Tech News

Facebook insists “users are not the product” in controversial new statement

Latest Tech News - Mon, 04/23/2018 - 21:05

If you thought using Facebook was free, think again.

The age-old adage of “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” holds true for Facebook’s business model, which many pundits have argued it build on trading users’ personal data as currency. And what the social media platform does – or allows others to do – with that data has recently copped a lot of criticism in the wake of the ongoing Cambridge Analytica Scandal.

Facebook has a tough fight ahead of it as it tries to restore its name and win back public trust, and the latest shot in that war is an official blog post titled “Hard Questions” , which seeks to reassure Facebook users that they “are not the product”.

Just semantics?

In the post, Facebook’s vice president of advertising, Rob Goldman, addresses the question, “If I'm not paying for Facebook, am I the product?”

“No,” is Goldman's answer. “Our product is social media – the ability to connect with the people that matter to you, wherever they are in the world. It’s the same with a free search engine, website or newspaper. The core product is reading the news or finding information – and the ads exist to fund that experience.”

While Goldman is quick to compare Facebook to a “website or newspaper”, the social media platform has historically fought against any suggestion that it’s a media company.

In fact, when questioned by the US Senate as to which companies are Facebook’s direct competitors, CEO Mark Zuckerberg struggled to come up with an answer.

No such thing as a free lunch

It's hard to define what service Facebook truly offers, even for its CEO. It not only owns the world's largest social media network, but sells advertising space and, now, hardware such as the Oculus Rift VR headset and it's seemingly delayed smart speakers.

While the company may claim its main product is the social media site itself, it's not hard to understand why Goldman's statement rings hollow.

Strictly following the flow of money, Facebook's free social networking site is largely able to make a profit through the collation and collection of user data, which is then supplied (usually indirectly) to advertisers in order to target ads. 

Most would argue that this structure makes the advertisers the clients – no matter how Facebook wants to spin it – and this blog post likely won't do much to change that perception.

Categories: Tech News

Samsung is developing multiple VR-only TV series

Latest Tech News - Mon, 04/23/2018 - 20:54

Samsung has announced six new TV series that it’s introducing to its VR Video service for its Gear VR, with a pilot episode from each made available today.

The shows are the result of a select few indie filmmakers who received a grant from Samsung in order to produce original VR content. They were given access to Samsung’s 360 Round camera as well, although only one series (&Design) chose to utilize it.

You can check out the brief trailer of the initiative (dubbed Pilot Season) below, which gives you a glimpse into the vastly different genres and themes that each of the six new series explores. 

You can check out the full description on each show from Samsung’s own page, but here’s a condensed run-down: 

“&Design” (Sibling Rivalry and Curious Octopus)

An original episodic series about design that will change the way we look at the world. The series presents design in its intersection with science, technology and anthropology, weaving an array of items that link each episode by a universally humanistic theme.

“Bro Bots” (Breaking Fourth)

A scripted sci-fi comedy series in VR, set in a New York City of the future. Two British robots – Otis and Roberto – arrive in New York and join the NYPD. Otis acts like a Downton Abbey butler. Roberto is rough and tough, from the other side of the tracks. They are best friends. 

“The Interpretation of Dreams” (Graham Sack & Sensorium)

In 1899, Sigmund Freud published his magnum opus, The Interpretation of Dreams, which shocked the world and forever changed our understanding of dreams and the unconscious mind. This episodic narrative fiction series reimagines each of Freud’s original case studies as visually luxurious, psychologically complex, and emotionally haunting immersive VR dreamscapes. 

“Lightcatcher” (Occupied VR, RSA VR)

The Earth is evolving and digesting our human footprint. Now humanity has a choice – stay or leave. Lightcatcher is an odyssey that revolves around earth and its people in the year 2150. Get lost with five adventurers as they travel through unique environments – enduring hardships and triumphs in the new world.

“Sam’s Surreal Gems” (RSA VR, Hey Wonderful)

Set in a collection of real world locations, this fresh, funny and irreverent VR series challenges its viewers to spot eight surreal and unexpected Easter eggs hidden within each episode. Sam’s Surreal Gems is the antithesis of overly familiar futuristic and fantastical VR, rather, this series will celebrate the truly entertaining and wonderfully funny possibilities within the real world already around us.

“Voyages – Pilot” (Kaleidoscope)

A virtual reality animation that takes you on an epic journey from birth to death. Comprised of six distinct movements, “Voyages – Pilot” guides you through the emotional arc of an entire life. Experience what it feels like to be born, to grow up, to grow old, and to eventually die. 

If you’ve got a Samsung Gear VR, you can head to the Oculus Store and find the free Samsung VR video service to download. Once downloaded, check out Pilot Season under the service’s Featured section. 

Categories: Tech News

New leaked pictures show LG G7 ThinQ from every imaginable angle

Latest Tech News - Mon, 04/23/2018 - 20:41

The rumors and leaks for upcoming handsets fly thick and fast these days, and LG's highly-anticipated G7 ThinQ is the latest phone to find itself unofficially unveiled on a near-daily basis.  

Revealed on Twitter by noted leaker, Evan Blass, we now have our best look yet of the LG G7 ThinQ, with some very high quality and official-looking product shots that show the AI-focused device from every conceivable angle.

As you can see, the LG G7 ThinQ's reported notch is on full display here, though if previous rumors are to be believed, it will be optional

The leaked images also show a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, a dual camera setup, and what appears to be its rumored dedicated button for Google Assistant to the left the display. 

Thanks to a clear shot of the phone's bottom edge, we can also surmise that LG has kept the device's 3.5mm headphone jack around for another generation, which should please fans of the rapidly disappearing input. Also on display is the G7 ThinQ's USB Type-C port for charging and data transfer. 

While nothing can be confirmed at this stage, we're pretty confident that this particular leak is on-the-money, given Blass' track record. We'll know for sure when the LG G7 ThinQ is officially launched on May 2, 2018.

Categories: Tech News

The best TVs under £500 in 2018

Latest Tech News - Mon, 04/23/2018 - 17:09

You really don’t need to spend a fortune to own a leading-edge TV - there are some amazing TV bargains to be had right now, even if your budget is limited to £500 or less. While you might think you’re about to sacrifice all the good stuff to meet this price point, manufacturers have other ideas. 

Ultra HD image resolution is now very much within reach, as TV makers shift the bulk of their production to 4K panels. But there’s some interesting Full HD models to be had too. If you want a new screen able to make the most of a PS4 Pro or Xbox One X, or to sate your binge-watching habit, then you’re in luck.  

You can even expect to get some level of network functionality, although in many cases what you’ll encounter is a stripped back platform that mainly offers the most popular streaming services. Still, Netflix is Netflix, right? 

And if the smart platform on your chosen TV is limited, it’s really not very expensive to add a streaming HDMI stick (like an Amazon Fire TV or Roku dongle). Going for a separate solution may even offer a better connected experience in the long run.

Of course, when it comes to design and build quality, you can’t expect too much at the budget end of the market. To mitigate against this, our advice is to look for TVs which make a virtue of their thin bezel and simple pedestal. Minimalism is always your (design) friend.

A more contentious area when buying budget is HDR (High Dynamic Range). While many sub-£500 sets will support HDR, what they actually offer is basic compatibility. Cut-price flatscreens simply do not have the ability to display the kind of luminous peak brightness that really eye-catching HDR can offer.   

Audio quality is also likely to be fairly routine, with low cost drivers and limited amplification. But again this can be addressed at a later date, with a soundbar or separate audio solution. 

