HTC Hopes Its Long-Awaited 5K Vive Pro 2 Headset Won’t Make You Sick

Illustration for article titled HTC Hopes Its Long-Awaited 5K Vive Pro 2 Headset Won't Make You Sick

Image: HTC Vive

We haven’t seen a new HTC Vive virtual reality headset in a minute, but today, the company announced two new devices, including the Vive Pro 2.

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The second-gen Vive Pro looks a lot like its predecessor, but nearly every core spec has been upgraded in some way. HTC’s latest high-end consumer VR headset sports a 5K resolution (2.5K to each eye), a wider 120-degree field of view, and a faster 120Hz refresh rate, all of which combines to prevent the motion sickness that people sometimes encounter on less sophisticated head-mounted displays, HTC said. The company also said it moved over to a new display with fast-switching RGB sub-pixels, so in addition to more resolution, graphics on the Vive Pro 2 should look extra sharp and colorful.

In a first for a VR headset, HTC said it worked with both Nvidia and AMD to add support for Display Stream Compression via DisplayPort 1.2, which is a visual compression technique used to reduce the amount of bandwidth needed to output video with practically no loss in image quality. And in a somewhat pleasant surprise, HTC said the Vive Pro 2’s minimum hardware requirements only include an Nvidia RTX 2080 GPU or a Radeon 5000-series card, which is good news for anyone who has had trouble getting their hands on a current-gen graphics card (which is pretty much everyone).

Illustration for article titled HTC Hopes Its Long-Awaited 5K Vive Pro 2 Headset Won't Make You Sick

Image: HTC Vive

The Vive Pro 2 features a handy knob for adjusting IPD (interpupillary distance) and built-in speakers that support 3D spatial audio, along with a revamped headband that delivers a more comfortable fit and a 50-50 weight balance.

One thing I was hoping to see that didn’t make the cut on the Vive Pro 2 is native wireless tethering for receiving video from a nearby PC. This means you still need a physical video cable unless you opt for Vive’s Wireless Adapter, which is compatible with both the original Vive Pro and the new Vive Pro 2.

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The other small bummer is that with a starting price of $800 for just the headset, the Vive Pro 2 is still rather expensive compared to something like the Oculus Quest 2. That said, the Quest 2 does have a lower resolution display and a narrower FOV, so the old adage that you get for what you pay for still applies. Also, for people who might not already have base stations or controllers to pair with the Vive Pro 2, the headset will also be available as a kit with two Base Station 2.0 and two Vive controllers for $1,400.

The other new HTC Vive headset, the Vive Focus 3, is intended primarily for enterprise and large corporations, and in some respects, it’s actually the more interesting gadget of the two.

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Powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR2 chip, the Vive Focus 3 is many ways like the Quest 2 but with even better optics. Not only does it have a 5K display similar to what you get in the Vive Pro 2 (but with a 90Hz refresh rate instead of 120Hz), it supports both standalone operation (no need for a nearby PC) and a wired mode, so you can get that full wireless experience or higher fidelity graphics from a tethered PC depending on your needs.

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The Focus 3 also features new controllers and a chassis featuring a magnesium alloy frame that HTC said is 20% lighter and 500% stronger than typical plastic. You also get inside-out tracking thanks to the four cameras on the outside of the headset, front and rear gaskets that can be changed out for easy cleaning, built-in speakers, and even a special audio privacy mode to prevent people from eavesdropping on you while you’re in a meeting. In a nod toward enterprise use, the Focus 3 comes with a swappable battery system that lets you slap on a fresh power pack in just a few seconds.

The Vive Focus 3 will cost $1,300 and includes a two-year enterprise warranty, in addition to a whole suite of new business-focused software support and apps to help companies more easily transition from traditional office collaboration to working in VR.

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Now technically, anyone can pay $1,300 for a Focus 3 if what they want is essentially a Quest 2 with better specs, but unfortunately, the Focus doesn’t come with the same kind of software and support the average consumer wants, so unless you’re planning on tinkering around on your own, the Vive Pro 2 is likely the better option.

The Vive Focus 2 is available for pre-order today and officially starts shipping on June 4. The Vive Focus 3 arrives June 27.

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Slow-mo Footage Reveals the Unique Way Plasma TVs Displayed a Single Frame of Video

As fun as it is to watch things go boom in slow motion, high-speed cameras are more useful as educational and research tools, revealing phenomena that are otherwise imperceptible to the naked human eye, like the weird way old plasma TVs would display a single frame of video by flashing various parts of the image in multiple passes.

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This isn’t the first time The Slow Mo Guys have pointed their high-speed cameras at a TV screen. In a video from 2018, they compared how modern LCD and OLED TVs display video—drawing images from the top of a screen to the bottom—to how old CRTs would generate each frame by drawing images line-by-line and pixel-by-pixel while relying on human persistence of vision to create a full image in our minds.

