of 87 for its minimalist design, lovely display and good sound quality.

Buy Echo Show 8 at Amazon - $100

Anova Precision Cooker Nano

Anova

Anova's entry-level sous vide machine, the Nano, is down to $95 on Amazon right now. That's the best price we've seen on the kitchen gadget that would make a great gift for the serious home cook in your life. This model uses 750 watts of power to heat up water and it'll run for up to 3,000 hours before it needs to be recharged.

Buy Precision Cooker Nano at Amazon - $95

New tech deals

GOG.com Activision + Blizzard sale

You can save up to 67 percent on a bunch of games from Activision and Blizzard at GOG.com for the next couple of days. The sale includes Caesar, Pharaoh + Cleopatra, Singularity and others.

Shop Activison + Blizzard sale at GOG.com

Razer Book

Amazon has a high-powered configuration of the Razer Book on sale for $1,200, or $400 off its normal price. It runs on an 11th-gen Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, Intel Iris Xe graphics and a 13.4-inch FHD+ touchscreen.

Buy Razer Book at Amazon - $1,200

Sonos Arc (refurbished)

If you're willing to get a refurbished model, Sonos has its Arc soundbar for $80 off right now, and only the white model is on sale and in stock at the moment. We gave the Arc a score of 85 for its excellent sound quality, Dolby Atmos support and slick design.

Buy Arc (refurbished) at Sonos - $719

NordVPN

NordVPN, one of our favorite VPNs, is running a sale on a two-year subscription. You can sign up and pay $99 for two years, plus you'll get an extra three months free. We like NordVPN for its speed, its no-logs policy, the thousands of servers it has to choose from and that one account supports up to six connected devices.

Buy NordVPN (2 years) - $99

Tunnelbear

Another one of our top VPN services, Tunnelbear, is offering a two-year subscription for $100. You'll save 58 percent if you sign up with this deal, and we think Tunnelbear is one of the easiest VPNs to use, especially for those that don't want to go crazy configuring their connections.

Buy Tunnelbear (2 years) - $100

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

What to expect at Google's Pixel 6 launch event

Google has shared quite a few details of the Pixel 6 series, but it hasn't revealed everything ahead of its October 19th event. Just how powerful will these phones be? Will they represent a good value? And does Google have any surprises up its sleeve? Here's what you can expect from the presentation, including a few last-minute leaks.

The specs: A return to flagship phones

Unlike with past phone launches, Google has been happy to share basic details of the Pixel 6 family months in advance. Both the base Pixel 6 and the larger, brawnier Pixel 6 Pro will mark Google's return to high-end phones after the Pixel 5 'break,' with premium glass designs. They'll offer upgraded cameras with improved low-light performance (150 percent more light than in the past), and they should tout "all day" battery life despite support for battery-hungry 5G.

The centerpiece, however, will be the Tensor chip inside both Pixel 6 models. Google hasn't officially divulged full specs for Tensor as of this writing, but it's the company's first custom system-on-chip. The design uses its namesake AI processing to achieve things that were "previously impossible" on typical SoCs, such as juggling multiple AI tasks or processing live video.

Google

However, Google hasn't said much about the exact specs of the Pixel 6 line or the range of Tensor-assisted features. Expect the company to share many more gritty technical details for the Pixel 6 at the event, although we wouldn’t count on enough info to make easy comparisons between Tensor and rival mobile chips.

You might not have to wait long to get the full scoop. Well-known leaker Evan Blass spotted Carphone Warehouse promo pages that appear to spoil much of what Google intends to announce. The standard Pixel 6 will likely compete against 'entry' flagships like the Galaxy S21 and iPhone 13 with a 6.4-inch flat 90Hz screen, a 50-megapixel main camera and a 12MP ultra-wide shooter. The Pixel 6 Pro, meanwhile, should be the definitive top-of-the-range model with a 6.7-inch curved 120Hz display and a third 48MP telephoto lens. You may also see 30W wired charging, 23W wireless charging and reverse charging to top up your earbuds or other phones.

As for Tensor? That retail listing claimed up to 80 percent better performance than the Pixel 5 (not difficult given the 5's middling Snapdragon 765G chip), but the real star may be Tensor's photographic prowess. Google reportedly plans multiple AI-driven camera tricks that include a Magic Eraser to get rid of photobombers, Face Unblur to keep people in focus and a Motion Mode for action photography. These aren't completely novel concepts (anti-photobombing has been present in Huawei and Samsung phones for a while), but they're new to Pixels and might perform better with Tensor involved.

