Tag Archives: Gadget News

Chromebooks from Acer, HP and Samsung heading to six new countries

Over the past few months, Chromebooks have become a part of everyday life for many people – a computer for the kitchen, for on the go, or for sharing with family (or not). In the U.S. the Samsung Chromebook has been at the top of Amazon’s best-selling laptop list for 149 days since launch and in the U.K., Dixons says Chromebooks make up more than 10 percent of laptop sales in Currys and PC World stores.

Many of you around the world have told us you’re eager to get your hands on a Chromebook, so we’ve been working with our partners to make this possible. Today we’re happy to say we’re one step closer to making Chromebooks truly “for everyone”–or rather, pour tout le monde, für alle, and voor iedereen.

Starting Tuesday the Acer, HP and Samsung Chromebooks will begin rolling out in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands. To help improve computing for organizations, we’re also rolling out Chromebooks to businesses and schools in these same countries. Learn more on our Enterprise blog.

In the U.S., Chromebooks will also be expanding to more than 1,000 Best Buy stores nationwide — doubling the number of stores Chromebooks are presently sold in — over the next couple of weeks.

Article source: http://www.engadget.com/2013/03/19/chromebook-acer-hp-samsung-available-six-new-countries/

EA lists free games as apology for SimCity launch mess

SimCity screenshot
(Credit:
Screenshot by GameSpot)

EA has detailed the list of Origin games it will offer to customers affected by the disastrous launch of SimCity.

All copies of SimCity registered on Origin before March 25 will give applicable customers a chance to pick one free game from the following list: Battlefield 3; Bejeweled 3; Dead Space 3; Mass Effect 3; Medal of Honor: Warfighter; Need for Speed: Most Wanted; Plants vs. Zombies; and SimCity 4: Deluxe Edition.

The games provided, with the exception of Sim City 4, are all standard edition.

EA will roll out the redemption process across its three territories in waves, starting in North America by 5 p.m. PT on Wednesday, March 20, before reaching Europe by March 21, and then Asia and South America before the end of March 22.

Read more of “EA details free Origin games as apology for SimCity launch disaster” at GameSpot.

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/cnet/pRza/~3/PsRhy2RPZ_s/

Turtle Beach XP Seven Series headset review: a new era of tournament-grade gaming audio

Turtle Beach XP Seven Series headset review: a new era of tournament-grade gaming audio

Get out of your seat — okay, you don’t really have to do that. Turtle Beach, however, is certainly hoping its new headset won’t have you stuck there. After months of teasing, it’s finally here. This is the Seven Series, the company’s first set officially bred for Major League Gaming tournaments. It’s a contractual title that’s already been bestowed upon Astro’s well-performing Mixamp and A40 systems. But for Turtle Beach, this is a first: we’ve never seen the company go after a demographic quite this wide, one that demands not just cross-platform gaming support, but a design versatile enough for everyday listening.

The Seven Series lineup includes the computer-focused Z, the mobile-geared M and the cross-platform XP. For this review, we’ll be focusing on the XP bundle ($280), which includes a headset, a virtual 5.1 surround-sound-enabling Audio Control Unit and a console adapter dubbed the Console Interface. (For the time being, those last two pieces won’t be sold as standalone products.) While the headset itself might seem like the star of the show, in our eyes the ACU and CI offer the most exciting prospects. Together, they allow for virtual surround sound and voice chat with any set of wired headphones on any platform (much like the Mixamp) while also putting Turtle Beach’s tried-and-tested custom audio presets at your fingertips. So what’s it like to use? Join us past the break where we’ll lay it all out.

Turtle Beach XP Seven Series headset review

Hardware

DNP Turtle Beach XP Seven Series headset review a new era of tournamentgrade gaming audio

The headset is draped in white and black down to the detachable braided cables — a color scheme we’re not in love with. In fact, we felt slightly embarrassed to wear it outside.

Upon unboxing the unit, you’ll find the headset, Audio Control Unit and Console Interface, obviously, as well as various cables for hookup. All told, you get a male-to-male 3.5mm aux cord; 3.5mm cables, one with an inline remote / mic and one without; a Toslink cable; a 2.5mm cable for Xbox controllers; and an extension cable for the ACU.

The headset is draped in white and black down to the detachable braided cables — a color scheme we’re not exactly in love with. In fact, we felt slightly embarrassed to wear it outside — it’s just a little cheesy, is all. Though it’s predominantly made of matte and glossy-finished plastic, it still feels solid and not at all hollow. While it ultimately feels more premium than, say, a pair of Trittons, it still has some catching up to do compared to what Astro’s offering in the same price range. Make no mistake, though: this is the best build quality we’ve seen from the company since the metal-clad HPX.

