TCL S305 series Roku TV (2017) review

Posted by Samuel Eiferman on 20th November 2017 in Consumer Electronics

Here’s the thing about small TVs: Their picture quality is pretty much all the same.

TV manufacturers tend to pour their effort and latest image-enhancing extras like 4K and HDR into larger models that will be used in more demanding viewing environments, and incidentally can be sold for a higher profit. In the world of small, bedroom-sized TVs — I’m talking 43 inches and smaller — the focus is on reducing cost to hit a price point.

So what separates a good small TV from the pack? In my book it’s convenience and ease of use, and nobody does that better than Roku TVs. Chinese TV maker TCL is the leader in televisions powered by the Roku operating system, the same one found in my favorite external streaming devices. Roku streaming, complete with thousands of apps and a dead-simple menu system, is built right into the TV, and everything is controlled by one remote.

TCL S305 series Roku TV

The fact that you don’t have to connect an external streaming device, combined with their dirt-cheap prices, makes TCL’s S305 series our go-to budget budget pick at modest screen sizes. Its closest competitor is Vizio with its D series or the 43-inch member of the E series, but Vizio’s Smart TV system is significantly worse. I didn’t review any of those smaller Vizios this year, but based on what I’ve seen in the past, their image quality is close enough to this TCL’s that it doesn’t make a difference.

Smart TV made simple

TCL’s sets are bare-bones, with a thin, glossy black frame and prominent logos, including one for TCL and another for Roku along the bottom. Silver legs to either side keep the TV upright.

I like Roku’s simple remote for TVs. It’s tiny, with just a few buttons, and unless you dial in channel numbers from an antenna you probably won’t miss the absent ones. Unfortunately its central directional cursor has a cheaper feel than Roku’s device remote, with every press emitting a hollow click.

TCL S305 series Roku TV

Sarah Tew/CNET

The volume control/mute are side-mounted and the shortcut key varies. Both the 32- and 43-inch remotes had Netflix and Sling TV, but on the 32-inch there were also shortcuts Hulu and Starz, while the 43-inch got Amazon and CBS News.

Simplicity and customization reign with Roku’s menu design. The main difference between its streaming devices and its TVs is the handful of icons along the top of the main home screen, like “Antenna TV,” “DVR,” “Blu-Ray player” and “HDMI 3.” You’ll choose a name and icon for your connected gadget during the setup process, and you can easily change it later or hide unused inputs.

Roku TVs have access to all the thousands of apps found on Roku’s platform, which still offers better coverage than any competitor, smart TV or otherwise. Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Hulu, Plex, HBO Now, Showtime, Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, Vudu, Google Play Movies and TV, Watch ESPN, Fox Sports Now, FX Now, Comedy Central, Starz, PBS Kids…if there’s a video app that isn’t iTunes, Roku almost certainly has it. And thanks to Movies Anywhere, it can access iTunes movies, too.


Sarah Tew/CNET

It’s also worth mentioning the exclusive Roku Channel app which has a bunch of free on-demand movies (with ads). The selection is a lot better than you’d think, and the ads aren’t that bad, although you might have to put up with some awkward breaks.

As usual with Roku, apps launched quickly and performed well. I also appreciated that the TV, unlike cheaper Rokus like the Express, can connect to both 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless networks. Search is the best in the business overall, and in general the interface is as friendly and simple as it gets. For more info, check out my review of my favorite Roku device, the Streaming Stick Plus.

Article source:

HaptX promises to make your virtual hands feel like real ones

Posted by Carl on 20th November 2017 in Consumer Electronics

The gloves are made by HaptX, which used to be known as AxonVR. It changed its name partially because there are a lot of other companies that are using the name Axon — it’s the name of a phone, a trucking company and a maker of non-lethal weapons. HaptX also happens to be the name of the technology that makes the realistic touch possible.

When the company says “realistic touch,” it means the gloves let you feel the shape, texture and even temperature of whatever you’re holding — you can even feel if an object is hard or soft. That’s right; the gloves will actually prevent your hand from going through virtual objects.

At the heart of the technology is microfluidics, which is a study of how fluids move through small, sub-millimeter channels. HaptX CEO and co-founder Jake Rubin spent several years at Cal Poly researching the subject, along with the company’s other co-founder, Dr. Robert Crockett. This led to the creation of the HaptX skin, which is made up of hundreds of tiny little air pockets. Whenever you touch something in the virtual world, these air bubbles — also known as haptic actuators — inflate, displacing your skin in the same way a real object would. The actuators can be woven into fabric, which results in what Rubin and co. call the HaptX smart textile.

