Day: March 4, 2019

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Galaxy S10 takes the ‘best smartphone display’ crown

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As you may have gathered from our review of Samsung’s Galaxy S10, it’s a very solid phone with lots of advanced features. But one thing that’s especially difficult to test is the absolute quality of the displaymate — which is why we leave that part to the experts. And this expert says the S10’s screen is the best ever on a smartphone.

Ray Soneira has tested every major phone, tablet and laptop series for many a year, using all the cool color calibration, reflectance and brightness measurement and other gear that goes with the job. So when he says the S10’s display is “absolutely stunning and Beautiful,” with a capital B at that, it’s worth taking note.

OLED technology has advanced a great deal since the first one I encountered, on the Zune HD — which still works and looks great, by the way, thank you. But originally it had quite a few trade-offs compared with LCD panels, such as weird color casts or pixel layout issues. Samsung has progressed well beyond that and OLED has come into its own with a vengeance. As Ray puts it:

The Absolute Color Accuracy on the Galaxy S10 is the Most Color Accurate Display we have ever measured. It is Visually Indistinguishable From Perfect, and almost certainly considerably better than your existing Smartphone, living room HDTV, Tablet, Laptop, and computer monitor, as demonstrated in our extensive Absolute Color Accuracy Lab Measurements.

The very challenging set of DisplayMate Test and Calibration Photos that we use to evaluate picture quality looked absolutely stunning and Beautiful, even to my experienced hyper-critical eyes.

Make sure you switch the phone’s display to “natural mode,” which makes subtle changes to the color space depending on the content and ambient light.

And although he has enthused many times before about the quality of various displays and the advances they made over their predecessors, the above is certainly very different language from, for example, how he described the reigning champ until today — the iPhone X:

Apple has produced an impressive Smartphone display with excellent performance and accuracy, which we cover in extensive detail below. What makes the iPhone X the Best Smartphone Display is the impressive Precision Display Calibration Apple developed, which transforms the OLED hardware into a superbly accurate, high performance, and gorgeous display, with close to Text Book Perfect Calibration and Performance!!

High praise, but not quite falling all over himself, as he did with the S10. As you can see, I rate smartphone displays chiefly by the emotional response they evoke from Ray Soneira.

At this point, naturally, the gains from improving displays are fairly few, because, to be honest, not many people care or can even tell today’s flagship displays apart. But little touches like front and back sensors for ambient light detection, automatic calibration and brightness that take user preferences into account — these also improve the experience, and phone makers have been adding them at a good clip, as well.

No matter which flagship phone you buy today, it’s going to have a fantastic camera and screen — but if you like to see it all in black and white, read through the review and you’ll find your hopes justified.

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Outdoor Tech’s Chips ski helmet speakers are a hot mess of security flaws

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Sometimes the “smartest” gadgets come with the shoddiest security.

Alan Monie, a security researcher at U.K. cybersecurity firm Pen Test Partners, bought and tested a pair of Chips 2.0 wireless speakers, built by California-based Outdoor Tech, only to find they’re a security nightmare.

The in-helmet speakers allow users to listen to music on the go, make calls, and talk to your friends through the walkie-talkie — all without having to take your helmet off. The speakers are connected to an app on your phone.

You’re probably thinking: how bad can the security be on a simple-enough ski helmet speakers be?

According to Monie, who wrote up his findings, it’s easy to grab streams of data from the server-side API, used to communicate with the app, such as usernames, email addresses, and phone numbers of anyone with an account. Monie said the API returned scrambled passwords, but that password reset codes were sent in plaintext.

Worse, it’s possible to reveal a user’s precise geolocation, and listen in on anyone’s real-time walkie-talkie conversations.

The only thing worse than the security flaws are the company’s lack of response when Monie reached out to get the issues fixed. After a short email exchange over several days, the company stopped responding, he said.

“We really like the product but its security is sorely lacking,” said Monie in his report.

It’s the latest example of many where gadget makers don’t take little to no responsibility for the security of their hardware or software. Given these days so many devices connect to the internet – either directly or through an app — every company had to think like a security company.

Outdoor Tech did not return a request for comment.

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With USB 4, Thunderbolt and USB will converge

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Your cable nightmare might soon be over. The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) has unveiled the specifications of USB 4.0, as Engadget reports. And USB 4.0 looks a lot like Thunderbolt 3.

While specifications won’t be finalized until later this year, USB 4 should support speeds of 40Gbps. The USB-IF is using Thunderbolt 3 as the foundation for USB 4.

Intel originally developed the Thunderbolt interface with Apple back in 2011. It was supposed to be a faster and more versatile interface that supports multiple protocols. For instance, you can use Thunderbolt cables and devices to connect displays and hard drives. You can daisy-chain your peripherals, which can be useful for external graphics cards for instance.

With Thunderbolt 3, Intel added USB 3.1 Gen 2 support, which means that you can plug a USB device to a Thunderbolt port. And Intel adopted the USB-C port. In other words, Thunderbolt ports became USB ports with Thunderbolt capabilities on top. It means that any USB device can be used with a Thunderbolt port. If you’re using a MacBook Pro, you’ve probably taken advantage of that feature.

But USB devices plugged into Thunderbolt ports don’t magically become Thunderbolt devices. If you plug an external USB 3.0 hard drive in a Thunderbolt port, you’re limited to USB 3.0 speeds.

Even though Thunderbolt is technically superior, it hasn’t been as popular as USB devices. Device manufacturers had to pay royalty fees to Intel. Making a Thunderbolt device is also more expensive in general.

A couple of years ago, Intel announced that it would make Thunderbolt available to everyone without any royalty fee. So the USB-IF is taking advantage of that by integrating Thunderbolt 3 specifications into USB 4.

USB 4.0 will support charging speeds of 100W of power, transfer speeds of 40Gbps, enough video bandwidth for two 4K displays or one 5K display. USB 4 should also be backward compatible with USB 3.x, 2.x and 1.x devices.

If you have USB 3.x cable with Type-C connectors, you may have to upgrade to USB 4 cables. But Thunderbolt 3 should work fine as they’re essentially the same thing as USB 4 cables. I hope there will be a way to distinguish USB 3.x ports from USB 4 ports though.

Intel won’t drop the Thunderbolt name altogether. Thunderbolt devices are certified by Intel, while you don’t need any certification to release a USB device.

USB 4 sounds like a great way to start from a clean slate. One port and one cable type to rule them all. But let’s hope manufacturers follow the official specifications and don’t try to cut corners.

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