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Like a college graduate ready to head off into the workforce and start a career, Apple has graduated the iPad from tablet school. As he prepared to lift the curtain on the new 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro last week, CEO Tim Cook explained that Apple sees the iPad as a personal computer now. Apple says that new designation makes iPad the top-selling line of PCs in the world.
It’s a fair comparison. After using a new iPad Pro 12.9 for a few days, I can say that it’s most definitely a refreshing, positive step forward for the iPad. It could also be called a “computer.” Is it the right computer for you? That’s another story.
As Thin As Can Be
The first thing you’ll notice about the new iPad Pro is what it’s missing. Like the iPhone XR and its peers, the Pro has no home button. Instead, its screen stretches from edge to edge… to edge to edge. All four sides are rimmed with thin and equally-sized black bezels, making it easier to forget where the top of the device really is. Sometimes iOS will actually point out where the power button is on the edge because, rightfully, it thinks I may have forgotten.
The back of the 5.9mm aluminum shell feels incredibly sturdy, and sheds the tapered edges that have defined the iPad for most of its existence. The back is now flat like the bottom of a box, right up to the side. The design looks like a refined version of the iPhone 5. The shape also feels like what the original 2011 iPad was trying to accomplish—this time with no bump in the back, except for the camera.
The Liquid Retina LCD displays are huge, stretching 11 or nearly 13 inches, depending on which model you choose. They’re gorgeous and packed with pixels. Like the iPhone XR, the corners of the display are rounded thanks to precision-milled glass and a host of other tech treats. Color is vibrant and precise enough for Photoshopping and minute color tweaking if needed. (Apple tests the color accuracy of its displays in 160 different points.) The Pro also adapts the warmth of its display to the lighting in your room.
The new iPad Pro also comes with Face ID, which uses a collection of cameras, sensors, and algorithms to identify your face in a way that it claims is more secure than fingerprint authentication or passwords. It works well, and doesn’t require that cut-out notch on the screen like the iPhone. It’s not quirk-free, though. We usually hold our iPhones in a portrait (vertical) orientation because that’s just how they fit in our hand. With an iPad like this, you almost always use two hands, and that means there isn’t really a “right” or “wrong” way to hold it. From time to time, my hands would sometimes accidentally block the Face ID camera when I held it in landscape (widescreen) orientation. And if I’m lounging around, my face may also be out of view. As I’ve gotten used to keeping my head in front of the tablet screen, and my hands away from its front-facing camera, Face ID evolved from a hindrance to a helpful, secure aid. I’ve never bothered to put a passcode use Touch ID on older iPads. Now it’s easy enough that I just might.
The 7-megapixel front camera is also pretty proficient at selfies, Animoji, and video chatting—-provided your hand isn’t blocking it. The 12-megapixel shooter is also up to iPhone standards, though I’ve found it a little too cumbersome (and embarrassing!) to use a 13-inch tablet as a camera while I’ve roamed around San Francisco this weekend. Apple did show me some impressive demonstrations of its augmented reality capabilities, made possibly by that camera. I examined the inside of a plant to learn all about how it lives in an app called Plantale, and had fun bringing a Lego Ninjago playset to life as an iOS game. I grew up as one of those kids who hated damaging his beautiful Lego creations. I may have had more fun if I could have blown them up digitally.
Yet As Powerful As a PC
The inside of the iPad is just as impressive as the outside. The Pro has an A12X Bionic chip, which is kind of a turbocharged version of the processor that’s packed into every iPhone XS and XR. It has eight cores: four for super demanding work, like playing Fortnite, and four more for easier tasks, like perusing your email. This year, it can mix and match those cores more efficiently, giving it almost 2x better multi-core performance than before. The graphics chip also pumps out around 2x more power, all without compromising the 10-hour battery life every iPad has gotten.
Apple claims the new iPad Pro is faster than 92 percent of all laptops sold in the past year, including some with an Intel Core i7 CPU, and compared its game graphics prowess to an Xbox One S. No apps or games I’ve used have been able to make the Pro break a sweat at all and benchmark numbers have been impressive.
Photographers and video editors might like the new storage options. The Pro comes with 64GB of memory by default, but you can bump that number as high as 1TB. And since this tablet has a USB-C charging port, you can more easily connect it to a camera, external monitor, and other accessories. Yes, that is singular. There is only one port. Start shopping for dongles if you need more. Apple now sells a ton of them. And pick up some good wireless headphones while you’re at it. Though Apple’s redesigned quad speakers sound amazing for a tablet (or laptop), the headphone jack is gone.
Pencil or Keyboard?