“These are basically tiny little haptic pixels,” said Jake Rubin, CEO and founder of HaptX. “And by changing their pressure over time, very quickly, we can create any sensation in your skin.” He likens it to a visual display, with each pixel changing in color to create an image. He explained that with the HaptX gloves, the pixels are tiny and in high density near the fingers — where the most sensitivity is needed — and larger and lower density at the palm.

The sensitivity of the displacement can be up to 2 millimeters, which Rubin said is much higher of than that of other VR gloves. Other haptic gloves like the GloveOne and the aforementioned Manus use vibrating motors that buzz or rumble, the Teslasuit uses electrodes that deliver small electric shocks, and still others like the VRgluv use motors that provide resistance on the fingers. None of these, according to Rubin, offer the same accuracy and finesse as the HaptX.

I tried a prototype of the gloves, and I was trepidatious at first. For one, the test glove was too big for my hands — Rubin says most of the HaptX engineers have larger mitts than I do. The issue is that in order for the HaptX material to work, my fingers need to touch the glove’s fingertips.

After some pulling, however, my hand fit. The glove was made out of a mesh fabric on the inside and a Vive receiver was attached to the outside; my fingertips were secured by what felt like plastic clamps. The glove was attached to a wire connecting to a large Xbox-like machine. This, Rubin said, houses all the valves to control air flow.

The glove felt bulky, heavy and a little uncomfortable. Rubin tells me that the final version will come in different sizes and be slimmed down, so hopefully, this is only an issue with the prototype.

Then, I had an HTC Vive strapped to my head and the HaptX folks fired up the demo. A small farm appeared in front of me, with raining clouds, a barn and a wheat field. I placed my hand underneath one of the clouds and immediately felt light raindrops. I waved my hand through the wheat field and felt every strand run through my fingers.

Next, a small fox ran out. When I placed my palm in front of it, it leapt into my hand, giving me a ticklish sensation as it ran around. When the fox finally lay down, I felt its whole body in the palm of my hand. Next, a huge spider crawled into view; it too climbed onto my hand. Its eight legs felt so fuzzy and realistic that it sent shivers up my spine, and I cringed in reaction.

I also squeezed the clouds and the rocks to see which was softer. I felt more resistance with the rocks but still managed to close my fingers into a fist, forcing the rocks to slip out of my hand. Ideally, I shouldn’t be able to close my fingers at all. Rubin said that could be because the glove didn’t fit my hand well enough in the first place.

Despite the unpleasant feeling of the glove, I was surprised by how realistic the touch sensations felt. It’s unlike any other VR controller I’ve tried. That said, there are a few flaws. For one, the gloves need to be attached to the aforementioned box. Rubin said they could be put it in a backpack for untethered applications when doing room-scale VR, but that sounds a little clunky. He thinks the technology will get to the point where they won’t need a box, but it’s not there yet.

Also, the prototype I tried didn’t have a temperature setting, because that version uses water instead of air. Rubin said the company is focusing on the non-temperature version of the gloves so it can get them to market sooner.

As impressive as the HaptX gloves felt, Rubin doesn’t intend for them to be used for video games, at least not yet. Right now, Rubin is marketing HaptX to be used for commercial applications like training simulation in medical, military and industrial spaces, location-based entertainment for theme parks, and design and manufacturing using telerobotics. This is because, in those applications, fidelity and finesse are way more important than in gaming.

“Some of these full-scale military simulators cost tens of millions of dollars,” said Rubin. “And there are these entertainment companies that are overlaying VR on physical environments but you still need a very large room. It’s not very scalable.” With something like HaptX, however, all you’d need to is change the software. He said that HaptX can be used when prototyping products, so manufacturers can “feel” what a car’s interior is like, for example.

Rubin hopes to release the first version of the gloves starting next year. He doesn’t rule out the technology trickling down to consumers, but that’s not the company’s focus. “We expect the price to come down quickly over a course of two to three years, to the point where consumers can have it,” he said. “It may never be, you know, $100 but it should be cheap enough within a couple of years that a consumer could certainly purchase and own this kind of technology.”

Interestingly, Rubin also said it’s possible for the HaptX material to be built into a full bodysuit. “When you combine these existing arm exoskeletons, our haptic wearables and a locomotion solution like an omnidirectional treadmill or a lower-body exoskeleton, it would get you very close to a holodeck — a full immersion in a virtual environment.”

Article source:

Google Pixel Buds review

Posted by Samuel Eiferman on 19th November 2017 in Consumer Electronics

Google’s Pixel Buds, the company’s $159 (£159, AU$229) in-ear wireless Bluetooth headphones, were the surprise hit of the company’s October hardware event that also saw the unveiling of the Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL and PixelBook. What captivated the gadget press — and the wider media — was the headphones’ advertised ability to deliver “real-time” translation of spoken languages. Many publications likened it to the Babel Fish of “Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy” fame. Engadget said the feature “will change the world.”

