, which is best known for its headphones, is moving into new territory with a set of wireless speakers. The Unit-4 Wireless+ studio monitors use . AIAIAI suggests that they will enable folks "to create and mix music with accurate sound representation and powerful performance" wherever they might happen to be.
That suggests the speakers will be useful for those who like to make music while they're on the road, but would rather have studio monitors than headphones despite the extra bulk. (Even though they weigh a relatively paltry 2.5kg, the speakers will be more cumbersome than carrying around a set of cans.). The speakers may also be useful for garden DJ sets or any other environment in which latency is key and wired options are impractical. They will run you $800 for a pair.
These monitors employ W+ Link wireless technology, which requires the use of an X02 transmitter (you can also use Bluetooth 5.2 or a cable to connect them to an audio source). AIAIAI says they have 16ms of latency via W+ Link and deliver uncompressed audio. The system employs dual antennas and higher bandwidth than Bluetooth can handle in an effort to maintain a robust connection. The batteries will run for up to 20 hours on a single charge, the brand claims, and it will take two hours to fully recharge them.
AIAIAI says these speakers offer reference monitor sound. You'll be snapping up a two-way active monitor that features a four-inch high-excursion woofer and one-inch silk-dome tweeter. Thanks to a bass vent (which can also be used as a carrying handle) and tuned boosting EQ, the monitors will deliver "a clean bass extension down to 40Hz," AIAIAI claims. Since they employ a stage monitor design, you can angle the speakers horizontally to optimize the audio for your surroundings.
Using the AIAIAI Unit-4 app, you'll be able to further align the sound field with the environment you're working in. There's a customizable five-band EQ and five presets. You can use the app to adjust the brightness of the LED ring too.
Meanwhile, AIAIAI has designed the Unit-4 speakers with sustainability in mind. The main plastic components are made with 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic. The monitors have a glue-free design, so it should be easy to replace components such as the battery or speaker drivers when necessary. You'll be able to upgrade parts as well. On top of that, the Unit-4 is designed to be completely recyclable.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/aiaiai-unveils-portable-wireless-studio-monitors-with-low-latency-tech-150102242.html?src=rss
It’s the year 2023, so anything that can get an injection of AI will get an injection of AI. However, I doubt many people had the board game Pictionary on their artificial intelligence bingo card. Mattel just surprised us all and announced a new version of the game, Pictionary Vs. AI. It’s the brand’s first title to “incorporate AI technology” and marks the company’s “first major leap into the category.”
This isn’t a video game. It’s an actual analog board game with an AI-enhanced refresh. The difference between this and traditional Pictionary is that here everyone works to stump the artificial intelligence, instead of each other. You get a clue from a card, just like the regular game, and draw on the included whiteboard, just like the regular game. That’s where the similarities end.
The drawing is sent to a smartphone where it’s analyzed by a proprietary AI. This algorithm attempts to guess what you drew. Everyone else tries to predict whether or not the AI will be successful at guessing your attempt at an ice cream sundae that really looks like a sad, melty mountain. You make your predictions after seeing the source drawings, which should lead to some hilarious situations. Mattel says that “fun and laughter are sure to ensue with all drawings good and bad.”
Pictionary Vs. AI releases on October 2 and costs $25, which seems like a decent enough value. It ships with four whiteboards, a simple smartphone stand, a game board, game pieces, some pens and, of course, a stack of clue cards.
This may be one of the first board games to incorporate AI, but there are many Mattel hasn’t announced if they’d be bringing this technology to other IPs in its stable, like UNO or Apples to Apples.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/because-everything-needs-ai-in-2023-mattel-added-it-to-pictionary-120009236.html?src=rss
It's always nice to have some options when it comes to playing games on a fresh console, so for the next month Sony is giving away a free title to anyone who purchases and activates a new PS5.
Dubbed the Upgrader Program, Sony's latest initiative to entice potential PS5 buyers is refreshingly straightforward. In order to get a free game, users will need to purchase and activate their console before 11:59PM PT on October 20th. Once that's done, you can just go to the PlayStation Store and redeem a specific title by tapping on a banner for this offer. That said, if you don't already have an existing PSN account, you will need to make one as the free games come in the form of a digital download.
The other nice thing is the selection of free titles includes a number of high-profile releases from the past few years. Here's the full list of currently redeemable games:
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Remastered
God of War Ragnarök
Horizon Forbidden West
Ghost of Tsushima Director’s Cut
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
The Last of Us Part I
Sackboy: A Big Adventure
Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection
Death Stranding: Director’s Cut
Unfortunately, the Upgrader Program is only valid for owners in the US and it seems that if you have recently purchased a PS5 and activated it prior to September 23, you may not be eligible for the new offer. But for those who are able to take part, this is a great way to kick off your PS5 game collection with basically no strings attached.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/new-ps5-owners-can-grab-a-free-game-thanks-to-sonys-latest-offer-151459735.html?src=rss
Hey, big spender. Tinder Select, the dating app’s most exclusive tier, is rolling out now. It will cost love seekers $500 per month (or $6,000 annually — no bulk discounts) for features like exclusive search and matching.
The company has only offered Tinder Select to the less than one percent of users it considers “extremely active” — does anyone want that label? Tinder told Bloomberg it’ll open applications for Tinder Select on a rolling basis, but it didn’t say exactly when. Tinder’s exclusive membership was originally hinted at all the way back in 2019.
The owners of Tinder, Match Group, have dabbled in exclusive dating apps before, like The League, which it bought in 2022, so it’s not too much of a shock to see Tinder also get reframed for the lonely rich. Is this worse than paying for verification when you have less than 1,000 followers on other social media networks? Yes. Yes, it is.
Our short-but-sweet YouTube edition of this week’s news covers includes Microsoft’s rough, rough week, a sassier Alexa from Amazon and whether the iPhone 15 Pro is worth the extra bucks. Also: viewers take umbrage at my ‘fake’ glasses. Which are not fake.
I’ve been waiting for this. Sony fully embraced amateur / semi-pro content creators back in 2020, with the launch of the ZV1 camera. It has since added no less than four models to its ZV lineup, and this is the latest: the 12-megapixel full-frame ZV-E1. It uses the same sensor as the $3,500 A7S III, a video-focused camera — and a low-light marvel. However, the ZV-E1 costs $1,300 less. While Sony has cut some minor corners, it combines outstanding video features and AI tricks, and I might have to start saving for one.
Eagle-eyed visitors to Samsung’s Argentinian website — I visit it weekly — have spotted something a little unexpected: a product page for new Galaxy Buds FE earbuds, along with images of a Galaxy S23 FE smartphone and Galaxy Tab S9 FE tablet. Samsung’s Fan Edition devices have proven popular, packing in solid features for a more reasonable price than Samsung’s flagship models.
The company hasn’t let slip any specs for the phone and tablet yet. However, there are some details on the Galaxy Buds FE, Samsung’s first Fan Edition earbuds. They’re slated to have a single 12mm driver, three microphones in each earbud to bolster active noise cancellation and a three-way speaker.
Foldables have come a long way since the original Galaxy Fold went on sale back in 2019. They’re smaller, they’re tougher and, while they still aren’t a great option for people on a budget, they’re now more affordable too. (Kind of?) We walk through the crucial specs, durability concerns and our favorite picks.
iPhone 15 Pro reviews, and Microsoft picks AI over Surface.
This week, Cherlynn chats about her experience reviewing the iPhone 15 Pro and Apple Watch Series 9. Does a 5X camera zoom make much of a difference? Meanwhile, Microsoft is basically consolidating all of the Copilot products it’s already announced for Edge, MS 365 and Windows, but maybe this will be less confusing in the long run?
The National Football League, like most professional sporting industries, is embracing artificial intelligence. Through a partnership with Amazon Web Services called Next Gen Stats, the NFL is hoping that intelligent algorithms, with the help of high-tech data collection tools, will be able to extract meaningful data from games and decipher patterns in player performances. AWS says it was inspired by submissions to the 2023 Big Data Bowl, an annual software competition organized by the NFL, when it set out to invent a new category of analytics that pertains to the analysis of “pressure” in the game of football.
AWS helped build out AI-powered algorithms that can analyze player behavior on the field and can pick up on how aggressive a defender played, how fast they were and even how quickly a quarterback responded. This granular data quantifies pressure and in doing so, allows game analysts to dissect the strategies that might influence plays. This innovative suite of analytics rises above traditional statistics that are limited in how much they can reveal. While traditional data can tell you if a rusher passes a quarterback, it may not be able to provide insights on how much of a fight was put up. This is where the pressure probability being tracked by “Next Gen Stats” delves into more detail.
The AWS and NFL partners have focused on developing machine-learning models that can provide data relating to three areas in game play, according to Amazon. The first application is giving the AI the ability to identify blockers and pass rushers in pass plays. Second, teaching the tool how to quantify “pressure” in a game. And lastly, the development of a process to detect individual blocker-rusher matchups. Ultimately, the development of this AI-tracking technology provides professionals in the football league with valuable information on player stats that can help scouts or coaches select new players. For example, knowing which player blocked or passed a rusher may help determine if they are a good fit for an offensive lineup.
In the game of football, quantifying the performance of offensive players and the rushers that tackle them can be a difficult feat, even for game experts who have the eye for these quick movements. Player reactions can happen in split moments and an individual’s performance in these high-speed exchanges can be hard to track and let alone quantify. Things like how close a defender got to the offensive lineup can help a coach understand the strength of their plays.
The NFL collects data for these AI-powered processing softwares using tools it installs in its own fields. In every participating NFL venue, there are at least 20-30 ultra-wide band receivers inside the field and there are 2-3 radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags inside each players’ shoulder pads and on other game gear, like balls and posts. These data transmitters collect information that is fed through a graphic neural network model (GNN), which allows the data to be relayed in real time. Using AI, the stats being extracted can be made into meaningful insights.
The Giants blitzed Brock Prudy on 33 of his 39 dropbacks (84.6%), the highest blitz rate in a game in the NGS era.
Likewise, Purdy averaged the fastest time to throw of his career (2.34 seconds).
These insights can look like a number of interactive graphics found on the Next Gen Stat game landing page. You can get a breakdown of individual player movements in any given game in 2D models and graphs. For example, you can track the movement of both players and the ball during a 40-yard passing play in the San Francisco 49ers' game vs. the New York Giants on September 21.
While the AI tool is hosted on AWS infrastructure, the final product is a compilation of a multidisciplinary partnership between the NFL, Zebra Technologies, and Wilson Sporting Goods. The Next Gen Stats project, which began in 2017, now makes up a data pipeline that contains historical data available for every pass play since 2018.
Meanwhile, in a parallel project, AWS engineers shared that they are working on automating the identification of blockers and rushers so that eventually, the AI models could autonomously ID players’ roles on the field. Currently, this kind of information is gathered manually through charting is prone to label errors, and often takes hours to generate by humans.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-nfl-and-amazon-are-using-ai-to-invent-new-football-stats-173508576.html?src=rss
Eagle-eyed visitors to Argentinian website have spotted something a little unexpected — a product page for new Galaxy Buds FE earbuds, along with images of a smartphone and Galaxy Tab S9 FE tablet. That's because the company leaked its latest Fan Edition devices, as noted by SamMobile. One of the smartphone images includes the date October 4 on the device, which could be a nod toward the announcement or a release date.
The company hasn't let slip any specs for the phone and tablet as yet. However, the Galaxy S23 FE and Galaxy Tab S9 FE were reportedly mentioned by name on the page. This is about as close as Samsung can get to a formal announcement without a press release or an Unpacked.
The product page (which Samsung has taken down) did about the Galaxy Buds FE, Samsung's first Fan Edition earbuds. They're slated to have a single 12mm driver, three microphones in each earbud to bolster the active noise cancellation function and a three-way speaker.
Samsung's Fan Editiondevices have proven popular over the years. They tend to pack in solid features for a more reasonable price than the company's flagship models. It's safe to imagine that quite a few people will be looking forward to snapping up this year's FE devices.
While the leak appears to have been an error, we can't count out the possibility that Samsung deliberately showed off the latest FE devices before an official announcement. Major hardware companies are all jostling for your attention around this time of year. Just before Apple revealed the iPhone 15 lineup last week, Google dropped some teasers for its and devices — Google's Pixel event isn't until October. So, Samsung may have been looking for headlines with a purposeful leak here (in which case, it evidently worked).
The more likely scenario is that it's another unintentional slip up for the company. It's probably not quite as bad or as damaging as this week's , but you'd think Samsung would know better by now in any case.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/samsung-leaks-its-upcoming-fan-edition-devices-including-a-phone-tablet-and-earbuds-172156048.html?src=rss
Samwise Gamgee may be pleased to learn that we're going back to the Shire. Another game has been announced, but it's one that should be vastly different from the likes of . Tales of the Shire is described as a "cozy" game that's coming to PC and consoles in 2024.
Details about the upcoming title are thin on the ground, but a lovely little live-action trailer hints at the tone. It shows an illustrator drawing images of a hobbit and a Hobbit-hole (the semi-underground domicile of such a being). The artist moves away and the pages of the sketchbook blow over to show other hobbit residences and signs for various locations around the Shire.
Here's hoping it's a chill Lord of the Rings-style farming sim in the vein of . I have my fingers crossed that there will be multiple options for cooking potatoes. Namely boiling, mashing and sticking 'em in a stew. Maybe even turning them into big golden fries with a nice piece of fried fish.
There are some notable names involved in the project: Private Division and Weta Workshop. It was that the two sides were working on an LOTR game.
Private Division is one of Take-Two Interactive's publishing arms. In recent years, it has released games such as ,and the fantastic . As for Weta Workshop, that's the company that handled special effects for all six of Peter Jackson's Middle-earth films, as well as movies such as . (Weta FX, a separate company, worked on the digital effects for those projects.)
This is far from the only Lord of the Rings game in the pipeline. For one thing, Amazon is making a with the team behind . Meanwhile, survival crafting title The Lord of the Rings: Return to Moria is slated to arrive on October 24.
Last year, Embracer Group to make games and other projects based on The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit. Fast forward a year, and the company is in a , leading it to and . So it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that Embracer it needs to be "exploiting Lord of the Rings in a very significant fashion and turning that into one of the biggest gaming franchises in the world."
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/tales-of-the-shire-is-a-cozy-lord-of-the-rings-game-from-weta-workshop-152907546.html?src=rss
Content creators have become a key segment in the mirrorless camera industry, and Sony fully embraced them back in 2020 with the launch of the ZV1 camera. It has since added no less than four models to its ZV lineup, with the latest being the 12-megapixel full-frame ZV-E1 — its most capable model by far.
It uses the same sensor as the $3,500 A7S III, a video-focused camera that’s also a low-light marvel. However, the ZV-E1 costs $1,300 less, so of course it’s missing some key features like an electronic viewfinder (EVF), dual high-speed card slots, a mechanical shutter and some physical controls.
At the same time, the ZV-E1 has some functions that the A7S III lacks, surprisingly enough. Most of those are in the area of AI, and very useful for vloggers, like auto-framing, advanced subject detection and dynamic stabilization. With the sensor and AI features combined, it’s not a spoiler to say that this camera is both a mini A7S III and a powerful vlogging camera at the same time. The sheer number of advancements also make it a technological tour de force.
The sensor might be the same, but the ZV-E1 looks radically different from the A7S III. Instead of Sony’s classic A7-style mirrorless form, the body is squat and chunky like an A6700 or full-frame A7C. It’s also significantly smaller and weighs a third less than the A7S III at 483g, making it Sony’s smallest full-frame camera to date.
Sony boasts that it’s built of recycled plastic, and that makes the camera feel significantly cheaper and less grippy than the A7 series. The grip is also smaller, but I was still able to get a reasonably firm grasp considering the lighter weight. Despite the lower-end materials, it is dust and moisture resistant.
As we’ve seen on numerous recent cameras, there’s a switch for photos, video and slow & quick, and each has its own dedicated settings. It has a prominent red record button on top, and like Sony’s other mirrorless vlogging camera (the APS-C ZV-E10) it has a zoom rocker for supported zoom lenses, and also works with Sony’s “Digital Zoom” feature.
Other than that, it’s significantly stripped down compared to the A7S III. While it does have a few vlogging-specific buttons like Product Showcase and Background Defocus, there’s just a single control dial on top (at the back) and no dial on the front – making it difficult to operate the camera using physical controls in full manual mode.
That said, the ZV-E1 is one of Sony’s first cameras that can be fully operated using touch controls. Most of the key settings (shutter speed, aperture, ISO, etc) can be changed in that way, and it also lets you tweak the display settings by swiping left or right. And of course, the LCD screen fully articulates for vloggers, though it’s a bit low-res at 1,030K dots.
Where the A7S III’s 9.44 million-dot EVF is the best on the market, there’s no viewfinder at all on the ZV-E1. I missed that feature when shooting on bright days, but the EVF does have a “sunshine” mode that automatically maxes out brightness.
It uses the same battery as Sony’s flagship models, so you get a generous 95 minutes of 4K 30p video recording and 570 photos on a charge. Luckily, the USB-C Gen 3.2 port lets you charge while shooting, and also supports high-speed transfers.
Along with headphone and mic ports, it’s got a micro rather than a full sized HDMI port, which isn’t ideal for a vlogging camera. It has just a single high-speed UHS-II card slot. Oddly the lack of a fast CFexpress type A slot doesn’t appear to limit video capture compared to the A7S III.
As you’d expect for a camera based on the powerful A7S III, video specs are impressive. It can handle 4K UHD video at up to 60 fps, though it’s lightly supersampled from the 12-megapixel, 4,240 x 2,832 sensor – so it’s slightly less sharp than higher-resolution Sony cameras like the A7 IV. Thanks to a recent firmware update, it can also shoot native 4K at up to 120 fps with no supersampling.
You can choose from high- and low-quality MP4 longGOP options, all with up to 4:2:2 10-bit color depth and 280 Mbps data rates. There’s also an I-mode at up to 4K 60p with 4:2:2 10-bit color that offers a more fluid editing experience with no transcoding. That setting uses higher data rates at up to 600Mbps (60 fps), so it requires expensive, high-speed V90 UHS-II cards.
Sony’s S-Log3 boosts dynamic range to 14-plus stops, and you can preview footage using Sony’s LUTs or install your own. If you don’t want the hassle of log, S-Cinetone also boosts dynamic range and is easier to tweak and edit later on.
What about overheating? Since it lacks the thermal capabilities as the A7S III, continuous recording times are shorter, particularly at 4K60 and up. In that mode you can expect less than an hour depending on the outside temperature. Content creators might be OK with that, but event shooters may need to look elsewhere.
Autofocus and AI
When it comes to autofocus, the ZV-E1 actually outshines the A7S III. That’s because it uses Sony’s new AI processor introduced in the A7R V, so it behaves more like that model –- particularly when it comes to image tracking.
It can now track human heads and bodies, not just faces and eyes. And besides people, it has specific settings for animals, birds, insects, cars, planes and trains. Unfortunately it does lack an auto setting, so it can’t automatically select the type of subject — you have to dive into the menus and do that yourself.
Subject tracking sets a new speed and reliability standard for mirrorless cameras, nailing autofocus consistently – even in tricky settings with fast moving subjects. That’s hugely important for vloggers, who often work alone. That said, even Sony’s system isn’t perfect, as it can occasionally lose a subject’s eyes in busy backgrounds.
AI powers other features too. For example, the built-in microphone is now directional, and can automatically aim toward the front, rear or all around, based on subject detection.
A key AI feature lets you digitally zoom an extra 1.5 times without much noticeable loss in quality. It works with the zoom rocker, and unlike with past ZV implementations, includes full subject tracking. That ability to zoom smoothly and automatically scale the image powers other features as well
That starts with the ZV-E1’s in-body stabilization. Optical-only offers 5 stops, enough to smooth handheld video without much movement. Active stabilization considerably boosts performance, but adds a slight 1.1x crop. However, dynamic stabilization is new and quite remarkable. It adds a 1.3x crop, but can effectively remove bouncing from footsteps, making it like using a dedicated gimbal – albeit with some loss in sharpness. With that feature, the ZV-E1 is the first camera that can really match the smoothness of the latest GoPro action cams.
The digital zoom teams up with subject tracking on two other new features as well. One is the Framing Stabilizer, which crops into the image, steadies the shot and keeps the subject in the center of frame, allowing for dolly-like smoothness.
Auto Framing, meanwhile, gives the illusion of camera movement. It first digitally zooms into the subject, then tracks it within the frame. You can choose a small, medium or large crop, different tracking speeds and more. You can even send an uncropped video to HDMI so you have two versions.
It also carries vlogger-centric features seen on other ZV models, including Product Showcase and Auto Depth of Field. As before, the latter automatically defocuses the background by instantly opening the aperture as much as possible. Product Showcase, meanwhile, ignores eye detection and quickly shifts focus to any foreground object brought in front of the camera. Finally, Breathing Compensation uses a slight digital zoom to maintain constant framing when changing focus.
As mentioned, 4K 30p and 60p video is slightly softer than Sony’s 30-megapixel A7 IV due to the lower resolution. On the plus side, the absence of pixel binning means no there’s no aliasing or other ugly artifacts that can ruin a shot.
The other positive aspect is far less rolling shutter than the A7 IV at the full sensor width. That means you can make quick pans or film fast-moving subjects without worrying about skewed video.
Apart from sharpness, image quality is superb. It delivers nearly 15 stops of dynamic range in C-Log3 mode, up there with the best mirrorless cameras. That allows for plenty of detail in dark shadows and bright highlights, even on sunny or dark days. S-Log3 mode, meanwhile, gives editors room to tweak video. Sony’s colors are accurate, though skin tones can lack the warmth I’ve seen on Canon models.
The ZV-E1 can’t be beat in low light. It has dual native ISOs at 640 and a whopping 12800. That allows for low-noise video all that way up to ISO 25,600, and manageable levels even at 51,200 – letting you shoot by moonlight or candlelight. In fact, Sony’s FX3 cinema camera with the same sensor was recently used to shoot a feature film called The Creator, specifically because it’s so good in low light.
Since it doesn’t have an EVF or mechanical shutter, I wouldn’t recommend the ZV-E1 for photography alone. That said, like the A7S III, it’s more than competent in a pinch.
The AF works just as well with photography, and has the same features and tracking modes. So you can count on this camera to grab sharp photos, even when shooting bursts at up to the maximum 10 fps or in low light. It’s actually a pretty good street photography or travel camera, as it’s small, silent and discreet. And with so little skew, I rarely missed the mechanical shutter.
Photo quality is outstanding, particularly in very low light. RAW images can easily be tweaked, even at high ISOs, and colors are accurate. The biggest drawback is again the lack of sharpness. That means there’s not a lot of room to crop into photos later, so you’ll want to get your framing right when you take the shot.
With all that it can do, Sony’s ZV-E1 is the best vlogging camera on the market and its rivals aren’t even really close. It delivers everything creators need like 4K 120p video, high dynamic range, unbeatable low-light capability, great ergonomics, the best AF on the market and a boatload of useful AI features. The main drawback is a lack of sharpness — but that’s only really noticeable if you’re pixel peeping.
The ZV-E1 costs $2,200, so its rivals include the $2,200 Panasonic S5 IIx, the $2,500 Canon EOS R6 II and Sony’s own $2,500 A7 IV. All of those cameras have sharper 4K video and electronic viewfinders, so they’re better hybrid cameras for both photography and video
The ZV-E1 beats them in nearly every other way, though, while breaking new ground with its innovative AI features. If you’re a content creator looking for a full-frame camera in that price range, I’d highly recommend the ZV-E1.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/sony-zv-e1-review-the-best-vlogging-camera-to-date-by-a-big-margin-140055155.html?src=rss
At some point over the years there’s been a shift in what PC speakers look like. Many of you may remember plugging in a pair of small, often beige, units into the back of your PC (where the PCI sound card was) and pretending to enjoy the results. Over the years, built-in audio interfaces improved and external ones found their way to a more convenient location on our desks. This, in turn, led to a trend of bigger, creator-friendly, shelf-style speakers. But the rise of the home office has led to a renewed focus on streamlined workspaces, making compact speakers more appealing again.