Apple redesigned its two key accessories for the new iPad Pro. The new Apple Pencil ($ 129) and Smart Keyboard Folio ($ 179) each got noticeable upgrades this year. The one you choose may indicate how much you’ll like your new iPad Pro.
The Apple Pencil is my favorite. It now has a matte plastic design and comes flat on one side so it can magnetically snap onto the edge of either size iPad Pro—automatically pairing via Bluetooth and charging. It’s hard to stress how much of a game changer this simple magnetic charging is, but it eliminates a lot of needless steps. The Pencil is always charged, paired, and ready to go. (Just be careful; it can still snap off in your bag.)
I’m a god-awful artist, but I found myself doodling on the iPad Pro. Three years after its debut, the refined Pencil is still the most responsive, accurate digital writing tool I’ve ever used. It’s fun to try out different virtual drawing tools, like colored pencils, and as a leftie, I love that iPad never thinks I’m trying to draw with my palm.
The 12.9-inch Pro is still a huge tablet, but feels more manageable this year thanks to the thinner bezels. In fact, it’s now about the size of a magazine (or sheet of paper, as Apple likes to point out), which is a comfortable, familiar size for reading and writing.
The Smart Keyboard Folio is also improved. It magnetically snaps onto the back of the tablet with an equally pleasant click and also just works. It now has two angles you can choose from and the keys are naturally spaced and have enough travel (depth) and click to them that it didn’t take me any time to adjust from my MacBook Pro. My only complaints? It would be nice to have even more angles, and the larger iPad can feel a bit unstable if you use it on your lap. Since the camera sits on the left side, it’s tough to frame yourself properly for a video chat.
The Best Tablet
By every measure I can think of, these are the best, most powerful, most capable iPads I’ve ever used. They put other tablets to shame.
But Apple has begged the question: Can an 11-inch ($ 799) or 13-inch ($ 999) iPad Pro replace your need for a MacBook or Windows PC at work? It’s possible, but you’ll need the right kind of occupation, and a lot of patience and determination.
No laptop can emulate the drawing capabilities of the Apple Pencil, or feel as natural to hold and use with touch. It’s not even close. The iPad Pro has a clear lead over PCs there.
As a more traditional work PC, it sometimes struggles. In a pinch, the iPad Pro and its Smart Keyboard are usable. For example, I wrote this review on the Pro in Google Docs while also opening webpages on the right side of my screen, but it took me longer than normal to do research and collect links—and a good long while to figure out how to do other tasks. I wanted to use the normal web version of Docs, but I had to use the app. My office also uses a collaboration tool called Airtable that wouldn’t work in an iPad browser. It also tossed me to the app, which lacked key features. Attaching specific files was kind of a nightmare in the Gmail app, too. Some apps, like Spotify, don’t allow Split View multitasking (side-by-side viewing) at all yet. You have to use them full screen. Spreadsheets are also tougher (slower) to manipulate in the apps I’ve used.
I found solutions to all of these problems, and I’m sure I can keep finding creative solutions to make the iPad Pro work as a PC, but the hassles will keep coming. The iPad’s web browsers are still treated more like their less-capable smartphone counterparts, and the apps that are supposed to work in their place also sometimes lack desktop features. Part of this is the fault of developers, but Apple bears responsibility, as well.
It doesn’t feel like the world is ready to treat my iPad as an equal to a PC yet—even if that iPad is a lot more powerful and user friendly. Now that Apple has declared the iPad is a PC, it should take more of the guardrails off of iOS and strongly encourage developers to treat it like they do the Mac. It’s time for iOS to grow up and get a job.
The iPad Pro is one of the most powerful computers you can own. It could be the best PC, too. Or better than a Mac. For now, it still has to settle for being best tablet money can buy.
First Man is a rare bird. It’s a big, adventure movie that goes from the flats of the Mojave Desert to the surface of the moon; and it’s a deft, thoughtful film about overcoming grief. It’s got wrenching performances, and an entire sequence shot in IMAX that looks best on the biggest screen possible. The fact that these things all coexist in one film isn’t that unique—but the fact that they all play together in one piece that never loses its heart or its momentum very much is.
Based on the book of same name by historian James R. Hansen, First Man is a biopic for Neil Armstrong, the NASA astronaut first to plant a boot on the surface of the moon during the 1969 Apollo 11 mission. But instead of focusing just on the eye-popping, nail-biting specifics of getting a rocket into space, it trains its lens on the story of Armstrong as a stoic and private national hero who always stuck to the business at hand. (A space cowboy he was not.) It shows not simply the ticker-tape parades and cheering flight controllers in Houston, but the side of astronaut life that’s downright terrifying.