The leather headband and memory-foam-loaded earpads provide ample comfort for long sessions, and the earcups are cushy enough to keep the cartilage on your ears protected. The cups also fold flat for resting on your collarbones or for easy stowing inside your day bag. The overall clamping force is a bit tight out of the box, but after wearing it a few times, we noticed the headphones had already loosened up a good deal. Thanks to the closed-back design, isolation from outside noise was very good even on the subway. Currently, there’s no option for cloth-wrapped padding — Turtle Beach says most of the pro players it polled during the product-development phase didn’t mind losing some breathability in favor of better isolation. Still, we’d love to see the option for those who just hate getting sweaty ears.

DNP Turtle Beach XP Seven Series headset review a new era of tournamentgrade gaming audio

Like some models from Astro and Tritton, the Seven headset has earcups with interchangeable faceplates. While they’re not available just yet, you’ll be able to order some with your own custom designs. Oddly, the included set features mesh that implies the headphones are open-backed, but really, that’s just an unnecessary design flourish. The faceplates snap firmly into place, but you’ll probably need the help of a coin to pry them off — we still prefer the magnetic connection that Astro uses, rather than the snap-on designs from TB and Tritton.

Moving to the underside of the left earcup, you’ll find a 3.5mm boom microphone insert and a short cable with a quick disconnect dongle attached at the end. We have little concern that the cable could be ripped from the earcup thanks to its cloth wrap and rubber connection, but its proprietary nine-pin connector ensures you’ll be stuck to Turtle Beach for replacement cables. The company says it’s for grounding purposes, though that’s hard to accept when most headphones at this price point use the standard 3.5mm connection.

Beyond that, the whole quick-disconnect section feels abnormally large with a cable connected. It’s especially problematic when you hook up the cable with an included inline remote and mic, as it’s simply huge compared to inline remotes on most headphones. On the plus side, the connection is tight and secure, but the button placement of the remote made it tough to find without looking down. Don’t get us wrong, it’s totally usable, but the user experience doesn’t always feel fluid.

DNP Turtle Beach XP Seven Series headset review a new era of tournamentgrade gaming audio

This is the first time you’ll have this much granular real-time control over your headset’s audio.

So, we’re not exactly in love with the headset’s design, but the Audio Control Unit is another story. This is seriously a game changer for console users compared to what’s been available for cross-platform Dolby surround sound decoders in the past. This bus-powered, wired remote feels solid in hand, with function taking precedence over form. Its circular top handles the majority of volume and surround sound settings, while the rest of the remote’s top-facing section is split into eight preset selectors for the incoming game audio in either speaker or headphone mode. Notably, all of the presets and surround sound selectors are capacitive. We were skeptical at first, but thanks to a built-in two-second delay between touch selections, we always got what we wanted — and no, the delay isn’t too noticeable. Better yet, all of our taps registered even with sweaty hands.

The topmost section features a physical volume dial that also serves as a mute switch when pushed, surrounded by a circular cluster of LEDs (for clockwise-flowing level indication) and then a secondary outer ring of capacitive buttons and LED indicators. The 1 o’clock position denotes if your mic is muted, while at 3 o’clock is a Dolby Digital status (stereo or surround sound). The 4 o’clock spot is a Master button (for saving settings and quickly returning the center dial to its main volume control), and 6 o’clock features a half-dozen blocks that correspond to your virtual surround speakers. At 8 o’clock is a 5.1 button for toggling between the front, rear, center and subwoofer volumes, and 9 o’clock is the stereo / surround toggle. Finally, the 10 o’clock position is a toggle for adjusting the angle of the left and right, front or rear speakers. Some of these features have been available to lesser degrees on earlier TB headsets, but merely as presets. This is the first time you’ll have this much granular real-time control over your headset’s audio.

DNP Turtle Beach XP Seven Series headset review a new era of tournamentgrade gaming audio

It took us a couple hours to understand how to adjust the audio in the exact ways we wanted.

Running along the left side, you’ll find a power toggle, a programmable jog dial (preset as a microphone monitor volume) and another for setting the volume of external sources like MP3 players. On the bottom edge are three audio inputs: a 3.5mm jack for external sources, one for your actual headset and a 2.5mm jack to connect to Xbox 360 controllers for voice chat on Live. On the right edge, you’ll notice a volume jog dial for incoming chat audio and a backlit button for switching between speaker and headset mode. Lastly, there’s a 3.5mm speaker output at the front of the unit.

