• Cadillac’s 2017 XT5 crossover makes US debut in LA

    Digital Trends - Thu, Nov 19, 2015 18:16 GMT

    Cadillac’s overhaul of both its lineup and its image continues with the 2017 XT5, which was unveiled at an event preceding the 2015 Dubai Motor Show. The vehicle has just made its U.S. debut at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show, and will enter production next year as the replacement for the SRX. The name, which stands for “Crossover Touring 5,” marks the first time Cadillac’s new naming scheme will be applied to a crossover. The new regime started with the CT6 sedan unveiled earlier this year, and is intended to make the Cadillac model hierarchy easier for customers to understand. It’s not adding much romance to the brand, though. The XT5 is a lot more dynamic-looking than its name suggests. Like the SRX it replaces, there are plenty of slashes and creases on the exterior. The XT5 also sports a more traditional grille with Cadillac’s new wreath-less crest badge, and headlights with the same LED daytime running-light jowls previously seen on the CTS sedan. Underneath the new sheetmetal, the XT5 rides on a new platform that cuts 278 pounds compared to the old SRX, Cadillac says. Like the SRX, the XT5 will be offered with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, the latter using a new “twin-clutch” design that can send 100 percent of power to either the front or rear axle. The rear axle can also vector torque side to side, or decouple completely to save fuel. Related: Cadillac will seek greater independence from GM, chief says In the U.S., the XT5 will be offered solely with a 3.6-liter V6, producing an estimated 310 horsepower and 270 pound-feet of torque. It will be fitted with a start-stop system and cylinder deactivation, which shuts down two cylinders under light loads. An eight-speed automatic will be the only transmission option. In China, the XT5 will be sold with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. On the inside, the XT5 gets the Rear Camera Mirror system previously shown on the CT6. This allows the driver to stream video from a rear-mounted camera to the rearview mirror, providing a clearer view with fewer obstructions, Cadillac says. The camera view effectively “removes” obstacles, like the rear pillars, that normally limit the view through a conventional mirror. Other tech features include integrated wireless phone charging, the built-in Wi-Fi hotspot that’s standard on most General Motors vehicles (separate data plan required), an optional head-up display, and LED interior ambient lighting. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto should both be available by the time the XT5 goes on sale. Cadillac will also offer a Platinum model with fancier exterior and interior trim, in the vein of the current Escalade Platinum. The 2017 Cadillac XT5 will go into production in both the U.S. and China next spring. More »Cadillac’s 2017 XT5 crossover makes US debut in LA

  • Nvidia’s Pascal will take video memory to a whole new level

    Digital Trends - Thu, Nov 19, 2015 17:53 GMT

    Graphics cards have always required extremely quick memory. That’s why for years they’ve sported GDDR5, while main system RAM has used DDR3. However, Nvidia’s next generation of graphics cards, currently codenamed Pascal, will take things to a whole new level by being the first cards to use the second generation of High Bandwidth Memory (HBM). We first saw HBM in AMD’s Fiji XT based Fury line of GPUs and while impressive with regards to its bandwidth, it seemed somewhat constrained by the number of gigabytes that could be packed on to the PCB. Pascal will fix that, with some cards in the new line up sporting as much as 16GB of the high-speed memory. This is possible because HBM2 effectively quadruples the available DRAM per die, by allowing for taller stacks. It also doubles the speed per pin to two gigabytes per second. This, according to the Nvidia reveal at a Japanese technology conference, will give bandwidth in excess of a terabyte per second, more than double what AMD’s Fury X cards currently offer. Related: AMD’s Radeon R9 380X tries to ace 1440p gaming Of course the 16GB sporting cards are likely to be restricted to the top end of the GPU spectrum, with price tags to match, but considering Steam’s hardware survey still suggests that most gamers have 2GB of memory in their GPUs or less, anything with HBM would be a big upgrade for them. What’s really exciting about all this news is that AMD is probably working on a counter to it. After the lukewarm reception its Fury line received, it would be remiss of it not to up its game in 2016 where it has promised to introduce a high-performing CPU competitor in the form of Zen. Neither it or Nvidia have announced when their next-generation graphics architectures will be released, but they’re both expected to show up at some point in the first half of 2016. Also watch: AMD Radeon R9 380X review Please enable Javascript to watch this video More »Nvidia’s Pascal will take video memory to a whole new level

  • Take to the virtual skies with these 6 free flight simulators

    Digital Trends - Thu, Nov 19, 2015 17:48 GMT

    So do you feel the need? The need for… rapid forward movement at an altitude of 35,000 feet? Then you’ve come to the right place. Flight simulation games have been around since electrical engineer Bruce Artwick introduced the prehistoric Microsoft Flight Simulator before it was even called that on the 8-bit Apple II back in the late ’70s, kicking off decades worth of commercial software and giving players a chance to take to the computer-rendered skies. Related: Five concept planes that blast past the speed of sound Artwick’s original simulator lacked the intuitive controls, real-world mapping, and high-def graphics that grace the most recent examples, but it still managed to earn a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, with more than 21 million copies sold as of June 1999. It was an impressive feat, and its enduring success speaks to the effort that entertainment software developers like Microsoft have put into further refining the title. Today’s flight simulators are complex creations that feature 3D rendering and realistic controls, but they also often come at a cost to your machine and wallet. Thankfully, the Internet offers a number of free alternatives that require little more than a few clicks and a budget-friendly machine to get yourself into the virtual skies. Google Earth Flight Simulator (Windows, Mac OS X, Chrome) Google Earth has all sorts of borderline hidden features that we tend to overlook. The interactive virtual globe allows you explore the vast corners of the universe, from the Orion Nebula to the Vortex Galaxy, as well as comb all regions of our own planet in stunning topographic detail. Also buried within the software: a built-in flight simulator that lets users take control of either a Cirrus SR22 propeller plane or an F-16 Viper. It’s not the most realistic or feature-rich simulator — there is no autopilot, sound, crash simulation, or much in the way of aircraft variety — but the software does give you a spectacular bird’s eye of the landscape with 3D buildings provided by Google’s streaming satellite imagery. On-board controls allow you to adjust speed and altitude, but that’s essentially it. You can peruse the globe (or solar system) in a more immersive manner than scrolling around with your mouse and keyboard. Like many flight sims, GEFS lets you lift off from various airports around the globe, start directly in the air, or begin your flight from where you ended your previous session. GEFS Online — a separate flight simulator that utilizes the Google Earth Plug-in Chrome — adds additional airports, aircraft, and an element of online interaction with chat functions and a player-laden world. And yes, 1-in-3 players choose Maverick, Iceman, or Goose for their username. GEFS is not the most pragmatic approach to virtual flying, but it’s easily accessible to the most casual users and doesn’t require any external software should you decide to use Chrome instead of the desktop app. Google also offers a basic GEFS user guide if you’re having trouble with the controls. YSFlight (Windows/Mac OS X) Sometimes it feels like YSFlight hasn’t evolved much from its humble beginnings, but that’s not such a bad thing. The software is incredibly light on system resources, no surprise given its basic design and less-than-impressive visuals, yet it is still offers a robust built-in feature set. And at 35MB, who can really complain? You’ve got more than 60 aircraft to choose from, a diverse selection that includes the Blue Angels F-18 Hornet and an Apache helicopter. There’s also a wide selection of maps that includes the Hawaiian islands and other well-known regions around the globe. Additional features, such as wind variables and day/night settings, can also be tweaked  with relative ease. It’s a very customizable piece of software, allowing you to do anything from fly in Delta formation with AI wingmates or engage in aerial dogfights with your friends. All while the Atari-esque HUB delivers details on in-flight speeds, elevation, direction, and other essential information. Gameplay footage can be recorded and replayed directly within the program, a nice touch, and YSFlight also includes joystick support as well as standard controls for your mouse and keyboard. However, the most incredible aspect of the game is its homespun history. Soji Yamakawa, aka Captain YS, created the simulator on his own as a university project in 1999. He continued to develop the project as a hobby over the years and even now routinely publishes updates to his site. There are far more beautiful flight sims out there, but YSFlight keeps it simple and still welcoming. FlightGear (Windows, Mac OS X) FlightGear is the undisputed champ when it comes advanced settings and pure, unrestricted customization. The open-source software’s roots date back to 1997, but the developers and rabid users community have been expanding and tweaking the freemium title’s extensive map and feature-set ever since. The most recent update arrived in February 2013, bringing the game up to version 2.0 status. However, quality and customization come at a price: the software is the most resource-intensive option on our list. Once installed — a process that can be a hassle if you’re unused to the barebones nature of open-source software documentation — users can navigate the beautiful, 3D-rendered environments in the default Cessna 172 or choose from a deep virtual hangar of aircraft that includes a Boeing 777, an A6M20 Zero, and even a Zeppelin NT07 airship. The software comes bundled with a limited amount of built-in scenery, but various regions of the globe and more than 20,000 airports can be downloaded specifically through FlightGear‘s website, via BitTorrent or purchased as an all-encompassing 4-disc DVD set if you prefer physical media. The daunting installation process and interface are easier to deal with if you’re willing to spend some time using the FlightGear wiki, which walks you through getting the game set up and learning the basic skills needed for take-off, landing, and the like. FlightGear is consistently praised for its realism, earning high marks for everything from the overall flight controls to minute details such as lighting, and an ongoing dedication on the part of the development community. And while it may be big, bulky, and full of high-flying muscle, the abundance of user-curated documentation and stellar support functions are enough to keep any newcomer afloat. Next Page: Three more free flight simulator War Thunder (Windows, Mac OS X, PlayStation 4) No war stirs as much fascination in the public consciousness as World War II — blame it on the memorable battles and the stirring narratives of good and evil. However, for as much suffering as the war caused, WWII fiction tends to lean toward romanticism. For flight enthusiasts, the war is notable for bringing air superiority to the forefront, with aircraft carriers extending the reach of air forces across entire oceans. Set during this period of aerial innovation, War Thunder offers a more action-oriented flight experience, allowing players to fly any of hundreds of different planes for the five great powers (U.S.A., Germany, Britain, U.S.S.R., and Japan.) The game features a few different modes, ranging from more relaxed arcade controls to hardcore simulation. As such, both newcomers and veteran aces will feel at home. War Thunder is also a multiplayer online game, with most battles pitting two sides of 16 players against one another. These battles can emphasize dogfighting, with the goal being to reduce the enemy numbers, or incorporate ground-based objectives. Players can also participate as land vehicles, including tanks and anti-aircraft vehicles. War Thunder operates under a “freemium” model, too. There is no cost to start playing, however not all of the content is available to begin with. Players gain points that can then use to increase their pilots stats as they complete objectives and win battles, thus allowing them to unlock new plans and adjust components such as vision range and G-force tolerance. Of course, dedicated players can also spend money to acquire these things faster, though they won’t have any inherent advantage over those who unlocked them through sheer persistence. Aviation enthusiasts may find themselves overwhelmed the  War Thunder presents. The game’s hundreds of planes come in three broad archetypes: fighters, agile warbirds good at dogfighting; attackers, somewhat slower planes with huge weapons designed to take down armored targets; and bombers, heavily armored planes with huge payloads that can wipe out clusters of ground forces. These categories all have their own strengths and weaknesses, and victory will depend on teams using a healthy mix of the three. Rise of Flight (Windows) World War I tends to live in the shadow of its successor. Perhaps this is due to greater distance of time, or perhaps because Kaiser Wilhelm doesn’t make for as nefarious a historical villain as Hitler. Whatever the reason, the Great War tends to be overlooked in media, outside of the occasional Hemingway novel. That’s a shame, because WWI has quite a few things going for it, not the least of which is being the first major war in which planes were used. The ace pilots of the era — like the Red Baron — were international celebrities, fighting aerial duels that became the stuff of legend. Recognizing the gallantry of old-school dogfights,  Rise of Flight puts players in the pilot seats of classic WWI planes, including the iconic Fokker DR.1 triplane. The first thing players might notice about Rise of Flight is its exceptional commitment to authenticity. The planes are depicted in meticulous detail, from the chassis down to the gauges lining the cockpit. This attention to detail extends beyond the planes, as the various levels are massive recreations of actual locations on the Western Front, rendered in lush detail. While combat is the game’s main draw, it is tempting to simply fly around and take in the view of Verdun. The game features a few different modes, including custom scenarios, multiplayer battles, and a campaign that recreates several historic battles. In addition, there are numerous ways to customize the controls, so whether you prefer mouse and keyboard or the tactile authenticity of a flight stick, you can play Rise of Flight the way that feels most comfortable to you. Best of all, the game is currently available for free on the developer’s website. World of Warplanes (Windows) An aerial spinoff of World of Tanks, the aptly-titled  World of Warplanes puts players in large battles against one another, allowing them to pilot everything from the wooden biplanes of WWI to modern jet fighters. Like World of Tanks, Warplanes follows a “freemium” model: you can start playing for free, but a number of the planes require players to purchase them with real money or in-game currency. In the beginning, players have access to the primitive warbirds of the Great War. Players can earn currency through winning, and this currency can later be spent to unlock more advanced aircraft. However, earning enough to buy a new plane can take a while, and there are a lot of vehicles to unlock. Warplanes is probably the most arcade-style game on this list. The controls are streamlined down to the essentials, so no fiddling with dozens of gauges. While this makes it easier for rookies to learn, it removes a good deal of the depth and authenticity that many people value in flight sims. While it’s easy to start dogfighting, the combat lacks the hallmark nuances of more realistic simulators. The various locales available, all of which will be familiar to military history buffs, are splendid to look at, so players will be able to enjoy the view even if they aren’t blown away by the controls. The good selection of planes available in World of Warplanes, and the progression system to unlock them, will keep many players striving to unlock new tools. For those who want a more casual flight combat game, especially one they can play with friends, World of Warplanes is an accessible option. Updated on Nov. 27, 2015, by Will Nichol: Added War Thunder, Rise of Flight, and World of Warplanes. More »Take to the virtual skies with these 6 free flight simulators