Thankfully, you don't have to wade through reams of tech specs to discover the sharpest bargain buys. TechRadar’s guide to the best TVs available for under £500 will point you in the right direction. If you want to sharpen up your image for less, read on…

That said, there are a few other cracking TVs out there for less than half a grand; so here, kicking off with the Toshiba, are the five best TVs under £500, ranked by their price-to-performance ratio…

This high value 4K Toshiba TV may well have you doing a double take. It packs quite a punch when it comes to features. Part of an expansive range from the brand, this 43-incher combines a 2160p resolution panel with Freeview Play tuner and a variety of streaming apps, courtesy of the Toshiba Smart Portal.

The former offers a full range of catch-up TV services, with BBC iPlayer, ITVHub, Demand 5, All4 and UKPlay, with later contributes Netflix and Youtube. You can even Miracast images from a mobile to the screen. 

Picture quality is UHD sharp, but there’s no HDR support. The panel isn’t wide colour gamut capable either, but if you’re gaming, watching Sky Q or streaming 4K from Netflix, this limitation won’t make a difference.

The set looks good, if a bit plasticky, and offers versatile connectivity. There are four HDMIs, a SCART, and three USBs. Audio is punchy, with a 20W output, but you might want to consider adding a small footprint soundbar just to improve clarity. 

Philips 6-series sets are often a first port of call if you want a high-value flatscreen with an edge. This particular model combines classic lines with a simple pedestal stand and two sided stereo Ambilight. 

We’ve long been fans of Philips scene-setting Ambilight technology, and on this range you get to enjoy it with 4K HDR and catch-up packed Freeview Play. 

Ambilight, if you've never used it in the past, allows you to wash your walls with the colours of onscreen action, or bathe them in solid hues. When playing music, the set will pulsate its Ambilight LED lights with the beat, while gaming can make your room positively throb with colour.

But this set is about more than a few cheap parlor tricks: Image quality is class-leading. Philips Pixel Plus UHD image processing ensures clarity and a decent level of contrast. The TV’s pixel dense screen brings a pleasing smoothness to both Full HD and UHD sources. The TV is compatible with HDR10, and has the brand’s own own HDR Plus processing on top, but it’s not overly bright. We measured peak white luminance at just over 350 nits (cd/m2), which is comparable to a budget SDR model.

Despite the low price, there’s an effective smart portal here, with 4K Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Video available, amongst others. 

All things considered, this is a crowd-pleasing 4K budget buy.

This 40-inch Bravia boasts HDR, but surprisingly it’s not 4K. Instead, Sony has grafted HDR compatibility onto a regular 1080p set, with a view to wooing HDR gamers (all PS4s offer HDR gaming). Sony has two models in this hybrid range, the 32-inch RE40 (KDL-32RE403) and the 40-inch RE45 (KDL-40RE453), featured here.  

It’s not a bad strategy, not least because at 40-inches and below, UHD resolution is actually quite difficult to appreciate at a normal viewing distance. Small UHD pixels are also less bright than larger HD ones.

Cosmetically, the KDL-40RE453 looks entirely presentable. The thin bezel frame has an aluminium-style trim, coupled to a very stable central pedestal (reassuring if this set is going to end up in a kids bedroom). There are only two HDMI inputs though, which could limit system options. Other connections include twin USBs (one for timeshifting onto an external USB hard drive) and a digital optical audio output.

Picture quality is above average. Detail is boosted by Sony’s X-Reality PRO image processing. As this is a regular 50Hz panel, it only offers basic motion handling (rated Motionflow XR 400 Hz by Sony). There’s no smart platform either.

We reckon the RE45 is well worth shortlisting, especially if you want an above average budget 1080p panel for gaming. 

Size matters when it comes to 4K, which is why a 50-inch screen for less than 500 smackers is extremely enticing. 

That said, Hisense has a reputation for value, which is typified by this budget beater: A Freeview Play tuner ensures a full raft of catch-up services, including UK Play, while Hisense’s own Vidaa Lite smart portal offers Netflix 4K, Amazon Video, YouTube and Wuaki TV. 

Build quality and design are much better than you might expect at this price point, and connections include three HDMIs with an option for component for legacy gear. 

There’s no HDR support or wide colour support, but native 4K images are undeniably sharp, and the set does a reasonable job with HD sources too

The set’s audio performance is predictably routine, although it does boast dbx-tv processing technology, which includes a faux virtual surround sound mode. Of course, there’s an optical digital output for a soundbar, if that’s more your jam.

Overall, this big N5300 set should be considered hulking good value.

LG’s sub-£500 hero is the 4K 43-inch 43UJ670V, which offers both a high level of HDR support and a Freeview Play tuner, plus the brand’s own, class leading webOS smart platform. Now in its v3.5 iteration, webOS offers lots of cool functionality, including a Gallery mode and 360 degree video playback. Netflix 4K, Amazon Video, YouTube and Now TV are all integrated.

The UJ670V may be fairly cookie cutter in design, just an ultra thin bezel and curved pedestal, but connectivity is also good, with four HDMI inputs, a legacy AV connection, and a digital optical audio output. 

The benefits of 4K resolution will be limited at this size (you’ll need to buy a larger model from higher in the range to really enjoy UHD clarity) but colour vibrancy is high. The set supports both HDR10 and broadcast HLG. LG also employs Ultra Luminance, a local dimming technique, to maximise peak highlights. A contrast booster provides a visual lift to SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) content. 

Off-axis viewing is superb, thanks to the use of an IPS panel. Colour and contrast don’t drain away when you’re not occupying the best seat in the house. 

Onboard audio is aided and abetted by DSP faux surround effects. In all, this is a superior budget 4K proposition.

Categories: Tech News

Best email client of 2018

Latest Tech News - Mon, 04/23/2018 - 14:39

Email remains an important form of communication, more formal than a text, tweet or instant message, while obviously being much faster than ‘snail mail’, which may explain why email volume continues to increase. Indeed, a recent estimate claimed that something like 269 billion emails are sent daily.

Most of us likely have multiple email accounts with online providers such as Gmail, or Yahoo, which can be used online via their corresponding websites (also known as webmail), or by using mobile apps.

Managing and coordinating multiple accounts can quickly become a chore, and that is where an email client becomes a useful solution to sync all your messaging in one place. An email client can also offer additional features, such as enhanced security, or the ability to back up messages. We’ve picked out six of the best email clients in this article.

Microsoft’s Outlook is the de facto email client for most businesses and enterprises, and has been around for decades, with its origins dating back to MS-DOS. Obviously it has tight integration with other Microsoft services, and that takes email beyond the simple exchange of messages.

Outlook has the advantage of being fully integrated with the Outlook Calendar, making it a snap to share calendars to coordinate meetings. This integration also extends to Outlook Contacts. Outlook is supported for the Windows platform, but also across the mobile platforms of iOS and Android as well.

Microsoft Outlook is available as part of the Microsoft Office suite, which can be purchased as the standalone Office 2016, or the subscription-based Office 365. A single user subscription to Office 365 Personal can be purchased for $6.99 (around £5, AU$9) per month or $69.99 (around £50, AU$90) for a full year.

While Outlook is a stalwart of the business world, Microsoft has long realized that it is overkill for many home users, so there’s a lightweight email client built into Windows. Way back when, this client was Outlook Express, but it has since evolved and in the latest version of Microsoft’s desktop operating system, it’s known as Mail for Windows 10.

For any Windows user, the Mail for Windows 10 client is an obvious choice, as when you log into Windows 10 with a Hotmail, Live, or address, the account is already added to the email client.

It can also work with other popular accounts, including Yahoo, Gmail, and iCloud. Mail for Windows 10 has a useful feature known as Quick Actions, which, for example, allows the user to easily flag or archive a message. It’s also integrated with the Windows Calendar app.

This alternative email client is trusted and used by Fortune 500 companies which include Avis, McDonald’s and Toyota.

It offers a wide array of features, including a calendar, contacts and chat. Support is provided for all the major email services including Gmail, Yahoo, iCloud and The latest version of eM Client (7.1) also offers PGP encryption, live backup, and auto-replies for Gmail.