On the bottom are three rubber feet that keep the ACU firmly in place on a table and a belt clip (a humorous addition given its large size). As you can imagine, there’s a lot of control here — an overwhelming amount, in fact. It took us a couple hours to understand how to adjust the audio in the exact ways we wanted, and that’s partly because the included documentation is quite dense. Thankfully, after many trials with some errors, we loved the control that the unit placed at our fingers, as TB promised. Basically, if you’re not willing to take a few hours to really command this thing and understand the audio production in each of your games, you might be better off with the simpler options out there.

As an aside, these units are specifically made to work with the TM1 tournament mixer. Basically, it’s a $200 mixing console for LAN setups and MLG tournaments, meaning you could easily set up a multi-headset sound solution of your own. It even features a broadcast channel for commentating, and a dedicated chat system so you won’t experience any delay conferring with your teammates. We couldn’t get our hands on one for this review, but we hope to give you a closer look in the future.

Setup

The ACU features a lengthy cable that terminates in a USB jack and a nine-pin connector. When used with a PC or Mac, the USB connection is all that you’ll have to worry about to get started (aside from ensuring your surround settings are correct). For your PS3 or Xbox 360, a small Console Interface is needed. Both the USB and nine-pin connection plug in on the front, while the back has a Toslink input (with a pass-through in case you have other Toslink gear plugged in) and another 3.5mm aux input. A light on its top lets you know that you’re active. From there it’s a matter of plugging in whatever headset you’re going to use into the ACU — any other setup happens with the software and presets.

Software, presets and sound

Image from an earlier version of the PX5-focused ASE.

Similar to the PX5, this supports Turtle Beach’s Advanced Sound Editor (ASE) and Preset Manager (PM) software. Using your computer, you’ll be able to make your own EQ presets, and assign them, or ones you’ve downloaded from Turtle Beach, to the ACU. Mac users are currently left out of the ASE, but the company is actively working on getting the software out eventually. The sooner the better, too, as there are currently fewer than 20 presets available for download, and they’re only geared toward Dead Space 3 and Black Ops 2. Interestingly, the whole website experience is akin to your average forum, which is to say download links are spread across multiple threads. Really, an app store would make more sense. Thankfully, for our purposes, the folks at Turtle Beach sent us some of their own EQ presets to test out.

DNP Turtle Beach XP Seven Series headset review a new era of tournamentgrade gaming audio

Sonically, the whole package performs extremely well, even if it’s a bit low on volume out of the box. The headphones have a thick, smooth tonality with a decent enough soundstage that works well with any EQ and surround setting we chose from the ACU. While Turtle Beach says the headset is voiced for a relatively flat response, we noticed a definite bump in the midrange when using headphones without any EQ. The ACU doesn’t push too much hiss in the signal, and operates pleasingly as a soundcard. While the XP Seven and ACU are made for each other, you can certainly connect your own headphones to the unit — something we know audiophile gamers are going to appreciate. With the ACU, it really comes down to this: you can make a preset focused solely on an EQ that sounds ripe to your ears, or simply forgo a nice mix and highlight certain frequencies for an unfair advantage. Here’s the interesting part: although you can load the ACU with all these presets, MLG gamers will be plugging into ones with league-mandated presets and a higher overall volume output.

Sonically, the whole package performs extremely well, even if it’s a bit low on volume out of the box.

The real problem with Turtle Beach’s preset-packing headsets is that if your chosen game has poor audio onboard, you’re going to notice quickly. For example, Dead Space 2 has an extremely immersive sound design, which you really begin to appreciate as you’re changing the volumes of the surround sound channels and moving the bilateral angles of the front and rear side channels around your ears. Speaking of those angles, you can move the front-left and front-right virtual speakers in 10-degree, parallel increments from the front side and back to side with the rears. Lowering the volume of the center channel allowed us to kill much of our character’s own sounds like footsteps and gunshots, ensuring we weren’t scaring ourselves silly. However, moving to Modern Warfare 3, it soon became clear that the only things the audio designers left in the center channel were voice prompts. In those cases, the ACU was too powerful for its own good — you really begin to want what you can’t have. Sure, one could achieve all of this with a real speaker setup, but it would never be this fast to adjust.