  • Justin Bieber returns for a second round of CarPool Karaoke with James Corden

    Digital Trends - Thu, Nov 19, 2015 17:46 GMT

    His first appearance was hilarious, and now, pop singer Justin Bieber has returned for a second trip with late night talk show host James Corden for his popular Carpool Karaoke segment. When The Biebs originally appeared for the segment in a May episode of the Late Late Show With James Corden, he and the British host belted out a number of his hit tunes, including the then just-released hit Where Are You Now. Corden also discussed lyrics with Bieber, joking with him about silly ones like “eating fondue,” as well as challenging him to solve a Rubik’s Cube. This time around, the pair took the fun beyond just the vehicle, stopping to go shopping for some new outfits. Corden selected what he felt should be the next progression in Bieber’s style evolution, while Bieber dressed Corden up in what the portly host called clearly inappropriate attire for a father of two. Related: Stevie Wonder tries to take the wheel in Carpool Karaoke with James Corden As they leave the store, Bieber tries to shield Corden from the onslaught of fans and paparazzi pretending they’re after the British host. “How do you live like this?” he jokingly asks Corden as he begs the teary-eyed young girls to leave him alone. Karaoke was, indeed, part of the interview, including Bieber’s latest hits, What Do You Mean and Sorry, along with a bit of Kanye thrown in for good measure, and even some Alanis Morissette. Of course what interview would be complete without a mention of Bieber’s recent paparazzi photo and the reported “shrinkage.” Was there really any? You’ll have to watch to find out what the singer has to say, along with an admission of one of his favorite movies (hint: it’s a chick flick). The first version of Carpool Karaoke with Bieber has already been viewed almost 40 million times. Corden has done about a dozen versions of the popular viral segment, with everyone from Rod Stewart to Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, and Iggy Azalea. More »Justin Bieber returns for a second round of CarPool Karaoke with James Corden

  • Cirque du Soleil is using VR to put you on stage in its latest production

    Digital Trends - Thu, Nov 19, 2015 17:45 GMT

    VR is expanding in numerous ways. From sporting events to video games to medical use, virtual reality is shaping up to, potentially, be the next big revolution in tech. Even theater companies are looking to embrace it. Based in Montreal, Cirque de Soleil is the largest theatrical production company in the world, employing over 4,000 people globally, and it’s pioneering VR like you’ve never seen it before. During his time at the Web Summit conference in Dublin, Ireland, Jacques Méthé, president of Cirque du Soleil spoke with Popular Science while showing off a Samsung Gear VR demo of the tech put to use. Entertainment reporter Katie Linendoll documented the experience. “Thanks to virtual reality,” she writes, “I was actually a part of that show.  I saw acrobats dancing around me. A little lady sat on the ground nearby, uttering things in a munchkin-like voice. I turned around to see a magician creeping up behind, too close for comfort. It was by far the most immersive—and intimate—technology I’ve ever been a part of.” Related: Google finally brings virtual reality to YouTube “Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities,” the show demonstrated at the summit, actually presents the viewer as a sort of prop in the virtual performance. The plot centers around an inventor’s curio cabinet, comprised of “curiosities,” including the viewer themself. Strangely enough, perhaps expected from fans of Cirque de Soleil’s’ work, the viewer is actually treated as one of  the curiosities, surrounded by some curious, albeit peculiar, observers. “You are one of these curiosities and you join this bunch of really curious people,” Méthé explains. As a precautionary measure, Méthé noted that Cirque Du Soleil didn’t shell out copious amounts of capital at once for VR. Rather, the production company partnered with Samsung, hence the Gear VR mentioning, as well as Montreal’s Felix & Paul Studios, the creator of the camera used to record the performance. André Lauzon And that camera was key to creating Kurios as it’s seen today, as it’s capable of recording 360-degree video as well as immersive 3D audio. “Why would you show things only in front of you when the device can show you all around you, and on top of you and almost below you?” Méthé inquires. This allows for a clear-cut filming process, but a cumbersome post-production one, Méthé says. “The hardest part here is post production, because you need to put all of these images together into something that is completely seamless and stereoscopic,” he explains. “Why would you show things only in front of you when the device can show you all around you?” Presently, this Cirque du Soleil experience can be yours if you already have a Gear VR or Google Cardboard in-hand, though Popular Science notes it’s available on other affordable VR headsets as well. However, the technological advancements don’t stop at VR for Cirque du Soleil. In fact, Méthé notes that the company is ramping up its digital technology use in its shows. This includes “Toruk the First Flight,” featuring heavy influences from James Cameron’s  Avatar, as well as programs more geared towards children. “We’re just at the beginning of exploring new ways to tell our stories,” proclaims Méthé. More »Cirque du Soleil is using VR to put you on stage in its latest production

  • Knights Landing to bring 72 compute cores to workstations next year

    Digital Trends - Thu, Nov 19, 2015 17:30 GMT

    Although developers are still trying to figure out how to utilise additional cores in meaningful ways, adding extra threads to a CPU is certainly an easier way to improve performance than boosting clock speed and other traditional techniques of speeding up a processor. So perhaps that’s why Intel has one with a ridiculous 72 cores that it wants to bring to desktop systems from its super-computing labs. Known as the Knights Landing version of a Xeon Phi chip, Intel says it will be shipping a select number of workstations that are built around the monstrous chip, as soon as 2016. The larger than usual systems are traditionally designed with high-end scientific calculations, film editing and other performance intensive tasks in mind – a place where a chip designed to enhance the power of a supercomputer could really come in handy. While any mention of desktop systems and super-computing parts is likely to have the enthusiasts among you frothing at the mouth, Intel isn’t planning on using the Knights Landing chip to change the way we operate our home PCs. This is an experiment to see if Intel’s super-computing hardware can be used in more general scenarios to help augment already existing hardware. Related: Dell’s latest mobile workstations come packing Intel Xeons As PCWorld explains it, the Knights Landing CPUs will be loaded into the workstations individually as an add-in card, and will handle background tasks like the operating system’s maintenance, as well as providing some assistance to improve application performance. How is it capable of this? Because it’s built much more like graphics hardware than traditional CPUs. It offers parallel computing, yet still utilizes the x86 instruction set. It’s because of this different way of doing things that the Xeon Phi chips are not really designed with traditional desktops in mind, but that does not mean that some of its innovations won’t carry over to future consumer grade hardware. For example, the Knights Landing chips have 15GB of on-board MCDRAM, providing masses of memory bandwidth (much more than DDR4) on the package, so latency is almost non-existent. Although not available to buy just yet, previously models of this sort of workstation chip have cost several thousand dollars a piece, so expect this one to be roughly the same. Also watch: Asus ROG GX700 Hands On Please enable Javascript to watch this video More »Knights Landing to bring 72 compute cores to workstations next year

