OnePlus 5 review: This mid-range Android phone is speedy inside, but stale outside

There are certain things you can usually count on in a OnePlus phone: great performance, an awesome price, and a touch of originality. But with the OnePlus 5, you’re only getting the first two parts of the three-part equation.

The OnePlus 5 is packed with the latest components on the inside, but its display is nothing special. It’s still a good deal cheaper than other premium phones, but even at a starting price of $479, it’s not quite a killer bargain. And its design, while nice-looking, is derivative of both previous OnePlus phones as well as Apple’s aging iPhone 7 Plus.

This time around, OnePlus’s new flagship isn’t about being different. It’s about fitting in. Indeed, OnePlus’s marketing slogan may be “Never Settle,” but it feels like we’re doing an awful lot of settling with the OnePlus 5.

Ordinary, uninspired design

With the exception of the ultra-budget OnePlus X, OnePlus’s handsets have all had 5.5-inch screens. The OnePlus 5 continues this trend, using the exact same display found in the OnePlus 3 and 3T: a 5.5-inch, 1920×1080 screen with a pixel density of 401ppi. It’s not a bad display by any means, but it falls behind the the QHD screens on the Galaxy S8 and the LG G6.

oneplus5 full shot Christopher Hebert/IDG

The OnePlus 5 has the same 5.5-inch AMOLED screen as the 3 and the 3T.

Like earlier OnePlus models, a home button/fingerprint sensor remains on the front, as do capacitive back and recent buttons. OnePlus positions the OnePlus 5 as an alternative to the premium Android flagships, but with chunky bezels and an oversized frame, this latest model is more comparable to last year’s phones than this year’s. And it’s not even water-resistant. It’s just dull.

OnePlus still insists on shipping its phones with a full-fledged screen protector. This might have been charming with the OnePlus One, but now it’s just annoying. Once I took mine off, the phone looked and felt remarkably better, accentuating the curves of its 2.5D glass edges, and giving the mirrored home button proper room to breathe.

An Android phone in iPhone’s clothing

If the OnePlus 5 looks like a OnePlus 3T from the front, the back is all iPhone 7 Plus, with a dual camera setup in the top left corner and a OnePlus logo where the Apple symbol would be. Copying Apple isn’t the worst strategy to follow, but for a company with six phones under its belt, it seems unnecessary.

oneplus5 iphone comparison Michael Simon/IDG

Quick: Which one is the OnePlus 5 and which is the iPhone 7?

At least the rear enclosure looks sharp. Available in black or gray, its polished aluminum surface is a nice contrast to the glass backs of its competitors, but it does easily pick up visible scratches. It’s also a little slippery to the touch, but its palm-friendly contours and thinness will probably limit the number of drops.

Asus’ mining range of graphics cards aim to make you virtually rich in Bitcoins

Asus has revealed a pair of new graphics cards which are specifically designed for those who wish to mine cryptocurrency such as Bitcoins with their PC.

The Asus Mining RX 470 (pictured above) and Mining P106 (see below) are built with the demands of virtual coin mining firmly in mind, engineered to give the maximum hash-rate performance for the cost of the card, and also manufactured to be able to happily run 24/7, as mining rigs tend to.

As you can probably guess, the Mining RX 470 is a customized Radeon RX 470 (with 4GB of video RAM), whereas the P106 appears to be a re-purposed GeForce GTX 1060 with no video output provided whatsoever (whereas the RX 470 does have a single DVI connector).

Asus claims that the P106 boosts the megahash rate by up to 36% compared to a normal (non-mining-specific) graphics card – essentially the amount of computations the GPU can perform in millions of hashes per second. The more performance here, the more chance you have of getting yourself some lovely virtual lucre in a shorter period of time.

An included GPU Tweak tool also lets users easily modify the voltage and clock speed, another boon in the quest to conveniently get the maximum performance levels possible from these graphics cards.

Super fans

Unsurprisingly, both the RX 470 and P106 are built to be very durable so they can run around the clock, without issue. Asus says that they carry premium Super Alloy Power II components, and furthermore there’s some nifty tech which has been used with the cooling solution.

The fans on both cards benefit from a dual ball-bearing mechanism which means reduced levels of friction, and a claimed doubling of the lifespan of the fans. On top of that, they are resistant to dust, and certified in that respect to the IP5X standard. Oh, and they’re also whisper quiet, which never hurts.