That balance, that through-line between the quiet and the bombastic, is turning out to be Damien Chazelle’s strongest suit. Like he did with La La Land, a simple love story given a grander scale thanks to huge musical interludes, the director excels at letting intimate indie-movie moments live right next to sweeping shots with orchestral scores—it doesn’t matter if they’re visions of dancers above Los Angeles’ Griffith Park or the Saturn V rocket launching over Kennedy Space Center. And at a time when indie directors are being handed massive genre and sci-fi franchises with very mixed results, that ability to deliver a spectacle while maintaining an auteur’s eye feels nothing short of magic. Chazelle’s is the perfect balance of cacophony and calm.
The calm, in this case, comes in the moments Armstrong (played by La La Land and Blade Runner 2049 star Ryan Gosling, who gets to do some capital-A Acting here) is looking inward. First Man begins with the illness, and subsequent death, of his young daughter Karen—long before Armstrong was called up to Project Gemini, long before Apollo. It’s followed by the deaths of Elliot See, Edward Higgins White, Gus Grissom, and Roger Chaffee—all of whom lost their lives as the result of operations during the Gemini and Apollo projects. It gets mentioned less and less these days, but when NASA was deep in the Space Race, the prospect of leaving Earth’s atmosphere at all, let alone going to the moon, was terrifying. Chazelle’s film captures that uncertainty crisply, giving his characters a chance to be people instead of just heroes. (Though, contrary to early internet rumors about the film, it does wave many, many American flags.)
Chazelle, working from a script from Josh Singer (The Post, Spotlight), also doesn’t sugarcoat what was happening around NASA in the ’60s. The backdrop of his film is full of people skeptical of the space program amidst disillusionment over the Vietnam War. (It also features an interlude of Gil Scott-Heron’s poem “Whitey on the Moon.”) The goal, it seems, isn’t to show a great achievement, but to show one that happened amidst strife, the way life often does.
But when First Man does show that achievement, it is on full, brilliant display. Much of the early scenes, thanks to production designer Nathan Crowley (Interstellar), show NASA in its dark, gritty, nuts-and-bolts beginnings—and when it comes time for Apollo 11 to blast off, the visuals are a thing of utter brilliance. The film’s moon-landing was shot in IMAX (it should also be viewed on IMAX, if possible), and serves as an almost overwhelming counterpoint to the intimate 16mm shots from inside the Eagle lander and Columbia module, a dramatic shift from the claustrophobia of a spaceship to the vast eternity of space.
First Man could have easily been a failure. The problem with doing a movie about Neil Armstrong, or any space-race astronaut, is that their defining moments have already been brought to the screen so many times before. From Family Channel docudramas to TV documentaries to Mad Men and Forrest Gump, the 1969 Apollo mission is one of the most well-known, and well-covered, events of the 20th century. There’s not a lot to be gained by showing it to people again. Had it not gone deep into the story of the person at its center, First Man would’ve fallen flat. Instead, it stuck the landing.
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he will use a strengthened national security review process to thwart Chinese acquisitions of sensitive American technologies, a softer approach than imposing China-specific investment restrictions.
The Treasury Department has recommended that Trump use the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), whose authority would be enhanced by new legislation in Congress, to control investment deals. The legislation expands the scope of transactions reviewed by the interagency panel to address security concerns, Trump said.
The decision marks a victory for Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a fierce White House debate over the scope of such curbs.
Mnuchin had favored a more measured and global approach to protecting U.S. technology, using authority approved by Congress, while White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, the administration’s harshest China critic, had argued for China-specific restrictions.
“We are not, on a wholesale basis, discriminating against China as part of a negotiation,” Mnuchin said on CNBC on Wednesday.
The investment restrictions are part of the administration’s efforts to pressure Beijing into making major changes to its trade, technology transfer and industrial subsidy policies after U.S. complaints that China has unfairly acquired American intellectual property through joint venture requirements, unfair licensing and strategic acquisitions of U.S. tech firms.
“I have concluded that such (CFIUS) legislation will provide additional tools to combat the predatory investment practices that threaten our critical technology leadership, national security, and future economic prosperity,” Trump said in a statement that did not specifically name China.
U.S. stocks rose after Trump announced the new approach to U.S. investment restrictions but reversed gains in afternoon trading.
Senior administration officials told reporters on a conference call that sticking with CFIUS, a process companies are familiar with, would ensure strong inward investment into the United States while protecting the “crown jewels” of U.S. intellectual property.
Trump said in his statement that upon final passage of the legislation, known as the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act, he will direct his administration “to implement it promptly and enforce it rigorously, with a view toward addressing the concerns regarding state-directed investment in critical technologies.”
If Congress fails to pass the legislation quickly, Trump said, he would direct the administration to implement new restrictions under executive authority that could be applied globally.
The decision to stick with CFIUS was a pragmatic move because the new CFIUS legislation “will put a crimp in China’s efforts to move up the value chain in high tech,” said Scott Kennedy, head of China studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
But it will likely do little to stop the activation of U.S. tariffs on $ 34 billion worth of Chinese goods, scheduled for July 6, or jump-start trade negotiations between the two economic superpowers, Kennedy said.
And the mixed messages from the administration do not help Trump’s negotiating position, he said.
“It shows the Chinese that the Trump administration is still undependable and can be moved back from the most hardline positions,” Kennedy added.
Mnuchin on CNBC downplayed the dissent within the administration, saying that Trump wants to hear differing views on important issues, but the administration’s economic team typically comes together on major recommendations such as the investment restrictions.
Mnuchin said the new CFIUS legislation, passed 400-2 in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, would broaden the types of transactions that could be reviewed by the panel on national security grounds, including minority stakes, joint ventures and property purchases near U.S. military bases.
“This isn’t a question about being weak or strong, this is about protecting technology. We have the right tools under this legislation to protect technology,” Mnuchin said.
COMMERCE EXPORT CURBS
Trump also said that he has directed Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to examine U.S. export controls and recommend modifications that may be needed “to defend our national security and technological leadership.”
A Commerce Department spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment on the study.
The CFIUS legislation is headed for negotiations between U.S. House and Senate lawmakers in the coming weeks to craft a final version, with guidance from the Treasury.
A sticking point that could emerge is language in the Senate version that would reinstate the ban on Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE Corp (000063.SZ) from purchasing U.S. components for a year. The Commerce Department ban had effectively shut the Shenzhen-based company down, angering Beijing.
The House version has less stringent language prohibiting the U.S. Department of Defense from purchasing any ZTE communications gear.
Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Steve Orlofsky
OnePlus is an odd duck in the smartphone business. It tends to make one phone at a time with a simple and clear goal: to pack all the latest trends and tech into an Android phone that costs about $ 500. It doesn’t waste time developing a ton of custom features, like LG’s crazy AI-powered camera, nor does it make any effort to woo U.S. wireless carriers. If you want a OnePlus phone, you have to buy it unlocked, directly from OnePlus. For as offbeat as it seems, the strategy appears to be working.
The 2017 OnePlus 5T sold out faster than anticipated and now OnePlus is back a mere six months later with its successor. If you obsessively follow smartphone trends, you can probably guess the OnePlus 6’s new features: A longer screen with a notch cutout up top, glass on the back, Android 8 Oreo, and a top-shelf Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor.
The OnePlus 6 holds no major surprises, and that’s exactly how OnePlus likes it.
Gestures and Glass
Metal frame. Gorilla Glass back with curved edges. If you’ve held a top-tier smartphone in the last year, you can imagine exactly what the OnePlus 6 feels like.
The 6 is roughly the same size as the 5T, with a taller 6.28-inch 1080p AMOLED screen (spoiler warning: it looks great in spite of its HD resolution) that stretches from the bottom (almost) all the way up to the tippy top. Unlike LG’s G7, OnePlus makes no major effort to hide its notch. It’s only 3/4 of an inch across, which makes it less distracting than Apple’s iconic (or, depending on how you feel, infamous) iPhone X notch, which is so wide that there’s little room for anything else along the top edge.
The fingerprint sensor sits a bit lower on the back of the phone, but I noticed that it seemed less capable than before. It’s still speedy at unlocking, but one of my favorite features on the 5T was the ability to swipe the fingerprint sensor to pull down the notification tray. The 6 cannot do that. Luckily you can still swipe down from anywhere on the home screen to open notifications, or swipe up to pull out the app drawer. These are simple features that make life with a large-screened phone way more enjoyable. I can only hope that OnePlus adds this functionality with a software update.
OnePlus’s mute switch is now on the right side of the phone, letting you easily switch to vibrate and silent modes, much like the toggle on the side of every iPhone. The built-in audio jack is also a godsend if you love music. You get the versatility of USB-C and a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you can jam out while you charge the device.
The slick glass back may give you trouble, though. It’s more slippery than some Android phones, which has led to a few slip-ups where I had to catch the phone before it hit the ground. It also attracts fingerprints and converts them into a gross, gunky patina at an alarming rate. To my surprise, OnePlus includes a semi-transparent plastic case with each OnePlus 6, which makes it a bit easier to grip, and should offer some protection. If you’re paranoid, this Dretal case should buy you even more peace of mind.
The screen protector that comes preinstalled on the OnePlus 6 should also help the phone stay protected. That is, as long as you don’t accidentally tear it off like I did. Oops.
Snappy and Speedy
OnePlus doesn’t mess with Android Oreo much with its variant it calls OxygenOS. My unit got the latest security patch (hopefully the first of many), and the experience is nearly identical to a Google Pixel 2—currently our favorite Android phone because of its camera and thanks to feature and security updates direct from Google.
The OnePlus 6 is particularly snappy. Apps and menus seem to open even faster than the LG G7, another 2018 phone with a Snapdragon 845 chip. OnePlus explained that this added quickness is because it prioritizes what parts of an app it needs to load, increasing speeds by about 10 percent. It also made small efforts to increase performance in games and can boost network speed of those games by slowing down any apps sucking up data in the background.
Battery life is about 1.5 days—nothing dramatic but also no worse than most high-end phones. There’s no wireless charging, but the custom USB-C charger does juice up the phone very quickly by offloading some charging management to the included fast charger.
A Capable Cam
Photo quality continues to slowly improve with each new OnePlus. The 16-megapixel main rear camera has a bigger sensor this time around, and does an adequate job under most conditions, even if it still struggles in low light sometimes. The background-blurring portrait mode seems to be more reliable, but it’s still not uncommon for the phone to accidentally blur part of a foreground object.
There’s a super slow-mo mode now (netting you 480 fps at 720p), and added optical image stabilization for video, which can record in 4K at 60 frames per second.
The 16-megapixel selfie cam takes a sufficient selfie that’s noticeably less washed out in bright light, but I’m still bothered by the odd way it saves them mirrored (backward) by default. You can fix this by swiping up from the bottom of the camera app and hitting the settings button that’s hiding in the corner.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the convenient Face Unlock feature. It’s quick and works well enough that I hardly notice it, though I worry about security since it’s not nearly as robust as a Galaxy S9 or an iPhone X in that regard. Hopefully there aren’t a lot of phone thieves out there with 3D-printed copies of my face. If there are, I might be in trouble. Then again, maybe not.
On the whole, the camera is good relative to the cost of the phone, but it’s nowhere near the quality of the Pixel 2.
A Bargain Without the Bin
I might not love its fragile glass construction or its middle-of-the-road camera, but let me make it abundantly clear: the OnePlus 6 is a kickass Android phone and the best unlocked device you can buy for around $ 500. The only big caveat worth highlighting is carrier compatibility. The OnePlus 6 still only works on AT&T, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and others that use similar networks. Even though it technically has the right bands, it won’t run on CDMA carriers like Sprint or Verizon.
OnePlus sells two unlocked versions of the 6: a $ 529 model with 6GB RAM and 64GB of file and photo storage and a $ 579 upgrade with 8GB RAM and 128GB of storage. If you have a lot of photos or apps, get the 128GB version. There is no way to expand the phone’s memory, so once you’re out of storage space, you’ll have to start micromanaging your memory, which isn’t fun. For most folks, 64GB should be enough, but check the capacity of your current device just to be sure.
If you want the best of the best, you can purchase Android phones that edge out the OnePlus 6 in one regard or another, but it’s hard to beat a phone that’s as powerful as a Galaxy S9, yet nearly $ 200 cheaper. OnePlus continues to offer stellar value here, making the OnePlus 6 a true bargain.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Transportation Department has sent two proposed rules to the White House to regulate the increased use of unmanned aerial vehicles, the agency said on Tuesday as it prepared to unveil the winners of new drone pilot projects.
One of the new rules would allow drones to fly over people while the other would allow for remote identification and tracking of unmanned aircraft in flight. After both are formally proposed, it would take months or even more than a year before they are finalized.
Current rules prohibit nighttime drone flights or operations over people without a waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA has no requirements or voluntary standards for electrically broadcasting information to identify an unmanned aircraft.
The FAA has said regulations are necessary to protect the public and the National Airspace System from bad actors or errant hobbyists. Several incidents around major airports have involved drones getting close to aircraft.
The National Transportation Safety Board said in December a September collision between a small civilian drone and a U.S. Army helicopter was caused by the drone operator’s failure to see the helicopter because he was intentionally flying the drone out of visual range.
The helicopter landed safely but a 1-1/2 inch (3.8 cm) dent was found on the leading edge of one of its four main rotor blades and parts of the drone were found lodged in its engine oil cooler fan.
Later on Tuesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao will unveil the winners for 10 drone projects involving cities, universities, an Indian tribe, counties and states. Reuters reported Tuesday that major technology and aerospace companies including Amazon.com Inc, Apple Inc, Intel Corp, Qualcomm Inc and Airbus SE are vying to take part in the new slate of drone tests.
