Y-cam Outdoor HD Pro review

Home security cameras are better and easier to use than ever. Y-Cam’s HomeMonitor system lets you keep an eye on your kids, pets or your property via an app on your smartphone, just like the Nest Cam. There’s now the Protect alarm system in the range, and a smaller indoor camera, the Evo, which can be set up from your phone via Bluetooth.

Update 8 March 2017: Y-Cam has now launched a third-generation Outdoor HD Pro. It’s still a 720p camera, but it has a new lens with a 100-degree field of view that lets you see a lot more than before. It’s also £20 cheaper than when we reviewed the original model back in 2015, now £179.99.

Plus, Y-Cam has made a few tweaks to improve image quality – you can see the difference in the screengrabs below. We’re also told that a firmware update for all Outdoor HD cameras is on the way. This will include a much more sophisticated detection algorithm – hopefully much like the Netatmo Presence – that’s said to vastly reduce the number of false alerts you tend to get at night when changing lighting sets off the motion detector. Perhaps not in that update, but coming in the near future is the ability to more precisely select motion zones, as you can with other cameras. The current rectangular areas aren’t suitable in some scenarios, and we’re hoping for a Nest-style system.

What hasn’t changed with the new model is the setup process which forces you to connect the camera using a network cable to your router. And you’ll have to do the same if you ever upgrade the router or change the Wi-Fi SSID.

Y-cam Outdoor HD review: Price

The HomeMonitor range includes both a weatherproof outdoor camera and two indoor cameras.

The latter is what we’re reviewing here and you can buy the Outdoor HD Pro for £179.99 from Y-Cam.

There’s also an indoor version, called Evo which costs £129.99 from Y-Cam.

Both models have night vision, so they can capture video round the clock. Since they use infrared LEDs at night, footage is black and white rather than colour.

Both models have a resolution of 1280×720 – that’s three times more pixels than older VGA IP cameras, which have a paltry 640×480 resolution. (There is an Indoor VGA model in the HomeMonitor range for £99, but you should avoid it as image quality is poor.)  There’s really not much benefit to getting a 1920×1080 camera as video tends to be compressed when uploaded over your broadband connection for remote viewing or recording to cloud storage. So far, we haven’t noticed a difference between the quality of 1080p and 720p cameras which store video in the cloud. 

But if you must have it, look to the Nest Cam which forces you to take out a monthly subscription for motion alerts and continuous recording.

Y-cam Outdoor HD review:  Features and design

The Outdoor HD Pro has a large detachable antenna which you have to use for Wi-Fi operation.

As well as letting you watch the live feed, video clips are recorded when movement is detected in up to two zones you define. Both the live feed and recorded videos come from the cloud rather than directly from the camera. This is because the video is routed via Y-Cam’s servers before you see it.

There are pros and cons to this method. The first drawback is that the live feed isn’t actually live. It’sa few seconds delayed in our experience. That’s not usually a problem, though, even if something was happening that required you to take action, since you’ll get a motion alert on your smartphone almost the instant motion is first detected, and you can tap on the camera to see the video feed – the recorded clip isn’t available for up to half a minute.

The second con – if it is a con –  is that there’s no alternative choice of storage. You can’t put a memory card inside the camera as you can with the D-Link DCS-2530L, nor can you set a NAS drive as the destination for recordings.

However, for most people this is an advantage as it means the Y-Cam is completely hassle-free. It saves the last seven days’ worth of motion recordings for free in the cloud (where they’re a lot safer from deletion or theft) and means you don’t have to provide your own SD card or leave a PC or NAS drive running 24/7.

Unfortunately, the recorded quality is lower than the maximum the camera is capable of, as it’s compressed to avoid hogging your broadband connection. You can download recordings and keep them (now via the app as well as the website), but you need to do this before they’re more than seven days old.

Or you can upgrade to the Y-Cam Plus service which costs £8.99 per month and keeps recordings for 30 days.

Another point to note is that unlike Nest’s continuous recording which uploads to the cloud 24/7 (for a fairly substantial monthly subscription cost) the Outdoor HD Pro saves video clips only when motion is detected. If it makes a mistake and misses the motion, or cuts off the recording too early you may not get to see what you needed to.

In practice, though, this rarely happens, and it’s a good compromise and also makes it quicker to view the event rather than wading through hours of video.

Y-Cam Outdoor HD Pro review: Installation

Unlike the latest cameras (such as Y-Cam’s Evo which can be set up wirelessly using a phone or tablet) the Outdoor HD Pro has to be first connected to your router with the included network cable.

Y-Cam Outdoor HD review

Y-Cam Outdoor HD review

Originally, you had to use a web browser on a laptop or PC, but you can now use the updated app to create a free account, type in the camera’s unique ID and set your time zone. Then you’ll then see the video feed there on the page.

Assuming you want the camera to connect via Wi-Fi, you select your wireless network, enter the password and once successfully saved you can unplug and relocate the Outdoor HD Pro outside.

Everything is supplied in the box, including a wall-mounting bracket through which the wires run. This does mean drilling a hole in your wall, but unless you already have a handily placed outdoor socket, you’ll have to do this anyway. The HD Pro supports PoE (power over Ethernet) which is unlikely to be useful unless you’re installing the camera at your business premises since most UK homes aren’t wired up for PoE.