You may be wondering about the ACU being only 5.1 instead of 7.1 like most headsets. Put simply, most solutions offering 7.1 really use Dolby PLIIx to matrix two more virtualized rear channels, based on the actual 5.1 info being sent to the decoder box. In effect, it’s more of a filler than anything, and essentially unnoticeable to us even after testing headsets for years with the feature. The granular audio controls more than make up for it.

DNP Turtle Beach XP Seven Series headset review a new era of tournamentgrade gaming audio

When it comes to mic and chat audio, there is also a good chunk of features. Since the Seven headset blocks out a fair amount of outside noise, the ACU offers voice monitoring so you won’t feel the need to shout into the mic. Thankfully, it’s also adjustable, which allowed us to dial in the perfect amount of volume for games, chat and our voice. The feature worked more effectively while using the boom mic, with the inline remote coming off as harsh through the ACU. Like TB’s other headsets, you’ll also find chat boost included, which adjusts the chat volume at the same rate as the game audio changes, while still keeping your set ratio. For example, if the game volume moves up one notch, the chat channel will only move up one notch even if the actual volume is many times lower. Unlike our experience with the PX21 a few years ago, the chat boost was thankfully less aggressive in its attack quickness — nothing is worse than an ear-piercing spike in volume. In short, the quality from the boom and inline mics is more than acceptable for their intended uses. Don’t take our word for it, though, as you can hear for yourself with the soundbites below:

Wrap-up

DNP Turtle Beach XP Seven Series headset review a new era of tournamentgrade gaming audio

A few design quirks and frustrations aside, we’re pleased with the XP Seven Series bundle. Even more than the headphones, though, we’re smitten with the Audio Control Unit. The Seven Series headset is a solid enough offering, but there are plenty of other $150 headsets we’d use with the ACU if we could. Compared to Astro’s older MLG headsets, this product represents a clear step forward, and we’re sure many competitive gamers will enjoy it. If it were up to us, we’d hold off until the ACU becomes available as a standalone product and then pair it with an even better pair of headphones. One thing is certain: the Astro Mixamp has finally been beaten at its own game. It’s time to take Turtle Beach seriously outside the living room.

Article source: http://www.engadget.com/2013/03/18/turtle-beach-ear-force-xp-seven-headset-review/

Armorer makes Batman ‘Batarangs’ sharp as an ax

Swattons Batarang

Don’t try this at home.


(Credit:
Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET)

For most of us, Batman’s cool toys are pretty much out of reach. We’ll never drive a Batmobile. We won’t slip on a Batsuit or fire a Bat grappling gun. The iconic “Batarang,” Batman’s bat-shaped cross between a throwing star and a boomerang, however, may be a little bit more in reach.

Prop maker and swordsmith Tony Swatton has created weapons for more than 200 films. He tackles a new item each week in his online show, “Man at Arms.” Most recently, he went to town on building and demonstrating a Batarang. Swatton certainly has the cred for this project. He’s worked on three Batman movies, including creating Bane’s belt buckles for “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Swatton started innocently enough with a paper template. That became a metal template, which then became the actual Batarangs, cut from hardened steel. Each one is a healthy 12 inches across.

For one of the Batman movies, Swatton made Batarangs from anondized aluminum. That’s good for the camera, but not so effective in the real world. His steel creations, however, are definitely dangerous weapons. They may not be razor-sharp, be he has made them ax-sharp. “These are not stunt Batarangs; these ones will tear stuff up,” Swatton said.

So, is this the sort of DIY project you’re likely to do at home? Nope, not unless you’re a skilled armorer with a plasma cutter, belt grinder, pneumatic belt sander, and furnace that can reach 1,500 degrees. But you can still get a thrill out of Swatton’s Batarangs. Just be sure to hang in for the end of the video, where you can watch them in action — destroying a
car window, taking out a TV set, and laying waste to some water balloons.

(Via Comic Book Resources)

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/cnet/pRza/~3/GYPLZ4i57-Q/

Samsung Game Pad pops up on Galaxy S4 site, outs Note 3?

This could soon be how enjoy a quick game on our big ol’ tabones.


(Credit:
Screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET)

During its bizarre unveiling of the Galaxy S4, there were a few accessories that Samsung didn’t get to spend much time on. For example, some reporters later stumbled upon a wireless charging feature, and a prototype of a nifty gaming controller that docks with some Galaxy devices while pairing via Bluetooth has also popped up.