Somewhere between those technologies, we got TVs featuring plasma display panels which offered a lot of the same benefits that modern OLED screens do over LCDs. The on-screen pixels were made up of tiny cells filled with an ionized gas that self-illuminated when electricity was applied. As a result, plasma TVs didn’t need backlights nor suffer from issues like light leak, resulting in excellent contrast ratios and black levels that were darker than LCD TVs could muster. But plasma TVs actually worked a lot differently when generating images than LCDs, OLEDs, and even CRTs do, as The Slow Mo Guys discovered in their latest video that uses high-speed photography to reveal how 3D TVs functioned.

Instead of turning on every self-emissive pixel at the same time—which would be blinding—plasma display panels would instead illuminate different areas of the screen in fast pulses, up to 10 times for each frame, to quickly build up what the human brain would perceive as a single solid image. In the case of the plasma TV The Slow Mo Guys photographed, it was marketed as a 480Hz display which meant that while it actually operated at 60Hz, every frame generated was made up of eight shorter pulses.

Unlike with an LCD or OLED TV, at no point does slow-mo footage of a plasma display reveal an entire frame, but it’s the only way to see how this unique technology actually worked. As much as home theater enthusiasts loved plasma TVs, which were some of the first big-screen flat sets available, they’re a technology that’s no longer available thanks to improvements in LCD TVs, but mostly because OLED screens offer the same benefits with less power usage, slimmer profiles, and lighter sets that are much easier to hang on a wall.

Apple’s Foldable iPhone Reportedly Rolling Out in 2023

Illustration for article titled Apple's Foldable iPhone Reportedly Rolling Out in 2023

Photo: Sam Rutherford

The question was never if, but when, and according to noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the long-rumored foldable iPhone is now expected in 2023.

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According to note from the analyst seen by MacRumors, Kuo said he predicts Apple’s first foldable iPhone will feature an 8-inch flexible OLED display sourced from Samsung and will go on sale sometime in 2023. Kuo also says that based on estimates and Apple’s “requested capacity plan,” he expects Apple to target sales between 15 and 20 million units, which would present a pretty big jump up from the 2.8 million foldable phones sold industry-wide in 2020—of which nearly 80% were from Samsung.

“At present, the product position of foldable smartphones is mainly to integrate the smartphone and tablet,” Kuo wrote.But we believe that the foldable smartphone is only one of the applications of the foldable design. We predict that foldable devices will blur the product segmentations between smartphones, tablets, and laptops in the future. With its cross-product ecosystems and hardware design advantages, Apple will be the biggest winner in the new foldable device trend.”

Kuo said he believes Apple will switch over to silver nanowire touch tech—which Apple already uses on the HomePod—for use in future devices with multiple folds or rollable displays, at which point silver nanowire could become a better choice than Samsung Display’s Y-Octa foldable screen tech.

Unfortunately, Kuo didn’t mention an estimated price for Apple’s upcoming foldable iPhone, though given Apple’s estimated lofty sales target, it’s hard to imagine final retail prices anywhere near the $1,800 price tag a new Galaxy Z Fold 2 goes for today.

Another question is whether Apple’s upcoming folding iPhone will run a standard version of iOS, iPad OS, or a hybrid of the two to help Apple’s foldable handset best take advantage of its multi-function design. Either way, the main hurdle Apple will have to clear is to figure out a way to protect the foldable’s iPhone screen, as today’s bendy displays are still quite soft and susceptible to dents and creases. Apple will also need to develop a hinge mechanism that maintains its strength and rigidity without taking up too much space or allowing small particles like dirt to get inside the device.

Samsung has already released two generations of foldable phones, and currently has the most experience creating devices with flexible screens. But Apple’s expertise in taking relatively novel tech and working to iron out flaws and kinks could make it an instant success.

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Still, a lot can change between now and 2023, so we’re just going to have to sit tight for the next couple years before we get a better idea of what a foldable iPhone might actually look like.

Why the New iPad Pro’s MiniLED Display Is a Big Deal

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro for 2021 brings with it a major display upgrade.

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro for 2021 brings with it a major display upgrade.
Image: Apple

One of the marquee features of Apple’s 12.9-inch Pad Pro for 2021 is its Liquid Retina XDR display, a screen tech that you might have previously seen mentioned in relation to the super-expensive Pro Display XDR monitor that Apple also sells. But what exactly do all these terms mean?

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Let’s start with the term Retina, which Apple uses with both the Pro Display XDR and the new iPad Pros, and which has been used on Apple products for years at this point. It’s a bit of marketing speak Apple has invented to signify a certain level of resolution and crispness on a display, and it’s been used across several different products in the Apple range since the term was introduced with the iPhone 4 in 2013.

There’s actually no fixed standard for what makes a display a Retina one, but broadly speaking, it’s supposed to be a resolution high enough that the human eye can’t distinguish between individual pixels. Obviously, that’s going to vary depending on how far your eyes are from the screen as well as how tightly packed the pixels are.