The wide interest in the U.S. initiative, launched by President Donald Trump last year, underscores the desire of a broad range of companies to have a say in how the fledgling industry is regulated and ultimately win authority to operate drones for purposes ranging from package delivery to crop inspection.
Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Richard Chang
Have you ever tried using Sony’s pitiful little mono headset that comes with every PlayStation 4? It’s a chintzy freebie at best, and a no-good, annoying, keeps-coming-unclipped-from-your-collar, hanging hellion the rest of the time.
Sony’s 2014 Gold Wireless Headset also angered gamers due to a fragile, crack-prone headband. With this track record, you’d be forgiven for ignoring Sony’s new 2018 Gold Wireless Headset. I was pretty skeptical myself, but aside from a few issues, it’s been one of the best wireless headsets I’ve used on the PS4. I even recommended in our list of best PS4 accessories.
Black is the New Gold
Like the first PlayStation Gold Headset, the color is a bit of a misnomer. You won’t find any gold on them. Like a Model T, this headset is completely black, from earcup to headband, with part of it wrapped in a soft leather-like material. The headband and ear cushions have some extra padding on them, because of unique design of the headband and how it connects with the earcups.
Most headsets are full of hinges and hangers so they can turn and adjust every which way, but not the Gold. Underneath all that faux leather, its entire headband is a single curved horseshoe piece of metal (or possibly an extremely durable plastic) that you pull apart to fit your head.
The earcups don’t flex forward and back a whole lot (just a wiggle), but they can slide up and down the band itself, which makes for a surprisingly comfortable fit. Sony says these are designed to fit around the PlayStation VR headset. Those with wider heads, glasses, or larger ears may want to look elsewhere, though. This design gets less comfortable the bigger your head is, and the padding is thin enough that it will lightly pinch a pair of frames.
It’s not great for those of us with moderate-sized domes, either. I had to slide the earcups up some, which covered up the L and R labels, making it hard to figure out how to put these on. And because there is no boom mic, I had to spend a few extra seconds figuring out which end is the front and back. Sony is far from the first headset maker with this problem. A little rotation in the earcups would also make resting the headset on your shoulders and neck far more comfortable in-between matches.
Lost in the Gloss
The only area on the PlayStation Gold that isn’t brushed or leathery are the glossy vinyl-like edges of the earcups, where all the buttons and controls are located. It’s never a smart idea to gloss up the one area that’s constantly under attack by finger grease, but alas that’s exactly what Sony did here.
The controls themselves are okay, but could be easier to feel and find. Everything is on the left earcup, which seems to be the norm for most headsets. The mute button is on the lower back side, above it is a volume rocker and above that is a toggle for 7.1 virtual surround sound, which simulates surround. I don’t love this feature for most games because it sounds unnatural, but it’s present and accounted for.
On the front is another toggle, but this one adjusts your chat mix (how loud your friends sound compared to the game). Below it is a switch that turns off the headset or puts it in the standard or extra bassy setting. The extra bass adds to the immersion if you’re playing anything with explosions or bullet fire, and if you download the Sony Headset Companion app on your PS4, you can replace that bass boost with game-specific effects, or fully tweak the bass, treble, and mids to your delight.
It took some time to discover, but holding down the mute button also turns on two levels of mic monitoring, which Sony calls sidetones. This lets you hear your own voice as you talk. It helps me talk at a more reasonable volume instead of shouting just to make sure others are hearing what I’m saying. Try it out!
Missing Mic, Cool Connection
The lack of a physical mic is a bummer. None of my friends complained about the quality of my audio, but it wasn’t nearly as good as many headsets. Sony does attempt to isolate the sound of your voice, but it would do a much better job if it had a microphone that could be positioned near your mouth like most of its competitors.
Normally, I’d complain that it’s hard to know if you’re muted or not, but thanks to the high level of integration this headset has with the PS4 (it’s made by Sony, after all), a prompt pops onscreen in the upper left to tell you the battery life, mute status, and whether virtual surround is on any time you adjust a setting. I wish more headsets had this feature.
The battery indicator in that onscreen popup is especially helpful. The Gold gets a decent 7-ish hours of wireless play time thanks to its 570mAh battery, but that’s nowhere near the 15 hours Turtle Beach’s Stealth 600 (8/10 WIRED Recommends) can reach. Unlike that headset, this one comes with an optional 3.5mm audio cable, so even if you run out of battery, you can still plug it in to your controller and keep playing. With the cord plugged in you can use the headset with any compatible system or player. It charges with an included micro USB cable.
Wireless play has been stable and I’ve had no connection problems. It uses a USB dongle to transmit a 2.4GHz wireless signal, which I found to be very stable. The only cutouts I’ve had are when I leave and walk to another room.
