Just as we heard last week, ASUS is now launching a new family of stylish Android tablets dubbed ZenPads, which will replace the MeMO Pad series. These will come in 7-inch, 8-inch and 10.1-inch flavors with cellular variants; but it’s the light yet powerful ZenPad S 8.0 that’s caught our attention so far. For one, this 6.6mm-thick, 298g-heavy metallic slate comes with a sharp 2,048 x 1,536 (324 ppi) IPS display which has a 4:3 aspect ratio, so it’s going head to head with the iPad Mini here. And with Intel’s 64-bit Atom Z3580 chip plus 4GB of RAM, you needn’t worry about its performance. Better yet, you get front-facing stereo speakers that are enhanced by DTS for some virtual surround sound action. If you’re into handwriting or drawing on tablets, you can buy the optional Z Stylus which supports up to 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity.
Additionally, there’s a regular ZenPad 8.0 that features a similar design to the ZenPad S 8.0. While the technical details are scarce at the moment, we do know that it’ll have a range of interesting and good-looking accessories: the Zen Clutch and Zen Case for protection, the Audio Cover for adding 5.1 surround sound, and the Power Case that extends the battery life to up to 15 hours. This tablet family also includes the low-end 7.0 model with a 1,024 x 600 screen resolution, and a larger 10.1 model with an optional keyboard (likely a Bluetooth dock); but again, we’ll have to get back to you on the detailed specs as well as pricing and availability for them all.
If you weren’t able to scrounge up enough coin to snap up the lastfew Apple I computers to be auctioned off, another chance to score one — and empty your bank account — is headed your way. Starting today, Christie’s will be auctioning a functional Apple I until July 9, with a starting bid of $300,000. If last month’s record-breaking $671,400 sale of a similar rig is anything to go by, this machine may rake in more than its estimated $500,000 value. The owner of the Apple I, who picked it up over three decades ago in a swap, modified it with a keyboard, monitor and a tape deck for storage – in other words, just the motherboard is original. Those more interested in window shopping can ogle the classic hardware at Mountain View’s Computer History Museum beginning tomorrow.
Does the notion of flying a drone around a crowded, hectic concert sound a tad too risky to you? We’re sure Enrique Iglesias is having second thoughts. The singer sliced his hand at a Tijuana performance this weekend after he tried to grab a camera drone and give fans a “point of view” shot — while that stunt worked in the past, the musician clearly caught the wrong end this time around. It’s not certain how badly Iglesias was hurt, although it wasn’t bad enough to prevent the bleeding artist from soldiering on for another half-hour (see above if you need proof). Here’s hoping he recovers quickly. In the meantime, we suspect that regulators might want to spend more time looking at the indoor hazards from drones, not just what could happen outside.
Selfie. What a word. It became a thing as front-facing cameras on phones improved dramatically in recent years. Until now, the HTC Desire Eye is one of the first that comes to mind in this category, but it’s about to face a direct competitor who’s also from Taiwan. ASUS has just announced the ZenFone Selfie which, as you can tell, is all about taking selfies. Both its front and rear cameras feature a 13-megapixel resolution and dual-tone flash, though only the main f/2.0 camera has fast and low-light-friendly laser auto-focus (something that even the flagship ZenFone 2 lacks). That said, the front f/2.2 camera makes up for the loss with a wide 88-degree field of view, thus making it easier for group selfies (“wefies?”).
The rest of this Android phone looks almost identical to the ZenFone 2. You get the same 5.5-inch 1080p LCD (but with tougher Gorilla Glass 4 instead of its predecessor), the same backside volume rocker and the same curved body for a comfortable grip. The less obvious change here is the processor: ASUS has opted for Qualcomm’s mid-range, octa-core Snapdragon 615 over the chips from its close buddy, Intel.
Little else is know about the ZenFone Selfie, so stay tuned as we dig for more info at Computex.
It’s only been half a year since we reviewed the stylish ZenWatch, but ASUS is already back with its second attempt in the Android Wear space. At Computex, the company announced the appropriately named ZenWatch 2 which, unlike its predecessor, comes in two sizes: one to go with 22mm straps like before, and the other with smaller 18mm straps. If you go with the larger one, you’ll get a bonus feature: it can actually double as a tiny mobile power bank to give your phone some emergency juice! ASUS hasn’t quite explained how this will be implemented, but we imagine there’ll be a special cable involved.