  • Focal Dimension review

    Digital Trends - Thu, Nov 19, 2015 17:20 GMT

    While its competitors were clamoring over themselves to produce a sound bar, French audio manufacturer Focal took a more reserved position, waiting to see how the landscape would develop. Having built its reputation on high-quality bookshelf and floorstanding speakers, the company wasn’t interested in producing just another slim sound solution. The result of its patient efforts is the Dimension sound bar and subwoofer, a pairing that aims to match exquisite sound quality with functional form. The Dimension sound bar is versatile enough as a solo act, but the matching subwoofer delivers a convincing performance in its own right, making the pair a formidable proposition. Of course, at $1400 (online) for both components, the system should deliver a serious wallop. The question still remains, though: Is it worth it to spend as much on these two components as some spend on a full 5.1 home theater system? We dove in to find out. Out of the box The Dimension comes with a power cable that includes a large, heavy brick — juice required to run both the sound bar and subwoofer. Additionally, there are two L-shaped brackets which act as a stand, one wall mount, a small remote control, and a user manual. The subwoofer box includes even less accessories, with only a very short speaker wire packed with the unit. Features and design Focal makes clear in its marketing photography that the Dimension sound bar and subwoofer are meant to be joined together. With a matching contoured slant and a really short audio cable to link them, Focal obviously means its sound bar to sit neatly in front of the accompanying sub. Doing so creates something more akin to a sound base from a visual perspective, though with a bit of doing, it would certainly be possible place the subwoofer elsewhere. Still, the idea here is to place the TV on top of the whole setup, and if that’s something you have in mind, be sure to check the dimensions of both your TV stand and the sound bar/subwoofer combo first. Bill Roberson/Digital Trends Bill Roberson/Digital Trends Alone or together, the sound bar and subwoofer look refined enough to fit well within the confines of a neat and tidy space. The Dimension series isn’t particularly flashy, and it doesn’t need to be. The clean lines and all-black color scheme make the components neutral enough never to look out of place. Inside the Dimension sound bar is 450-watt, 6-channel amplifier – 75 watts for each of five dedicated drivers. The sixth amp is dedicated to the sub because it’s passive. If you’d rather use your own subwoofer, you can either wire up a passive sub, or use the subwoofer line-out jack on the back of the sound bar to connect a more conventional powered type. We most certainly recommend the latter. The Dimension sound bar supports 1080p and 3D via HDMI, but not 4K Ultra HD. Multichannel audio with DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 is also natively supported, but not DTS-HD or Dolby TrueHD. A touch-capacitive control panel is situated to the right when facing the unit. When on, the control layout will light up as the sensor inside recognizes a simple wave of the hand in front of it. It’s important to mention here that not all available (and necessary) functions can be accessed through this panel. Some functions are only available on the tiny card-style remote – an issue that would later cause us some trouble. Setup The two L-shaped stands that come with the sound bar are required to prop it up on a table, and Focal smartly utilized a sliding bracketing system to lock them in place instead of having to screw them in. In a scenario where the subwoofer isn’t in the picture, the wall mount offers a different placement option. In spite of Focal’s short audio cable, it would be possible to mount the sound bar and still connect it to the subwoofer laid out, perhaps, on a table or entertainment console below using a longer length of speaker wire. For some, the subwoofer is even slim enough that it could be placed under a couch, though you’ll need a good length of speaker wire for that, and hiding it may take some doing. Related: LG 65EF9500 OLED TV review The back of the sound bar features various useful inputs and outputs, albeit tightly packed together in a recessed bay toward the middle. You get HDMI In 1.4 (CEC), HDMI TV 1.4 (ARC and CEC), RCA analog out, optical digital input, Aux-In and a mini-USB port for firmware upgrades. Next to that are four settings selectors that you can flip based on the sound bar’s position, distance to the viewer, room acoustics and whether the sub is in play or not. It also supports Bluetooth aptX via a separate adapter that Focal sells with the sound bar. Using that adds audio streaming from mobile devices and computers to the mix. Bill Roberson/Digital Trends This all presents a number of different connection options, and we tried a few. We didn’t have an audio receiver to pass through the various components we had, but we did use an HDMI splitter for a short time. We also used the optical digital input directly from our TV to have the audio work with anything we already had plugged into the back of the TV. And we also tried connecting a cable box and Apple TV to the TV directly, with another HDMI cable going to both HDMI ARC ports and a Blu-ray player going to the HDMI CEC port on the soundbar. After encountering some bizarre issues with unresponsiveness on the included remote, we added the Dimension to a Logitech Harmony remote and took it from there. Audio performance Most of the different settings options Focal makes available on the back of the Dimension sound bar seem to have very subtle effects on the resulting sound quality, save the subwoofer settings. Here, there are three options available, one for a setup wherein the sound bar acts as a standalone speaker – resulting in more bass from the sound bar itself – one which trims bass from the sound bar to pass more of it along to a passive subwoofer, and the last which also trims bass from the sound bar and routs a subwoofer signal to an available subwoofer line-out jack. It’s worth taking the time to make sure all the settings are correct, but know that special attention must be given to these sub settings. We did most of our testing seated from our TV and the sound bar system from a 9-foot distance, and watched and watched as diverse a set of content as we we could over a three-week span, including a healthy dose of all kinds of sporting events, as well as TV shows and movies served up via Netflix, Plex and Blu-ray disc. We also watched music videos and casted YouTube videos via Chromecast to gauge performance. The beauty of the Dimension sound bar is that it treats all content neutrally – a very good thing. Our feelings about the Dimension subwoofer are a bit more mixed, though. In our experience, the sub didn’t seem to provide a significant benefit over the sound bar’s own impressive bass response unless we kicked up the overall bass level and pushed the volume up significantly. Pronounced, but never too thick, the subwoofer’s low frequency prowess was expressed like a groundswell that rumbled on cue. This approach benefits dialog, which didn’t have an underlying baritone making it sound unnaturally beefed up, freeing the excellent drivers built into the sound bar to deliver crystal-clear center channel effects. Related: Yamaha YAS-203 review The midrange was a little restrained, yet remained prominent out since the bass and treble never spoke out of turn. Indeed, the highs, even when pushing the volume up, avoided ‘screaming’ at us with overpowering stridency and sibilance. Rather, we enjoyed the sparkle and detail the sound bar reproduced with calculated refinement. Bill Roberson/Digital Trends Bill Roberson/Digital Trends This kind of balance was a little surprising for a sound bar that has five drivers so tightly packed together. Stereo separation is impressive, and while we recognize there may be better sounding sound bars at similar price points, we can’t help but heap praise on Focal for putting together a solid sonic debut here. The Dimension particularly excels with music playback. Focal’s wireless Bluetooth adapter does simplify streaming, which is great for users of all stripes, and we liked the consistently good feedback we were getting, no matter what we played. With that said, we’re not sure why Bluetooth is made an option at this price point – why not just build it right in? Bluetooth isn’t exactly the audiophile’s first choice for wireless playback, but at least there’s an Aux-In jack on the sound bar to provide alternatives. We made use of that by plugging in a Chromecast Audio to give the sound bar Wi-Fi compatibility for streaming at higher bitrates. Google’s dongle is still somewhat of a walled garden in that it doesn’t support too many music apps, so we also tried high-resolution audio tracks directly from a laptop to see how they fared. The results were highly encouraging, though we knew we could get cleaner sound from a really good two-channel setup. Having not mounted the Dimension on a wall, we couldn’t assess how effective its boundary compensation switch was for mitigating chesty bass effects. However, we did audition the sound bar on its own for a while, and although the bass is impressive for a sound bar in general, it didn’t take long for us to conclude that it’s worth paying an extra $300 to bring the sub in for those who don’t like the idea of placing a more expensive, dedicated sub in another area within the room. The challenges we experienced were less about audio performance and more about positioning. As an example, plugging in the Chromecast Audio over a week after first setting up the speaker wasn’t particularly convenient because of how the sound bar rests in front of the sub. And because the connections are packed so closely together, it was difficult to make adjustments. A slightly larger bay and a couple more HDMI ports would be appreciated, given how ubiquitous the latter are in any home theater. Related: Creative Sound Blaster Roar 2 review This puts the whole thing in a unique situation where you have to measure deployment of the system with the audio quality you get from it. For us, the trade-off is worth it, in spite of whatever headaches there might be in getting the two components placed, hooked up, and ready to go. One final (and important) note: Focal positions the Dimension sound bar as a discrete 5.1 surround sound solution. And while it may be true that some of the drivers are producing discreet surround signals, and there is a dedicated center channel at play, the sound bar in no way imparts that immersive feeling most folks want out of a surround sound setup. If that’s a focus for you, consider one of Yamaha’s advanced Sound Projector solutions. Conclusion While Focal’s Dimension is no substitute for a good multichannel surround system it does a wonderful job of delivering high-fidelity sound in smaller spaces where multiple speakers simply aren’t an option – that goes double if musicality is a critical part of what you want from a compact sound solution. The Dimension system isn’t the best in its class, but it fills a specific need in a very unique way. If you get a chance to give it a listen somewhere, we advise you do. We think you’ll come away impressed. Highs Great, consistent sound quality Versatile setup options Solid connectivity options Attractive, neutral design Lows Setup requires thinking ahead Inadequate speaker wire for sub Wish for more HDMI ports More »Focal Dimension review