How much will these GPUs cost? Asus hasn’t confirmed the price just yet, but we should find out soon, as both these mining models are expected to launch next month.

Note that the card we’ll see over here is the Mining RX 470, with the P106 only launching in China and Eastern Europe, at least initially.

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Photoshop fonts: Creating swashes, swirls and flourishes

In our first story on Photoshop fonts, we covered font and paragraph attributes, plus how to alter the shapes of a word, phrase, or sentence, which (obviously) affects the shapes of the fonts. The instructions targeted Creative Suite users, which means the path to altering a string of text is Edit > Transform > Warp. If you’re using Photoshop version 6.x or 7.x (pre-Creative Suite), the Warp feature is under Layer > Type > Warp Text.

This follow-on article explains how to add swashes, swirls, and flourishes that turn words into a visual feast. Nothing makes typefaces pop more than a few well-placed calligraphic swirls. Even though some fonts already fall into the script or calligraphy categories, they can be difficult to read and are often too decorative for a full word or phrase.

01 overdone typefaces with too much or too little JD Sartain / PC World

Overdone typefaces

For example, typefaces such as Albemarle End Swash (which has so many swirls & flourishes, it’s unreadable); Alexi Copperplate (which is too cramped for a comfortable read); Sandy All Caps (which would be ok, if it weren’t all capital letters); and Semia Script SSi (which has such a diminished X-height, it almost hurts the eyes) are quite undesirable for display type (i.e., titles or headers), but may be ok if one just uses a single letter (such as the uppercase A in Albemarle End Swash).

Before we continue, a few fundamental terms to know:

  • The X-height is the size of the lowercase letters. Notice how small the lowercase letters are in the Semia Script SSi typeface. A 10-point font with a large X-height will look larger on the page than a 12-point font with a small X-height.
  • The word “typeface” refers to the design of a group of characters, such as Arial (a sans serif), Times Roman (a serif), Old English (a blackletter), Chancery (a script), and Victorian (a display type). The word “font” refers to all the typefaces within the “font family,” such as Arial Bold, Arial Narrow, Arial Extended, Arial Rounded.

Glyphs & Swashes

02 how to access glyphsswashes thru character mapms symbols JD Sartain / PC World

How to access Glyphs & Swashes thru Character Map and Microsoft Symbols

All fonts have Glyphs, which are accessible three ways:

  • The Windows Character Map (type character map in the Windows search box and this dialog window opens)
  • Microsoft Symbols (Insert > Symbol)
  • Window > Glyphs in Photoshop CC (Creative Cloud), which is only available in the monthly subscription service.

The previous Creative Suite versions (1 through 6) offer “Swashes” from the Character window. Click the tiny arrow on the top right corner, then select Open Type > Swash. If Swash is grayed out, then you don’t have any Open Type fonts installed that include swashes such as Lovely Melissa, which comes with 1,372 glyphs and swashes for the reasonable price of $25.

Create custom Swashes

03 how to access swashes from photoshop cs ver 1 6JD Sartain / PC World

How to access Swashes from Photoshop Creative Suite versions 1 thru 6

Adding a swash or flourish is easy in Photoshop Creative Cloud, but if you don’t have this subscription service, then you must create them manually. The good news is that your swashes will all be custom designs unique to your work.

1. Open a New Photoshop file and enter the text Alice In Wonderland on the page. Select a nice script typeface without too much flair, such as Aria Script SSi, at a good working size, such as 48 to 55 points.

Libratone One Click Bluetooth speaker review: Fun design and very good sound

Libratone marches to a different drummer than most other Bluetooth speaker manufacturers, and that’s fine with me. I liked the Danish company’s cylindrical Zipp speakers when I reviewed them last year, so I’ve been looking forward to hearing the newer—and quirkier—One Click.

The One Click derives its name from the touch-sensitive dial on its face. You touch this once to play or pause your music (or to answer and end a phone call, as it can also function as a speakerphone), and you slide your finger around it to adjust the volume. LEDs light up to show the volume level. A quick tap on the power button when the speaker is on lights up LEDs to inform you of the battery level. Libratone says the speaker should run for up to 12 hours on a charge. I logged at least 10 hours of listening over several days and there was plenty of juice left.