Enter Drop, a company best known for mechanical keyboards and audiophile gear. With the announcement of its BMR1 desktop speakers, the company is hoping to re-invigorate the dedicated PC speakers category. At first glance, the BMR1 looks like it has more in common with the Logitech or Creative speakers of yore (they still make them, I know), but with the promise of the audio oomph usually reserved for larger “monitor” style speakers.
Given Drop’s credentials as a destination for audio enthusiasts, the company was unlikely to put together something you might find in the PC accessories section at Best Buy. Unsurprisingly, the BMR1 isn’t as cheap as those big box store options, either. At $129 they’re at the upper end of what more mainstream alternatives tend to cost.
That $129 gets you a pair of 15W Balanced Mode Radiation (BMR) speakers with either 3.5mm or Bluetooth input. That’s a respectable amount of audio power for this size. There’s no USB here, though, as there’s no built-in interface; you’ll either use your PC’s headphone port or the outputs on a dedicated audio interface. As is the norm with this type of speaker, one is the “active” unit with the in/outputs and you simply connect the other with a (proprietary) cable for the left channel audio. Though I will say the included cable is a little on the short side and currently there’s no alternative.
Physically, the BMR1 is a minimalist affair. There are no dials for power, volume or EQ and the inputs and outputs are all hidden around the back. This will be an annoyance for those who prefer physical controls, especially if you have no alternative (such as a keyboard with a rotary or a programmable mouse). The housing is made of plastic and doesn't give the BMR1 a premium feel, which is in contrast to the company’s keyboards. The stands are also plastic which makes the speakers feel light and prone to moving about if a cable tugs on them, for example.
On front of the speakers are two drivers: a full-range BMR driver along with a passive radiator. One nice touch is that the BMR1s can be mounted either horizontally or vertically, which makes them suitable for a variety of different setups, be that for your own aesthetic preference or out of necessity. The right side speaker has the BMR1’s lone button along the bottom edge for switching between 3.5mm, bluetooth and headphone modes.
Headphone mode might sound counterintuitive to have on a set of… speakers, but it’s a practical tool that passes through the audio from your PC to headphones without having to unplug the BMR1, which, depending on your setup, could be occupying the only output port on your PC. It’ll even work with microphones on compatible (TRRS/4-pole) headsets so you can take work calls without having to remove the speakers to free up that headset jack.
That’s a neat quality-of-life feature, but the main focus here is obviously those BMR drivers. In terms of volume, the 15W speakers are likely capable for most small to medium sized offices. My home office is somewhere north of 150 square feet and the BMR1 amply fills the space. They’re described as “near field” monitors — i.e., specifically designed for close proximity, but they are able to fill this room with sound without much struggle.
As for the quality of that sound, that’s a little more complicated. The BMR1s appear to perform best when their volume is set somewhere between 40 and 70 percent of the maximum. Above that, things start to sound a little strained, which isn’t unusual — especially for speakers this size. At the lower end, from mute to around 30 percent, the speakers are great with spoken word — ideal for podcasts, video viewing and voice calls. But at these lower volumes, music feels a little too muddled to my ears. It’s fine for having something on in the background, but it’s a slightly dense listening experience.
Nudge the volume up a bit, and things improve. Just north of the middle section of the volume curve is where the BMR1s do their best work. There’s still a slight lack on the low frequencies, meaning bass forward music can sometimes feel dried out. If you’re listening to rock, country, classical or any other genre where the action is more in the mid-frequencies, you can have a good time with the BMR1s, but if Hip-Hop or Drum & Bass are more your thing, then you might find yourself wanting at any volume.
The listening experience improves if you can have the speakers nearer to you. There’s definitely a sweet spot at around 18 inches away. When the speakers were about two feet away from me on my desk, Metallica’s Enter Sandman sounded fine, but a little thin on the low end, thus leaving the song’s splashy hi-hats and James Hetfield’s voice feeling a little over represented. If I leaned in a little, the rhythmic bassline and kick drums were notably more apparent.
Even with great placement, the sound from the BMR1 never quite felt as robust as I wanted it to be. I know these are PC speakers, but Drop’s pitch is that these are “ideal for movies and music” — specifically for the desktop. And while they do an acceptable job most of the time, there are definitely occasions where I notice they’re lacking, and more so than I was expecting.
It was a little surprising to learn that the BMR1 only supports SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs. Obviously, with a focus on PCs, the inclusion of AptX or LDAC might feel a little superfluous, but the Bluetooth functionality, to me, is more about making them compatible with your phone, too (rather than another input mode from a PC). As such, support for higher-quality codecs, even just regular ol’ AptX, feels like a bit of a miss here.
The BMR1 ships as a 2.0 (stereo) system, but it can also be used as a 2.1 with an external subwoofer. There’s a switch around the back that will shelf off the bass on the main speaker to balance things out, and this would certainly resolve the issue with weaker low frequencies. Alas, I don’t have a compatible sub, but some reports online indicate that the whole sound does present much more robustly in this configuration. The bigger issue there being that this requires another separate spend, probably another thing to plug in and takes away from one of the BMR1’s primary appeals: a simple, compact setup.
This is something of a theme with the BMR1s: they slightly miss on some key areas. In certain optimal conditions, they’re really quite enjoyable. But that sweet spot is limited and not what you expect either from the brand or for the price. Some of the practical complaints like material choices, the proprietary cable and lack of physical controls feel like obvious misses. The sound profile is enjoyable but the bass is sometimes a bit lacking for certain styles of music. The price point isn’t egregious, but a shade over where it should be. And so on.
Making the BMR2 feels like a task Drop won’t need much assistance with. Most of the pre-order reviews on its own website list off similar minor annoyances. There was a lot to look forward to here, and the final product doesn’t land too far from its promises, but it does fall short enough that more demanding users — which are kinda Drop’s whole thing — could feel slightly underwhelmed.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/drops-bmr1-pc-speakers-review-133039117.html?src=rss
Foldables have come a long way since the original Galaxy Fold went on sale back in 2019. They’re smaller, they’re tougher and while they still aren’t a great option for people on a budget, they’re now more affordable too. (Well, kind of.) And with more device makers getting into the space, there are a wider range of options than ever before. So if you’ve been thinking about buying your first foldable phone (or upgrading from an older model), here’s a guide covering the best models on sale today.
Note: For this guide, we’re focusing on devices that are widely available in North America and Europe. That’s because while there are even more options for people who live in Asia (especially China), they are often difficult to buy from abroad and may not support your local carriers.
How we test
When evaluating foldables, we consider the same general criteria as we do when we’re judging the best smartphones. Devices need to have good battery life (at least a full day’s use), bright displays (peaks of at least 1,000 nits), sharp cameras and responsive performance. That said, foldable phones come in different shapes (and sizes); there are varying designs that may appeal to different types of people.
For those who prefer more compact and stylish devices, flip-style foldables resemble old-school namesakes but with flexible interior displays (typically six to seven inches diagonally) and smaller exterior screens. Alternatively, for power users and people who want to maximize mobile productivity, there are larger book-style foldables (with seven to eight-inch main displays) that can transform from a candy bar-style phone to essentially a small tablet when opened.
A note on durability: Are foldable phones worth it?
Aside from their displays, the biggest difference between foldable phones and more traditional handsets is durability. That’s because while some models like the Pixel Fold and Samsung’s Galaxy Z line offer IPX8 water resistance (which is good for submersions of up to five feet for 30 minutes), their flexible screens – which are largely made from plastic – present some unique challenges.
Most foldables come with factory-installed screen protectors. However, unlike regular phones, users are instructed not to remove them without assistance from approved service centers. Thankfully, Samsung does offer one free screen protector replacement for its foldables, while Google charges between $29 and $129 depending on the warranty status of your device. That said, while we can’t do long-term testing for every foldable phone on the market, after personally using the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Fold 4 each for a year, I’ve found that Samsung’s pre-installed screen protector tends to start bubbling nine to 12 months after purchase. So you’ll probably want to factor in that your foldable may need some sort of servicing after about a year unless you plan on removing the screen protector entirely (which is possible, but goes against most manufacturers' instructions).
Furthermore, foldable phone owners need to be mindful about keeping sharp objects away from their flexible displays, as rocks, keys or even pressing down very hard with a fingernail can leave permanent marks. In the event that you need to get a flexible screen serviced, you’re potentially facing a much higher repair bill when compared to a typical phone (up to $500 or more depending on the model and the severity of the damage). In short, while the ruggedness of foldable phones has improved a lot, they're still more delicate than traditional handsets, which is something you need to account for.
The best flagship foldable phone: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5
Despite a growing number of challengers, Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold line remains the best flagship foldable on sale today. On the Z Fold 5, Samsung introduced its new Flex Hinge, which has slimmed down the phone’s dimensions while allowing it to close completely flat. It boasts blazing performance thanks to its Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip, excellent battery life and the flexible main display’s brightness is the best you can get with a peak of 1,750 nits. And, thanks to new multitasking gestures and updated taskbar, its capacity for mobile productivity is simply unmatched. If that’s not enough, unlike most of its competitors, the Z Fold 5 offers native stylus support, though you have to shell out extra for one of Samsung’s S-Pens (and a case if you want somewhere to stash it). The biggest downside is that with a starting price of $1,800, the Z Fold 5 is still extremely expensive. — Sam Rutherford, Senior Reporter
While the Z Fold 5 may be our favorite big foldable overall, the Pixel Fold isn’t far behind. Its wider design means its 5.8-inch exterior display feels a lot more usable than the Z Fold 5’s skinnier 6.2-inch Cover Screen. Additionally, that extra width results in a flexible main panel with a landscape orientation, so it’s super easy to open the Pixel Fold and launch straight into watching a TV show or movie; no need to rotate the device. And, despite being Google’s first foldable device, the Pixel Fold (12.1mm) is thinner than Samsung’s alternative (13.4mm) while boasting better camera quality and a longer 5x optical zoom. The phone also has IPX8 water resistance and Google’s excellent Pixel-only software including features like the Hold for me, Call Screener, the Pixel Recorder app and more. — S.R.
The best flip-style foldable phone: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5
Packing a faster Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip, better cameras and longer battery life, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 is our favorite compact foldable. This year, Samsung even added its new Flex Hinge, which makes the phone thinner while also eliminating the gap between its screen when closed. Also, thanks to its larger 3.4-inch exterior display, the latest model can do much more without needing to open it up. You can even run full Android apps, though you’ll have to mess around with Samsung’s Good Lock software first. Its display is also brighter and more colorful than what you get from rivals, and starting at $1,000, it’s not that much more expensive than a more conventional high-end phone. — S.R.
While the Razr+ (or the Razr 40 Ultra for those outside North America) may not be quite as sophisticated as the Galaxy Z Flip 5, what it lacks in tech it makes up for with its personality. It’s available in three colors, with the magenta model featuring a soft vegan leather back. In addition, its exterior display features a neat cutout that wraps around its cameras and compared to Samsung’s flip-style foldable, it’s actually a touch easier to use. There’s no need to fool around with extra settings just to view all your favorite Android apps. And for those who are nostalgic for the original Razr from the early 2000s, Moto even included an easter egg that features a retro UI. Unfortunately, its water resistance is much less substantial, as it’s only rated to withstand spills or small splashes. — S.R.
The non-plus Moto Razr (aka the Razr 40 internationally) is the company’s first attempt to make a more affordable flip-style foldable. Starting at £800 (U.S. pricing still TBA), it’s one of the least expensive options on sale today. However, it features a much smaller 1.5-inch exterior display along with a slower Snapdragon 7 Gen 1 chip and somewhat underwhelming cameras. On the bright side, it features the same display you get on its more expensive sibling. The one difference is that it’s limited to 144Hz instead of 165Hz due to its less powerful processor. And, similar to the magenta Razr+, all the colors of the basic Razr (Sage Green, Vanilla Cream, Summer Lilac) come with a soft vegan leather back. — S.R.
As mentioned earlier, there’s an abundance of exotic – and often more advanced – foldables well beyond the Samsungs and Motorolas of the world. However, you either need to have access to phone importers or actually live in Asia, and don’t mind sideloading missing Google apps on your own.
Xiaomi Mix Fold 3
The best overall book-style foldable is none other than the Xiaomi Mix Fold 3, which packs Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, four Leica-enhanced rear cameras (including a 5x zoom periscope) and a 4,800mAh battery within its surprisingly slim body – 10.86mm when folded, and 5.26mm when unfolded. Xiaomi even goes as far as boasting a 500,000-fold durability – more than doubling that of the Galaxy Z Fold 5. Despite its absence in the western markets, the Mix Fold 3’s newly-added 50W wireless charging option would be much welcomed over there. The phone comes with a protective case for both halves of the body, with the rear shell offering a kickstand for easier video playback and video calls. One Hong Kong-based specialist can send a Mix Fold 3 to the US from around $1,500 with shipping included, which is still much cheaper than Samsung’s equivalent. — Richard Lai, Senior Reporter
Honor Magic V2
Another worthy contender is the Honor Magic V2, which currently holds the title for the slimmest foldable phone available. We’re talking about just 9.9mm thick when folded, and a mere 4.7mm thick when opened, but it’s still a full-blown flagship device. Weighing at just 231g (8.15oz), this is the lightest book-style foldable phone as well. Funnily enough, the Magic V2 also packs the largest battery capacity in this category, offering 5,000mAh of juice thanks to Honor’s silicon-carbon battery – a breakthrough tech in the mobile industry. The obvious trade-off here is the missing wireless charging feature, but you do get a durability rating of 400,000 folds. Sadly, due to limited availability, the Magic V2 costs slightly more – around $1,670, shipping included, from the same Hong Kong shop. — R.L.
Oppo Find N3 Flip
If you’d prefer a smaller flip-style foldable from overseas, the Oppo Find N3 Flip is the only triple-camera option at the time of writing this guide. While others only offer a main camera and an ultra-wide camera, the Find N3 Flip benefits from an additional 32-megapixel 2x portrait shooter next to its 3.26-inch external screen (and you still get a 32-megapixel selfie camera on the inside). As a bonus, this clamshell has a physical mute switch, a whopping 600,000-fold durability and a generous 4,300mAh battery. That said, wireless charging is again a no-show here. You can pick up a Find N3 Flip in either black, gold or pink, and importing from Hong Kong should cost around $1,090 with shipping included. There’s no price advantage in this case, so it’s more about how much you want Oppo’s designs, features and accessories than anything else. — R.L.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-foldable-phones-160030013.html?src=rss