  • Make the next-gen jump this Black Friday with one of these 4 Xbox One bundles

    Digital Trends - Thu, Nov 19, 2015 17:13 GMT

    Note: Because pricing and availability frequently changes, it’s possible some of the deals listed below may no longer be available or will only be available on select dates. Microsoft has seen its fair share of ups and downs since the launch of the Xbox One in November, 2013. However, although the console hit shelves with a limited selection of titles and higher price tag than that of Sony’s PlayStation 4, it’s come a long way since that initial debut. Console exclusives such as Rise of the Tomb Raider and Halo 5: Guardians now provide both casual and die-hard gamers with an experience they can’t find anywhere else, while remastered editions of big-budget blockbusters like Grand Theft Auto further bolster the console’s appeal with vivid visuals and next-gen gameplay — not to mention more vulgarity and drug references than Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street and  The Departed combined. Related: Bundle up for winter with one of these 5 great PlayStation 4 deals Fortunately, Black Friday means big savings for gamers and those looking for a competent media hub at a discounted rate. Most deals come from big-name retailers such as Target and Best Buy, but sadly, most will also expire within hours and days of going live. Below are four of the best, whether you’re looking to pick up a bonus gift card or an extra controller in the process. Finding the right deal is rarely as easy. Xbox One (500GB) |  Gears of War: Ultimate Edition | $60 Gift Card  ($300) There was a time, before Amazon, when Target was the go-to retailer for choice for many. The company’s 40-page Black Friday ad makes it easy to see why, highlighting myriad deals for those looking to pick up consoles and games alike. This year, Target is offering a 500GB Xbox One console with the lauded  Gears of War: Ultimate Edition and a $60 gift card for online and in-store use. Walmart is also offering a similar deal, though the latter only includes a $30 gift card. Available November 27 Target Xbox One (500GB) | Gears of War: Ultimate Edition |  Fallout 4 | Extra controller ($300) Many critics and consumers are already calling  Fallout 4 the game of the year. Dell knows this, and as such, the retailer is bundling the post-apocalyptic title with a 500GB Xbox One console and a copy of  Gears of War: Ultimate Edition. The retailer is also throwing in an extra Xbox One controller to sweeten the deal, an added peripheral that typically retails for $60. The online-only “doorbuster” deal likely won’t last long however, so be ready when the clock strikes 6 p.m. Available November 26 at 6 p.m. EST Dell Xbox One (1TB) |  Rise of the Tomb Raider | Tomb Raider |  Extra controller  ($350) The rebooted Tomb Raider franchise is nothing short of astounding. Rise of the Tomb Raider is the perfect example, too, with lush environments and a campaign that seamlessly blends a wealth of engaging combat scenarios with a brilliant narrative. Thankfully for new gamers, Best Buy’s Black Friday deal features a 1TB Xbox One console and the latest installment in Lara Croft’s timeline, not to mention its 2013 predecessor ( Tomb Raider)  and an extra controller to boot. Available November 26 at 5 p.m. EST Best Buy Xbox One (1TB) |  Fallout 4 | Fallout 3 ($350) Hhgregg might be a lesser-known retailer to anyone living on the West Coast, but you don’t need to be anywhere near Kentucky or Atlanta to take advantage of the company’s lightning-quick deals. The retailer’s best bundle includes a 1TB Xbox One Console and the aforementioned Fallout 4, along with a digital copy of its predecessor ( Fallout 3) for those wanting to explore the last-gen wasteland before tackling the deathclaws lining its recently-released counterpart. Available November 26 at 4 p.m. EST hhgregg More »Make the next-gen jump this Black Friday with one of these 4 Xbox One bundles

  • Instagram shuts off API access for feed reading apps

    Digital Trends - Thu, Nov 19, 2015 17:12 GMT

    Instagram is tightening control of its app by shutting off access for feed reading apps in its new set of rules for developers. In a blog post, the company said its update to the platform aims to “improve people’s control over their content and set up a more sustainable environment built around authentic experiences.” In addition to streamlining Instagram and making the user experience more consistent, the move also addresses community concerns of where user photos are being shared and viewed. Developers using Instagram’s API (Application Program Interface) will have to submit their apps for review by June 1, 2016. On December 3, Instagram will begin “reviewing new and existing apps before granting full API access.” All clients using the API will have to submit their app for review, but apps that feature photo-editing or ones that simply pull your own Instagram posts will not be affected by the API restrictions. “Apps created on or after November 17, 2015 will start in Sandbox Mode and function on newly updated API rate-limits and behaviors. Prior to going Live, and being able to be used by people other than the developers of the app, these apps will have to go through a new review process,” a note on Instagram’s site said. Related: Justin Bieber may have broken Instagram, but Facebook fixed it The Sandbox Mode will let developers build and test their app as it is being reviewed. Apps like Phonegram, Retro, and Webbygram will have to change to meet Instagram’s new requirements. Although it seems like a big change, the number of feed apps the update will affect is small. Instagram hit 400 million users in September, but according to TechCrunch, even the most popular third-party client has “0.5 percent or fewer as many monthly active users.” Instagram’s newly simplified platform policy also cited areas in which it plans to improve support, such as helping brands and advertisers manage their audiences better, help users share their content with third-party apps, and improve tools for publishers to discover content. The news may incite groans from developers, but the company is providing six months of preparation before submission for the review period ends, giving them some time to focus on photo-editing. Also watch: Boomerang from Instagram (Hands-On Review) Please enable Javascript to watch this video More »Instagram shuts off API access for feed reading apps

  • The Four Horsemen return to the stage in the new trailer for Now You See Me 2

    Digital Trends - Thu, Nov 19, 2015 17:02 GMT

    The 2013 stage-magician thriller  Now You See Me was an unexpected hit when it arrived in theaters, earning more than $351 million worldwide with its ensemble-fueled caper about a group of illusionists who team up for a massive heist. The film’s impressive success made a sequel inevitable, and now the first trailer for  Now You See Me 2 has arrived online, courtesy of Lionsgate Pictures. Set one year after the events of the first film, Now You See Me 2 reunites the stage magicians collectively known as “The Four Horsemen” — played by Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco, and Lizzy Caplan (who replaces Isla Fisher) — for another high-stakes heist. This time around, the group finds their considerable talents pitted against a new, clever foe who forces them to work for him. Now framed and on the run again, the group must pull off another, even more dangerous heist in order to clear their names. Related: Dave Franco returns alongside Seth Rogen and Zac Efron for Neighbors 2 Now You See Me screenwriter Ed Solomon returns to co-write the sequel with  The Proposal screenwriter Pete Chiarelli, and  G.I. Joe: Retaliation and  Step Up 3D filmmaker Jon Chu takes over as director from Louis Leterrier. Along with Harrelson, Eisenberg, Franco, and Caplan, the film also features the return of  Now You See Me cast members Mark Ruffalo ( Avengers: Age of Ultron), Michael Caine ( The Dark Knight), and Morgan Freeman ( The Shawshank Redemption). New additions to the cast include Harry Potter franchise star Daniel Radcliffe, as well as  The Green Hornet and  The Interview actor Jay Chou. A third film in the franchise has already been announced and is reportedly in the planning stages at the studio, with production expected to begin quickly if the sequel performs well. Now You See Me 2 is scheduled to hit theaters June 10, 2016. More »The Four Horsemen return to the stage in the new trailer for Now You See Me 2

  • Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 firmware update fix freezing issue

    Digital Trends - Thu, Nov 19, 2015 16:08 GMT

    2015 has been a big year for Microsoft. Along with the release of Windows 10, the firm is gradually moving away from its old irregular releases of software and toward subscription models and more frequent updates. Before now, though, the software giant laid the groundwork for this type of patching and tweaking with its Surface Pro firmware updates, and those look set to continue following the release of the Surface Book. This update brings with it some simple changes to the various 2-in-1 systems that Microsoft has put out in recent months. For starters, it will improve stability for both Surface devices, and provide an update to its Management Engine that will improve optimizations with touch. That function was also augmented through tweaks to the Precise Touch Device driver, which was brought up to v1.1.0.217. An update to the Microsoft Surface ACPI-Compliant Control Method Battery driver should also ensure that the correct Surface driver is installed — a problem that a few Surface users ran into prior to this update. Related: Microsoft Surface Pro 4 review According to a Microsoft answer thread, many of the changes made this time around were to fix a freezing issue that some Surface users were dealing with. Developers, however, are still working on fixing up a problem with graphics driver crashes. Although far from a big update in any sense of the word, it’s good to see Microsoft continuing with its plans to optimize and improve different aspects of the Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 after their release, much as the firm has done with previous generations of Surface hardware. If you are a Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book owner, then chances are these updates have been applied automatically. If they haven’t however, you can trigger them manually by opening up the Update and Security settings on your device and clicking on the ‘Check for Updates’ button (as per Winbeta). Also watch: Microsoft adds a robot guards, ushers in Sci-Fi apocalypse Please enable Javascript to watch this video More »Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 firmware update fix freezing issue