The quirkiness relates to the removable aluminum-and-rubber frame that wraps around the speaker. Punch-outs (two on each side and one on top) let you attach either a rubber strap or a shorter, but equally rubbery loop for hanging the speaker. You’ll probably want to use one or the other, because it can be difficult to balance the relatively skinny speaker on its bottom or on its side—it topples over all too easily. I either hung it or leaned it against something—a wall, a stack of books, or whatever else was handy—whenever I listened to it.

Libratone One Click frame removed Michael Brown/IDG

Remove the One Click’s outer frame and you can pop in a hasp-like loop (shown) or a rubber hanging strap.

If you could remove the One Click’s cloth (you can’t), you’d find a generously sized 3-inch woofer, a 1-inch tweeter, and a passive radiator mounted inside a rugged ABS enclosure (the speaker weighs 2 pounds). I’m not sure how easy the cloth grill is to clean, but the speaker itself carries an IPX4 rating for weather resistance. That means it’s not rated for particle ingress, but it is protected from splashing water—so beach or poolside use is fine, as long it’s protected from sand and water immersion.

Libratone One Click back Michael Brown/IDG

A gasket protects the One Click’s the 3.5mm aux input and micro-USB port (for charging its battery).

The drivers are arranged to deliver 360-degree sound, so it doesn’t matter how the speaker is oriented. Having said that, the One Click benefits greatly from having a bit of space and a vertical surface behind it to reflect its sound. Yeah, that kinda defeats the 360 concept, but so will having the speaker fall on its face or its back.

The One Click is a very good near-field speaker that can also fill a small room with sound. It’s easy to forget that you’re not getting stereo (you can link a second Libratone speaker—you’re not limited to another One Click—to the first, but that doesn’t deliver a left/right sound stage). The speaker’s propensity to tip over is its biggest shortcoming, but that largely goes away if you can find a good place to hang it.

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TCL P-series Roku smart TV review: Dolby Vision hits the mainstream

No entertainer likes to hit the stage on the heels of an act that killed, but such was the fate of TCL’s 55-inch 55P607 Roku-powered smart TV. It arrived at our lab on the heels of our hands-on time with the extraordinary Sony A1E OLED and Samsung Q9F QLED. That’s life.

But those are $6,000 TVs that not a lot of people can afford. The 55P607 is a mere $650 and gives you a decent percentage of the high dynamic range (HDR) experience those TVs offer—including Dolby Vision, something Samsung’s Q9F lacks. And HDR is an experience you’re going to want. Indeed, if it delivered smoother motion, TCL’s 55P607 would’ve given the high-priced sets a tussle.

Design

The 33-pound, 54.6-inch, 4K UHD (3840 x 2160 resolution) TCL 55P607 utilizes a straightforward, thin-bezel design: Thin at the top and thicker below, where the electronics reside. The ports are in a recessed alcove on the right side (looking at the TV) and include one USB, one coax, one ethernet,  and three HDMI 2.0a with HDCP 2.2 (as required for protected Ultra Blu-ray movies). The only connector on the left side of the equipment bay is for the AC cord. There’s also an 802.11ac adapter onboard if you’d rather connect to the internet (and you must for setup) wirelessly.

p607 iso right TCL

The P-Series are a standard design, but also 10-bit panels that support Dolby Vision.

The feet for stabilizing the TV on flat surfaces are easy to attach, and wide enough to ward off most mishaps, though we prefer Samsung’s new better-safe-than-sorry super-wide feet. The whole deal is light enough that one reasonably fit person can un-box and set up the unit.

Remote control and user interface

While nothing fancy, and not universal (it controls only the TV), the 55P607’s remote is efficient. There are volume and mute buttons are on the right side of the remote, and a jack for the included earbuds on the left side. The whole deal is super easy once you’re used to it, though we would’ve liked the back button better if it had been located below the four-way cursor button.

On-screen user interface is an area where TCL plays backseat to no one, thanks largely to Roku, though TCL’s own pop-up settings interface is also well done. We loved the fact that nearly all the settings are on the first level. Scroll up or down to the setting you want and adjust with the right or left buttons. Most interfaces require continually drilling down into sub-menus.

On the other hand, we’re not big fans of having to log on to a website from another device to enter codes and set up a Roku account. At least you can skip the credit card info if you don’t intend to view pay content. Beyond that, setup is relatively painless.

While the TCL doesn’t automatically recognize attached devices, it does preview what the device attached to the currently selected HDMI input is playing. Choose from a list of popular device types (DVD player, Xbox, etc.) and voila! Input named.

