Apple MacBook Pro to get HDMI, SD card reader back to meet fan demand

People have been complaining about a change Apple enforced five years ago, but for frustrated Mac fans the company might backflip.

People have been complaining about a lack of connectivity ports on Apple’s computers ever since the company first adopted a new connection in 2015, but a rumoured backflip is coming with Apple expected to restore some important connections.

According to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, models of the MacBook Pro coming later this year will once again pack an SD card reader and an HDMI port.

HDMI lets you plug into a TV or other external display with video and audio being sent through the one cable, while an SD card reader makes it quicker and easier to download photos and video from a camera as well as provide expandable storage.

Hubs like this one have become more prevalent as device makers increasingly require them.Source:News Regional Media

Apple previously included both on the MacBook Pro and the larger MacBook Air model.

Beginning in 2015, with the 12-inch MacBook that also introduced the company’s awful butterfly keyboard, Apple included only two USB-C ports and a headphone jack.

USB-C is a powerful port that can provide power while also streaming huge amounts of data, and can be daisy chained together in some cases to make up for a lack of ports on some devices.

But it also requires many people to carry around “dongles”, little cables and adaptors that can turn the USB-C/Thunderbolt port into something you can use.

According to Mr Kuo, that’s set to change within months.

“We predict that Apple’s two new MacBook Pro models in 2H21 will have several significant design and specification changes,” Mr Kuo said in a research note, according to MacRumors.

“Some of the practical changes for users are equipping with the SD card reader and HDMI port.”

Apple announced new Mac computers powered by its own silicon last year. Picture: Apple IncSource:Supplied

Another recent report from Bloomberg also suggested MagSafe could return to the MacBook after being introduced to the iPhone.

MagSafe magnetically attaches to the computer to charge and gets the “Safe” part of its name for the insurance it provides against people tripping over your power cable.

If tension is applied to the cable it comes straight out of the port rather than introducing your spenno laptop to the ground, but when Apple added USB-C they took away MagSafe, another decision it could soon reverse.

Original article from news.com.au

The first USB4 products are here: What to know, what to buy

The first USB4 products have begun to ship, almost a year after the specification was released. The initial products will include external storage devices, USB docks, and more, executives at the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) told PCWorld.

Although the USB-IF has taken some steps to reduce the confusion around USB4, it’s still going to be a little tricky to distinguish it from Thunderbolt 4—though it may not matter. Here’s what you need to know.

USB4: What you need to know

USB4 represents the closest merge to date of two I/O technologies, USB and Thunderbolt. USB has been around since 1995, providing a port for peripherals as small as a thumb drive or a mouse, or as big as a consumer printer. With USB4, however, the venerable rectangular USB-A port is finally giving way entirely to the ovular USB-C port. 

Thunderbolt is a technology designed by Intel with help from Apple, with the intent of supporting a new generation of faster external storage, more sophisticated monitor technology, and more. It’s younger than USB—Intel celebrated Thunderbolt’s 10th anniversary on February 24—and is still found mostly on Macs, plus some higher-end displays, storage, and Windows PCs. The Thunderbolt 4 standard was ratified at the end of August, 2019, and has slowly worked its way from a paper specification to finished products.

Both Thunderbolt and USB4 share the same USB-C physical connector. They also overlap in terms of throughput: USB4 can operate at peak speeds of 40 gigabits per second (Gbps), the same as Thunderbolt 3 and the new Thunderbolt 4. The USB4 specification is backward-compatible, so you can connect an older USB-C device to a USB4 port. Any older device will run at its native USB speed—it can’t upgrade itself on the fly to USB4 speeds.

Here’s where it gets a little confusing. The USB4 spec doesn’t require Thunderbolt support, so you may find laptops and other devices with a simple USB4 port. The Thunderbolt 4 spec mandates the use of USB4, however, including its optional features. Laptops that include Thunderbolt 4 capability will therefore support USB4 by default. “We know that Thunderbolt 4.0 is basically USB4,” according to Jeff Ravencraft, the president and chief operating officer of the USB-IF, in an interview. Look for Windows models built around Intel’s 11th-gen “Tiger Lake” Core processors, as well as the new Apple MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 13, a USB-IF representative noted. 

With USB4, the USB-IF is making great strides in cleaning up the I/O chaos of yesteryear, as expected when the USB4 specification was announced. Gone is the horrible USB 3 naming scheme. USB4 isn’t defined by the specification, but by how fast data moves. The USB4 spec provides for two different flavors of USB4, both 20Gbps and 40Gps, each of which should be properly labeled on the product packaging.

usb4 branding summary
A summary of the two different speeds at which USB4 can run at, as indicated by the USB Implementers Forum. Interestingly, “USB4” isn’t called out in the spec—just the available bandwidth.

What USB4 devices can you buy?

Ravencraft said it’s typical that a USB specification requires 12 to 18 months to implement, from a document to shipping product. The first cables began shipping at the end of 2020, he said, and the first USB4 docking stations have hit the market as well. “We anticipate seeing the ramp begin to happen this year,” he said, even with the pandemic.

Here’s a short, non-comprehensive list of the first products to ship, as suggested by a USB-IF representative. As you shop, pay close attention to the product names, which more often than not will include “Thunderbolt 4” or “USB4” as handy cues. However, it will never hurt to skim the specs to confirm their compatibility. For example, we received an early sample of the OWC Thunderbolt 4 dock. The USB4 brand label appears nowhere on the packaging. Instead, OWC includes this note in the specifications: “Compatible with USB3, USB4, and Thunderbolt 3 and later devices.”

Original article by PC World.

The confusing state of USB-C

Universal Serial Bus or USB was introduced 25 years ago as an industry standard that established specifications for cables and connectors and protocols for the connection, communication, and power supply between computers and peripherals. 

Over time there have been 11 different types of connectors. Most will be familiar with USB-A. The most recent connector introduced is the extremely powerful USB-C. 

USB-C handles a wide gamut of specifications, including USB 4.0. So it may be confusing to know what the USB-C port on your computer is capable of running. The industry standards can help sift through the different types to help you, but usually, these are buried in the specification pages of the manual of your computer or motherboard.

On your device manager, you will have controller information that should let you know what USB specification each controller is responsible for but this information does not shed light on what connectors the controllers are responsible for.

Usually, USB-C is connected to the highest controller type your system has and it is a simple matter of connecting the same type of cable and peripheral specification as the controller to get the features of that controller.

An example is USB 3.0 vs 3.1. The speed rate of 3.0 is 5 Gbit/s. 3.1 has a speed rate of 10Gbit/s however it also has DisplayPort Alternate Mode. This enables, as long as a user has this controller connected to USB-C and a compatible hub that has an HDMI output, the user is able to stream an additional display at 1080p if their GPU has not exceeded the number of displays it can run simultaneously.

Unfortunately, this has led to confusion with computer owners who have seen a USB-C Port and incorrectly identified it as a USB 3.1 or better controller. They then have purchased hubs some up to $800 and found it does not give them the functionality they are after. 

The best practice is to do your research when looking at a motherboard or system you are purchasing. The specifications page will give the type of controller the USB-C port is connected to. This is vitally more important to look out for on a laptop as upgrading is not possible.

Once you are able to understand what each specification is capable of, you are able to better match the functions you are after and the system capable of providing them. If there is no clear information provided and you know you need a certain feature, continue your search.

If you are looking at laptops and trying to find what USB-C port you need, we can help. 

5 great apps or features for Windows 10 users

Here are 5 apps or programs that can help you every day or provide great additional functionality.

WizTree

Wiztree is a freeware designed to give you a snapshot of your storage devices space utilisation. This is great to hunt programs and seeing how much space they are using. It will help you decide if you can afford to lose some files or if it is time to think about getting more storage on your computer.

The best feature is the graphical representation of folders and files. It helps you understand your position at a glance, saving time and allowing the decisions of what to keep and what to get rid of quick and easy.

Speedify

Speedify is a Virtual Private Network (VPN) program. VPNs are great for giving you a little extra security as it masks your IP so your location can not be traced. It is so effective it can convincingly spoof your location to almost any country. I keep mine set to Australia.

The unique feature of Speedify is that you can connect to many internet sources. Generally, on a windows device, while you can connect to many networks, it will only utilise any internet source from one of those networks at a time. There are some cases where you can bridge two connections and have the internet come from both sources. However, the data from these sources are separate.

An example is downloading a video clip while listening to music. One will download the video, while the other will stream the music. However, if you are only downloading the video clip, the second connection will not be used.

Speedify works differently. It allows for all internet connections to contribute to the download of the video clip. In a time of slow NBN but emerging and surprisingly fast 5G mobile (500Mbps), and at competitive pricing compared to NBN, 500GB for $80 (correct at time of writing), you can boost your speeds on demand.

Speedify offers a free 1 GB a month or unlimited paid plan.

Grammarly

Grammarly is a side load program that you can integrate into most web browsers and Microsoft Office. A freeware offers basic corrections and a paid version that allows you to target your audience and set the tone of your writing. The paid version also provides a plagiarism checker in Microsoft office.

There is a Grammarly keyboard on Google Play that syncs to your account.

Your Phone  

Your Phone is an app that comes with Windows 10. It came out in 2018 and allows you to use almost all functions of your phone from your Windows 10 PC. Over time the features have been expanded. Calls, messages in both directions, syncing of your gallery, and now the ability to share your phone screen or start apps and run apps from your PC.

Simply, it is your mobile phone, but on your PC.

This is available on Windows 10. If it is missing, search for it in the Microsoft store. It is free.

Microsoft Store

Microsoft Store needs more recognition than it is currently receiving. Microsoft attempts to bring to PC users what made the iPhone and android so successful, a library of apps for easy searching, installing and using apps for users. Some versions of Windows come locked in what is known as ‘S mode’, which restricts the users of those devices to only use the apps available in the Microsoft Store.

While some prefer the freedom to download what they want from any source, some users prefer the simple accessibility and safety provided the store platform offers. This is installed on Windows 10 and provides an ever-growing library of apps.

Again, the advantage of the store is to provide a safer environment for users to download software. While not every program is available, there are alternatives available in the library, covering both productivity and entertainment. There are even movies and games available in the library for purchase.

Note: For people familiar with ‘S mode’, there is an unlocker available in the Microsoft Store. Depending on your device, the unlocker can be free or has an additional cost.

Intel NUCs – a great small factor PC for budget conscience consumers.

The world of PCs is changing. Due to the ever-popular tablet and mobile platforms, PC manufacturers have had to learn to make more scalar products to suit a smaller, low power product line such as the newer notebooks available.

This shift into lower power cost-effective platforms has also been made its way into the desktop environment.

Intel has developed and matured a line of NUC mini-PCs. These are intended for many applications where a full-sized tower with its added cooling solutions is not necessary.

Intel lists a few user case scenarios such as photo editing and content creation, and these are true for the higher-tiered products. However, the more popular sellers are the lower-spec models. These are designed for internet browsing, office package utilisation and streaming of content.

Their small form factor makes them a discreet option for media streaming and lounge room computer that can be connected to your current PC via HDMI.

The NUC mini-PC comes in a few set configurations, but upgrading the unit is a simple process, so the NUC can grow as your needs do. 

The NUC is not limited to simple residential applications. The NUC sees robust business applications such as point of sales and digital signage. It is likely you walk by this small form factor solution when at a shopping centre and searching the map.

Again, the lower-tiered NUCs are not intended to replace high-end PCs designed for gaming and graphic intensive content creation. But for a user who sees their computer usage to be a simple email, office, and internet; this is an ideal solution. If you are interested in grabbing a NUC, this is a great deal currently available for an Intel NUC 7 Essential Complete Mini Computer including a 21.5″ Monitor. Stocks are limited.

Christmas Computer wish lists.

Local-Computer-help-AMD-Nvidia-Intel-Shop-xmas-gifts

If you are looking to gift yourself a new pc for christmas this year, you will be happy with the huge influx of products which have become available for the holiday season. Every major component supplier has released or are about to release  new products to vie for your xmas dollars. Here are some examples to look out for when shopping.

AMD

AMD will be giving a 1-2 punch to its competitors this season with the release of its Ryzen 5000 series CPUs and its RX 6000 series GPU. It is a timely offering as people have been waiting for AMD to deliver some sort of enthusiast level GPU and on the CPU side the new SKUs will help consolidate AMD’s market share majority for consumer CPUs.

Coupled with the how AMD is suggesting that there are performance advantages for coupling a Ryzen 5000 series CPU with a 500 series chipset motherboard and a rx 6000 series GPUs. 

Nvidia

Nvidia released its RTX 3000 series GPUs in October. This soft launch has been difficult for Nvidia, but if you can get your hands on one of these GPUs, you will not be disappointed. With models to choose from, enthusiast consumers can find something to suit their budget with these.

Intel

Intel 10th gen CPUs are out and are on a new 8nm architecture and needs a new 400 chipset series motherboard which accommodates the 1200 pin socket. The 10th gen offers better security features over the last iterations and stronger performance as Intel tries to fight back against AMDs recent successes.

Big news is, whatever you choose, you are always the winner. As these companies are starting to compete in earnest, they are bringing out their A game in terms of innovations, development improvements and stability.

Monitors

With the new generation of GPUs available a new standard of HDMI has been included and is featured in not just the GPUs but also 2020 monitors and TVs. 

ASUS is introducing a new monitor capable of 360hz. This is an excellent choice for die hard fps shooters where framerates means life or death.

Chief among  the A list titles is Cyberpunk 2077, which will demand a good system to make it an enjoyable viewing experience. Entering a gritty world of a neon dystopia will require great visual fidelity and decent frame rates in order to keep up with the high intense action the FPRPG is set to deliver.

If resolution is more important HDMI2.1 allows for up to 8k at 60 frames per second. For a GPU and game title capable of running this, you can enjoy playing on a big screen of up to 92 inches in all the television flavors including OLED.

Games

Building and using PCs with these components are going to be a joy, and with the usual flurry of games coming out for xmas, there will be plenty to test with your new build and great variety. Cause, lets face it, there is no point building a great new computer if you have nothing to use it for. 

Another game that is praised for its visuals is Ghosts of Tsushima which was released July 2020. Set during the first mongol invasion of  japan, the title has a rich open world of beautiful vistas, along with mood setting weather systems, that adjust according to your playstyle.

Of course there is the typical fast paced FPS title Call of Duty: BLack Ops – Cold War set to release November 13. 

This holiday season is ripe with great options for your computer building or upgrading endeavors. If you are looking to building a new computer, we can help. We can also assist on computer repairs and upgrades.

Do not be an early adopter of the RTX 30 series GPU.

Nvidia’s new RTX 30 series GPU announced at the beginning of September drew much excitement for the company. Now that the line up has started the release of products, it has met with a lacklustre launch and an inaccurate and baffling marketing blitz.

However, that is not the most massive issue with the product line up. The lucky few that had managed to get their hands on the GPUs soon found themselves to be anything but. Individual partner cards were inexplicitly crashing when the GPU was at load. Due to the low number of products out. The claims were down in volume at first, but as more people are getting their hands on the devices, the more consistent the complaints have become.

After some investigations by some reviewers with access to the devices, it was found that Nvidia’s drivers, along with the partner’s inconsistent adherence to the design specifications of the reference card has lead to some manufacturers using cheaper components to crash when Nvidia’s turbo boost software is enabled.

The software works by determining the current workload, power consumption and temperature of the GPU, and if there is headroom in the temperature, wattage and GPU frequency, it will allow as much as a 200 Mhz increase to the GPU frequency over its 1710Mhz max before any manual overclock offset is established.

At these higher frequencies, the GPU is sensitive to electronic noise which will begin to trigger computational errors, eventually leading to crashes. Partner cards had a choice from reference design a selection of 2 types of capacitors to utilise, the POSCAPs (Conductive Polymer Tantalum Solid Capacitors) or MLCC (Multilayer Ceramic Chip Capacitor) with at least ten of the MLCC variety in place of a single POSCAP.

However, some partner cards have been shipped with an array of only the 6 POSCAPs and no MLCCs which would have filtered out the high-frequency noise and on cards which feature it, show no issue.

For reference, Nvidia’s Founder’s Edition card features 20 MLCCs and 4 POSCAPs on its board. In comparison, partner manufacture ASUS features 60 MLCCs on its TUF series card.

As of this time, it is unknown how the partner will handle this issue, though it is a good sign that some are acknowledging that there is an issue. Some may consider recalls. However, as the cards still function as intended at the listed frequencies on the specifications, some manufactures may just release a vBIOS throttle the frequencies to the max of 1710Mhz, negating any turbo boost and customer manual overclocking.

At this time, it is unknown how Nvidia or partner manufactures are planning to respond to already released cards. However, some companies had claimed that cards post-release are now featuring  at least 10 MLCCs

If your plan to purchase a new GPU  and the RTX 30 series is on the shortlist, waiting for confirmation that the card you intend to purchase has been rectified. Also, soon to come is AMD’s new line of GPUs that may be worth considering.

Best VR headset in 2020

Check out this great read from Tom’s Guide to help you make a choice on the wide range of VR technology available to you.

The best VR headsets no longer require a PC or phone. You can just pick up a standalone VR headset and immerse yourself in new worlds, whether you want to fight Darth Vader in a light saber battle or explore places you’ve never been by watching 360 videos. 

We tested the most popular VR headsets available for gaming PCs, phones and consoles, as well as standalone models, to help you find the right device for you. 

Based on our reviews, the Oculus Quest is the best VR headset overall, because it lets you play the hottest VR games without being tethered to a PC. Plus, the Oculus Quest now offers hand tracking, so you can interact with content without having to use dedicated controllers.

While you can still buy VR headsets for phones, these have fallen out of favor. Devices like the Samsung Gear VR are best for older Galaxy phones only. If you’re on a budget we would recommend the $149 Oculus Go instead.

Here are the best VR headsets to buy now.

The best VR headsets you can buy today

1. Oculus Quest

The Oculus Quest is the best VR headset overall and the company’s second VR standalone headset, which means there’s not a wire in sight. Thanks to the integrated sensors and computer algorithms, you can walk around in your designated play space without worrying about running into a wall or a piece of furniture.

The system launched with 50 games, but is rapidly expanding its repertoire. The cherry on top is the casting ability, which lets you share your VR experience with others via smartphone or TV. 

Oculus’ Touch Controllers are still the best in the business. They’re comfortable and lightweight, which means no undue hand cramps during long sessions. And with the hand tracking feature, you can go controller-free with some titles.

Oculus is also really leaning into the social aspect of VR, launching cross-buy and multiplayer titles. Without a doubt, the Oculus Quest is the best VR headset. 

2. Oculus Rift S

The Oculus Rift S makes the best VR headset for PCs even better. This sleek headset sports a crisp 1280 x 1440 resolution (up from 1200 x 1080 for the original) as well as a speedy 80Hz refresh rate. Its one-pound design makes it comfortable to wear for hours of VR gaming, and it ditches the original Rift’s onboard headphones for surprisingly impressive integrated audio that comes right out of the headband.

The Rift S packs Oculus Insight tracking, which allows for room-scale tracking without the need for setting up any pesky external sensors. Oculus’ latest PC headset packs in the company’s excellent Touch Controllers, which make it easy to virtually climb mountains, battle with swords and create art in virtual reality.

The Rift S also benefits from what’s become a very impressive library of games on the Oculus store, including big hits like Beat Saber, Superhot, Job Simulator and Vader Immortal. Overall, the Oculus Rift S is the best VR headset for folks looking for a PC-based system that plays a huge library of great games for a decent price.

3. Playstation VR

The PlayStation VR is the best VR headset for consoles, and it features one of the best VR game libraries we’ve seen. Sony’s stylish and cozy headset already offers exclusive heavy hitters like Batman: Arkham VR and Star Wars Battlefront: Rogue One X-Wing Mission, as well as established VR hits such as Eve: Valkyrie and Job Simulator.

In our full review, we praised the PlayStation VR’s ease of use, intuitive Move controllers and impressive publisher support. If you already have a PS4, PlayStation VR is far and away the most affordable high-end VR option out there — heck, you can get the console and the headset for the price of an HTC Vive. The PS VR has a lower lens resolution compared with those of the Vive or the Rift, but depending on the game, the PS VR can deliver a 120-hertz refresh rate — one of the highest available.

When you aren’t playing games in VR, you can watch movies. The headset has a Cinematic mode that allows you to watch movies and TV in a theater-like setup at 120 Hz. We suggest you try it out with a 4K Blu-ray movie. PS VR also has a Social Screen so people who aren’t wearing a headset can still watch the action.

4. Oculus Go

For an affordable $149, the Oculus Go is one of the best VR headsets because it cuts the cord and preserves your smartphone’s battery life. This standalone VR headset is teeming with intriguing apps and games. In our testing, we appreciated the clear detail, lovely color and immersive spatial audio.

As evidenced by its game-heavy library, the Go is still very much a headset for those looking to fight virtual baddies. But thanks to Facebook’s influence, Go has a larger focus on entertainment and social. For instance, you can use Oculus Rooms to create your own virtual apartment, where you can invite up to three friends to join and play games, watch movies on Netflix or Hulu or share your own 360-degree videos.

Aside from cutting the cord, the major differences between the Go and the Oculus Rift is the built-in speakers and microphones, the higher resolution lenses and a built-in Qualcomm processor. The Go is outfitted with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 CPU with a 5.5-inch, 2560 x 1440 WQHD fast-switch LCD display. That translates into 1280 x 1440 per eye, which is better than the 1080 x 1200 per eye (2160 x 1200) of the Rift and Vive.

What you don’t get from the Oculus Go is six degrees of freedom, so you can’t dodge or duck in games. However, the Go offers a lot of apps and games at over 1,000 and counting.

5. HTC Vive

One of the best VR headsets for PC use, the HTC Vive stands out for a number of key features, including room-tracking capability right out of the box. With the Oculus Rift, you have to pay $59 extra for that level of immersion. HTC also gives you the ability to access your phone while in VR as well as the pass-through camera, which delivers a peek at the real world when necessary.

The Vive has also debuted a number of innovative accessories, including the Vive Trackers, which let you bring real-world items, like a tennis racket, into the virtual plane. The $299 TPCast add-on lets you take the Vive totally wireless, eliminating the nagging fear of tripping over that 6-foot cable tethering you to your laptop or desktop. If you’re looking for more immersive audio, check out HTC’s $99 Deluxe Audio Strap, which adds a pair of adjustable headphones.

The Vive is still trying to catch up with Oculus in terms of content, but its 375-plus games and apps aren’t t too shabby. In addition to letting you purchase individual apps and titles, HTC has its Viveport subscription service. Starting at $6.99 per month, Viveport allows you to pick five games or apps from a curated list of content to use each month. 

6. Valve Index

The best controls and tracking in VR Check AmazonGreat build qualitySmartly designed controllersFuture expansion optionsNo charging cable in the boxHeavy

Valve ought to know a thing or two about gaming experiences, and the company’s experience working with HTC and its work on Lighthouse tracking technology have all fed into the Index. From the moment you wear the headset, you can appreciate the high-quality construction, built-in ear speakers, and comfortable cushions, although it is noticeably heavier than other VR headsets on the market.

The controllers are one of the highlights. Since they strap onto your hand, you don’t need to keep a grip on them at all times, plus they’re customizable to your own hand shape and include pressure-sensitive controls, adding extra immersive potential to games that support it. The display is an LCD panel which offers a range of refresh rates to suit your computer’s processing power, plus it offers images just as high-res and sharp as its rivals. There’s also a pair of cameras and a USB expansion slot on the front, which can theoretically allow the Index to be upgraded in the future without needing to replace the whole headset.

The headset can suffer from technical problems, is heavy to wear, and for some unfathomable reason there’s no included USB-C cable to charge up the components, but don’t let this put you off the benefits the Index will have for your in-game enjoyment.

7. Pansonite 3D VR Glasses

Best cheap VR headset Check AmazonCompatible with a number of smartphonesLightweight, comfortable designAR/VR supportNo remoteSome light leakage

The Pansonite is as close as you can get to a high-end virtual-reality headset without paying an exorbitant price. It features a cloth design in front, similar to Google’s Daydream, along with an adjustable plastic headband that’s reminiscent of the PlayStation VR. Pansonite’s headset also packs built-in headphones with an aux input — which is great if your phone still sports a headphone jack or if you have an adapter on hand — and a dial on top for adjusting the focus.

In front, the headset features a small flap for holding your phone in place, leaving the camera uncovered for any AR-based mobile apps. Despite all that open space, the Pansonite manages to block out almost all external light for a pretty immersive experience.

Playing Roller Coaster VR on this headset was exhilarating, and this 360-degree shark experience was a blast. Even this fan-created Star Wars VR video on YouTube was fun to watch through the Pansonite. Nothing about the headset detracted from any of these experiences, making the Pansonite one of the best overall VR headsets at this price.

How we test and rate VR headsets

There are a number of factors we consider when reviewing virtual-reality headsets, such as setup; design and comfort; interface; controllers and accessories; and content selection.

We also evaluate each device’s respective controllers, head tracking and interfaces, to see how easy it will be for the average user to jump in and start playing.

Setup: The first step in reviewing any virtual-reality headset is setup. For PC and console-powered devices, we examine how much space is needed to use the headset and any bundled accessories. For mobile VR headsets, we focus on software installation time and how securely the phone fits into its enclosure.

Comfort: A product can look great but still be uncomfortable to use. Aside from testing out all the various content, we spend at least 30 minutes wearing each headset. We test to make sure any embedded air vents are keeping things cool. And if it does get sweaty, we see how well the face guard wicks away moisture. We also weigh the headsets, because even the lightest gadget can feel heavy after long periods of use. Finally, we test how adjustable the head straps are and how secure they feel.

Interface: As the de facto face of your virtual experience, the interface is vitally important. We test how responsive and intuitive the home page and subsequent menus are, as well as test special features, like voice commands and gesture control.

Controllers: Whether it’s a traditional gamepad or something more elaborate, like the Rift’s Touch Controllers, we’re checking to see if the input devices are ergonomically designed; after all, no one wants hand cramps. We also test tracking and responsiveness in a number of games.

Games and content: Hardware without great software is just an expensive paperweight.  We not only examine the size of a device’s library but also scour the listings and test out some of the higher-end apps and titles. At this point, a good library should feature a number of games, apps, movies and other experiences.

7 Biggest Technology Trends In 2020

We are amidst the 4th Industrial Revolution, and technology is evolving faster than ever. Companies and individuals that don’t keep up with some of the major tech trends run the risk of being left behind. Understanding the key trends will allow people and businesses to prepare and grasp the opportunities. As a business and technology futurist, it is my job to look ahead and identify the most important trends. In this article, I share with you the seven most imminent trends everyone should get ready for in 2020.

AI-as-a-service

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the most transformative tech evolutions of our times. As I highlighted in my book ‘Artificial Intelligence in Practice’, most companies have started to explore how they can use AI to improve the customer experience and to streamline their business operations. This will continue in 2020, and while people will increasingly become used to working alongside AIs, designing and deploying our own AI-based systems will remain an expensive proposition for most businesses.

For this reason, much of the AI applications will continue to be done through providers of as-a-service platforms, which allow us to simply feed in our own data and pay for the algorithms or compute resources as we use them.

Currently, these platforms, provided by the likes of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, tend to be somewhat broad in scope, with (often expensive) custom-engineering required to apply them to the specific tasks an organization may require. During 2020, we will see wider adoption and a growing pool of providers that are likely to start offering more tailored applications and services for specific or specialized tasks. This will mean no company will have any excuses left not to use AI.

5G data networks

The 5th generation of mobile internet connectivity is going to give us super-fast download and upload speeds as well as more stable connections. While 5G mobile data networks became available for the first time in 2019, they were mostly still expensive and limited to functioning in confined areas or major cities. 2020 is likely to be the year when 5G really starts to fly, with more affordable data plans as well as greatly improved coverage, meaning that everyone can join in the fun.

Super-fast data networks will not only give us the ability to stream movies and music at higher quality when we’re on the move. The greatly increased speeds mean that mobile networks will become more usable even than the wired networks running into our homes and businesses. Companies must consider the business implications of having super-fast and stable internet access anywhere. The increased bandwidth will enable machines, robots, and autonomous vehicles to collect and transfer more data than ever, leading to advances in the area of the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart machinery.

Autonomous Driving

While we still aren’t at the stage where we can expect to routinely travel in, or even see, autonomous vehicles in 2020, they will undoubtedly continue to generate a significant amount of excitement.

Tesla chief Elon Musk has said he expects his company to create a truly “complete” autonomous vehicle by this year, and the number of vehicles capable of operating with a lesser degree of autonomy – such as automated braking and lane-changing – will become an increasingly common sight. In addition to this, other in-car systems not directly connected to driving, such as security and entertainment functions – will become increasingly automated and reliant on data capture and analytics. Google’s sister-company Waymo has just completed a trial of autonomous taxis in California, where it transported more than 6200 people in the first month.

It won’t just be cars, of course – trucking and shipping are becoming more autonomous, and breakthroughs in this space are likely to continue to hit the headlines throughout 2020.

With the maturing of autonomous driving technology, we will also increasingly hear about the measures that will be taken by regulators, legislators, and authorities. Changes to laws, existing infrastructure, and social attitudes are all likely to be required before autonomous driving becomes a practical reality for most of us. During 2020, it’s likely we will start to see the debate around autonomous driving spread outside of the tech world, as more and more people come round to the idea that the question is not “if,” but “when,” it will become a reality.

Personalized and predictive medicine

Technology is currently transforming healthcare at an unprecedented rate. Our ability to capture data from wearable devices such as smartwatches will give us the ability to increasingly predict and treat health issues in people even before they experience any symptoms. 

When it comes to treatment, we will see much more personalized approaches. This is also referred to as precision medicine which allows doctors to more precisely prescribe medicines and apply treatments, thanks to a data-driven understanding of how effective they are likely to be for a specific patient.

Although not a new idea, thanks to recent breakthroughs in technology, especially in the fields of genomics and AI, it is giving us a greater understanding of how different people’s bodies are better or worse equipped to fight off specific diseases, as well as how they are likely to react to different types of medication or treatment.

Throughout 2020 we will see new applications of predictive healthcare and the introduction of more personalized and effective treatments to ensure better outcomes for individual patients.

Computer Vision

In computer terms, “vision” involves systems that are able to identify items, places, objects or people from visual images – those collected by a camera or sensor. It’s this technology that allows your smartphone camera to recognize which part of the image it’s capturing is a face, and powers technology such as Google Image Search.

As we move through 2020, we’re going to see computer vision equipped tools and technology rolled out for an ever-increasing number of uses. It’s fundamental to the way autonomous cars will “see” and navigate their way around danger. Production lines will employ computer vision cameras to watch for defective products or equipment failures, and security cameras will be able to alert us to anything out of the ordinary, without requiring 24/7 monitoring.

Computer vision is also enabling face recognition, which we will hear a lot about in 2020. We have already seen how useful the technology is in controlling access to our smartphones in the case of Apple’s FaceID and how Dubai airport uses it to provide a smoother customer journey. However, as the use cases will grow in 2020, we will also have more debates about limiting the use of this technology because of its potential to erode privacy and enable ‘Big Brother’-like state control.

Extended Reality

Extended Reality (XR) is a catch-all term that covers several new and emerging technologies being used to create more immersive digital experiences. More specifically, it refers to virtual, augmented, and mixed reality. Virtual reality (VR) provides a fully digitally immersive experience where you enter a computer-generated world using headsets that blend out the real world. Augmented reality (AR) overlays digital objects onto the real world via smartphone screens or displays (think Snapchat filters). Mixed reality (MR) is an extension of AR, that means users can interact with digital objects placed in the real world (think playing a holographic piano that you have placed into your room via an AR headset).

These technologies have been around for a few years now but have largely been confined to the world of entertainment – with Oculus Rift and Vive headsets providing the current state-of-the-art in videogames, and smartphone features such as camera filters and Pokemon Go-style games providing the most visible examples of AR.

From 2020 expect all of that to change, as businesses get to grips with the wealth of exciting possibilities offered by both current forms of XR. Virtual and augmented reality will become increasingly prevalent for training and simulation, as well as offering new ways to interact with customers.

Blockchain Technology

Blockchain is a technology trend that I have covered extensively this year, and yet you’re still likely to get blank looks if you mention it in non-tech-savvy company. 2020 could finally be the year when that changes, though. Blockchain is essentially a digital ledger used to record transactions but secured due to its encrypted and decentralized nature. During 2019 some commentators began to argue that the technology was over-hyped and perhaps not as useful as first thought. However, continued investment by the likes of FedEx, IBM, Walmart and Mastercard during 2019 is likely to start to show real-world results, and if they manage to prove its case, could quickly lead to an increase in adoption by smaller players.

And if things are going to plan, 2020 will also see the launch of Facebook’s own blockchain-based crypto currently Libra, which is going to create quite a stir.

Check out the full article by Bernard Marr at Forbes by clicking here.

New Tech: Samsung Galaxy A50 review

At this point, everyone is at least aware of Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S phones like the Galaxy S10 and S10+, and its slightly less expensive sibling, the $1199 Galaxy S10e. However, as soon as you look beyond those for something even more affordable, Samsung’s portfolio gets messy real quick.

Between Samsung’s various budget and mid-range offerings, there are a dizzying number of phones that all kind of seem the same.

With the Galaxy A50, Samsung is clearing out the clutter and going after some of the best budget and mid-range handsets on the market. With a retail price of $499, the Galaxy A50 slots neatly between the $399 Moto G7 and the $649 Pixel 3a. It also incorporates a couple of features the other two don’t have, like dual rear cameras and an in-display fingerprint reader.

From the outside, the Galaxy A50 looks quite similar to the Moto G7. Both phones have selfie cams that sit on a central notch that dips into their screens, big, mostly bezel-less displays, and smooth rounded backs.

Read more about this review at Gizmodo.

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