Going for the Gold
This is one of the clearest wireless headsets I’ve used, and the bass is quite boomy. I found myself watching Netflix and listening to music with them on from time to time, even with a pile of other headsets to choose from. I still play Fortnite a lot, and the sounds of my footsteps pattering through the woods, avoiding conflict at all costs because I’m a terrible shot, are quite crisp.
The PlayStation Gold Headset can’t quite match up to expensive heavyweights like the hi-fi Arctis Pro line or comfortable Sony PlayStation Platinum, but it doesn’t have to. At around $ 100 it’s one of the best wireless headsets for PS4, and if you hook up that optional wire, it can connect to a whole lot more. It took Sony four years to get this headset just right, but we’re glad it decided to try again.
One of my favorite cameras ever is the original Polaroid SX-70. This marvel of engineering, chemistry, and industrial design introduced the world to fully integral instant photography—before the SX, instant photography wasn’t quite instant, requiring a peel-apart film that relied on some pretty gnarly chemicals.
The SX-70 was like the iPod of its time. With a sleek metallic and leather exterior, the device popped up, transforming a jacket-pocketable slab into a sophisticated SLR camera. It was an expensive, high-tech imaging solution the likes of which the world had never seen in the early ’70s.
Perhaps most importantly, the SX-70 was the first Polaroid camera with the iconic, instantly-recognizable square photos that define that photo format. Until recently, the only way to get that iconic square instant photo was by shooting imperfect, Dutch-made Polaroid Originals film in a compatible (vintage or modern) camera. But you Huey Lewis-types now have another photographic option: last year, Fujifilm developed a square version of its awesome Instax film. Unfortunately, Fuji then proceeded to hamper it with an expensive hybrid digital/analog camera.
Enter the Lomography Lomo’Instant Square. It’s the first analog camera to shoot square Instax film. Like the SX-70, this camera is compact, and folds up when not in use. So far, so good…
The design and build quality of this camera is impressive. Lomo didn’t always make great-feeling, tightly-assembled cameras but since the Automat series began, it’s clear that these areas have been vastly improved. My review unit was a creamy white hue with color-matched faux leather on it.
Opening the camera takes a bit of force, which means it’s unlikely it’ll spring open in your bag. That’s reassuring to me, since the camera uses rubber for a bellows assembly behind the lens, a potential point of failure if debris falls inside the camera’s body. When closed, it vaguely resembles a pair of electrobinoculars from Star Wars.
The camera also protects its own front lens, opening and closing shutters that cover the glass as it unfolds. I was annoyed by how the camera’s lens mechanism resets its focus every time the camera is closed, so you’ll need to remember to check it each time you take the camera out.
Speaking of focus, the Lomo’Instant Square has a fairly forgiving range of zones to choose from. That said, I recommend you splurge and get the combo version of this camera, since it includes a much-needed portrait attachment. Though the Lomo’Instant Square features a tiny selfie mirror, at arms’ length, you’d be hard-pressed to take a portrait that’s not out of focus. Screw the 0.5m attachment onto the camera and your selfies will look so, so, so much better.
Photo modes are plentiful since this shares its exposure system with Lomo’s other recent instant cameras. Multiple exposures, 1 stop +/- compensation, and even a bulb mode are all standard features. I’d say that’s just enough control to help steer the otherwise-automatic exposure system into giving you the results you want, and certainly enough to let you experiment.
One pain point for me was the viewfinder. Unlike the magical, complicated SLR setup inside the SX-70, the Lomo’Instant Square has an off-center viewfinder that’s far, far away from the long lens. It’s tricky to frame shots up just right, and you’ll need to mentally compensate for parallax to make sure your subject is where you want it.
There are a few things you should know before you take the plunge and pick the Square. First, it’s expensive at more than $ 200. For the sake of comparison, the newest Polaroid Originals-branded model, the OneStep 2 sells for about half that, and gives you true Polaroid-sized pictures.
If that doesn’t dissuade you, grab the combo option that includes the Splitzer, a must-have portrait lens attachment, and an adapter back that’ll let you use Instax Mini film. That last piece is super cool—Instax Square film isn’t cheap at around $ 1.30 per shot, so you’ll probably get more use out of your camera if you can also shoot the cheaper, easier-to-find Mini-sized film.
Taken on its own, I’m impressed with what Lomo’s done here. Do I love it as much as my SX-70? No. But the square prints, fabulous design, and reliable Instax chemistry make this a far more approachable experience.
The last time and place you want to hear someone compliment your ski apparel is when you are in the bathroom, fiddling with the butt zip. As I started to examine the zippers in my general crotchal area, I heard someone exclaim, “Sweet onesie!”
I looked around and saw another woman giving me a thumbs up. I should’ve gone into a stall first. But such is the attention-grabbing nature of Airblaster.
Airblaster was founded in 2003 by pro snowboarder Travis Parker, with pals Jesse Grandoski and Paul Miller. As you might have been able to tell from the name (a slang word for “fart”), they decided that the sport of snowboarding was getting too serious. Airblaster’s wildly eye-catching “Original Fun Product” is designed to be visually striking and easy to use.
The company’s onesies are also affordable. The Freedom suit is a mere $ 350, and the classic Ninja is $ 110. That’s as much as a ski jacket and thermal top cost, without pants. If you’re just getting into the sport and don’t want to spend years accumulating gifts, hand-me-downs and sale items, the Freedom suit is the way to go.
One and Done
The recent return of the ski onesie is a matter of heated debate. Some argue that ski and snowboard design has necessarily evolved since the ‘70s. Wearing a onesie is awkward and inconvenient. You can’t quickly throw it on to put chains on your tires while driving. You can’t pull the top off to chill out while eating lunch in the lodge. If you shred the butt out, you can’t replace just the pants. The drawbacks seem self-evident.
Layering is difficult, which is annoying because the Freedom suit isn’t insulated (Airblaster does make an insulated version and a Beast suit with more waterproofing and insulation). On a 30-degree day, the classic Ninja suit didn’t provide nearly enough warmth. I refused to put on more layers because even though both the Freedom suit and the Ninja suit have 350-degree butt zips, it’s still pretty difficult to go to the bathroom. The onslope Port-a-Potties were wet and slippery enough as it is, and I didn’t trust myself to maneuver around any extra items of clothing without falling in.
Speaking of butt zips: Airblaster’s waterproof fabric is a proprietary three-layer blend called Eco Vortex that is made from 38% post-consumer recycled material. The suit is also fully seam-sealed. However, the waterproofing is only rated at 15K. That rating seems pretty great—you can stack a one by one-inch square of water up to 15,000 millimeters tall before water starts leaking in—and it might work in places like drier snow, like Colorado or Idaho. But in heavy, wet Cascadian snow, it isn’t nearly waterproof enough. By lunch, I had a wet butt.
Finally, the hood wasn’t quite big enough for my helmet. It fit, but not with enough room for me to turn my head easily. Who doesn’t wear a helmet? Does your mother know? Go put on a helmet right now.
Fun in the One
But there are certain advantages to having a onesie. They are just so. Much. Fun. Especially if you are a gregarious, outgoing personality. Even in the tasteful, subdued storm blue of the suit I tested, I could not go fifteen feet without someone giving me a high-five, or screaming “Onesie!” from the other side of the taco shack. There’s just something about a onesie that makes everyone want to bop you on the shoulder and call you “bro,” even if you’re female.
The Ninja suit is even better. Airblaster does many special editions with snowboarders (this year’s is with pro snowboarder Corey Smith). Both the hooded and the unhooded versions come in a variety of colorful prints and patterns.
Your usage isn’t limited to snow sports, either. You could buy your friends matching suits and wear them all out while camping! You could wear them as Halloween costumes! For someone who has no reservations about prancing around in full-body stretch polyester-Lycra blend, the possibilities are endless. And the women’s-specific cut even includes a ponytail pass-through hole in the hood.
For snowboarders, onesies are great for powder days and in the park. You have to sit down in the snow to clip into your snowboard, and snow always gets in between your jacket and your pants. I didn’t realize how annoying it was to constantly bat snow out of the back of my jacket until I didn’t have to do it anymore. With a onesie on, you can flop around like a fish in a bucket and not worry about getting snow inside your pants.
The women’s-specific fit was trim, but freeing. Airblaster claims that the suit is designed to be roomy, so you can still backflip in it. I can’t do that. However, I did ride through the park to execute my signature move, which I call “The Dipsy Doodle.” I can report that the onesie is indeed loose enough to pop off the top of the smallest jumps while shrieking at the top of your lungs.
It’s hard to recommend buying a onesie. You’ll still need to bring an extra jacket on ski trips for scraping ice off your windshield, and going out to eat. I definitely would not buy the classic Ninja or Freedom suit. After five hours in Pacific Northwestern snow, I was pretty wet and cold.
But recommend it I must. It’s just…so much fun. I would shell out an extra hundred bucks or so for the insulated, 30K-rated Beast suit for warmth and waterproofing, and I should also probably own a printed merino wool Ninja suit for everyday shenanigans. In fact, I should probably be wearing it right now. You’ll never know how oddly constricting twosie life can be, until you try the alternative. Just be prepared for all the attention coming your way. You might want to practice a few warm-up high fives before you get in the lift line.
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