We may have gotten our first look at Ring’s dashcam, courtesy of The Tape Drive, which posted an image of a Ring-branded camera that looks like it’s made to fit on a car’s dashboard. Based on a support article which Zats Not Funny discovered (and claims may have been published inadvertently) Ring’s Car Cam will have Alexa integration and the ability to start recording if you tell it you’ve been pulled over.
The Car Cam was originally announced by the Amazon-owned company in September as a dashboard-mounted device which would record both the inside and outside of the vehicle, and was priced at $199. However, the support article about the Car Cam that’s been posted on Ring’s site says that the camera attaches to the windshield as well. The design, as depicted in The Tape Drive’s findings does seem like it could allow for that, if it comes apart into two pieces or extends. We’ll likely have to wait for an official announcement to get a good idea of how it works (and to see if this is actually an image of the Car Cam at all).
The support article confirms many of the features that were teased when Amazon announced the Car Cam last September, but reveals several new ones as well. It states that the camera will plug into your car’s OBD-II port, and that a subscription service isn’t required for the camera, as it saves videos locally, which you can access via Wi-Fi and the Ring app.
However, the document does say that some advanced features will require an optional Ring connectivity plan. The page doesn’t have a list of the features that will and won’t work without cellular connectivity, but it does say that LTE is required for the Emergency Crash Assist feature, where the camera will sense a car accident and have a Ring agent check on the driver and call 911 if needed. The article also says that cellular connectivity is required for saving videos to the cloud when the car is out and about, which could be helpful in the event that the car is stolen. According to the initial announcement last year, the device will also hook into Amazon’s Sidewalk network for connectivity.
There still isn’t any solid information about when the camera will be released, although Ring did say it would be some time this year. The support article, however, notes that the device hasn’t been cleared by the FCC yet, and won’t be available for sale until it is. We’ve reached out to Amazon for additional information on the Car Cam and will update if we hear back.
The Xbox Series X and S might be Microsoft’s newest consoles, but you won’t need them to play the latest games. That’s because new titles are coming to Xbox One consoles, Microsoft has announced.
Now, there are a few caveats to this announcement. Not all games will be playable on the older consoles, as Microsoft has only said that “many” will. They will be playable through Xbox Cloud Gaming, rather than arriving on disc. And there’s not a lot of detail to dive into – the announcement was relegated to a single sentence in a blog post following Microsoft’s showcase at the E3 gaming conference.
Here’s the announcement in full:
“For the millions of people who play on Xbox One consoles today, we are looking forward to sharing more about how we will bring many of these next-gen games, such as Microsoft Flight Simulator, to your console through Xbox Cloud Gaming, just like we do with mobile devices, tablets, and browsers.”
That mention of Microsoft Flight Simulator as an example doesn’t exactly set our hearts aflutter either.
Still, it’s confirmation of what Microsoft had only hinted at before, and means anyone still struggling where to find an Xbox Series X (which is most of us) can get an idea of what all the fuss is about. Last week, Microsoft revealed it was working on bringing an Xbox app direct to smart TVs, as well as producing streaming devices, letting gamers play without the need for a console. Which, given the chip shortages that will continue until at least the end of this month, has to be good news.
We look forward to hearing more details soon.
Find your next console: Xbox Series X stock update
Prefer a PS5? PS5 stock and where to buy
Or are you unsure which to buy? PS5 vs Xbox Series X: which is better?
Just in time for the launch of Microsoft Flight Simulator on Xbox Series consoles next month, developer Asobo Studios has added some extra details that players will appreciate. World Update V is focused on the Nordic region (specifically Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden), bringing stunning vistas to an already visually impressive title.
A brief trailer shows the payoff for some extra attention on landscapes (so many fjords) and urban areas with detailed architecture for you to fly around showing off everything from ancient castles to modern stadiums, towers and bridges. According to the team, the new areas include “100 airports and 77 carefully selected points of interest.” You can see Lego House and Frederiksborg Castle in the trailer, along with the Arctic Cathedral and Sarek National Park.
The Xbox launch is timed for July 27th, arriving after several updates to optimize the game and even reduce its staggering initial installation size. If you have a capable PC you can install this latest update for free — it’s also localized in Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish if you’d like the full Nordic experience — while Xbox One owners wait for cloud streaming to bring high-end titles their way later this year.
Microsoft will let Xbox One owners play next-gen Xbox games through its xCloud service. The news was buried in a blog post recapping Microsoft’s Xbox + Bethesda showcase, with the company confirming plans to leverage Xbox Cloud Gaming (xCloud) for Xbox One consoles. That means the 2013 hardware will be able to play Xbox Series X exclusive games from 2021 — extending the lifecycle of what would normally soon be obsolete boxes.
“For the millions of people who play on Xbox One consoles today, we are looking forward to sharing more about how we will bring many of these next-gen games, such as Microsoft Flight Simulator, to your console through Xbox Cloud Gaming, just like we do with mobile devices, tablets, and browsers,” says Will Tuttle, editor in chief of Microsoft’s Xbox Wire.
Until now, Microsoft had only described xCloud on consoles as a way for players to “try [games] before you download,” but it’s clear the company sees the service as offering much more. Microsoft originally announced Microsoft Flight Simulator as an Xbox One title, before quietly removing references to the Xbox One launch in December. Microsoft recently confirmed Flight Simulator will now launch on Xbox Series X / S consoles on July 27th.
It’s not clear when xCloud game streaming will be available on Xbox One consoles, though. It’s unlikely to be ready in time for the July launch of Microsoft Flight Simulator, and Microsoft’s head of cloud gaming, Kareem Choudhry, previously said xCloud will be integrated into consoles “later this year.”
xCloud availability will provide a welcome boost for Xbox One consoles, particularly as Microsoft is upgrading its server blades to run Xbox Series X hardware later this month. It will give this older hardware a way to play upcoming titles like Starfield, which, like Flight Simulator, will also launch exclusively on the new Xbox Series X / S consoles.
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max has a bright display and long battery life, but its performance could be stronger, and it has a very high price, even for a business-class laptop.
+ 5G option
+ Bright Display
+ Long Battery Life
– Middling Performance
– Expensive even for a business-class computer
The original HP Elite Dragonfly challenged the Lenovo ThinkPad line with its style and excellent keyboard. Now, there’s a variant, the HP Elite Dragonfly Max ($2,199 to start, $2,789 as configured).
Despite the Max title implying that this device would be bigger, it’s actually the same size as the original, which is one of the best ultrabooks. This version adds a bright Sure View Reflect screen and 5G networking. But if neither of those appeal to you — the Sure View Reflect screen in particular suffers from some really harsh viewing angles that undercut its positives — you might be better off looking at the original Dragonfly or other options.
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max is a slick, thin convertible laptop with a glittery matte black shell that feels durable but loves to collect fingerprints. There’s a symmetrical, reflective HP logo on the lid and a smaller logo below the screen, plus EliteBook and Bang & Olufsen branding on the keyboard deck.
What’s most noticeable about this laptop is the size, although it’s not especially larger or smaller than most other ultraportables. At 11.98 x 7.78 x 0.63 inches, it’s a little wider than the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (11.6 x 8.2 x 0.6 inches) and the Razer Book 13 (11.6 x 7.8 x 0.6) but not too much thicker. But at 11.6 x 7.8 x 0.55 inches, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano is significantly thinner than the HP Elite Dragonfly Max.