Now that they’re here, well… let’s just say the translation singularity hasn’t quite arrived.

What you get instead is a decent if unremarkable wireless headphone that has an interesting (if somewhat cumbersome) integration with the (admittedly excellent) Google Translate app that’s long been available on the smartphone that’s already in your pocket. In fact, the Buds best tricks are reserved for owners of Pixel and Pixel 2 phones only. 

That said, my experience with the Buds wasn’t the outright disaster that other early reviewers seem to have experienced. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they get better in the future with additional software tweaks — and, ideally, compatibility with a wider range of phones.

pixelbuds-pixel2xlEnlarge Image

The Pixel Buds are available in colors that match the colors of the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL.


Hey, Bud

The Pixel Buds have a few design traits that help distinguish them from a crowded field of competitors. Shaped like Menthos candies, they’re available in color options that match the Pixel 2 ($649.99 at Best Buy) and Pixel 2 XL ($849.99 at Best Buy) phones, and have an open design that doesn’t keep out noise (you don’t jam the buds into your ears). The adjustable loop at the top acts as a kind of fin to help keep the buds securely in place.

On the right earbud there’s a touchpad that allows you to pause or play music, adjust the volume and answer calls. With a touch of that surface you can also access Google Assistant — it comes up really quickly — and issue voice commands to play music, send a text or get walking directions. Double-tapping on the right earbud after hearing a notification alert tells Google Assistant to read the new message to you.

The Google Assistant feature works quite well, but I’m used to being able to double-tap on a touch-enabled headphone and have the track advance forward or skip back. That feature is sadly missing at this time. In essence, this is the same complaint that people had about Apple’s AirPods, which — pre-iOS 11 — had limited touch controls and made you use a voice command to skip a track forward. With Google Assistant, you can say “Next” while using the most popular music streaming services, including Spotify. But the problem is you have to access Google Assistant first.

First I had to fiddle around with the buds to get them to sit well in my ears. Once I adjusted the loops to the right length, I got a pretty secure fit and found the Pixel Buds lightweight and relatively comfortable to wear. Bose’s similarly priced SoundSport Wireless earphones are little more comfortable to wear and fit a little more securely — and their tips seal out more ambient sound — but the Pixel Buds’ design grew on me over time. 


I’m also a fan of the included compact charging case. You drop the buds in and wrap the cord around the inner rim of the charger (no, these aren’t totally wireless earphones like the AirPods ($199.97 at The charging case features a USB-C connection, not Micro-USB, so you only have to carry around one cable for your Pixel phone — or another Android device that charges via USB-C — and your Pixel Buds. The case is arguably the best thing about the headphones. 

Battery life is rated at 5 hours, which isn’t bad, but it’s also not great. The charging case delivers multiple charges, according to Google, allowing you to get up to 24 hours of battery life on the go. I didn’t listen to them for 24 hours straight, but I did use them through the course of the day without a problem. Like the AirPods, they charge quickly in the case. A 10-minute charge seems to get you about an hour’s worth of battery life.  

I initially paired them with a Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus. It was not an automatic pairing process. The instructions said that if I charged the case for 10 minutes and then opened the case near my phone it would pair. It didn’t (I later had the same problem with a Pixel 2 XL). But there’s a little button in the battery case that if you press for 3 seconds, while the buds are in the case, manually puts the Pixel Buds into pairing mode. They paired fine after that — and re-paired after the initial setup when I did open the case. But the setup process could have been better.

While the Buds didn’t sound great, they sounded better than I thought they would. Due to their open design, they sound pretty open and have a reasonable amount of bass and clarity — at least with less demanding music (acoustical material, for example). Throw something a little more complicated at them, like Rag’n’Bone Man’s “Human,” and things start to get a little muddy and distorted, particularly at higher volumes.


Like a lot of these in-ear Bluetooth headphones, the Pixel Buds have their moments where you say to yourself, “OK, that sounds pretty good.” And then they fall down a bit with other tracks, making you question your initial judgment. In terms of sound, they’re in the same league as the AirPods. And like the AirPods, they let in a lot of sound from the outside world, so they weren’t great for walking around the noisy streets of New York (if your priority is hearing music rather than situational awareness). However, for the gym, at home and at the office, they were good. 

It’s worth noting they’ll pair — and work — with Apple mobile devices, but you can’t touch the right bud for Google Assistant and you don’t get access to the “real-time” translation feature that Google is touting. 