Nowadays, just about every bit of Apple hardware qualifies as Retina, which is why you’ll now see extra words like “liquid” tacked on as well—the Liquid part of Liquid Retina on the iPad Pro listings just means even more pixels per inch, and even less chance of your eyes seeing any pixelation no matter how close you bring the screen up to your face.

But what about the XDR part? This again is something Apple has cooked up itself for its own products, and you won’t find any other manufacturers using the term for their own screens. In the simplest terms, XDR is an enhanced version of HDR (High Dynamic Range) that extends its benefits.

HDR keeps the darkest parts of a screen and the lightest parts of a screen visible at all times through a range of different brightness balancing tricks. The idea is that detail is visible in the deepest shadows and the brightest highlights, even if both are shown on a display at the same time.

The key to HDR is having a very high contrast ratio, or the difference between the blackest blacks and the whitest whites that a display can put out. With XDR, Apple has pushed that range even further. The Apple Pro Display XDR can manage 1,000 nits of full-screen, sustained brightness, and a peak of 1,600 nits, resulting in a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio.

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Part of the secret of managing this is having a finely tuned backlighting control system, so really bright pixels can sit next to extremely dim pixels with no bleed. On the Pro Display XDR, Apple says it does this through a combination of advanced LED technology, intelligent (and faster) image processing, and light shaping (or controlling how light is emitted). The monitor has a total of 576 LED zones behind it.

The Apple Pro Display XDR.

The Apple Pro Display XDR.
Image: Apple

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There’s also a P3 wide color gamut and 10-bit color depth (supporting 1.073 billion colors), with a resolution of 6016 x 3384 pixels (218 pixels per inch), and a maximum refresh rate of 60Hz. It also uses blue LED backlighting rather than the conventional white for better control and for better thermal management.

The Retina XDR tech in the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro is going for similar end results, but approaching them in a different way. Here the display technology isn’t IPS LCD, as like is on the Pro Display XDR, but rather the up-and-coming miniLED. The idea is the same: There’s super-fine control over the brightness and dimming of individual pixels, so that very dark blacks and very bright whites are possible.

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We’ve written more about miniLED display tech here, but basically it means the backlight zones behind an LCD display (like the 576 on the Pro Display XDR) can get much smaller still, for even better control and better color management. These miniature LEDs can be as little as a fifth of a size of standard LEDs, so the difference can be marked.

MiniLEDs are also seen in TVs and smartphones, and the tech being developed in an attempt to get LCD screens closer to the high bar set by OLED displays. With OLED, every pixel is its own light source, no backlighting or local dimming required, but OLED remains expensive and difficult to manufacture. Innovations such as miniLED are an attempt to get the best features of both LCD and OLED panels.

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The larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro is the one with the XDR upgrade.

The larger 12.9-inch iPad Pro is the one with the XDR upgrade.
Image: Apple

While Apple’s premium iPhones now use OLED, the company has gone with miniLED for the larger iPad Pro model in order to qualify for the XDR label. It hits the same 1,000 nits maximum full-screen brightness, 1,600 nits peak brightness when playing HDR content, and 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio that the Pro Display XDR monitor does, but in a much more compact form.

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It’s quite a technical achievement. The Pro models in the iPhone 12 range (with their OLED screens) can manage 1,200 nits peak brightness, while the (LCD) displays on the brand new 24-inch iMac top out at a maximum of 500 nits. Considering miniLED can manage better brightness levels than OLED, with less battery drain, it might be a while before Apple makes the switch to OLED for its tablets.

There are 10,000 miniLEDs packed into the 12.9-inch iPad Pro display, offering a total of 2,596 local dimming zones—a fantastic number for such a small screen. Rounding out the specs on this larger iPad Pro, we have the P3 wide color gamut, a 2732 x 2048 pixel resolution (264 pixels per inch), and a refresh rate that can go up to 120Hz.

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The XDR label, then, is one that may well be worth spending the extra cash for when you’re choosing a new iPad—especially if you spend a lot of time working with images and video. While Netflix and Hulu will look perfectly fine on any Apple tablet, the extra brightness and contrast you get with XDR are likely to appeal to creative professionals.

Anker’s R2-D2 Mini Projector Is Adorable but Flawed

Illustration for article titled Anker’s R2-D2 Mini Projector Is Adorable but Flawed

Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo

They say if you build a better mouse trap, the world will beat a path to your door, but you can probably be just as successful by slapping some Star Wars graphics on it instead. That’s what Anker’s done with its Nebula Capsule II mini projector, which now looks like a legless version of R2-D2. The facelift doesn’t add much in terms of functionality aside from making a solid portable projector more appealing to Star Wars fans and X-wing pilots.

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As flat-screen TVs have become larger and lighter, they’re minimizing the need for an expensive video projector as a way to get a movie theater-sized screen inside a home. But mini projectors have remained an appealing alternative, making it easy to set up a movie theater almost anywhere, be it a backyard or a campsite. And that’s probably the biggest appeal of the Anker Nebula Capsule II: It’s small, but still manages to squeeze in everything you need to bring the movie theater experience anywhere. All you need to provide is the screen.

There are a few disappointments with the new Anker Nebula Capsule II R2-D2 edition, but the most obvious is that its Artoo facelift really doesn’t add much beyond a bit of novelty. The projector has the same cylindrical shape as the original, which just barely matches R2-D2’s shape. It would have been more fun to see Anker upgrade this version with a rounded dome top and a swivelling projector eye like Haier did back in 2015 just before we realized how awful those last three Star Wars films would be. In addition to the Artoo graphics, the projector does play a couple of droid-like “beep-bloops” every time it boots up, but that’s about as much enjoyment Star Wars fans are going to get out of it—aside from actually watching Star Wars with it.

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Anywhere you can carry a soda can or a water bottle you can carry the Nebula Capsule II.
Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo

As mini projectors go, I’ve come to quite like the can-shaped design of the Nebula Capsule II over the boxy uninspired rectangle that most projector makers opt for. It’s easy to slip into a water bottle pocket on a backpack thanks in part to it being only just a tiny bit larger than an actual soda can or water bottle.

Even more impressive is that Anker has managed to include a solid sounding speaker in there too, with more than enough volume to fill a room with decent levels of bass. It obviously can’t compare to what you’d get from a dedicated surround-sound setup with a big woofer on the floor, and while you can connect a larger wireless Bluetooth speaker to the projector for better sound if you prefer, having decent sound built right in just adds to the convenience and portability of this thing.

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Also hidden away inside the Nebula Capsule II is a rechargeable battery that in my tests usually hit the 3-hour mark before completely dying, but you might see a little less than that depending on how loud the speaker is cranked. It’s more than enough to get through an entire movie in the backyard without having to run an extension cord from the house, and is easily the best reason to choose the Nebula Capsule II over the competition.

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The projector’s tall design occasionally makes it a little top heavy, but a tripod mount on the underside provides a secure place to easily mount it.
Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo

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The taller design of the projector does occasionally make it a little top heavy and a challenge to stand on a surface that’s not completely flat and level. But on the bottom is a standard tripod mount so if you bring along a flexible legged tripod that can stand on its own or wrap around another solid object, you’ll never have to worry about this thing ever toppling over.

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Media files can be accessed directly through a USB port, while consoles and streaming sticks can be easily connected using an HDMI port.
Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo

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On R2-D2’s butt you’ll find an AUX connector for those who only want to use the projector as a speaker, an HDMI port for connecting consoles or a streaming device like a Chromecast, a data-only USB port for connecting an external drive full of media files, and a USB-C port that’s only used for power and charging the battery.

Unlike most projectors that are dependent on an external video source, the Anker Nebula Capsule II is actually a full-on Android TV device that, when paired with a solid wifi connection, can stream content from services like Disney+, HBO, and YouTube, all on its own. After using it for a few weeks it makes you wonder why every projector doesn’t run Android TV, but there are some challenges. The projector unfortunately doesn’t meet Netflix’s stringent certification process, so you can’t install it natively from the Google Play Store. You can jump through hoops and sideload Netflix yourself, or install a special app that Anker has created that provides access to the streaming service. While it technically works, navigating the Netflix interface a bit of a challenge unless you want to also connect your smartphone and use it as a wireless mouse. It’s unfortunately far from ideal.

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If Netflix support is critical for you, you’re better off buying and connecting an HDMI streaming stick device like a $50 Chromecast, even if that does diminish the all-in-one benefits of the Nebula Capsule II.

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The included Android TV remote is basic and a little disappointing, because it lacks the convenient playback controls that the latest Nvidia Shield remote includes, but it works. On top of the projector you’ll also find most of the remote’s functionality replicated through a series of touch-sensitive buttons, which is nice should the remote itself go MIA. One thing that I found extremely frustrating was quickly accessing the projector’s auto-focus functionality. Simply holding down the ‘input’ button on the remote for a couple of seconds is supposed to be a shortcut to quickly trigger it, but it doesn’t work, as apparently a recent update broke that functionality. Manually activating autofocus has to be done by jumping back to the Android TV home screen and activating it through the settings, which is a pain, or holding down the middle button on top of the projector itself. Hopefully this is something that can be fixed through a future update.

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The projector can autofocus and make keystone adjustments all on its own, but occasionally the focus will soften, and manually triggering a refocus isn’t as easy as it should be.
Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo

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I haven’t dabbled with small projectors for a few years, so I was pleasantly surprised to see how easy they are to set up now. Once fully booted the Nebula Capsule II automatically corrected for keystone issues, although its ability to do so is limited to vertical adjustments, so when setting up a makeshift movie theater you’ll want to ensure the projector is horizontally centered in front of your screen. The projector was also good at focusing itself using a reference marker it temporarily projects, but focus does tend to drift as it slowly heats up during use. Sometimes the projector will realize it and refocus itself automatically (a built-in motion sensor also detects when it’s been moved or repositioned, triggering a refocus) but more often than not you need to manually trigger an autofocus, which as I mentioned before isn’t as easy as it should be.

As for image quality? Well that’s probably the biggest drawback to the Nebula Capsule II. It only projects at 720p, so you’re definitely going to see jaggies on fine details, particularly with text and on-screen menus. And in order to max out that rechargeable battery so you can get through a whole movie on a single charge, its brightness levels top out at around just 200 ANSI lumens. In a very dark room that’s bright enough to create a 100-inch image and even larger if you really push it, but even at shorter distances the Nebula Capsule II is all but unusable in the daytime, even when it’s cloudy or overcast outside.

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The included remote has a dedicated power button, but you can’t actually completely turn off the projector using it. It can only be completely powered down using a physical button on the back, so you’ll want to make sure you never permanently mount it somewhere out of reach.
Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo

If portability is a priority, the Anker Nebula Capsule II is one of the best options around, especially for those looking for an easy way to enjoy a backyard movie on a warm summer night or while ‘roughing it’ at a campsite. It’s easy to use, and the built-in battery and speaker mean you don’t need much else besides a makeshift screen and a reliable wireless data connection to build a temporary movie theater. But for $700 it’s a tough sell for anyone also hoping to use it to replace a big screen TV. Unless you’re only planning to watch TV at night, you could be disappointed.

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We all love R2-D2, but for $300 more, a projector like the 1080p, 1,000-lumen Epson EpiqVision Mini EF12 seems like a better all around option. It lacks the portability and convenience of the Anker Nebula Capsule II, but you can use it all day long and just use your imagination to pretend it’s a loyal droid.

I Miss My Family’s Collection of CRT TVs

Illustration for article titled I Miss My Family's Collection of CRT TVs

Graphic: Gizmodo (Photos: Shutterstock)

I MissI MissGizmodo staff fondly remembers the extinct gadgets of years past.

“Wow, you guys have so many TVs.”

That’s what my friends would say when they’d come over to my house in elementary and middle school. It was a 3-bedroom English Tudor with a basement and attic, and in almost every room there was a boxy CRT TV. They were all sorts of sizes, and the biggest one lived in the basement. The living room TV was encased in a massive, elaborate console that doubled as a display case, liquor cabinet, and random storage. There was a medium-sized CRT in the attic and my mom’s room. My dad had his own TV in his room as well. I had one of those mini CRTs with a built-in VCR in my room. At any given point, I had six to seven TVs in my house.

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Was it overkill? Of course it was. There were more TVs in the house than people living in it. The way my mom justified it—because this was her doing, not my dad’s—was that having a TV in every room gave us all freedom to roam. You weren’t shackled to one location, and you’d never have to fight over the remote. If my dad wanted quiet, I could creep down into the basement and watch my cartoons in peace. Before bed, I’d catch my mom watching the evening news at her desk. At dinner, my dad subjected us all to MSNBC and the daily tribulations of the NASDAQ. When I was a surly teen, I’d find whichever TV was furthest from my parents and hook up my PlayStation 2.

In a family as taciturn as mine, these CRTs served as a gateway to conversation. I didn’t have much in common with my parents. Instead of asking how school was, my dad used whatever bone-headed Fox News pundit said as a way to spark lively debates. Listening to my dad talk about his childhood in North Korea was uncomfortable, but he could pop in a grainy videotape of the Mass Games and I’d at least have an idea of where he was coming from. Once, we both sprang up from our chairs during that Orkin commercial of the roach crawling across the screen. My stoic dad screamed and threw his slipper. When he realized it wasn’t a real roach, he gave a rare belly laugh. It’s one of my fondest memories of him.

My mom would occasionally get the itch to rearrange all the furniture in the entire house. That meant helping her heft these boxy monstrosities up and down the stairs. The edges would dig into my arms, and every once in a while the screen zapped me with static electricity. I complained but secretly, I was happy my self-sufficient mother needed my help. She was a busy lady. Her commute was long and most nights she wouldn’t make it home until 8 p.m.—enough time to make dinner, but not much else. On weekends, she ran around trying to finish a never-ending list of errands. To make up for it, she bought me movies that I’d then pop into the VCR and watch when I felt lonely. After, I’d rattle off a summary in great detail while she washed the dishes.

As much as I miss how this tech brought us together, it also gave me space to explore outside of my parents’ watchful gaze. Long before laptops, smartphones, and iPads, my mini 13-inch CRT was also my first “portable” screen. Of all the TVs we had, this is the one I miss the most. I couldn’t watch anything but public broadcast, and the antenna was kind of wonky, but it had a built-in VCR. This way, I could borrow videos from my friends and watch stuff my parents would never approve of. I didn’t mind the small screen, especially because I could lift this thing on my own and hide in a closet to watch late-night TV.

It’s not that I wish we never moved on from CRTs. (I do, however, appreciate how many years they lasted compared to today’s “smarter” flat screens.) They petered out in the early 2000s for a reason. LCDs were finally affordable, and these things were bulky as hell. Not to mention the slight curve at the screen edges and the pixelation—all that would bug me today. But I do miss how older media looked during the age of CRTs. The shows and movies of my youth look so dated on my shiny 65-inch Vizio. Everything’s fuzzier, as if in soft focus. But in my memory, the picture was so clear. I’ve been rewatching the first few seasons of The Simpsons, and the show looks so flat. The colors seem off, the flaws in the animation are more noticeable, and I find myself questioning if it always looked like this or if this media would look better on a CRT. Then I get sad, because it’s not like I can dig our old CRTs from my mom’s garage.

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There’s a decent chance it would. I used to think I was alone in longing for these ancient boob tubes, but it looks like they’ve found new life in the retro gaming community. Duck Hunt, for example, relied on CRT technology to tell if you’d hit a bird based on how the CRT screen refreshed. You can play Duck Hunt on a modern TV, but it requires a lot DIY elbow grease. Per the Verge, some retro gamers contend there’s less lag when playing fast-paced games on a CRT than on newer screens.

Also, I don’t know what it is about my flat-screen TVs, but they don’t evoke the same kind of emotion. As sharp as the picture quality might be, there’s no character to them. There’s something more iconic about the boxy CRT. Even the TV emoji is a CRT TV of yore, not a sleek flat screen. If you mixed my current living room and bedroom TVs up, I wouldn’t notice. They’re mercenary gadgets, vehicles for Netflix and Hulu, and not much else. I doubt I’ll remember my Vizio in 20 years. If I do, it’ll be because the software keeps crashing. More likely, I’ll forget everything about it when I replace it on Black Friday.

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One of Braun’s First Digital Alarm Clocks Is Back With Wireless Charging Powers

Millions of words have been devoted to Dieter Rams’ iconic hardware designs, but nothing stands as a testament to the timeliness of his creations like a 45-year-old digital alarm clock being resurrected and updated to give your smartphone a functional and stylish place to rest and recharge overnight.

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The Braun DN40 wasn’t the first digital alarm clock, but it was arguably the first that didn’t look like a technological relic by today’s standards. Its sleek and simple design, a hallmark of Braun’s products, angled the LCD display slightly back, while the buttons on the back used to set the time and alarm all feature distinct shapes so they can be operated without actually having to look at them. Features that should have been standardized on all bedside alarm clocks.

For a while, smartphones meant that bedside alarm clocks were an antiquated and redundant concept, freeing up space on our bedside tables. But then the ‘convenience’ of wireless charging arrived, and we once again had to make room for a big chunk of electronics to plop our phones on at night. That’s where the Braun BC21 enters the picture.

Inspired by the classic DN40, the BC21 features a similarly slanted LCD display on the front (updated with a light sensor that automatically dims or brightens the glowing digits so they’re always easy on the eyes), a beeping alarm that gradually gets louder the longer you ignore it, and a touch-sensitive snooze button on the top that requires minimal effort to activate.

Behind the display is a 10-watt Qi-compatible wireless charging pad covered in non-slip silicone so that whatever you place on it before bed—be it a smartphone, earbuds, or headphones—are still there and fully charged in the morning no matter how much stuff you knock over during a night of fitful sleep. The only downside to Dieter Ram’s legacy is that not only are classic Braun electronics hard to find and pricey when you do, but modern Braun electronics aren’t exactly cheap either, and the BC21 is a hefty $130—even more expensive than the overpriced Apple MagSafe Duo Charger.

Save $53 on LG’s 27″ UaGear Monitor And Get Some UaGaming Done, Am I Right?

Best Gaming DealsBest Gaming DealsThe best deals on games, consoles, and gaming accessories from around the web, updated daily.

27″ UltraGear Monitor | $347 | BuyDig

‘Tis the season to upgrade your home gaming setup. With tech deals going left and right, you’ll find no shortage of options when it comes to things like monitors. Here’s another one to add on to your list of possible purchases. A pair of 27″ LG UltraGear gaming monitors are on sale at Best Buy. Here’s a quick rundown of what you’re getting with this: a 2560 x 1440 display, 144Hz refresh rate, 1 ms of response time, and G-Sync technology to help cut down on screen tear. For gamers who don’t care too much about pushing their games to the ends of the Earth with ungodly resolutions ad refresh rates, the UltraGear is a great balance of the two. making for a solid gaming option.

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This story was originally published by Giovanni Colantonio on 11/29/2020 and updated with new information on 03/11/2021.


Researchers Created a High-Contrast Transparent Screen That Might Make You Want to Wear Smart Glasses

Gif: Jilin University

Researchers at Jilin University in Changchun, China, have come up with a method for making transparent displays that look as good as the screens on our mobile devices, with color reproduction and contrast levels that could soon have us permanently ditching smartphones and tablets for smart glasses.

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Transparent displays are far from a new idea. Science fiction has been presenting us with see-through smartphones and vibrant mixed-reality headsets for years. It’s hard not to lust after the mobile devices Tony Stark gets to play with, but while the technology exists in real life, it’s mostly used for novelty or advertising purposes. Companies like LG sell transparent OLED displays for use as signage, but not as a replacement for your living room TV. Non-emissive see-through screens don’t generate their own light, but instead rely on ambient light passing through or bouncing off the display, and don’t have the same contrast levels, viewing angles, and color reproduction capabilities as LCDs or OLEDs.

Anyone who had a chance to use Google Glass while it was available to consumers knows the limitations of transparent displays, but while image quality lacks, the technology is crucial for creating smart glasses, which many assume will one day supplant smartphones.

There’s little doubt that deep in the R&D labs of giant corporations like LG and Samsung, researchers are trying to find ways to improve transparent OLEDs, but the Chinese researchers at Jilin University may have beaten them to the punch. In a paper published in the journal Chem today, the team details a new approach to electrochromic displays that change color and opacity by manipulating the properties of light when a voltage is applied.

A prototype was created by essentially building a glass sandwich with a pair of clear panels that were injected with a material made from “metal salts, dyes, electrolytes, and solvent” in addition to electrodes, with the whole thing held together using an adhesive that doubled as a spacer. When a voltage is applied, the metal ions and molecules in the filler form new bonds and structures that essentially cause the dyes to switch on and off. As different dyes are activated and mixed, the researchers found that colors including cyan, magenta, yellow, red, green, pink, purple, and gray could be produced. The display could easily shift from fully transparent to black with a high contrast ratio, which is crucial for displaying legible text.

The new non-emissive screen technology is also relatively low-cost and easy to manufacture, further increasing its chances of replacing LCDs and OLEDs in applications like smart glasses, but first the researchers are hoping to optimize its performance. It can shift from transparent to displaying text or imagery in less than a second, but that’s not quite fast enough to match the performance of screens used on smartphones or wearables. It’s going to need to be able to switch states at at least 30 times every second before the technology is practical enough to replace what we’re using now. No one’s going to want a pair of smart glasses if they can’t secretly watch YouTube videos while they look like they’re paying attention to a meeting or class.

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The Boox Nova 3 Color Proves Color E Ink Screens Aren’t Ready for Tablets Yet

Illustration for article titled The Boox Nova 3 Color Proves Color E Ink Screens Aren't Ready for Tablets Yet

Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo

If the PocketBook InkPad Color was an attempt to bring the benefits of a tablet’s larger screen to e-readers so ebooks like comics and magazines are easier to read, the Boox Nova 3 Color is an attempt to bring the benefits of an E Ink screen to tablets. The results are a more capable and powerful e-reader, but with a price tag that makes the Nova 3 Color feel like a tablet with limited capabilities.

The Boox Nova 3 Color tablet is the second device to use E Ink’s new 7.8-inch, second-generation Kaleido color screen technology. PocketBook was the first, and its implementation of the new display was an attempt to improve the company’s first color e-reader, the PocketBook Color. That device’s 6-inch screen that made it hard to read image-rich documents like comic books that can’t be easily re-formatted for a smaller display. Boox’s use of the new Kaleido color screen instead aspires to deliver a feature-rich tablet without the drawbacks of power-hungry display technologies like LCD or OLED. Unfortunately, the limitations of E Ink stymie those aspirations.

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Unlike PocketBook’s Linux-based OS that runs on a dual-core 1 GHz processor, the Book Nova 3 Color runs Android 10 (with a custom front-end) and is powered by a Snapdragon 636 octa-core processor, and the differences in CPU power are obvious. The PocketBook InkPad Color still feels as snappy as any e-reader, but the Boox Nova 3 Color easily outperforms it with documents that load in a snap (even massive PDFs), faster page turns, and a UI that never feels like it’s struggling to keep up with your screen taps.

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Both devices use the same second-generation E Ink Kaleido color screens, but the colors look slightly better on the PocketBook InkPad 3 (right) because the Boox Nova 3 Color (left) has an extra screen layer to facilitate stylus support.
Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo

Although both the PocketBook InkPad 3 and the Boox Nova 3 Color are using the exact same screen from E Ink, which displays black and white text at 300 PPI while color imagery is reduced to 100 PPI, the colors on the InkPad 3 look ever so slightly more accurate and saturated because the Nova 3 Color features an extra screen layer to facilitate the use of a stylus.