The Elite Dragonfly Max is on the lighter end when it comes to weight, however. Its 2.49 pound weight is only beaten by the ThinkPad X1 Nano’s 2 pounds. Meanwhile, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 and Razer Book 13 are 2.9 and 3.1 pounds, respectively.
Ports on the Elite Dragonfly Max are varied but poorly distributed. While the left side has the NanoSim card reader (if you have a model with cellular networking capabilities, as we did) and a single USB Type-A port, the convertible’s right side has two Thunderbolt 4 connections, an HDMI 2.1 connection and a single 3.5mm combination headphone/microphone jack. This uneven port distribution can make charging your laptop a pain if your desk setup makes its left side more accessible.
Productivity Performance of the HP Elite Dragonfly Max
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The HP Elite Dragonfly Max is HP’s latest attempt to compete with Lenovo’s ThinkPad, specifically the ThinkPad X1 Nano. That means it aims for plenty of productivity power, and comes equipped with the slightly more powerful Intel Core i7-1185G7 to accomplish this. But the ThinkPad, with the Intel Core i7-1160G7 and the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 and the Razer Book 13 with Intel’s Core i7-1165G7 CPU still offered strong performance and won out in some tests.
In Geekbench 5, a synthetic benchmark for testing general performance, the Elite Dragonfly Max achieved a single core score of 1,512 and a multi-core score of 5,195. That puts it slightly ahead of the ThinkPad X1 Nano’s 1,473 single core score but about on par with its 5,155 multi-core score. But the XPS 13 2-in-1 and the Razer Book 13 beat it on both fronts, and by a much wider margin when it comes to multi-core performance. The former earned scores of 1,539/5,571, and the latter hit scores of 1,556 and 5,495.
The Elite Dragonfly Max did have a slightly faster SSD than its competitors, transferring 25GB of files at a rate of 558.9 MBps. The Razer Book 13 was the next fastest, hitting 479 MBps, while the ThinkPad X1 Nano came in towards the bottom of the pack with a 424.81 MBps speed. The XPS 13 2-in-1 was the slowest computer here, transferring the files at a rate of 405.55 MBps.
Our Handbrake video transcoding test, which tracks how long it takes a machine to transcode a video down from 4K to FHD, saw the Elite Dragonfly Max once again land on the weaker side. It took 19:44 to finish transcoding, while the ThinkPad X1 Nano took 16:55. The XPS 13 2-in-1 was faster at 15:52, while the Razer Book 13 was the quickest at 14:46.
We also ran the HP Elite Dragonfly Max through Cinebench R23 for 20 consecutive runs to see how well it operates during an extended work session. Scores started out at 4,172 before dropping to the high 3,000s for most runs, and achieved an average of 3,925. There were a few peaks and valleys during tests, which might have been related to short bursts of throttling we noticed throughout the 20 runs. Most of the throttling happened during the beginning of the tests, but there were instances of it throughout. The CPU ran at an average 2,405.82 MHz clock speed during this test, and sat at an average temperature of 69.16 degrees Celsius (156.49 degrees Fahrenheit).
Networking Performance of the HP Elite Dragonfly Max
Our configuration of the HP Elite Dragonfly Max came with a Nano Sim card slot for 5G networking, plus a prepaid card from AT&T. When I tested the laptop in downtown Brooklyn, I found that it was only slightly slower than my home Verizon Fios connection.
I was able to watch videos, download apps and stream music with no interruptions. The biggest difference I noticed was the time it took to load pages, which would sometimes take about a second longer than on Wi-Fi.
Still, your experience might differ based on where you live and your choice of carrier.
Display on the HP Elite Dragonfly Max
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max is, no matter how you configure it, a pricey computer. And for that extra cost, you do get a new, almost absurdly bright HP Sure View Reflect display, which also packs novel privacy and anti-blue light technology. While we were impressed with a measured 707 nits of average brightness, we were let down by extremely strict viewing angles. This screen tended to wash out for me when I moved more than 45 degrees away from it, perhaps because of the privacy features.
But when I was sitting directly in front of the screen, I had a great experience even in my brightly lit office. I tested the screen by watching the latest trailer for Cruella on it, and colors were vivid while blacks were deep. Glare also wasn’t an issue, although the screen had some minor reflectivity to it.
When I looked at the screen in a darker environment, reflectivity became less of a problem, but viewing angles still remained tight.
HP Sure View Reflect is one of HP’s privacy-oriented displays, with a built-in app (you can also turn it on with the F2 button) that turns the image into a blank copper rectangle when you look at it from more than 45 degrees away. This worked well for me when I turned it on, but given that the image is already so washed out at those angles, it seems like an unnecessary addition, especially because it also made my screen uncomfortably dim even when looking at it from straight on. I also wonder if building the screen to accommodate this technology reduces viewing angles even when the privacy feature isn’t turned on.
Still, there’s no denying that the screen is pleasant under optimal conditions. Our colorimeter showed it covered 81.7% of the DCI-P3 spectrum, which is much higher than the ThinkPad X1 Nano’s 71.6% and the XPS 13 2-in-1’s 70%. Only the Razer Book 13 came close, with 80.7%.
And, of course, 707 nits is immensely bright. The ThinkPad X1 Nano is much dimmer at the still very bright 430 nits. At 426 and 488 nits, respectively, the Razer Book 13 and the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 are in a similar boat. However, there is such a thing as diminishing returns, and we’re not sure that the extra brightness is worth it — we still had great viewing experiences on these competitors, some of which boast better viewing angles.
What might be worth the extra cost is HP’s Eye Ease technology. This always-on, hardware level anti-blue light filter supposedly shifts harmful blue light spectrum images to more comfortable places on the spectrum without affecting the look of the image. This is because the screen only targets a very specific area of blue light, rather than tinting the whole image yellow like most solutions. After a whole day of working on the Elite Dragonfly Max, I did notice a lack of eye strain; however, I’m not sure if it was a placebo effect. I tend not to feel too much strain from my regular monitor, either, and I feel like I’d need to judge this feature over the course of a few weeks to fairly assess it.
Keyboard, Touchpad and Stylus on the HP Elite Dragonfly Max
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max has a chiclet style keyboard that feels stiff and hard when pressing down keys, but I still managed to type quickly on it
On 10fastfingers.com, I regularly hit 78 – 79 words per minute, which is towards the upper end of my usual score range. However, I also had a number of typos during my tests, and keypresses didn’t exactly feel cushiony. Aside from the typical notches on the F and J keys, the keycaps also don’t have any distinct build features to help you find your fingers’ position by touch alone. This left typing feeling a bit like a chore, even if I technically typed speedily.
The large, 4.3 x 2.6 inch precision touchpad is, by contrast, a more pleasant experience. It feels smooth to the touch, and scrolling happens just as smoothly, although there’s enough friction to easily make precise adjustments. Multi-touch gestures like scrolling with two fingers or switching apps with three fingers were also a breeze to pull off.
There’s also a small, separate fingerprint reader to the right of the touchpad, which is a nice plus given that much of this computer’s competition integrates fingerprint readers into the touchpad instead, which creates dead zones.
Audio on the HP Elite Dragonfly Max
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max comes with four speakers by Bang & Olufsen (two top-firing and two bottom-firing) that have impressive bass. I listened to “Butter” by BTS on them, and I didn’t feel like I lost any information from the beat heavy song. Audio was also clear with no tinniness, even on high vocals, and I could easily hear the song across my two-bedroom apartment at max volume.