There is a free tier, but you need the Pro version for commercial use, and that also gives you VIP support and unlimited accounts (the free product is limited to two email accounts). The Pro version will set you back $49.95 (or £29.95 in the UK, which is around AU$55).

Mailbird Pro is an email client that promises to “save time managing multiple accounts,” and to make your email “easy and beautiful”.

While beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, as they say, it’s undeniable that Mailbird Pro offers many free themes to make email a more enjoyable and customizable experience.

Unlike some more Microsoft-centric email clients, Mailbird Pro supports a diverse range of integrated apps, including WhatsApp, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox and Slack, all making for a better streamlined workflow. However, one downside to bear in mind here is that there’s no support for filters or rules to organize your inbox.

The annual cost of Mailbird Pro is $9 (around £6, AU$12) for an individual, and $20 (around £14, AU$26) for a business user.

Inky is an email client that focuses on security, using “sophisticated AI, machine learning and computer vision algorithms” to block all manner of phishing attacks which might otherwise get through.

This client uses an ‘Inky Phish Fence’ that scans both internal and external emails to flag phishing attempts. The proprietary machine learning technology can literally read an email to determine if it has phishing content, and then is able to quarantine the email, or deliver it with the malicious links disabled. It also takes things a step further and offers an analytics dashboard, which allows an administrator to see patterns of attacks based on dates, or targeted users.

The Inky email client does offer a free trial, but sadly, pricing details aren’t made available on the Inky website. However, the site does note that pricing is per mailbox per month on a subscription, with volume discounts available.

TouchMail is an email client that simplifies email by making it more visual. This also makes it easier to use on a touch-based mobile device.

The goal of TouchMail is to aggregate multiple email accounts together, in a single visually attractive interface which is user-friendly. It lets you see all of the day’s emails in one place, with messages color-coded by sender for easy identification. Emails from top senders can be easily sorted and managed, too.

This client is available for the Windows 10 platform, but not for iOS or Android, sadly. TouchMail can be grabbed from the Microsoft Store, and normally retails at $29.99 (around £22, AU$39), although at the time of writing there is a sale on that gives you a third off the asking price.

Categories: Tech News

New LG V30 update brings AI features and a name change

Latest Tech News - Mon, 04/23/2018 - 14:31

LG V30 owners sour about the debut of the smarter LG V30S ThinQ don't have to feel so forgotten anymore, as the AI upgrade that comes built into the V30S ThinQ is starting to reach the V30 as well. 

V30 users on Verizon can update the software on their phone, and it will install AI features and re-name the phone to LG V30 ThinQ, reports Droid Life.

AT&T users received a similar update for the LG V30 in March. LG had previously announced that it's ThinQ AI would be coming to the LG V30, and it appears that it's keeping that promise. This update brings one more phone to the ThinQ brand LG has established, which includes the previously mentioned LG V30S ThinQ and the upcoming LG G7 ThinQ

What's in the upgrade?

The ThinQ upgrade may not help the LG V30 catch up to rivals that are now running on the latest Snapdragon 845 chipset, but it will offer some new features in the camera department. QLens will give the LG V30 ThinQ a scanning function, making it easy to look up an item on Amazon or Pinterest or to scan a QR code.

AI Cam will serve as a buffed version of the normal Auto mode in the camera app. It attempts to use AI to recognize what it's looking at and tweak camera settings to get the best photo possible. It can be helpful, though it's not entirely fool-proof, as we learned during our review of the LG V30S ThinQ.

Via 9to5Google

Categories: Tech News

Deezer's newest feature takes the best parts from Pandora and Spotify

Latest Tech News - Mon, 04/23/2018 - 14:28

In the race to create the perfect music streaming service, Deezer hasn’t always led the pack: it’s created some neat features along the route, but so far there’s been little to differentiate the service from the half-dozen other services on the market. 

But Deezer’s next feature, called Flow Tabs, could help widen the field a bit.

The feature basically combines the best of Deezer’s signature Flow music prediction algorithm and mashes it with Spotify’s curated artist spotlight playlists and Pandora’s custom radio stations, creating a hybrid of all three that allows you to pick from an artist-inspired playlist that still caters to your musical tastes. 

The thinking here, according to Deezer’s Chief Content and Product Officer Alexander Holland, is to offer personalized playlists that account for varying moods and musical tastes. 

In practice that means if one day you’re in the mood to hear some melodic R&B inspired by The Weeknd and the next you’re ready for high-octane rock from AC/DC, you’ll get custom playlists inspired by those artists that match your mood. 

Mood music

At the heart of the feature is Flow - Deezer’s trump card in the on-going music streaming war. It’s the brains behind the service’s music recommendations, and puts together ever-evolving playlists that gets smarter the more you use it. 

Flow Tabs, the feature announced today, takes that all to the next level by allowing you to tailor those playlists to your mood - as the music prediction algorithm can only do so much to understand how you’re feeling. 

While Flow Tabs might not be the ending salvo that puts Deezer on top of the other streaming services - a tall order considering some of Spotify’s cool new features - it’s one more way to help differentiate between the all-too-similar streaming services.

Categories: Tech News

Amazon may be working on a robot for your home

Latest Tech News - Mon, 04/23/2018 - 14:28

Amazon is known for taking risks and getting into categories well ahead of its competitors (just look at the Amazon Echo), and the mega etailer could be looking to do that once again with robots for your home.

That's right: Amazon is working on domestic robots, reports Bloomberg

The top-secret project is codenamed Vesta, and could see robots in employee homes by the end of this year, with consumers possibly able to buy their own bots by 2019.

Recently, Amazon began to ramp up hiring at its Lab 126, where the robot is being developed. Lab 126 previously concocted Amazon Fire TV, the Amazon Fire tablets, Echo smart speakers and the Amazon Fire Phone (remember that?), according to Bloomberg.

Amazon's domestication

It's not exactly known how the robot will function, but Bloomberg's sources speculate it could follow homeowners around to rooms where an Echo isn't already in place.

Alexa, Amazon's voice assistant, will likely figure heavily in the robot. 

Already, prototypes feature advanced cameras and computer vision software, allowing the robot to move around a home like a self-driving car, presumably aware of the surroundings and avoiding obstacles.

Amazon currently uses robots in its product warehouses, though obviously Vesta bot would be specialized to operate in the home. 

While Amazon would likely beat main rivals Google and Apple to the punch when it comes to domestic robots, other companies, like LG and Sony, have already developed robots that perform tasks or provide some level of companionship.

The big question, aside from whether Amazon's robot ambitions ever come to fruition, is how much the Alexa robot will cost. Chances are, it'll be pricey, though Amazon may be able to undercut the cost for its Prime members.

A domestic robot would give Amazon an explicit in into your home, and we speculate the robot would quickly learn your habits, such as when you turn off lights in a certain room, as well as what products you buy (we could easily see it sensing when you need to restock on laundry detergent and filling an order for you).

As the company looks for more ways into your home, a domestic robot makes a whole lot of sense. 

Categories: Tech News

Razer Phone 2: what we want to see

Latest Tech News - Mon, 04/23/2018 - 13:46

The Razer Phone has set the standard for what a gaming smartphone should be. It has top-end specs, like so many flagship phones, but truly stands out with its 120Hz display. Tapping into its roots as a PC-focused company, Razer knows that games are only as good as the screen that you play them on.

Looking forward, there’s a ton of potential for the Razer Phone 2. From the more obvious improvements, like jumping up to Snapdragon 845, to design and software changes, we’ve put together a list of what we want to see out of the next gaming phone to rule them all.

Cut to the chase What we want to see

A refined design

That the Razer Phone adopted the look of the Nextbit Robin was a bit of a surprise. Opinion of its blocky design varies wildly among those in our office (though I like it quite a bit), so most of us are looking to Razer’s next phone to shake things up.