  • Samsung Gear S2 review

    Digital Trends - Thu, Nov 19, 2015 16:00 GMT

    I was blown away by the Gear S2 watch at the IFA trade show this year. Maybe I had Berlin goggles, but Samsung unveiled its new watch flawlessly, and it was the best-looking, easiest-to-use watch I had ever seen, from an interface standpoint. I stand by most of my initial reaction. The Gear S2, in many ways, is the best Samsung product in years. Unfortunately, since the final version of the watch hit my wrist, the experience hasn’t been all daisies and daffodils. Samsung has made one of the most compelling smartwatches yet, and seems to finally understand why folks might want a watch at all. Sadly, severe connectivity issues and a lack of available software have mostly ruined our initial reviewing experience. Updated on 11-19-2015 by Jeffrey Van Camp: I added a small explanation of what the Reactivation Lock is intended to do. Yesterday, I added another review that also had connection issues, added which phones we tested with, and tweaked wording in that section slightly for clarity. Thank you for all your comments! Beautiful and comfortable The user interface of a watch is important, but an attractive and comfortable design is more important. Watches are fashion statements, and no one wants to wear something crappy or huge just for some notifications. A lot of post-Apple Watch wearables are looking more acceptable on the wrist, but the Gear S2 is the best-looking, best-sized smartwatch yet. Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends Perfectly round and sized at a comfortable 1.2 inches (42mm total case size), it’s an optimal size to fit on a large variety of wrist shapes and sizes. It’s in between the two Apple Watch sizes, and comes in two designs, a sporty version and a Classic version. The Classic also has a ribbed watch face and traditional lugs, making it compatible with any 20mm watchband. There are versions of the Sport with added 3G/4G connectivity as well. I tested the stainless steel Sport version with Bluetooth, which has a brushed metal finish and winged-style straps that make it look a little more elegant on smaller wrists. The strap that comes with it is a rubbery silicone, which feels a lot like the Apple Watch Sport bands. The bands on the Sport are easily removed via a button on the bottom of each, and replaceable with other Samsung-made straps. There are already a number of choices at launch, though if the Gear S2 doesn’t take off, early adopters will have a hard time finding straps in a couple years. Samsung is known for iterating fast and abandoning losing ideas pretty quickly. It calls this cut-and-run philosophy “relentless innovation.” The button layout on the Gear S2 is straightforward and better than any other smartwatch. It has two navigation buttons on its right side. The bottom one acts as a power button and Home button, which brings you back to the home screen, and the top acts as a Back button, bringing you back into the previous menu, like an Android phone. Both buttons are comfortable to press and easy to find, even in the dark. Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends The Gear S2’s secret weapon, however, is the bezel surrounding its screen, which turns and twists like a radial dial of sorts, allowing you to easily select and scroll through onscreen menus. Operating like a tiny little steering wheel, it has a pleasant click to it as you turn, giving light tactile feedback so you know how fast you’re wheeling around. Finally, there is a heart-rate monitor on the bottom of the watch (which is pretty common these days). It also tracks steps at all times. Operating system Samsung’s new interface is brilliant — the best around — blending Apple’s best innovations with smart, thought-out designs. All of the menus are built with a round screen in mind, and using the rotating bezel to scroll through menus, or swipe around as you would on a phone, is incredibly intuitive. Samsung’s best innovation is simplicity. It’s a button click (or swipe) to get to the radial apps menu, a swipe down to access the battery life and connectivity menu, a swipe right to check notifications, and a simple swipe left to see your widgets. And, of course, you can do all of this with the rotating bezel as well, which clears up valuable screen space that your fingers take up when swiping. Every menu and app is designed to perfectly fit this easy, round design philosophy, with the exception of the square calendar app. Samsung definitely stole a note from Apple with its watch customization menu. It looks and operates identically to the Apple Watch, but we can’t complain a ton, because it works. An added bonus: Samsung watch faces can be interactive. Several baked-in faces animate to show if you’re meeting your fitness goals, and companies like CNN have created special watch faces with their headlines scrolling past. You would never know, but this entire watch runs on Samsung’s own Tizen operating system, which is in its new smart TVs but absent from its Android-powered phones. It wasn’t fun to use on the original Galaxy Gear, but six watches later, the Gear S2 shows that maybe Samsung can do its own thing. Except for one major problem: There are no apps. Seriously, there are almost no apps for this watch. Samsung has its own app store, and claims that there are thousands of apps, but aside from the Flappy Bird clone, Yelp, Nokia Here Navigator, ESPN, Bloomberg, and CNN, there’s nothing you’ll want to use. Samsung’s apps are fantastic, especially its fitness app, but there just isn’t anything else. Related: 20 Samsung Galaxy S6 problems and how to fix them Neither Android Wear nor the Apple Watch has great apps yet, but they at least have some. Unless the number of brand-name, notable apps in Samsung’s Gear store picks up quickly, I’m afraid this watch may be dead on arrival. Samsung desperately needs to attract more developers to its watch. Massive connectivity bugs, and lag As much as I love wearing and using the Gear S2, it’s one of the most frustrating products I’ve ever reviewed. I tested the device paired with a Nexus 5X and Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus. The setup process is fairly straightforward when it works. You download the Android app (the Gear S2 is Android-only, for now), find the watch, and then hit Yes on both devices. This will probably work the first time you set up your Gear. After that, prepare for hell. There is a massive bug with the Gear S2. As best I can tell, if you wear it until it runs out of battery, it will never reconnect to your phone again. The only solution is a factory reset, where you lose all your data and apps. I’ve had to do this three times now. Other users and reviewers have reported similar issues. This bug makes the watch nearly unusable. I don’t know if every Gear S2 has this problem, but several other reviewers — AndroidPit, GreenBot, AndroidHeadlines — have struggled with the exact same problem. Switching the phone you use it with is another ordeal. It will require a factory reset, but if you had a different Samsung/Android account connected to the Gear S2 on one phone, factory reset it, but enabled the Reactivation Lock feature, you’re in trouble. This feature is meant to prevent a thief from stealing your watch, factory resetting it, and reselling it, but Samsung has not worked out the kinks. The Reactivation Lock is a nightmare if you are the person trying to switch phones or users. DT Mobile Editor Malarie Gokey and I swapped the Gear S2 between us (a family might try to do this as well), but even though she factory reset it, it would not connect to my Galaxy S6 Edge Plus because she had turned on the Reactivation Lock. There were no good on-screen prompts for how to proceed — a hard reset and debug menu didn’t help, either. In the end, I had to log in as Malarie on my phone to make it work. It was a colossal pain in the ass. Don’t ever factory reset a Gear S2 before you disable the Reactivation Lock. In addition to these crippling bugs, the watch repeatedly had trouble staying connected or reconnecting at a decent speed. Samsung smartly made it so you hardly notice if the Gear S2 disconnects, but it doesn’t seem to like to hold a connection, for whatever reason, and there’s no settings menu on the watch to easily connect and disconnect from phones. And when it is connected, it’s often slow. Notifications often never came to the Gear, or came slowly. The few apps there are — like Bloomberg, Yelp, and CNN — take so long to load that they’re nearly worthless. What’s the point of opening an already crippled Yelp app on my watch if it takes twice as long as pulling out my phone and opening the app there? Finally, we never encountered much lag in the OS, but if you scroll quickly, it will fail to keep up. More annoyingly, if you have an app that sends multiple notifications, such as a chat app, Samsung’s swipe-up-to-delete gesture will fail to work. Instead, it will just scroll through the notifications. Eventually, if you press hard enough or get lucky, these notifications will vanish, but they do so in an ugly, laggy way. Related: Don’t Abandon the note, Samsung! The connectivity and notification problems above are reason not to buy the Gear S2. They are terribly concerning and turned what could be the best smartwatch into something I’ve completely given up on. Solid specs I discussed some of the Gear S2’s lag issues with notifications in the Connectivity section, but here are some hard numbers, for those of you who like specs. The Gear S2 has a gorgeous 1.2-inch 360 × 360 pixel Super AMOLED screen that couldn’t look nicer. It’s covered by Gorilla Glass 3, runs Samsung’s Tizen OS, has a 1GHz dual-core Qualcomm MSM8x26 processor, 4GB of internal storage, 512MB of RAM, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, a heart-rate monitor, an accelerometer, a barometer, and a 250mAh battery. Related: Samsung Galaxy S7 rumors and news The NFC connectivity will allow it to work with Samsung Pay in the future, though that payment platform doesn’t yet work. It doesn’t currently work on Android Pay, but we hope it will soon. Bountiful battery life The Gear S2 kicks ass when it comes to battery life. The 250mAh battery in the S2 doesn’t sound like much, but I’ve gotten about 2.5 – 3 days out of every charge. I did experience a lot of connectivity issues, which may have improved battery life, but even when it was connecting regularly, the battery killed it. Most watches seem to average about 1 to 1.5 days, including the Apple Watch, so it’s nice to see Samsung excel in this regard. Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends The Gear’s charging cradle is also well thought out. Instead of a hunk of magnetic plastic that awkwardly slaps onto the back of the device, like the Apple Watch, this has a full stand that props the watch up like it’s on a pedestal, with a little indicator light that tells you if it’s charged or charging. 1-year warranty Samsung’s standard manufacturer warranty is normal for a mobile device. A Gear S2 is covered for 1 year after the day of purchase for defects that occur under normal use, though Samsung determines “normal use,” so it can deny any claim it wishes. Don’t expect a repair or replacement if you get the Gear S2 wet or drop it, but if the battery gets very bad before a year is out, Samsung may replace it. You can find full details on Samsung warranties here. Conclusion I love most everything about the Gear S2, but I absolutely cannot recommend it — not at all. I had severe connectivity issues, and it appears that I’m not the only person. Aside from losing connection or slow connection, if the watch ever dies completely, it takes a complete factory reset to get it to connect to a phone again. This is horrible. Samsung has made a watch with possibly the best battery life, best interface, and best design, but it’s hampered by the dumbest and worst connectivity issues I’ve ever seen on a smartwatch. There isn’t a good alternative to buy. Since the Gear S2 is an Android-only watch, and Apple makes the only other capable watch, it causes a pickle. The Apple Watch requires an iPhone and if you’re in the market for a Gear, you probably own a Galaxy or Android phone. Android Wear watches are getting better, but they still aren’t great. If you want to explore that route, try one of the new Moto 360s or the Huawei Watch. The Gear S2 retails for about $300 and most other watches hover around that price. Alternatively, you could choose to go low tech. We like the simple Withings Activite and Activite Pop, though they’re made for slender wrists. If Samsung fixes its connectivity issues, we will update this review. We hope to be able to recommend this watch in the future. Highs Beautiful round design Elegant, fluid user interface Rotating bezel is a true innovation 2-3 day battery life Lows If watch dies, it takes a factory reset to reconnect More connectivity issues Barely any usable apps Reactivation lock is buggy Laggy notification swipe away menu More »Samsung Gear S2 review

  • Two-wheeled time travel: Race a motorcycle like it’s the 1930s at the RSD Super Hooligan

    Digital Trends - Thu, Nov 19, 2015 15:28 GMT

    Motorcycle enthusiasts from all over the nation will meet in Las Vegas, Nevada, this weekend to watch the RSD Super Hooligan flat track race. Held in conjunction with the Superprestigio of the Americas race, the event is sponsored by Polaris-owned Indian Motorcycle. The RSD Super Hooligan race traces its roots back to the 1930s when Clarence “Pappy” Hoel, an Indian Motorcycle dealer, began organizing hill climb races in Sturgis, South Dakota. The modern-day event is held indoors, but it nonetheless pays homage to the races that were held eight decades ago because riders of all ages and skill levels are allowed to participate on virtually any type of motorcycle, regardless of whether it’s stock or lightly modified. The only bikes that aren’t allowed in the event are custom-built race machines called framers. Indian Motorcycle has teamed up with well-known racer and designer Roland Sands to build five custom bikes based on the 2016 Scout (pictured). The yet-to-be-unveiled Hooligan Scouts will be raced in the RSD Super Hooligan by Roland Sands himself, a Red Bull/KTM stunt rider named Aaron Colton, and three surprise guest riders whose names will be revealed right before the event. Sands explains the Indian Scout is an excellent choice for riders looking to build a one-of-a-kind bike. “The Scout is a great machine upon which to base a custom bike with modern rider-friendly performance. The engine and chassis are rock solid and don’t need a lot of work, so DIY customizers can focus on the aesthetic modifications,” said the rider in a statement. Related: The 2016 Indian Scout Sixty is an ode to the open road The RSD Super Hooligan Race will take place at the Orleans Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on the evening of November 21st, though enthusiasts who can’t make it out to Sin City can catch all the action live on website FansChoice.tv. The stakes are high, because the winner will receive the keys to a brand new 2016 Indian Scout. Also watch: Top 10 Most Expensive Cars in the World (Sept 2015) Please enable Javascript to watch this video More »Two-wheeled time travel: Race a motorcycle like it’s the 1930s at the RSD Super Hooligan