At around 50% volume, I had about as optimal of a listening experience as I would expect to get from a device this size.
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max also comes with an audio control program called, well, HP Audio Control. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear much of a difference between its music, movie and voice presets.
Upgradeability of the HP Elite Dragonfly Max
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The HP Elite Dragonfly Max is surprisingly easy to open for an ultraportable. It’s got five Torx T5 screws on the bottom, and the case easily lifts off after removing them. (The hardest part may be finding a Torx screwdriver.) Once you’re inside the laptop, you’ll have immediate access to both the Wi-Fi and 5G chips, plus you’ll see a silver shield above the battery with a pull tab on it. If you pull on that tab, you’ll have direct access to the laptop’s SSD.
Battery Life of the HP Elite Dragonfly Max
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max has an edge on battery life over its competition. In our battery benchmark, which continually browses the web, runs OpenGL tests over-Wi-Fi and streams video at 150 nits, the HP Elite Dragonfly Max held on for 13 hours and 9 minutes.
That’s a bit more than an hour longer than its longest-lasting competition, the ThinkPad X1 Nano, which had a 12 hour battery life on the same test. The Razer Book 13 lasted for 11 hours and 44 minutes, while the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 was the quickest to die with a 10 hour and 52 minute battery life.
Heat on the HP Elite Dragonfly Max
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max runs on the cool side for an ultraportable laptop, plus it has special software to keep it extra cool when it’s on your lap.
After 15 minutes of streaming video, the laptop’s touchpad measured 77.5 degrees Fahrenheit, while the center of its keyboard (between the G and H keys) was about 10 degrees hotter at 88.9 degrees Fahrenheit. The laptop’s underside was mostly about 90.1 degrees Fahrenheit, although it ran closer to 102.7 degrees Fahrenheit closer to its vents.
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max also has HP Context Aware software, which uses machine learning to detect when the laptop is on your lap so it can lower the performance mode. HP claims this can reduce the temperature by up to 9 degrees Fahrenheit, although you can turn the feature off if you’re using a lap desk and would prefer to prioritize performance. For my part, I noticed that the Dragonfly was still warm on my lap, but it did adjust its performance mode on and off as advertised. Unfortunately, I don’t have a temperature reading camera at home to test lap temperatures.
HP Elite Dragonfly Max Webcam
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max comes with a 5MP webcam that captures photos at 1440p, which is a higher resolution than you’ll find on even most desktop webcams. Plus, it’s also got a physical camera shutter.
That said, artifacts are still present on photos taken with this laptop’s camera, although lighting and color is accurate. The quality should be more than enough for most casual use cases, but my face is more pixelated than I like when I view this camera’s photos at full screen.
Pixelation becomes more noticeable in low-light environments, but color and lighting remains strong.
This camera’s performance in saturated lighting conditions is unique, but maybe flawed. I’ve never seen a webcam take such a detailed photo through a window pane before (usually, they’ll just depict windows as sheets of white), but my face is bathed in so much shadow that I’m not sure the camera counts as usable under these conditions.
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max also has two front facing mics and two world facing mics, which lets it use AI noise cancellation to help keep background noise out of calls. I found that the AI noise cancellation works well, although the microphone quality itself is questionable. My recordings sounded echo-y and especially muffled, and part of me wonders if the AI noise cancellation contributed to this.
This laptop also has a sliding physical webcam cover.
Software and Warranty on the HP Elite Dragonfly Max
This laptop does not skimp on the pre-installed software, with over 16 HP-branded programs alone coming pre-loaded on it. And that’s not even everything. There’s also a program that tries to get you to install free trials for different Adobe Creative Cloud programs, plus typical Windows pre-installs like Microsoft Solitaire Collection and Maps.
At least the HP apps are generally useful. HP Wolf Security, for instance, is a free firewall not unlike Windows Defender. HP QuickDrop lets you easily transfer files across devices, including mobiles phones. There’s even HP Easy Clean, which is a novel app that shuts down all of your laptop’s input for a few minutes so you can sanitize it without accidentally pressing any buttons (there is a 2-button keyboard shortcut to unlock your PC early if you need to, though).
But there’s no reason all of these utilities have to be their own separate programs. It’s easy to see them as clutter that way. If I were HP, I’d consider rounding up most of these functions into one central hub app, similar to Lenovo’s Vantage program.
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max also comes with a three year limited warranty.
HP Elite Dragonfly Max Configurations
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max has two pre-built Wi-Fi only configurations, one pre-built Wi-Fi and 5G configuration and one fully customizable option. Our review configuration was that Wi-Fi and 5G pre-built option, which came with an Intel Core i7-1185G7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and a 13.3 inch FHD display. It costs $2,789.
The Wi-Fi only pre-built models are $2,199 and $2,399, respectively, although the only difference between them seems to be whether the laptop uses an i7-1165G7 chip or an i7-1186G7 chip. Otherwise, you’ll get 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and a 13.3 inch FHD display.
The configurable option is exclusive to HP’s website, and starts at $2,409 for the Windows version (the website says it technically costs $3,347, but there’s a permanent $1,000 discount applied to it). You can shave $236 off the price if you want to go for FreeDOS, which might be useful if you intend to install Linux on the device.
More realistically, you’ll be configuring your PC to add on to it. Here, you can bump the CPU up to an i7-1185G7 processor and the RAM up to 32GB for a combined $489, and the SSD up to 2TB for $865. There’s also in-between options— bumping the SSD to just 1TB will cost you an extra $235, and there are 16GB and 32GB RAM bundles available for both the cheaper i7-1165G7 CPU and the more costly i7-1185G7 CPU.
You can also choose to go Wi-Fi only in a custom build, or go for either Intel XMM LTE ($155) or Qualcomm SnapDragon 5G ($440) networking. Plus, there’s add-ons like an optional Wacom pen, which costs $74.
HP’s website says custom builds won’t ship until October, although HP assured us that this is incorrect, and is in the process of sending us more information.
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max is an expensive convertible with a great look and a bright screen that purports to have an anti-blue light feature, but it doesn’t have a worthwhile power boost compared to cheaper options and doesn’t exactly make up for it with its keyboard or its display’s other specs.
I acknowledge that our configuration has an extra cost tied to it thanks to the 5G, which was admittedly only slightly slower than my Wi-Fi when I tested it in downtown Brooklyn. But even without the 5G, this computer costs more than $2,000. Compare that to the ThinkPad X1 Nano, another business class convertible which either beat it or performed on par with it in all of our productivity tests and only costs around $1,600 from certain e-tailers, and it’s hard to justify getting the Elite Dragonfly Max.
Granted, the HP Elite Dragonfly Max has a slightly higher battery life and a much brighter screen than the ThinkPad X1 Nano. But viewing angles on this display are excessively strict, so it still comes with caveats. Plus, you lose out on that great ThinkPad keyboard and the ThinkPad X1 Nano’s 16:10 aspect ratio.
If you go for a non business-class computer like the XPS 13 2-in-1 9310, you can get even more power for even less.
If you’re a business-oriented buyer and you really want 5G or bright displays or niche security software like HP Sure View, then this laptop might be for you. Otherwise, you can get more raw power for less elsewhere, plus maybe some better viewing angles while you’re at it.