The controller is dubbed simply the “Game Pad” and looks an awful lot like it came off of an
Xbox 360. Samsung says it is capable of one-touch Bluetooth pairing via Samsung’s funky NFC Tectile system, which works with the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S2 as well, among others. It also functions as a remote control for use with your bigger screens at home.

What’s perhaps most interesting about this fairly standard little controller, however, is one little note that’s currently on the Game Pad page on Samsung’s Galaxy S4 microsite. It notes “4”~6.3″ screen size available,” which is curious because Samsung’s biggest phone at the moment is the Note 2 with a screen size of 5.5 inches.

That is food for speculation right there. Is Samsung planning an even larger phablet? Will the Note 3 be a whopping 6.3 inches? And if so, will it throw the world of pants pocket design into utter chaos?

At that size it’s really becoming more
tablet than phone, right? Which means it’s really more accurate to call it a “tabone.” I know what you’re thinking, but does it really sound more weird than “phablet?”

Let’s just embrace it. Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to be the first to declare that I believe Samsung’s new Game Pad has just outed the world’s first tabone.

Soon enough, it’ll just be rolling off our tongues. You’ll see.

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/cnet/pRza/~3/0CnIhJhW2cY/

PowerKiss joins Power Matters Alliance, plans to expand wireless charging standard in Europe

PowerKiss Aligns with the Power Matters Alliance

Helsinki, Finland — March 13, 2013: PowerKiss, a pioneer and leader in the field of wireless power, is joining the Power Matters Alliance (PMA) – the world leading ecosystem for wireless power – in order to ensure consumers enjoy a uniform wireless power experience in all the venues they visit throughout their day. Global leaders – including ATT, Starbucks, Otterbox, IDT, TI, ZTE, and many others – have also joined PMA in recent months.

“Consumers don’t need a standards war for wireless power – they need a dependable and uniform experience,” said Mats Wolontis, CEO, PowerKiss. “We believe that the PMA is well placed to benefit consumers worldwide. PowerKiss’ many years of experience in offering wireless charging in public spaces is a critical asset in the roll-out of such an ecosystem.”

PowerKiss recently announced that it will deploy wireless power in select McDonald’s restaurants in Europe. PowerKiss currently provides over 1,000 wireless charging spots at locations across Europe, including at leading train-stations such as London’s Paddington and Paris’ Gare de Lyon stations, and at dozens of airports including in Barcelona, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Helsinki, Liverpool, Lyon, Malaga, Manchester, Newcastle, Oslo, Paris, Stockholm and Tenerife. The company plans to upgrade its existing and future installations to PMA compliance.

“Our decision to become PMA members was based on several factors,” said Maija Itkonen, CMO and Founder of PowerKiss. “The PMA system has a unique layer of ‘Telco Grade’ intelligence that allows venues to monitor the health, usage and policies of all their charging spots. Secondly, we believe the PMA now enjoys the momentum and the necessary investment from major industry players to bring wireless power to life for consumers. This makes PMA a natural choice for PowerKiss. Finally, PMA offers a trusted and truly open framework that everyone can feel comfortable adopting.”

“I want to welcome PowerKiss to the PMA” said Ron Resnick, Executive Director of the PMA. “PMA was founded to unite the wireless power industry behind a common ecosystem and standard. It is gratifying to see this coming to fruition. Consumers deserve to know that a device that can be charged at Madison Square Garden will also charge at their local coffee shop, airport or salon. At first approximation PMA is used in 100% of all wireless charging spots in the Americas – and with the support of PowerKiss, PMA is now on track to reproduce this success across Europe as well.”

About PowerKiss Ltd.
PowerKiss Ltd provides integrated wireless charging solutions, which aim to release people from the inconvenience of charging cables, power sockets and empty batteries. PowerKiss is found in cafés, restaurants, hotels and airports around the world and has become a forefront player in the rapidly growing wireless charging industry. The company is headquartered in Helsinki, Finland. Please find out more at www.powerkiss.com.

About the Power Matters Alliance PMA was founded by Powermat Technologies and Procter Gamble in 2012. Google’s Vint Cerf – one of the fathers of the Internet – is its Honorary Chairman, and its board includes ATT, Duracell, Starbucks and the US Government’s Energy Star and Federal Communications Commission (both non-voting). A wide array of PMA-compliant products are available at leading retailers, and compatible ‘wireless charging spots’ have been installed at leading airports, stadiums, restaurants, gyms and hair salons. Membership of the PMA is open to all, and its technical specifications are available to all members at www.powermatters.org.

Article source: http://www.engadget.com/2013/03/18/powerkiss-power-matters-alliance/