Article source:

Motif Mentor review

Posted by Samuel Eiferman on 18th November 2017 in Consumer Electronics

CNET también está disponible en español.

Article source:

Senators propose ‘USA Liberty Act’ to reauthorize NSA surveillance

Posted by Carl on 18th November 2017 in Consumer Electronics

Even with that, there are critics saying it doesn’t go far enough. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) says that most importantly, it doesn’t stop the NSA from collecting data on innocent people. Further, its rules on “new reporting requirements, new defaults around data deletion, and new guidance for amicus engagement with the FISA Court” don’t go far enough, and won’t end so-called “backdoor searching.” Still, ACLU counsel Neema Singh Guliani called it an improvement over the House legislation, noting its warrant requirement.

Section 702 is supposed to let the NSA collect emails and communications of foreigners living overseas from US companies, but because those people communicate with Americans, all of that data is potentially accessible. This prospect of domestic spying without a warrant, as other agencies can ask for access the NSA’s data. It also needs to be reauthorized periodically, which is why lawmakers are considering this now.

Article source:

Secretlab Omega 2018 Release Date, Price and Specs

Posted by Samuel Eiferman on 17th November 2017 in Consumer Electronics

Singapore-based startup Secretlab isn’t resting on its comfortable gaming chairs just yet, despite having great success in getting its chairs sold outside of its home country to places like the US, UK and Australia.

For its new 2018 version of its Omega line, Secretlab is wasting no time in making sure its international customers are able to get their bottoms seated on one — the new chair is available now for $440 in the US (with a special launch price of $299), £400 in the UK (special launch price of £279) and AU$620 (launch price of AU$449).

If you’re already an Omega owner, you may not want to switch, but if you’re looking for a throne that can last you long gaming sessions or for use in the office, this could be something to consider, especially the new Ash model, which isn’t too ostentatious for use even in a business setting.

Of course, the only reason for paying so much for a chair is for support and comfort, and the new Omega delivers this in spades with its cold cured foam and memory foam lumbar pillow. I had colleagues at the CNET office in Singapore try it out, and they were impressed at how much more comfortable the chairs were compared to our usual office seats.


If you’re worried about the chair tipping over, fret not. I’ve put it to plenty of napping tests.

Aloysius Low/CNET

The padded foam bottoms don’t sink in, giving your butt ample support. Like most gaming chairs, the Omega can do a very steep recline, but it’s well balanced enough you don’t ever feel like you’re toppling over. It takes some time to get over your fear though, but lying down in the office to take a power nap has never been easier. There’s also a lock to keep it from springing back, in case you’re too light to keep the chair titled backwards (as some of my female colleagues discovered).

The armrests have been upgraded with a soft touch material, and are slightly wider as well. They feature four axis of rotation, so you can tweak them to your comfort (which you should, because it really helps support your wrists when typing.)

I’ve spent a week seated in the Omega, and compared to my office chair’s poor back support, the Omega has been great in keeping my lower back pains away, even after hours of being seated while working on my reviews.

All in all, the new Omega 2018 is a worthy successor to the company’s chair line up — though if you already own a good chair (like the previous Omega), it may not make financial sense to upgrade, after all, the current chair still has a few years left. But if you’re keen, feel free to head over to Secretlab’s online store to check it out.


Retailing for $440 in the US (with a special launch price of $299), £400 in the UK (special launch price of £279) and AU$620 (launch price of AU$449), the Omega 2018 isn’t a cheap chair, but it’s competitively priced against the competition.

Aloysius Low/CNET

Article source:

Microsoft Surface Book 2 (15-inch) review

Posted by Samuel Eiferman on 16th November 2017 in Consumer Electronics

CNET también está disponible en español.

Article source:

AT&T tells customers to restart their phones to make calls

Posted by Carl on 15th November 2017 in Consumer Electronics

Now that Google Docs is back up and running, it’s apparently ATT’s turn to take a stumble. Customers have reported trouble making calls for the last couple of hours, however, the company said the problem can be resolved by restarting your phone (it may take multiple restarts). There’s no word yet on the root cause of the problem, if we get more information then we will update this post.


We are aware of an issue affecting some users’ ability to make certain wireless calls. These users should restart their devices, which should resolve the issue.

Article source:

Fender Newport – speaker – for portable use – wireless Release Date, Price and Specs

Posted by Samuel Eiferman on 15th November 2017 in Consumer Electronics

CNET también está disponible en español.

Article source:

HTC Vive Focus Release Date, Price and Specs

Posted by Samuel Eiferman on 14th November 2017 in Consumer Electronics

CNET también está disponible en español.

Article source: