Boston Dynamics' Spot Robodog Finds Work on a BP Oil Rig
Boston Dynamics’ four-legged canine-inspired Spot is by no means an old dog, but that doesn’t mean it can’t learn new tricks. The 55-pound robot, unveiled in 2016, has boarded BP’s Mad Dog oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, where it will master tasks including reading gauges, finding corrosion, mapping the facility, and sniffing out methane, according to Reuters.
CAN THIS AI HELP SMOKERS QUIT?
While COVID-19 remains an occupying force in our world, and a viable vaccine is still out of reach, dealing with the pandemic comes down to mitigating health risks while coping with stress. If you’re a smoker, that’s going to be tough on both accounts. This isn’t the Mad Men era; everyone knows the risks of tobacco use, but cessation of addictive substances isn’t easy.
Assassin's Creed Valhalla (for PC): Another Winner
The Assassin’s Creed series has taken us to numerous historical settings since its 2007 debut, including Ancient Greece, Renaissance Italy, and Revolutionary War-era America. The newest installment, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, details the Viking invasion of 9th Century England from the perspective of history’s most notorious raiders. Though Valhalla doesn’t introduce anything wholly new to the series, it’s an excellent PC game that follows in the footsteps of its equally exceptional predecessors, Origins and Odyssey.
Microsoft Xbox Series X: An Impressive Console
The newest Xboxes are here, packing plenty of power into boxier frames than ever. Microsoft’s entries into the latest console generation are the Xbox Series X, reviewed here, and the Xbox Series S ($299).
2020's Most Common Passwords Are Laughably Insecure
Chances are that if a password is easy for you to remember, a hacker can easily crack it. And despite years (and years) of tech companies warning consumers to use hard-to-crack passwords, plus two-factor authentication, people are still using laughably insecure codes.
THE BEST PRODUCTS OF 2020
It’s been a weird year.
Virtual Movie Night: How to Watch Netflix With Friends Using Teleparty
Many of us are facing a long winter indoors, thanks to the ongoing pandemic. And though we have video streaming to distract us, watching shows and movies is more fun with friends. You could get everyone on Zoom and press play at the same time, but there’s an easier way: Teleparty (formerly known as Netflix Party).
Apple Mac mini (M1, Late 2020): Most Polished, Potent Tiny Desktop
The Mac mini doesn’t get upgraded often, but when it does, it makes an impact well out of proportion to its trim dimensions. The 2018 Mac mini was a PCMag Editors’ Choice pick for its pep, connectivity, build quality, and limited upgradability. A slight variation on the same sheet music, played with little fanfare earlier this year, pumped up the two base models’ SSD capacity. The real update of this iconic little desktop is this one, and it’s a big-band extravaganza. Apple’s own highly integrated system-on-a-chip (SoC), the M1 brings the Mac mini to new performance highs, and while a few fundamentals have changed, the peppy performance, the reasonable mix of connectivity, and a new lower $699 starting price combine to make it one of the best values in compact computers, period. It easily earns our Editors’ Choice nod.
Optoma HD39HDR: Bright, Low-Lag Projector
Designed for gaming and for watching movies and TV, the Optoma HD39HDR is one of a growing number of 1080p home projectors that can accept a 4K UHD (3,840-by-2,160-pixel) HDR signal and downconvert the resolution to 1080p. Some projectors in this category accept the input without really offering any of the benefits that high dynamic range promises for a wider color gamut or range of brightness levels. Others, including the Optoma, make good use of HDR. In my tests, the HD39HDR delivered more-vibrant color and far better shadow detail when I played the 4K HDR versions of movies on my Blu-ray player than when playing the 1080p SDR versions of the same titles.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G Review: Perfect Balance of Power and Price
The Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is everything you need and nothing else. Samsung pared down its flagship S20 series to a more palatable price, and the result is a value-minded standard-bearer to properly face up against the forthcoming iPhone 12 line. With fast performance, solid cameras, and often substantial discounts at major wireless providers, the S20 FE 5G becomes our default Android phone recommendation for 2020 as well as our Editors’ Choice.
Lenovo ThinkPad X13 (AMD): A Solid Contender
The celebrated ThinkPad X1 Carbon isn’t the only compelling ultraportable in Lenovo’s business lineup. If that 14-inch premium laptop is a bit too rich for your blood, consider the ThinkPad X13, a 13.3-inch model available with either Intel or AMD CPU silicon under the hood. The AMD Ryzen-based system we tested starts at just $683 and is $1,004 in our specific test configuration—much more affordable than the Carbon, which is compensation for the X13 weighing more (2.8 versus 2.4 pounds) despite its slightly smaller screen. The X13’s six-core Ryzen 5 Pro 4650U processor gives it impressive performance, though we could wish for a couple more hours of battery life. And the X13’s keyboard and construction quality are up to ThinkPad standards—faultless. If your budget doesn’t stretch to the Carbon or a Dell XPS 13, this is a first-class option.
How to Avoid Running Out of Storage Space on Any Device
With storage space costing so little these days, it’s easy to forget about it until you get a warning that your phone, computer, or cloud storage account is nearly full. Our accounts always seem to run out of storage at the most inopportune times, though, so keeping an eye on your storage usage is a good idea. Even checking in on it only once or twice a year can help you make sure you’re not close to the limit. If you are, set aside a few minutes to check the files that are taking up the most space and decide whether you want to move or delete them.