  • This new Star Wars teaser puts the focus on Finn with lots of fresh footage

    Digital Trends - Thu, Nov 19, 2015 15:25 GMT

    At this point, every day seems to bring a new glimpse of J.J. Abrams’ vision for the Star Wars universe. Of course, anyone looking to stay blissfully unaware of anything that happens in  Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens might want to look away now, because the latest teaser for the much-anticipated movie features quite a bit of new footage — much of it focusing on John Boyega’s character, Finn. Related: Fan supercut shows just how deadly Star Wars’ Luke Skywalker really is After opening with Finn telling the audience, “You don’t know a thing about me,” the brief preview rolls out a series of sequences featuring Boyega’s character battling a stormtrooper while armed with a lightsaber, having brief exchanges with Daisy Ridley’s Rey and Harrison Ford’s Han Solo, and even piloting a ship that may or may not be the Millennium Falcon. Basically, the teaser makes it pretty clear that Rey won’t be the only star of  The Force Awakens. Fans eager to see more of the now-famous BB-8 will also be pleased, as the teaser includes a few more scenes of the ball-droid in action, too. Star Wars: The Force Awakens “Finn” TV SpotWe’re up for this. Posted by Star Wars on Wednesday, November 18, 2015 Set 30 years after the events of Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens introduces a new set of heroes and villains to the Star Wars universe, while also bringing back a long list of fan-favorite characters from the previous films. The film stars returning cast members Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker, as well as newcomers John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Max von Sydow, Lupita Nyong’o, Gwendoline Christie, Crystal Clarke, Pip Anderson, Christina Chong, and Miltos Yerolemou. The Force Awakens is directed by J.J. Abrams from a screenplay penned by Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Michael Arndt. Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens hits theaters December 18, 2015. It will be followed on December 16, 2016, by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, then Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26, 2017, and the Han Solo anthology movie on May 25, 2018. More »This new Star Wars teaser puts the focus on Finn with lots of fresh footage

  • Everything you need to know about LG Pay

    Digital Trends - Thu, Nov 19, 2015 15:13 GMT

    LG officially announced that it will soon enter the mobile payments market with LG Pay. The Korean company said on Facebook that it has deals with two major credit card companies in the country — Shinhan Card and KB Kookmin Card — but did not mention a specific launch date for the service or details about how the system works. Presumably, it will use Near-Field Communication Technology (NFC) just like Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay. Using the popular NFC system would make it easier for LG to gain support, since it can latch onto all the same retailers whose payment terminals work with other types of mobile payments. Right now, it appears that LG Pay will launch in Korea first, and it’s unknown if it will spread to other markets. Updated on 11-19-2015 by Malarie Gokey: Added confirmation from LG that it will launch a mobile payments service. It’s official! We have partnered with Shinhan Card and KB Kookmin Card to prepare for the launch of LG Pay. (From left:… Posted by LG Mobile on Wednesday, November 18, 2015 Related: Read our LG V10 review Earlier on, South Korean sources said an LG executive confirmed that LG Pay is coming soon at the LG V10 event. LG Pay has reportedly been in testing for a few months now. LG allegedly ran small tests in South Korea on the Watch Urbane and LG G4 in cooperation with local prepaid brand Cashbee. The fingerprint sensor on the LG V10 will support both payment services, sources say. LG is also expected to add a fingerprint sensor on the LG G5, its next flagship, which usually launches in the first half of the year. The announcement of LG Pay won’t necessarily mean that LG will block Google’s Android Pay. The company reportedly intends to support Android Pay with Android Marshmallow on its future devices alongside LG Pay. Related: The $380 LG Nexus 5X is the Nexus 5 successor you’ve been waiting for Once LG does introduce its own mobile payments platform, it’ll be following the trend of LG tagging onto the things its larger and more successful regional rival Samsung does. The Galaxy S6 maker recently launched Samsung Pay, a new intuitive payments service that works with any card reader, regardless of whether it supports contactless cards or NFC-based mobile payments. LG Pay doesn’t sound like a huge advancement in the mobile payments market, but LG might be able to bake in more payment support than Apple Pay or Samsung Pay, to make LG Pay more versatile. Also watch: LG 65EF9500 OLED TV | Review, Specs, Price, and More Please enable Javascript to watch this video More »Everything you need to know about LG Pay

  • Forget batteries, Canada plans to store energy in giant underwater balloons

    Digital Trends - Thu, Nov 19, 2015 14:55 GMT

    Canada’s Hydrostor has developed a creative energy storage solution that is half the cost of the best battery technology and lasts twice as long. The clean energy startup is storing energy as compressed air and then housing the air underwater inside giant balloons. Though it sounds ridiculous, the idea is efficient at energy storage, and an environmentally friendly, zero-emissions solution. Cleantech startup Hydrostor designed and is now partnering with Toronto Hydro to operate the world’s’ first underwater compressed air energy storage system in Toronto. Located 3 kilometers off the shore of Toronto Island, a series of underwater balloons containing compressed air are submerged under 55 meters of water and connected to Hydrostor’s power facility via a pipe. The facility currently is being used to store excess energy from Toronto’s existing power grid during non-peak times It also can be adapted to store energy from renewable energy sources such as wind or solar power, providing the ability to store energy during peak energy generation times to compensate for the occasional downtimes. Related: This off-grid concept house shares energy with a hybrid companion car Under development for five years, the Hydrostor solution takes existing technologies and repurposes them for its clean energy storage solution. To store electricity, the company converts excess electrical energy into compressed air, which is moved through a pipe to the company’s underwater storage facility. The air is then pumped into giant submerged balloons called accumulators that are made from the same material that’s used to raise sunken ships from a lake bed or an ocean floor. The compressed air remains inside the underwater balloons until it is needed by Toronto during peak energy hours. To pump the stored power back into the grid, Hydrostor must first convert the compressed air back into electricity. The system takes advantage of the natural pressure of the lake water to push the air out of the balloons and send it back through the pipe to a turbine. The compressed air-powered turbine then is used to generate the extra energy required by the grid. Compressed air has been considered a solution for energy storage in the past, but it has not been widely adopted because it needs a large area of open space for storage. By using a lake bed, Hydrostor has ample storage space and also can take advantage of the lake’s hydrostatic water pressure in the energy generation process. The company fired up its first pilot facility on November 18 and is capable of providing 660 kilowatts of power, which is enough power to meet the needs of roughly 33 homes. The technology is scalable and, unlike competing battery storage solutions, does not use any toxic substances. Hydrostor hopes to expand its operations globally and is already working with Aruba to build a system similar to the one operating in Toronto. More »Forget batteries, Canada plans to store energy in giant underwater balloons

  • Nissan’s 2016 Juke Stinger Edition is a turbocharged bee

    Digital Trends - Thu, Nov 19, 2015 14:27 GMT

    As if the Nissan Juke wasn’t bizarre looking enough, Nissan is letting customers change certain body parts to contrasting colors through its Color Studio program. Nissan is apparently enthusiastic about the program (which recently expanded to the Versa Note hatchback), given its decision to launch two special editions highlighting it. At the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show, Nissan unveiled the Juke Stinger Edition in black and yellow. Each gets a color scheme that combines those two colors, making the cars look like large mechanical bees. Because having a car that’s just one color is boring. The Black Stinger Edition sports yellow-painted outside mirrors, bumper accents, door handles, and a rear spoiler. On the Yellow Stinger Edition, those same parts are painted black. Both models features black 17-inch alloy wheels, and yellow interior trim, including the air vent rings, accent stitching, door trim, power window switch plates, and center console, which is always painted on a Juke. Related: Nissan Juke-R 2.0 terrorizes with 600 horsepower The Stinger Edition treatment is only available on the Juke SV, meaning buyers get a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. As it buzzes away, it produces 188 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. The only available transmission is a CVT with Nissan’s new D-Step Logic, which simulates the shift points of a geared automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive optional. The Stinger Edition can’t be combined with the sporty NISMO or NISMO RS. Aside from the colorful special editions, the only major change to the Juke for 2016 is the addition of standard Siri Eyes Free voice control for iPhone users. This projects Siri onto the Juke’s infotainment system, allowing drivers to use the car’s built-in controls, and removing the need to tap on a phone’s screen. The Stinger Edition is priced at $990 above the base price of a standard Juke SV. It will arrive in showrooms this January. Also watch: Aston Martin DB10 - Spectre (2015) Please enable Javascript to watch this video More »Nissan’s 2016 Juke Stinger Edition is a turbocharged bee

  • Don’t shoot RAW: Reuters instructs photographers to submit only JPEGs

    Digital Trends - Thu, Nov 19, 2015 14:24 GMT

    Reuters has a new policy for freelance photographers it employs: no RAW photos. The global news agency confirmed it with PetaPixel, saying there’s a need for its photography to “reflect reality,” not to “artistically interpret the news.” Photographers will be required to submit the original JPEG files they shot in-camera. If you aren’t familiar with RAW, it’s an uncompressed format that delivers better image quality than standard JPEG. It has far fewer artifacts than compressed methods, and gives photographers greater post-editing capabilities. But RAW files are large and require processing; when it comes to breaking news, speed is far more important than making things look pretty, and that’s why JPEG is more convenient — it’s ready to use right out of the box, so to speak. JPEGs are easier to work with, as they can be uploaded to websites without major processing, are more efficient to send over email, and are compatible with social media and other Web standards. “We have therefore asked our photographers to skip labor and time consuming processes to get our pictures to our clients faster,” Reuters tells PetaPixel. Related: Reuters brings TV news into the 21st century with new iPhone app But speed is only half the story: “As photojournalists working for the world’s largest international news provider,” Reuters tells PetaPixel that its photography must also adhere to its ethics policies — to tell the visual story as it happened and without manipulation. Last year, an award-winning Associated Press freelance photographer was fired after it was discovered he doctored a video while reporting from Syria, even though he had no ill intension and it was a lapse in judgment. Reuters says it’s not a complete ban. Photographers can still shoot in RAW, but they must also shoot JPEG simultaneously. High-end cameras let you save both at once, but they take up a lot of room on a memory card. More »Don’t shoot RAW: Reuters instructs photographers to submit only JPEGs