Y-cam HomeMonitor HD Pro review

Y-cam HomeMonitor HD Pro review

The final step is to choose the camera’s settings, such as defining one or two motion detection zones and a schedule for motion detection. For outdoor use, it makes sense to leave it on permanently, but for indoor monitoring, you might want to enable recording only when you’re not at home.

Y-cam HomeMonitor HD Pro review

Y-cam HomeMonitor HD Pro review

Y-Cam Outdoor HD review: app

You can do pretty much everything through the app that you can on the website. And there are a few extras, too. One is geo-fencing which can be enabled or disabled for each camera. With it enabled, your camera will start watching out for motion when you leave and turn off recording when you return. You have to enable the feature on your phone when you’re at home or in the physical location where the camera is installed as it uses your phone’s GPS.

Another handy feature is on-demand recording which provides a record button on the live feed view so you can capture what’s going on right then. You can also grab a still image, and this is also saved to your phone’s camera roll.

You can log in to your account on the HomeMonitor website to watch the live streams and play recorded clips, but you’re more likely to use the app on an iPhone or on Android. There’s also an app for the Humax FVP-4000T set-top box because Humax sells a re-branded Y-Cam Evo as the Humax Eye.

Y-Cam Outdoor HD Pro review - Humax app

Y-Cam Outdoor HD Pro review - Humax app

The website and apps have a different look and feel, but they’re easy to use.

Taking the iPhone app as an example, the main screen shows the list of cameras with a power button beneath each. Tapping on the video thumbnail starts the live stream (there’s reasonably good quality audio on the camera too).

Below the live feed are the most recent 10 recordings, but you can head to the Activity section to see all the clips from the last week. You can filter by camera if you have more than one, and each recording clearly shows the time, camera name and duration of the clip.

It’s in the Activity section where you can tap the three dots to the right of a clip to mark it as a ‘favourite’ and download it.

Y-Cam Outdoor HD Pro review: Image quality

Image quality is good overall. The wide angle of view means you can see plenty in the frame, and the frame rate is good enough. The new 3rd-gen model addresses the slight lack some detail in previous versions, and the image is noticeably sharper.

Here’s the original Outdoor HD Pro:

Y-Cam Outdoor HD review

Y-Cam Outdoor HD review

And here’s the much wider, sharper view from the new 3rd-gen camera:

Y-Cam Outdoor HD review

Y-Cam Outdoor HD review

Colours are accurate during the day, and there’s enough detail to easily recognise faces, but not always car registration plates.It all depends on how close to the camera they are, of course.

At night, there’s less detail to be had (as with all similar cameras with infrared), and it’s harder to recognise faces because of the infrared lighting. Number plates tend to reflect the light, too, meaning they’re not readable, but these are both issues faced by all cameras which use infrared for night vision.

There’s no difference in video quality whether you’re watching over Wi-Fi or out and about with a 3G or 4G connection. Just be careful you don’t burn through your monthly data allowance by watching too much video on a mobile connection.

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An Assault On The Fortress: An Early Preview of 'Middle-earth: Shadow of War'

With Middle-earth: Shadow of War was formally announced, Monolith Productions was at GDC last week to give us the first glimpse of gameplay footage. Whereas the first game, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, focused on Talion’s revenge against those who killed his love ones, this game will shift direction to the broader conflict of the war against Sauron. However, you won’t have to do it alone. You’ll have an entire army of Orcs under your command.

The Charge

The main feature of Shadow of War is the upgraded Nemesis system. In the first game, you had to deal with multiple Orc captains and their warchief leaders. As you worked your way up the ranks, other Orcs would fill in the lower leadership tiers, which provided you with endless gameplay where you could kill or control the entire Orc hierarchy. In this game, the system was upgraded to include fortresses. The world features multiple regions, which contain these structures of varying sizes. Within each fortress is an Orc overlord. Under it are multiple warchiefs, and in order to take down Sauron and his forces, you’ll need to take control of each fortress.

The gameplay video we saw featured the fortress of Seregost, which has one overlord, Ur-Hakon the Dragon, and his four warchiefs. When Talion attacks this fortress, he has his own army of Orc followers. Aside from the usual rank and file, his army also includes a few notable Orc captains that have unique abilities that will aid on the assault. For instance, Az-Laar the Destroyer has increased damage against structures. There’s also Ragdug Iron Mount, who can move quickly due to his armored caragor mount, and he also has a resistance to fire damage, which is useful against fiery enemy attacks.

In order to deal with Ur-Hakon, Talion and company need to take on his warchiefs first. Some of these notable foes might have served Talion in the past, but they’ve since returned to the Dark Lord’s influence. The ability to bring Orcs over to your side was prevalent in the first game, but Monolith improved it as well for Shadow of War, allowing you to place one of your own Orc captains as a spy within the enemy fortress and posing as one of its warchiefs. This tactic is especially useful as your spy can set traps to slow down the enemy, or in the case of the gameplay footage, create a weak point within the building that allows allies to flank the enemy.

Step By Step

Once the assault begins, you can move and fight as usual. The game’s combat which borrows heavily from Rocksteady Studios’ Batman games, is back with even more visceral attacks, and the overall movement is quicker, which is important when taking over the enemy stronghold. The overall battle seems to progress through a series of stages, where you take over multiple parts of the fortress with each enemy warchief in charge of one of these stages. For example, one of these warchiefs stood on the ramparts above the main gate. Killing him meant that Talion’s forces could easily break that first line of defense and move into the fortress grounds.

Killing these warchiefs (as well as enemy captains) still grants you different bonus types to your weapons. However, they now also grant you different sets of gear that you can use on your character, and each piece can change different stats and bonuses such as the amount of health recovered or the likelihood of picking up better gear from enemies. Matthew Allen, Monolith’s Director of Art, said that the inclusion of this feature was a major step for the studio because each piece of gear wasn’t just meant for show.

“We didn’t want to it if it was pretty pictures,” he said. “We wanted all of those upgrades to mean something.” He went on further to say that you’ll be able to change multiple aspects of your overall gear such as armor, boots, and cape. Overall, there are seven areas of your character that can have different pieces of gear.

As the battle continues, you’ll notice that some of the enemy warchiefs won’t wait for Talion to fight them. They’ll have their own methods of pushing back your army. Later in the demo, Az-Laar, who was busy with attempting to take down the second door that led to the main keep, was doused with oil as the door opened to reveal a large weapon that spewed fire, burning anyone in its path. In a matter of seconds, Talion easily destroyed it by going around the enemy front line and shooting at it with his powerful bow, and by doing so revealed the source of fire inside the weapon: a small drake.

This drake proved to be a useful asset because for the first time in the series, you can mount flying creatures. Talion used the drake against its former masters by flying it around the fortress and shooting fireballs and spewing hot waves of fire on enemy troops and buildings. Once the path to the main keep was clear, Talion opened the doors and went inside.

The Boss Man

The overlord’s strengths and abilities are mirrored through the interior design of the keep. Ur-Hakon has a predilection towards fire and violence and it’s reflected in his main hall, which is dark, bloody, and full of grates that send pillars of fire into the air. When the fight between Talion and Ur-Hakon begins, Talion must dodge these grates in addition while also managing to take out the overlord’s minions and Ur-Hakon himself. But in the same way that you’re not alone when storming the fortress, you’ll also have some help fighting the overlord. Remember your Orc ally Ragdug? His fast movement and resistance to fire allowed him to aid Talion at a critical moment in the fight. This provides enough distraction that Talion can strike the killing blow, thus taking over the fortress.

With Ur-Hakon dead and the fortress under Talion’s control, Talion must now appoint one of his own Orc captains as the main overlord for this stronghold, under him are a fresh set of warchiefs. This provides yet another base from which you can train forces or defend against enemy attacks in the fight against Sauron. The new overlord will then design the fortress in their own fashion that reflects their tribe as well as their strengths in battle.

A Large World

The short demo merely showed the assault on the fortress, so other aspects of the game, such as its open-world mechanics, are still unknown. The first game featured two large regions, which was littered with enemies and captains, but more importantly, it provided plenty of room for you to run around to complete multiple missions and find collectibles. Allen didn’t delve into specifics, but he did mention that Monolith added more areas in the game.

“It’s not a continuous world, but the best way to think of it [is that there is] a very large amount of very large spaces that you can move between at any point in time,” he said. “For us, it really is about getting from region to region and having each of those regions feel different and look different and be fun to explore on their own. In the previous game we had two [regions] and in this one we have a few more.”

This brought up the issue of whether or not the studio sacrificed the size of each area for the sake of more regions. However, Allen said that the new regions are even larger in size than before, which should bode well for those who crave the open-world feeling.

The War Continues

The short gameplay demo showed a new and intricate way of climbing up Sauron’s hierarchy of overlords and warchiefs. Some of these enemies will die by your hand while others can be recruited to fight for you. One of the final scenes within the demo showed many stronghold held by Sauron’s forces and you’ll have to take them down one by one before confronting The Dark Lord.

However, there is still much that we don’t know about the game. Small details within the demo as well as Allen’s comments provided a glimpse as to what we can expect in the final game. Until then, we just might keep watching this sole gameplay demo over and over again. There’s so much action packed within those short 16 minutes that it’s hard not to look at and get excited for what’s to come in Middle-earth: Shadow of War.

Name Middle-earth: Shadow of War
Type Open-world, RPG, Action/Adventure
Developer Monolith Productions
Publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platforms
  • PC
  • Xbox One
  • Project Scorpio
  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation 4 Pro
Where To Buy
Release Date August 22, 2017

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LG G6 review

The G6 comes at a crucial time for LG. It made a loss last year following the disappointing sales of the G5 and V10 and its new handset is a bold step in the right direction, but that doesn’t always save a company’s fortunes. To cut to the chase, the LG G6 is an astonishing smartphone that easily holds it own against the best smartphones ever made. 

Its taller 18:9 screen is easy to get used to, and while many operations require two hands given the 5.7in screen, it actually is comfortable to hold, scroll, and use with one hand – just like the marketing would have you believe. LG has wisely ditched the gimmicky leather of the G4 and the cool-but-not modularity of the G5 to craft the best ever LG phone. And there have been a lot of them.

The design has been overhauled again following the leather-clad G4 and the modular G5 to a debatably more uniform metal and glass affair. LG’s Friends  didn’t last long, did they?

We’ve tested the G6 rigorously since we got our hands on the unit before its announcement at MWC 2016 and it performs just as well as the best smartphones on the market. Here’s our full review of the LG G6.

Note that the version we have tested is a pre-production unit. Once we have received and tested a UK G6 retail unit we will amend any necessary sections with any differences found.

See also: LG announces the G6 at MWC

LG G6 hands-on review: UK price and availability

MobileFun has revealed the UK price of the LG G6: £699. You can pre-order the LG G6 from its site now. The release date is unconfirmed, though we expect it to be in April or May, and we expect it to be available on all four major UK networks.

Should the official price be £699 in the UK, we are a touch disappointed. We thought LG would be wise to undercut Samsung to boost chance of sales, but it looks like it’s gone all out premium on pricing as well as build.

LG G6 hands-on review: Design and build

So LG has gone big, but it’s the screen, not the handset itself, that’s grown. The G6 boasts an 18:9 screen, expanding the display from the traditional confines of 16:9. This leaves it with a 5.7in Quad HD display. It looks seriously good. 

Alongside that wonderful display is a design that conforms, unlike the modular G5 and the leather-clad G4. The G6 takes a leaf out of the iPhone 4’s book with a solid aluminium frame and Gorilla Glass on the front and back. It comes in platinum, white and black, with only the latter being a true fingerprint magnet.

Alongside that wonderful display is a design that conforms, unlike the modular G5 and the leather-clad G4. The G6 takes a leaf out of the iPhone 4’s book with a solid aluminium frame and Gorilla Glass on the front and back. It comes in platinum, white and black, with only the latter being a true fingerprint magnet. 

The refined design is simpler and more elegant, with the dual rear cameras and fingerprint sensor that acts as the power/lock button sitting flush with the body. The bottom edge houses the USB-C port (fully waterproof), single speaker and mic. The right edge is smooth and clear save for the SIM tray, while the left edge has the two volume keys. The top edge has that very welcome 3.5mm headphone jack.

Even though the metal and glass frame isn’t entirely original, the rounded design is made all the more striking thanks to the rounded corners of the actual display as well. It’s a clever detail that doesn’t negatively affect use while accentuating the G6’s thin bezels and unusually tall screen. It works really well.

The black model sports this look slightly better than the white or platinum models though. The rounded screen actually has a tiny thin black gap between it and the coloured bezels, but it’s enough on the white and platinum to be constantly visible. Though it’s there on the black, it’s invisible and makes for an even better visual impression.

So, while we prefer the platinum model for looks and how it hides fingerprints, the black one wins because the rounded screen simply looks better on it.

LG said that its goal with the G6, after extensive customer research, was to make a phone with a huge screen but that you could still comfortably use with one hand. The problem here is that that is basically impossible, even for those with large hands. Where the company has succeeded though is by making the G6 perfectly pocket friendly while packing in a screen that it’s easy to scroll through and hold with a single paw.

This might sound easy to achieve, but it can be rare to find on phablets like the G6. The iPhone 7 Plus, for example, is a through and through two-handed device, and the G6 succeeds in fitting a larger screen than that phone into a smaller overall body.

From the precision cut metal rim to the flat back that still packs in dual cameras and a fingerprint sensor and, of course, the screen, LG has hit a home run with this design. If at first it looks ordinary, in use it really is far from that. No gimmicks, no leather, no risks – just incredible build quality that positively affects daily use.

LG G6 hands-on review: Features and specifications

In the tech press, a new high-end smartphone usually takes a fair (and unfair) battering simply because of the specs. To us, the G6 actually feels like a marriage of hardware and software that transcends this sort of nit picking because it works so well as a cohesive whole. The flack the G6 has got for using the Snapdragon 821 is a little unfair given how well it performs. Here we’ll break down the features and specifications for you to decide for yourself what you make of LG’s decisions.

Processor

One point of contention among the tech community is LG’s decision to go with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 processor rather than its latest 835 that we expect to see in the Galaxy S8. 

The 821 is in its third generation, and LG told us in an interview that it therefore has more expertise in how to optimise the user experience (UX) and implied the 835 wouldn’t have brought any more noticeable advantages.

It’s true that the 835 might bring noticeable battery life gains when we see it in the Galaxy S8, but if we don’t fully know why LG chose to forego it’s hard to fully criticise the decision. The 821 is, after all, doing just fine powering the Google Pixel

The G6 can handle some pretty heavy multitasking. We swiped between games, video streams, Spotify, document editing and more and the phone barely broke a sweat. Very occasionally in app (Spotify for example) we noticed a tiny lag on album art when switching songs, but live streaming services often do this even on high-end phones. 

We can’t imagine anyone having complaints about the G6’s performance, and the benchmarks below reflect how it holds its own against the best of the best. In fact, it is one of the best.

You’ll notice some of the frame rate scores are lower than the G6’s market rivals; the OnePlus 3T and Google Pixel have the same 821 processor but have better scores.

We are putting this down to the larger resolution on the G6 and its Full HD display, and the processor needing to push that bit harder to keep up. At no point during gaming, for example, was the frame rate lagging, but if top specs that give maximum possible performance are your thing, you may want to take this into consideration

Display

The display is a 5.7in Quad HD display with a resolution of 2880 x 1440 – it’s stunning. The extra pixels on that first figure are to account for the 18:9 aspect ratio, which you will get used to much quicker than you might think.

The latency is very good, with very fast response, but it still is a touch (tiny touch) behind the iPhone 7, but very comparable to any other Android phone we have used. It never affected our use of the device.

Aside from the 564ppi, the extra height of the 18:9 aspect means the whole experience of using the G6 is improved from the G5. If that sounds a bit too vague, it’s because you really need to get your hands on it to see what we mean. The extra height just makes sense in the slim form factor, and you really will use it with one hand. This impression is also intrinsically linked with the changes to the software, which we’ll come onto.

The screen also retains the always-on functionality from the G5, with a slightly altered setup lower down on the screen with a new default font. It still displays the time, date and apps that you have notifications for.

The rounded corners really help the display; they make it feel more contained, almost like the display has been penned in for fear of it becoming to large. This is to positive effect, and we found that everything from homescreen swipes to typing long messages was a joy on the larger display. There was a lot of room for error here, but in terms of pure presentation, LG has absolutely nailed it.

We delve more into how the aspect ratio affects the software in the software section of this review. Click here to skip down to it.

Cameras

The LG G5 impressed us with its dual camera setup that enabled wide-angle shots. The G6 retains this, with two 13Mp rear facing cameras. The wide-angle lens offers a 125-degree angle and the standard has optical image stabilisation. LG claims it has found an algorithm that lets you zoom between the two cameras smoothly without a software jerk. We found, unfortunately, that this isn’t the case. There’s still a tiny flicker as the lenses switch over.

These cameras can record up to 60fps at full HD quality, and in ultra HD at 30fps. HDR support is only for still images, not video, but this is quite usual for smartphones – even the high-end ones.

We found general image quality to be excellent. The display is a joy to use as a viewfinder given its size and the root files themselves show a superior handling of composition. 

The wide-angle lens option is still best on the G6 in comparison to rivals. The user-friendly presentation in Auto mode means you can easily and quickly switch between the two. Check out the comparison shot below for an idea of the perspective changes you get. Though be aware that the full wide angle does create a slight fishbowl effect at the edges of the image. 

 

The camera is also good at handling macro-style shots, and most casual users won’t need to stray into the manual mode, though if you do, it’s well set up.

Something that’s more pushed in the marketing is the camera’s Square mode that panders towards Instagram friendly shots. It also fits in nicely with the G6’s square themed GUI. There are four shooting options in square mode: Snap, Grid, Guide and Match. Here’s a quick rundown of what they do, and an example (examples below explanations).

Snap splits the screen in half and means once you’ve taken a picture you can preview it straight away whilst the second half of the screen remains a viewfinder to take another shot in. Handy if you’re trying to get a perfect picture of an important subject (potentially your own face). 

Grid is the simplest and is a quick way to create a four image grid of pictures that is itself a square. It’s the most simple and most effective mode. 

Guide is where it gets slightly too clever for itself, with the option to pick an image from your gallery to act as a ghosted guide image with which to overlay in the viewfinder and better compose another picture. It ends up overcrowding the screen and is confusing to use. 

Match is set up to capture two images like in Grid, but this is to be slightly kooky and combine (LG suggests) candyfloss with a vapour trail to create a trick image. It’s very hard to use and even harder to get a decent shot. 

They are fun modes to play around with, but it’s a distraction from the very good sensor that takes normal photos very well. But LG is trying to please the Instagram generation, and it has most likely succeeded there.

Storage and RAM

All variants of the LG G6 have 4GB RAM as standard. Regionally, some of the features differ. The European version of the LG G6 has 32GB storage but a micro SD slot for expansion up to 2TB. The same applies to the US version.

The Korean variant will have 64GB storage, but also the micro SD support. LG said these differences were down to regional marketing decisions. Hopefully it won’t make too much difference given the storage is expandable.

Connectivity and extras

Where regional decisions become a bit more frustrating is in the extras. The US G6 has wireless charging, which adds extra convenience, minimal extra weight and no design changes. However, the Korean and European versions miss out on this handy addition. 

The Korean G6 has Hi-Fi Quad DAC, a component that allows for high quality audio playback. LG told us that it doesn’t cost much more to add this feature, but the US and Europe miss out on it. It referred back to regional decisions on included components, but for us it’s frustrating that the European version misses out on two desirable features.

There will also be a dual SIM version, but don’t expect this to come to the UK or Europe. These three missing features aren’t vital to the G6’s success in the UK, but we’d certainly welcome them and it’s frustrating to see a major phone split its features like this dependent on market. Extra features are universally appreciated.

The G6 does have one trick up its sleeve for all regions though. LG claims it’s the first smartphone to support both Dolby Vision and HDR 10. In basic terms, it’s the first smartphone to theoretically support superior audio-visual standards normally associated with high-end televisions.

We say theoretically because while it supports both, streaming services such as Netflix don’t actually yet offer playback of this combined quality on mobile devices. Remember when everything was ‘HD ready’, before HD actually existed? It’s like that. Watch this space.

An iPhone 7 compared to the LG G6

Where it falls down slightly – but thankfully not too much – is in how it adjusts to display content that is by default 16:9 or similar. For example, using Netflix will display the video in 16.7:9 on the G6. Swiping down from the top pf the screen gives you a green icon, tap that and you have the option to view in 16:9 or expand to the full 18:9. If you opt for the latter, it warns you ‘The app’s content may not be fully displayed’. 

It’s a bit fiddly, and we found it meant having to return to the Netflix homescreen. And, in every option, some form of black bar remained on at least one edge to make sure all the content was still visible. It’s far from ideal if you want to view apps using the full display.

LG told us that it was working directly with Netflix to sort this out and bring a seamless 18:9 video experience to the G6, but we remain worried that with the plethora of services and games out there, the G6 might be doomed to a life of black bar playback. Hopefully not.

Battery life

The G6 has a 3,300mAh non-removable battery. This might bug LG fans of the G4 and G5 whose batteries you could remove, but in reality this is the correct decision. The battery is big enough to easily last a full day and the bundled fast charger continues Android device’s pleasing trend of above-average battery life and very fast top up times. 

Our review unit of the G6 was a pre-production model, so perhaps the slight erratic nature of the battery life can be put down to that. It was the only area of use that we suspected might be improved with the final retail version. We were never left out of juice, but some days the G6 would be on 75% by bed with reasonably heavy use (which is outstanding) while other days it’d reach that with light use by mid-morning. We’ll update this review in due course and after an even longer test period.

Our pre-production model was also a US version, and we can confirm the wireless charging works excellently with a number of third party charging pads and through various cases. It is, though, slower by a long way compared to fast charging via cable.

LG G6 hands-on review: Software

The G6 pleasingly ships with Android Nougat 7.0, but then again it’d be a crime if it didn’t. LG’s overlay has a certain playfulness in the pastel colours, square design focus and rounded edges influenced by the screen. However it is well refined, with everything from app animations to menus flowing well and without pause.

It takes a bit of getting used to if you’re coming from Samsung’s TouchWiz or pure stock Android, but after a time it’s just as fun and practical to use as them.

The G6’s software has been quite substantially overhauled from the G5’s in order to play nice with the taller 18:9 screen. LG’s own apps such as messaging, weather and calendar have been redesigned to better manage white space and information displayed since there’s more room to play with.

When presented side by side with the G5’s screens, the difference is noticeably positive:

As you can see, apps have more space to work with, so LG has worked very hard to bring the user a more aesthetically pleasing experience, working on attractive, modernised graphics in the main apps.

The camera software too has been redone, with some excellent use of the extra screen space – we love that when taking photos landscape, you get a camera roll of the last few photos taken, rather than the smartphone norm of one tiny thumbnail of the one most recent photo. 

We also welcome LG’s decision to choose whether or not to display apps iOS style on the home screen or store them in an app tray. We don’t mind it on iOS, but given the choice on Android, we’ll pick the app tray every time.

Multitasking is also good on the G6. As with all Android phones that allow it, you can’t use it with every app, but it’s handy if you want to run two apps simultaneously. It works best though without a keyboard onscreen. As soon as you need it, even the 18:9 aspect can’t cope with the room needed, and multi-window becomes useless. It’s still a feature that we don’t really use, even though some continue to push it.

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The best Linux distros: 7 versions of Linux we recommend

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Dell XPS 13

Dell has done it all over again. The latest and greatest Dell XPS 13 recently arrived, and it’s frankly already been our favorite laptop for the last two years.

This time coming equipped with the latest, 7th generation (Kaby Lake) Intel processors behind that same eye-dropping display and punchy keyboard we’ve come to enjoy typing on – now all within an optional rose gold frame – the new XPS 13 has wowed us all over again.

And, much of that isn’t thanks to crazy innovations or fresh additions, but a few key refinements that help the XPS 13 stand out amongst a sea of laptops that are perhaps trying to change a bit too quickly. The XPS 13 is a tortoise surrounded by hares … only it’s got a rocket strapped to its back. 

Dell XPS 13 review

Price and availability

Available now through its website and several retailers, Dell begins the bidding for the standard XPS 13 at $799 (£999, AU$1,899) to start. In the US, that gets you a Kaby Lake, dual-core Intel Core i3 processor with Intel HD Graphics 620, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of solid-state storage behind an FHD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels), non-touch InfinityEdge display. (The UK and Australian versions come starting with an Intel Core i5.)

If you want the touchscreen at QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800) resolution – and the two screen features only come as a pair – you’ll need to cough up at least $1,299 (£1,249, AU$2,499). That also nets you a dual-core Intel Core i5 chip, but sadly doesn’t up the storage or RAM capacity. Of course, you can choose to upgrade both of those components for extra cash. 

Dell XPS 13 review

Weight-wise, the XPS 13 is a totable 2.7 pounds (1.2kg). It’s something you could toss in a bag between classes or take with you on your next business trip and barely notice it’s there. (That said, it’s probably for the best if you cover your new investment with a case just to be safe.)

The screen itself is Dell’s new InfinityEdge Display. Images go nearly to the edge of the screen with only a thin strip of plastic separating the glass from the edge. The distance separating the two, for the record, is a measly 5.2mm.

Latest news

The Dell XPS 13 may be hellbent on style, what with its Rose Gold finish and power-savvy Kaby Lake processor, but the developments haven’t stopped there. 

In fact, there are several new configuration options being marketed by Dell, most notably a Windows Hello-ready fingerprint scanner add-on that costs only 25 bucks more. Additionally, you can now buy the Dell XPS 13 9360 Developer Edition, complete with Ubuntu (Linux) 14.04 and the same specs as the Windows 10 version.

Speaking of which, in an article provided to us by Linux Format, it was revealed that Dell nearly gave up on the idea of “Developer Edition” laptops. Senior Principle Engineer Barton George claimed that the company initially “misread the market,” resulting in an onslaught of misinformed purchases from Dell customers.

Spec Sheet

Here is the Dell XPS 13 configuration sent to TechRadar for review:

CPU: 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U (dual-core, 4MB cache, up to 3.5GHz)
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620
RAM: 8GB LPDDR3 (1,866MHz)
Screen: 13.3-inch QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800) InfinityEdge touch display
Storage: 256GB PCIe SSD
Ports: 1 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 3.0 w/PowerShare, 1 x USB-C (Thunderbolt 3), SD card reader, headset jack
Connectivity: Killer 1535 802.11ac (2.4 & 5GHz); Bluetooth 4.1
Camera: 720p widescreen HD webcam with dual array digital microphones
Weight: 2.9 pounds (1.29kg)
Size: 11.98 x 7.88 x 0.33 – 0.6 inches (W x D x H) (304 x 200 x 9 – 15mm)

Design

Frankly, there isn’t a ton to be said of the XPS 13’s design this time around, as very little, if anything, has changed. You still have the 13.3-inch display as sharp as QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800 pixels) with optional touch controls squeezed inside an 11-inch-wide frame. 

And, you still have the gorgeous, machined aluminum lid and base that beset a comfy, carbon fiber keyboard deck coated in soft-touch paint. Only this time, the lid and base come in rose gold – the salmon shade that’s all the rage in tech products these days – as well as the traditional silver option.

The machine somehow measures even thinner than the previous generation, though only by a hair: 0.33 inches (9mm) at its thinnest point to 0.6 inches (15mm) at its thickest. For those keeping score, the previous model came in at two hundredths of an inch thicker at the nose.

Dell has also reduced the weight of its leading laptop, but by such a small degree it would be impossible to notice: from 2.93 pounds (1.32kg) to now just 2.9 pounds (1.29kg) even for the touchscreen model. Short of a major breakthrough in the materials used to construct the XPS 13, we’re likely looking at the thinnest and lightest Ultrabook from Dell for a while. (Please, prove us wrong.)

All told, we’re still smitten by the XPS 13 design, and frankly we’re happy it hasn’t changed much, because it doesn’t have to. One small request: if Dell could at least center that bottom bezel-oriented webcam like it has on the new Dell XPS 13 2-in-1, that would be clutch. 

Dell XPS 13 review

More ‘pro’ than the MacBook Pro?

During our time with the new XPS 13, we realized an important point: this laptop can match and even surpass the new, entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro part-for-part. For 100 bucks less than Apple’s latest laptop, the XPS 13 offers a sharper screen, a stronger processor and the same amount of RAM and storage.

Oh, and this guy has a full-size SD card slot. 

The MacBook Pro? You’ll get one more Thunderbolt 3 port – one of which needs to be used for charging – and little else for its starting price. On paper, it seems like the XPS 13 will give you a better time editing photos and video than its archnemesis. Well played, Dell.

Nick Pino has also contributed to this review.

First reviewed January 2017

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How to fix Joy-Con connection issues

How to fix Joy-Con connection issues

Nintendo Switch gamers are starting to notice connection issues with the left Joy-Con, but not the right Joy-Con. Why would this be the case? While it was initially thought that it was a software issue, it now looks like it could be hardware-related.

Could Nintendo’s Joy-Con controllers be recalled over a connectivity issue?


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Following the biggest Nintendo console release ever, excited Nintendo Switch gamers are starting to notice connection issues with the left Joy-Con, but not the right Joy-Con. Why would this be the case? Both Joy-Cons feature the same Broadcom Bluetooth transceiver, after all. While it was initially thought that it was a software issue, it now looks like it could be hardware-related. Here, we explain why the left Joy-Con connection issues are occurring, and how you can fix it. Read next: Nintendo Switch review

Joy-Con connectivity issues: Why do I have connection issues with my left Joy-Con?

While users initially thought that the Nintendo Switch left Joy-Con connection issue was software-related and that Nintendo would fix it with a patch shortly after release, iFixit’s recent teardown of the modular console suggests that it could in fact be a hardware issue that could trigger a recall of the handheld controllers. Take a look at the below photo from iFixit:

It seems that in addition to the slightly different button layouts, the right Joy-Con has both an IR sensor and NFC sensor, making the internals pretty cramped compared to the spacious left Joy-Con. The lack of space in the right Joy-Con is why Nintendo decided to include a dedicated antenna, with the aim of boosting the Bluetooth signal (this is the grey cable you can see above the circuit board in the above photo).

However, as you can see above, the left Joy-Con doesn’t feature an IR or NFC sensor, so there’s much more room to play with. So much room, in fact, that Nintendo decided to put the antenna directly on the main circuit board. Per Ars Technica and YouTube channel Spawn Wave, “the circuit board peninsula that you can see right next to the stick acts as the antenna”. But what does that mean to everybody at home?

Essentially, it means that the left Joy-Con sometimes has issues with sending commands to the console, hence the connectivity issue. Could this trigger a quick redesign and a full recall of the Joy-Cons? With Nintendo issuing advice on combatting the issue, which we come to below, it suggests not – for now, anyway.

Read next: Best power banks for Nintendo Switch

How to fix Joy-Con connection issues

So, what can you do to negate the effects of the left Joy-Con connection issue? While home repair kits for consoles are nothing new, we don’t recommend taking your Joy-Con apart and soldering on a makeshift antenna. Even Spawn Wave, the YouTuber that performs the repair in the below video, warns against viewers trying it at home.

So, apart from taking the Joy-Con apart and fixing it yourself, what is there to do? Nintendo has released guidelines that should help negate the effects. What does it include? Apart from the rather standard instructions of making sure the system software is up to date and that the controllers are charged, Nintendo advises users keep the Switch away from Aquariums and WiFi-enabled devices.

Yes, you heard that right, Nintendo advises that you keep the Switch at least three or four feet away from a WiFi-enabled device. Now, that’s pretty much impossible: most modern TVs have built-in WiFi, as do media streamers and other game consoles, and all are in incredibly close proximity to one another. It’s a similar story with wireless headphones, speakers and even USB 3.0-compatible devices like memory sticks. So, what else should you try? Don’t keep the Switch behind the TV, in or under a metal object or pressed against large amounts of cords.

Of course, the simplest piece of advice is just to move the Nintendo Switch closer to the sofa, or wherever you’re sitting while playing the Nintendo Switch on TV. It may be an annoying workaround, but hopefully Nintendo will correct the issues somehow, sooner rather than later.

Read next: Best Nintendo Switch games | The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild review

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Qualcomm Enters Server Market With 10nm Centriq 2400 Chips, Wins Microsoft As First Big Customer

Microsoft will begin to use Qualcomm’s recently announced 10nm 48-core Centriq 2400 server chips in its data centers. The move solidifies the partnership between the two companies, after Microsoft had already announced that Qualcomm’s chips will be able to run the full Windows 10 OS later this year.

ARM-Powered Cloud

There have been several attempts at bringing ARM server chips to the cloud so far. One of the first was Calxeda, which was purchased by AMD, but then the company’s ARM plans for the server market got cancelled. Samsung and Broadcom had also started working on their own ARM-based server chips, but they eventually decided to stay out of the market.

Right now, only Cavium and Applied Micro seem to have persisted as the more important players in the market, but their chips have suffered from coming out on last-generation processes, which made it difficult for them to compete with Intel’s Xeon.

Things could soon change with Qualcomm entering the server market with its own ARM-based chips. Qualcomm has deep experience with ARM chips, and it’s a natural progression for the company to go from the consumer market to the server market. However, that experience is not the only thing Qualcomm will bring to the ARM server market–its utilization of a cutting-edge 10nm process is key, too.

This will enable Qualcomm’s Centriq 2400 to be significantly more competitive than other ARM chips against Intel’s Xeon chips. Whether the chip design itself will prove to be competitive remains to be seen, as the company hasn’t revealed too many details about it yet. However, it seems that Microsoft is impressed enough to give it a try.

The Microsoft Partnership

Qualcomm said that it has worked with Microsoft on an ARM-based server chip for the past few years, in order to optimize it for the Windows Server software stack. The fact that Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 will be able to run all Windows programs starting this fall is likely not a coincidence, either. The two companies must have worked together to ensure that Windows programs work across the board on Qualcomm’s chips, which include both the consumer and the server versions.

Qualcomm’s Centriq 2400 server chip fits into a standard 1U system, and it can be paired with compute accelerators, multi-host NICs, and NVMe SSD drives. Qualcomm has also submitted its server specifications to the Open Compute Project (OCP), an organization whose purpose is to enable the sharing of data center product designs between its members. The company is now a Gold Member of the OCP organization, as well.

According to Qualcomm, the Centriq 2400 Open Computer Motherboard server specification is based on Microsoft’s Project Olympus, an open source hyperscale cloud hardware design.

“Microsoft and Qualcomm are collaborating with an eye to the future addressing server acceleration and memory technologies that have the potential to shape the data center of tomorrow,” said Qualcomm.

“Our joint work on Microsoft Windows Server and the board design compatible with Microsoft’s Project Olympus is an important step toward enabling Microsoft’s cloud services to run on Qualcomm-based server platforms,” added the company.

Qualcomm said that the Centriq 2400 Open Compute Motherboard will be on display at Microsoft’s booth A4 at the 2017 Open Computer Platform U.S. Summit in Santa Clara, on March 8 and 9.

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