For Now, Verizon's 5G Home Internet Service Offers Very Little Coverage
Verizon’s 5G Home service may be fast, but very few people can access it—even in the eight cities Verizon purports to serve. Since the company doesn’t offer a coverage map for its home service, we pumped more than 400 Chicago and Minneapolis addresses through the Verizon 5G Home address finder and discovered that the home service has even less coverage than the mobile service does.
Asus ZenBook Flip S (UX371): Stunning OLED Display
The Asus ZenBook Flip S is an appealing 2-in-1 laptop on multiple fronts. On the physical side, it’s a high-quality, highly portable convertible with a gorgeous 4K OLED touch screen. Inside, it’s one of the first laptops we’ve reviewed with one of Intel’s new 11th Generation “Tiger Lake” mobile processors, and the first with Intel’s “Evo” trustmark.
IS QUANTUM COMPUTING A BUBBLE READY TO BURST?
Not only can quantum physics speed up computing, but it could also redefine how computers communicate and ensure that no one could ever hack them. That’s partly why the pace of quantum innovations has achieved a new urgency. But many experts can’t see the finish line, let alone know when we’ll get there.
Inside the Pandemic's Biggest Cash Cow: Scalper Bot Networks Hawking Hot Products
The pandemic and ensuing economic fallout may be leading internet users to dabble in the notorious art of scalping in order to buy up this holiday season’s hottest electronics and resell them for a hefty profit.
Bose Frames Tempo: Focused on Sports
When we reviewed the original Bose Frames last year, we weren’t quite sure what to make of them—but since then, audio sunglasses (essentially, glasses with headphones built into the temples) have developed somewhat into a category of their own. The Bose Frames Tempo are focused on sports, and with the rise of virtual training, it’s not far-fetched to imagine them catching on in ways the original fashion-focused model didn’t. From an audio standpoint, the Frames deliver crisp, clear sound that allows you to hear your surroundings with ease, though bass still isn’t their strong suit. This version has clear improvements, but most of them address the overall fit and usefulness of the design rather than the audio experience.
Apple Watch Series 6: The Best Smartwatch You Can Buy
The Apple Watch has been our longstanding Editors’ Choice for its excellent performance, unparalleled app selection, and ample health- and fitness-tracking features. With the Series 6, Apple builds upon its flagship smartwatch with the addition of a blood oxygen saturation sensor that calculates your SpO2 level on demand and captures periodic background measurements when you’re sleeping and inactive. Putting this technology in a consumer wearable has never been more important given the global COVID-19 pandemic, as it indicates how well your circulatory and respiratory systems are delivering oxygenated blood to your body and can help you gauge whether a hospital visit is necessary.
All About the New Apple iPhones
Apple refreshed its iPhone line in October with four new models: the 5.4-inch iPhone 12 mini ($699); the 6.1-inch iPhone 12 ($799) and 6.1-inch iPhone 12 Pro ($999); and the gigantic 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Max ($1,099). All four models have OLED displays and 5G networking, making them the first iPhones to support 5G.
Kaspersky Secure Connection VPN: Limited but Very Affordable
A virtual private network (or VPN) is an easy way to improve your privacy online. Kaspersky Secure Connection carries one of the most recognizable names in the industry and offers customers a simple, affordable VPN. It is a bare-bones offering with few server locations, but Kaspersky users and anyone looking for a cheap VPN will likely be pleased.
LA'S COVID-19 RESPONSE RUNS ON DATA SCIENCE
When people ask what’s different about the fight against COVID-19 compared with previous pandemics, one answer is data science. We know more—in real time—about infectious disease transmission, treatment efficacy, and the results of prevention programs than ever before, while mobile platforms inform and engage (most) citizens at an individual level.
Lenovo ThinkPad T14s: A Mostly Spectacular Success
The ThinkPad T series has been Lenovo’s quintessential bread-and-butter business laptop for years, offered in both Intel and AMD flavors in models landing both above and below the 3-pound mark.
Intel ‘Iris Xe' Is Here: 5 Ways Intel's Powerful New Integrated Graphics Will Change Laptops
In early September, Intel pulled back the curtain on its 11th generation of mobile processors, known by the code name “Tiger Lake.” The first chips will appear as members of the long-running U-series of processors, designed for mainstream and ultraportable laptops.
Intel Launches 11th Generation Core ‘Tiger Lake' Laptop Processors
Intel’s next-generation Tiger Lake processors, unveiled this week, will bring refined artificial intelligence processing and dramatically improved graphics performance to new premium ultraportable laptops this fall.
How to Get Hard-to-Find Electronics
It’s getting difficult, if not impossible, to find certain electronics items. And high on the list of in-demand items are laptops; even schools can’t get them. Low-range PCs of any size and shape are selling out, as are low-cost Chromebooks. Printers are also hard to come by, as are flight stick controllers for your after-school Microsoft Flight Simulator needs.
ECS Liva Z3 Plus: Affordable Mini PC
The ECS Liva Z3 Plus may not look like much of a system, but packed inside this not-quite-palm-size device is a Core i5 desktop capable of running office tasks with ease.