While the overall designs are similar to that of the original model, ASUS has now added a button on the side, though we prefer the cleaner look without it. As to what it does, we’ll come back to that when we hear more. Like before, both versions of the ZenWatch 2 feature an AMOLED screen with a piece of 2.5D curved Gorilla Glass 3 on top, and they are powered by an unnamed Qualcomm processor — hopefully one that will at least add another day’s worth of battery life.
For those looking for other excuses to upgrade from the previous model to this, the latter does have an improved dust and water resistance rating of IP67 (same as its fitness-centric counterpart, the VivoWatch). It comes with a more convenient magnetic charger cable instead of the old snap-on plastic cradle, and the recharge time has apparently been improved as well. On the software side, the ZenWatch 2 has an improved Remote Camera feature to go with your phone, and it’ll also work with a “completely redesigned” ASUS Wellness smartphone app for tracking your running and cycling activities.
As for customization, this time you get three colors instead of just one for the body: silver, gunmetal and rose-gold. Similarly, ASUS will be offering a range of straps made out of rubber, soft leather and metal in different colors. If you’re feeling adventurous, there’ll be an optional leather strap with Swarovski crystals embedded all over it.
There’s no price nor launch date just yet for the ZenWatch 2, but keep your eyes on here as we’ll likely hear more at Computex.
Who needs a $650 video card? Pretty much anyone who wants to play games in 4K at decent frame rates. That’s the basic pitch for NVIDIA’s new $650 GTX 980 Ti, its latest high-end video card which, naturally, packs in even more power than last year’s GTX 980. The new card sports 2,816 parallel processing CUDA cores and 176 texture units, around 38 percent more than the GTX 980, as well as 2 additional gigabytes of RAM giving it 6GB. It’s also based on NVIDIA’s new GM200 GPU, which is at the heart of the company’s absurdly expensive $1,000 Titan X card. Basically, that means in the instances where its former heavyweight card slows down in 4K — for example, by running Grand Theft Auto V — the 980 Ti should shine. NVIDIA says the new card gets around 60 FPS in GTA V, while many benchmarks of that game with the 980 see between 35 and 45 FPS. The 980 Ti is also good news for anyone waiting for a good deal on the 980, since NVIDIA is also dropping the retail price of that card from $550 to $500.
NVIDIA claims its memory bandwidth is also 50 percent faster than its predecessor, which makes a big difference when throwing huge textures around. Of course, the Titan X is an even faster option than the 980 Ti, but its high price makes it far out of reach for most, even hardcore gamers.
Together with the $200 GTX 960 and the $330 GTX 970, NVIDIA now has powerful new cards for gamers of a wide variety of budgets. It’s just a shame that we didn’t see a slight price drop for the 970, which so far appears to be the best overall value for high-quality 1080p gaming.
Sure, you drive a Volvo and not an Aston Martin, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pretend to be a charming spy who controls his car with a high-tech watch. Volvo will soon release its On Call app for Android Wear devices and the Apple Watch, after all, and it comes with all the features its predecessors for tablets and smartphones have. That means you can poke around your arm candy to remotely lock or unlock the car’s doors, switch on the heater or air conditioner and check fuel and mileage. You can also ask it for help if your Volvo’s lost in a sea of cars in a parking lot. And just like the older apps, it quickly connects you to an operator, who then tracks your location through GPS, if your airbags get deployed. Volvo wrapped the smartwatch apps in a new design based on the Sensus connected interface, but you’ll have to wait until the end of June before you can give them a spin.
The US knows that it’s not enough to protect its own networks against cyberattacks — its allies have to be safe, too. Appropriately, it’s agreeing to shield Japan from digital assaults against its military and critical systems. The move gives the island nation a big security boost (its online defense unit has a mere 90 people) and hopefully reduces the chances that less-than-sympathetic neighbors China and North Korea will compromise a strategically vital country. While it’s doubtful that the pact will deter many hacking attempts, it could make any local cyberwarfare campaigns that much tougher.
If you want to buy a Model S in Texas, you’re going to have to jump through some hoops for at least the next couple of years. Bills that would let Tesla sell cars directly to customers aren’t going to get a vote before the state’s legislative session wraps up on June 1st, leaving the electric vehicle maker high and dry until the next session kicks off in 2017. This doesn’t mean that you’re completely out of luck if you want Tesla-made transportation in Austin (see above for proof), but you can’t simply pick one up.
The setback isn’t completely surprising given how fiercely dealership lobby groups fight to protect their business model, but Texas poses some additional challenges. A lot of the state’s political clout rests in rural areas, where dealerships are more vital to the community in terms of both jobs and sponsorships. Representatives are more likely to support these local businesses than a California company trying to up-end the dealership model, even if it would help both competition and the environment.
Apparently, after all these years, Spotify still doesn’t really get me. I’ve used the service since 2010. Technically I was a subscriber since before it hit US shores. And yet, Spotify clearly has no idea what kind of music I like. I say this because I recently traded in my carefully curated running playlist for Spotify’s dynamically generated ones and, not to spoil the rest of the story, it really failed. But let’s start at the beginning.
I got up nice and early Sunday morning, left my house and began the slow slog up hill past Silver Lake Park. When I started to hit my stride I pulled out my iPhone and found the new Running option in sidebar of the updated Spotify app. The first stop on my journey was the running specific Hip Hop and R&B playlist. A pleasant female voice instructed me to start running and let me know that it was using the phone’s sensors to detect my pace. Then, as promised, it spat out songs perfectly matched to the tempo of my run.
The first batch of tracks got me up the steep slope, but almost none of the artists were recognizable to me. And honestly, most were not particularly good; there was a reason I had never heard most of these songs before. The final nail in the playlist’s coffin was Immortal Technique’s The Cause of Death. Whether you’re a fan of his or not, I think we can all agree that listening to the Harlem-based MC rap about how 9/11 was an inside job doesn’t make for an enjoyable run.
The trouble is that, while Spotify supposedly takes my taste into account when building these playlists, you’d never know it. Neither the Upbeat Run or Mood Booster Run playlists fared any better. And, after suffering through Bleachers and Demi Lovato’s Unbroken, I gave up. It seems that the combination of Spotify’s beat matching algorithm and its human curators just couldn’t make me happy.
There was one other place I might find running nirvana, however. Spotify has a selection of running specific original tracks. These aren’t collections of songs, they’re long pieces of instrumental music designed specifically for you to listen to and zone out while you keep those legs moving. There are six pieces to choose from: The Chase, Blissed Out, Lock the Flow, Seasons, Epic and Burn. Honestly, those first five aren’t great. In fact they sound like they were pulled from a library of nondescript royalty-free music. But, like the playlist options, if you’re just looking for something to help you keep pace, they do the job.
Burn is different. It’s created by Dutch DJ and producer Tiësto, and it’s pretty much perfection. I’m not normally a huge fan of Tiësto; he’s the sort of artist that plays best in a club when you’re pumped full of ecstasy… or so I thought. Burn, once it locks into your rhythm, ebbs and flows with the right amount of energy to keep you running for about 45 minutes, uninterrupted. In that way, it’s not unlike LCD Soundsystem’s 45:33. But where that song is about simply locking into a groove, Burn is constantly building and shifting to keep you moving and engaged. It feels like it constantly wants you to go faster. When it finally reaches a crescendo, however, it backs off to let you enjoy that runner’s zen for a bit before pushing you again with filtered drum buildups. It’s cheap shot after cheap shot, but it works beautifully for a nice long run.
Spotify definitely has some work to do with its running feature. I never want to hear Demi Lovato again, and songs about government conspiracies aren’t really motivating me to push myself. That being said, the technology part works quite well. I do wish that the running originals and playlists would sample your pace multiple times over the course of a run, rather than stick to a steady pace (I can’t help but start to slow down around mile five). But the songs selected rarely failed to lock to my tempo. If the company can get more expertly crafted originals like Tiësto’s Burn, it will have something truly special on its hands. For now, I’ll be putting my running playlist on the shelf and sticking to Spotify, exclusively because of that track.