(Pocket-lint) – Amazon’s line of Echo Dot speaker was one of the more settled and consistent in tech over the last few years – its puck-shaped design was clearly doing something right as the Alexa speaker sold in its multitudes.
However, few things in tech last forever and Amazon now has an entirely new look for the Echo Dot, very much a shrunken-down version of the new mainline Echo. It’s a radical departure, and with the 3rd Generation Echo Dot still very much on sale, you might be wondering which of the two you should pick up. We’ve compared them in detail across a few categories, to help you decide.
4th gen: 100 x 100 x 89mm
3rd gen: 43 x 99 x 99mm
There’s no getting around it – Amazon has changed the Echo Dot’s design pretty radically when it comes to looks, going from that distinctive puck shape to a globe of a smart speaker in the new version. That has also had an inescapable impact on the Dot’s size – it’s got a lot taller, effectively. The actual footprint of the speaker is very similar to the previous version, but with a lot more height.
While that’s given Amazon a bunch of space to fit in more tech, as we’ll show later, it does mean that the new Echo Dot won’t necessarily fit in as many nooks and crannies as its predecessor. The new version is also a little heavier, too, as a result of its increased size but also because of the aluminium used in its construction, compared to the more plastic feel of the older speaker.
Otherwise, both speakers share the Alexa light-strip to let you know when the voice assistant is listening, or turned off, as well as four buttons on the top to let you adjust the volume, mute the speaker or confirm a range actions.
You can get both generations in black, grey and light blue colours, but a pink option is reserved for the older speaker at present. Both generations are also available with an embedded clock display for at-a-glance timing information, for a small bump in the price.
Finally, the new Echo Dot also has two variant designs aimed at children, which are perfect if you’re looking for a smart speaker to put in a little one’s bedroom or playroom.
Both generations: 1.6-inch speaker
Interestingly, Amazon hasn’t made a particular reinvention of the sound design behind the fabric shroud of the new Echo Dot – it’s still got that 1.6-inch speaker to provide the volume. Now, going by the performance of the older Echo Dot, that’s no issue – for a small speaker, the Dot line has been producing really impressive sound quality for some time, so no change isn’t bad news.
That said, the increased size of the newer Dot does give you some improvement in the sound quality. There’s less vibration through the body of the speaker and that means it performs better at higher volumes, better placed to fill the room with sound. It’s not hugely different, but it is better.
On both models, there is also a 3.5mm port in case you want to pipe audio out via cable.
Alexa and smart home connectivity
When it comes to Alexa, you’ll get pretty similar experiences on both generations of Echo Dot speakers – as a lot of the assistant’s processing is done in the cloud regardless.
However, the new AZ1 Neural Edge chip that’s in the newer Echo Dot does mean that Alexa should be slightly faster and more responsive on the newer speaker, as you might expect.
Their smart home integration potential, meanwhile, is identical – anything you can do on an older Echo Dot will still work on the new spherical model, and the reverse should be true, too.
Price and conclusions
As Amazon often does with its product refreshes, the new Echo Dot has debuted at the same price as the old one, so there’s no change there. However, the older puck-shaped model has had a price cut to reflect the fact that it’s older.
However, the margin isn’t very big – and we think it’s really the design that should sway most people.
If you’re a fan of the new spherical look, then the newer speaker is going to be right up your street, but if you look at it and can’t get on board, the older Echo Dot might be more palatable. Ultimately, as with so many things, it comes down to taste!
Asus has released its latest Ryzen-powered Chromebook, the Chromebook Flip CM5. The CM5 has a 15.6-inch screen, and Asus is pushing it as a device for cloud-based gaming. It’s available now at Abt and Newegg starting at $499.99.
The most exciting thing is that the CM5 supports both Google Stadia and Nvidia GeForce Now. Of course, it only has a 60Hz screen and Radeon integrated graphics, so it’s far from a “gaming laptop” of any sort. Still, Asus has made a few design tweaks to better evoke the aesthetic. Namely, the WASD keys are outlined in orange, which Asus says “lets users stand out while enjoying quick, intuitive gameplay in cloud-based games.” Some Windows laptops have done bold things with their WASD keys, but this is the first Chromebook we’ve seen with that feature.
Asus also emphasized the Harmon Kardon-certified audio system and Wi-Fi stabilizer technology, which should likely help create a more immersive gaming experience.
The CM5 has a 57Wh battery, which Asus claims offers up to 10 hours of battery life. You can configure the device with up to 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage as well. You can choose a Ryzen 5 3500C or a Ryzen 3 3250C, both of which come with AMD Radeon integrated graphics. The chassis itself is made of an aluminum alloy, which Asus describes as “mineral gray” with an “obsidian velvet” texture.
I’ll keep you posted on how this device performs once I’ve gotten my hands on a unit. In the meantime, I recently reviewed its sibling, the Chromebook Detachable CM3, which you can read about here.
Microsoft has announced a whole slate of games that will be joining Xbox Game Pass today, with 11 new titles available on the subscription service via Xbox and PC.
The new Game Pass titles were announced during Microsoft and Bethesda’s joint E3 conference on Sunday. The lion’s share comes from Bethesda, which adds 10 more titles to the service, in addition to the 20 Bethesda titles added to the service since it was acquired by Microsoft earlier this year. Six of these titles will also be accessible via Xbox, PC, and xCloud. PC players will also have access to Fallout: New Vegas starting today.
In addition, Yakuza: Like A Dragon has also been added to Xbox Game Pass, which is available today. The entire mainline Yakuza series is also already available on the service.
Here’s the full list of newly announced Xbox Game Pass games:
Arx Fatalis (PC)
Fallout 2 (PC)
Fallout: Tactics (PC)
Fallout 3 (console, PC, Cloud)
Fallout: New Vegas (PC)
Dishonored: Death of the Outsider (console, PC, Cloud)
The Evil Within 2 (console, PC, Cloud)
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (console, PC, Cloud)
RAGE (console, PC, Cloud)
Doom (2016) (console, Cloud)
Yakuza: Like A Dragon (console, PC, Cloud)
In addition to these games, Back 4 Blood has also been announced for Xbox Game Pass when it launches on October 12th.
(Pocket-lint) – Audeze is a big name in high-end audio – it specialises in planar magnetic headphones that get up to eye-watering prices. However, it’s also recently been making strides in gaming, with more and more headsets coming to its line-up.
Best PS5 and PS4 headset: Superb Playstation gaming headphones
The company’s first wireless console headset comes in the form of the Penrose, available in two versions for PlayStation or Xbox users, and we’ve been using it day in, day out for a number of weeks to see if it lives up to Audeze’s lofty reputation.
Memory foam pads
The Penrose might come from a premium heritage, but it’s actually fairly unremarkable to look at – calling it generic would be far too harsh, but there’s not much here to catch your eye. That could also be spun as subtlety, of course.
We’ve been using the PlayStation version, which features blue accents around each earcup – the the only splash of colour on an otherwise grey and black design. If you pick the Xbox model then these are bright green instead. It’s all very on brand.
Still, there’s nothing wrong with a headset that doesn’t look over-the-top. The Penrose also has plenty of neat touches up its sleeve. For one, the all-important microphone can be removed when you’re not using it. That’s not quite as helpful as a retractable or stowable microphone that you can’t therefore lose, but it’s still appreciated.
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There’s also a manual mute switch on one earcup, positioned just above the main power button, in case you want to remove your voice from a chat that way. Holding this button turns the Penrose on, and it’ll quickly connect to the included dongle if its plugged into your console or PC. This connection is solid and reliable even if you wander off to grab a drink in a next-door room – although its range isn’t endless.
One the same earcup you also find two dials: one for the master volume; another to adjust your microphone’s pickup – which is a good pairing for on-the-fly adjustments if you’re in party chat while you game. It’s a little hard to be sure which one you’re touching at first, but you’ll get used to it.
A huge part of any headset’s success is in the wearing, though, and here the Penrose doesn’t quite excel. It’s not the lightest headset we’ve used, and has a noticeably tight fit that can feel a little clamp-like on your head. After a few dozen hours of wearing it, though, this has abated somewhat, and we’re now finding it comfortable to wear for hours at a time. That’s most likely helped by the memory foam in its cushioning.
While it might not look particularly astonishing, then, the Penrose is obviously built to a high standard, and feels really sturdy, too. Fragile headsets are a menace on your wallet, so it’s good to know that you’re paying for quality. We just wish it was a little more comfortable from the off.
100mm planar magnetic drivers
Dual 2.4GHz and Bluetooth connectivity
Wired connection also available
If its design is straightforward, Audeze is extremely proud of its headset’s raw sound quality. It’s here the Penrose does a solid job of matching the hype once you drop into a game.
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The drivers Audeze use are planar magnetic ones – which makes for lightning-fast reponse times and little to no distortion. That means whether you’re caught in a huge bassy explosion or if a soundtrack is full of intricate high-end notes you’ll find it easy to pick it all out accurately.
In more mundane terms, it means that the Penrose is in the top grade of headsets we’ve tried when it comes to competitive environments – for example, being able to pick out the famously inconsistent footstep sounds in Call of Duty: Warzone. Its sound is clear and doesn’t rely on too much bass, making for a really enjoyable experience.
When you use it in a native PS5 game, this is all the more impressive. Resident Evil Village, for example, was frankly a bit too terrifying, with the Penrose reproducing the game’s 3D audio absolutely brilliantly.
Another key facet in this performance is the closed-back design, which is one of the most isolating we’ve tried on a gaming headset – even with no sound playing, you’re kind-of ‘closed in’ nicely. There’s no active noise cancellation (ANC) to be found, but we nonetheless felt entirely immersed.
You have the option to connect via Bluetooth to other devices, too, if you prefer, and there’s also a 3.5mm jack in case you run out of battery and need to go old-school, which is again a useful fall-back.
Battery life is stated at 15 hours, but we found that we struggled to make it that far before running into the need to charge via USB-C. That’s not a terrible standard, but it’s equally outclassed by plenty of more affordable options.
Finally, we turn to the microphone – a key feature for anyone looking to play online with friends. The good news is that it’s an impressive one, with clear and accurate pickup.
The included wind-muffler is an extra that helps with ensuring your breathing isn’t picked up, but even without it you should be fine. That said, you might find that you hear your own breath, even if the headset isn’t transmitting that through to your chat, which can occasionally be distracting – but is also fixable by tweaking your pickup level manually.
If your core concern is sound quality, at the expense of anything else, the Audeze Penrose is mightily persuasive and will make a great investment.
However, on factors like comfort and battery life it’s outclassed by a lot of other headsets that we’ve tried, including many that are around half of its price – and these options don’t exactly sound terrible either.
So while the Penrose has offered some of the best sound we’ve experience from a console – especially over a wireless connection and with 3D audio truly immersing us – that makes it one to think hard about before you take the pluge.
Steelseries Arctis 7P
If you want a PlayStation headset that’s extremely comfortable to wear and still sounds extremely solid (though it can’t compete with the Penrose), this option from Steelseries is a winner. It’s nearly half the price of Audeze’s effort, but we prefer its design and it’s like a cloud to wear over multiple hours.
EPOS GSP 370
Alternatively, if you want to bring the budget down even further but your main concern is having enormous battery life, this option from EPOS is almost baffling on the battery front. It offers a mind-boggling 80 hours between charges, which is perfect for forgetful types who don’t want to charge after every session.
Writing by Max Freeman-Mills. Editing by Mike Lowe.
Ubisoft capped off its E3 keynote with a big surprise: a first look at Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora. The next-gen take on James Cameron’s world looks gorgeous, and Ubisoft says it’s being built with its own Snowdrop engine at internal studio Massive.
Here’s the story premise:
In this new, standalone story, play as a Na’vi and embark on a journey across the Western Frontier, a never-before-seen part of Pandora. Explore a living and reactive world inhabited by unique creatures and new characters, and push back the formidable RDA forces that threaten it.
The game appears to be built with next-gen hardware in mind. Frontiers of Pandora is slated for release on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X / S, along with cloud services Google Stadia and Amazon Luna.
It also isn’t the only sci-fi universe Ubisoft is exploring: the publisher previously revealed that it was making an open-world Star Wars game, which is also been made by Massive.
The open source RISC-V instruction set architecture is gaining more mainstream attention in the wake of Intel’s rumored $2 billion bid for SiFive, the industry’s leading RISC-V design house. Unfortunately, RISC-V has long been relegated to smaller chips and microcontrollers, limiting its appeal. However, that should change soon as RISC-V International, the organization that oversees the development of the RISC-V instruction set architecture (ISA), has announced plans to extend the architecture to high performance computing, AI, and supercomputing applications.
The RISC-V open-source ISA was first introduced in 2016, but the first cores were only suitable for microcontrollers and some basic system-on-chip designs. However, after several years of development, numerous chip developers (e.g., Alibaba) have created designs aimed at cloud data centers, AI workloads (like the Jim Keller-led Tenstorrent), and advanced storage applications (e.g., Seagate, Western Digital).
The means there’s plenty of interest from developers for high-performance RISC-V chips. But to foster adoption of the RISC-V ISA by edge, HPC, and supercomputing applications, the industry needs a more robust hardware and software ecosystem (along with compatibility with legacy applications and benchmarks). That’s where the RISC-V SIG for HPC comes into play.
At this point, the RISC-V SIG-HPC has 141 members on its mailing list and 10 active members in research, academia, and the chip industry. The key task for the growing SIG is to propose various new HPC-specific instructions and extensions and work with other technical groups to ensure that HPC requirements are considered for the evolving ISA. As a part of this task, the SIG needs to define AI/HPC/edge requirements and plot a feature and capability path to a point when RISC-V is competitive against Arm, x86, and other architectures.
There are short-term goals for the RISC-V SIG-HPC, too. In 2021, the group will focus on the HPC software ecosystem. First up, the group plans to find open source software (benchmarks, libraries, and actual programs) that can work with the RISC-V ISA right out of the box. This process is set to be automatized. The first investigations will be aimed at applications like GROMACS, Quantum ESPRESSO and CP2K; libraries like FFT, BLAS, and GCC and LLVM; and benchmarks like HPL and HPCG.
The RISC-V SIG-HPC will develop a more detailed roadmap after the ecosystem is solidified. The long-term goal of the RISC-V SIG is to build an open-source ecosystem of hardware and software that can address emerging performance-demanding applications while also accomodating legacy needs.
How many years will that take? Only time will tell, but industry buy-in from big players, like Intel, would certainly help speed that timeline.
Thermaltake’s Argent H5 Stereo boasts solid build quality, clear sound and a no-nonsense approach that will either meet your needs or leave you wanting more.