The answer doesn’t lie simply in rounding off the corners or making it an all-glass affair, but there are certainly a few ways in which Razer can inject some unique design in its next phone. 

Judging from its lineup of PC peripherals, the company knows a thing or two about designing with curves. Another key component of Razer design is RGB lights – and a lot of them. Curiously, the Razer Phone features absolutely none, and that might have been a wise move until the company could figure out how to balance them visually what with their probable impact to battery performance.

A headphone port with DAC

Is it too much to ask for a headphone port? Looking at the Razer Phone, there’s ample room for it, so its omission is perhaps more inexcusable than other phones that lopped off the feature. 

In addition to the 3.5mm port on the Razer Phone 2, we’d like to see it juiced up with a DAC of some sort, like we’ve seen with the LG V30 and previous models in that series. Razer’s screen tech is next-level, but limiting this phone to USB-C or wireless headphones is a downside

Stereo speakers

Dual front-facing speakers can really make an impact in the day-to-day use of a phone. Whether you spend spare time watching YouTube videos or playing games, front-facing speakers elevate the experience – just try going back to a phone with a speaker that fires away from your face.

Razer did well to include this feature in the Razer Phone, so all we’re asking is that it keeps it from the successor.

Wireless charging

The Razer Phone doesn’t support wireless charging, but there’s little reason why its sequel should be limited. 

If the company’s next phone is made with glass, that would be perhaps the easiest way to make that happen. But looking at its Hyperflux wireless charging technology currently employed with PC peripherals like the Razer Mamba Hyperflux, it seems like this feature is destined to make an appearance on its upcoming phone

Timely updates

The Razer Phone launched in November 2017, well after Android Oreo launched, yet it came with Android Nougat built-in. After only just receiving the Oreo update in April 2018, we hope that the next model comes with Android P built into the phone should it happen to arrive after Google’s new software.

A phone that adopts new software quickly is likely to become a fan-favorite, but Razer’s time with Nougat certainly didn’t spoil the experience. That’s partially due to its Nova Launcher software. It’s likely to keep with that going forward, only upgrading when its launcher is compatible with Google’s software.

Categories: Tech News

The 10 best 3D printers of 2018

Latest Tech News - Mon, 04/23/2018 - 12:06

Finding the best 3D printer doesn't need to be difficult or expensive thanks to our guide to the best 3D printers on the market today. In this list, we provide clear and concise information on a wide range of 3D printers, helping you to choose the best 3D printer for your needs.

Our very own price comparison tool also scours the internet to find the very best deals on 3D printers, so when you've found the 3D printer that's right for you, you can buy confident in the knowledge that you're paying the best price.

From compact 3D printers that can sit on your desk, to budget 3D printers and huge industrial-grade 3D printers that can create large 3D printouts, we've listed the very best 3D printers available in 2018. Read on to find the best one for your needs.

The MakerBot Replicator+ is the successor to the popular MakerBot Replicator 3D printer, and the new version has brought improvements to nearly every part of the Replicator. This means the Replicator+ is faster and quieter than the previous version, while maintaining its excellent design and safety features. This desktop 3D printer is expensive, but it offers excellent print quality, and uses 1.75mm polylactic acid (PLA) filament. It's also user-friendly enough for home users and hobbyists to use - as long as your budget can stretch to the high asking price. 

If you're looking for a budget 3D printer, then there really is no better option than the XYZprinting da Vinci Mini. It remains one of the most affordable ways to get into 3D printing, and also the easiest, thanks to an easy-to-use interface. Just because it's a budget model, doesn't mean it doesn't produce good results, and the 3D printed objects it creates are very impressive considering the price - and size - of this 3D printer. Speaking of size, the XYZprinting da Vinci Mini is an impressively compact printer that makes it easy to store in an office or on a desk.

The Ultimaker 2+ is a 3D printer that offers amazing print quality, making it one of the best 3D printers for professional use. It is incredibly reliable when it comes to producing 3D models, and the accuracy of the 3D replications is incredibly impressive. If you need a 3D printer that can reliably reproduce many 3D objects accurately, this is a fantastic choice. However, it is expensive, and the fact that it is aimed at professional environments means it's less beginner-friendly than some of the other 3D printers here. Home users are better off looking elsewhere.

The Formlabs Form 2 is an excellent 3D printer for enthusiasts who don't mind paying extra to get the very best print quality. It's a beautifully-designed 3D printer, and can be connected to PCs via USB, Wi-Fi and Ethernet. It doesn't quite have the print reliability of the Ultimaker 2+, but the print quality more than makes up for a few errors.

The M3D Micro 3D Printer is an excellent 3D printer for beginners. Its low price means you're not investing lots of money if you're not entirely sure 3D printing is for you, while the compact, cube, design means it can be easily placed within the home or office. It looks good, and is impressively quiet when in use. The print quality isn't the best, however, and it is only able to make small models (not too surprising, considering the diminutive size). However, if you're looking for your first 3D printer, this is an excellent choice.

The FlashForge Creator Pro 2017 is the best 3D printer that sits between budget 3D printers and expensive professional models. It's a lot cheaper than pro models, though it maintains the build quality and reliability that you'd come to expect from a professional 3D printer. It's not quite as cheap as the budget and beginner models in this list, but it offers greater accuracy when printing 3D models. It is a tad noisy in use, however.

If you're looking for a first 3D printer to learn the ropes with, then the LulzBot Mini is another excellent choice. It's got a decent price, and is easy to use, though the print speed is quite slow. The hardware is open source, which means it has a flexibility that propitiatory hardware lacks, as a committed community of makers can work together to create add-ons for the printer.  

The bulk of home 3D printers are limited to one- or two-colour printing, but the CubePro Trio has the capability to print three different materials in one session. This can be especially useful if you want to create an enclosed mechanism: nylon can be used for the gears, ABS for the surround and PLA for the support structure that can then be dissolved with caustic soda. The CubePro is an ideal solution for modellers and engineers who need to create 3D prints with moving parts.

In general terms 3D printers are designed as boxes with purpose, however BeeTheFirst has created a printer with both quality of print and actual design in mind – this is a machine that really wouldn't look out of place in a modern living room. BeeTheFirst has also thought about how and where people will be wanting to use their printers – at work, home or both – and has incorporated a thin design with a handle that enables the printer to be easily transported. 

Initially you might be hard pressed to see the differences between the Taz 5 and 6; both feature a solid open frame build, large print base and ease of use.

However take a closer look at the refinements in design and improvements in usability and the upgrades quickly stand out. Features such as the auto leveling base has evolved from the one featured on the Luzbot Mini and works just as well on this larger scale, and the slight changes to frame layout and control panel are all welcome.

The Taz 6 is a big machine with an impressive print area of 280mm x 280mm x 250mm, with a 0.5mm nozzle capable of a minimum layer height of 75 microns and takes 2.85mm filament.

Categories: Tech News

Ford pushes the Amazon Alexa envelope in the new EcoSport subcompact

Latest Tech News - Mon, 04/23/2018 - 12:00

Apple's Siri, the Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, and Amazon Alexa are all competing for our attention these days. Still, the world of voice assistants is getting a bit confusing, especially if you just want to order a USB cable for your laptop or get directions. 

In the new 2018 Ford EcoSport – a subcompact crossover that has at least a hint of Subaru ruggedness (with a $19,995 price tag) – you can connect up and use three of those four voicebots. 

While Cortana plays catch-up, and both Apple and Google have provided voice interaction in cars for a years, it’s Alexa that provides some of the most interesting features. Not all of them work perfectly, but there’s a hint of things to come.

One of the signs that we’re not quite at the point where phones and cars get along perfectly is related to the setup. 

It’s not hard, but it’s also not totally intuitive. To use an iPhone, you first have to disable CarPlay on the EcoSport touchscreen (you might be tempted to look for a way to disable the feature on your phone, but that doesn’t work). 

You’ll need to install a Ford app for Alexa on your phone. Then, under a new mobile apps section on the EcoSport, the Alexa app will suddenly appear. (The steps are similar if you are using an Android phone.)

Once you see the bot, you can click the icon on the touchscreen, press the Ford Sync button and say “Alexa” to start using Alexa, or utter “Alexa” to your phone. 

This last step is the strangest of all – normally, you can’t say Alexa to an iPhone, but in the EcoSport, you can.

Using Alexa in the EcoSport was a bit frustrating at first. We had to reboot our phone as a refresh, but during an initial test the bot would sometimes not work and not answer questions. 

In a second test, most questions about playing music, the weather, and navigation got a response.

It’s an odd experience to have full access to Alexa, because you can get lost in conversation. 

After ordering some beef jerky at, streaming a Radiohead album, asking the bot to close a garage door using a Vivint security system, and then goofing around by asking a bunch of trivia questions, it became obvious that this is the future of car technology. You can envision a day when all we do is drive and talk. That’s a nirvana state for sure.

More integration to go

Another nice touch? If you ask Alexa about a business like Starbucks, the bot then shows a list of options on the touchscreen. 

You can select one, and then see the navigation using the EcoSport touchscreen. It’s a bit different from how CarPlay and Android Auto work, because it uses Ford Sync and the EcoSport in-car nav system; Apple and Google use their own nav that runs on the touchscreen. (They look quite different and seem more like add-ons.)  

You can play music from your [Amazon] Prime account just by queuing that up

Ford's Elizabeth Halash

“We have two really cool integrations,” says Elizabeth Halash, the Ford Connected Vehicle and Services Supervisor. 

“One is called the Alexa+Ford mobile app from the Google Play store or the Apple App Store, to enable the most common Alexa commands in the vehicle. You can play music from your Prime account just by queuing that up. 

"We also have integration with our navigation to get directions, all hands-free. The other integration is on the Skills side of things, so for people who have an Echo device, you can call up different Skills. You can say, 'Open FordPass' to remote control the car or get information about the vehicle back to you.”   

That kind of integration is a step in the right direction for sure. In future Ford cars and trucks, it might be nice to have a single dedicated Alexa button, and no configuration at all. 

The fact that you even need your phone seems odd. If Ford can figure out how to make voice assistants work without a phone, and you can still make calls, get directions, and play music, then Alexa could help with just about everything else. 

It would be even cooler if Alexa could tell you when you need an oil change, arrange for service at the dealership, and monitor teen drivers.

On The Road is TechRadar's regular look at the futuristic tech in today's hottest cars. John Brandon, a journalist who's been writing about cars for 12 years, puts a new car and its cutting-edge tech through the paces every week. One goal: To find out which new technologies will lead us to fully autonomous vehicles.

Categories: Tech News

Best VPS hosting providers of 2018

Latest Tech News - Mon, 04/23/2018 - 12:00

Standard web hosting packages are cheap and user-friendly, but they're also slow, inflexible, and don't have the power or functionality that professional and business users often need.

If you need more than a basic host but can't afford a dedicated server, Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting could be a smart choice.

Buying a VPS plan means that you get your very own virtual server environment. You have full control over the operating system, the extensions and apps you install, and all their settings. Each physical server will still host multiple VPS customers, but not as many as with shared hosting, and typically each VPS will be allocated a share of key resources – RAM, storage space, CPU cores – for their use alone.

This can be easier to manage than you might think. Many VPS plans include standard tools like cPanel to help monitor and configure your site. Some hosts will manage the service for you, monitoring for problems like a crashed service, and fixing them as soon as they're detected.

VPS prices and specs vary from a few pounds a month to hundreds, depending on your requirements. There's a lot of choice out there, but don't panic – our list of five top providers will point you in the right direction.

Namecheap's VPS plan might be affordable but they're all but "cheap".

Shopping for a VPS host often means staring at some huge product comparison table and trying to figure out which of its many plans works for you.

Namecheap makes life easier by providing only two plans, and making it extremely clear exactly what you're getting in each case.

Prices start low at only £11.85 ($16.60) per month on the annual plan, but that still gets you 2GB RAM, two CPU cores, 40GB of storage, 1000GB bandwidth and one dedicated IP.

Buying add-ons can improve these baseline specs. If you need more dedicated IPs, for instance, you don't have to upgrade to a new plan – Namecheap will add extra IPs to your product for only $2 (£1.45) each.

The service isn't quite as cheap as it sounds. The starter plans aren't managed, for instance (the host doesn't look after them for you), and they don't include a cPanel licence. Adding both of those capabilities will cost you an extra $41 (£29.30) a month.

Still, Namecheap does provide some exceptionally configurable VPS products for users who know what they're doing. Even if you're a beginner, checking out the various options on offer here will help you understand the factors you need to think about when choosing a VPS provider.

Check out a few VPS hosting providers and it's easy to be tempted with low headline rates, but don't be fooled – companies use a range of tricks to keep their charges down.

The hardware specs of a starter product are often kept unrealistically low, for instance, to keep the price right down. Important items – backups, cPanel – may be expensive extras. And even then, the headline rate may only apply if you pay for two or three years upfront, increasing dramatically on renewal.

InMotion Hosting is refreshingly different. Its baseline VPS-1000HA-S plan doesn't have the most eye-catching price at $27.99 (£20) per month over two years, but it's easy to see why the company asks this much. The product has a better specification – 4GB RAM, 75GB storage, 4TB bandwidth, 3 dedicated IPs – than some high-end plans from other providers, backups and a cPanel licence are included for free, and there's a 90-day money-back guarantee.

There's an unusual feature in what InMotion calls "unlocked CPU cores". Rather than having access to one or two cores only, you're able to spread your processing load across all cores on the server, a major performance boost for tasks involving a lot of simultaneous processing.

Welcome bonus touches include a feature called Launch Assist, which essentially means you get two hours of free time with one of InMotion's server administrators. Whether you need to change domain settings, configure cPanel, migrate WordPress or database files, they can help you get the job done.

Put it all together and you're getting a very capable set of VPS hosting plans. If you'd prefer a package which comes with unexpected surprises, rather than hidden catches, we'd give InMotion a try.

Some VPS hosts focus on first-time users, others go for big business, but Hostwinds does its best to appeal to everyone with no less than 10 different VPS hosting plans.

The low-end Tier One plan looks a little underpowered to us, with just 512MB RAM, one CPU core, 20GB of disk space and 1TB traffic. But it's cheap at $7.95 (£5.70) per month for the initial term, $9.95 (£7.10) on renewal, and you can extend it significantly without spending a huge amount (adding basic server monitoring and cloud backups costs an extra $6 – £4.30 – a month for both).

The more realistic Tier Four includes 4GB RAM, 50GB drive space, two CPU cores and 2TB of traffic. It's also significantly more expensive at $37.49 (£26.80) a month for the starting term, $49.99 (£35.70) a month afterwards, but still competitive with other providers.

Meanwhile the top-of-the-range Tier Ten product gets you 64GB RAM, 16 CPU cores, 500GB storage and 9TB of traffic for an initial $551.99 (£394) a month, $735.99 (£526) on renewal. You probably don't need anything like that, but this does show there's plenty of scope for upgrading your site over time.

Every plan has some appealing configuration options. In particular, along with support for the usual Linux variants – CentOS, Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian – you can choose Windows Server 2008, 2012 or 2016 for only a $5 (£3.60) a month premium. That's very good value, and if you're more familiar with Windows than Linux, it could save you from lots of management hassles later on.

Liquid Web is a premium web hosting provider which has been offering top quality managed solutions for more than 20 years, and now handles 500,000 sites for more than 32,000 customers worldwide.

The company doesn't try to beat the competition on price, instead focusing on delivering comprehensive products which will deliver quality results.