  • Audi lays the groundwork for automated parking in the Boston area

    Digital Trends - Thu, Nov 19, 2015 14:20 GMT

    Anyone who’s driven in Boston will tell you that it’s something to avoid at all costs. But the notoriously difficult-to-navigate city and its environs may soon get some help from Audi, which recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the adjacent city of Somerville, Massachusetts, to develop automated parking and other practices to decrease congestion. “The intelligent car can unfold its enormous potential only in an intelligent city,” Audi chairman Rupert Stadler said of the program at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona. The memorandum he jointly signed with Somerville Mayor Josef A. Curatone calls for the development of an “urban strategy” that makes use of networked cars. Somerville is undertaking a large redevelopment project in its Union Square area, and Audi plans to install networked traffic lights there, and build parking garages designed for self-parking cars. The automaker claims these cars will be able to park closer together, allowing 60 percent more vehicles to fit in a given space compared to manually parked cars. Related: Daimler and Bosch want cars to park themselves Audi claims this will eliminate the need for on-street parking in Union Square, freeing up more space and getting slow-moving cars trawling for spaces off the street. The parking garages will also be located further away from the city center in areas that are less attractive for other kinds of development, Audi says. In addition, Audi is working with real-estate developer Federal Realty Investment Trust to integrate self-parking cars into a mixed-use development in Somerville’s Assembly Row neighborhood. The developer hopes use of self-parking cars will reduce the amount of land needed for parking spaces, freeing it up for other uses. A fleet of self-parking cars could save up to $100 million, Audi believes. The carmaker also envisions a fleet of vehicles in Assembly Row managed collectively through a car-sharing program, which could theoretically reduce the total number of vehicles needed to serve residents in the development. The project is located near public transit, which of course attacks the problem of car-based urban congestion more directly. Also watch: Top 10 Most Expensive Cars in the World (Sept 2015) Please enable Javascript to watch this video More »Audi lays the groundwork for automated parking in the Boston area

  • Asus Strix R9 380X OC review

    Digital Trends - Thu, Nov 19, 2015 14:15 GMT

    AMD’s position has recently deteriorated in the video card space, a sign that the issues facing the company’s CPU business are beginning to hold back its GPU division, as well. The core problem seems to be the research and development of new hardware – which makes sense, given AMD’s tight financial position. This has forced the company to fill out its product line with tweaked, re-branded video cards, and the 380X is no exception. Its GPU architecture is similar to that found in last year’s Radeon R9 285. That means there’s no major new features to remark on, and the card targets the same thermal design power (TDP) of 190 watts, provided over two 6-pin PCIe power connectors. Still, the specifications show a card that’s no slouch. It serves up 2,048 stream processors with an engine clock of up to 970MHz, resulting in 3.97 TeraFLOPs of performance. That’s almost double the grunt of a PlayStation 4. Memory bandwidth is a bit less impressive, at least on paper. 4GB of GDDR5 memory communicates over a 256-bit interface at a clock speed of 1,425MHz, resulting in bandwidth quoted at 182.4 gigabytes per second. That’s only slightly more than a PlayStation 4. However, the comparison isn’t apples-to-apples – the console uses one lump pool of memory, while a PC has separate memory for the video card and for other system tasks (the system’s RAM). The R9 380X compares favorably to the GTX 960, which quotes bandwidth of just 112GB/s. Related: Nvidia G-Sync or AMD FreeSync? Pick a side and stick with it While there’s no new headline feature (like the Radeon R9 Fury’s high bandwidth memory) to be found here, the R9 380X does support AMD’s full suite of features. That includes FreeSync, Virtual Super Resolution, PowerTune, and DirectX 12 (at feature level 12_0). Meet the Strix Everything said above refers to reference design – something many manufacturers won’t follow. Our review unit is a great example. Built by Asus, the Strix R9 380X OC bumps the engine clock up from 970MHz to 1,030MHz, an increase of about six percent. The card can go higher in “OC Mode,” though the increase is a mere 20MHz. The overclocking abilities of the Strix are a bit disappointing. A six percent increase isn’t much, and engine clock increases generally don’t result in a linear increase in gameplay performance. Asus itself makes that clear, and claims a tiny three to five percent improvement in most games. Fortunately, there’s more to the card that its clock speed. It also includes a custom dual-fan design that keeps the card cooler and, more important, allows virtually silent operation under certain conditions. I was pleasantly surprised by how well this worked in practice. AMD cards tend to run hotter than their Nvidia counterparts, and that extra heat means more aggressive fans. Here, the card utters barely a peep. In most situations, our test rig’s CPU air cooler made more noise than the card. Bill Roberson/Digital Trends Bill Roberson/Digital Trends Bill Roberson/Digital Trends Bill Roberson/Digital Trends While the fans reduce noise, they also add bulk. The card is 10.7 inches long, 5.5 inches wide, and 1.7 inches thick. It’s one of the largest cards we’ve recently reviewed, exceeding even the GTX 980 Ti’s dimensions in width by a half-inch. That said, the Strix should fit in any case that supports a full-sized PCI Express video card. Related: Is it okay to buy Fallout 4 on the PC? Absolutely! Asus ships the card with its own software suite which controls overclocking and has a variety of performance improvement options, most of dubious use. For example, it can turn off “Windows Services and Processes” that are unneeded. In my past experience, that strategy doesn’t change game performance. The suite works well overall, but I think most users won’t need to touch it. Positioning AMD’s documentation stressed the Radeon R9 380X as a solution for 1080p gaming – and beyond. The company expects that it will play all modern titles smoothly at 1080p resolution, and can handle most at 1440p. Star Wars Battlefront was specifically called out, as you might expect, but the company also listed Grand Theft Auto V, Metal Gear Solid V, and Cars as titles that should average over 50 FPS with detail set to high. Pricing will depend on the particular card, but AMD quotes a base MSRP of $230 for the reference card. Asus’ vanilla Strix, which is not overclocked, sells for $240. Our overclocked review unit carries a $260 price tag. That puts it up against the high end of the GTX 960 line-up, which includes heavily overclocked cards. Entry-level versions of the GTX 970 sell for about $300, which is a good $60 more than the base 380X. AMD has positioned the 380X smartly, wedging it between two of Nvidia’s entries to serve a mid-$200 price point that the green team mostly ignores. 3D Mark Futuremark’s 3D Mark is the gold standard in synthetic benchmarks. The company’s Fire Strike test, which has been available for several years, rarely leads us astray. While relative performance can change from game to game, the average usually falls somewhere close to what 3D Mark suggests. Well, this graph is neat and tidy, isn’t it? The 380X produced performance almost smack dab between the GTX 960 and 970, beating the former by just over 15 percent. That’s a respectable bump, and may be enough to deliver a smooth, 60 FPS experience in games the GTX 960 can’t quite handle. 1080p Performance While 4K monitors are becoming more affordable, most gamers still game at 1080p. Displays supporting that resolution are often less than $200, and the lower pixel count means solid performance can be enjoyed with a modest card. The new R9 380X proves that to be the case, as it’s actually overkill in most situations. Heroes of the Storm and Fallout 4 pose little challenge at this resolution. Both easily exceed 60 frames per second even at maximum settings. Crysis 3 is a different story. This remains one of the most demanding games in existence, and at maximum detail the 380X can’t even manage 30 FPS. It does hit 60 FPS at medium, however. Nvidia’s GTX 960 didn’t catch the 380X in any of the games we tested. Readers should note that the GTX 960 we tested was a 2GB model, while versions equivalent in price to the R9 380X have 4GB. However, that likely would not make a difference. All of the games tested appear to be hitting GPU performance limitations rather than running out of frame buffer. 1440p Performance The R9 380X performs well at 1080p, but that’s not the real challenge. AMD is targeting the cards at gamers using a 2,560 x 1440 monitor. That resolution ups the pixel count by more than 70 percent relative to 1080p, so it’s significantly more challenging. These results make the extra challenge clear. While the 380X played Fallout 4 at 72 FPS on 1080p/Ultra, it averaged just 47 FPS at 1440p/Ultra, a significant reduction that unfortunately takes the game below the magical 60 FPS mark. The same occurs in Crysis 3 at medium detail, which averages only 39 FPS at 1440p. It’s hard to interpret these results in a way that makes AMD’s claim of 1440p gaming seem appropriate. While the card is adequate at that result, it’s not a fire and forget solution. Gamers who buy it will still need to turn off some details to achieve an ideal framerate. Conclusion AMD’s R9 380X fills a specific, but underserved, audience. Gamers who have around $250 have found themselves wedged between $200 options that are meant for 1080p, and $300 options that target 1440p and beyond. The Radeon R9 380X fills that gap, though it’s not an over-achiever, and it’s not powerful enough to play all modern games at 1440p and maximum detail. The card also struggles to define itself relative to Nvidia’s GTX 960. The Radeon R9 380X is quicker than the GTX 960, but not often by a wide margin. From a value perspective, the 380X’s performance is about right. It’s a bit more than 10 percent more expensive than an average entry-level 960, and about that much quicker. While we haven’t had the chance to test the 960 with 4GB of RAM, the results achieved by others who’ve reviewed the card suggest its performance is likely similar to the R9 380X. That means the R9 380X is, like so many recent AMD cards, a reasonable but not exceptional alternative to Nvidia’s hardware. It offers similar performance per dollar and, in the case of the Strix, is similarly quiet, but fails to stand out from the field. Highs Excellent 1080p performance Quiet operation Reasonably affordable Lows 1440p gameplay isn’t always smooth Doesn’t stand out from the competition More »Asus Strix R9 380X OC review

  • Oppo recognizes the value of stock Android, offers a special version for the Find 7

    Digital Trends - Thu, Nov 19, 2015 13:23 GMT

    Many Android smartphone manufacturers love adding their own UI over Google’s OS, but it’s not always welcomed by those who actually use the device. Oppo has realised this, and in a bid to win more fans in places where hardware like Google’s own Nexus range are freely available, it has announced Project Spectrum. It’s a fancy name for a close-to-stock Android ROM, and the new software is available for download right now, provided you own the company’s high-end Find 7 smartphone. Oppo’s own Android UI, called ColorOS, does have a few additional features which augment what’s offered by Android, and the company has taken the sensible decision to leave those in, while removing all the garnish. What we’re left with is Android Lollipop, with the following features. The most obvious, and welcome, addition is Oppo’s own ColorOS camera app. It replaces the standard Google app, and has a manual Expert mode, HDR, various filters, and a GIF creator, plus a beautify and double exposure tool. Related: The Oppo R7S is coming to the U.S. for Christmas The MaxxAudio feature for tweaking the sound produced by the phone is activated as standard, and there are a few handy gesture controls added to the OS, including a double-tap to wake mode. Just because the OS is slightly different, Oppo has still included support for fast charging — a common feature on its phones. Rather than go crazy with customising Android, Oppo’s scaled back and included features we can actually expect to use. Oppo has produced a short demo video showing how Project Spectrum looks, and there’s little to distinguish it from basic Android. It’s reminiscent of how OnePlus has approached its lightly tweaked OxygenOS platform. Android has evolved to the point where it’s attractive and pleasurable to use, and many people don’t want a drastic custom user interfaces over the top. Project Spectrum is proof more manufacturers are accepting this, and it certainly has the potential to attract more people to try out Oppo’s phones. Now we must wait to see if it comes to more Oppo devices. More »Oppo recognizes the value of stock Android, offers a special version for the Find 7

  • Christmas come early? The stylish, powerful Oppo R7S launches for $400 in December

    Digital Trends - Thu, Nov 19, 2015 12:36 GMT

    Oppo, the Chinese manufacturer behind some very unusual phones, announced the R7S in October. It’s an evolution of the R7 released earlier this year, but rather than add crazy features like rotating camera lenses, the R7S concentrates on being thin, lightweight and powerful. It also does a great impression of an iPhone 6S. Updated on 11-19-2015 by Andy Boxall: Added in news of the R7S’s international release date Where you can buy the Oppo R7S Oppo didn’t discuss launch dates for the R7S at first, but has since confirmed the schedule to Digital Trends. The phone will first go on sale during the last week of November in Australia, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam, where it’ll be sold in retail stores. In the U.S. and Europe, the R7S will be available through the oppostyle.com website at the beginning of December, when it’ll cost $400. That’ll be for an unlocked, SIM-free phone. We’re still waiting for an exact date, and we’ll update here when it’s revealed, but keep a watch on the store over the next few weeks if you’re interested. What about the specs? The body is made of a metal alloy with a special coating over the top to maintain the finish, and the Gorilla Glass 3 covering the 5.5-inch screen has a 2.5D shape which Oppo calls Arc Edge. The AMOLED display has a 1080p resolution, and shows Oppo’s own ColorOS 2.1 user interface over Android 5.1. Related: See the Oppo Mirror’s fancy reflective rear cover The latest ColorOS is designed to be much faster than before, with improvements in app launch and boot speeds, plus there are several interesting software additions to the phone. These include notifications appearing on the lock screen, even when it’s asleep, a memory management process, and gestures to launch particular apps or features when the screen is switched off. Oppo has chosen the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 to power the R7S, a considerable step up from the Snapdragon 615 in the Oppo R7, along with a RAM boost to 4GB. There’s a MicroSD card slot to add more storage space to the 32GB internal allocation, and a 3070mAh battery with fast charging capabilities has been squeezed into the 6.9mm thick, 155 gram body. A 13-megapixel camera inside a square lens holder — perhaps the only area where the R7S doesn’t look like an iPhone — is on the rear, and an 8-megapixel selfie cam is on the front. Features include an image stabilization system, editing tools and filters, a special low-light mode, and a beautification setting for the selfie camera. Also watch: Apple iPhone 6S Plus vs. Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Please enable Javascript to watch this video More »Christmas come early? The stylish, powerful Oppo R7S launches for $400 in December

  • Out of desperation, Sharp begs its own workers to buy Sharp products

    Digital Trends - Thu, Nov 19, 2015 11:45 GMT

    Sharp’s electronics business is currently in such dire straits that it’s now asking its workers to buy its own products to help it pull in some much needed revenue. While you might consider it a matter of routine for company employees to consider their own products over a rival’s, the Japanese company’s timing suggests that in this case, their livelihoods may depend on such action. To ensure it doesn’t put too much pressure on its lower-paid workers, the company has even created a list recommending how much each employee should spend according to their position and income. High-earning executives, for example, have been told to purchase Sharp products to the value of at least 200,000 yen ($1,622) , while those working in middle management are being told to fork out at least 100,000 yen ($811). Meanwhile, front line staff need to spend a minimum of 50,000 yen ($405) on Sharp-made goods, the FT reported this week, adding that purchases should be made in the next two months. Plenty to choose from Items they can stock up on – whether for themselves, loved ones, or the attic – include TVs, washers, audio systems, smartphones, microwaves, and air purifiers. Sadly, its wonderfully unique and utterly bonkers RoBoHon robot smartphone isn’t available just yet. Sharp, whose Japanese workforce currently stands at around 18,000, told the FT the sale was voluntary, though to encourage participation a 2 percent discount is being offered on all items. Related: It’s the end of an era as Toshiba shutters its U.S. TV division Troubled Sharp has been bailed out twice since 2012 as it battles increasing competition from manufacturers in countries such as China and Taiwan. For the first six months of 2015 it reported a net loss of 83.6 billion yen ($6.8 bn). In an effort to get the tech firm back on track, it’s cut thousands of jobs and earlier this year sold its TV business in the Americas to Hisense. Yoshisuke Hasegawa, head of Sharp’s electronics unit, reportedly sent a memo to workers recently asking them to help pull the firm through its “extreme difficulty” by opening their wallets and treating themselves to some Sharp-made products. Also watch: Dell 34" Ultrasharp monitor U3415W - review Please enable Javascript to watch this video More »Out of desperation, Sharp begs its own workers to buy Sharp products

  • For deals or just the latest designs, these are the shopping apps you need

    Digital Trends - Thu, Nov 19, 2015 11:15 GMT

    Whether you’re looking to snag some great deals, stay on top of the latest trends, or just browse, we have an app for that. In honor of the holidays, and the massive amount of shopping you’re all doing this time of year, we’ve rounded up some of the best shopping apps for iOS and Android. These are good year-round, but they should especially come in handy for the holiday rush. This time around, we’ve skipped the Amazons and Etsys of the world, and instead focus on some lesser known shopping apps. Whether you’re looking to shop quick, grab an awesome deal, or browse goods like you navigate Pinterest, there’s something for everyone here. Better yet, they’re all built to work best on your phone. Related: Our favorites websites for finding deals on gadgets, gizmos, and more Tictail If you’re looking for handcrafted artisan work from around the world, look no further than Tictail. Artists and artisans come to Tictail to set up their own stores, much like Etsy, but with more polish and fewer rough edges. Here you’ll find more 100,000 storefronts, including everything from exclusive small-brand fashion lines and housewares to funny enameled pins and brooches. The app also compiles bargains, but remains far more concerned with bringing unique indie work to a wider audience. It’s a custom outlet for people making items they love, and you get some cool stuff without putting down your phone. Everyone wins. Available from: iTunes Google Play Dapper Dapper’s tagline is “Shop like a man,” which effectively translates to “we’ve simplified the process, since we suspect you just want to get ‘er done.” The app runs you through a short quiz to gather an idea of your tastes, then capitalizes on the now-familiar swipe system to configure your preferences. Swipe left for no, right to save the good stuff, and down when you’re ready to make a purchase. The app works with Apple Pay or a universal checkout system, but sadly, it’s currently only available for iOS users. For those with access, Dapper is a good, painless shopping option. Available from: iTunes Benjamin: Sixty Second Deals Think of Benjamin as Dapper with a time limit. It’s designed to be just as streamlined and take your preferences and searches into account, but it also provides great deals that are really hard to find elsewhere. Once you’re in the app and found something you like, a 60-second countdown starts. When the time’s up, the deal’s gone. So, you know, no pressure. Available from: iTunes Google Play Donde Fashion Another iPhone-exclusive app, Donde helps you shop for women’s fashion using simple symbols instead of annoying words. If you read all day at work, perhaps your brain needs a break. It’s also helpful if you want a particular neckline or hem, but can’t remember the name of the style. After all, vocabulary limitations shouldn’t stop you from finding exactly what you want. Items are grouped together by type, color, and pattern, with options to filter them by budget and brand. Donde Fashion presents a pretty picture, and orders ship straight from the brand in question. Available from: iTunes Spring This app’s name is misleading; the gear on Spring is not limited to light, seasonal wear. The app hosts clothes, shoes, and accessories for men and women, as well as lifestyle and beauty products to keep you looking sharp. Spring offers pre-designed bundles for the holidays as well, such as the “Wanderer Kit,” a package that includes a dopp bag, charging cable, and a travel size grooming set outfitted with a cleanser and shave cream. Free shipping and returns are always welcome in a shopping app and Spring offers that, too. Available from: iTunes Google Play Clinch Clinch is like the Pinterest for shopping. It helps you save what you like and share it with the world. You can use the app to curate a wish list for pieces you want, put items in your collections if you own them, or add them to your library for future reference. You can also make “canvases” for inspiration, which function as an easy way to organize a particular event, decoration, or outfit. The app even remembers the sites associated with selected items since the links are recorded within the app. One of Clinch’s most convenient features is also its ability to compare items from different sites on a single page. Available from: iTunes Next Page: Five more great shopping apps Shopami Shopami gathers all your shopping coupons in a single place. It’s annoying to go shopping only to later discover a promotional deal sitting in your inbox. With Shopami, you simply add the email you use for shopping and turn on notifications, ensuring the app will let you know when you’re near a store with an offer in play. Shopami will also let you know when you’re about to miss out on an offer expiring soon. You can turn off notifications if you hate being nagged, too, and the app will still let you know about offers expiring that day. The brand list is also broad, allowing you to skim coupons from the likes of Foot Locker, Lowes, Zales, and others. Available from: iTunes Google Play Keep Shopping Keep’s innovation is more in its styling and curation than any new access. The app presents a broad selection of housewares and categories, as well as guest-curated collections. This app is good if you like to keep your deals under $50, or if you’d rather shop based on the type of person you’re shopping for. Thinking of getting something for your girlfriend? Try “Gifts for Her,” where you can find a bunch of things she might like, such as T he Big Book of Chic or some jewelry. Available from: iTunes Google Play Wish Wish is like eBay’s prettier, younger sister. It offers similar items with a better display. What’s more, the way the app handles profiles is more transparent than other sites. It tracks your searches in whatever account you have linked to it, and categorizes them as tags. In your profile, you can see your favorite tags, which helps determine what shows up in your main feed. Other sites use a similar method, but they often don’t show them to you or automatically organize your wishlists the way Wish does. Another plus? It’s available for Windows users. Available from: iTunes Google Play Stylect If you’re looking for shoes, look no further than Stylect. It pitches itself as the app to find “all the shoes in the world,” and given it presents more than 10,000 brands, it probably not much of an exaggeration. It currently only supports women’s shoes — sorry, guys — but what they do have ranges from inexpensive to exquisite. It also includes all the filters anyone could ask for to help narrow down the huge selection of footwear. Available from: iTunes Google Play Mallzee If you like the buzz of going to a physical mall, or read fashion mags for a different kind of buzz, Mallzee could be for you. It tracks trends from more than a hundred big clothing brands, allowing you to discover the newest collections and the freshest threads. The app also touts feeds you can personalize for events or specific items, along with price drop notifications for the latter. Available from: iTunes Google Play More »For deals or just the latest designs, these are the shopping apps you need


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