+ Very comfortable, snug fit
+ Excellent sound out of the box
+ Attractive, minimalist design
– 3.5mm only
– Mic doesn’t filter out background noise well
– No way to adjust mic volume levels on the fly
– Hi-res performance could be better
The Thermaltake Argent H5 Stereo is a no-frills headset aimed squarely at gamers on a budget who want to just plug in and play instead of spending time tweaking settings. It looks to compete with the best gaming headsets with a detachable 3.5mm cabling and a detachable mic for easy portability. With an MSRP of $65, the Argent H5 is also an affordable way to experience hi-res audio with great speakers and an impressively wide frequency response.
The Argent H5 Stereo’s sleek, minimalist, stealthy aesthetic does a great job of communicating a commitment to simplicity, and these cans are also very comfortable for long gaming sessions. The question, then, is whether or not this alone is enough to satisfy your needs.
Thermaltake Argent H5 Stereo Specs
Speakers: 20 Hz – 40 KHz
Mic: 100 Hz – 10 KHz
3.5mm (single TRRS and split TRS)
6 feet (2m) 3.5mm cable
Weight (with mic)
0.8 pounds (370g)
Design and Comfort
The Thermaltake Argent H5 Stereo is fairly large in size and decked out in sleek, matte black. It’s a stealthy pair of cans, save for the Thermaltake logo in white on the outside of each earcup. The metal frame is stained a matching black, and the leatherette headband shows off the stitching, where it meets the memory foam padding underneath. The detachable mic matches the stark black finish of the rest of the unit, completing a minimalist overall look that will be at home in a wide variety of gaming setups and won’t look out of place in a professional setting.
The cabling is, likewise, very simple. A single cable that houses the headset controls and ends in a single 3.5mm TRRS plug attaches to the headset via a mini USB connector. Thermaltake also includes an adapter that splits into two 3.5mm TRS connectors for devices that don’t support audio input and output through a single TRRS jack. The controls consist of a single volume wheel and a switch that turns the microphone on and off.
Despite its imposing appearance, the Argent H5 may weigh less than you think at just 0.8 pound. There are lighter wired cans in this price range, and I have a couple of them on hand. The HyperX Cloud Core + 7.1 is 0.7 pound, and SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless is 0.6 pound, but the Argent H5’s weight still allows it to be comfortable to wear for long periods of time. The earcups swivel, letting you rest the headset on your neck when not actively in use. Adjustments to the headband are easy to make too, as the Argent H5 employs the industry standard push/pull mechanism.
The headband and the earcups both feature soft memory foam padding, with the latter offering just the right amount of depth to ensure that your ears are cradled but not crushed against the drivers. Ultimately, the Argent H5 has a tight, comfortable fit. It took minimal adjustment to get it to sit just right on my head, and its grip is firm but not suffocating. The Argent H5’s mic also features a flexible boom arm that’s easy to bend into the optimal position.
I came away from my time with the Argent H5 impressed by how comfortable it was for long gaming sessions. Simplicity seems to be the word used most often during the Argent H5’s design process, and this yielded good results from a comfort and useability standpoint.
It’s unfortunate, however, that Thermaltake opted for 3.5mm connectivity alone. While this does cut down on the amount of cables and adapters that have to be used with the headset, it also limits the overall utility of the device. It would be nice to also have USB connectivity, considering most phones have dropped the 3.5mm headphone jack entirely and gamers with a full sound system hooked up to their PCs will need to unplug some cables to be able to use the headset with the mic if their PC doesn’t support audio input and output via a single 3.5mm cable.
The Argent H5 boasts oversized 50mm drivers that support hi-res audio with an impressively wide frequency response of 20 – 40,000 Hz. For comparison, HyperX’s Cloud Core is specced for 15 – 25,000 Hz, and SteelSeries’ Arctis 1 Wireless for 20 – 20,000 Hz.
For testing purposes, I loaded up 24bit .WAV (I also tested with some of my own mixdowns that were exported as 32bit .WAV files at 96K) and .FLAC files with sample rates of 96K and 192K and listened side by side using both the Argent H5 Stereo and the Steelseries Arctis 1 Wireless, which doesn’t support hi-res audio. I also did side-by-side comparisons with in-game audio and movies. I immediately noticed a much clearer, brighter frequency response. The Argent H5 definitely makes the jump to hi-res audio noticeable, especially if you’ve never experienced that type of audio before.
But when it came to other, pricier hi-res headsets, the Argent H5 Stereo couldn’t quite compete. Hi-res performance wasn’t in the same league as the HyperX Cloud Mix ($197 as of writing) or Asus ROG Theta 7.1 ($290 as of writing) in terms of richness and fullness of tone. And it can’t compete with the Asus ROG Delta S, our favorite hi-res gaming headset, which is more beefed out with a Quad DAC and MQA renderer. That said, the Argent H5 Stereo still sounds markedly cleaner than many headsets in its price range.
Compared to many gaming headsets, the Argent H5’s audio is very well-balanced, lacking the overwhelming bass that is de rigueur in the field. There’s a tightness to the bass response that enhances clarity, alongside a well-defined midrange and clean treble frequencies. The overall frequency response is natural and flat, with good separation between lows, mids and highs that allows audio mixes to sound as they were intended. The drivers do a great job of retaining clarity when they are pushed. Maxing out the volume didn’t produce any notable distortion, and these cans get quite loud.
Gaming audio gets high marks. The flat default EQ curve of the Argent H5 Stereo made sure that details weren’t lost in frantic firefights in FPS titles, like Doom Eternal and CS:GO, while more claustrophobic aural experiences, like Outlast, dripped with menacing atmosphere. True to its namesake, this headset does not offer virtual surround sound natively.
If you insist on surround sound, you’d have to enable Windows Sonic or some other third-party software. While the Argent H5 Stereo does play nice with Windows Sonic, thanks to it being outfitted with speakers that are up to the task, gamers who focus on competitive play may balk at not having native positional audio out of the box.
Music, meanwhile, pops through these speakers with excellent clarity, even at high volumes. The Argent H5 stereo rendered dense material, like Opeth’s Blackwater Park album, and more sparse, punchy mixes, like Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, equally well . At no point during my testing did low end overwhelm the mix, which can be a problem with gaming-grade headphones.
Movies likewise played well over the Argent H5 Stereo. The Battle of Helm’s Deep in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Helm’s sounded thunderous without sacrificing clarity, and the sparse, subtle and eerie mix of The Witch shined.
The overall audio performance of the Argent H5 Stereo is impressive and with no way to tweak it natively, that’s a good thing. Gamers who like to adjust audio settings, however, may be turned off by the lack of options.
The Argent H5 Stereo’s bi-directional mic is serviceable but not great. The frequency response is a respectable 100 – 10,000 Hz, cutting out boomy lows and shrill highs. But the mic doesn’t do a very good job of filtering out ambient noise. During gameplay and test recordings using OBS, the sound of my air conditioner was clearly audible, despite it being on the far opposite side of my room. Keyboard chatter was much louder than it should be too.
Additionally, the mic level by default is on the quiet side — about 3-5dB short of where I want it to be, based on my measurements of other headset mics I have on-hand in OBS software. Because of this, my teammates in competitive titles had trouble hearing me. Unfortunately, there’s no way to adjust the mic level on the headset itself. The inline controls only function as a means to adjust the headphone volume and turn the mic on and off. Adjusting the mic volume would require you to play with settings in Windows or the audio software supplied by your laptop or motherboard vendor.
Features and Software
Unlike many gaming headsets today, there’s no software for the Argent H5 Stereo. This is great for gamers who just want to plug in a headset without installing software to adjust settings. Most importantly, by default, the headset’s audio is mostly good enough to not require any further tweaking. This does cut both ways, however.
The mic volume is not adjustable via the inline controls and will require third-party software to manipulate. The mic itself is also unremarkable – clear enough to prevent complaints but not good at filtering out room noise.
Thermaltake’s Argent H5 Stereo is a solidly built, attractive and great sounding headset that hits the mark when it comes to simplicity and ease of use. It also scores highly when it comes to comfort. These cans provide ample padding and have a snug fit that is free of wobble without feeling constrictive. The Argent H5 Stereo retails for only $65, so it’s also a great value.
Unfortunately, the minimalist approach the Argent H5 Stereo exemplifies also means sacrifices. Connectivity is limited to either a single 3.5mm TRRS or dual, split 3.5mm TRS plugs. Of course, many smartphones have ditched 3.5mm, and it’ll be an annoyance if your system’s 3.5mm jacks are already taken by your 5.1 setup. Without an adapter, you’d have to unplug your external audio system to use the headset.
And tweakers will want to look elsewhere, as there’s no native software for the headset. If you want more control over EQ and mic levels in the same price range, consider the SteelSeries Arctis 1 Wireless or the HyperX Cloud Core instead, which also offer more connectivity options. But you’ll have to forego hi-res audio.
The Argent H5 Stereo’s hi-res abilities make it a nice introduction for those new to the format, but for those serious about hi-res, it’s worth investing in something like the Asus ROG Delta S or the more affordable HyperX Cloud Mix.
But if you’re looking for a gaming headset that looks and sounds great out of the box for a very fair price, the Argent H5 Stereo is easy to recommend.
(Pocket-lint) – Arlo has a wide range of cameras, but is mostly known for its battery-powered outdoor cameras.
The Arlo Essential Indoor Camera, however, is a wired camera designed to sit indoors, sitting in the same sort of position as the ageing Arlo Q.
Dimensions: 52 x 49 x 113.19mm
Privacy Shield shutter
With no battery, the design of the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera is different to most of the rest of the Arlo range, because it’s not as deep, although the “face” of the camera is very much the same size as the rest of the family.
Rather than having a magnetic mount like other Arlo models, it sits on a stand with a ball mount, so you just have to take it out of the box, connect it to the power – and that’s just about it. If you want to wall-mount it, there’s a plate you can attach to the wall that the stand will clip into.
As a wired unit, there’s a power supply in the box with 2m cable, although this is a USB cable so you could potentially power this device without that plug if you have built-in USB ports in your sockets or elsewhere.
One criticism is that the cable is rather stiff, so once you’ve placed your camera, you’ll need to make sure the cable doesn’t then move the camera out of position. It could so with a softer cable cover that’s more malleable.
The big thing that stands the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera aside from some other cameras is the Privacy Shield. This is a physical plate that covers the lens, so when the camera is off, there’s a 100 per cent guarantee that it’s not watching you.
Just glancing at the front of the camera will show whether the white Privacy Shield is open or closed, adding extra peace of mind for those who feel uncomfortable having a lens pointing at them.
If you’re one of those people who will connect the camera to Alexa or Google Assistant, you’ll know as soon as someone asks to view the camera, because the Privacy Shield will have to open, which you can see and hear.
There’s also an LED on the front, with the colour showing the status of the camera: blue means everything is fine, amber shows that there’s a connection problem. You can turn the LED off in the app if you want.
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Connectivity and setup
Wi-Fi (2.4GHz only) or SmartHub connection
Needs the Arlo app
The Essential name in this device lets you know that it will connect directly to your Wi-Fi. As per the Arlo Q previously, this is a device that works perfectly well as a standalone camera, so if you’ve never used an Arlo device before that doesn’t matter. You can also add this camera to an existing Arlo system, of course, and if you have an Arlo hub then you can connect directly to the hub too. The choice is yours, providing some flexibility.
You will need the Arlo app on your phone, however, but once you start the setup process you’ll be guided through everything to get it working. The app controls the whole experience: you’ll be able to control what the Indoor Camera captures and when, giving you a full range of controls.
Unlike other cameras this Arlo’s Privacy Shield will be closed when it’s not in use and for added protection, you’ll only be prompted to unlock with biometrics when you want to make the camera live from the app to provide a live view.
Outside of this, the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera can be added to existing Arlo modes. If you have an existing system, you can have the Indoor Camera go live when you turn the other cameras on – and that can be manually, on a schedule, based on geolocation from your phone, or from any other condition, with a wide range of options in the app.
The important thing to note about Arlo’s cameras is that they don’t capture all the time. They need to be “turned on” via a capture mode, after which they will then start recording once triggered either by motion or sound.
Video and audio capture and performance
2MP sensor, 1080p (Full HD) video
Motion and audio detection
Infrared (IR) night vision
The Arlo Essential Indoor Camera has a Full HD camera on the front with a 130 degree field of view from the lens. It offers digital zoom up to 12x and had infrared illumination to provide night vision. Unlike some of Arlo’s other models, there’s no LED illuminator on this model.
There’s two-way audio, meaning you can capture audio or hear live audio, while also being able to reply via a small speaker on the rear of the camera. There’s no siren on this model either.
Detection can be triggered by motion or sound depending on the placement of the camera. In some conditions, sound might cause too many false alerts, but you can change the sensitivity or remove sound if you feel it’s not helpful.
Captured video is of good quality, with accurate colours during daylight and enough detail in low-light conditions from the IR illuminator to see what’s going on. The lack of resolution shouldn’t be a concern: typically indoor cameras only need a shorter range, while higher resolution on outdoor cameras is mostly about providing great detail when zooming.
The wide-angle lens also captures plenty in its field of view, so you can place it in the corner of the room and know that you’ll get good full coverage. You can crop the capture area to exclude the edges of the frame, for example, so you’re not just recording areas of wall that are irrelevant.
Arlo Smart and additional options
Alexa, Google Assistant integration
Arlo has started pushing its Arlo Smart subscription plan, providing additional features via that route. That means you buy the camera and then potentially face additional costs for additional features in the future.
Arlo Smart unlocks 30 days of cloud storage. That will mean that everything is in the cloud and accessible for a month, so you can look through video and download whatever you need. This has the advantage over local storage in that you can access it from anywhere – although if you connect it to an Arlo SmartHub during setup, you’ll also have the option of storing video to a local microSD card in that Hub.
Without an Arlo Smart plan you’ll get notifications of anything that’s detected and you’ll be able to live stream, but you won’t get any cloud storage, so that’s a good argument for Arlo Smart. There is a three month trial included with the camera, so you can test out the features before deciding if it’s for you.
Beyond that, there are some clever artificial intelligence (AI) features that Arlo Smart unlocks. You can get alerts for specific things, such as vehicle detection, animal detection, package detection, people detection. While most of these don’t apply to an indoor camera, it means you can turn off animal detection, for example, if you don’t want a notification every time your dog walks past the camera.
Perhaps more useful is rich notifications. This doesn’t just send you an image of what triggered the camera, but you’ll get a little motion image, so you can see the movement. This can make it much easier to see exactly what’s happening and decide whether you need to take action or not.
For example, we’ve had our indoor camera triggered by a spider spinning a web across the front of the lens. That’s not something we need to take action about and the rich notification shows exactly what’s happening, so there’s no need to open and unlock the app for a better look.
Arlo can be connected to Alexa or Google Assistant and that will mean you can talk to your device, for example an Echo Show, and view your camera via that device. Interestingly, this bypasses any of the security of the app, so in theory anyone in your house can ask to view your camera at any time.
As we said above, having the Privacy Shield is again a benefit here: if someone else in your house views the camera, you’ll see the Privacy Shield open, so you’ll know straight away.
There’s plenty of appeal in the Arlo Essential Indoor Camera. It works as a standalone device for those who just want some degree of indoor coverage, although it costs quite a bit more than something like the Ring Indoor Cam – which might do much the same basic job.
But there are additional features that add appeal to the Arlo camera. The Privacy Shield is a great option for those who don’t like staring down the barrel of the lens all the time, or worry that they might be being watched.
Arlo Smart adds a range of advanced features, which while not as useful indoors as they are outdoors, does boost the experience for those who subscribe – and adding this camera into an existing Arlo system is likely to be a popular option.
Ring Indoor Cam
Ring’s Indoor Cam offers similar specs and will do much the same job, but you’ll need a Ring Protect subscription to get the most out of this camera.
Nest Cam IQ Indoor
This camera has comparable intelligence to the Arlo camera, but offers a 4K sensor so will capture high quality video.
Soon the Xbox experience will come baked right into your TV. That’s thanks to an Xbox TV app that Microsoft is launching that will bring games directly to your big screen with no console required.
Don’t have a smart TV? No problem. Microsoft has streaming devices in the works, too, which will bring Xbox gaming to any set with an HDMI port.
Microsoft made the announcement ahead of the E3 games conference, which kicks off tomorrow.
“We’re working with global TV manufacturers to embed the Game Pass experience directly into internet-connected TVs so all you’ll need to play is a controller,” the blog post reads.
There’s no word on when the app will launch, nor which TV makers will offer it. There’s also no mention of which games will be available, although the suggestion appears to be that it will tied into Microsoft’s Game Pass Ultimate service, which gives subscribers unlimited access to over 100 top-tier games (including all first-party Microsoft titles) for £10.99 ($14.99, AU$15.95) a month.
The spec of your TV will likely matter a bit, too, but the speed of your internet connection will likely be a bigger factor. Both the Xbox Series X and S are powerhouse consoles, so with no dedicated games machine in the equation, all that processing grunt will have to be handled somewhere.
“We’re also developing standalone streaming devices that you can plug into a TV or monitor, so if you have a strong internet connection, you can stream your Xbox experience,” the post goes on. These could be a streaming stick or dongle along the lines of the Google Chromecast with Google TV and Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K, or it could be a bigger, Apple TV 4K-sized device.
The Vergedescribes it specifically as an xCloud streaming stick, but this appears to be an assumption on their part as Microsoft hasn’t confirmed this in the announcement.
Microsoft is also opening up cloud gaming to more devices by enabling it through the Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome and Apple Safari web browsers. According to Microsoft, “players will be a click away from gaming on almost any device.” Again, there’s no word on hardware or internet requirements.
Xbox’s Phil Spencer has previously hinted at these developments, saying in November that he would expect the TV app to land within a year. So it could be a Christmas treat for anyone still unable to lay their hands on a new Xbox.
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In 2019, facing down extensive investigations by The Wall Street Journal and The New York Timesthat showed Apple’s App Store clearly and consistently ranking its own apps ahead of competitors, Apple claimed it had done nothing wrong — a secret algorithm containing 42 different variables was working as intended, top executives told the Times, insisting that Apple doesn’t manually alter search results.
Why do I bring this up? An intriguing email chain has surfaced during the Epic v. Apple trial where it sure looks like Apple did the exact opposite — admitting it manually boosted the ranking its own Files app ahead of the competition for 11 entire months.
“We are removing the manual boost and the search results should be more relevant now,” wrote Apple app search lead Debankur Naskar, after the company was confronted by Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney over Apple’s Files app showing up first when searching for Dropbox. “Dropbox wasn’t even visible on the first page [of search results],” Sweeney wrote. You can read the whole email chain embedded a little ways below.
As you’ll see, Naskar suggested that Files had been intentionally boosted for that exact search result during the “last WWDC.” That would have been WWDC 2017, nearly a year earlier, when the Files apps first debuted.
The email chain actually reflects fairly well on Apple overall. Apple’s Matt Fischer (VP of the App Store) clearly objects to the idea at first. “[W]ho green lit putting the Files app above Dropbox in organic search results? I didn’t know we did that, and I don’t think we should,” he says. But he does end the conversation with “In the future, I want any similar requests to come to me for review/approval,” suggesting that he’s not entirely ruling out manual overrides.
But Apple tells The Verge that what we think we’re seeing in these emails isn’t quite accurate. While Apple didn’t challenge the idea that Files was unfairly ranked over Dropbox, the company says the reality was a simple mistake: the Files app had a Dropbox integration, so Apple put “Dropbox” into the app’s metadata, and it was automatically ranked higher for “Dropbox” searches as a result.
Apple manually boosts its first-party apps in search results? Funny, I feel like somebody testified under oath that that never happens https://t.co/mTgnw8d8CK
— Steve Troughton-Smith (@stroughtonsmith) June 7, 2021
I’m slightly skeptical of that explanation — partially because it doesn’t line up with what Naskar suggests in the email, partially because Apple also told me it immediately fixed the error (despite it apparently continuing to exist for 11 months, hardly immediate), and partially because the company repeatedly ignored my questions about whether this has ever happened with other apps before.
The most Apple would tell me is that it didn’t manually boost Files over competitors, and that “we do not advantage our apps over those of any developer or competitor” as a general rule.
But honestly, it may not matter whether Apple manually boosted its own apps or not. What matters is the result: for 11 months, Apple’s new Files app owned exact searches for its competitor Dropbox, a company Steve Jobs reportedly swore he would kill off, and it took the CEO of a prominent Apple partner emailing the company before Apple did something about it. And based on The Wall Street Journal’s investigation, Apple may not have done much: the Files app still ranked #1 in the App Store for cloud storage in June 2018, a month after this email chain was resolved, according to an infographic that accompanied the WSJ story.
Besides, the distinction between a “manual” boost and any other kind of boost may be purely academic. Algorithms are written by people, after all. If Apple can build a 42-factor algorithm that gives its own apps favorable results, why would it need to override that algorithm and risk its emails getting caught up in a lawsuit years from now?
It could just tweak that algorithm at will — which is exactly what it did to resolve the WSJ and NYT’s scrutiny two years ago. It only took a single engineer to change the algorithm in July 2019, according to the Times, and Apple’s own apps immediately fell in App Store rankings. But that time, executives said the previous formula wasn’t a mistake. Apple simply wanted to make it look less like its own apps were getting special treatment. So it “improved” the algorithm to achieve the new result it wanted.
Apple provided this statement:
We created the App Store to be a safe and trusted place for customers to discover and download apps, and a great business opportunity for all developers. App Store Search has only one goal — to get customers what they are looking for. We do that in a way that is fair to all developers and we do not advantage our apps over those of any developer or competitor. Today, developers have many options for distributing their apps and that’s why we work hard to make it easy, fair and a great opportunity for them to develop apps for our customers around the world.
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