The cheapest Liquid Web plan may cost $59 (£42) a month, for instance, but that gets you 2GB RAM, 40GB storage and a very generous 5TB of bandwidth.

There are lots of configuration options. Instead of just telling you that you're getting CentOS 7, Liquid Web allows you to select CentOS 6, Debian 8, Ubuntu 14.04 or 16.04, and often with multiple options of their own: cPanel, Plesk, CloudLinux and more.

This is a managed product, too. Liquid Web fully supports the base operating system, and the support team will proactively restore failed services as soon as they're detected. Getting a managed VPS with other providers could cost you an extra $30 (£21) a month, or more.

If your VPS still has issues, there's speedy 24x7x365 support from knowledgeable professionals who will do their best to solve your problems at speed.

Liquid Web may not have the most appealing headline prices, but it's still cheaper than many others considering the features you get, and the excellent support will help keep your site running smoothly down the line.

OVH is a budget web host which offers straightforward VPS products for some of the lowest prices around.

The range starts with the VPS SSD 1 plan, which gets you one CPU core, 2GB RAM and 10GB of SSD storage for only £2.99 ($4.20) a month for the first year, £3.99 ($5.60) on renewal.

The VPS SSD 2 plan doubles the RAM and storage allocation for £5.99 ($8.40) a month initially, £6.99 ($9.80) afterwards, and the VPS SSD 3 plan doubles it again and gives you an extra CPU core for £12.99 ($18.20) a month to begin with, £13.99 ($19.60) afterwards.

As you might guess, there are reasons why the price is so low. Forget 24x7x365 support by any means, for instance: there's UK-based phone support, but it's only available from Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm UK time.

Speeds are limited, too, with a 100Mbps connection. Many VPS plans will give you 10 times that as standard.

OVH does offer some plus points, though. You can have your VPS hosted in the UK, US, Australia, Singapore or several locations in central Europe. A dedicated proprietary control panel allows for managing your VPS, without the cost of a cPanel licence, and there's simple DDoS protection thrown in.

On balance, OVH isn't a service we would recommend for beginners or anyone who needs rock solid reliability and full-time support. But if you're a technical user looking for a cheap way to explore the VPS world, OVH will have a lot of appeal.

You might also want to check out our other hosting guides:

Categories: Tech News

Detroit: Become Human will show off Amazon Alexa skills in upcoming demo

Latest Tech News - Mon, 04/23/2018 - 11:59

Sony has announced that it’s celebrating upcoming PlayStation 4 exclusive, Detroit: Become Human, going gold by releasing a demo of the very first scene in the game. More interesting than the demo, however, is the reveal that it will have its very own Alexa skill.

Named CyberLife, the skill will give players guidance and advice to help them make their first decisions in this choice-filled game world. Called Hostage, the demo will have players take up the role of an android called Connor, a hostage negotiator sent into a fraught situation where lives are on the line.

Using the CyberLife skill, players will be able to ask Alexa questions relating to details in the crime scene and the backgrounds of characters to guide them through the decision making process. Players will even be able to ask Alexa to find out which decisions had which impacts and find out how they might be able to alter the course of the game by doing one thing differently. 

"Alexa, please help me choose"

This isn't the first time a game has created its own Alexa skill – Destiny 2 did so very recently by allowing players to interact with their AI companion Ghost through their own devices. This skill is also very in-keeping with the story of Detroit: Become Human.

Set in a dystopian future, Detroit: Become Human is a game which follows the story of three androids who have started to experience human emotions in a world that sees them as nothing more than machines built to obey. The fate of these androids and the characters around them will be entirely in your hands, with all of your decisions and actions opening up a branching story that will be individual to you. 

We don’t think Alexa is about to start offloading its feelings when you come home after a long day, but it is the first step towards fully-fledged androids, and a good example of how they might know more than you already. To use the Alexa skill you simply have to have access to any Alexa-enabled device and ask it to download the CyberLife skill by saying “Alexa, enable CyberLife.”

The demo will be available for download on the PlayStation Store on Tuesday, April 24 at 12:01 am ET/ 5:01 am BST. Once excited fans get through this demo, they’ll have to wait until the game’s May 25 release date before they can play again. 

Categories: Tech News

Vodafone 'nears' deal for Liberty Global cable networks

Latest Tech News - Mon, 04/23/2018 - 11:49

Vodafone could agree a deal to take control of Liberty Global’s cable networks in Germany and Eastern Europe for €16.5 billion within the next two weeks, according to the FT.

The two firms have been engaged in discussions for the best part of three years, with talks first held in 2015 about a possible exchange of assets. Those ended without agreement but in 2016, the two firms agreed to merge their mobile and cable operators in the Netherlands in a bid to take on incumbent KPN.

Vodafone has invested significantly in fixed assets in recent years, both through the construction and acquisition of superfast broadband networks, and sees the convergence of mobile and fixed as essential for its future prospects.


Indeed, market fragmentation and challenging regulatory environments have been cited by many European operators as causes for concern as traditional revenue streams are being squeezed. This has made it difficult to invest in new network technologies like 5G and fibre to the premise (FTTP).

Vodafone wants to consolidate several European territories so it can achieve the economies of scale that would allow it to rival the US and Asian telecom giants who are able to justify the investment needed in network upgrades.

Liberty Global has been consolidating the European cable market for some time with operations in 12 countries, including in the UK where it bought Virgin Media for around £15 billion back in 2013.

It owns Unitymedia in Germany, which itself has been formed through the purchase of several formerly independent regional operators created when incumbent Deutsche Telekom was forced to spin off its cable assets in the early 1990s.

However Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Hottges has already voiced his opposition to the tie-up, arguing it would give Vodafone too much power in the German market, leading to a war of words between himself and Vittorio Colao, his counterpart at Vodafone.

The UK has not been a market under serious discussion, but earlier this year Colao refused to rule out the possibility it could be added into the mix.

 Want to find out more about 5G? Check out our dedicated 5G hub   

Categories: Tech News

OnePlus giving away 6,000 tickets for Avengers: Infinity War in 10 cities across India

Latest Tech News - Mon, 04/23/2018 - 11:18

OnePlus announced on Monday that it is giving away 6,000 complimentary tickets for Avengers: Infinity War movie that is scheduled to release in India on 27 April. The giveaway comes after the smartphone maker announced a partnership with Marvel Studios last week. It is worth noting that OnePlus had also given away free tickets for Star Wars: The Last Jedi last year.

How to claim free Avengers: Infinity Wars movie ticket

OnePlus will be giving away the free Avengers: Infinity War tickets to existing OnePlus users – to claim your free ticket, you will have to have the IMEI of your OnePlus device registered in your OnePlus account, if it isn’t already.

Once the IMEI is registered, you will have to select the city of your choice and click on the ‘Get It’ button. If tickets are available in your city, the website will generate a ticket coupon code. Once that is done, you will have pay a token charge of Re 1 via Paytm, where you will also have to choose from the available shows. This charge will be given back to you as cashback once the transaction is complete.

With every complimentary ticket of Avengers: Infinity War, OnePlus has also included popcorn and a cold drink. OnePlus users can start claiming their free tickets starting at 10AM on 26 April.

The venues that are eligible for these tickets are:

·        PVR ICON Infiniti Mall Versova (Mumbai)

·        PVR Pune Market City (Pune)

·        PVR Kukatpally Forum Mall (Hyderabad)

·        PVR Elante Mall (Chandigarh)

·        PVR Ampa Mall (Chennai)

·        Cinemax Mani Square Mall (Kolkata)

·        PVR DLF Mall of India (Delhi NCR)

·        PVR Forum Mall (Bangalore)

·        PVR Lulu Mall (Kochi)

·        PVR Acropolis (Ahmedabad)

Categories: Tech News

The giant telescopes that will change everything we know about the universe

Latest Tech News - Mon, 04/23/2018 - 11:00

Image credit: GMTO Corporation/Mason Media Inc.