A focus on services and support

Google

Google might also break new ground in how it sells the Pixel 6. This is Tech Today's M. Brandon Lee obtained what he says is evidence Google will make the Pixel 6 available as a part of a "Pixel Pass" that combines monthly phone payments with an extended warranty, Google One cloud storage, Play Pass, optional Google Fi service and either YouTube Music or YouTube Premium. Effectively, Google would counter Apple One by including virtually everything you need in a single subscription, not just internet services.

You could also enjoy better software support regardless of what you pay. Those Carphone Warehouse pages echoed longstanding rumors that Google would offer "at least" five years of security updates to Pixel 6 owners. That's more than the three to four years you often find in the Android world, and roughly on par with Apple. It's not clear if you'll get full operating system updates for those five years, but you might not have to worry about patchable vulnerabilities for the practical life of your Pixel.

Price and release date

There's little doubt the Pixel 6 will cost more than its predecessor. Where the Pixel 5 was an upper-mid-range phone, its sequel is an upscale device. Google has even made clear the Pixel 6 Pro will be a "premium-priced product." But how much more will you have to pay?

Google

That's a difficult call. One Reddit user spotted a German listing that mentioned a €649 (about $750) price for the base Pixel 6. A source for This is Tech Today, meanwhile, quoted a price of €899 (roughly $1,050) for the 6 Pro. We'd be cautious about these prices, as they could change and might not convert neatly even if they're accurate. Still, Google is apparently returning to top-tier pricing.

Like it or not, Google will also borrow a cost- and waste-cutting measure from its rivals: it's leaving the charger out of the box. That's not too dire an omission when there's a real chance you'll have a USB-C charger hanging around, but it could be frustrating if you're either new to USB-C devices or saddled with a slow power brick. Factor that into the price before you rush to check out.

The German listing and other leaks have pointed to a Pixel 6 release sometime the week of October 25th. We'd expect a broad international launch, for that matter. Where the Pixel 5a was limited to the US and Japan due to supply constraints, the leaks so far already hint that Google wants to make the Pixel 6 as ubiquitous as possible.

Don't expect many surprises

Google

We wouldn't bet on Google announcing much else besides the Pixel 6 and its accompanying software. Google's marketing for the event has revolved exclusively around its new phones. It's unlikely that you'll see any other gadgets, and they'll definitely be secondary if they do appear.

That's not to completely rule out new hardware. It has been more than a year since Google debuted its higher-end Pixel Buds, and other devices like Nest WiFi haven't been updated in a while. There's just not much need for Google to revamp products beyond the Pixel line — what's there is still relevant and functional.

There's also the possibility of new or upgraded services. If Google really does introduce a Pixel Pass, it might want to sweeten the deal by offering more for the money, whether it's a brand new service or perks like more cloud storage. We haven't seen rumors to this effect so far, but Google also kept unlimited photo uploads for Pixel owners when it capped everyone else in June. The company knows that services sell hardware, and that may be crucial for the Pixel 6.

Most 11-inch iPad Pro models are $100 off at Amazon right now

Those looking for a powerful laptop alternative need look no further than this year's iPad Pros. Outfitted with Apple's M1 chipset, they're the most powerful tablets the company has ever made. Now you can get an 11-inch iPad Pro for less at Amazon thanks to a $100 discount that's dropped the prices of most available models. The base 128GB version is sold out right now, but the 256GB WiFi model is down to $800, which is a record low. The sale also includes the 512GB, 1TB and 2TB iPad Pros, which are on sale for $1,000, $1,400 and $1,799, respectively.

Buy 11-inch iPad Pro (256GB) at Amazon - $800

These iPad Pros don't look very different from their predecessors because Apple focused most of the updates on the internals. Inside is the company's M1 processor, which makes the tablets run similarly to the MacBook Air M1 — which is to say, remarkably fast and smooth. When we reviewed the larger of the two Pros, we were impressed by its ability to play laborious games and piece together 4K video without breaking a sweat. The latest iPad Pros also support 5G connectivity, along with a USB-C port for charging and a new ultra-wide camera that enables Center Stage. When paired with the right accessories, these iPads are the closest things Apple has made to laptop replacements or 2-in-1 machines.

The biggest difference between the 11-inch and the 12.9-inch iPad Pros is in the screen. In addition to being larger, the 12.9-inch's display is a Liquid Retina XDR panel, which will make a difference when doing things like watching videos and editing photos. And that comes with a higher price tag — the 12.9-inch iPad Pro starts at $1,099, but it's been on sale for $999 on Amazon for a few months. You're still getting a lovely display on the 11-inch model, though — it's a 2,388 x 1668 resolution Liquid Retina display with ProMotion and True Tone technology, so don't think you're giving anything up by going with the slightly smaller tablet (and saving some money in the process).

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

Engadget Podcast: Diving into the Apple Watch Series 7 and Twitch's big hack

This week, Cherlynn and Devindra chat about what to expect from Apple’s upcoming event (new MacBooks, baby!), as well as all of the other launch shindigs from Google, Samsung and Sony. Cherlynn also tells all about her Apple Watch Series 7 review, and why she hates testing sleep tracking gadgets. And to catch up on some big news from last week, Manda Farough from the Virtual Economy Podcast joins to dive into the massive Twitch hack.

Listen below, or subscribe on your podcast app of choice. If you've got suggestions or topics you'd like covered on the show, be sure to email us or drop a note in the comments! And be sure to check out our other podcasts, the Morning After and Engadget News!


Subscribe!


Topics


Video livestream

Credits
Hosts: Cherlynn Low and Devindra Hardawar
Guests: Manda Farough
Producer: Ben Ellman
Livestream producers: Julio Barrientos,Luke Brooks
Graphics artists: Luke Brooks, Kyle Maack
Music: Dale North and Terrence O'Brien

Rode's Wireless Go II can now be controlled via Android and iOS apps

Rode has unveiled the Central Mobile app for the $299 Wireless Go II lavalier-type microphone, allowing users to unlock advanced features, control settings and more. It also announced that the Wireless Go II is now compatible with its Rode Connect software designed for multi-host podcasting and streaming on a single PC. 

Rode Central initially arrived as a desktop app, but a mobile version will be a lot more convenient for location and field work. As with the PC version, it'll let users switch between "merged" and "split" recording modes when interviewing two subjects, adjust the gain settings, unlock fine gain control, activate safety channels and more. Users will also be able to update the Wireless Go II with the latest firmware updates. 

Rode originally launched the Connect PC app to simplify recording of multi-host podcasts, but it only supported desktop-style USB microphones to start with. Now, you can connect the Wireless Go II system as well, marking one of the first times "that a compact wireless microphone system has been fully integrated with podcasting or streaming software," Rode said. 

Rode Central for mobile is now available to download for free, and you can find Rode Connect here. 

'Genshin Impact' now supports 120fps on the iPhone 13 Pro and iPad Pro

The popular iOS game Genshin Impact is taking advantage of the iPhone 13 Pro's higher-refresh ProMotion display with a new 120fps mode, 9to5Mac has reported. On top of the higher framerates, developer miHoYo introduced new areas, events, missions, character banners and more. 

Apple previously wrote that all iOS developers must release updates to their apps or games to "unlock" the 120Hz mode by adding .plist file key. As with Android devices, use of the mode will drain your battery quicker, but allow for smoother gaming. 2nd-gen or higher iPad Pros don't necessarily need an update to support 120Hz refresh rates, but any game would likely require one anyway.

At the WWDC 2021 Apple Design Awards, Genshin Impact won the best game in the visual category, thanks to graphics and artwork that "push the frontier for mobile gaming," Apple wrote. While the game is also available on Android, PC and Playstation 5, iOS appears to be the first platform to support the higher framerates, according to the Brazilian site Technoblog

Clubhouse has a new high-quality audio option for musicians

Clubhouse has proven to be a big hit with musicians, helping them try out material on an audience and even create viral hits. Now, the site is becoming more useful to bands and singers with a new feature called music mode, the company announced in a blog post

The new mode appears in the three-dot menu under "audio quality," with a new selection called "music." Clubhouse didn't reveal any of the audio specs, but said it lets users broadcast with high quality in stereo. "You’ll also be able to use professional audio equipment for your performance, like external USB microphones or mixing boards," it wrote. Users will also be able to add the mode to pre-recorded Clips, "so any snippets you share from performers using music mode will also sound great," according to Clubhouse.

The new feature is the second boost to sound quality over the last couple of months. Late in August, Clubhouse added spatial audio to create more immersive audio chats, making speakers' voices come from different parts of the room.  

Along with the music mode, Clubhouse rolled out a couple of new tweaks, moving the search bar to the top of the feed and allowing users to wave at each other through the search bar, on iOS to start with. The new features will roll out to iOS first, "with Android as a fast follow," the company wrote.