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Being able to use the Nova 3 Color as an e-reader and an electronic notepad gives it a big advantage over the InkPad Color, and a good justification of the device’s faster CPU and use of Android. The included stylus is nothing to write home about (see what I did there?), but unlike the Apple Pencil or the stylus Sony included with its e-note devices, it never needs to be charged. It’s also got eraser functionality built in, which is a plus, but there’s no integrated way to store the stylus, like a slot or a magnet on the edge. It just tags along (unless you buy Boox’s matching case or optional stylus tether) which is a good justification to swap out with many of the third-party active styluses already available for e-note devices.

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Is the Boox Nova 3 Color as good as the reMarkable 2 for note-taking? No, but it comes remarkably close (see what I did there too?). Writing on the Nova 3 Color feels as responsive as it does on the reMarkable 2. The on-screen strokes rarely lag behind the stylus, and the frontlight and ability to write and doodle in color are genuinely useful upgrades. The Nova 3 Color’s file management, document syncing, and interface can’t quite compete with the reMarkable 2’s level of polish, but I was still extremely impressed with what Boox has delivered in terms of e-note capabilities.

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You can install apps like YouTube and Netflix on the Boox Nova 3 Color, but the limited refresh rate and ghosting issues of E Ink makes trying to watch videos a strain on the eyes.
Gif: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo

The Nova 3 Color runs Android 10 and you can easily get the Google Play Store working, which gives the device access to any app that can run on an Android tablet. For an e-reader that’s incredibly useful, because it means you can install the Amazon Kindle app, the Rakuten Kobo app, or other e-reader apps to get access to several well-stocked ebook stores. But trying other tablet apps is where the limits of E Ink technology can be frustrating. Simpler games like Solitaire work just fine on an E Ink screen, but trying to watch a video on YouTube, like the trailer for Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon, is a real challenge for your eyes.

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The Nova 3 Color lets you customize how its color E Ink screen behaves on an app by app basis, including how often it fully refreshes the screen, but action games and movies just aren’t an enjoyable experience no matter how the device is configured. The E Ink screen just isn’t fast enough, which makes the Nova 3 Color impractical for anything other than reading books and taking notes.

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The Boox Nova 3 Color’s user interface is extremely customizable, but it lacks the polish of the UIs used by dedicated e-readers like the Kindle or Kobo.
Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo

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The limits of E Ink screen technology aren’t the only thing holding the Nova 3 Color back. The custom Android front-end it uses comes with its own challenges. It works, and is extensively customizable, including an optional on-screen shortcut button to quickly access oft-used functions, but there’s a lack of overall polish that’s especially apparent if you’ve used e-readers like the Kindle or the Kobo. You eventually learn to find your way around, but it’s rarely an intuitive or enjoyable experience.

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A good example of this is the Nova 3 Color’s home button, or what most users will assume is the home button. It instead functions like the Android back button, and doesn’t appear to be customizable. Through the UI there are several other ways to hop back to the tablet’s home screen, but if I see a single button on a tablet or an e-reader, my brain is already programmed to assume what it’s used for, and it’s little things like this that can make the Nova 3 Color occasionally frustrating to use.

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After using the Nova 3 Color for a week, it feels like an experiment to see if E Ink’s Kaleido color screen technology is ready to replace incumbent screen tech like LCD and OLED. The answer is no. To E Ink’s credit, the company has already demonstrated the third iteration of Kaleido, just six months after color E Ink first became available to consumers, which is expected to arrive in devices later this year. With every version, E Ink has addressed the problems with its new screen technology, and here’s hoping that Kaleido’s LED frontlighting will eventually allow for color temperature adjustments for reading at night. But it’s become apparent that we’re still quite a few iterations away from color E Ink devices being on par with what black-and-white e-readers currently offer.

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The glaring difference between a screen capable of displaying 4.096 colors (the Boox Nova 3 Color on the left) versus a screen that can display 16 million+ colors (the iPad Pro on the right).
Photo: Andrew Liszewski/Gizmodo

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Unfortunately, a color E Ink tablet with a low-power screen that’s easy on the eyes and viewable in direct sunlight doesn’t do enough to justify the Boox Nova 3 Color’s $420 price tag given what E Ink currently can’t do. That price makes the Nova 3 Color about $20 more expensive than the newest iPad Mini, which works with the original Apple Pencil for jotting notes or doodling. Even the excellent reMarkable 2 is $20 cheaper than the Nova 3 Color, and feels like a better choice for digital note-taking and reading ebooks, even without color or a backlight.

There are lots of things I like about the Boox Nova 3 Color. Having Android and the Google Play Store on an e-reader is fantastic, because it gives you endless choices on where to buy your e-books, and the older Nova 2 or black-and-white version of the Nova 3 are excellent e-note devices at their cheaper price points. But the Nova 3 Color’s $420 price tag only serves to make the $329 PocketBook InkPad Color more appealing if you’re desperate for a color E Ink device.

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