Space telescopes like Hubble and Kepler might get all of the attention, but humanity's very biggest telescopes are all here on Earth. 

Astronomy is essentially about studying light, and when it comes to giant telescopes, it's visually a case of bigger is better. Cue a whole new generation of awesome-sized observatories due to go online in the early 2020s.

The very finest telescopes are almost always built in the same places on our planet. Chile's dry Atacama desert is a favorite for telescope builders, largely because there are over 300 clear nights a year, and it's possible to build on freezing cold mountaintops at a whopping 10,000ft or higher. 

That puts the telescopes high above the hottest, densest part of the Earth's atmosphere, thereby avoiding distortion. 

Chile’s Atacama Desert is among the highest and driest locations on the planet | Credit: G.Hüdepohl (

Putting telescopes in the southern hemisphere also guarantees them the best view possible of the densest star fields of the Milky Way. In the northern hemisphere, the summit of Hawaii's Mauna Kea is a favorite, as is La Palma in the Canary Islands.

So why are more and more giant telescopes being built? The Hubble Space Telescope's successors, such as the (recently delayed) James Webb Space Telescope and TESS will make so many discoveries that an army of ground-based telescopes is going to be required to take a closer look.

Each will have a long to-do list, whether that be to detect dark matter, image a supermassive black hole or study exoplanets. Together, they will form a massive army of eyes on the sky that will change what we know about the universe and our place within it.

Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), worldwide

The Event Horizon Telescope is about to unveil the first image of a black hole | Credit: A. Marinkovic/X-Cam/ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO

The Event Horizon Telescope was briefly the biggest telescope of all. The data is still being processed, but very soon astronomers will have something incredible; the first-ever image of a black hole (or two). 

It's not an easy image to obtain. A black hole is where gravity is so intense that not even light can escape from inside it, so how can a telescope ever take a photograph of one?

The answer is radio astronomy, and no less than eight telescope arrays around the globe. 

The EHT last year performed simultaneous observations of X-ray and gamma-ray bands at radio dishes in Chile, Spain, the US, Mexico, and at the South Pole. 

Essentially they were linked to create an Earth-sized interferometer (a light measurer), with the hope of detecting the event horizons (a boundary beyond which nothing can escape) of two supermassive black holes: Sagittarius A* at the center of the Milky Way, and M87 in the center of the Virgo A galaxy. 

If they're successful – an answer we'll know during 2018 – astronomers will finally have visual proof that Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity, which predicted the black hole's event horizon, was correct.

Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), Chile

The LSST will contain the world’s largest digital camera | Credit: LSST

When a huge 20-metre near-Earth asteroid struck Chelyabinsk in 2013, there was a sudden realization that Earth is a sitting duck in space. Worse, no-one was even monitoring for incoming asteroids. 

This is, thankfully, already changing, but by 2022 the LSST will be surveying the sky for potentially hazardous asteroids, and more. 

An international project slated to last a decade, the LSST's 3,200-megapixel digital camera and 8.4m mirror will snap 800 photographs each night in six wavelengths, from ultraviolet to near infrared.

In what's being billed as 'the greatest movie ever made', each image will be 40 times the size of our Moon, with 15 terabytes of data being produced every night from 1,000 pairs of exposures. That's set to be the largest scientific dataset in the world, enabling astronomers to generate a highly detailed map of billions of galaxies, stars and objects in the solar system.

The LSST is being built at the Gemini South Observatory on Cerro Pachón in Chile's Elqui Valley, which will witness a rare two-minute total solar eclipse in 2019.

European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), Chile

The E-ELT will be the European Southern Observatory's new flagship telescope | Credit: ESO/L. Calçada/ACe Consortium

Can we take pictures of exoplanets? Up until now it's only been possible to find exoplanets from huge datasets that detect tiny changes in the brightness of starlight. 

Cue the E-ELT, which will attempt to collect enough light and increase the resolution enough to take images of planets orbiting stars in the Milky Way. Its images will be 16 times more detailed than Hubble can manage.

It may be half a world away from its HQ near Munich, Germany, but the European Southern Observatory (ESO) is besotted with Chile. 

Already it has ALMA and the VLT in the Atacama desert, and by 2024 this new flagship telescope, the US$1.2 billion E-ELT, will perch upon Cerro Armazones at a dizzying altitude of 3,046m/9,993 ft. 

It's destined to be the world's biggest optical and infrared telescope thanks to a 39-meter primary mirror that will be formed by almost 800 hexagonal segments.

As well as studying exoplanets, the E-ELT will study the first galaxies and directly measure the acceleration rate of our expanding universe.

Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), Chile

When it's completed in 2023, this US$700 million telescope will be the world’s largest optical, land-based telescope. Inside will be a whopping 24.5m mirror. 

With new data on exoplanets from TESS, the GMT is likely to be used to probe their chemistry. 

"As a planet passes in front of its star, a large telescope on the ground, like the GMT, can use spectra to search for the fingerprints of molecules in the planetary atmosphere," says Patrick McCarthy, Ph.D., Vice President for Operations and External Relations, GMTO.

Although it's being constructed at the Las Campanas Observatory in the Atacama Desert, and high above the thickest part of Earth's atmosphere at 2,550m / 8,500 ft., the GMT will also include a technology to correct for any heat distortion. 

"As light from distant stars and planets pass through the Earth’s atmosphere, irregularities in the temperature and density of the air distort the image – just like hot air above highway pavement makes images shimmer," explains McCarthy. 

Cue adaptive optics, a technique for removing that blur and restoring the full power of a telescope. "With adaptive optics we can image planets, and with images we can look for color variations due to weather and surface features." 

The GMT's images will be 10 times more detailed than the Hubble Space Telescope.

Just a century ago astronomers thought the Milky Way was the entire universe. With these giant telescopes, we could be on the cusp of photographing distant planets, black holes, and monitoring what's happening around Earth in new stunning detail.

Categories: Tech News

OnePlus 6 glass design confirmed

Latest Tech News - Mon, 04/23/2018 - 10:36

The OnePlus 6 will have a glass design, as confirmed by CEO Pete Lau, marking the first time the firm has used glass on its flagship device.

Speaking in a forum post on the firm's website, Lau says the "OnePlus 6's glass design is centered around creating a 'sense of value' and 'premium hand-feel.'

"The advantages of glass over metal are manifold: glass communicates a transparent, bright, and pure feeling. 

"The way glass transforms under different lighting is a particularly important challenge—the OnePlus design team tested over 70 glass prototypes before selecting the best one."


A glass first, but not the first

This isn't the first time that OnePlus has used glass on a phone though, with the OnePlus X which it launched in 2015 available in two variants - glass and ceramic. However, Lau claims the glass finish on the OnePlus 6 boasts a first for the industry.

"The OnePlus 6's glass back contains five printed layers of Nanotech Coating, a first in the smartphone industry. 

"We applied 5 layers of Nanotech Coating instead of 3, even though the degree of separation between each layer is extremely subtle and tough to discern."

He claims that these extra levels give a different visual finish, although we'll have to wait to see the handset for ourselves before passing judgement. 

We're still waiting to learn the OnePlus 6 launch date, but it can't be too far off with the volume of leaks and teasers we're currently seeing.

Categories: Tech News

Best Samsung phones: finding the right Galaxy for you

Latest Tech News - Mon, 04/23/2018 - 10:01

Samsung is the biggest name in Android phones, and for good reason, as the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S9 are among the best handsets you can buy.

But the company has made a lot of phones and it’s worth looking beyond the latest flagships, depending on your needs and budget.

So with that in mind here’s a guide to the best Samsung phones available. It covers new and old(er) at a range of price points, along with different screen sizes, specs and features.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is Samsung’s best phone, and also the top ranked handset in our overall best phones list at the time of writing.

It’s big, in fact its 6.2-inch screen would make it very big, were it not for the almost complete absence of bezel and the curved edges, which ensure it’s actually quite manageable in the hand. The screen is one of the best around too – it’s sharp and sports great colors.

The Galaxy S9 Plus also stands out through its dual 12MP cameras, one of which is a dual-aperture one, meaning it can switch between f/1.5 for dark scenes and f/2.4 for everything else.

Other highlights include impressive stereo speakers and a big 3,500mAh battery. There’s flagship power too of course, and all the bells and whistles that tend to go with that, like a stylish metal and glass build, water resistance, wireless charging and various biometric security options, including a fingerprint scanner, an iris scanner and a face scanner.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus review

The Samsung Galaxy S9 is a smaller, cheaper (but still expensive) alternative to the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus. 

The 5.8-inch screen makes it potentially preferable if you have smaller hands or pockets, and as with the S9 Plus it’s more compact than you might expect, thanks to its slim bezels and curvy screen.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 has many of the same high points as the S9 Plus, including a sharp, vibrant display, a high-end build, plenty of power and various biometric security options.

It’s only got a single-lens camera, but it’s still a very good one, and the battery is smaller, so this is definitely the weaker phone overall, but it’s still one of the more impressive handsets you can buy in 2018.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S9 review

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is Samsung’s other flagship, designed for those who want a truly massive 6.3-inch screen and a stylus (known as the S-Pen) to help make the most of it.

Other than that, it has much in common with the Galaxy S range, with a similar (and similarly stylish) glass back and metal frame, a QHD curved screen and a dual-lens rear camera.

There’s lots of power too, though it’s using a 2017 chipset rather than a 2018 one, so it’s not quite a match for the S9 range. But then it’s also now a little cheaper than the S9 Plus and still has water resistance, wireless charging and loads of storage.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review

The Samsung Galaxy S8 was one of the best phones of 2017 and it still ranks high now. In fact, the Samsung Galaxy S9 is only a fairly minor upgrade.

The S8 has a sharp 1440 x 2960 5.8-inch OLED screen, which of course, is curved. It’s got a great design, with a metal frame, a glass back and minimal bezel, it’s got a 12MP camera that outperforms most phones and even now it’s still very powerful.

It’s also water-resistant, supports wireless charging and has a fingerprint scanner, a face scanner and an iris scanner – though the latter two don’t work as well as on the Galaxy S9 and the former is in a more annoying position. Still, they’re small complaints about what’s otherwise a minor classic in the smartphone world.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S8 review

The Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus is a big-screen alternative to the Samsung Galaxy S8, but it’s not just the 6.2-inch display that’s bigger, the 3,500mAh battery is too.

Otherwise this is a very similar phone, with many of the same pros and cons. You get a sharp display with great contrast and colors, a powerful – if now slightly dated – chipset, a 12MP single lens camera that excels in most lighting, and more biometric options than you’ll know what to do with.

It’s also cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus or Galaxy Note 8, making the Galaxy S8 Plus a slightly more affordable big-screen option – though it lacks the dual-lens cameras of those phones.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus review

The Samsung Galaxy S7 was one of the best phones of 2016, which means it’s still very decent now, especially given that the price has dropped a lot since launch.

But it could appeal not just to those on a budget, but also those who want a fairly compact phone, as its 5.1-inch screen is small by modern standards. It’s as good as you’d expect from Samsung though, thanks to its use of Super AMOLED and its QHD resolution, though unlike most Galaxy S handsets from the last couple of years this one’s screen is flat.

The Galaxy S7 also has a water-resistant build and a highly capable 12MP camera, plus specs that were once top-end and still hold their own in the mid-range.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S7 review

The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge is a bigger, curvier alternative to the Samsung Galaxy S7. The larger 5.5-inch screen is the same resolution (and therefore slightly less sharp) but still super crisp and vibrant, while the curves ensure the design is more modern.

The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge also has a big 3,600mAh battery, making it one of the longer lasting Samsung phones you’ll find, and it has the same great camera as the standard Galaxy S7.

Its chipset is getting on a bit, but still stands up to similarly priced phones, and there’s only 32GB of built-in storage, but you do also get a microSD card slot, so even the bad that points aren’t that bad.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge review

The Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) was launched as a mid-range alternative to the Galaxy S range, and it holds up well, thanks largely to its 1080p AMOLED screen capable of punchy colors.

The Galaxy A5 is also packing mid-range power and a quality metal and glass build that’s quite similar to that of the Samsung Galaxy S7.

Battery life is far better than you might expect too, with the phone comfortably lasting well over a day, but the 16MP camera is a bit of a step down in quality from the S7 range.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017) review

The Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017) looks far higher end than it is, thanks to its metal frame and glass back. It’s even water and dust-resistant. Yet this phone has a price that’s barely even mid-range.

Take a look at the specs and the low cost becomes easier to explain, as there’s just 2GB of RAM, a mid-range chipset and a 720p screen, but that’s still solid for the money, especially as it’s a compact 4.7-inch display – so those pixels go further than on a big screen.

And despite its small cell size you can actually get around two days of life from the Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017) with moderate use, which is something few phones can match.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017) review

Categories: Tech News

AMD Ryzen 7 2800X could square up against Intel’s 8-core Coffee Lake CPU

Latest Tech News - Mon, 04/23/2018 - 10:00

The AMD Ryzen 7 2800X was suspiciously absent in the Ryzen 2nd Generation launch lineup, and now the chipmaker has teased that it has saved its best for last.

Speaking to Tech Power Up, AMD Senior Vice President Jim Anderson hinted that we might see a Ryzen 7 2800X processor released at a later date. The main reason for the delay supposedly being that the Ryzen 7 2700X already trounces the Intel Core i7-8700K in performance to price.

Without another higher-end consumer processor to compete with, there really isn’t any reason for AMD to throw down an even faster chip. Furthermore, with looming rumors that Intel will introduce an eight-core Coffee Lake S CPU, AMD may well be holding back its flagship chip to see what Team Blue does first.

We don’t often speculate, but this is one of the rare times we would put a rumor in the “you better believe it” category. A fight between Intel’s first consumer-grade octa-core processor and AMD’s best Ryzen 2nd generation processor will be a spectacle to behold.

Via The Inquirer

Categories: Tech News

eSIM standardisation halted by US operator probe

Latest Tech News - Mon, 04/23/2018 - 08:34

Industry body the GSMA has halted development on a global standard for an embedded SIM card amid an ongoing investigation in the US.

eSIM technology would eliminate the need for a physical SIM card, making it significantly easier to switch networks and select new services.

This means mobile users could adopt a more flexible approach, choosing short-term data plans and signing up with a foreign operator when they are abroad.


And because it’s software-based, these changes can be done remotely, making the technology ideal for the Internet of Things (IoT). Making physical changes to IoT devices would increase cost and limit scale of deployment.

Embedded SIMs are used in certain Apple devices, such as the iPad and the Apple Watch 3. However this is powered by the proprietary Apple SIM standard and is dependent on operator support.

However, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) is determining whether there has been collusion between AT&T and Verizon to make it difficult for customers to switch networks with eSIM. Handset manufacturers had complained to the DoJ about the alleged practices, leading to the probe.

“This [latest] standard contains a wide range of features, including the option for the eSIM to be locked,” said the GSMA. “In the United States, consumers would have this option; however, they would need to explicitly consent to this under specific commercial agreements with their mobile operator, for example when purchasing a subsidised device.

“The development of the latest version of the specification is on hold pending the completion of an investigation by the United States Department of Justice. The GSMA is cooperating fully with the Department of Justice in this matter.”

Both Verizon and AT&T told Reuters that they were aware of the investigation and cooperating.

Categories: Tech News