Google hit with record EU fine over Shopping service

Google has been fined €2.4bn ($2.7bn; £2.1bn) by the European Commission after it ruled the company had abused its power by promoting its own shopping comparison service at the top of search results.

The amount is the regulator’s largest penalty to date against a company accused of distorting the market.

The ruling also orders Google to end its anti-competitive practices within 90 days or face a further penalty.

The US company may decide to appeal.

Google had previously suggested that Amazon and eBay had more influence over the public’s spending habits and that the commission’s views “failed to fit the reality of how most people shop online”.

However, the decision could set a precedent that determines how the EU’s civil service handles related complaints about the prominence Google gives to its own maps, flight price results and local business listings within its search tools.

Fast growth

Google Shopping displays relevant products’ images and prices alongside the names of shops they are available from and review scores, if available.

The details are labelled as being “sponsored”, reflecting the fact that, unlike normal search results, they only include items that sellers have paid to appear.

On smartphones, the facility typically dominates “above-the-fold” content, meaning users might not see any traditional links unless they scroll down.

Google also benefits from the fact the Shopping service adverts are more visual than its text-based ads.

One recent study suggested Shopping accounts for 74% of all retail-related ads clicked on within Google Search results. However, the BBC understands Google’s own data indicates the true figure is smaller.

Seven-year probe

The European Commission has been investigating Google Shopping since late 2010.

The probe was spurred on by complaints from Microsoft, among others.

The rival tech giant has opted not to comment on the ruling, after the two struck a deal last year to try to avoid such legal battles in the future.

But one price comparison service has welcomed the fine.

“An entire industry has suffered because of Google’s unlawful, anticompetitive behaviour, and it has become a genuine struggle for survival for the likes of [us],” the chief executive of Kelkoo Richard Stables told the BBC.

“At the same time, Google’s abuse has raised costs for merchants, and it has meant higher prices for consumers and much more limited choice.”

Although the penalty is record-sized, it could have been bigger.

The commission has the power to fine Google’s parent company, Alphabet, up to 10% of its annual revenue, which was more than $90bn (£70.8bn) in its last financial year.

Alphabet can afford the fine – it currently has more than $172bn of assets.

But one expert said the company would be more concerned about the impact on its future operations.

“If it has to change the appearance of it results and rankings, that’s going to have an impact on how it can monetise search,” said Chris Green, from the tech consultancy Lewis.

“Right now, the way that Google prioritises some of its retail and commercial services generates quite a lot of ad income.

“When you consider the sheer number of search queries that Google handles on a daily basis, that’s a lot of ad inventory going in front of a lot of eyeballs.

“Dent that by even a few percentage points, and there’s quite a big financial drop.”


Europe v US tech:

This is far from the first time the European Commission has intervened to penalise US technology companies for what it views to be bad behaviour.

Others to have been targeted include:

  • Microsoft (2008) – the Windows-developer was fined €899m for failing to comply with earlier punishments, imposed over its refusal to share key code with its rivals and the bundling of its Explorer browser with its operating system. Five years later, it was told to pay a further €561m for failing to comply with a pledge to provide users a choice screen of browsers
  • Intel (2009) – the chip-maker was ordered to pay €1.06bn for skewing the market by offering discounts conditional on computer-makers avoiding products from its rivals. Intel challenged the fine, and a final court ruling in the matter is expected in 2018
  • Qualcomm (2015) – the chip-maker was accused of illegally paying a customer to use its technology and selling its chipsets below cost to push a rival out of the market. If confirmed, it faces a fine that could top €2bn, but the case has yet to be resolved
  • Apple (2016) – Ireland was ruled to have given up to €13bn of illegal tax benefits to the iPhone-maker since 1991, and was ordered to recover the funds plus interest from the company. However, Dublin missed the deadline it was given to do so and has said it will appeal
  • Facebook (2017) – the social network agreed to pay a €110m fine for saying it could not match user accounts on its main service to those of WhatsApp when it took over the instant messaging platform, and then doing just that two years later

The commission is also investigating Amazon over concerns that a tax deal struck with Luxembourg gave it an unfair advantage.


The European Commission continues to pursue two separate cases against Google.

The first involves allegations that the technology company has made it difficult for others to have their apps and search engines preinstalled on Android devices.

The second covers claims Google took steps to restrict rivals’ ads from appearing on third-party websites that had installed a Google-powered search box.

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